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How to Enjoy the New Web Speed Boost from Google DNS and OpenDNS [Google]
If you use Google's Public DNS server or OpenDNS as your DNS server, you may notice starting today that YouTube videos load faster and other web content comes in quicker. If you're using your ISP's DNS server as the default, now's a good time to try Google's or OpenDNS.

The reason behind the speed bump is that OpenDNS and Google are working with Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) to attach location data to the DNS requests, so when you request a web page, it will go to a server near you rather than, as previously mentioned possibly a server that's not closest to you.

This Global Internet Speedup effort so far includes Google and Open DNS and a few ISPs and CDNs, but not the biggest players yet like Akamai.

Set up your system to use a faster DNS: To use Google's Public DNS service or OpenDNS, you'll need to configure your router or computer to use their DNS servers addresses. Here are instructions for Google Public DNS and help for OpenDNS. With OpenDNS, you'll also get additional services like malware detection, stats, and more, in addition to the speed boost. Photo remixed from an original by Arianna_M.

[via GigaOM]
Google  DNS  in_brief  News  OpenDNS  Top  Web  Web_Browsing  Web_surfing  from google
august 2011 by lancejanders
Build an Attractive, Informative Mac Desktop with GeekTool [Customization]
It may be covered with applications and windows most of the time, but your Mac's desktop can also be an excellent source of information, including the time and date, available hard drive space, battery status, system performance, and more. With GeekTool, you can put all of that information right on your desktop. Here's how you can make your desktop more useful but keep it looking sharp.

It's been a while since we looked at desktop customization app GeekTool. GeekTool has come a ways since then, and setting up a gorgeous HUD using GeekTool is easier—and GeekTool itself is more powerful—than ever.

Note: For the Windows side of this coin, see how to create an attractive, customized desktop HUD with Rainmeter.

What Is GeekTool?
GeekTool is a utility that allows you to embed objects and information directly onto your Mac's desktop. It installs as a preference pane in the System Preferences, and from there you can open use any of the three included plug-ins (called "geeklets") to run text commands. The output from those commands is displayed on the desktop, organized and styled by you.

The three bundled geeklets include the "File" plug-in, which allows you to monitor system and application activity or keep a text file open on your desktop, the "shell" plug-in that lets you run scripts of terminal commands and display their output on the desktop, and the "image" plug-in that lets you embed items like iTunes album art, weather conditions, and more on your desktop.

Update: Rocco writes in to point out that GeekTool does support Lion, and is available in the Mac App Store here. When installed from the app store, it'll run as a separate application, not a Preference pane. GeekTool currently supports Mac OS 10.6 Snow Leopard (Lion isn't supported just yet, but should be in time) with previous versions available for older versions of Mac OS X. While GeekTool isn't quite as graphically intensive as its closest Windows counterpart, Rainmeter (which we've already shown you how to configure in Windows,) you can still build a gorgeous HUD on your Mac with it.

Step One: Getting Familiar with GeekTool
Installing GeektTool is simple-just download and open the installer to add it to the System Preferences (it'll appear under Other at the bottom.) When you open the GeekTool preference pane, you'll see the three default geeklets, and options on the right to add GeekTool to the menu bar, enable or disable GeekTool, and to add and delete groups of geeklets.

Groups allow you to configure multiple geeklets without having to tweak them every time you change your wallpaper or plug in an external display. You can set them up to fit a specific need, work with the desktop wallpaper that you have up, or just fit your mood. For example, if you have a dark wallpaper, your date and time geeklets may need white text. Switch to a brightly-colored wallpaper, and you can switch groups to change the font and colors without having to go into each geeklet to change them one at a time. Click the checkbox next to the group name to activate or deactivate that group, or toggle them from the menu bar.

To activate a geeklet, drag it out of the System Preferences window to the desktop where you want it to live. When the plug-in is in place, the properties window will change to allow you to change its size and position, type in the commands you want the plug-in to run, select the image you want it to display, or specify the text you want it to show. Anything you can run in terminal will run in a geeklet, so if you love the command line, here's where you can put those skills to use.

Step Two: Set Up Your Geeklets
The default geeklets are fairly powerful, and can help you get a long way towards the HUD of your dreams. Here are a few ways to get started adding some flare to your desktop using the default geeklets:

Add the Time and Date:
Drag the Shell geeklet to your desktop, and place it in the space where you'd like the time to appear. Drag the bottom right corner to resize it to be as large as you'd like the time to display on your desktop. Give it a name, and then, in the "command" field of the properties window, type the following:

date "+%H:%M"

Set the refresh rate to be every 60 seconds so the time updates every minute. Then click the box to set the font and color, and increase the size so the time is displayed as large as you'd like. It should take up the entire space you've set, but if it's too large, you can either decrease the font size, or resize the geeklet so the entire time is displayed. Set the color to something that's readable on your desktop background, and then change the font to something you like. In the example here, I used Futura Medium, at 144 pt.

I'm using a 24-hour clock here, but if you prefer the AM/PM style, use this string instead:

date "+%I:%M %p"

The %I toggles 12-hour format, and the %p on the end adds an AM/PM to the clock.

Once the time looks the way you'd like it to, repeat the process for the day of the week. Drag another Shell geeklet to the desktop, adjust its size to match how large you'd like the day to appear relative to the time, and then type the following into the command field:

date "+%A"; date "+%d %B %Y"

That will show the day of the week, insert a line break (the semicolon adds the line break,) and then the date on the next line. Set the refresh timer high this time, maybe every 1000 or 5000 seconds—after all, the date only changes once every 86,400 seconds. If you're up at midnight and it would kill you to see the previous date for 1000 seconds at most, set it lower. Make sure to match the font with the time for a consistent look.

I could have put all of these in the same geeklet, but you'll note I used a smaller font for the date and day of the week than the clock. While you can add line breaks, you can only have one font and size for each geeklet, so if you want different fonts, sizes, or even positioning that requires spacing beyond line breaks, you'll want to add individual geeklets and position them where you want them to show up relative to each other.

Add a Calendar:
Adding a persistent calendar to your desktop is a good opportunity to see how GeekTool responds to strings of commands. Drag another shell geeklet to the desktop, name it Calendar, and then paste the following into the command field:

cal | sed "s/^/ /;s/$/ /;s/ $(date +%e) / $(date +%e | sed 's/./#/g') /"

This command will display a calendar on your desktop with the current month and year at the top, a row for the days of the week, and lettered days. The current date is noted with a pair of pound symbols (##.) In my example here, I chose to keep the calendar small and out of the way.

Since you can't just click the time in the Mac OS menubar to see a calendar the way you can with the time in Windows systray, keeping this embedded calendar small and in a corner of one of my desktops lets me see the current date when I need it without opening iCal.

Add Uptime and CPU/Memory Status:
To display uptime and system status on your desktop, you'll need to get familiar with the Unix uptime and top commands. For example, you could drag a shall geeklet to your desktop and paste this inside:

uptime | awk '{print "UPTIME : " $3 " " $4 " " $5 " " }'; top -l 1 | awk '/PhysMem/ {print "RAM : " $8 " "}' ; top -l 2 | awk '/CPU usage/; NR; 5 {printf "CPU" $6, $7=":", $8, $9="user ", $10, $11="sys ", $12, $13}'

Which will do the job, but depending on what you're looking for, could give you entirely too much information. I don't mind the data, so I just cropped the geeklet down to show me the essentials, and set the refresh time good and high so I'm not crushing my CPU running uptime and top over and over again within a few seconds.

If you want an overall view of the processes running on your system, including the ones that are eating the most memory, you can add a shell geeklet with this command that shows you everything running, organized by what's most resource-consuming:

top -l1 -u -o cpu –S

This will give you an incredible amount of information (albeit the same data that the previous command shows, just organized differently,) so be ready to set the font size nice and small and tuck it off to one side of your desktop. Make sure to use a monotype font (courier works well here) for this one if you want the data to be arranted in neat little columns. Set the refresh rate to a couple of minutes, maybe 3600 seconds, and you'll get a good real-time view of your system's performance.

Show Battery Capacity/Charge Remaining
You'll need another shell geeklet for this one. Drag one to your desktop, name it, and then paste this into the command field:

system_profiler SPPowerDataType | grep mAh

This string will call the battery information from System Profiler and display your charge remaining and your battery's full charge capacity so you see how much you've used.

Add a Photo Slideshow
This one's fun: drag an image geeklet to your desktop this time, and name it "Slideshow." Resize it so it takes up the amount of space you want to give it on your desktop. Click ther "Set Local Path" button under the URL field and browse to the folder on your Mac that has contains the photos you want in the slideshow. Select the folder, and then set the refresh rate to the number of seconds you want the image to display before it changes to the next one in the folder. Once these options are set, the image will change automatically at the interval you set.

The slideshow will be behind all of your apps unless you check the "Keep on Top" button in the properties window. If you'd prefer that it rest on top, you may also want to change the opacity slider at the bottom of the window to the level of transparency you'd like for the images. If you leave it turned all the way up, the images will block anything behind them, hovering on top of any other applications you have open.

Step Three: Try New Geeklets and Scripts
Even though there are only three geeklets available when you install GeekTool, Mac OS X Tips has a repository of … [more]
Customization  Desktop  Feature  GeekTool  Geektool_scripts  Mac  Scripts  System_Monitoring  Top  from google
august 2011 by lancejanders
The Best Calendar App for iPhone [Iphone App Directory]
Going by the number of calendar alternatives in the iTunes App Store, nobody seems to be satisfied with the built-in calendar on the iPhone. Plenty of people have tried to create the best replacements, but we think Week Calendar is best suited for the job as it combines the best features of a desktop calendar with the best parts of the mobile experience.

Week Cal
Platform: iPhone
Price: $2
Download Page

View your calendar by day, week, month, or year, and still be able to view events on that day regardless of the view
Batch edit events
Agenda overview
Color-code events based on keywords
Event icons
Move events around like you'd move apps on your home screen
Compatible with all iPhone-supported calendars
Works in landscape and portrait modes
Hide hours of the day you don't need to see
Custom timezone support
Share events via email
Add a location to an event (via GPS or manually)
Search your calendars
Better support for the birthdays calendar (displays age as well as birthday)
Set complex recurring event rules (e.g. last day of the month)
Supports TextExpander

Like most alternatives, Week Calendar offers multiple views for your events and tasks. Like some of the best competition, it also offers a really great feature set. Where it truly excels, however, is in how easy it is to use such a vast number of features and still see all the information you need directly from any view. You can still see the events of your day quickly even in year view, simply by tapping a date. Moving events around works just like moving apps on your home screen—you tap and hold, then drag it to where you want. Everything is very intuitive, it feels like you're using iCal or Google Calendar but in a way that's suited for your iPhone. Basically, it has the elegance of a minimal calendar app while still retaining a very respectable set of features.

There isn't much to complain about, unless you desperately want features like location-based tasks or a robust task manager in general. Personally, I ran into a bug where I couldn't use the GPS to add a location to an event because the app would quit each time, but I try to assume bugs like this are the result of the numerous jailbreak hacks I have installed. That may not be the case, but I have a tendency to run into bugs more than others since my iPhone is a testing bed for all sorts of stuff. Really, though, there's very little to complain about here. Week Calendar is an excellent app and is probably underpriced for what it provides.

ActionFocus ($4) and miCal ($2) are both feature-rich alternatives with different interfaces you may appreciate. For the most part, the feature set is the same with a few exceptions (e.g. miCal has a neat dashboard view and ActionFocus has an awesome tabbed task manager). Both are more than adequate. Pocket Informant ($5 currently, regularly $13) is also another feature-rich app with tons of features but bills itself as a task manager. While we don't find it more appealing than the previously mentioned options—which also cost less—a lot of people do like this app so we wanted to give it a mention.

Organizer for iPhone ($8) is a little on the pricey side (at least compared to the other options), but gives you a full organizer. It lets you pin location maps, sound recordings, notes, tasks, photos, and more to your dates. Even with all of this extra data, it still syncs with Google Calendar. If you'd prefer a more flexible format for your datebook, this might be a more appropriate option for you.

Calvetica, or Fast Calendar and Tasks ($3) and Agenda Calendar ($1) are both great options if your main draw is a minimalist aesthetic. That's not to say they aren't great—they both have simple, intuitive interfaces that allow you to quickly navigate around all your events. That said, they're not designed to be the feature-rich behemoths mentioned above. If you don't need much more than the built-in calendar app provides but would prefer a better interface with additional views and some extra features, both of these apps are completely serviceable and nice to look at.

Finally, it's just worth mentioning the UNIQLO Calendar (Free) purely for its uniqueness. It costs nothing, syncs with Google Calendar, is very attractive, and plays tilt-shift videos while you navigate. It may not be the most practical option, but it is free and a lot of fun.

Lifehacker's App Directory is a new and growing directory of recommendations for the best applications and tools in a number of given categories.

You can follow Adam Dachis, the author of this post, on Twitter, Google+, and Facebook.  Twitter's the best way to contact him, too.
Iphone_app_directory  App_directory  Calendars  dates  Downloads  ios  ipad  iPhone  iPhone_Apps  iPhone_Downloads  ipod_touch  Organization  tasks  To-Do  Top  from google
august 2011 by lancejanders
Hack Your Wii, Eat Well on a Budget, and Survive Your Less-than-Perfect Job [Video]
On this week's episode of Lifehacker, we're hacking your Wii for homebrew,surviving a crappy job, eating like a foodie on a budget, and more.

This is the tenth in Lifehacker's summer series. The format is slightly different from our regular episodes but the content is just as good. Starting next week, we'll be back to the regular format of the show, so today marks the end of our summer series. This week's episode highlights:

How to hack your Wii for homebrew in five minutes
How to eat like a foodie on a budget
A few tricks to survive a crappy job
What it's like to swap your office chair for an exercise ball
Everything you need to know about home networking and getting the most from your router
How to circumvent your iPhone's restrictions and email as many photos as you want, or send video emails
A handy Windows shortcut for switching more quickly between windows

This week's featured downloads include:

FastCustomer for Android or iPhone (original post)
Chronical Mini for Mac (original post)
TextGrabber for iPhone (original post)
Tabs to the Front for Chrome (original post)
FindThatBand for Chrome and Firefox (original post)

Hungry for a little more? Check out all the episodes in our summer series:

Episode 1
Episode 2
Episode 3
Episode 4
Episode 5
Episode 6
Episode 7
Episode 8
Episode 9

Lastly, if you need to catch up on the first season of Lifehacker, you can find all 13 episodes here:

Learned a little about surviving the urban jungle
Upgraded our office and hid our cords
Hacked our weekends with a few of our favorite outdoorsy tricks
Untangled your wires and boosted your Wi-Fi
Cracked Windows passwords, padlocks, and Wi-Fi
Shared some of our favorite clever repurposing tricks
Supercharged your camera, took better cameraphone pictures, and painted with light
Customized our phones, laptops, apartments, and so on
Made better coffee, cut an onion without crying, and saved time with no-knead bread
Scored free money, made free phone calls, and got free space on Dropbox
Set up remote access to our home computers, remote controlled our BitTorrent downloads, and set up a remote security camera
Saved a soaked gadget, make the ultimate workout playlist, and stay cool this summer
Build the ultimate home theater, make great homemade popcorn, and always go cheap with HDMI cables

Grab it in any format you like: If you don't want to watch it in your browser right now, you can catch the show wherever you want, and in nearly whatever format you like. Visit the episode page on Revision3 to download HD or phone-friendly versions of the show in MP4 or WMV. You can also subscribe in iTunes or via RSS, watch it on YouTube and subscribe to our channel there.

Hack Your Wii, Survive a Crappy Job, and Eat Well on a Budget | Revision3

You can contact Adam Pash, the author of this post, on Twitter, Google+, and Facebook.
The_Show  Android  Announcements  Budget  Computer  DIY  Downloads  Food  Hacking  Homebrew  ios  iPhone  Jobs  Lifehacker_Show  Lifehacker_Video  Saving_Money  Summer_Series  Top  Wii  wii_homebrew  from google
august 2011 by lancejanders
AdBlock Video Kills Ads in Hulu and Other Online Video Players [Video]
Firefox: AdBlock Video is a simple Firefox extension that'll play your videos commercial-free.

Sadly, regular old Adblock Plus can't usually block video ads on sites like Hulu. Luckily, AdBlock Video does it in a pinch. Just install the add-on and enjoy ad-free videos from the likes of Hulu, NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, and more.

As always, we do believe you should support the sites you visit. However, you've probably noticed that many of these players play the exact same ads over and over again, which can be very annoying, so we understand the desire to block if you're a particularly heavy video watcher. Use with care, please.

AdBlock Video is a free download, works wherever Firefox does. Note that it doesn't work if you're using Adblock Plus at the same time, so you'll need to disable Adblock Plus while you're watching videos (and then re-enable it when you're done). They hope to have filters they can integrate with Adblock Plus soon.

AdBlock Video | via AddictiveTips

You can contact Whitson Gordon, the author of this post, at You can also find him on Twitter, Facebook, and lurking around our #tips page.
Download_of_the_Day  Ad_blocking  AdBlock  adblock_plus  Clips  Firefox  Firefox_Extensions  Hulu  Linux  Mac_OS_X  Streaming_Video  Television  Top  TV  Videos  Windows  from google
august 2011 by lancejanders
How I Got in Shape with the Help of Technology [Quantified Self]
It's tempting to think dropping cash on a clever exercise-/fitness-/weight-/food-tracking gadget or app is the only thing standing between you and those six-pack abs you're still convinced you want, but simply owning a new exercise gadget isn't going to get you in better shape. Unfortunately when it comes to your fitness, there's no magic bullet beyond actually eating better and exercising. That doesn't mean fitness tech is useless, though. I spent the last eight months testing out some of the more popular fitness tools on the market; some were great, others not so great. Here's a look at my favorite fitness gadgets and apps, and a look at how I got in better shape this year with the help of tech.

First, a note: I'm not a doctor, not a dietician, and I'm not in terrible shape. I've always been at least somewhat athletic, and I like staying active, but like most people, I've occasionally let stress, time, and yes, laziness get in the way of health and fitness. At the beginning of this year I decided, puffy-faced after a holiday season of binging, that I needed to get in better shape. I'd been reading raves about gadgets like the FitBit, so I decided to give these tools a try to see if they actually worked.

As it turned out, they did. Some worked better than others, but I dropped the 10 or so pounds I was looking to leave behind (like I said, I wasn't in terrible shape to begin with) and have kept it off. It would probably be more impressive if I'd lost 50 pounds, but there's no reason the same tools can't accomplish a larger goal.

The Contestants
I tried most of the fitness gadgets I could get my hands on, trying to tackle as much variety I could in terms of types of fitness tech. If you feel like reading about each piece of tech, just jump down to what ended up working best for me. The gadgets and apps I tried include:

The BodyMedia Fit ($180-$260 + monthly subscription): Great Data, Bulky Device
What It Is: The Fit a tracking arm band that tracks your caloric output by measuring things like body heat, sweat, heat flux (the rate at which heat is dissipated from your body), and your activity, as in motion. It does the latter with a built-in accelerometer—the same thing the detects movements in a Wiimote or your smartphone. As an added bonus, it also measures and analyzes your sleep if you wear it to bed and tracks your calories consumed—if you're willing to enter everything you eat into their webapp. You can read more details regarding how it works here.

Pros: The Fit is rich with data, and among all the tools I tested, it clearly does the most, it presents it all in a friendly dashboard, and one charge lasts for days, so you don't need to worry about charging it all the time. Most of that data is tracked automatically, so all you have to do is wear the arm band. The only thing you have to manually enter into the web site is your calories consumed, which you do through a Weight-Watchers-like food database, and your weight.

Cons: You have to wear an armband around all the time. I wore the Fit around for a good six weeks, and frankly, I found wearing it kind of gross. My arm would feel a little sweaty, so I'd pull the rubber-y elastic band away from my arm to get a little air in there like you would if you were wearing tight, poorly breathing underwear. The $180 version I tested also had to be plugged into your computer to sync, which, in a world where wireless is the expectation, felt really tedious. Since I tested it, BodyMedia has released a $250 Bluetooth-capable version that, I believe, can sync wirelessly to your Android or iPhone. The gadget itself doesn't have any display, so you can't get any on-the-fly statistics unless you've synced it—in which case you'll have to visit the webapp or open the Fit app on your smartphone.

Verdict: The Fit was the best tracker I tested in terms of accuracy and breadth of information. Unfortunately I'm not a convict, and unless required by law, I, like most people, find wearing a bulky armband every day to be overkill. In the winter, it bulged under long-sleeve shirts like I had severely over-exercised one arm. In short-sleeve weather, several people assumed I had some sort of blood disease that needed constant monitoring (not kidding). I'd consider using the Fit full time if it weren't such a socially awkward commitment—that is, if it were smaller and could live in my pocket.

Fitbit ($100): Unobtrusive Tracker, Low Price
What It Is: The Fitbit is a small, key fob-sized pedometer that fits in your pocket and uses an accelerometer to track steps taken, distance walked, and calories burned in a day. Like the BodyMedia Fit, the Fitbit web site allows you to view your activity and (manually) log your caloric intake. The point is to see your calories in vs. calories out to get a sense of how you're doing in the weight loss department. As an afterthought, Fitbit also has a sleep tracking element.

Pros: Fitbit is small, fits easily into your pocket (or wherever you want to clip it on—most of the time I preferred to wear mine in my otherwise unused watch pocket), and syncs wirelessly to a USB dongle-plus-charger that plugs into your computer. It's easy to set up, easy to use, and the Fitbit interface is attractive and easy to navigate. The pint-sized gadget syncs wirelessly whenever you're in range of the (likewise small) USB base station, and the device's onscreen display gives you on-the-fly stats, displaying steps taken, distance walked, and a surprisingly effective flower that grows taller the more you're walking. (I was always disappointed in myself when I didn't max out that flower height.)

Cons: The Fitbit's battery life is a little on the weak side, but it's not a dealbreaker. If you want to track your sleep with the Fitbit, you have to wear it on a wristband, which suffers the same problems as the Fit: Namely, it sucks to wear an uncomfortable band to sleep.

Verdict: The Fitbit isn't nearly as full-featured as the Fit, but it makes up for that with convenience. Its wireless activity sync, on-device stats, and small size make it an addictive gadget to carry around in your pocket. I found myself regularly checking (and actually caring about) my daily steps taken. You still need to remember to swap pockets every day, and it can be frustrating when you forget, but you get in the habit of keeping it with you like you get in the habit of remembering your keys. Lastly, my primary activity is jogging, and while Fitbit does have a special "activity" mode, it's much more of a walker's device.

Withings WiFi Body Scale ($160): Dead-Simple Tracking, Easily Understandable Data
What It Is: The Withings WiFi Body Scale is what it sounds like: A scale that connects to your home Wi-Fi network. Aside from measuring your weight, it also measures your body mass index (BMI) and body fat percentage. It syncs the results to the Withings web site, where you can track you weight over time. Withings works with multiple users, so every person in your household can track their weight using the device.

Pros: You won't find anything much simpler to use than the attractive Withings scale. After you've set it up with your network, associated it with your MyWithings account, and added yourself as a user, you just stand on the scale whenever you want to use it. It weighs you and measures your BMI and body fat percentage. It automatically syncs the results to the web. There's nothing easier than stepping on a scale when you get out of the shower, so Withings has the lowest hassle to adoption. The weight change over time is, for me, effective. Rather than having a vague idea that I've gained or lost weight, I know exactly how much I've gained or lost, and even though it doesn't have any way of tracking your caloric intake/output, normally I have a pretty good idea of when and why it's happening. As an added bonus, Withings can incorporate its data with third-party fitness tools—including RunKeeper (see below).

Cons: The Withings scale can't track the same data as the Fit or Fitbit for obvious reasons. It's limited to the three weight measurements.

Verdict: I really like the Withings scale. Incorporating gadgets like the Fit or Fitbit into your life is a big commitment, but there's nothing to using a scale. You just stand on it. Everyone understands that, and beyond the initial setup, that's all there is to it. A good weight history is, for me, really powerful. It's hard data saying, "Adam, you're getting a little on the heavy side for you. Time to shape up."

RunKeeper (Free app, $20/year for the Elite service); Low Price, Great for Runners
What It Is: RunKeeper is an Android, iPhone, and Windows Phone 7 app that uses your smartphone's GPS to track your runs, hikes, walks, skis, and pretty much every other distance- and motion-based activity. It tracks distance, duration, pace, speed, elevation, and calories burned. When you finish a workout, the RunKeeper app syncs the results to, where you can track your activity history. It's far from the only app of its kind, but it is the only one I know of with strong, cross-platform support. (I like to know I can switch between an Android or iPhone and still use the same tracking app.) Other good tracking alternatives include RunStar Runmeter and Nike+. The same pros and cons of of RunKeeper will mostly apply to other apps of its ilk.

Pros: I like listening to music or podcasts when I jog, so I'm taking my phone with me anyway. RunKeeper works well (as long as your phone's GPS doesn't suck; when I had the abomination of an Android phone that is the Samsung Captivate, the GPS tracking was all over the place) and does exactly what it advertises. The app is customizable, allowing you to set time- or distance-based announcements for your distance and pace, place specific playlists, and so on. The feature that really blew my mind was the Coaching feature, which allows you to create your own workouts with specific time- or distance-based intervals. (E.g., run fast for .25 miles, then slow for 1 minute; rinse and … [more]
Quantified_Self  Exercise  Feature  Fitness  Gadgets  Health  Stuff_we_like  Technology  Top  from google
august 2011 by lancejanders
Cook Salmon Sous-Vide in Your Kitchen Sink for No-Fuss, Healthy Eats [Food]
Sous-vide cooking has gained popularity in recent years, and while it often requires special equipment like immersion cookers and special sealed bags, you don't always need it. Here's how you can cook delicious salmon sous-vide using your kitchen sink and the heat from your tap.

The beauty of sous-vide cooking is that it often creates tender, juicy, and evenly cooked cuts of meat and fish, cooked thoroughly over long periods of time by immersing them in evenly heated water for the duration of cooking. With some meat and poultry, cooking them sous-vide can take hours, and you need the right equipment to keep your meat or poultry sealed properly and the water it's immersed in at the appropriate temperature.

