Thursday, February 24, 2011
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Monday, February 21, 2011
Reading is that one activity that we do every day but we don't really practice. Most people learn the basics of reading in kindergarten and never graduate to the next levels.
You are probably using the same basic rudimental tools and techniques that you learned when you were 6. The average American person reads at an average speed of 180 to 240 words per minute and has done so since he was 16 years old. Does it make sense that we hit our best performance at age 16 and that we don't improve much after that? Keep in mind less than 10% read at 400 words per minute and less than 1% faster than 600.
Have you ever wished you could take one of those costly speed reading courses? The problem with those courses is that you have to keep practicing those techniques until they become second nature. That's the goal of this site.
We are here to keep you focused and to help you improve your speed reading everyday.
Using this tool will help you eliminating sub-vocalization. What is sub-vocalization? Sub-vocalization is that voice that you hear in your head as you're reading this text. In many cases it manifests itself as your vocal chords actually engaging as if you were reading out loud. Regression is also a common reading problem fixed by eyercize. Regression happens when you read the same sentence more than once.
Many people experience this problem where they kinda go into a loop and read the same phrase or paragraph multiple times without noticing it. On the left there are the controls of this neat application. You can increase the speed of the pacer just press the letter "i" on your keyboard. Conversely to decrease the speed you would just press the letter "d". If this text is too small to read you can increase the size with the handy slider on the left. Try different settings, I personally love page mode showing 20 lines at the time.
Read faster and get more things you care about done. In the era of information anxiety it's easy to get overwhelmed. Even if you were just to use only this reading pacer you'll probably learn how to read 2-3 times faster than you do right now. So what are you waiting, install our bookmarklet on the left and start reading you website faster. Many new things are coming out from eyercize so stay tuned.
I've always wanted to know. Just not enough to actually google "how Google works." You too? Well now you don't have to worry, it's all here. This is a great interactive that gives the details of the inner workings of our favorite search engine. Press "start the search" and watch the magic.
Sunday, February 20, 2011
Everyone knows that almost any blog post is better with images. However, getting them can be a difficult matter. With a maze of licensing and fair use issues making it hard to decide what is and is not legal to use, many bloggers don’t wish to use images that they have not taken themselves.
But while using your own images is always the best way to go, there are several great sources to help you find and locate images that you can use as part of your blog posts. In fact, there are some very neat tools designed specifically to help you correctly license and use other people’s photography, art and more.
The best part of all is that these tools are free. They will not cost you a dime to use and, if used correctly, can let you fill up your blog posts with as many images as your heart desires.
Photo Dropper is hands down one of my favorite WordPress plugins. Not only does it make excellent use of Creative Commons-licensed photos, but it solves one of the biggest problems with CC licensing, incomplete compliance with the terms of the license.
Photo Dropper is extremely simple to use. Simply install it in your WordPress plugins, activate it, set your options and then, on the “Write Post” page you can either click the “PD” icon next to the other media items or scroll down below the post entry box.
From there, you’ll be able to search for keywords related to your post. Photo Dropper will then search Flickr for Creative Commons-licensed works that might fit with your description. When you find one you like, you select the size you want and Photo Dropper inserts it into your post, complete with a CC-compliant attribution line.
Photo Dropper may take some fiddling to get relevant images and you might have to tweak the HTML to get it to fit well in your posts. However, it is still by far the easiest way to insert legal images into your posts.
Zemanta is a Firefox extension/IE plugin that integrates itself with most major blogging platforms, including both self-installed and hosted WordPress blogs, Blogger accounts, MovableType and more. When the user pulls up their blog’s editing interface, they are presented with related links, stories, tags and images that they can use with the post.
The advantage of Zemanta is that its images come from a variety of sources including public domain sources, Creative Commons sources, including Flickr, and other sources that license their images for use at low resolution. This provides a much greater variety of images to the user and it automatically performs a license-compliant insertion of the image into the post.
The drawback to Zemanta is that it can make modifications to the post beyond what is selected. You may need to go through your post’s HTML code thoroughly after insertion to be certain that nothing unwanted was inserted.
While the sources above are great for those that need abstract photographs or just something quirky to go with a story, finding an image to go with a news or politics story can be very tricky. Fortunately there are also a series of services to help with that, including GumGum.
This use of ads is what may upset many. Where Photo Dropper and Zamanta don’t display ads, GumGum does.
PicApp comes with many of the same concerns and drawbacks as GumGum and uses a similar advertising model to pay for the free service. PicApp, however, does not require you to register for the service and you can begin embedding images from the very first time you visit.
Whether you use PicApp or GumGum will likely be a matter of personal preference as the two sites largely fill the same niche. It comes down to which site has the best images for your content and which embeds you prefer.
Voxant Newsroom is another service that functions similar to GumGum or PicApp, letting users embed content, this time as a Flash app. But this service, unlike the former two, get their images exclusively from major mainstream media outlets including the Associated Press, CBS News and more.
As neat as Voxant is, I previously covered it in my broader article about getting free content for your site, there is not much flexibility regarding the layout of the embedded images. However, the site does offer a variety of content, including video and articles, all from major news sources.
Once again you and your visitors will be putting up with advertisements over the media, at least in many cases, but what is more likely a deal breaker for many is that the layouts of the images may not fit in many blog layouts and are often too large to go neatly with posts.
This is definitely one to consider though and see if it can work for you.
The bottom line is this, content licensing is hard, even with Creative Commons. Fortunately though, there are a series of sites that have come up to do the hard work for you and let you easily and legally use images with your blog posts.
In addition to these sites, there are also a slew of stock photography sites that let you download and use photographs and images for free or a small license. However, they generally provide no help with the insertion process and, if there are licensing terms, provide little help in complying with them.
A solution such as these tools can help not only keep your site legal, but speed up the writing process dramatically, saving you time and money.
As a micro-blogger, sometimes I need pictures to enhance my posts. I admit, using posterous makes that easy, since the pics in my blog usually come from what I'm blogging. There are times, however, that I need to find a pic to go along w/ a specific topic. That's when I typically turn to www.everystockphoto.com. Maybe you have a service you like for accessing free and legal photos for your blog. Here are 5 for you that you might try out. After all, a picture is often worth 1000 words. Let these images speak for you.
Friday, February 18, 2011
Web applications have come a long way. They used to be amateur imitations of their desktop counterparts, with only one or two functions and not at all practical. But my, have these web apps grown. Web apps these days have become so powerful and useful that in some cases, they’ve begun to replace desktop software.
Desktop programs are great and all, but they don’t provide the same benefits as web apps that make use of cloud computing. With most web apps, you only need a browser and an internet connection to access all your data online. That beats having to install annoying programs any day. To give you a better sense of how useful web apps have become, I’ve compiled a list of web tools and apps that can very well replace some desktop programs. I hope you take the time to try them all out. You’ll be surprised how well they work.
Without further ado, here are some great web alternatives to the popular desktop programs we all love.
Replaces: Microsoft PowerPoint
Sliderocket is a fully functional presentation web app that allows you to create, manage, edit, and share presentations on the fly. It offers many of the same features present in PowerPoint and then some. Sliderocket is an awesome tool and if you want to read more about it, take a look at our in-depth review of Sliderocket.
Replaces: Microsoft Office, Adobe Acrobat
Acrobat.com is a suite of web applications by Adobe that replaces your office suite. The online suite includes services like Buzzword, Tables, and Presentation which replace Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint respectively. Acrobat.com also offers other features, allowing users to convert files into PDFs, hold online meetings, and collaborate with one another. All of its services are free (with some limitations), but users can subscribe to different plans for more features. Check out the pricing section for more details.
Replaces: Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Soundbooth
We have already covered a list of online image editors, and of that list, my favorite would have to be Aviary. The Aviary web suite offers powerful tools that allow you to edit images, vectors, and even audio! Take a look at the huge list of the tools included in their suite:
• Phoenix: Image Editor
• Toucan: Color Editor
• Myna: Audio Editor
• Peacock: Effects Editor
• Raven: Vector Editor
• Falcon: Image Markup
• Roc: Music Creator. Check out our in-depth review of Roc.
If you’re still using Quicken to manage your money, it’s time to toss it out and move on to the better solution: Mint.com. Mint is a very popular personal-finance tool that allows you to keep track your credit card transactions, balance your budget, and create charts or graphs to help you visualize your spending. Mint is the free and secure way to manage your money online. In fact, Mint has been so successful that the makers of Quicken and TurboTax purchased it in 2009. What are you waiting for? Hurry up and sign up!
Replaces: Desktop Gaming
Forget about your desktop gaming – why waste space when you can play awesome games online? Kongregate is an online gaming community with a library of over 30,000 flash games. Not only do you have access to a variety of games, but you can also gain points, chat, and unlock achievements for the games you play. Developers can upload their own games and even make money off ad revenue for their games! If you’re looking for more online games to replace desktop games, take a look at our game roundups.
Replaces: Video Editing Software
JayCut is a very easy to use and powerful online video editor. With Jaycut, you can create videos with the same tools used in desktop programs. Add clips, transitions, audio, effects, and more with their simple UI. When you finish editing a video, you can choose to download it or export it directly to YouTube. Export up to 20 videos a month with 2GB of storage under a free plan, or pay monthly for a better plan.