While beef, pork, and poultry can take hours to cook sous-vide, fish usually only takes a few minutes, and over at Chow there's a video tutorial on how to cook small cuts of salmon sous-vide using the heat from your kitchen tap and a sink full of water. Just add some salmon to a zip-loc bag, add a little oil or melted butter, seal it up (making sure to get all the air out of the bag,) and just let the fish rest in the hot water (about 50 Celsius or 122 Fahrenheit) for about 15 minutes. Hot water in large volumes can hold its temperature for much longer than needed to cook the fish.

Finish the salmon off in a hot pan with some butter and spices, to add some flavor. The fish will already be cooked through at this point. This method lets you get the benefits and flavor of sous-vide cooking at home without the initial investment of the equipment. Have you tried sous-vide cooking? Share your experiences in the comments.

How to Cook Salmon Sous Vide in Your Kitchen Sink | CHOW Tips

You can reach Alan Henry, the author of this post, at, or better yet, follow him on Twitter.
Food  Cooking  Immersion  Kitchen  Kitchen_hacks  Salmon  Sous_vide  Sous-vide  Top  Water  from google
august 2011 by lancejanders
How to Hack Your Wii for Homebrew in Five Minutes [Video]
Hacking your Wii hasn't been difficult, but it has required a somewhat detailed process. Now we have LetterBomb, which is an incredibly simple way to hack your Wii. It only takes about five minutes to accomplish. Here's how to do it.

First things first, you're going to need the following:

A Nintendo Wii, obviously, but make sure it's running System Menu 4.3
An SD or SDHC card with some free space—it can have other stuff on it.

Step One: Get Your Wii's MAC Address
Before we can do anything, we need to go find your Wii's MAC Address. Go to your Wii's home screen and click the Wii Options button. Once it loads, choose Wii Settings. From there, navigate to the second page and click the Internet button. Finally, click the Console Information button and you'll have your Wii's MAC address. Either write this down or just leave it up on your screen.

Step Two: Generate the File
Now get on your computer and go to and enter your Wii's MAC address. You'll also need to type in what you see in the captcha image. Once you've filled those things out, cut the red or the blue wire. It doesn't really matter. This will generate a file that will start downloading.

Step Three: Prepare the SD Card
Now insert your SD or SDHC card into your computer, because we're going to need to copy some files onto it. First, unzip the file on your computer. Next, drag the contents of the zip to your SD or SDHC card. When it's done copying, eject it, and put it in your Wii.

Step Four: Open the LetterBomb
Back on the Wii, head on over to the Wii Message Center. There's going to be a new message for you with a bomb in it, but where that message is going to be will depend on your time zone and when you generated the file. In most cases, it will be in yesterday's mail, but it could be today or a couple of days ago. You'll know when you see it. When you're ready to pull the trigger, just click on the LetterBomb message icon. The process will take about a minute, so be patient. You'll have a hacked Wii when it's done.

If you run into any issues along the way it's probably because you don't have the right version of the Wii System Menu. If you try to use LetterBomb with the wrong version, it'll freeze your Wii. Not to worry—just force-reboot your Wii, make sure you update properly, and try again. Obviously you want to do the update beforehand, but in the event you forget it's not really a big deal.

Step Five: Install BootMii and the Homebrew Channel
Once LetterBomb has done its thing, it'll tell you to press 1 to continue. Do that and you'll be able to use your WiiMote to start installing things. What you're really interested in is the Homebrew Channel, but BootMii will provide you with some extra features (like backup). Once everything is installed, you'll be all set.

Music by Comptroller

LetterBomb | Hack Mii

You can follow Adam Dachis, the author of this post, on Twitter, Google+, and Facebook.  Twitter's the best way to contact him, too.
How_To  DVD  Games  Hacks  Homebrew  Media  Media_Center  Media_Player  Nintendo_Wii  Top  Wii  from google
august 2011 by lancejanders
DIY Swiss Army-Style Folding Keychain Gives You More Room in Your Pockets [DIY]
If your huge jumble of keys is starting to get uncomfortable, DIY web site Instructables shows us how to add them to a Swiss Army-like folding tool.

The project isn't that complicated, though it could require quite a bit of elbow grease depending on the tools you have lying around. Essentially, you take a folding hex set, remove the tools, and replace them with filed-down versions of your keys. Some people recommend a bench grinder and a Dremel, but others have gotten by on similar projects with just a metal file and a lot of work. Hit the links to see how it's done—we've shared both versions of the project, each of which has some different ideas but with similar results.

Folding Key Chain | Instructables

Friendly Folding Keychain | Instructables

You can contact Whitson Gordon, the author of this post, at You can also find him on Twitter, Facebook, and lurking around our #tips page.
DIY  Cars  Household  Keys  Top  from google
august 2011 by lancejanders
Whiskey Stones Chill Fine Beverages Without Diluting Them [Stuff We Like]
Whiskey stones are small soapstone cubes that are kept in the freezer until it's time to pour a drink of straight liquor. They chill in hours and warm gradually, so adding two or three in a glass of your whiskey or scotch will bring the temperature down without diluting your drink the way ice would.

We've discussed how important ice can be when it comes to a good cocktail, but adding an ice cube to a fine scotch or single malt whiskey is sacrilege depending on who you ask. Thankfully whiskey stones are cheap ($19.99 for a set of 9) and can sit in the freezer until you're ready to use them. When finished, rinse them well, let them dry, and put them back in the freezer for the next cocktail.

How do you prefer your liquor: straight, or on the rocks (or not at all?) Leave your thoughts in the comments. Photo by Justin.

Whiskey Stones | ThinkGeek

You can reach Alan Henry, the author of this post, at, or better yet, follow him on Twitter.
Stuff_we_like  Alcohol  Beverages  Cubes  Drinks  Food  Soapstone  Top  from google
august 2011 by lancejanders
New Apple Products, Embedded Videos, and Switching ISPs [From The Tips Box]
Readers offer their best tips for trying out new software before upgrading, playing embedded YouTube videos, and switching internet providers without a hassle.

Don't like the gallery layout? Click here to view everything on one page.

Every day we receive boatloads of great reader tips in our inbox, but for various reasons—maybe they're a bit too niche, maybe we couldn't find a good way to present it, or maybe we just couldn't fit it in—the tip didn't make the front page. From the Tips Box is where we round up some of our favorites for your buffet-style consumption. Got a tip of your own to share? Add it in the comments, email it to tips at, or share it on our tips and expert pages.

Test New Software at the Apple Store Before Upgrading
Photo by Matt Day.

Jord.graham lets us know how he makes his upgrade decisions:

If you are uncertain about one of apple's new products, like lion or Final Cut X in my case, go to the apple store and play around with it. This convinced me to save $30 and stick with snow leopard.

Try Web Videos on Their Original Page if Embeds Don't Work
Teknophilia shares a handy tip for watching online video:

If an embedded YouTube video is taking a while to load, I've found that watching it YouTube itself is faster (maybe they give priority to those over embedded ones). I'd really like to know if this has been conclusively proven.

I haven't noticed this much with YouTube myself, but I have noticed much better reliability with other players (like Vimeo) on their sites as opposed to embeds.

Avoid the Hassle When Switching ISPs by Telling Them You're Moving
Photo by Frankie Roberto.

Craiglloyd helps you cancel your service with no questions asked:

If ISPs are annoying you by trying to get you to stay when you just want to cancel your account, just say that you're moving out of the country. I did this when I had FiOS and they cancelled my account with no questions asked.

I can also concur that this works like a charm.

Hide Facebook's New Chat Bar by Un-Maximizing Your Browser
Calebhudson88 finally gets rid of Facebook's infernal new chat bar:

For those of you who are still frustrated by Facebook's new chat window, there is a way in windows to make Facebook revert back to it's old chat pop-up box in the lower right corner. Just put your internet browser in a resize window (or click on restore down next to the close button if you maximized your window. Voila! That annoying sidebar should be gone. Sadly, there is still the randomness of people that shows up in your box, but it's better than nothing.

Personally, I don't mind the chat box when I have Firefox maximized (after all, it's only taking up what would otherwise be white space). However, this was a welcome change to the new chat layout, and a good enough workaround if you'd just rather not look at it.
From_the_tips_box  Republished  Tips  Top  from google
august 2011 by lancejanders
Lifehacker Pack for Mac: Our List of the Best Free Mac Downloads [Downloads]
Looking for a few great, free apps to beef up your Mac? We've got you covered with our annual Lifehacker Pack for Mac. Here are the best OS X downloads for better productivity, communication, media management, and more.

Want to skip to a specific category? Use these links:

Micro Apps

The Lifehacker Pack is a yearly snapshot of our favorite, must-have applications for each of our favorite platforms. If you're curious to see how things have changed this year, here's last year's Lifehacker Pack for Mac.


At its least useful, Quicksilver is a fantastic keyboard-centric app launcher. If you really get into all it can do, you'll find yourself writing emails, browsing your file system, assigning new keyboard shortcuts to practically anything, and controlling iTunes all from a tiny little interface. Even that's just scratching the surface. If you're new to all it can offer, you'll want to check out our beginner guide. We've also can show you some handy settings tweaks and some helpful video demonstrations.

Want a nice alternative to Quicksilver? Try Alfred. Want something more light-weight? Try Chuck.

Download Page

Notational Velocity
When it comes to keeping track of plain text notes, Notational Velocity is about as good as it gets. It was our favorite syncing note-taker for the app directory because it's so simple and easy to use without sacrificing utility. You can do it all from the keyboard, and using it doesn't require much more than typing. By default it syncs with Simplenote, so your notes are everywhere, but you can make it work with other services like Dropbox (or really anything that can automatically sync a folder of plain text files). If you want to get an idea of how it works and why it's so great, watch this video for a demonstration.

Download Page

Kod is a new addition to the many programming text editors on the Mac, and while it still has some room to grow it's already pretty fantastic. It has a Google Chrome-like interface with features you'd usually find in expensive programming text editors like TextMate and SublimeText, but for free. For example, you get syntax highlighting, customizable styles, editing of both remote and local files, and more. It's also really lightweight and fast, taking advantage of the multi-core CPU you likely have in your Mac. While at the moment you'll get a bit more if you pay for one of the aforementioned, pricier apps, Kod may close that gap in time. For now, it still holds its own quite well if you don't need the broad feature set that something like TextMate can offer.

Download Page


While we also love Firefox, Google Chrome has taken root as our default browser on the Mac because it's both fast and functional. It also syncs nearly everything you could ask for via your Google account. Both browsers have grown into great browsing tools, so whichever you choose you'll be in pretty good shape. If you're looking for alternatives to the big two, Opera offers lots of neat features (like media streaming) and Camino is a great, open-sourced, light-weight option.

Download Page

Sparrow Lite
If you want a Gmail desktop client, you want Sparrow. While the full version will cost you $10, the Lite version has most of the same functionality and will serve you well if you only need a single email account. While Sparrow was a little slow and starved for features in its initial release, it has recently bloomed into a really fantastic email client. The latest version, released alongside OS X Lion, brought some great interface enhancements and speed improvements. If Gmail's your email provider of choice but you still prefer to use the desktop, Sparrow's an app you'll want to download.

Download Page

While Transmit is our favorite if you're willing to pay, Cyberduck comes in at a close second regardless. As far as free file transfer clients go, it's incredibly versatile and pretty straightforward. It supports plenty of protocols, from FTP to Amazon S3, and works cross platform—which is great if you also use Windows.

Download Page

While it can't handle video chat, screen sharing, or any of the other media-rich features you'll find in iChat and some other apps, Adium does instant messaging so well that you won't care. It supports every type of IM account you can imagine (plus some you can't) and has tons of amazing customization options that will let you turn it into a very personal app.

Download Page

NetNewsWire has been around for a very long time, and so it's unsurprising that it's a solid, stable RSS newsreader. While it's not as beautiful as Reeder, it's also not nearly as expensive (because it's free). It syncs with Google Reader, has an iPhone counterpart, and makes it easy to organize all your feeds.

Download Page

Twitter's official app for the Mac is pretty great. It lets you manage multiple accounts, shortens URLs automatically, uploads pictures included with your tweets, searches Twitter, lets you view user information, and a whole lot more. It's basically the Twitter site in a nice, compact little desktop interface. Whitson prefers Kiwi, and maybe you will too, but most of us stick with the official app. There are many other clients out there, but the official Twitter app is a good compromise between useful features and a minimal interface.

Download Page


The Unarchiver
The Unarchiver is kind of a no-brainer utility for the Mac. You download a bunch of compressed files on the internet all day long, but OS X isn't really equipped to handle formats like RAR, for example. The Unarchive handles them just fine. It integrates into the Finder just like the built-in OS X archive utility, plus you can choose which file formats it does and doesn't handle. The only thing that would be better is if it compressed files as well, but for that you should take a look at Keka.

Download Page

While many of us have moved on to the file sharing service that dare not speak its name, BitTorrent is still alive and well. If you're on the Mac, you have a few clients to choose from but we like Transmission and uTorrent. They both pride themselves on being pretty minimal, easy, and smart, yet many people strongly prefer one or the other. Try them both out and see which one is your pick.

Download Page

OS X's built-in disc burning features aren't bad, but if you're looking for a little added power you'll want to give Burn a try. It makes it very easy to create all kinds of discs, plus you can burn additional formats like video DVDs. Burn can also copy discs, which is a lot less tedious than using OS X's Disk Utility for the same task. While Burn is super simple to use, if you have any trouble you'll find instructional videos on its web site that'll show you how to do pretty much everything.

Download Page

Pretty much everything on OS X uses Growl nowadays, as its become the standard for system notifications. If an app wants to subtly let you know what it's up to, it can post that to a Growl notification that'll fade in and out. This is useful for things like new emails, Twitter updates, a finished DVD rip, etc. It's also really easy to access by AppleScript, so you can utilize it yourself. With customizable skins and display options, you can really control how everything looks and operates. If you need notifications, this is what you should use.

Download Page

While Dropbox has had its security issues lately, it is still our go-to file synchronizing tool. While there are plenty of alternatives, Dropbox wins on simplicity. Plus, it's easy to get free storage space in addition to the 2GB they already give you. You can use it to organize and sync all your files, or you can just use it for plenty of other clever things. Whatever you choose, it's a very useful tool to have.

Download Page

Crashplan is a very versatile file backup utility. It's free if you're not backing up to their cloud storage service, as its capable of local backups and backups to remote computers as well. It's a really solid service, and a great way to create a bulletproof backup plan. It's also quite a bit more affordable than many other options, as it supports large amounts of data on the cheap. That may not last forever, but if it doesn't you can just use the app to back up to a friend's computer and pay nothing at all.

Download Page


VLC is a great video player for Mac. Yes, some people hate it, and to them we say download Movist (which is like MPlayer, only it works). VLC is far from perfect, but if you need to play any type of video or audio it will be there when you need it. It has a bunch of other features, like video conversion, but those are really too convoluted for the average user. VLC is just a solid, free, open-source video player that does its job well.

Download Page

There are plenty of streaming music services to choose from, but Spotify has long been a favorite of ours even before it came to America. The player is really great to use, it's free (even without an invitation), and has a wonderfully diverse selection of music.

Download Page

While we felt obligated to choose iPhoto as the best photo management app, seeing as it unfortunately is, Picasa is probably the best one you can get for free. It provides a lot of the same features as iPhoto, and integrates beautifully with Google services (like the new Google+). If you're looking for an iPhoto alternative—especially a free one—you ought to give Picasa a try.

Download Page

Whether you're ripping DVDs or just converting your media files, Handbrake is an all-around great tool for the job. While the interface can be a little complicated for some, it's so fast and powerful that it's worth it takes the time to learn it. In fact, we can teach you. Whether you want to get your DVDs and other videos in a format you can play on your … [more]
Downloads  app_pack  Backup  Communication  Feature  Featured_Mac_Download  Free  Freeware  Lifehacker_Pack  Lifehacker_Pack_for_Mac_2011  Mac  Mac_OS_X  Media  Open_Source  Productivity  Top  Utilities  Web_browsers  from google
august 2011 by lancejanders
Make Your To-Dos Come to You with ReQall [Video]
You've just returned from running errands: you went to the grocery store, picked up the dry cleaning, even stopped for coffee—but crap, you forgot to stop by the post office right next to the coffee shop. Location-aware to-do service ReQall makes sure that won't happen again. Like any other to-do app, ReQall helps you stay on top of projects and to-dos, but it also brings your tasks to you at the right time, including when you're near the place you need to do something. Think of ReQall as your personal assistant that knows where you are and what you have to do there, what you have coming up, and when to remind you that your work is due.

Why ReQall?
ReQall is a great web service that can help you keep your to-dos, appointments, and projects organized. Since we first mentioned it, the service has grown, updated their mobile apps for iOS and Android, launched a beta app for Android that briefs you on important news, events, and to-dos over the course of the day, and still keeps you informed of your to-dos based on where you are and when they need to be complete.

ReQall certainly isn't the only tool out there to help you organize your to-dos. What makes ReQall special is the emphasis it places on keeping your proactively aware of what you have to do and what's on your plate. It may not be the most feature-rich to-do list manager, but it's definitely one of the smartest and most proactive personal assistant services we've ever seen. Here's how to set it up to be your personal assistant.

Set Up ReQall
The first thing you'll need is a ReQall account. You'll be able to do most of the things we describe here with the Standard account, but the Pro account offers some advanced features like integration with Evernote, direct integration with Google Calendar or Outlook for events, and push notifications of to-dos in specific places via GPS. Standard accounts are free, and you get a 15-day trial of ReQall Pro. ReQall Pro will set you back $24.99/year or $2.99/month once your 30-day trial if over.

The basic web services and many proactive alerts are free however, so there's no need to sign up or a paid account if you don't want to. However, since ReQall offers new users that trial of the pro features, it's worth signing up, seeing if you make heavy use of them, and then deciding whether you want to pay for it. If not, do nothing and ReQall will automatically bump your trial Pro account to Standard.

Once your account is created, you'll want to go download the ReQall mobile app for your iOS or Android device. Install it, and log in to your ReQall account there as well. Having the app on your mobile device extends your ability to check in on your to-dos when you're on the go, and to have those to-dos alert you when it's time to do them. Even if you don't have a smartphone, you can still make use of ReQall's SMS alerts.

Finally, add ReQall's toll-free number (you'll get it once you've associated your phone with your account) to your address book or contacts on any type of phone to make use of the service's transcription features. You can always call the voice entry number to add to-dos and appointments by voice, whether you have a standard or a pro account. The difference is that pro accounts have the option for human transcription of their voice messages. Smartphone users can use the mobile app or the phone number for voice entry.

Set up To-Dos and Shopping Lists with Alerts
Once your account is all set up and you have the mobile apps installed, now it's time to enter some to-dos, appointments, or deadlines. You can enter and manage tasks from the web app or the mobile apps, or call the toll-free number to enter tasks (although the voice-to-text is spotty without human transcription.) ReQall supports common language for dates, so you can either speak or type in your to-dos on the web or by phone and say things like "Submit project schedule next Tuesday" and ReQall will add an item to your to-dos with the same name and set the due date to the following Tuesday.

Best of all, ReQall will automatically set an alert for that item for a half-hour before the time you entered the item on the due date. For example, if I enter a task to "Visit the market this Saturday" at 10am, it'll add the task to my to-dos for Saturday, and set a reminder for me to go out at 9:30am to remind me to do it. Pro account holders can also get SMS alerts, and smartphone users will get push notifications from their iOS or Android app that they have a task due in the next half-hour. If you dislike the notifications or email/SMS alerts, you can turn them off.

Go a Step Further with ReQall Rover
We mentioned ReQall Rover when the beta launched as an invite-only affair. The app (Android only, unfortunately) uses connections to your Google account to pull down Google Calendar appointments, contacts, and actionable items from your Gmail messages. It uses your Facebook likes to personalize news for you, and your location to tell you what weather and traffic conditions are like in your area, and to alert you to local deals on shopping and nearby restaurants.

It sounds like a lot of personal information to centralize in one application, and it is–what you get back however is a morning, afternoon, and evening update from Rover on everything the service thinks you should know. ReQall Rover is still invite-only, but the beta is open and invite codes are given out to anyone who asks for one: ReQall just throttles them based on demand.

While Rover has come a long way since we first mentioned it, it's still hit or miss depending on how heavily you use ReQall. For many users, the standard ReQall mobile apps are more than enough to automate your to-dos. However, if you're a heavy user of Google Calendar and tasks, like to share your activities with friends on Twitter and Facebook, or just like the personal touch that comes with spoken to-dos every morning, afternoon, and evening, ReQall Rover is worth a look.

For example, every morning at 830, Rover automatically opens on my Android phone, wishes me a good morning, and tells me what the weather conditions are outside, the traffic in the area, what meetings or calendar appointments I have for the day and who they're with, what events I have that I should be aware of, and Groupon or Deal Map's nearby daily deal. It also tells me what's trending on Twitter in my area, and what my friends are saying on Facebook. You can toggle any of those items on or off, depending on how useful you find them.

Rover has a way to go to fulfill it's promise to automatically skim your Gmail messages for actionable items, or to give you more control over the news it reads to you, but the app has improved its local deal and restaurant recommendations and can find you a nice place to have lunch in between your to-dos. Rover is Android-only at the moment, and while it had its bugs, it was useful to get those regular "stuff you need to know" summaries over the course of the day, the same way I would get if I actually had a real personal assistant. Even so, many users on the Android market report issues, so your mileage may vary.

With a little time and some simple setup, ReQall is the best organizational tool I've ever used. It's not perfect, but its proactive, "come to me when you brainstorm, I'll come to you with your work" approach keeps me away from alternatives. While the focus here has been on setting up ReQall to bring your tasks and appointments to you without you having to think about them, the service has other features like task sharing with other people in your contacts, integration with Evernote for clippings, notes, and to-dos, integration with Goole Calendar, Outlook, and iCal, and a Firefox extension that can all help you stay organized.

Don't feel overwhelmed by the number of tools ReQall has to offer however. Sign up for an account, and get started with the web apps and the mobile apps first to see if it's for you. After a few days or weeks of being reminded of the things you have to do when you have to do them, and entering them when you think about them, you'll never have to think "was there something I was supposed to do today," because ReQall will tell you – without forcing you to remember to look at it.
Organization  Downloads  Feature  Featured_Download  Organizer  Personal_Assistant  Productivity  reQall  To-Do_Manager  To-Dos  Top  from google
july 2011 by lancejanders
How to Migrate Your Facebook Account and Data to Google+ [Google+]
You may not be ready to ditch Facebook for good, but now that you've had a chance to kick the tires on Google+, you might be ready to make it your go-to social network. The problem: You've built up a lot of friends, photos, videos, and other data on Facebook over the years, and you don't want to simply lose all that data. Here's how to migrate it all from Facebook to Google+.

Photo remixed from an original by Shutterstock.

When Google+ came out, it's success was very much up in the air (remember Google Buzz?). However, it seems a lot of people have already thrown themselves into Google+ full force—Facebook may have 750 million users, but Google+ has already crossed the 20 million user milestone in only 30 days. If you're ready to give it a shot as your main network, here's what you need to do.

Migrate Your Friends
A social network is nothing without a group of friends with whom to talk, so the first thing you'll want to do is migrate your friends. Not everyone you know is going to be on Google+ yet, but it's a good idea to make sure you don't leave anybody out—and you can always send those other late adopters an invite to encourage them.

The easiest way to migrate your Facebook friends is to import them through a Yahoo email address. I know that sounds awful, but hear me out: While a few people have created browser extensions and other migration methods, Facebook shuts them down pretty quickly, since they don't like non-partners pulling friend data. In addition, the non-Yahoo methods usually add your Facebook friends to Google Contacts, which you probably don't want. You may not have a Yahoo account, but that's what makes this method great—no need to fill up your main address book with Facebook junk. Plus, it really does only take a few minutes.

To do this, head to and click the Create New Account button (if you already have a Yahoo or Flickr account, you can skip this step). Once you've created an account, sign in and head to the Contacts tab. Click on "Import Contacts" and choose the Facebook option. You should now see all your Facebok friends in your Yahoo address book.

Lastly, head to Google+ and go to the Circles tab. Click "Find and Invite" and click the Yahoo button. It'll add all your Yahoo Contacts (or Facebook Friends, in this case), to the Find and Invite page and you can add your Facebook friends to your circles. I, for one, was shocked at how many of my friends were already using Google+ without me knowing.

Migrate Your Photos
Migrating your photos is ridiculously easy with the previously mentioned Move Your Photos Chrome extension. Install it, click on its icon in the extension bar, and log in to your Facebook account. Select the photos you want to transfer and click the upload button at the very bottom of the page. You'll see the progress in the lower right-hand corner. Don't log out while it works, just let it do its thing.

When it's done, you'll see those albums in Google+. By default, they won't be public, and you can adjust each album's privacy settings by going into them and clicking on the "Edit" link under "Visible To".

If you don't want to use Chrome, you can grab a similar extension for Firefox, but you have to transfer albums one by one. If you have Chrome installed, I recommend using the Chrome extension just this once because it's much faster.

Migrate Your Videos
The only way to migrate your videos, unfortunately, is to download the entirety of your Facebook data and re-upload them. To do this, head to Account > Account Settings, and scroll down to "Download Your Information". Hit the "learn more" link and hit he Download button. It will take awhile to gather your info, but you'll receive an email when it's done, and you can download a ZIP file full of your photos, videos, and profile information.

Strangely, when I did this, one of my two videos was missing from the "videos" folder in the ZIP file. However, I was still able to download that video from Facebook by installing the Video Download Helper extension for Firefox, navigating to the video you want to download, playing it, and clicking the arrow next to Download Helper's icon in the add-on bar.

Once you've wrangled all the videos you want to move to Google+, you'll just have to upload them one by one. Head into Google+, click on your profile, and go to "Videos". Hit the "Upload New Videos" link and re-upload your videos to your Google+ profile.

Update and View Both Networks at Once
Now that all your data's been migrated, you can enjoy using Google+ as your main social network. However, chances are you still have a few friends on Facebook you want to keep up with. The best way to do this is with the Start Google Plus extension for both Chrome and Firefox. Once you install it, you'll see a Facebook and Twitter icon in the upper right-hand corner, which you can click on to connect your other accounts. Once your Facebook account's been linked, every status update you make on Google+ will have the option of posting to Facebook as well, just by clicking on the Facebook icon. It'll take with it any links, pictures, or other data that the status contains.

Start Google Plus will also plug your Facebook feed into your Google+ feed, so you don't even need to check Facebook anymore. Just check your Google+ feed, and it'll show you all of Facebook's news feed as well, with links to comment if you so desire.

If you prefer to not use an extension, you can also update your status on both networks at once using Facebook's "Upload via Email" feature. Just head to Facebook's mobile page, copy your Upload via Email email address, and add it to its own "Facebook" circle on Google+. From now on, when you update your status on Google+, you can just include your Facebook circle to send that status to Facebook as well. This method isn't perfect, however: it'll only work with statuses of up to 50 characters, and it doesn't work with photos. However, it does work over mobile, which is nice, and without any extensions.

It's also worth mentioning the previously mentioned Google+Facebook extension. While it's a much easier way to update both statuses at once, it's been hit by a bit of controversy, which you can read more about over at our post and on this Reddit thread. The company has responded to accusations of malware injection, and it seems more accidental than something that was actually of malicious intent, but we still recommending you use this at your own risk. The "update by email" method is still the safest, but this is a possibility as well. With other extensions out there like Start Google Plus, there's really no reason to take the risk.

There isn't a foolproof, one-step way to migrate your data, but this should help make the process quite a bit easier for you Google+ fans out there. Got any of your own migration tips to share? Let us know in the comments.

You can contact Whitson Gordon, the author of this post, at You can also find him on Twitter, Facebook, and lurking around our #tips page.
Google+  Data  Facebook  Feature  migration  Photos  Social  Social_Networking  Social_Networks  Top  Videos  from google
july 2011 by lancejanders
The Essential Spotify Tools [Spotify]
If you didn't already get in on the US launch of Spotify, the dominant freemium music streaming service in Europe, head over here and get an account. Once you're done with that, come back, because you're gonna need these tools to get the most out of Spotify.

Spotify's pretty decent out of the box. It has 15 million songs—which I think is the most of any streaming service right now—and a wide userbase, so you have a higher chance of finding friends who are on it. But it's also missing a lot of things.

Spotify doesn't let you see what your friends are listening to right now—instead, it offloads that capability onto, a free service that you have to sign up separately for. It doesn't alert you when your favorite artists put out new music, and it doesn't really have a good music discovery engine. It also, surprisingly, has a puny section for new releases, when in fact it gets a ton of new releases in every week that they dump into a separate playlist. (Not sure why this isn't more of a core feature, to be honest.) So here are a bunch of utilities to help you get more out of Spotify, whether you're a paying user or just a free one.

Useful Websites
Here are some sites that alert you of new releases, because Spotify's own new releases section is paltry, and doesn't distinguish between this week's releases and ones from a month ago. You could also subscribe to the playlists Spotify (the user) made to keep track of these new albums and new singles. But these seem like they're not as comprehensive as the websites. Also useful are the playlist importers and Spotify link cleaner-uppers.

freshspotify: Tracks new releases every week, plus notifies you when artists you like have new stuff
Pansentient League: Another new release tracker
URL tools: A list of tools that clean up Spotify links so they're easier to read, easier to share and in some cases, shorter.
SpNotify: Notification service when your favorite albums and artists get updated
ShareMyPlaylists: Supposedly the de-facto playlist sharing site for Spotify. Thanks commenters!

Music Discovery
It's great that you have 15 million tracks to listen to, but how are you going to find them when the music discovery part of Spotify is so mediocre? External websites! Put in stuff you like, out comes stuff you (probably) like.

Spotify Super Search: An "advanced" search tool, which includes genre searches. You can search for songs that match or do NOT match your specifications, in case you really don't like specific genres, like acappella.
Pitchify: The latest Pitchfork album reviews with high scores
Spotibot: Type in a band you like and Spotibot will generate a playlist of songs you might enjoy, similar to Genius in iTunes (but not exactly, since Genius is just your own songs)
More niche music finder sites, depending on your tastes and specific genres.

Social Features (
Spotify seems to be playlist oriented, meaning, you can only really see what people are listening to by their playlists—which takes effort on their part. But, if you and your friends enable scrobbling—letting keep track of your music playing history—you can get a lot of social features that way. And because Spotify inexplicably doesn't keep track of your play history as a core feature, like Rdio does, is the only way can know what you listened to earlier today, yesterday or a week ago. Still, isn't integrated well into the Spotify app in any cohesive way, so it's a kludge at best.

Stalkify (Currently down): A service that lets you grab usernames and listen to their tracks on Spotify.
Spofm: A custom generated list of new releases based on the music knows you've listened to
Lastify: Mac plugin that lets you "Love, Ban and Tag" songs in your account from Spotify
Discoverfy: Enter in bands you like and it'll spit out bands you may like. Spotify Search: Adds a green note link on all tracks to search Spotify for that artist/track so you can easily bring up what others are listening to.

Playlist Utilities
There seem to be a lot of playlist sharing services connected to Spotify, and because the quality of them really depends on what type of music you want, here's a giant list of them to explore. Otherwise, you can convert current playlists into Spotify-formatted ones.

Playlistify: Converts regular playlists into Spotify playlists
Ivy: Same as above. Try if you have some playlists that doesn't work with Playlistify
Listify: Specifically for iTunes playlists

Browser Extensions

Chrome and Firefox in-browser music controls
Firefox Search: Allows you to right-click on any site and performa a Spotify search on your selection
Firefox page analyzer: Grabs and forms playlists off the current site

Remote apps are useful when you're using a computer as a Spotify streaming device. For example, you could hook up an old machine to your sound system, run Spotify on it, and control your playback from anywhere in the house with a smartphone.

Remoteless: iPhone remote for controlling playback on your Mac or PC
ReSpot: An Android remote for Mac and Windows control
Mac Remote: Use your Mac IR remote to control Spotify
Spotifycontrol: A Windows remote to enable your Windows keyboard hotkeys to control playback
Simplify: A $3 Mac utility to control Spotify playback/volume on the desktop, display cover art, show a miniplayer.

Hardware support
You can also pipe Spotify music to various devices around the house as well. Some are official (which are easy, because you just play back Spotify as you would any other music source), but some require a little software setup first.

PS3 (Unofficial)
Roku (Unofficial)
Boxee (Unofficial)
Logitech Squeezebox
Any internet radio device (Unofficial)
AppleTV, via Airfoil (which is $25)
XBMC (Unofficial)
Windows Media Center (Unofficial)

Tools and Integration with other apps/services

Listdj: Plugin that shows you the lyrics of the current song
Shazam, the music-recognition app now supports pointing to Spotify
Songbird support, if you use Songbird as a music player

If you're a long time Spotify user with some services you can't live without, let us know in the comments and we can check it out.
spotify  Essential_spotify_tools  Roundup  Spotify_tools  Tools  Top  from google
july 2011 by lancejanders
The Google+ Cheatsheet Is a Quick Reference To Using Google+ [Cheatsheets]
Here's a handy quick reference with common things you should know about Google+, like how to prevent a post from being shared and hotkeys for more quickly navigating conversation streams.

We love shortcuts and cheatsheets, and have been digging Google+ lately, so this reference created by Google+ user Simon Laustsen is pretty neat. It's already been translated into a dozen languages. As the cheatsheet says, you can help add more tips and tricks by sending Simon a message at his G+ page.

Here's the full image (right-click to save it to your desktop):

[via Mashable]

You can follow or contact Melanie Pinola, the author of this post, on Twitter.
cheatsheets  cheat_sheet  Google  Google_plus  Shortcuts  Top  from google
july 2011 by lancejanders
Make a Starbucks Frappuccino for $0.32 [Food Hacks]
Frugal living blog Squawkfox's make-it-yourself Starbucks Frappuccino includes cost breakdowns, lots of photos, and a secret ingredient that can deliver your caffeine guilty pleasure for a fraction of the price.
A lot of people love Starbucks Frappuccinos, a blended concoction of coffee, milk, and sugar, but at $3.86 for a classic tall they're a spendy as a daily habit. According to Squawkfox, all you need to make your own is a blender, ice, Starbucks coffee, milk, sugar, and the secret ingredient, xanthan gum, a popular food thickener (key to replicating the texture of the drink).

Squawkfox was able to mimic the famous budget-busting drink for $0.32 per 12oz serving which saves you 92% versus the one with the siren on the cup. See the full post for details.

Make a Starbucks Frappuccino for $0.32 | Squawkfox
Food_Hacks  Coffee  frappuccino  Top  from google
july 2011 by lancejanders
How to Create an In-Case-of-Emergency Everything Document to Keep Your Loved Ones Informed if Worst Comes to Worst [Life Planning]
If you were hit by a bus today or were otherwise incapacitated, would your loved ones be able to quickly locate your important information or know how to handle your affairs? Many of us have a great handle on our finances, but our record keeping systems might not be obvious to family members or friends who might need immediate access to them in times of emergency. Here's a step-by-step guide to organizing your vital information so it can be conveniently and safely accessed when needed.
The Goal: A Master Document or Folder with All Your Important Information
Perhaps the easiest method for creating a centralized document or set of files would be creating a Google Spreadsheet that you could share with your family and friends and keep updated regularly. We've created a basic Master Information Kit template just for this purpose. The spreadsheet includes prompts for the information below, but you can customize it for your particular needs. To use the template for yourself, in Google Docs go to File > Make a copy... to save it to your Google account (make sure your version of the document's sharing settings go back to the default "Private").

Update: Due to high traffic to the template, Google Docs is only showing it in list view, making it impossible to copy. This zipped file has downloadable versions in PDF, XLS, and ODS formats. You can still import these into your Google Docs account.

There are really only a few steps to setting this organizer up: gathering your records, securely sharing them, and keeping them updated. Follow along and you'll have your kit set up in no time—and a little extra peace of mind.

Step 1: Gather Your Vital Records to Keep in the Master Information Kit
The most important personal records: First, there are a few documents that you obviously should keep in a secured location (a fire safe or safe deposit box):

Social Security card
Birth certificate
Any other official, hard-to-replace documents

Scan these items so you can have a digital record of them as well. If you encrypt the digital files, e.g., with one of our favorite encryption tools TrueCrypt, and you can even upload them to Google Docs and share the files with your loved ones (make a note of them in the spreadsheet).

You'll also want to add to your emergency records kit:

Contact information: Both your contact information and your emergency contacts' info. This includes your nearest relatives, your will executor(s), and employers.
Will and medical directives: Add a copy of your will/living trust and medical letter of instructions (keep the originals with your legal representative). You can upload a PDF file to Google Docs for this purpose.
Insurance: Homeowners, auto, medical, life, disability, and other insurance agents/brokers contact info and policy numbers
Financial accounts: Bank, investment, and credit card/loan accounts information, including institution names, phone numbers, and account numbers
Health records: Immunization records, allergies, dietary restrictions, medications, medical/surgical treatments
Pet information: Description of each pet, vet contact information, and any important medical notes
Property: Car information, home purchase papers/deeds, and other home inventory items.

Again, adjust for your relevant information. Our Master Information Kit spreadsheet includes individual sheets for most of these pieces of information, so just make a copy of the sheet (File > Make a Copy) and start filling it out, in section at a time.

Step 2: Export Your Accounts Information
Account Passwords: For login information to important accounts, it's best not to store your logins in an online document like this. Instead you can export your logins from password managers like Keepass, LastPass, or 1Password to a CSV file and then encrypt it so it can be shared securely. Our spreadsheet template includes a sheet specifically for describing your method of storing these files—the location of your vital documents, and any passwords needed to locate them.

Step 3: Share Your Master Information Kit and Vital Documents
The Google Docs spreadsheet is easy to share. Once you've filled out your version of the spreadsheet, click on the Share button and you can email people who you want to be able to view or edit the document. (Think people who you'd also consider emergency contacts.)

For your encrypted files, like the logins mentioned above, you could upload them in Google Docs, store on an encrypted USB thumb drive, or use something like Dropbox. Give the recipients your encryption password but for security reasons, only let them write down a hint to the password. E.g., vacation spot 2010 + pet bday + myfavoritesinger'smiddlename. Also, if you use Dropbox, make sure you encrypt sensitive information first. An encrypted zip file seems an ideal solution.

Step 4. Regularly Update Your Everything Document
You'll need to update your files/master records book when you update your accounts.
Like setting up an emergency plan or a 72-hour emergency kit, this master information kit will need to be reevaluated regularly—consider doing so at least yearly (e.g., at tax time, when you're already looking at all your accounts) or, better yet, quarterly.

Set up a reminder on your calendar so you won't forget. When you get your reminder, don't wait—just quickly look over the items in your document and if anything has changed, update it. If not, you've only lost a couple of minutes of your day toward a very good end.

More Resources for Creating a Master Information Kit
If you're a Quicken user, for example, you may have access to Emergency Records Organizer built into the program, which can compile your emergency documents for you, based on the info you put in Quicken. It should be in the "Property & Debt" menu or you might find the program under your Quicken folder under Program Files.

Erik Dewey's free Big Book of Everything is a very thorough organizer for all your affairs, with placeholders for you to record your bank accounts, insurance policies, tax records, and more. The 44-page Big Book of Everything is available in PDF or Excel format.

There are also a few personal documents organizers in dead-tree version, like For the Record with the same purpose, in case you want pre-printed book.

Our emergency documents template (zip file) is a simplified version for the most essential information and with an eye towards sharing on Google Docs (or downloading and saving).

Whichever method you choose, having all your vital information in one easily accessible place can be comforting, for both you and your loved ones.

Do you have all your important information organized somewhere or tips for creating this "everything document"? Let us know in the comments.

You can follow or contact Melanie Pinola, the author of this post, on Twitter.
Life_Planning  Emergency  Feature  Google_Docs  Personal_Finance  Record_keeping  Top  from google
june 2011 by lancejanders
MagicPrefs Gives Your MacBook Trackpad (and other Multitouch Peripherals) Custom Multitouch Gestures [Downloads]
Mac OS X-only: MagicPrefs lets you create custom gestures (and override existing ones) to provide new multitouch functionality to your Apple input devices. It's like the great Multiclutch, which serves a similar purpose, but with added power and precision that gives you serious control over even the nuances of your gestures.
You have five fingers and MagicPrefs recognizes that, letting you assign actions to taps and clicks based on the number of fingers present on the mouse. Additionally, it supports swiping, rotating, and pinching actions. You can make these actions do carry out tasks like zoom in and out of the screen, start Exposé or Dashboard, initiate Quicklook, and even run AppleScripts. If you find a gesture is too sensitive, or not sensitive enough, you can adjust that. You can even create presets for specific circumstances, so you can assign certain gestures for when you're working and others when you're gaming.

MagicPrefs gives you a lot room to fine-tune your customizations, and it's free to download.

Magic Prefs | via Mac Menu Bars

You can follow Adam Dachis, the author of this post, on Twitter and Facebook.  Twitter's the best way to contact him, too.
Downloads  Customization  Input  Mac  Mac_OS_X  Mac_OS_X_Featured_Download  Mouse  multitouch  Top  from google
june 2011 by lancejanders
Top 10 Ways to Power Up Your Home Theater PC [Video]
You guys voted (and we agree) that a custom-built home theater PC is by far the best set-top box for on-demand video. Whether you've built yourself an XBMC machine, a Boxee box, or a Windows Media Center PC, here are our ten favorite ways to turn it into a media-watching powerhouse.
10. Load Up on the Plug-Ins
If you haven't gone into your media center's plug-in repository, you're missing out. XBMC alone has a ton of cool content available, including those that let you play Netflix, Blu-Rays, Grooveshark, and more. You also have skins galore, which can make your home theater PC a gorgeous beast suitable for impressing all your friends. And, of course, you can grab plug-ins for Windows Media Center and Boxee as well.

9. Whip Your Metadata and Art Into Shape
Of course, if you want to take full advantage of those beautiful skins, you'll need to make sure your media's metadata and art are up to snuff. Programs like XBMC follow specific rules to determine which files are what, so you'll need to make sure your library follows all those rules This can take a bit of work if your library starts out disorganized, but it's worth it for the wow factor it adds to your machine.

8. Add a TV Tuner
So you've got on-demand movies and TV shows on your machine, but there's still something to be said for seeing what's on the tube when it's on the tube. With an inexpensive TV tuner, you can turn your on-demand-only home theater PC into a full-featured, DIY DVR. You can watch live TV, record your favorite shows, and funnel them right into your media center program of choice. There's no need to buy an expensive separate device like a TiVo when you can integrate it into your existing system.

7. Automatically Download TV Shows as Soon as They've Aired
If you've ditched cable for good, or the TV tuner route isn't quite your style, you can also download your favorite shows using BitTorrent or Usenet and get them funneled into your favorite media center program. Our detailed guide will help you set up an automatic downloader that'll grab new episodes as soon as they've aired, so it's almost like having a real live PVR right on your system—but without the hassle of antennas and cable.

6. Set It Up to Work With Your Remote
Sure, the Windows Media Center remote might have worked fine when you first bought your machine, but why add more remotes to your coffee table when you could control everything with one, universal remote? We've shown you how to control a PC with any infrared remote using LIRC, which is a perfect setup for home theater PCs (I've now got a single $16 remote controlling my HTPC, audio receiver, TV, and more). If you'd like something a bit easier but more tuned to your media center of choice, you can always turn your iPhone or Android phone into a killer remote, too.

5. Set Up an HTPC that Non-Geeks Can Actually Use
Programs like XBMC are great, but let's be honest: they really aren't that friendly to the less tech-savvy. It's a sad fact, but if you have a spouse or roommate that isn't quite as in tune with the inner workings of your PC, they'll have a hard time watching TV without you around. We've gone through how to set up a more friendly media center before, and it's worth a look if you're getting sick of turning on the TV for your roommate every time they continue their Dr. Who marathon.

4. Build It Into Your Entertainment Center
If you've got a box or old tower stashed inside your hotbox of an entertainment center (or worse—sitting next to it, looking all ugly), it's time to turn it into a more permanent fixture. We've gone through one cool way to do this, and all it uses is a bit of IKEA furniture and some elbow grease, and it does a great job of keeping your entertainment center looking clean and your PC running cool.

3. Rule it From Afar with Wake-on-LAN
Unless you keep it on and running full steam all the time, you'll actually need to get up and press the button to turn it on. Since most of us are a bit lazier than that (come on, this is America!), consider setting up a Wake-on-LAN system for your home theater PC. With it, you'll be able to turn it on from anywhere in the room, just like you would a normal set-top box for your TV. Some IR receivers even support Wake-on-LAN, so you could turn it on using the power button on your universal remote.

2. Synchronize Your Media Center Between Every Room in the House
If you have more than one home theater PC in your home, you probably like to watch TV as you move around the house. With a bit of set-up, you can actually get XBMC in sync across all your machines, so you can pause your media center in one room and continue watching where you left off in another room.

1. Turn Your Media Center into a Video Game Console
If you aren't satisfied with just the usual music, movies, TV, and photos, you can actually turn your media center into a video game console as well. With a plug-in and a bit of work in XBMC, you can add emulators and ROMs galore, browse through them just like you do movies and music, and play them on demand. No longer do you need to waste space and clutter your cabinet with old game systems and controllers—you'll be able to play nearly anything from one device, with whatever controller you want. You can also do the same thing in Boxee as well.
Lifehacker_Top_10  Boxee  Clips  Feature  Home_Theater  Home_Theater_PC  Media_Center  Movies  Remote_Control  Streaming_Video  Top  TV_shows  Video  Video_Games  Windows_Media_Center  Xbmc  from google
june 2011 by lancejanders
How to Upgrade to iOS 5 Today, Without Any Developer Account [Video]
One day and iOS 5 has been hacked already. Gizmodo reader and Apple lover Mert Erdir has discovered how to upgrade to iOS 5 without developer accounts, using a simple backdoor. Everyone can do it following these extremely simple instructions:

The method exploits a security flaw in the activation screen, apparently related to the Voice Over system. Here's how to do it.

Warning: While this operation should be simple, we are not responsible for what you do to your iPhone. Once completed, you will not be able to connect to a carrier. Proceed at your own risk.

Download and install iOS 5
1. Download the iOS 5 IPSW file from the web (it's easy and readily available. Just Google it and torrent it down).
2. Update your iPhone using iTunes. To do this, connect your iPhone to your computer, click on the Check for Update button with the Option (Mac) or Shift (PC) key pressed. Select the iOS 5 IPSW file from the place you downloaded it to.
3. Wait until it upgrades. A new activation screen will appear.

Activate iOS 5
1. Triple click the home button. This will activate the Voice Over.
2. Triple click the home button and Emergency Call will appear.
3. Click on Emergency Call and, while it's switching, swipe with your three fingers down.
4. The Notification Center will appear!
5. Click on the Weather widget. The Weather app will load.
6. Click on the home button to exit to the iPhone's springboard.

That's it. Your iPhone is activated and fully operative. Enjoy and thank Mert Erdir for this clever link. He has this words to say:

My will is not to do something harmful to anyone, I just wanted to get the attention of Apple, the company I'm in love with; and maybe one day have a chance to talk to/meet Steve Jobs himself. You can reach me on Twitter for further questions.

I found this because I don't have much cash to get an IOS Developer account, so donations for a young developer will be appreciated. They can be made on my blog (not in english). You'll see the PayPal donate button on the right. Thanks!

So send the kid some dollars so he can become a pro developer. With his patience and creativity finding this iOS 5 backdoor, I'm sure he will do a great job.
How_To  activation  Apple  Clips  Hack  ios_5  Security  Top  Video  from google
june 2011 by lancejanders
How to Make Your Entire Home AirPlay-Compatible [Video]
Apple's new media-streaming technology, AirPlay, is a great way to stream devices across your home, but it only works on Apple-approved destinations out of the box. Here's how to make your entire home AirPlay-compatible, so that whether you're using Windows or Mac, Android or iOS, XBMC or another media center, you can stream media seamlessly between each.
On its own, AirPlay only streams media from iTunes or iOS to the Apple TV or AirPort Express routers. You could make up for this disadvantage by using alternatives to AirPlay instead, but AirPlay is so simple to use, and the most well integrated option, that it's the best option out there for inter-device media streaming. With just a few third-party programs and tweaks, you can stream music, photos and video over AirPlay to nearly any device in your house—even the non-Apple ones. For a quick demonstration of how AirPlay works, see the video above.

What You'll Need
When you stream via AirPlay, you have two devices to worry about: the source (that is, the device doing the streaming), and the destination (the device receiving the media). So at minimum, you'll need one device you can set up as a source, and one device you can set up as a destination. Below, we'll explain how to set up:

AirPlay Destinations:

A Windows PC
A Mac
An iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch
An Android Phone
A Media Center Running XBMC, Boxee, or Plex

Then we'll walk through how to set up:

AirPlay Sources

iOS Apps Not Designed to Work With AirPlay
Desktop Apps Not Designed to Work With AirPlay
An Android Phone

Turning Unsupported Devices into AirPlay Destinations
In this section, we'll detail how to set up Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and XBMC to work as AirPlay destinations. Remember that you'll need an AirPlay source, too, like iTunes, iOS, or one of the sources we talk about in the second section. Once you have them set up as destinations, all you need to do to play media on them is choose them from the AirPlay list on your source device, as seen at the left.

Streaming to Windows
If you have an iPhone but you use Windows on the desktop (or you just have a diverse house of Windows PCs and Macs), you can stream AirPlay music to Windows using free utility Shairport4w. It's a completely portable application that sits in your system tray, broadcasting your PC as an AirPlay destination. Sadly, it doesn't stream video, and there isn't currently a working AirPlay video player for Windows, so this is all we have.

Streaming to Your Mac
To stream media to your Mac,all you need is the simple, open source AirMac. It sits in your menu bar and broadcasts your Mac as an AirPlay-compatible device, so once you've started it up, it should show up in all the AirPlay menus around your house. Once you start streaming media to it, it will play in a new QuickTime X window.

Streaming to iOS
Streaming audio and video from iTunes to iOS is actually built-in to iTunes, but it isn't under the banner of AirPlay, which might cause a lot of people to miss it. All you need to do is log into Home Sharing in iTunes on the computer holding all the media, then log into Home Sharing in Settings > iPod on your iPhone or iPad (on iPod touches, it's in Settings > Music). Once you do, you should see a new "Shared" tab pop up in your iPod app (you might need to hit "More" to see it). From there, you can navigate to your iTunes library and play any music or video from that library, including videos that weren't purchased on iTunes.

Sadly, if you want to stream from non-iTunes sources, you're out of luck for now—Apple keeps pulling apps that let you do this from the App Store, and those developers have yet to put their apps in Cydia for jailbroken users.

Streaming to Android
If you'd like to stream music to music on your Android phone, a simple app called AirBubble will set it up as an AirPlay destination. Just install the app (you'll need to make sure "Unknown Sources" is checked under Android's Settings > Applications), start it up, and you'll see "AirBubble" show up as an AirPlay destination in iTunes, iOS, and other streaming devices. You can then stream that music right to your phone as you would to anything else. Sadly, it does not stream video at this time.

Streaming to XBMC, Boxee, and Plex
If you have a home theater PC running XBMC, Boxee, or Plex, you can use the AirPlayer Python script to use it as an AirPlay destination.. Installation is different on every system, so we won't go too deeply into it here. Check out this page for more detailed installation instructions for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. If you're running a Live XBMC installation like on our standalone XBMC media center, you'll want to follow these instructions to get AirPlay up and running. Note that AirPlayer only streams video; it won't work with music.

Turning Unsupported Devices into AirPlay Sources
iTunes and iOS will stream music and video just fine, but if you listen to music and watch videos using other apps or platforms, here's how to turn them into AirPlay sources.