Replaces: Unzipping Software
Have you ever tried to open a compressed file only to find out you don’t have the right unzipping software to do the job? In comes WobZip, an online tool that helps you uncompress your files. It supports a variety of compression formats, including the popular ZIP, RAR, and 7z formats. You can upload a zipped file from your computer or direct WobZip to a URL. The best part? WobZip will scan the files using BitDefender to make sure there isn’t a nasty virus lurking around.
Replaces: File Conversion Software
Instead of downloading dozens of different programs to convert a file, you can always use the Zamzar, the free online file conversion tool. Can’t open a crucial .docx or .pptx file and your boss is screaming in your ear? No problem, just upload and convert your files using Zamzar. Zamzar supports dozens of image, document, video, and music formats and is the only tool you will ever need to convert files.
Replaces: TV Tuner Software
I’m a cheap guy who spends all his time on the computer. How could I watch my favorite TV shows without leaving my computer? Well, I could purchase a TV tuner and install their lame software or I could head to Hulu.com and watch my favorite shows for free. Hulu is a website that offers streaming video of popular TV shows and movies in the US. It is ad supported, but allows you to watch your favorite shows from the comfort of your computer. Although Hulu is a U.S. only website, there are ways to access Hulu from outside the U.S.
Replaces: Desktop Chat Clients
With Meebo, you can chat with your friends from anywhere as long as you have a browser and an internet connection. Meebo is an online tool that allows you to login to any major IM network, including AIM, MSN, GTalk, and Facebook. You don’t even need to create an account, just input your IM information and you’re ready to go. If you take the 20 seconds to set up a Meebo account, you can login to multiple accounts at once. This sure beats downloading and managing three IM programs at once, doesn’t it?
Replaces: Video Chat
TokBox is an online video chatting app that enables you to chat with up to 20 people for free. There are no downloads required, just sign up and start a video chat! Invite your friends via social networks or IM and set up a chat in just minutes. TokBox is free to use, but if you’d like more options, you can sign up for monthly plans. TokBox may be free, but you’re going to need your own microphone and webcam.
You may have a huge iTunes library, but what happens when you go out and forget to bring your iPod along? Moof is the solution. Moof is another web app that streams music online, but I think of it as an iTunes alternative. You can export your entire iTunes library as an .xml file and upload that to Moof, so you can have a full backup of your music online. Where does Moof get all its music from? Youtube. Yeah, I know, it’s a little disappointing, but the quality isn’t that bad. Don’t like Moof? Check out our roundup of the top apps for music streaming.
Replaces: Anti-Virus Software
While the ESET Online Virus scanner is a great alternative to Anti-Virus programs, you shouldn’t literally replace your Anti-Virus program. Think of this tool as a backup tool, in case your Anti-Virus software malfunctions. Made by the folks that brought you NOD32, the ESET online scanner uses the same threat signatures as NOD32 and allows you to scan your computer from your browser. It may take a while, but after the scan, suspicious files will be quarantined for you to restore or permanently delete. A great tool for your security toolbox.
Replaces: BitTorrent Client
When you don’t have access to a BitTorrent client on your computer, you can use the BitLet app to download your torrents. BitLet is a Java based file sharing protocol that allows you to download torrent files from your browser. Just upload a .torrent file from your computer or direct BitLet to the torrent URL and it’ll do the rest for you.
Replaces: Operating System
We’ve already covered dozens of web alternatives to desktop software, but why not go a bit further and include a web app that replaces your entire operating system? Meet iCloud, the future of operating systems. iCloud is a very slick web operating system that gives you access to hundreds of built in applications, including an office suite, a media player, a chat client, nifty games, and much more. You have 3 GB of free storage and can opt to buy more if needed. You can get everything you need in this web OS. For those of you interested in Web OSes, be sure to read our article about other operating systems that utilize cloud computing.
As the world turns to cloud computing, we’re only going to see more and more web apps that function like their desktop counterparts. I’ve only listed a few of the web alternatives to desktop software, and I’m sure there are many more out there. As these web applications become more powerful and appeal to the masses in terms of functionality, we may soon see a decline in desktop programs as we all move towards the web and the cloud. Is this the end of desktop software? Who knows, we’ll have to wait and see.
Do you use any web apps in place of desktop programs? What do you think is going to be the future for desktop programs? Share your comments below!
Some of these I didn't know about and seem useful. Knowing's half the battle.
This is probably not a new site, but it's new to me. I've often had to copy text from pages, then paste it into a Word doc. just to get a clean print. Not anymore. With this Print Friendly site, it gives you a clean copy to print quickly. I like this.