Streaming from Other Apps in iOS
While the Music and Video apps in iOS will stream over AirPlay out of the box, apps like Safari or VLC won't. If you've jailbroken your iPhone or iPad, however, you can use previously mentioned AirVieoEnabler to enable AirPlay in other iOS apps. Just install the app from Cydia, restart your device, and you should see the AirPlay icon pop up in most other media playing apps.

Streaming from Android
One of our favorite Android media players, DoubleTwist, can actually stream music and video via AirPlay with its $5 AirSync add-on. Once you've installed doubleTwist and AirSync, open up doubleTwist's Settings and go to "AirTwist & AirPlay". Check the "AirTwist & AirPlay" box to enable it.

Now, whenever you play a song or video in doubleTwist, you'll see a small Wi-Fi icon next to the player controls. Tap this to pick from a list of AirPlay-compatible devices and stream the video to them.

Streaming from Other Apps on Your PC or Mac
If you want to stream audio from, say, a non-iTunes music player or your browser to an AirPort Express (or other AirPlay-enabled device), you have a few options. The best option is Airfoil, which is a $30 app for both Windows and Mac that will sync and stream audio from any source to AirPlay-compatible hardware. If you want to do that for free, previously mentioned RaopX will do the trick nicely on OS X, albeit with a bit of extra work and a significant audio delay. Sadly, there doesn't seem to be a good free option for Windows.

There are still a few holes in this strategy (like streaming video to Windows or streaming audio to XBMC), but overall it makes AirPlay much, much more versatile with just a few simple tools. Now, you can stream audio and video nearly anywhere in your house, all with just the click of a button. Got any of your own preferred methods for streaming media via AirPlay? Share them with us in the comments.
Airplay  Android  Apple  Feature  Household  ios  ipad  iPhone  ipod_touch  iTunes  Lifehacker_Video  Mac_OS_X  Music  streaming_music  Streaming_Video  Top  Video  Wi-Fi  Windows  from google
may 2011 by lancejanders
The Best Instant Messaging Application for Mac [App Directory]
The competition for best instant messaging client on Mac is tough, and while the platform is full of good contenders, we believe Adium wins out thanks to its high level of customizability, broad support for different IM services, and open-sourced codebase.

Platform: Mac OS X
Price: Free, open source
Download Page


Supports AIM, GTalk, Jabber, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, IRC, ICQ, and just about any other service you could use to send an instant message or communicate in real-time via text.
Tabbed chats
Highly theme-able, letting you make your buddy lists and chat windows look just about any way you want. On top of that, you can add custom sound sets.
Adium supports extensions, so you can add new features that don't already come with the app.
Excellent chat logging system
Support for 27 different languages
Integrates with the OS X Address Book app

Where It Excels
Adium is lightweight, supports just about every type of IM account you could think to use, and is incredibly customizable. Not only can you theme the look of just about every aspect of the app, but you can change the alert sounds and install extensions to add more functionality. Adium has a separate domain,, for housing the many customization options. If you want some great examples, try Pretty Simple for your message style, Tokyo Train Station for your sound set, and HUD for your buddy list style. If you want what you see in the screenshot, here's what you'll need:

Service Icons: Glowing (transparent)
Status Icons: SimpleGray
Menu Bar Icons: Leopard
Emoticons: MacThemes2
Dock Icon: Flurry Adium
Contact List Color Theme: Pretty Simple
List Layout: Pretty Simple
Window Style: Borderless
Message Style: Pretty Simple
Message Style Variant: Background 8

Adium is a great IM client on its own, but also provides you with the ability to add what you think is missing, so there are few missing features you can't add yourself.

Where It Needs Work
Beyond text chat, you can't do much else. Adium has long been without support for voice and video chat. While those features are certainly secondary to standard instant messaging, it's still annoying to have to open iChat or Skype when you'd prefer to talk without typing.

The Competition
iChat is an obvious alternative, and may be worthwhile if you video/audio chat often and only use one of the few IM services it supports. While Trillian is another popular multi-protocol IM client that's now available for Mac, the free version is ad-supported and the paid version costs $12 per year. While some clients outpace Adium in certain areas, or have comparable feature set, Adium wins by virtue of offering the most important features, implemented in the best ways with the fewest drawbacks.

Lifehacker's App Directory is a new and growing directory of recommendations for the best applications and tools in a number of given categories. This week, we're focusing on IM clients.

You can follow Adam Dachis, the author of this post, on Twitter and Facebook.  If you'd like to contact him, Twitter is the most effective means of doing so.
App_directory  adium  Chat  Downloads  Im  Instant_Messaging  Mac_OS_X  Top  from google
may 2011 by lancejanders
First Look at Google Music: Our Favorite Features in Google's Cloud Music Player [Video]
Google just unveiled their new cloud music service, and we've checked out the beta to see how it works. Here's a tour of some of our favorite features.
Google's new music service aims to make all your music available everywhere you go. You can upload up to 20,000 songs, and play them back in any desktop web browser as well as the new music player on Android. It goes above and beyond the call of duty to include some extra features, too, like a Genius-like playlist creator and thumbs up/thumbs down tool for easy shuffling of your favorite music. Here's a look at how it works.

Signing Up
Right now, the service is only available in the US, and you have to get an invite to the private beta. You can sign up for the beta at Once you get your invite, you'll be able to sign into the service from the same page. It'll first ask you for your favorite genres of music, and give you some free song packs to try out that match your tastes. It's a nice touch, especially if you just want to see how the player works before you go uploading all your music. Once it's done, it'll prompt you to download the Music Manager to start uploading your music.

Uploading Your Music
Google's Music Manager tool is available for both Windows and Mac, and will import music straight from iTunes, Windows Media Player, or a folder on your computer. After signing in with your Google Music account, you can tell it where you store your music, and even have it watch for changes. That way, whenever you add new music to those folders or to your desktop client, it'll automatically upload those tracks to Google Music as well, so you don't have to worry about it later.

Note that it does actually upload your music, which can take awhile. It isn't like Grooveshark or Lala, that has all the music stored on their servers and just matches your library to their tracks—you're actually uploading the files of the music you own. It's also worth noting that they're looking to crack down on piracy, so depending on how well it works and how much of your music is illegal, that could be a deal killer for some.

Google Music understands it'll take awhile to upload your entire library, so once it's done scanning, it'll remember its position as it uploads. That way, you can restart or turn off your computer, and it'll pick back up where it left off when you come back. You can also limit its bandwidth, if you need it for other things like video calls, or games.

Using the Player
If you're still skeptical about Google Music, use the player. This thing is smooth. It's got nice animated transitions all over the place, and looks great. It still feels like a webapp, but it's way cooler than most of the other music streaming webapps out there. It doesn't feel "native", but it's almost more fun to use than an actual desktop music player, even if you do have to keep it open in a browser tab. I'm not about to ditch iTunes for it, but it's pretty great.

Not only can you listen to your music and create playlists, but you can edit album info, "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" songs (which add them to a smart playlist of songs you like), and even create "instant mixes", which are shuffleable mixes spawned by a specific song. Like iTunes' Genius mixes, it'll grab music from your library that it considers similar, so you have a one-click playlist of music that fits your current mood.

Google Music on Android
The other half of what makes Google Music amazing is its Android integration. The newest version of the Music app, available in the Android Market, will automatically grab all your music from the cloud after you log in. From then on, you can play it as if it were on your phone—it'll even cache recently listened to songs so you can play them when you lose connection. You can also "pin" specific songs to your device and make them available offline, by pressing and holding them. It's got all the same features as the desktop app, too, like instant mixes and thumbs up, so you can carry over all those playlists to your phone.

For a webapp that's still in beta, Google Music is one of the most polished cloud music services we've seen yet. Not only is the webapp a joy to use, but they've got some nice touches—like monitoring your local music folder for changes, and remembering your upload position for seamless library transfer, that already give it a few advantages over alternatives like Amazon Cloud Drive. Got a favorite feature that isn't yet in the beta, or just general thoughts on the new service? Share them in the comments.
Screenshot_Tour  Android  Clips  Digital_Music  Google  google_music  Lifehacker_Video  Music  streaming_music  Top  Webapps  from google
may 2011 by lancejanders
Don't buy a used car right now [Cotomer Sevis]
Although we're normally big fans of buying your cars used, now is the absolute worst time to be buying one — especially if you want high fuel economy. Here's why.

As seems to happen every summer when fuel prices tick skyward, many are once again searching for a fuel-efficient vehicle. Although the new vehicle marketplace may be filled with a slew of small car options, it's pretty clear American consumers still would prefer a large car, SUV or pickup truck. Preferably one filled to the brim with cupholders.

But on the used vehicle market, consumers can not only find fuel-efficient older cars, but also usually buy big at a smaller price.

And a surge of demand means prices for popular used vehicles are poppin'. Recent data from Kelley Blue Book indicates that so far this year, fuel-efficient segments have increased far more aggressively than they have during the past two years. Today, values of high fuel economy vehicles are up nearly 20% since January, a far cry from the steady depreciation of 2009 and 2010. At the segment level, values are up around $1,500-$2,500, with some models surpassing their respective segment average.

Examples of this increase include the Toyota Prius hybrid, which has increased in value nearly $3,800 since January 1st, and the Ford Fusion mid-size, up a substantial $1,800. As fuel prices continue to rise, Kelley Blue Book tells us they expect values for many of these vehicles to continue to increase. Makes sense, right?

But, although fuel-efficient segments have performed better than others due to the substantial rise in gas prices since the beginning of the year; it is safe to say all used vehicle values have seen spikes. Not only in dollars measured since the beginning of the year, but also in comparison to the past several years.

Although more difficult to measure, the chart over yonder helps to illustrate the average change in value for a three-year-old vehicle in April 2007 versus today. It clearly shows how much values have risen since 2007.

This strength in values can be attributed to a sustained lack of supply of used vehicles over the past several years, primarily stemming from reduced new-car sales through the same period, combined with the Cash for Clunkers program of two years ago providing a readily-accessible fleet of older vehicles to comb through.

So, as sales have remained low due to the economic downturn, used-vehicle supplies have been hard-hit, driving prices up over the past several years.

More on buying a used car:
● Checklist For Buying A Used Car
● What's Your Best Used Car Buying Tip?
● Ten Fun Used Cars For Cheapskates

But, this does mean there's money to be had in the market — especially if you've got a fuel-efficient used vehicle to sell. Used Geo Metros — which have a highway fuel economy rating anywhere between 39 and 44 MPG — are regularly selling on eBay between $3,500 and $5,000. That's not too shabby considering they originally retailed for anywhere between $8,500 and $11,000.

So maybe what folks should be doing to beat the summer gas price spike is to buy Geo Metros in the winter when they're cheap and then sell them to dealerships in the summer. Now that's the type of capitalistic car fervor we can get behind.
cotomer_sevis  Feature  servicey  Top  Used_Cars  from google
may 2011 by lancejanders
How to Turn Your Computer Into the Ultimate Remote Access Media Server [Video]
If you're out of the house a lot but still want access to files on your home computer, one of the best ways to solve that problem involves setting up your computer as a remotely accessible home media server. Here's a look at how to not only access your files (and control your computer) remotely, but also share files with others, stream music and video, access your photo library, and a whole lot more.
Below we'll walk through how to turn your home computer into a remote-access media server on Windows, Mac, and Linux. When you're done, you'll be able to remote control your computer from anywhere (as though you're sitting in front of it), access any of your files, and stream video, music, and photos to any other computer or nearly any mobile device.

Before we get started, let's take a look at what you'll need:

A computer that's at least as fast as a netbook or nettop, but faster is better. If you're simply serving up files, you can even use a Pogoplug.
A reasonably fast upstream internet connection (1mbps will work, but 5mbps is ideal)
A router with port forwarding capabilities (which is basically any router)
Some software, which will vary by platform and we'll discuss in each section

Once you've got all of those things together you're ready to get started. First, we're going to take a look at the basic features you'll want on your media server. After that we'll take a look at the fancier stuff, like streaming your video and music, hosting your photos, and a few more handy things that'll make your server really great.

Screen Sharing and Basic File Access
While a lot of the fancier stuff we're going to look at it is what you'll probably use more often, you want to make sure you have complete and total access to your server from afar. Setting up remote control, or screen sharing, means you can control your home computer remotely from nearly any device—like you're sitting in front of your computer. This will allow you to tweak your system, start a download, or do whatever you need. Often times services won't work perfectly or you'll have various problems you'll need to solve, and most of those issues can be solved via SSH or through screen sharing (VNC). You'll also want to have basic access to your files, so we'll look at setting up FTP (and other protocols) as well as setting up your router so remote access is easy.

Some sharing services are available in Windows by default and all you really have to do is turn them on. Others will require a few downloads. Either way, setting up basic file access and screen sharing is pretty easy to do in most cases. Here's how:

VNC (Screen Sharing)
While Windows automatically has RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) ready to go, we like VNC because it's a platform-independent protocol, meaning it's more compatible with other operating systems. While there are plenty of VNC servers for Windows that you can choose from, we like TightVNC because it's pretty straightforward and completely free to use. For more details on how VNC works, see this post. If you understand the basics of VNC servers and clients, then you can skip that read and just get started. Here are the steps to get VNC set up:

Download TightVNC, install it, and launch it. (Note: If you want to install it as a service so you can run it even when no user is logged in, choose Start Menu —> Programs —> TightVNC —> Administration —> Install VNC Service.)
Once TightVNC is open, it will allow you to connect over VNC and log in as any user already set up in Windows. If you'd like a global password, however, you can enable that by choosing Start —> Programs —> TightVNC —> Administration —> Show Default Settings and entering a default password of your choice.
When you want to connect to your VNC server from another machine, you can do so by installing TightVNC, opening the TightVNC Viewer application, and entering the IP address of the machine to which you want to connect. (For information on other TightVNC features and how to use them, check out the TightVNC user guide).

Note: You can secure your VNC connection with Hamachi to encrypt your remote screen sharing session so prying eyes can't see what you're doing.
File Access with FTP, SFTP, and SSH
Next we need to add file sharing. First let's start with FTP. While you can enable FTP as a service in Windows, this has become increasingly more complex in Windows 7 and Vista so we're going to use a free tool called freeFTPd. Also, if you want to set up SSH to connect to your computer remotely over SSH and use SFTP (Secure FTP) for added security, the same site has a free SSH server called freeSSHd that you can download as well.

Download and install the server software you want, and choose to run freeSSHd/freeFTPd as a system service so you don't need to be logged in to access them.
Once these tools are installed, launch them and you'll be able to access them from your system tray. Right click the system tray icon and choose Settings.
In the Settings panel, you'll be presented with a lot of tabs but the one you want first is Users. Click it, and then click Add to add a user.
Enter a username and password for the user you want to add and tick the box next to Shell. If you're setting up freeSSHd and want to be able to use SFTP, be sure to tick the box beside SFTP. When you're done, click OK.
If you want to access your files over FTP or SFTP remotely, you'll need an application that supports those protocols. Our current favorite is Cyberduck. To connect to your server remotely via SSH, you'll need an SSH client. For Windows, we like PuTTY.

File Access with Windows File Sharing (SMB)
Of all the ways to remotely access your files, SMB is the easiest to set up. Chances are you actually enabled file sharing when you installed Windows. If not, here's how to do it (on Windows 7/Vista):

Locate the folder you want to share and right click on it. Choose Share With: Specific People
Choose Everyone from the drop-down menu and then click the Add button.
Unless you want read-only access, click Read and change it to Read/Write.
Click the Share button to enable sharing for that folder.

That's all you have to do to enable these basic sharing services on your Windows PC, but doing so will only allow you to access them from other computers on your local home network. If you want to be able to access your machines remotely when you're away from home, you'll need to forward ports on your router or set up a VPN (Virtual Private Network). We'll discuss this later in the Configuring Your Router section towards the end, but first we're going to look at the more exciting options you have for streaming and sharing your media files.

Mac OS X
Setting up any sort of remote access on Mac OS X is very easy and doesn't involve much more than ticking boxes. Here's what you need to do:

Open System Preferences (you'll find it in the Applications folder on your hard drive).
Under Internet & Wireless, choose Sharing.
On the left side you should see a list of services. First things first, tick the box next to Screen Sharing, then click Computer Settings and tick the box labeled VNC viewers may control screen with password and enter a password of your choice. When you're done, click OK and you'll be all set.
Next we need to enable file sharing of some kind. Regardless of how you'd like to share your files, you need to tick the File Sharing checkbox and click the Options button. This will bring up a panel that will let you choose different ways to share your files. By default, AFP (Apple Filing Protocol) will be enabled. You can also enable FTP, which is the most compatible way to access your files from practically any computer (but not necessarily the most secure) and SMB (Server Message Block, which is more compatible with Windows and Linux than AFP). SMB needs to be enabled on a per-user basis, so make sure you tick the box beside your username—and any other users you want to have access—before clicking the Done button to save your preferences.
If you'd like a more secure way to access your computer and files than FTP provides, you can tick the box beside Remote Login to enable SSH. This will let you access your computer through the command line using SSH, which will provide you with remote control over just about everything, and also let you access your files using SFTP (Secure FTP).
Lastly, if you'd like to enable any additional sharing services you should do so now. Be sure to note what they are as you'll need to forward the ports on your router for those services later.

The instructions above apply to Mac OS X 10.6 and may differ between major versions of the oprating system. For example, Screen Sharing is only available in 10.5 and above. In the past, enabling VNC was handled under the Apple Remote Desktop section. In addition to checking the Apple Remote Desktop checkbox, you also needed to click the Access Privileges button, check the "VNC viewers may control screen with password," and enter your VNC password. If you're using an older version of Mac OS X (such as 10.4), please use these instructions to enable VNC instead.
That's all you have to do to enable these basic sharing services on your Mac, but doing so will only allow you to access them from other computers on your local home network. If you want to be able to access your machines remotely when you're away from home, you'll need to forward ports on your router or set up a VPN (Virtual Private Network). We'll discuss this later in the Configuring Your Router section towards the end, but first we're going to look at the more exciting options you have for streaming and sharing your media files.

If you're running Linux, chances are you already know how to set up all these basic file sharing services. Setup also differs between the different flavors of Linux. For these reasons, we're not going to provide detailed steps for Linux in this post. If you're new to Linux and do need some help, however, be sure to check out our night school lessons on getting started with Linux (in particular, the installing apps … [more]
Home_server  Android  Audio  Downloads  Feature  File_Sharing  Home_Networks  How_To  ipad  iPhone  ipod_touch  Linux  Mac_OS_X  Music  Networking  Photos  remote_access  Remote_Computing  Remote_Control  Smartphone  Streaming_Media  streaming_music  Streaming_Video  Top  Video  Windows  from google
may 2011 by lancejanders
The Cheapskate's Guide to Getting Free Dropbox Space [Free]
Dropbox is one of the best file synchronization tools around, but you start out with only 2 GB of space, which isn't always enough to sync music or collaborate with your co-workers. Here's how to increase your storage without paying anything.
You won't get to the 50 GB level with just these free methods, but you can certainly get enough space to keep your Dropbox from overflowing. Here's a comprehensive list of all the ways you can get extra space into your Dropbox.

Many of you are already using Dropbox, and know how the referral link system works. Sending out your referral link is a great way to get extra space, but please do not post your referral links in the comments of this article. Unlike sending an email to your friends or posting your link on Twitter, we'd have tens or hundreds of referral links in the same place, which is just plain spam. Feel free to post in the comments if you have other great ways to score free space or other ideas on how to effectively share referrals, but if you post your link in the comments without someone asking for one, you will get warned or banned.
Click the Getting Started Tab
When you log into Dropbox, you'll notice a "Getting Started" tab on the top of the interface. If you complete five of the steps under that tab, Dropbox will give you an extra 250 MB of space for free. The steps are extremely easy to complete, and if you've been using Dropbox for awhile, you've probably already completed most or all of them, like:

Take the Dropbox Tour
Install Dropbox on Your Computer
Put Files in your Dropbox Folder
Install Dropbox on Other Computers You Use
Share a Folder with Friends or Colleagues
Invite Some Friends to Join Dropbox
Install Dropbox on Your Mobile Device

Once you've completed five of those things, you should see an extra 250 MB of space show up in your Dropbox.

Connect Dropbox to Your Social Media Accounts
If you're a Twitter or Facebook user, you can get up to 768 MB of free space by performing a few simple social media-related tasks on Dropbox's "free" page. Most of them are quite simple—connecting your Twitter and Facebook account to Dropbox, following @Dropbox on Twitter, sending them a one-line feedback message, and tweeting about Dropbox to your followers. With the exception of the last one (which we'll come back to in a moment), they're all very easy things that will take just a few minutes to do.

Refer Your Friends
This is the big one. The best way to get extra Dropbox space is to send your referral link to others, which, after they sign up with it, will give you (and them) and extra of 250 MB of space in their accounts. So, if you get four people to sign up for Dropbox using your referral link, that's an extra gigabyte for you. There are a few good ways to go about this (without getting spammy), and you can seriously increase your space with just a few choice words and link.

Post Your Referral Link on Facebook and Twitter
If you have a lot of followers on Twitter or Facebook, you can try tweeting or sharing your referral link and explaining to people what Dropbox is and why it's awesome (Facebook's a little easier since there's a larger character limit). Anyone who isn't already using Dropbox—which, if you have the right audience, is quite a few people—can sign up with your link and give you some extra space. Obviously, you don't want to get too spammy with this, or your friends will start to hate you—I'd say just one post on each network during peak hours (lunchtime, Sunday evenings) is more than enough to get you a few nibbles.

Send it Out to Your Friends and Family
Email is also a pretty great way to send out your referral link to your closer friends and family. In an email, you can explain in a little more detail what Dropbox is and why it's awesome, and how it can actually be a great productivity tool. The extra length provided by email (and the closer you are to the people you're sending it to) can help guarantee a few extra signups from people, and get you more space.

Other Tactics
Some of you guys have mentioned that you've even posted it on off-topic forums you frequent and other online outlets, which is another great place. I even had a friend who sent out an email to his law school classmates with a heap of tech tips to help them get through the class, in which he included his Dropbox link. He now has 20 GB of space from referrals alone.

The key, really, is finding a large enough and appropriate enough audience to get people to actually sign up. Dropbox really is a great tool, so it's not even like you have to lie to tell people why it's great. The less tech-savvy your audience, the better (if you try to send it out to a bunch of Lifehacker readers, you probably won't get many bites), and the more use they have for it (say, students or people with more than one computer), the more likely they'll be to check it out.

Connect a .Edu Email Address to Your Account
Connecting your account with a .edu email address will double all the space you get from referrals, which is a great way to bump up your space quickly. That means you get 500 MB for each referral instead of 250—so if you referred 4 people, that's two whole gigs instead of one. Not bad, especially considering many non-students still have access to their .edu email address or an alumni address at their college.

The best part about this is that everything is retroactive, so if you've given out a bunch of referrals but not linked your .edu email address yet, Dropbox will double all your previous referral space once you link it up—so even if you're not planning on sending out your link anymore, you should still link the two now for extra space.

Keep an Eye Out for Other Dropbox-Related Events
Every once in a while, Dropbox will come out with other ways to get extra space, like their recent Dropquest scavenger hunt. In addition, you never know when they're going to add new features like the ones above, so keep an eye on Lifehacker to stay up to date on all the goings-on at Dropbox—don't worry, if there's a way to get more Dropbox space, we'll find it and post it as soon as we can.

There are quite a few ways beyond referrals to get extra space, but the meat of your space is going to come from sending out those referral links. If you've got a tip, trick, or cool place for sharing those links for maximum effectiveness, please share it with us in the comments (but again, don't post your own referral link, or so help me God I will mark it as spam).
Free  dropbox  File_Syncing  How_To  Online_storage  Storage  synchronization  Top  from google
april 2011 by lancejanders Suggests the Best Music for Your Workout Based on Your Performance [Webapp]
We've previously looked at creating the ultimate workout playlist, which involves calculating the beats per minute (BPM) of your music and choosing the songs that work best. takes the work out of that process for you by not only providing the BPM but suggesting the best music based on your average mile time. doesn't make suggestions just for runners, but for walkers and cyclists as well. It can also map your runs/walks/bikes if you want to track them. You do not need to sign up to try it out. You just go to the site, enter your average mile time, and get music recommendations quickly. If you want playlist suggestions from others, there's an entire section dedicated to that. Many people have designed playlists for specific kinds of workouts, such as a half marathon training session or a 5k.

If you're looking to create playlists specially tuned for your workouts, is a very useful tool. | via MakeUseOf

You can follow Adam Dachis, the author of this post, on Twitter and Facebook.  If you'd like to contact him, Twitter is the most effective means of doing so.
webapp  Biking  Exercise  Fitness  Health  Running  Top  from google
april 2011 by lancejanders
The Best Mac Apps Exclusive to the Mac App Store [Video]
When the Mac App Store launched in January, we debated whether it sucked or not based on the store's conveniences and annoyances. We avoided judging it on available apps, since the store had just been launched. Now that the App Store has had time to mature, we're taking another look at what the Mac App Store offers that you can't get anywhere else. Here are our favorite apps exclusive to the Mac App Store.
A few caveats before we get started: We focused on apps that were either free, cheap, or at least under $10, so there may be apps in the store that are more expensive and also really great but aren't on this list. As usual we're focusing on Lifehacker-y apps, there are also no games (and there are some phenomenal games available on the Mac App Store). While the title says these are the best apps exclusive to the Mac App Store, keep in mind that we're filtering apps through the lens of what we cover here at Lifehacker.

Best Freebies Exclusive to the Mac App Store

StreamToMe is an app that was originally designed to live stream (and convert) media on your Mac or Windows PC to your iDevice. (StreamToMe is very similar to previously mentioned Air Video, but it also has a desktop app for the App Store.)  It works very well, handles both video and audio, and now has a Mac version that costs a grand sum of zero dollars. The Mac version is almost identical to the iPad version and lets you stream media just the same. If you don't have an iDevice or just prefer remotely enjoying your media on your Mac, StreamToMe is a fantastic—and completely free—way to accomplish that. (It's my personal favorite on this list.)

Download on the Mac App Store

Although you can grab the source code for MPlayerX elsewhere, the latest version seems to be an exclusive release for the Mac App Store. MPlayerX is a really solid video player that's a serious rival for VLC. In a lot of ways the most recent version is like Quicktime Player, only it plays virtually any format and tends to work better (even if you have Perian installed). If you're looking for a better way to play your media, it's worth giving MPlayerX a try.

Download on the Mac App Store

The official Twitter client for Mac was one of the first great apps to find its way on to the Mac App Store. Although there are definitely some other great Twitter clients for Mac with varying degrees of functionality, Twitter is both free and remarkably solid. It's simple enough that it should please the minimalists, but it also supports enough features to do whatever you might need to do.

Download on the Mac App Store

SketchBook Express
SketchBook Express is the free counterpart to SketchBook Pro, which holds a hefty price tag of $60. That $60 buys you many more features that you don't get with SketchBook Express, but if you're looking for a simple painting app and don't want to pay for it this is your very best option. We also liked Paintr, but that will run you $8 and doesn't come with too many advantages. That said, it is a fully-featured app and SketchBook is more of a gateway drug to the pro version, but for most people it should satisfy their basic digital painting needs.

Download on the Mac App Store

Smartr Lite
Smartr Lite is—you guessed it!—the light version of Smartr, a card-based study app. You use it to create stacks of cards to study, much like you would with physical flash cards, but it also tracks your performance so it can suggests the cards you need to study most. This free version lets you create up to 100 cards, but if you want more you can upgrade to the full version for only $3.

Download on the Mac App Store

Telephone is a very simple app that lets you make voice over IP (VOIP) calls directly from your Mac. You type in a phone number, it calls it, and you have a conversation—it doesn't get much more straightforward than that. You do, however, need a SIP provider to actually make calls. If you do, Telephone is a very handy little tool.

Download on the Mac App Store

SoundCloud is the desktop app for the SoundCloud web site, which can help you discover and share free music. While the desktop app contains more features, it's best at managing the music you've already discovered and playing it back. It also gives you quick and easy access to anything you've already uploaded to SoundCloud. It's oddly not that great at sharing your own music—at least when you compare to how easy it is on the SoundCloud web site—but it still can handle that and a bunch of other things, like searching the entire SoundCloud collection. If you want to discover new music or play the music on SoundCloud you've already found, it's a great app to have.

Download on the Mac App Store

DupeZap Free
DupeZap does what you might expect—it removes duplicate files from your hard drive. If you have two copies of the same file residing in different locations, DupeZap will find them both and move one of them to the trash. It's efficient, it does it's one task well, and it's free to download and use.

Download on the Mac App Store

Best Cheapies Exclusive to the Mac App Store

Take Five
If you've ever stopped listening to music for any reason but still left your headphones on, you need Take Five. Rather than pausing your music indefinitely, Take Five pauses it for a specific amount of time (five minutes being the default the name suggests). It allows you to take a break from your music to do what you need to do, but turns that music back on should you forget to do it yourself.

Download on the Mac App Store ($4)

Skitch is our favorite screen capture tool for the Mac. Skitch isn't exclusive to the Mac App Store exactly, but the version of Skitch on the Mac App Store cannot be purchased anywhere else. You can grab a free version on, and also purchase their subscription service to add pro features for $20 per year. The $10 version of Skitch that you'll find on the Mac App Store is kind of a hybrid of both. It comes with the pro features you'll find in-app, but only the basic features you get with a free account. Basically, if you only want to unlock Skitch's in-app superpowers and don't need any fancy online stuff, this is the way to go.

Download on the Mac App Store ($10

Track Master
Track Master is a very interesting piece of software that turns your multitouch trackpad into a MIDI controller. You can use it with pretty much any music creation software, like GarageBand, to play various instruments and adjust MIDI settings as you play. It's a very clever app you can pick up for $5 and start making music without the aid of any traditional MIDI instruments.

Download on the Mac App Store ($5)

Big Phone
Big Phone bills itself as Google Voice for Mac and that pretty much describes it. Big Phone sits up in your menubar and lets you make calls with Google Voice. It also lets you send and receive text messages, displaying them in an instant message chat-like style. It's a lot like the Google Voice Chrome extension, but with a few extra features and without being tied to your browser.

UPDATE: Reader sunetos points out that you can grab GrowlVoice for $1 less and it does the same thing. It's definitely worth checking out both to see which you prefer, or just getting GrowlVoice if your preferences are born solely from your wallet.

Download on the Mac App Store ($6)

Snippets is a neat little text expansion app. It's not our favorite, but it's definitely the cheapest option you've got and nonetheless pretty great. If you just need basic text expansion features and prefer simple apps, it's a really good deal at $5. Despite preferring another Mac text expansion app, I've really taken to Snippets and now use it exclusively.

Download on the Mac App Store ($5)

CalendarBar puts your calendars in your menubar. It can pull from Google Calendar, iCal, and Facebook. It's very simple, respects your color-coding, and can even provide you with Growl reminders so you don't miss any important events.

Download on the Mac App Store ($3)

What About Apps for the Rich and Famous?
While there are some excellent and expensive apps on the Mac App Store, we found that pretty much everything great wasn't exclusive. When it comes to pricey apps, you can pretty much find them anywhere. What's worth noting, however, is that you can get a lot of pricey apps for less money on the Mac App Store than you can elsewhere. This mainly includes Apple apps like individual iWork apps and pro apps like Aperture, but there are others here and there. If you're looking at buying an expensive app, definitely be sure to check the Mac App Store first as you may be able to save a little money. Just keep in mind that, very often, apps will take longer to update through the App Store than if you had the "normal" version of the app.

Do you know of any great Mac App Store exclusives you think should've been included on this list? Share 'em in the comments!

You can follow Adam Dachis, the author of this post, on Twitter and Facebook.  If you'd like to contact him, Twitter is the most effective means of doing so.
Feature  app_store  digital_painting  Downloads  Google_Calendar  Google_Voice  Illustration  Mac  Mac_app_store  Mac_OS_X  Media_Streaming  Microapp  Music  screen_capture  Text_Expansion  Top  Utilities  Video  video_streaming  VoIP  from google
april 2011 by lancejanders
Run Your Home Network Like a Coffee Shop for Easier Guest Access and Family-Friendly Browsing [Wi-Fi]
Want to open up your Wi-Fi network to easier access for visitors, block the web's nasty stuff from young eyes, and maybe regain some bandwidth, too? Go ahead and unleash your inner coffee shop owner. With free software and no extra hardware, you can manage content and bandwidth on your home network, or even manage a semi-public "hotspot," without feeling like a despot.
Photo by Wonderlane.

In the first two sections below, we'll run down some techniques and settings tweaks that will let anyone with a halfway modern router filter content, restrict or slow down access, and keep bad stuff off your network. That's helpful for net-connected children, but also for those looking to create a home coworking space, run a public hotspot from your business, or even open your network to certain users in the wider world. You can do that too, creating a semi-public hotspot that we'll cover in the third section.

Let's get started. The only extra item you might need is an ethernet cable, and that's a connection that's not absolutely necessary, though highly recommended.

Level 1: Use What Your Router Gives You
For most homes, the only settings that need changing on the Wi-Fi router are the access password and, maybe, the router's broadcast name. But if you want to have a say in who has access, at what times, you'll need to dig a bit deeper into your little antenna-topped box.

Connect your computer to your router (either by Wi-Fi or Ethernet cable—though when you're tweaking your router, going wired is often a smoother approach) and enter in its IP address into a browser to get to its configuration screen. This is usually something akin to,, or another number. You can use the first step of OpenDNS' router setup to help you determine your router's IP address. If you've changed the default administrative user/password (you should if you haven't!), enter it when you're prompted; if you didn't change your password, you can find the default set through or your router's manual.

Look for a section named "Access Restrictions," or possibly just "Access," and sometimes found under the "Administration" tab. You might find that this section allows you to exercise quite a bit of control over which computers can access which kinds of internet apps, and when. On a typical router, you can apply filters to certain computers by their unique MAC address (here's how to find those), giving them access at certain hours of certain days. You can also often block certain kinds of traffic on select systems, or across the whole network, including BitTorrent, popular online games, and other apps.

That kind of nitty-gritty control is helpful, but you can't realistically scour the whole web to prevent bad stuff from getting in, either to your kids or freeloaders you're letting benevolently use your connection. To get that kind of basic screening, and get a bit more control, we'll turn to a service that gives us access from a higher level: OpenDNS.

Level 2: Control and Filter with OpenDNS
Your DNS server takes the domains you type in ( and translates them into the numbers and destinations ( all the computers between you and your next pair of shoes can understand. By default, your internet service provider uses a default DNS to handle your requests, but you can switch to OpenDNS for free, and institute policies and filters on what makes it into your house. In other words, it's installing a valve a little higher on your internet pipe. Head to OpenDNS and create an account, then perform this fairly simple setup.

Back inside your router setup, usually on the main page or in the first page of "Wireless" settings, you'll see two or three rows of boxes offered for entering "Static DNS." They're usually set to, or a number provided by your ISP. Enter instead into those boxes the numbers for OpenDNS: and Hit "Apply Settings," or just "Save" if that's your only option, then wait for your router to update itself. After that, you'll want to flush your computer's DNS cache, and also wipe out your browser cache to make a fresh connection. But that's it—you should be able to log into your Dashboard if you've already created an account.

From your Dashboard, you can enable some strong and specific web content filters. If you've got kids, the reasons for doing so are obvious. If you're thinking about helping out a neighbor or passer-by with Wi-Fi, the reasoning might lean a bit more toward liability. You can use any of the preset filtering levels and customize them individually, or set up a new set of parameters to filter with a Custom setting. If OpenDNS isn't quite catching what you're trying to block, you can add up to 25 domains of your choice to a blacklist with the free plan. For much more limited access and protection for young eyes, you can upgrade to OpenDNS' Deluxe plan for $9.95 per year, or 83 cents per month, to enable a whitelist-only plan on certain computers.

Whether you're paying that small fee or not, you can track and see how well your filtering is working out with OpenDNS' Stats and Logs section. It takes a day or two to build a usable data set, but once you do, you can see reports and graphics showing where your bandwidth is going. That helps you spot problematic usage before it gets out of control. You can view top domains requested, see request "types" to understand the traffic flow, and download reports if you'd like to visualize the data yourself. Free accounts get two weeks of logs kept up for free, while Deluxe accounts have year-long archives.

So now you can keep your home, your small office, or your impromptu coworking space from spiraling into the depths of procrastination and, uh, other things that start with "p." Let's think about letting in neighbors, or even public browsers nearby, by creating a coffee-shop-style hotspot, complete with its own login page with the usual disclaimer blah-blah.

Level 3: Open Up with Hotspot System

There's nothing you actually need to become a public Wi-Fi access point, other than a lack of a password scheme. But it's a pretty bad idea to let anyone use your network, from any device, using whatever bandwidth they can grab, with no warnings or disclaimers in sight. Hotspots System lets anyone create a basic web "greeting" page, show the requisite disclaimers, then control bandwidth usage and kick out abusers.

Running a hotspot is something best done on a secondary router, and it's easiest to do with open-source firmware installed, such as DD-WRT. That lines up perfectly with another project we've geeked out on: turning an old router into a Wi-Fi repeater, powered by DD-WRT. If you're interested in taking that secondary router and using it as a kind of public satellite, you can grab a "Hotspot Free" account, then set it up in your router's Services section, under the Hotspot tab. With a free account, you can bump anyone looking to browse the web onto a page linking a basic usage agreement, as well as keep track of what they're doing in a general sense. From your account page, you can cap upload and download usage, so that your free offering doesn't crush the service you actually pay for, and create a few more rules and regulations. If you wanted to charge for access, or hand out "tickets" for usage, you'd need to upgrade to a paid Hotspot System account.

You've now got a pretty good set of tools in your hands to prevent bad behavior and resource hogging on your network, and maybe even give out some of your unused bandwidth, too, with some basic protections. If you've worked out other means of monitoring and filtering your router, or offering up access in semi-public fashion, tell us about it in the comments.
Wi-Fi  Bandwidth  Children  Feature  filtering  Hotspot  Kids  Router  Run_your_own_hotspot  Top  web_monitoring  Wi-fi_network  from google
april 2011 by lancejanders
How to Set Up a Fully Automated App and Settings Backup on Your Jailbroken iDevice [Ios]
Wouldn't it be great if iOS fully backed up your data, and did so wirelessly and automatically, without requiring you to plug in and sync? As with many features iOS is lacking by default, you can achieve this goal by jailbreaking. Here's how to set up a fully automated, wireless backup on your jailbroken iDevice.
Got an Android device? Set up a fully automated backup using Titanium Backup.
If you're not familiar with iOS' backup process, you're probably wondering why you'd bother with all of this when iTunes seemingly takes care of backup for you. Here are a few good reasons:

iTunes isn't really backing up everything when you sync your device, but pretty much just the settings on your phone. It doesn't back up your camera roll, your calendars, your address book, and a bunch of other personal data. If you're not syncing any of these things, you're not backing them up.
You're required to sync in order to back up most of your data, and you can't do it wirelessly—you have to plug in your phone to the computer you sync it to every time.
You can't schedule backups.
Finally, if you've jailbroken your iDevice before, and subsequently updated iOS to a newer version, you know that you lose your jailbreak during that update. Jailbreaking again only takes a few minutes, but restoring all your jailbreak apps and extensions can be tedious and time consuming.

The backup system we're going to put into place today solves all of these problems.

What You'll Need
Interested? Before we get started, you're going to need to do a couple of things:

If you haven't already, jailbreak your iDevice.
Get a Dropbox account. You get 2GB for free, and you can get more free space through referrals. The 2GB should be just fine for most backup plans, though.
Purchase and download PKGBackup from the Cydia store on your jailbroken iDevice. Currently it's $8. If that seems like a lot, consider the time it takes to get all your app settings back in place one-by-one. The time-saving aspect is easily worth $8 to this writer.

Setting Up PKGBackup
Once you've got everything ready to go we can start setting up PKGBackup the way you want. Start by opening the app. You should see a bunch of options, but to start off we need to go into the Settings panel. You can reach that by tapping the gear icon in the top left corner.

Here's the quick version:

Click the "Dropbox" tab and link your Dropbox account.
In the settings panel, turn on the scan packages at startup setting and do not turn on the automatically backup on startup setting. When you're done, press "OK" to accept the settings you've chosen and PKGBackup will automatically scan your phone for things it can back up.
From the list, choose the category you want by tapping it and then selecting any packages, settings, or data you want to back up.
Tap backup in the bottom right corner of the main screen to initiate backup. It may take awhile so be sure you're on Wi-Fi and can be without your phone for an hour or so (depending on how much you've chose to back up).

That's all there is to it. However, if you need a little more hand-holding through the process, you can find much more detail about each step below.

Step 1: Link Your Dropbox Account
The Settings panel is a little intimidating. It's filled with buttons and switches all crammed onto your tiny little screen. Before you mess with any other settings, the first thing you're going to want to do is log in to your Dropbox account. Your second option in the Settings panel is called Primary Storage. Next to that you'll be able to choose between Addressbook and Dropbox. PKGBackup lets you choose between backing up your data to a file in your iDevice's address book, but we're not going to use that as it limits you to only backing up small bits of data. It also requires you to sync your iDevice to actually perform the backup. These reasons make Dropbox a much better option, so tap the Dropbox tab and you'll be presented with a screen that'll let you log in and link your Dropbox account.

Once you've logged in and your account has been linked, the Drobox tab will change its name to DB Logout. If you click that, the link to your Dropbox account will be severed and you'll have to relink it again. This isn't a big deal, but it's easy to accidentally tap that button and not realize it, so just make sure it reads "DB Logout" if you're ever wondering why things aren't working.

Step 2: Scan Packages at Startup and Other Toggle Settings
Once you've linked your Dropbox account you technically do not need to do anything else. Once you press OK at the bottom of the screen, PKGBackup will scan your iDevice for what you can back up.

You can always initiate this scan manually by opening the Settings panel and tapping the OK button, but if you want it to manually scan your packages at startup there's a switch for that called Scan packages at startup. Turn that on if you want an automatic scan every time you launch PKGBackup. You can also tell it to automatically backup on startup, but I'd recommend against this because 1) backup takes some time and it's not a process you can easily cancel, and 2) it's pretty easy to manual initiate a backup by pressing the backup button at the bottom right of the main screen when you start up PKGBackup. So if I were you, I'd leave that option turned off.

You'll find a couple of other options you can turn on and off if you want, but those aren't really that important. You'll also see backup scheduling options on the bottom half of the Settings panel, but we're not going to look at those just yet. First, let's set up your first backup.

Step 3: Select What You Want to Back Up
If you haven't already, press OK on the Settings panel to return to the main PKGBackup screen. Here you'll find a single rounded rectangle beneath a header of "Installed packages" and it'll list the number of packages you have installed. If you have, say, 15 package installed, it'll probably read "Selected 0 of 15" because you have yet to select any packages.

Before we look at the other settings below, tap the rounded rectangle to select the packages you want to back up. These packages are apps, extensions, and other things you installed when jailbreaking. Some of them you may recognize and others you won't because they were installed by default during the jailbreaking process. In most cases, you're going to want to back up everything. To do that, tap the All Packages on the bottom right side of the screen to list every package. You'll see a square with an arrow pointing to the right up on the top right side of your screen. Tap that, then tap the All button that appears on your screen. This will select all packages. If you want to deselect any selected package, you can always tap the green arrow next to its name. You can also select packages individually in this way.

Once you're finished, click the back button that reads "PKGBackup" in the top left corner of your screen to return to the main PKGBackup screen. That's all you need to do to set up your package backup!

We're not quite done yet if you want to backup more than just your jailbreak packages. You'll also noticed a bunch of options under the Option header on the PKGBackup main screen. These are things like Apple Default Apps, user sources, preferences files, etc. If you want to back up any of these other items, just tap them and select what you want. They'll work pretty much the same way as backing up your packages with one exception: Apple Default Apps. Apple Default Apps just has a series of on and off toggles for your iDevice's built-in app data. Just switch these on or off to enable or disable them for backup and head back to the main screen when you're done.

Step 4: Start Your Backup
Once you've chosen all your backup options, you're ready to go. Before you initiate your first backup, be prepared to leave your device alone for awhile as it is going to have to upload all of this data to Dropbox. You're also going to want to make sure you're on a Wi-Fi network because this backup process could easily eat up the allotment on your monthly data plan. When you're ready, tap the Backup button in the bottom right corner of your screen and PKGBackup will perform all the necessary steps.

Scheduling Backups
Scheduling backups is very, very easy, but be sure to schedule a time when you won't be using your device so you're not interrupted. To set your schedule, tap the gear in the top left corner of the main PKGBackup screen to open the Settings panel. On the bottom half of the screen you'll find your backup options. Under repeat schedule you can tap 0 for just once, or choose to back up daily, weekly, or monthly. Below that, set the time of day (in 24 hour time) that you want to back up. If you select weekly or monthly backups, you'll also need to select a day in addition to entering a time. All you need to do is choose one of the day letter tabs at the bottom of the screen to choose your day. If you choose weekly, your back up will occur on that day every week. If you choose monthly, your backup will occur on the first chosen day of that month (e.g. if you chose Monday, backup will occur on the first Monday of every month).

Once you've made your choices, just press okay and your backup will be scheduled. You can feel free to quit PKGBackup if you like as it will initiate backups all on its own.

Performing a Restore
Restoring a backup is very simple and about the same as the backup process. To perform a restore, tap the View Restore tab at the bottom of the screen. You'll then be able to select what you want to restore in the exact same way you were able to select what you wanted to back up. Make your selections, then tap the Restore button in the bottom right corner of the main PKGBackup screen. Restoration may take some time depending on what data you're restoring, so make sure you have enough time to wait as it's a process you definitely do not want to interrupt.

Once PKGBackup has completed the restore, you're all set. You may be asked to reboot your device, depending on what you … [more]
ios  Automation  Backup  Cloud_Storage  Downloads  dropbox  Feature  How_To  ipad  iPhone  ipod_touch  Mobile  Smartphone  Top  from google
april 2011 by lancejanders
Rip, Watch and Organize Everything: The Ultimate Media Guide [How To]
Yes, the times are changing. Yes, we've cut back on purchasing CDs, DVDs, and BDs lately. Yes, we still have plenty of discs lying around in jewel cases on dusty shelves or in enormous three-ring binders. And yes-most definitely yes-we want to be able to access all these movies and songs from our PC, television, and our shiny new smartphone.

Is it legal to rip your own media? Mostly. In the United States, the circumvention of copy protection and playback control systems is prohibited by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). However, recent "fair use" rulings have relaxed the circumvention rules in specific cases. Our take is that as long as you're not pirating the content, you're good, but for a fairly complete rundown of the most current interpretation of the DMCA, point your browser to

Rip All of Your Media
The first step is to transform your collection of CDs, DVDs, and Blu-ray discs into files that can be played on the platform of your choice

Before we start blindly converting discs into files, take a moment to consider where and how the resulting files will be used. You may be interested in converting disc-based content for playback on a specific platform such as a PC, smartphone, portable player, HDTV, or game console. Or, you may want to simply archive a disc so that there is no sacrifice in features or quality.

For either scenario, the choice of file format is crucial. An ISO image is perfect for storing a complete copy of a particular disc, and these image files are easily played on a PC or on some stand-alone players. However, that same file may be too large or simply incompatible with a device like a smartphone or game console. Likewise, container, or "wrapper," file formats, such as MKV (Matroska) and AVI (Audio Video Interleaved), can comprise any number of encoded audio/video (AV) file formats that may or may not be compatible with a particular player. See the "AV Formats" sidebar on the facing page for our guidance, but as a general rule, if you are unsure of the target platform (or there are several) for your disc collection, you should losslessly archive your media so that you can convert it into whatever file format is desired at a later date.

How to Rip an Audio CD
Sure, you could use iTunes or Windows Media Player to create lossy or lossless encodes of your favorite CD audio tracks. However, if you want to ensure that your rips are 100 percent error free, then you need an application that supports AccurateRip (, which verifies each ripped track against an Internet database that contains data on more than 1.7 million audio discs. AccurateRip is supported by our favorite free and paid ripping applications-Exact Audio Copy (free, and dBpoweramp Reference ($38, These programs also support hardware error detection (C2), which helps ensure precise positioning of the drive's read head in relationship to the CD data track.

One of our favorite ripping applications, dBpoweramp is a multithreaded app that uses AccurateRip technology to ensure perfect rips of your audio CDs.

We're partial to dBpoweramp Reference for its inclusion of a batch ripper and batch audio-conversion tool, which includes extensive and easily updated audio codec support. The batch audio converter is ideal for tasks such as converting a collection of losslessly encoded FLAC tracks into the Apple Lossless format for your iPhone and into Ogg Vorbis for use with other media players. It's also superb at finding and filling in metadata, such as artist name, song title, and album art information.

Finally, dBpoweramp's Codec Central website ( is the place to go for one-click installations of the most popular audio codecs. To preserve your folder structure when batch-converting an audio archive into other formats, set the output folder to the desired destination (your work folder), and then select Dynamic Naming and change it to: [origpath]\[origfilename].

How to Rip DVD Video
Nowadays, decrypting DVD-Video is a painless task and the antiripping technology that some discs employ is easily circumvented. Tools such as the free DVDFab HD Decrypter ( and AnyDVD HD ($110 for a two-year subscription, offer one-click options for dumping the contents of a DVD-Video disc to a folder on a hard drive. This folder structure can then be written back to a recordable DVD or to an ISO image file using a free tool like ImgBurn (

You can also convert ripped DVDs to various file formats using freely available encoding tools such as HandBrake ( or RipBot264 ( HandBrake's native support of DVD file folders makes it slightly easier to use, but RipBot264 can get the job done by pointing the program at the main movie's first VOB file (they are approximately 1GB) located in the VIDEO_TS folder-it will find and assimilate any related VOB files automagically.

One particularly handy feature of AnyDVD is its ability to bypass DVD encryption without actually ripping the disc. With AnyDVD running in the background, the contents of the inserted DVD can be accessed directly by any of the aforementioned tools. AnyDVD also offers the option to rip a DVD directly to an ISO image file that can be mounted in a virtual DVD drive such as SlySoft's free Virtual CloneDrive program ( When used in combination with the My Movies for WMC program (, you'll be able to pull down your entire movie archive in a stream. Some multimedia player programs such as VLC ( and even some stand-alone players support the playback of DVD ISO files.

When backing up a DVD movie to a single-layer DVD-R (DVD5), you can improve picture quality by ripping only the main movie, deselecting unneeded audio tracks (stereo instead of 5.1-channel audio helps, too), and deselecting captioning information (also known as "Subpicture"). Finally, there is no reason to transcode DVD video into a resolution greater than 720x480 (the format's native resolution).

How to Rip Blu-ray Video
Blu-ray's constantly updated protection schemes require ripping software that's regularly updated. Once again, we'll use DVDFab and AnyDVD HD. One thing we particularly like about AnyDVD is that it allows for the playback of Blu-ray movies on PCs that lack a protected video path. One convenience here is that the main movie on a BD often consists of a single .m2ts file located in the .../BDMV/STREAM/ subdirectory. Sort by file size and it's usually the largest one. Once decrypted, this .m2ts file can be transcoded with free tools like HandBrake or RipBot264.

The largest file in a Blu-ray's STREAM folder is the main movie title.

Ripping a 3D Blu-ray movie is a little trickier. A complete ISO image of a 3D Blu-ray movie will play just fine on a PC running 3D-compatible player software, such as ArcSoft's TotalMedia Theater 5, Corel's WinDVD 2010, or CyberLink's PowerDVD 10. If you are interested in transcoding 3D Blu-ray video, DVDFab offers paid options for one-click conversions into a variety of popular file formats. (The feature is available to try free for 30 days, but it will watermark the output.)