Whether you are annoyed by the ads on Pandora, the limited number of skips, or the abyss of cruel 30-second song teasers from Last.FM, many online listeners are growing weary of mainstream methods of hearing new music. While the Pandora algorithm is strong, and the Last.FM related artists tool is pretty useful, don’t fool yourself in to thinking that there aren’t other great ways to expose yourself to new music in the depths of cyberspace.
Here are 7 alternatives to Pandora and Last.FM that will infuse your day with an uninterrupted stream of music that large record companies haven’t managed to squash under their thumbs yet.
StumbleAudio has a killer recommendation engine that works better for me than Pandora’s. Instead of “genomes”, StumbleAudio uses listeners’ favoritism as well as buying pattern data from online music stores to make suggestions. Even better, for every track that comes up in the player, you can choose to explore the entire album – a great feature for music snobs. Unlike Pandora, a listener can choose very specific genres in which to listen – within the ‘Blues’ category alone there are 14 sub-types. No skip limit, at least not that I’ve ever reached and I’m notorious for flying through my Pandora skip limit.
Songza uses a recommendation engine that runs for each ‘channel’, but unlike Pandora, channels are not tied to specific listeners and rather are community property. Anyone can listen to anyone’s station and add suggestions for tracks or artists that belong there. Powered by the Emergent Discovery recommendation engine, Songza is in beta version and makes streaming music a very community-based activity – this is bound to gain a strong footing in the music community during this social networking renaissance we are all living in.
Elegantly, Musicovery boils down songs to a location on two scales: Energetic-Calm and Positive-Dark. These attributes may be more meaningful in targeting music for a listener’s mood than the hundreds of music genomes that Pandora uses. When you click a location on an X-Y graph of these two scales that fits your mood, Musicovery builds a playlist. Complimented by the ability to disable “hits” and a decent recommendation algorithm, the only limitation here is that you’ll need a paid account to skip songs.
Ah, the power of the ‘tag cloud’. Stereomood crawls the music blog scene and extracts any posts with an embedded .MP3 file as well as associated tags. Users can select channels based on their mood or activity. Chillout, beautiful, melancholy, calm, dreamy, happy, summer, sad, electronic, ambient, cool, and sexy are among the dozens of popular tags that users can select which spurs an ongoing playlist of tunes that fit the listener’s mood. Of course, users can suggest new tags and improve the database, making this a very groovy place to lurk on the web.
If you are in the mood for a personalized gift from an anonymous friend, you can find a slew of carefully hand-crafted mix tapes ready to listen to on 8tracks (over 100,000 currently). Based on user uploads, you can find mix tapes for every occasion, from the simple to the bizarre. With a pretty decent tag engine and a deep collection of B-sides, there only two limitations: your imagination and the number of skips (though the point of a mix tape is not to skip, have some respect, son).
Supported by millions of user uploads, Grooveshark is an online music player without limitations and virtually every song you could ever want to hear. It is the only service on this list which has the capability to play a specific song of your choosing, free from the confines of DMCA licensing and recommendations. Between its extensive library, its radio stations and its limitless playback, if you have a song in mind that you need to hear, drop the YouTube music in the dumpster and stumble over to Grooveshark.
Similar to Stereomood, The Hype Machine is a blog-crawling service that finds new music in the music blogging community, but in contrast, THM is focused around the writing rather than just listening alone. THM is a giant catalog of high-quality music blogs that also aggregates embedded music from its sources directly on the site, so you can crawl around for hours of listening and reading about your favorite artists, concert and album reviews and emerging talent without ever leaving the site; a great alternative to the feverish Wikipedia crawler who happens to be a music snob.
Final thought: Life is too short to listen to cruddy music – especially with all of these ways to find new material. Go enhance your snobbery, my pretentious loyal subjects!style=”border: 0pt none;”
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Nice list. I do note that there is at least 1 missing. That is the new (to me anyway) www.mflow.com
It's pretty cool and brings a social aspect that may actually work. Thanks to @joeholland for putting me on to it. Enjoy this list and get your music game up!
Ring is a vibrating alarm designed for people who hate the loud blaring sounds of a typical alarm. The charging cradle is where you set what time you want each ring to go off. The ring fits over the tip of your finger and when that opportune time arrives, it vibrates. Putting the ring back on the dock shuts off the alarm.
The benefits are two-fold. It’s perfect for couples whom wake up at different hours. Never again will you be disturbed from your precious sleep when the alarm goes off. It’s a discrete sensation that only you feel. Another application is for the hearing impaired helping to improve their quality of life.
Designer: Meng Fandi