Don't spend extra for Blu-ray movies that include a "digital copy" for use with compatible mobile devices. You can often achieve better picture quality, a smaller-size file, and wider compatibility by transcoding the movie's .m2ts file yourself. HandBrake has a convenient selection of encoder presets that are particularly great at this task. The program's picture tab allows you to adjust the output resolution of your encodes, and the video tab provides quality controls that can be used to target a specific bitrate or file size.

If you plan to transcode Blu-ray video into a highly compressed format to save storage space, plan on reducing the video resolution as well-a 35GB Blu-ray rip at 1080p converts quite nicely into a much smaller 720p file. Make sure to set the width to 1280 under the picture-size setting.

Choosing the Right File Format
Not surprisingly, choosing the right AV file formats to convert to largely depends on the devices you own. Here's some general guidance based on common usage.

Mobile Devices
Video: The MPEG-4/H.264 AV formats are ideal for most mobile devices, including the iPhone and Android-based products. When possible, encode using H.264 (MPEG-4 AVC/Part 10) video and two-channel LC (Low Complexity) AAC audio, as this combination provides good quality and compression and wide support. Common H.264 container file extensions include .mp4, .m4v, and .mov.

Audio: Android-based phones lack native support for most popular lossless audio formats (WAV is not a useful option). Android devices do, however, support the free Ogg Vorbis format, which produces superior musical reproduction vs. other lossy formats using similar bitrates-particularly when encoding with lossless channel coupling (Ogg quality-level "-q 6" or greater). For iPhone/iPad audio, Apple Lossless sounds the best, but you can save storage space by going with high-bitrate LC AAC.

The only required formats in the spec are JPG pictures, two-channel LPCM audio, and MPEG-2 video. Several optional media formats are also available, and MPEG-4 with AAC audio is becoming increasingly popular. DLNA for mobile devices requires the support of MPEG-4 AVC (aka H.264) video with LC AAC audio-a format easily created with free tools like HandBrake.

Xbox 360
We recommend AVI and DivX-these containers are the only formats that support Dolby Digital audio (2.0 and 5.1 channel). Using H.264, the encoding resolution can go as high as 1080p30 at up to 10Mb/s, but audio must be two-channel LC AAC.

PlayStation 3
The PS3's lack of support for DTS audio (in files) makes playback of some ripped content problematic. Transcoding DTS audio into two-channel LC AAC ensures excellent compatibility, but surround sound (5.1 channel) is no longer an option. Files with AC3 audio… [more]
How_To  Audio  BluRay  CDs  Discs  DLNA  DVDs  Guide  Guides  Media  media_servers  Movies  Music  Nas  Republished  Ripping  Top  0  from google
april 2011 by lancejanders
How to Turn Google Reader into a Customizable Read-It-Later Service [Reading]
You find a lot of interesting articles as you browse the web, but you don't always have time to read them right away. Read-it-later services like Instapaper and Read It Later both help solve that problem, but rather than signing up for yet another service, you can actually turn your Google Reader account into a personalized read-it-later archive.
Recently, bookmark-and-read-later services like Instapaper and Read it Later have become really popular. You bookmark articles that look interesting, they save the text and allow you to go back and read the piece at your leisure (and with nice type and formatting) from a variety of devices. I've even been using Instapaper myself, for reading articles later on my iPad. After reader ygolive tipped us off to Reader's save to Reader bookmarklet, though, I realized that a few simple tweaks can turn Google Reader into a really great, cross-platform, super customizable dump for interesting articles.

Why Would I Want to Switch?
If you're already using something like Instapaper or Read it Later, you might wonder why you'd want to switch. You can already save articles you discover, strip them of all their formatting, and even read them when you aren't connected to the internet. While we think services like Instapaper and Read it Later are pretty darn cool, using something like Google Reader has distinct advantages over the other services scattered about the net.

The biggest advantage to using Google Reader is that you don't need to sign up for an account on another service, or download a separate app to your phone, and you can stick with something that's already integrated into your workflow. Chances are, you're probably already discovering a lot of those articles in Google Reader, and doing a good amount of reading in it too—so why send those articles to an external service when you can just leave them in Reader? It already strips them of ads and formatting, and any Google Reader app worth its salt provides offline access for reading on-the-go. With just a bit of tweaking, you can add any article from the internet to your starred items, whether it's in your RSS feeds or not.

It's also worth noting that Google Reader's popularity offers some serious customization options. You have a ton of different apps to choose from on Android or iOS, as well as some nice userscripts and browser extensions that let you tweak it to look however you want. Also, while Read It Later and Instapaper have some nice sharing features, Google Reader has them too—and you probably know more people on Reader than you do on the others. Of course, if you don't like the sharing features, the aforementioned scripts and extensions can help you get rid of them entirely, which is another really nice perk.

Lastly, something I've always found really cool about Reader is its podcast and video integration. If you listen to a lot of podcasts or watch a lot of web video (like Lifehacker's brand new show on Revision3), Google Reader handles them beautifully. Just subscribe to their RSS feed in Reader as normal, and you'll be able to listen or play them right from the Reader interface, turning Reader not only in to a read-it-later service, but a watch- and listen-later service too. It's nice to have all my media in one place to check out when I have some free time.

How to Set it Up
The main idea is that instead of using an external service, you just use your Starred Items list in Google Reader as your list of articles you want to read later. As you're perusing your feeds, starring an article is super easy—just hit the "s" key on your keyboard and keep moving along. Of course, that alone doesn't make Reader the perfect read-it-later tool. With these extra tweaks and tools, though, you can seriously increase Google Reader's read-later potential.

The Bookmarklet
The great part about services like Instapaper is that you can save articles from anywhere around the ‘net with a bookmarklet. It's a lesser known fact, however, that Google has a similar bookmarklet available for reader—in the form of the "Note In Reader" bookmarklet. Just head to Reader, go to the Notes section in the sidebar, and drag the bookmarklet to your bookmarks bar.

Now, whenever you find an article you want to save for later, just hit that bookmarklet to save it in Reader (if you want, you can even select specific text on the page and send only that text to Reader). Make sure to uncheck the "add to shared items" box if you don't want to share it, or install this user script to uncheck it by default. Once it's in Reader, just star it as normal and you'll have it in your new "read later" list.

Getting Full RSS Feeds
One of the problems you may run into as you star things from within reader is that some feeds are truncated—that is, they only give you the first paragraph of the article, after which you need to go to their site to read the whole thing. Instead of clicking through to the article and then sending it back to Reader with the bookmarklet, use a service like previously mentioned WizardRSS or previously mentioned Full Text RSS Feed Builder to turn them into full feeds. They'll even turn aggregators like Hacker News into full feeds, which is great.

Customizing Reader's Appearance
Reader may strip your articles of all their annoying ads and formatting, but depending on your tastes, you may not like the font or colors Google Reader uses. One of the great things about its popularity is that there are a ton of ways out there to customize how it looks. Previously mentioned Helvetireader is a great option, though my personal favorite is Minimalist Google Reader for Chrome, which lets you tweak nearly any element of the interface to your liking. Searching for specific tweaks you want (like a simple font change to make it look more like Instapaper) will produce quite a few results, too.

Mobile Devices
The last thing, of course, is to make sure you can read all your articles on your mobile device. Again, Google Reader's popularity comes in pretty handy here—because it's such a widely used tool, there are tons of different RSS apps out there that will sync with Google Reader, so you can pick the right one for you. Here are a few of my recommendations:

Reeder for iOS: If you're looking for a good-looking, offline-capable, sharing-ready Google Reader client for your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch, you can't go wrong with Reeder. Not only does it sync all your starred items, shared items, and feeds with Google Reader, but it's just really good looking and easy to read. It will also cache all your feeds and their images for offline reading if you plan on going somewhere without an internet connection—which means you're never without your articles. Trust me, it's worth the few bucks it costs.

gReader for Android: There are quite a few quality Google Reader clients for Android, but as far as this setup is concerned, the best is gReader. It gives you easy access to your starred items, caches all your articles for offline reading, and will even let you stream podcasts from any RSS feeds containing audio files, which is especially convenient.

Google Reader Mobile for any platform: If you don't like one of the above apps for some reason, or you aren't using Android or iOS, Google's mobile site is actually pretty good. You won't get offline access, but as long as you have internet you can just head to and access your starred items from the "Tags" section. It isn't quite as great as some of the above apps, but it will still work pretty darn well if you're on a less flexible platform like the Kindle.

It may not be as quick and easy to set up as something like Instapaper or Read it Later, but you end up with a bit more choice as far as the apps you can use and the customizations you can make. Plus, you have one less service to sign up for and one less password to remember—which is always nice. If you give this method a shot, let us know how you like it in the comments—and be sure to share your favorite Google Reader apps and customizations, too.
Reading  Android  Customization  Feature  Google_Reader  instapaper  ios  Mobile  Read_it_Later  Top  Web_Browsing  from google
march 2011 by lancejanders Is an All-Encompassing Directory of Streaming Movies and TV on the Web [Video]
Services like Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Instant are great for catching up on your movies and TV on demand, but they all have different selections. searches all the popular movie and TV show outlets from one, unified engine. aggregates both paid and free content into its humungous directory, boasting over 40,000 movies and 60,000 TV shows. Not only can you search for what you want to watch, but you can import your Netflix ratings, get recommendations, and even get alerted to when certain movies or TV shows become available for streaming online. It's not unlike previously mentioned Clicker, though I much prefer Moki's interface, and it seems to offer more suggestions (Clicker has left Hulu out of my search results before, even when an episode is available on it). Hit the link to check it out. [via TechCrunch]

You can contact Whitson Gordon, the author of this post, at You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and lurking around our #tips page.
Streaming_Television  Movies  Search_engines  Streaming_Video  Television  Top  TV  Video  from google
march 2011 by lancejanders
Turn a Pair of $30 Headphones into a $300 Pair [DIY]
If you want high-quality music but don't feel like shelling out hundreds of dollars for a decent pair of headphones, blogger Stacy D shows us how to turn a cheap pair of knock-offs into a legit set of audiophile headphones.
We've shown you lots of little tricks that improve your headphones, but if you'd really like to get your DIY on, you can mod a cheap pair of headphones into a set of high quality, orthodynamic headphones yourself. It takes a bit of heavy-duty machinery (like a Dremel), but other than those requirements, it doesn't look that difficult—it mainly consists of buying a higher quality set of drivers and replacing the crappy set's. Then, you just need some extra insulation to keep it all in place, put the headphones back together (you'll probably have to do a bit of sanding and painting too), and you've got yourself a high-end pair of headphones for less than $100 total cost. Hit the link to read more about the hack.

DIY HiFi Orthodynamic Portable Headphones (aka Ribbon Driver Headphones) [Does it Pew? via Hack a Day]

You can contact Whitson Gordon, the author of this post, at You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and lurking around our #tips page.
DIY  Headphones  Music  Saving_Money  Top  from google
march 2011 by lancejanders
How to Replace Your Wallet with Your Phone [Digitizing]
If you like your wallet, by all means, hold onto it. But if you'd like to travel lighter and worry about one less thing to remember, you can put replace most of your wallet's functionality with your phone. Here's how to switch over everything except your cash, and maybe one card.
Image via

There are already great, convenient things your phone can do to stand in for your wallet, but the future looks even better. Near Field Communication technology (NFC), built into at least one Android phone and more to come, will eventually allow your phone to handle wallet replacement even better. In the meantime, you can consolidate your membership cards, hold sensitive scraps of paper, carry photos of your loves ones, and even make money change hands, all from your phone. Here's how to slim down or entirely cast off your back-pocket leather shackles.

Discount, Club, and Membership Cards
Some stores make their membership cards mandatory, or make items nearly unaffordable if you aren't using their member cards. Rather than stuff them in your wallet or clutter your key chain, load them into an app that recreates them on your screen.

We like Key Ring for this job (available for Android, iOS, and WP7). Scan in your cards' bar codes, or type in the UPC numbers if the card is too weathered. Key Ring lists and quick-sorts your cards, which show up in a big way on your screen. You can also see coupons and discounts found for the store you're pulling up from another tab.

You might be put off by the idea of showing your phone to a clerk, or scanning it yourself. Having tried it a few times, in both (relatively old-school) Buffalo, NY, and (definitely more wired) Austin, TX, it's not as awkward as you might think—or at least just as awkward as fumbling in your wallet and trying to forcibly pry a card from a snug pocket. The key is having your rewards screen pulled up before you're at the front of a line, just as you should do with a physical card.

Install Key Ring: Android, iTunes, Windows Phone 7

Your Sensitive Data
A wallet isn't all that bad a place to keep some sensitive data—just ask security expert Bruce Schneier. If you're stashing PINs or other means of getting at your sensitive stuff, consider switching over to using secure apps on your phone instead.

We're big fans of LastPass as an all-systems, all-browsers password solution. Less known about LastPass is its "Secure Notes feature," which stores and encrypts anything you can type behind the same barrier as your passwords. You can stash bank account information, health insurance PINs, and other data in their numerous mobile apps,. Most of those apps require a (relatively cheap) premium subscription, but non-premium members can simply browse to the LastPass mobile site to quickly pull up something they need.

If you're not keen on moving into LastPass' system, there are good stand-alone mobile solutions, too. Wallet for Android (original post) protects your passwords and other sensitive data with damn-strong AES-256 encryption, and won't give up any goods even if your phone is lost or stolen. Another app for iPhone also with the Wallet offers similar encrypted storage for credit card information, passwords, and other data you'd potentially keep in your actual wallet. In fact, it seems like searching out "wallet" and "encryption" on most any semi-smart-phone's app market should turn up an app that can give you a place to stash your secrets, provided you verify the app maker's identity.

This one's pretty easy, but it's mostly on you. If your wallet always has a quick-access photo of your wife, children, or favorite animal, your phone can have the same. On iPhones, you'll set that photo as your "lock screen," under the Wallpaper section of your Settings. If you've got more than one photo you like to show off, create an album or folder, then head into the Photos tab of your device while it's connected and synced to iTunes. Photo by Bryan Gosline.

Phones can't dispense physical cash, so you'll still need that, plus at least one credit card. But if you're cool with a binder clip or something simple for carrying cash, you can still use your phone to pay your friends, perhaps for dinner tabs or wagers about, say, living without a wallet.

The best, most universal solution is PayPal's mobile app (iPhone, Android, BlackBerry), which allows users to "bump" phones together to exchange funds. But even when bumping doesn't work—or doesn't quite feel right—sending money to a recipient is almost too easy, once you have their email address. Wing them some cash drawn from a bank account or credit card, and you're no longer in pizza debt.

iPhone users have QuickPic as a mobile scanning solution. Still many users, on nearly any mobile OS, can turn to the ubiquitous capture application Evernote, you can use to grab pics of your receptes and sync them to a folder on your desktop or Evernote's web site. It can even use Onscreen Character Recognition (OCR) technology to make text within the receipt searchable. Handy.

Business Cards
If you happen to be talking to another likeminded, wallet-ditching smartphone user, and you both have Bump installed (Android/iPhone), you can trade contact details and other data by tapping phones. If not, consider the low-fi solution that worked for me, and people I met, during SXSW this past week: simply ask for an email and tap out a quick "Hey" message.

No two wallets are packed with the same needs. Tell us how you've made your phone into your wallet, or why you can't leave your wallet behind, in the comments.
Digitizing  Android  Contacts  Feature  iPhone  Money  Passwords  Phone  Photos  Receipts  Smartphone  Top  Wallet  from google
march 2011 by lancejanders
This Is All About XBMC [Companion Piece]
Power Up Your XBMC Installation with These New Add-Ons
In its latest update, much-beloved media center application XBMC added one-click add-on installation, bringing browser-like extensions to your Media center. If you've ever wanted to incorporate watching TV, listening to podcasts, or playing video games to your XBMC box, the new add-on system is incredibly easy to use, and can power your box up to do all sorts of things. Here's how it works, followed by a few of our favorite XBMC add-ons. More »

Don't forget! You can always see the latest content as we publish it over to the right. If you're a traditionalist, you can also switch over to blog view.

How to Build a Silent, Standalone XBMC Media Center On the Cheap
You won't find a better media center than the open-source XBMC, but most people don't have the space or desire to plug a noisy PC into their TV. Instead, I converted a cheap nettop into a standalone XBMC set-top box. Here's how. More »

Set Up a Fully Automated Media Center
We love a good media center almost as much as we love automation, so self-confessed media geek Alex Ward's fully automated media center caught our eye. It's all the benefits of an awesome media center without all the hassle. More »

Top 10 Cheap or Free Home Theater Upgrades
You've got a mind-blowing picture, surround sound, and streaming content set up, but it wasn't cheap. Heal your wallet with ten upgrades, fixes, and setup tips that take your system to 11 on the cheap. More »

Wire Your Living Room Over Wi-Fi with a Bridge
More devices in your living room have Ethernet ports than ever before, but you can't plug them into the network if your router's in the other room. When your Wi-Fi access point is in the home office but your TiVo, Xbox, and media center are screaming for network love under your TV in the living room, you want a wireless bridge (also known as an Ethernet converter). A wireless bridge catches your home network's Wi-Fi signal and provides ports where you can plug in wired devices near it. Let's take a look at how to wire up your living room using a wireless bridge. More »

Set Up a Geeky Media Center that Non-Geeks Can Actually Use
I love messing with settings and geeky file-sharing programs. My spouse doesn't, but digs Hulu and appreciates free. So I set up a media center that satisfies my geek cravings but is actually easy-to-use for non-nerds. Here's what I pieced together. More »

Top 10 Apps that Boost Your Media Center
Streaming video, digital DVD backups, DVR recording-it's all possible from your TV-connected media center, and you don't need a system administrator to pull it off. These 10 apps make filling and controlling your media center PC even easier. More »

Turn Your XBMC Media Center into a Video Game Console
We love XBMC media centers for watching movies and TV, but if you like video games, they can do so much more. With a simple plug-in, some configuration, and a USB gamepad, you can play video games straight from your set-top box. More »

Top 10 Windows Media Center Plug-Ins and Boosters
Microsoft's powerful home theater centerpiece, Windows Media Center, is easily one of the best applications that ships for free with Windows. But you can still make it better-and take it into new realms-with these plug-ins, helper apps, and tweaks. More »

How to Install XBMC on Your Apple TV 2
Great news for anyone looking for a tiny, cheap standalone XBMC box: You can now install XBMC on an Apple TV 2. Here's how it works. More »

Forums and Tips
Continue the conversation in our Open Thread forum, and if you've got a great tip, trick, hack, or app that you think would be a good fit on Lifehacker, send an email to, or submit it to our Tips page.
Companion_Piece  Roundup  Today  Top  from google
february 2011 by lancejanders
How to Secure and Encrypt Your Web Browsing on Public Networks (with Hamachi and Privoxy) [How To]
When you're browsing from a public Wi-Fi connection—like at your favorite coffee shop—anyone on that network can snoop on what you're doing, with very few exceptions. So can the IT crew at your workplace. Today, we're going to walk through setting up an encrypted proxy server on your home computer so you can secure your browsing session no matter where you're connected, keeping your private data significantly more private.

What's the Point?
We've mentioned this more than a few times, but when you're browsing on a public Wi-Fi network and aren't connecting to sites that use HTTPS, anyone on that network can see what you're doing; they can grab passwords sent in plain text, or they can potentially steal your browser cookies and pretend they're you. (That's how, for example, Firesheep works.)

On Monday we offered some tips for securing your online life the easy way, which involved using HTTPS connections on web sites that provide them, stashing your passwords more securely, and keeping your plug-ins up-to-date (among other things). Today we're going to take this to a big more advanced level, detailing how to encrypt and secure your entire browsing session, regardless of whether or not your using HTTPS to browse a site.

Here's How It Works
Below, I'm going to detail how to set up a secure, encrypted connection to a web proxy you're going to run from your home computer. The secure proxy will hide all your browsing from prying eyes, even on a public network. Prox-wha? A web proxy is essentially a middleman that stands between you and the web at large. When you browse to a page using a proxy, you pass your request to the proxy, which actually fetches the page content and then passes it back to you.

A proxy alone isn't enough if you're connecting via a simple, unencrypted HTTP connection—a sneaky user could still watch what you're passing back and forth over a public network. The special sauce involves Hamachi, a free app that creates a secure, encrypted Virtual Private Network (VPN) between your computer and any other of your computers that you've installed and configured Hamachi on. By setting up a proxy on one computer, then connecting to that proxy using a secure connection via Hamachi, you're able to encrypt and secure your browsing session.

If that sounds complicated, don't worry: It's actually pretty easy to set up, and I'll walk you through every step. Hat tip to user warwagon from the Neowin forums.

What You'll Need

An always-on computer: This is the computer you're going to securely tunnel your traffic through when you're browsing from outside your home network.
Hamachi: A free (for non-commercial use), cross-platform VPN service that, simply put, gives you secure access to your home network no matter where you are.
Privoxy: A free, easy to set up web proxy with advanced privacy features.

Step One: Install and Set Up Hamachi
The first thing you'll want to do is install Hamachi on the computer that's going to act as you proxy and on the computer(s) you want to browse securely on when you're on a public network. For example, I've got Hamachi installed on my Windows desktop computer at home (which will act as my secure proxy), then also installed on my MacBook Air (which I'll be using on public networks).

Once you've installed and powered on Hamachi (the first time you launch it, you need to click to blue power button to "Power on"), you'll need to create a new private network. To do so, click the Network menu, then select Create a new network. Give your network a unique ID and password (remember the password), then click Create. That's all there is to setting up your new network.

Next, download and install Hamachi on your laptop or other machine. Again, power on Hamachi, but this time, instead of creating a new network, select Network > Join an existing network, and then enter the Network ID and password you set up on the first machine.

Note: You can also create and manage your networks by signing into LogMeIn. For our purposes it's not necessary, but it is a great way to further manage Hamachi.
You can rinse and repeat this on every machine you want to do this with, for up to 16 clients (that's the limit for Hamachi's free-for-non-commercial-use version). Now that you're set up with Hamachi, it's time to install Privoxy on your always-on home machine.

Step 2: Install and Set Up Privoxy
Privoxy is a free, open source web proxy that we're going to install to your always-on home machine. So download Privoxy from Sourceforge for your system and install. Privoxy is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux, so you should be able to find a download to fit your needs. For my example, I'm using Windows, which you can easily install by running through a regular old installer. Things may run slightly different on other systems, but it should be the same basic setup. If you need help, check Privoxy's installation page.

After you've installed Privoxy, launch the application. (If you're running a firewall, you may need to give it access to open a port.) In Windows, Privoxy loads as a blank window. Don't worry, that doesn't mean it isn't working. In fact, you can close this window; Privoxy will still be running in your system tray.

Now it's time to configure Privoxy to shuttle traffic through your Hamachi setup, so right-click Privoxy in the system tray and select Edit > Main Configuration. Notepad will open with a text file called config.txt; this is Privoxy's main configuration file. Press Ctrl+f and search for listen-address Comment out that code by entering # in front of it, then paste listen-address followed by the IP address created by Hamachi. You can see, for example, that my proxy is set to listen-address Save config.txt and restart Privoxy.

Step 3: Set Up Your Web Browser to Use Your New Secure Proxy
Now you just need to set your browser to use the secure Hamachi+Privoxy proxy you've set up so far. This last step varies by browser, but I'll walk through setting it up on Chrome or Firefox.

On Chrome

Install the Proxy Switchy extension. Once installed, it should automatically open a new tab with its options. (If it doesn't, right-click the Proxy Switchy icon in your toolbar and select Options.)
Enter a profile name—something like Privoxy.
In the HTTP Proxy box under Manual Configuration, enter the Hamachi VPN IP address to the computer where you set up your proxy. Set the port to 8118. (Remember that you need Hamachi running on both computers when you want to use this proxy, and you can get the IP of any other computer on your Hamachi network by right-clicking the computer name and selecting Copy address.)
Click Save and you're done.

Whenever you want to browse using your secure proxy—whenever you hit your coffee shop, for example—just click the Proxy Switchy icon in Chrome, then select your Privoxy connection.
On Firefox

Open your Firefox preferences, then click on the Advanced tab. Click the Network tab, then the Settings button next to "Configure how Firefox connects to the Internet".
Click Manual proxy configuration, then enter the IP address of your Hamachi-powered proxy server and 8118 as your port. (In my case, for example, I'd right click "Windows" in Hamachi and copy the address for the Windows computer.)
Click OK.

Make Sure It's Working
To test that Privoxy is working, you can simply point your browser to If it is, you'll see a message like "This is Privoxy 3.0.17 on Windows (, port 8118, enabled." If not, you'll see a page that reads "Privoxy is not being used". Also, if you're on a public Wi-Fi connection and you navigate to something like with your proxy turned off, you should see a different IP when you reload the page with your proxy turned on. (Essentially, when turned on, your home's public IP address should be showing.)

And that's all there is to it. This may sound a touch geeky or complicated, but it's an extremely useful thing to have set up, and it's actually really easy to set up and use. And remember, even though your proxy is running over an HTTP connection, Hamachi is encrypting everything that runs between your computers, so it's still a secure option. Also keep in mind: This is far from the only way to accomplish this task. You could, for example, set up an SSH SOCKS proxy to encrypt your browsing. I like this method because it's relatively simple to set up, and so far, it's worked like a charm for me. If you've got your own favorite alternative, let's hear about it in the comments.

You can contact Adam Pash, the author of this post, at  You can also follow him on Twitter and Facebook.
How_To  Encryption  Feature  Hack_Attack  Hamachi  Privoxy  Proxy  Security  Top  Wi-Fi  from google
february 2011 by lancejanders
How to Install Spotify on Your iPhone in the US (Or, How to Install Any Geo-Locked App through iTunes) [Video]
Certain apps—like Spotify—have country restrictions, meaning you can't download them or sign up for their service if you're not in a certain country. Fortunately, it's surprisingly easy to circumvent those restrictions. Here's how to do it.

Cult of Mac found this neat workaround for getting Spotify's iOS app to work inside the United States (it's currently Europe only), but these steps could really be reproduced for any free app on the iTunes App Store or any service. The video above will walk you through the whole process, but here are the basic steps you need to follow (using Spotify as an example):

Sign out of your iTunes account and scroll to the bottom of the store. You'll see a little flag for your country. Click on it and you'll be able to change your country to the United Kingdom.
Search for Spotify in the store and try to download it. You'll be prompted to create an account. It's important that you do it in this order or you will be asked to provide a credit card.
Make a new account with a fake address. If you search for UK in Google Maps and then search for a fast food restaurant, such as McDonalds, you'll be able to get a full phone number and address that you can use. Enter all of that in to create your fake account and choose "None" as a payment method when prompted.
iTunes will send you a verification email. Verify your email address and go try to download Spotify again from the iTunes App Store. This time it'll work.
Now you need a Spotify account. Visit and enter in the URL field. This will allow you to access Spotify through a proxy so it thinks you're in the UK.
Sign up for a free Spotify account.
Download Spotify and enjoy!

Note: Spotify requires a paid premium account to work on mobile devices, but you can try it for free for two weeks.

Get Spotify's iPhone App Working In USA | Cult of Mac

You can contact Adam Dachis, the author of this post, at You can also follow him on Twitter and Facebook.
Proxy  apps  ios  ipad  iPhone  ipod_touch  iTunes  spotify  Top  from google
february 2011 by lancejanders
Set Up Google's Two-Step Verification Now for Seriously Enhanced Security for Your Google Account [Google]
Google just launched two-step verification for all Google accounts, a system which makes your Google/Gmail account—the account possibly containing the lion's share of your private communication online—considerably more secure. In fact, we'd encourage everyone who uses Gmail (the @gmail version or your Google Apps version) as their primary email provider to start using this feature as soon as possible. Here's why, and then how.

What's Two-Step Verification?
The only thing standing between a hacker and your Google account—and more importantly, your sensitive information—is your password. Even if you had the strongest password you could possibly randomly generate, if someone were able to discover that password, they'd be in.

Two-step verification offers a more secure way for Google to verify that you are who you say you are when you're logging into your Google account on a new web browser, through a new application, or on a new mobile device. With two-step verification, your password isn't enough by itself. As Google put it:

2-step verification requires two independent factors for authentication, much like you might see on your banking website: your password, plus a code you only use once.

Those two factors are:

Your password (just like always)
A single-use verification code that Google sends to your phone in one of three ways: 1) Using the Google Authenticator app available for Android, iPhone, and BlackBerry, 2) via SMS, or 3) through a voice call (meaning you could even use a landline if you didn't have a cellphone—basically the call would read off the code to you).

Like many new feature releases from Google, two-step verification is a gradual rollout, available to everyone in the coming few days starting today. If you don't see the Using 2-step verification link immediately, it should be there soon.
Both your password and the single-use verification code are required to log in on a new browser. You can then tell Google to remember your log-in for 30 days.

How to Set Up Two-Step Verification
If you're convinced that you want the added security, or you at least want to give two-step verification a try, just log into your Google account and point your browser to your Google accounts page. (Google Apps users will need to go to their domain-specific control panel to enable two-step verification. If you're not the Google Apps admin, talk to yours about it.)

On the right side of the page, under Personal Settings > Security, click the Using 2-step verification link (you can bookmark that link if you like).

Now walk through Google's two-step verification setup guide. It's pretty simple: Essentially you have to add a new phone that you want to use for your two-step verification, confirm that it is indeed your phone (you do this in different ways depending on what method you're using. Using the Google Authenticator app for Android or for iPhone, for example, you verify by scanning a QR code and then testing the verification code it generates. Just follow along with the wizard for whatever method you're using.

Once you've set up your phone, you can also add a backup—a trusted number you can also access if, for example, you lose your phone—so you can still access your account. You can even print off a few backup codes to carry in your wallet or somewhere safe.

Using Two-Step Verification
The process for logging into your Google account from a new browser will now look something like this:

You visit a Google sign-in page, like this one.

You enter your username and password, like always.
You're now prompted to enter a code, which is tied only to a phone number you provide. You can receive this code on your phone using one of the Google Authenticator apps available for Android, iPhone, and BlackBerry, via SMS, or through a voice call (or, I suppose, using one of your printed backup codes).
You enter the code, optionally checking the box to Remember verification for this computer for 30 days, click Verify, and you're in.

It's fairly simple, but it does add a little bit of hassle to your login. Personally, I think the added security is well worth it.

The other thing you'll need to get used to involves logging into your Google account from third-party applications—like, say, a desktop email client. Since those clients don't support Google's two-step verification, you actually have to create single-use passwords first time you log into any new third-party application that needs to access your Google account. You'll only need to generate the new password for each application once—unless you decide to revoke access to that device. Here's how it works:

Point your browser to this page (I'd actually recommend bookmarking it, but you can also find the link on your Account settings page under Security > Authorizing applications & sites. Here you'll see all the webapps that you've allowed access to your Google account via Oauth (which uses the verification process above); below you'll see the Application-specific passwords section, which is where you generate new passwords for devices that can't support the two-step verification. To do so:

Type in the name of the device or application that you want to generate a single-use password for.
Click Generate password.
Google will return a new 16-digit (plus four spaces) password for you to use on that device. Once you hide it, you have no way to retrieve it again (a good thing).

Unlike the two-step process for logging into your Google account on the web, you only have to enter an application-specific password once; it remains active with that single-use password indefinitely. You can, however, revoke any password/device/application from accessing your Google account at any time—which I've done for the password I generated in the screenshot above. (Hands off my Google account!) From the device configuration page, you can also clear your phone info and all printable codes, should you lose your phone or misplace a printed code.

Two-step verification has been available for a while now to Google Apps users—specifically for the paid Google Apps accounts. This update makes it available to all users of Google's free products, including free Google/Gmail accounts and free Google Apps accounts.
Been using Google's two-step verification on your Google Apps account before this? Share your tips in the comments. Otherwise, let's hear if you're planning to use the new two-step verification with your Google account.

You can contact Adam Pash, the author of this post, at  You can also follow him on Twitter and Facebook.
Google  Android  BlackBerry  Email  Gmail  Google_Account  iPhone  Passwords  Security  Top  Two-step_verification  from google
february 2011 by lancejanders
What Hardware Do I Need for a Personal Media Server? [Ask Lifehacker]
Dear Lifehacker,
I want to set up a small home server to store and stream music and other files. Every hardware option I see seems like too much; are there any good alternatives to a loud, power-sucking machine? What do you recommend?

Sincerely yours,
Hardware Confused
Dear Confused,
If your primary goal is to stream media, you won't need an expensive, high-performance server to get the job done. In fact, you could repurpose nearly any computer made in the past few years for the job, so by no means should you limit your hardware search to servers. Instead, look for low-power hardware such as Intel Atom boards or AMD's new Fusion hardware; both should have sufficient processor speeds for your needs while also requiring very low power consumption.

I'm assuming that power consumption is somewhat important to you here, since many people satisfy their file-serving needs by simply keeping a desktop computer running all day and sharing files from their desktop over a network. But let's say a low-power, personal media server is what you're looking for. As I see it, here are your best options:

Buid Your Own Server
If you're not afraid of opening up a computer, building your own from a barebones system is a great way to go. You won't have to do much more than install the memory and hard drive, and you'll pay a lot less for the hardware. A good place to start is Newegg's Barebone / Mini Computers category: the "Barebone Systems" and "Mini/Booksize Barebones systems" subcategories are dominated by low-priced Atom systems. Add as much RAM as you can fit (or afford) and buy or repurpose an old hard disk and you will have a low-cost (under $150 without a new hard disk), low-consumption machine ready to serve files and stream music once you have installed an operating system.

Buy One Pre-Built
If you aren't comfortable making your server from a barebones system or don't want to deal with installing the operating system yourself, you can search for similar Atom-based pre-built servers such as the Acer Aspire Easystore. The cost is higher, but they have everything already set up for you, even the operating system (usually).

Ask_Lifehacker  Home_server  Networking  Top  from google
february 2011 by lancejanders
Basics of Photoshop: Color Correction, Touch Ups, and Enhancements [Video]
Now that you know the tools Photoshop has to offer, we're going to take a look at using them to correct and alter color, retouch blemishes and other unwanted parts of your photos, and enhance portraits to make the subject look especially good.
Welcome to the second lesson in our Basics of Photoshop series. The main lesson is the video above and the text below is for reference. Most of what you're going to learn here is best demonstrated in the video, so watching it is the best way to learn. In this lesson we're going to be covering three things: color correction, photo retouching, and photo enhancing. We're going to look at basic ways to perform these tasks and nothing too complex, but you'll find that these simple methods are very powerful and can handle the majority of what you'll want to do with your photos.

Color Correction
Color correction is a lot easier than you think. You just need to know which colors are complimentary (meaning on the opposite end of the color wheel) and you can use those to cancel out too much of another color. (If you need a refresher on color, check out our color guide.) You also need to be able to spot where colors are the most prominent. This means being able to tell, for example, when red is dominating the light areas of the photo and blue is dominating the dark areas. If you simple applied a blue filter to the entire photo, you'd end up with more neutral highlights—which you want—but a photo that looks too cool because the shadows are overly saturated with blue color. To recap, you need to pay attention to two major things when color correcting: which colors are dominating the photograph and which colors aren't, and also where, tonally, those dominating colors exist.

This is something you can generally do just by eying the photo, but the proper method is to consult the histogram. You can bring this up by going into the Window menu and choosing Histogram. The left side represents the shadows, the right side the highlights, leaving the middle for the midtones. If a particular color is dominating the photo in any area, you'll see it dominating that space on the histogram. This can be a handy guide for spotting necessary corrections.

Now that you've got a basic idea of what we're going to be targeting, let's take a look at some of the best color balancing tools Photoshop has to offer. You can find all the adjustments we'll be discussing in the following places:

You can find standard adjustments that apply to a single layer by going to the Image menu, choosing Adjustments, then choosing the adjustment you want.
If you want to create an adjustment layer that can apply to multiple layers and be adjusted after the first application you can create an adjustment layer. You can either do this by going into the Layers menu, choosing Adjustment Layer, and then selecting the adjustment you want, or just selecting the adjustment you want from the Adjustments palette.

Color Balance
Color Balance is not a very flexible tool, but sometimes you just need minor adjustments to color and you can use Color Balance to apply them quickly. If the brightest parts of your photo are just a little bit too red—something that's common with photos taken in low light—you can just select the Highlights radio button and then move the sliders towards cyan and blue a bit until you start to see the colors look a bit more balanced and neutral. You can also use Color Balance to create some interesting color effects by emphasizing different colors in the shadows, midtones, and highlights. Play around with it and get a feel for what it can do. It's not a tool you want to use most of the time, since Curves will generally help you do everything better and with more flexibility, but for quick changes Color Balance can definitely be useful.

Levels is like Curves (which we'll discuss next) with training wheels. You have three main sliders. On the left, you have the shadows slider. Moving it to the right will increase the intensity of the shadows. On the right, you have the highlights slider. Moving it to the left will increase the intensity of the highlights of your photo. In the middle, you have the midtones slider. Moving it to the left will brighten up your photo and moving it to the right will make it darker. These sliders mainly affect contrast. The sliders under Output Levels affect brightness. Moving the black slider towards the white one will brighten things up. Moving the white slider toward the black one will darken them. By default, Levels applies any of these changes to the entire photo, but you can select a specific color channel and alter it all by itself. There's a little drop-down menu at the top of the Levels panel that lets you select from all channels—I'm going to assume you're in the RGB colorspace and it says RGB—or each individual channel (red, green, and blue). If you want to brighten or darken just the reds, select the red channel and make your adjustments. To see a full demonstration of how Levels works, watch the video.

Curves is definitely the best color correction tool you've got in Photoshop, but you might find it a little intimidating and shy away from it since Levels seems to work well enough. Trust me—curves is much better, so take the time to get to know it and learn how it works so you're using it to do most of your adjustments. It's powerful, versatile, and very easy to control once you get the hang of it. That said, it works a lot like levels only you set your own points. You can adjust the entire image or just specific channels, just like you can in levels. To make a point on the curve, you just click anywhere on the line and drag in a particular direction. If you pull towards the top left corner, you'll brighten things up. If you pull down towards the bottom right corner, you'll darken things. The middle of the line in curves represents the midtones. The bottom of the line, touching the bottom left corner, represents the shadows. That would leave the top, which represents the highlights.

Here's an example of creating a simple curve: make a point at the midpoint of the line and then two more points that are each about one grid space away from the midpoint. Pull the bottom-most point down into the shadows a bit and the top-most point up into the highlights. This will create basic contrast and is the simplest adjustment you can make in curves. If you're having trouble understanding how this works, you can see an example in your Photoshop presets. At the top of the Curves window, you'll see a preset menu. Choose "Strong Contrast" and you'll get a curve that's similar to the one we just discussed. You should also check out the video at the top of this post to see a full demonstration of Curves.

Auto Tone
Sometimes you can just let Photoshop do a lot of the work for you. While you don't want to rely on Photoshop's Auto Tone option, you can just chose it from the Image menu to let Photoshop make an educated guess about what your photo needs in terms tone and color adjustments. Sometimes you can save yourself a little time by just using Auto Tone, but definitely don't rely on it. Sometimes it just gets it right and it takes about two seconds to try it out and see if it works. If it doesn't work, undo it, and do the corrections yourself. If it does work, you just saved yourself some time.

Photo Retouching and Enhancing
Basic photo retouching and enhancing is very easy and very effective if done with the right level of subtlety. We're going to take a look at some options for correcting problems in your photos—like cuts on a face, dry skin, dust from the lens, etc.—and also how to enhance a portrait to make it look especially nice.

Touch Ups
Most of the touch ups you're going to want to perform can be accomplished with the healing brush or the cloning stamp. If you're trying to just make a person look their best—which is all you really ought to be doing with a portrait—you can do most of what you want to do with the healing brush and clone stamp—two tools wel discussed in a reasonable amount of detail in lesson one. We'll also take a brief look at some of your other options as well.

The Healing Brush Revisited
We've already discussed the healing brush quite a bit so we're not going to go over it in great detail here. Basically it works by selecting a source point (which you do by option-clicking an area of the photo) and painting over the area you want to "heal" with image data from the source point. The healing brush then uses its magic to blend in the painted source material with the stuff surrounding it. Generally this results in a more realistic result than you'd get with the Clone Stamp, but not always. The Clone Stamp works in the exact same fashion as the Healing Brush, but the Clone Stamp doesn't do any healing. All it does is replace the target area with whatever you selected as a source point. While you're technically cloning another part of the photo and this may seem like it's going to look redundant, when you're correcting small areas it can sometimes look better than what the Healing Brush will give you—especially when you're near hard edges and areas of contrast. Both tools are best demonstrated visually, so be sure to watch the video if you're having trouble understanding how they work.

Other Tools
In addition to the Healing Brush and Clone Stamp, there are a few other ways to make corrections. If you're looking to reduce redness in certain parts of the skin, often times you can accomplish this by simply desaturating the red area a little bit. The Sponge Tool can help you easily desaturate a particular area. (If you've forgotten what the Sponge Tool is, refer back to lesson one.) If you're removing blemishes and want some alternatives, the Spot Healing Brush can sometimes be a little easier to use than the regular Healing Brush (you can find it by clicking and holding down the Healing Brush in the tool bar). It doesn't require you to set a source point. One last option is using Content-Aware Fill, which is a new feature in… [more]
Night_School  color_correction  Design  Digital_Photography  Education  Image_Editing  image_manipulation  Images  Learning  Lifehacker_night_school  Photography  Photoshop  Teach_Yourself  Top  from google
february 2011 by lancejanders
How to Jailbreak Your iOS 4.2.1 Device [Video]
Greenpois0n was released last week, finally bringing untethered jailbreaking to iOS 4.2.1 devices. The process is fairly easy, but there have been a few problems reported since the release so we're going to walk you through a successful jailbreak step-by-step.

Music by Adrian Holovaty
Greenpois0n currently works on Windows and Mac, but the video depicts the Mac version. Nonetheless, you can follow the same steps if you're using a Windows PC
The video above will show you how the whole process works, both on your computer and your iOS device, but here are the steps:

Connect your iOS device to your computer. It's always good to back it up before jailbreaking in case something goes wrong, but before you get started with the jailbreak you'll want to quit iTunes.
Download Greenpois0n and open it up. Press the jailbreak button as soon as you're ready. Once the process starts, you'll only have 5 seconds to get in position.
Hold down the sleep button at the top of your iOS device for 3 seconds.
Once the 3 seconds have passed, start holding down the home button without letting go of the sleep button. Do this for 10 seconds.
After the 10 seconds have passed, let go of the sleep button but continue holding down the home button for about another 10 seconds. Once the Greenpois0n logo appears in the window on your computer, you can let go.
Wait for the jailbreak to complete. It'll finish on your computer first and the button that formerly read "Jailbreak!" will now read "Complete!" Click that to exit Greenpois0n. You can now disconnect your iOS device from your computer.
Your iOS device will take some time to boot. It might need to boot twice. Once it does, you should find a new application on your homescreen called "Loader." Open that up, and if the jailbreak was 100% successful you'll see a single button that reads "Cydia." Tap that and then tap the "Install Cydia" button that'll pop up. This will—believe it or not—install Cydia on your iOS device. Once it's done, you'll have Cydia installed and your jailbreak is complete (although you may need to restart to see Cydia on your home screen).

If this doesn't work for you and you don't see Cydia, you'll need to add the redsn0w jailbreak as well. You can download redsn0w here. You'll also need the iOS 4.2.1 software for your specific device. Once you have both of these things you can run the redsn0w jailbreak on the device with the greenpois0n jailbreak already installed. Running redsn0w successfully should solve your Cydia problem if it occurs. I've jailbroken two 4.2.1 devices now and I've had the problem on only the second jailbreak, so this issue may have already been resolved.

You can contact Adam Dachis, the author of this post, at You can also follow him on Twitter and Facebook.
Jailbreak  Apple  Freedom  ios  ipad  iPhone  ipod_touch  jailbreaking  Mac_OS_X  Top  Windows  from google
february 2011 by lancejanders
Seven More Easy Ways to Integrate Your Google Apps [Google]
Google's productivity apps—like Gmail, Google Maps, Calendar, Docs, and so on—can play so well together, once you've ticked the right checkboxes. We've previously shown you seven ways to integrate your Google apps; now we're adding another seven clever tricks to the fold that make managing your web-based life much easier.
Image via laihiu.

Preview Google Docs, Maps, YouTube, and Picasa (and Yelp, and Flickr) in Gmail Messages
They're all just switches you have to flip in Gmail's Labs section, but they're all a big help that doesn't slow down Gmail hardly at all. If an email you receive happens to have a link to one of Google's prime services, or a Yelp or Flickr entry, you'll get a quick-glance preview of that item in the email. If somebody's pointing you to a Google Doc, you'll see the start of that doc in the email footer, so you can screw up the appropriate level of anticipation or boredom. Turn them on from this Labs search.

Get Birthday Reminders from Google Calendar
Why should you bother updating and cleaning out your Google Contacts? Because once you get through the tedium of adding in friends and important contacts' birthdays, you can head into your Calendar settings and check the box to the right of "Contacts' Birthdays and Events," so that you'll always know when to send a card, email, or quick mention. It's a lot more reliable than hoping you see the notification in Facebook. (Thanks for the tip, timepiece!)

Copy from Docs or Chrome on One Computer, Paste to Another
Maybe work has blocked Gmail, but not Google Docs. Or maybe you want to remember something that you're going to paste into Google Docs quite a bit. Any which way you use it, Google's Web Clipboard—built into Google Docs' menu bar, and also as a Chrome extension. The Web Clipboard also does the job of stripping or retaining HTML formatting, which is handy if your normal Ctrl+C/V shortcuts normally mess with your formatting.

Search Google Docs and Gmail Messages at Once
Did you write that web site password in an email to Bob, or did you send it to him inside a document? If you need to find something in your Gmail, Google Apps mail, and/or Google Docs account, you'll want to enable Apps Search in your mail Labs. Now your Gmail searches automatically include Google Docs in-document searching, too.

Send Reader Items to Gmail, Calendar, or Elsewhere
Don't just tack a star onto interesting Reader feed items you come across—go ahead and send them straight into (full) Gmail for sending to friends. See a concert or event coming up? Fling it into Google Calendar. Those two are easy Reader Send-To tweaks, but most Google apps offer similar functionality through URL tweaking, so go ahead and get nuts. (FYI: To activate the Send-To menu without your mouse, hit Shift+T while perusing Reader items).

Push Every Ping You Get Through Gmail
Google offers nice apps for managing SMS and voicemail through Google Voice, Talk messages through their widgets, and so on. But you can manage all those little messages and pings through Gmail itself, along with Facebook, Twitter, and other notifications. Whitson walks through using Gmail as your central, universal communications hub, and it's good training for anyone who feels beholden to keeping six tabs open at once, at all times.

Send Email from Other Domains Using Your Gmail Inbox
Setting up Gmail to send email from other accounts isn't too hard, but Gmail lets your recipients know that the mail was sent "on behalf of" your original address—and some spam filters might not be too cool with that. You can, however, manage all your mail from one inbox and keep it all kosher by authenticating your outgoing mail with a Google Apps account. It's a bit more setup, but the long-term convenience is worth the initial investment.

Google's always releasing neat little in-between and mash-up tools, so we very well could have missed a few. Tell us about your favorite Google all-together fix in the comments.
Google  Calendar  Chrome  docs  Feature  Gmail  Google_Apps  Google_Docs  Google_Voice  inbox  Inboxes  Labs  Search  Top  from google
february 2011 by lancejanders
What We Use: Whitson Gordon's Favorite Gear and Productivity Tips [What We Use]
This week, Lifehacker's editors are sharing the hardware, software, tips and tricks they use to keep Lifehacker running every day. I'm finishing it all up with some custom hardware, an absurd amount of apps, and a bit of Linux love.
Desktops & Laptops:
We Lifehackers are software geeks at heart, but I'll admit that I'm becoming a pretty big hardware geek too. These are the machines I've amassed over the past few years. (Yes, I've given them all names, as a result of MkFly's badgering).

Jotunn, my Hackintosh Desktop: I've been using Mac laptops since I started college in 2006, and I wanted something a bit more powerful, so I built this desktop this year. It's one of the best computer buying decisions I've ever made. I'd forgotten how versatile desktops are—I've got drives galore in this thing for testing hacks, a nice, overclocked i7 processor for decoding video, and two nice video cards because I'm slowly discovering how fun gaming is. Even better is the fact that I built it for a third the price of a comparable Mac Pro, and I get to say the word "Hackintosh" a lot. Like Adam, I used the tonymacx86 method to install OS X, though my hardware is slightly different.
Steve, my MacBook Pro: This was my main computer before I built the Hackintosh. Nowadays, I mainly use it when I'm out of town and still writing stuff for Lifehacker, or when I'm testing stuff for an article that requires multiple computers. It's handy to have around.
NoisyCricket, my Acer Aspire One Netbook: I'm a little in love with this thing. After using all those big honkin' laptops, the small size and weight of this thing makes me smile every time I pick it up. I mainly use this if I'm out at a coffee shop, or otherwise out and around town for a few hours. Right now, it's running Ubuntu Netbook Edition, which I love, Unity interface and all.
Giles, my Custom Home Theater PC: Okay, it's not exactly a productivity tool, but I wanted to mention it because I went a decidedly different direction than Lifehacker's official XBMC box. I built this thing myself, installed Ubuntu with XBMC on top of it, and I used the extremely confusing LIRC to configure my remote control. As a result, this box is complicated, problem-ridden, and breaks pretty much every time I update something, but I wouldn't have done it any other way. Because of those choices, I can fully customize my remote, watch Blu-Ray discs in XBMC, and play old school video games all right from XBMC—all things that would have been impossible on a non-Linux or XBMC-standalone machine. I've put more work into this than any of my other computers, so I'm a little overly proud, but it was worth it.


I'm using the Logitech Performance MX mouse (formerly the Logitech Revolution MX), and like the other editors, I can attest to its awesomeness. It's probably my favorite accessory—wireless, buttons galore, and an awesome momentum-scrolling feature that's great for uber-long web pages (or music libraries). I'm also a fan of my Logitech Illuminated Keybaord, which is nice because I spend an absurd amount of time computing in the dark.

As far as my other accessories, nothing's that exciting or original. I've got a Logitech Pro 9000 webcam, a new Nikon D90 camera (which I love and has produced some awesome pictures), two Acer P235h montiors, and some great Klipsch speakers and Sennheiser headphones for my 24/7 music listening.

I would, however, like to give a shout out to Other World Computing external drive enclosures. I've gone through a lot of external drives over the years, and they've caused me a lot of pain. OWC's drives and enclosures are a bit pricier than other drives, but they've never failed me, so I've given up deal hunting on external drives and become loyal to these. If you're unhappy with the external drives you've bought in the past, I can recommend these pretty highly.

Phones, Tablets, and Other Mobile Devices

I'm still rocking the original Motorola Droid, and I still love it (most of the time). Yes, it's a bit old and slow, but with a few tweaks, it'll run pretty smoothly, and you can even make up for its crappy camera. I love that its popularity birthed a large hacking community, and if we're being completely honest, I really like the look of the hardware. It's the Honda Element of smartphones: boxy, ugly, yet kind of charming at the same time.

I've got a bunch of old iPods and iPod touches, but nothing recent—I mainly just use them to test apps and listen to music in my bedroom, in the shower, in my car, and on airplanes (so as not to drain the battery on my phone when I'm travelling). I do have an iPad though, and unlike Adam Dachis, I think it's great—but only because I have a few very specific uses for it. It's nice for the occasional Instapaper session on the couch or a game of Fruit Ninja, and I've wasted countless hours reading Reddit on Flipboard. However, its killer use for me is as a digital comic book reader. If I weren't such a big comic book geek, I probably wouldn't have ever bought it in the first place. It's nice, but hardly essential. Plus, browsing and IMing on that keyboard makes me want to poke my eyes out with a stick.

Desk & Office Essentials

My workspace doesn't have any unique features, really, though I do use the diy door stopper monitor stand, and a rain gutter as cable management.

Above is my Hackintosh's desktop. I have Twitter, IM windows, the Lifehacker editor chat room, and some handy Geektool scripts running on the left, while I leave the right desktop open for work (though when I'm waist-deep in Lifehacker posts, I usually have browser windows open on both). I've also got my to-do list on the right monitor which is handy, as it's always nagging at me to get stuff done. The iTunes track display on the left monitor is the cool app Bowtie. Most of the UI on my Mac—window colors, the dock, the icons in the finder, the fonts—are all custom, and I don't remember where I got most of it. It's usually the result of me fiddling with stuff and Googling around for cool tweaks. The window transparency and title bar colors come from an app called CrystalClear Interface for OS X.

I spend a good portion of my time in Linux too, but as you can see, my Linux desktop doesn't look all that different. Same principles, different OS. I'm using KDE and a few cool plasmoids. In particular, the system monitor on the left is yasp-scripted, which is a pretty neat, very versatile monitor plasmoid.

Browser Setup
Main Browser: Chrome
Just like everyone else, my primary browser is Chrome. It's fast, has some nice extensions, and is native on OS X. I won't bore you with the same stuff everyone else has already said.

I will say this: Chrome annoys the pants off of me sometimes. It's got some really weird quirks with Flash, certificates, caches, and other things that in certain situations are just a giant pain in the ass. I ran the Firefox 4 betas for a month or two last year, and I'm on the verge of doing it again. Firefox has gotten a lot better lately, and Chrome's annoyances are starting to irk me. It's one of those things that doesn't necessarily affect everyone, but it seems like it gets in the way of my work every day, so I'm getting to that point where I want to see what else is out there.

I don't run a ton of extensions; I mostly use Xmarks to sync bookmarks between computers, and LastPass to sync my passwords and automatically log me in to all my favorite sites. Also helpful are After the Deadline for spell checking, Minimalist Gmail for Gmail customization, and FlashBlock to keep that pesky plug-in in check. Of course, I whitelist my favorite sites, because I want to support them.

I'm starting to come around to the whole webapps fad. I'm beginning to use Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Reader more and more regularly. I'm also a big fan of Springpad for organizing my notes, Mint for budgeting my money, and Remember the Milk for managing tasks. However, when possible, I try to avoid the webapps and just do stuff through my browser's address bar.

Desktop apps
While a lot of stuff is moving to the web these days, I still love desktop apps. Here are some of my favorites.

Cross Platform

Dropbox: For almost a year, the other editors made fun of me for not using Dropbox. I only had one computer at the time, so I didn't really need it. As soon as I got more machines, though, Dropbox became integral to my workflow. Now I can edit documents, run scripts, play music, and access any other files on all of my secondary machines. I can't live without this app.
Flux: This is one of my favorite apps of all time. I hang out in the dark a lot (I like the way all those blue LEDs look at night, okay?!), and being able to see my screen without my eyes hurting is incredible. It takes a bit of getting used to at first (I definitely had to start off using on the lowest setting), but after a week or so I didn't know how I ever lived without it. Download this app right now.
The GIMP: I use Preview on OS X for simple cropping and resizing, but on Linux and Windows the GIMP is my go-to image editing application. While the GIMP does exist on OS X, I generally use Seashore for the more advanced stuff. It's essentially an X11-free, Mac-native version of the GIMP for more advanced image editing.

Mac OS X

Postbox: I'm slowly using Gmail's web interface more and more, but when I'm not, I'm using Postbox. It is, hands down, the best mail client on the Mac. Apple Mail is okay, but Postbox really makes organizing your email easy. If Gmail had a native app, it would be this: amazing threading, conversation views, quick reply, advanced searching, turning starred messages into a to-do list, and other advanced features make it pretty hard to turn down.
NetNewsWire: A great RSS reader for Mac that syncs with Google Reader. It's got a nice 3-pane view from which you can quickly move through articles and feeds with the arrow keys, and its got great support for things like Instapaper and AppleScript.
Adium: It's the best IM client that's… [more]
What_We_Use  Android  Chrome  Hardware  ipad  Laptops  Linux  Mac_OS_X  mobile_apps  Monitor  Office  Productivity  Software  Top  Workspace  from google
february 2011 by lancejanders
The Mac Text Expansion Faceoff [Face Off]
We love text expansion on our Macs, but we've always assumed TextExpander was the best option. With some capable challengers, we decided to find out if any of them could dethrone the reigning champion. Here's what we found.

Before we get started, if you're wondering what text expansion actually is, read this. For those of you running Windows, take a look at Texter. This is an exploration of four text expansion apps for the Mac to find out which one's the best. We've always looked to TextExpander as the title holder for the best Mac text expansion app, but with three other options now available we had to ask: is it really the best? Let's find out.

Snippets is the newest contender and also the cheapest of the bunch, coming in at only $5. It doesn't have a lot of features but what it does do, it does well. Snippets has a simple interface that lets you add a shortcut name and what that shortcut expands to. You can also insert something called a placeholder, which lets you define variable text. You can't tell it to just use the clipboard, insert a date, or anything particularly complex, but placeholders will let you enter in variable text at the time of expansion. For example, if you were creating an HTML link you could specify a placeholder for the URL and the name of the link, then during expansion Snippets would prompt you to enter the URL (which you could just paste in) and the link name. While at first I found this off-putting, because TextExpander just grabs the clipboard automatically, I found that this was a lot faster than relying on the clipboard for things like links that require multiple variables. Even better, Snippets is super fast. It also doesn't cause any clipboard conflicts, so you never have to wonder what pressing Command+V is going to give you. Though a little low on features, it gets the job done very well. If you want text expansion but you don't want to pay too much, Snippets is significantly less money than its competitors (4x cheaper than the next cheapest option). If you're on a budget, there really isn't another option.

Snippets ($5) | Mac App Store

TextExpander is our title holder because it's an amazing text expansion tool that has a great variety of features. You can define snippets with all sorts of variable text, set delays for when text should be expanded, control how the clipboard is restored (in theory), change case, automatically correct spelling errors, and so much more. Almost anything you can imagine doing with text expansion, short of tabbing through different fields and automatically submitting forms, TextExpander can do. All of that said, it's by far the most expensive option you have, coming in at $35. As an added bonus, you can buy an iOS app for $5 that can sync your TextExpander snippets and use them within iOS apps that support them. This is incredibly useful on a mobile device because, well, you probably type much slower. Text expansion can save you even more time with your iDevice, and TextExpander is really the only app that provides such a high level of integration. That said, you're looking at $40 for the whole, combined package. This is twice the cost of TypeIt4Me and eight times the cost of Snippets. Also, TextExpander has some annoying issues with restoring the clipboard properly. Often times you can expand text, copy something, and then it will restore older contents of the clipboard negating the copy action you made. This is very frustrating and is the main reason I set out to try other options.

TextExpander ($35) | Smile On My Mac

TypeIt4Me is very similar to TextExpander's feature set but costs almost half as much. It also doesn't suffer from the obnoxious clipboard issues I mentioned earlier. It can handle rich text and pictures, plain text, complex variables like the current date and time, correct your spelling (using an actual dictionary, rather than manual input), automatically fix common typos, and much more. It's almost identical to TextExpander, really, only it works better and costs less money. It also gives you statistics about your typing as a fun little bonus.

TypeIt4Me ($20) | Ettóre Software

Typinator is also fairly similar to TextExpander and TypeIt4Me, only its feature set is a little lacking in comparison. It won't fix as many typos and other problems, but it definitely beats all the apps on speed. It also has a neat feature where you can modify snippets by holding down a modifier key. For example, if you hold down shift while typing a snippet, Typinator will capitalize everything in that snippet automatically. This isn't a mandatory feature, but it's great if you need it. Typinator can handle rich text, pictures, and plain text just like the others. It can handle complex variables like TypeIt4Me and TextExpander. It does give you a good number of options and works very well, but if you're in the market for the greatest number of features it certainly isn't going to win you over.

Typinator (20€) | Ergonis Software

The Winner: TypeIt4Me
My hands down favorite is TypeIt4Me. It's the fastest, the most reliable, and nearly the cheapest in the bunch. In fact, after using all four programs I'd say TextExpander is my least favorite. TypeIt4Me is fantastic because it does everything TextExpander can do (and a tiny bit more), but it actually does it properly. The only thing you get by abandoning TextExpander is the lack of a mobile app. If that's important to you, then you might not want to abandon TextExpander just yet—unless you can get by only using it on iOS. If mobile's not a problem, there is absolutely no reason you shouldn't be using TypeIt4Me instead. I'd like to give a runner's up nod to Snippets, only because it's a really good early effort and it's so inexpensive. If you're on a budget, you'll get by with Snippets. If you want a feature-rich, excellent text expansion app at a very reasonable price, however, TypeIt4Me is our new champion.

You can contact Adam Dachis, the author of this post, at You can also follow him on Twitter and Facebook.
face_off  Downloads  Featured_Mac_Download  Mac  Mac_OS_X  Macro  Text_Expansion  Top  from google
february 2011 by lancejanders
What We Use: Adam Dachis' Favorite Gear and Productivity Tips [What We Use]
All this week, Lifehacker's editors will be sharing the hardware, software, and tips and tricks they use to do their jobs here. I'm bringing you way too many computers, frustration-saving tips, and some cool audio/video gear.
Desktops & Laptops
We're not going to get into the ridiculous number of computers I have collected and instead take a look at the four I actively use every day. Yes, it's kind of weird and seems excessive but it works very well for me. Rather than address each computer individually, I've broken this up into the three workspaces.

Couch Command Central
This is where most of the daily magic happens. I'm all about the latest MacBook Air, which is what I primarily use for posting and doing most everything that doesn't require a super fast processor. Beside the MacBook Air is whatever the cheapest iMac was in late 2009. By day it's where I offload more processor-intensive stuff I don't want to force upon my laptop and a place to load up RSS, articles, and especially videos. By night it's my media center, which is hooked up to an old Optoma 720p projector. On a particular busy day, this setup is vital. For example, yesterday, we covered Google's Android event which fell during my posting schedule. I wrote posts on my laptop while editing and uploading a recording of the live stream (see here and here). How do you write six posts in two hours and edit video at the same time? With two computers. So it's really not that crazy!

The Media Workstation
I do a few things that require a fast processor: editing/rendering 1080p video, creating motion graphics, and making music with sampled instruments. This is where the 27" Core i5 iMac comes in. I consider it more of a music workstation than anything else since I can generally edit most video (like screencasts and quick clips we add to posts) on my laptop just fine. Nonetheless, this thing renders twice as fast and it saves my butt whenever we're in a time crunch. It's mainly where I go to make my own music (and sometimes music for our Lifehacker videos). What you can't see from the photo is the big wall of storage, which also hosts the weighted keyboard piano (Yamaha P85). I use Samson 65a speakers for clean, uncolored monitoring on the cheap, an AKG 535L mic for vocal recordings, and an Apogee Duet to connect both to the iMac. All of my audio equipment is over three years old so those exact models may not be in production anymore, but they've always worked so well I've never had any need to replace them. With the exception of the iMac, I've never really had to need to upgrade much in this setup. The only thing I'd really like is to put an SSD in the iMac, but that's an expense that can wait for now.

The Windows Testing Booth
While I'm primarily a Mac user, I do like Windows 7 and need it for testing from time to time. I used to run Windows on an old machine Adam Pash didn't need anymore, but I recently installed XBMC on my second generation Apple TV and that freed up my Acer Aspire Revo (previously the XBMC nettop). The Revo draws much less power so now it runs Windows. It's also given me a chance to use a bunch of silly peripherals I had lying around, like a 802.11n wireless adapter, some crappy speakers, and an awful webcam I got on Woot for $8. Possibly the oldest piece of tech that I own is on this desk (unless you count my old Mac OS 7 software): a seven-year-old DELL 20" UltraSharp monitor. It's a great monitor and I accidentally scratched the screen the day I got it. Whoops.

My accessories live on a Grid-It, which is my favorite organization tool. I keep a 500GB portable hard drive, a couple of flash drives, pens, a small screwdriver (this comes in handy far more than you might think), a Zoom H1 portable recorder, cables, and pens. These all go in an Incase Campus Backpack, which is super-slim, lightweight, and still holds a lot of stuff without getting weighed down. I change backpacks about every six months, though, so this probably won't be my bag come May. That said, I've been getting Incase bags a lot more lately because they make some great backpacks.

Phones, Tablets, and Other Mobile Devices
My laptop is my mobile device. For me, for the most part, my phone is my phone and my tablet is useless. Currently I use an iPhone 4. I like it. It's nice. It has the obvious Apple problems, but I don't expect my phone to do everything I could possibly imagine. My iPad, on the other hand, I do not like very much. I've had it since day one and I still can't figure out what the point of it is. My phone does pretty much everything just as well but also fits in my pocket. My iPad has a really great battery and a few games I enjoy, but that's about it. Any media I can play on my iPad I'd rather play on a computer. When it comes to games—which I don't play often—I prefer a gamepad of some kind and games that are a bit more complex than what you find on iOS. Still, it's very cool and I bought it so I'm determined to figure out something it's good for (although currently I'm wishing it was an Android 3.0 tablet). The only mobile device that I really like to have is my iPhone. Everything else is optional (except maybe this headset).

Media Equipment
When we do bigger video production—some of which you've seen and some of which you'll be seeing in the near future—we break out the higher-end equipment. Pretty much all the big videos are shot with my Canon 5D Mark II. I like to use old manual Nikon lenses using a Nikon F-mount adapter, but I do have a few Canon lenses as well. For quick videos (and many photos for posts), I use a Sony a NEX-5. The Zoom H4N generally handles sound (when we need especially good sound) and sometimes employ a few Sennheiser lavalier mics as well. Of course there are a bunch of other things we use for production purposes (like lighting equipment, for example), but that would take us a little too far off-topic for this kind of post.

I keep a very simple, very tidy desktop thanks to my Dropbox organization system, these icons, and this simple wallpaper. I run way too many apps, have way too many browser tabs open at a time, and you're about to find out all about it.

Here are the apps I use every day on my Mac:

Dropbox, obviously
Transmit (although CyberDuck is an excellent free alternative)
Twitter (the official Mac client)
Apple Mail (yes, I still use a desktop mail client, leave me alone)
Adium, also known as the best damn chat client on Mac OS X.
Google Chrome, my main browser (more on this later)
Notational Velocity, a wonderfully simple notes app that syncs with Simplenote
Adobe Photoshop CS5, which still can't be replaced by alternatives for a lot of what I do (though I can't argue that PIxelmator isn't a great alternative for most stuff)
TextExpander, though I'll dump it the moment I find another text expansion application that doesn't suffer from its numerous issues with replacing the clipboard
NetNewsWire for RSS feeds, though I'm hoping to replace it with Reeder once its working properly
VLC, since it never fails to play any video file
Textmate, for when I need to write code (which I don't use every day but it's worth mentioning anyhow)
ScreenSharingMenulet, for easy screen sharing from the menubar
Teleport, for controlling other computes with my laptop

While I'm not a heavy Windows user, there are a few apps I really like:

Skype, which I hate on the Mac but somehow love on Windows
ClipCube, for an endless clipboard history
Sublime Text, which is basically the best Textmate alternative for Windows
Digsby is my favorite Windows chat client, aside from all of those annoying ads you have to go through during installation
RealVNC, for, uh, VNC
ClipUpload for quick, easy uploading

Webapps and Browser Add-ons
Chrome is my browser. I started off as a Safari user because it was fast and I liked the interface. Firefox appealed to me because of its extensibility, but it was always so slow so I never used it. Then Chrome came along and turned out to be the best of both worlds so there was really no decision to be made. I switched pretty much as soon as Chrome was officially released for the Mac. I keep Safari and Firefox around for testing and screencasting purposes, but I really never use them for real work. So here are my Chrome add-ons (many of which have Firefox equivalents):

Amazon Wishlist, because it takes up less space as an icon than a bookmarklet in my bookmarks bar
Dropbox, because I love Dropbox and not because I actually use this extension URL Shortener, because it's faster than going to
LastPass, because you have no idea what you're missing/insane if you're not using it
TabCloud, because I'm a tab glutton
Create Link, for all its time saving benefits when creating links
Google Voice which I shouldn't need to explain
SabConnect++, because...well, you're all going to yell at me if I explain this one

Mobile Apps
I have a lot of these and use very few of them. Here's the short list:

The built-in Clock app, which I still say is the best app on the iPhone
Captio, because it makes it much easier to email screenshots to myself for app reviews
Simplenote, because it's the best notes app for iOS and it's free
Wunderlist for to-dos
Dropbox, for those times when I don't get around to syncing something I want on my phone
TV Forecast, which reminds me what to download
myNZB, which facilitates downloading (of what, we may never know!)
Air Video, because Apple video format support sucks
Amazon, because I buy most of my stuff from Amazon
DSLR Remote, because it's perhaps the most amazing iOS app ever made (when it works)
Weet, for the rare occasion when I check Twitter from my phone

Tips & Tricks Closest To My Heart
Ditch the Granny Knot to Tie Your Shoes More Efficiently
Of all the tips on Lifehacker, the one I use all the time is the one that taught me how to tie my shoes properly. I've used this tip as an example when pitching ideas for various things and I love annoying people by telling them they don't know how to tie their shoes correctly. It… [more]
What_We_Use  Android  Camcorder  Camera  Chrome  Desk  Hardware  Laptop  Monitor  Office  Productivity  Software  Top  from google
february 2011 by lancejanders
What We Use: Adam Pash's Favorite Gear and Productivity Tips [Video]
This week we're sharing the hardware, software, tips, and tricks, that keep our blogging wheels spinning. Today, I'm running through my favorite gadgetry, apps, hacks, and tricks for making said gadgetry bend to my will.

Desktops & Laptops:
At the end of the day, I'm considerably more interested in software than hardware, but I do use a few different machines, mostly so I can easily access and stay familiar with Windows and Mac. Here's how it breaks down:

My Current Hackintosh Desktop: This is the build I detailed last October. I love the processing horsepower you can get for next-to-nothing if you're willing to roll up your sleeves and build your own machine. You get the flexibility and expandability of a Mac Pro with the price tag below the iMac.
My Windows Desktop: Nothing too special to talk about here. It's just Windows 7 running on the hardware of my previous iteration Hackintosh. It's the main file server in my house.
MacBook Air: A lot of people think the latest MacBook Air's are an absurd price point—like a netbook you pay a thousand bucks for. I upgraded to mine from a 2006 MacBook Pro (pre-Duo), so the processor update, SSD, and all around lightness of the laptop have been nothing short of great for me.

I'm using the same Logitech MX Revolution that I've had for years, and it's still a great mouse. I also just bought the Griffin mini cables pictured at left, which I love. You get the three most popular USB connectors and they're not eight feet long, so you don't have to wrangle cables every time you want to charge. Get a set and keep them in your laptop bag.

Phones, Tablets, and Other Mobile Devices
Right now my main phone is AT&T/Samsung's Galaxy S (Captivate) Android phone, though I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. I love the Android OS, but AT&T and Samsung have really made a mess of this one. If you want anything from it (including any Android OS above 2.1), you'll have to root it. If you want GPS to work, you'll have to tweak it. Essentially nothing actually works on this phone unless you fix it. (If you're looking for a great Android phone, the Nexus S is, hardware- and software-wise, at the top of the class.)

I've also got a new iPod touch to keep up with the haps on iOS, along with an iPad and a Chrome OS netbook (Cr-48). Two things about the last two: They're great. Forget about the whole Apple part of the iPad; tablets are here to stay, and they're lovable. As for the Chrome OS netbook: Not only do I like it (it's possibly the best guest computer you could ever have, but it also has a wireless data connection for connecting independent of Wi-Fi, syncs everything from Chrome on your desktop, and has a battery that lasts forever), but my father-in-law, who's been visiting, has been using it exclusively and loving it. Google's not chasing a lost cause on this, trust me.

My bag is the backpack version of this Incase bag (instead of the single sling, it's a regular two-armed backpack). My only requirements for my bag was that it was slim and not flashy. Incase hit that nail on the head. I can fit my MacBook Air and iPad in this thing easily, and it's still plenty light.

Desk & Office Essentials
Click for a larger view:
Above is my Hackintosh's desktop. The background is from Make Photoshop Faster, and you can see my Windows machine running as a remote desktop in CoRD.

Browser Setup
Main Browser: Chrome
It was a weirdly hard decision, but I switched my main browser from Firefox to Chrome at some point last year. Rather than discuss why, I'll point you to how and why Chrome is overtaking Firefox among power users.

My must-have extensions include LastPass, Google Voice (I use this countless times a day for all my texting and for placing calls), SABconnect++ for remotely adding and managing Usenet downloads, and that's about it. I've been doing my best to avoid overloading my Chrome extensions, and I find myself installing fewer extensions on Chrome because there's less about it I want to change.

Of course there's all the Google apps everyone uses: Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs (Lifehacker manages more and more writing and editing in Docs every day), and Google Reader. As for the slightly less obvious stuff, I'm very big on Simplenote, which I consider the holy grail of ubiquitous plain-text capture.

Desktop Apps
These days I do almost everything on the web, so desktop apps are less important to me than ever. The ones I still really love include:

Cross Platform

Everybody loves Dropbox, and you can count me on that list. It's the glue between all my computers, tablets, phones, iPods, etc.
I'm also all about SaBnzbd+, which we introduced you to in our how to get started with Usenet guide. Couple it with Sick Beard and you've got something crazy going on. (Be safe, kids!)

Basically Notepad++ (open source text editor) and Texter (open source text replacement utility) are my absolute musts.

Mac OS X
My two Mac-only favorites are screenshot app Skitch and screencasting/video app ScreenFlow. I realize both are tools that most people don't need on a daily basis, but if you do, I can't recommend them highly enough. I'm also very excited about Kod, an open-source text editor that looks like it may soon be a viable replacement for the beloved (but spendy) TextMate.

Mobile Apps
I've spent a lot of time on Android and iOS, and some of these are available on both platforms, but since I'm currently on Android, I'll focus on those favorites:

LastPass (Android/iOS/and a ton more): Whether you're using LastPass' basic or more advanced functionality, one thing's for sure: Typing secure, randomly generated passwords into a phone is a pain. With the LastPass app, I can either log directly into web sites or copy and paste the passwords for various services in a couple of clicks.
Google Voice: It took me longer than some of you to completely move to Google Voice as my main number—well, actually, it took me moving to Android—but it's been great.
Google Maps + Navigation: This built-into-Android GPS navigation is fantastic, it's free, and it's smart. I used a lot of different GPS apps on iOS, and I didn't find any of them nearly as quick or friendly as Google Maps + Navigation.
RunKeeper: This app's available on iOS and Android, and while I've tried other tools for tracking my runs, I always end up back at RunKeeper. And now their Pro version is free.

Tips & Tricks Closest To My Heart
By this point I've already mentioned a lot of my favorite stuff, but I know there are plenty of other things I'm forgetting about because I take them for granted. Here are a couple extras worth mentioning:

I'm falling in love with the Apple TV. I got one for a gift last month, and while out-of-the-box it's relatively useless to me, I've jailbroken it and installed XBMC on it. It's not the cheapest and smallest XBMC machine in my house (sorry to my standalone nettop XBMC machine). XBMC on Apple TV still has some rough edges, but in a few months I could see this being the best gadget to get up and running with a really solid XBMC setup.

If you spend any time around Lifehacker, you may be aware of my love for the binder clip. It's like the duct tape of your office supplies closet.
Like Kevin, I'm also using the devil's horn headhone wrap technique almost daily to keep my headphones tangle-free.

Say what you will of what caffeine does to your brain, but in the past year, I've developed a pretty serious habit. I don't actually drink more than a cup a day, but when I do, I turn to my Baratza Maestro burr grinder and the inexpensive but incredible AeroPress coffee maker. I know it's easy to go overboard with kitchen gadgetry, but the quality of the coffee I can make with this and some good Intelligensia beans is nuts.

I've got that nagging feeling I'm missing something good, so if you've seen something in a post or I've talked about something at another time that you'd like to hear more about, hit me up in the comments.
What_We_Use  Android  Camcorder  Camera  Chrome  Desk  Hardware  Laptop  Monitor  Office  Productivity  Software  Top  from google
february 2011 by lancejanders
The Best, Most Affordable Alternatives to Mozy for Unlimited Backups [Online Backup]
It's not that Mozy hasn't been a great cloud-based backup service, especially for beginners. But the sudden price jump is catching many off-guard, especially users of the unlimited plan. Here's where else you can look if you've got a good bit of data to back up.
Image via The Planet.

Let's run through the options that our readers have commented on, emailed about, or have otherwise come to our attention. We'll also share the costs for a few different levels of backup, and detail any bandwidth restrictions. As Adam discovered in his look at his Mozy account, the computer he was backing up the least was using 226 GB, so it's good to think beyond just what you've got right now on a single hard drive.


Looking at all the options, and listening to our readers, BackBlaze seems the most likely to satisfy Mozy users experiencing sticker shock. Their pricing is similar, and they're remarkably open about how their business works and what you're getting.

It's $5 per month for unlimited backup for one computer, or you can buy a year's worth of backup for $50. Their software for Windows and Mac automatically backs up the stuff you'd need if your computer ever went kaput, leaving out the OS, application, and cache/temp files. There are no bandwidth throttles or other caps, and they've been providing this backup since 2007.

BackBlaze's CEO, Gleb Budman, told us that they can keep their unlimited backup plans rolling because of an "incredibly efficient cloud storage system." BackBlaze maintains a data center where they also back up business accounts, and they've open-sourced their "Storage Pods" for other businesses to capitalize on. In other words, home backup seems like something like a "loss leader" to garner interest in BackBlaze's other services—except they might not actually lose on $5 per month.


Carbonite has long served as Mozy's most direct competition, offering a similar unlimited backup service and covering much of the same ground. They don't offer a 2 GB free plan, though, which might have made them a less familiar name among enthusiasts of all things free (ahem).

A Carbonite representative told us that the service "will continue to provide consumers with unlimted backup for a flat fee because doing so keeps things very simple for our customers."

Their basic pricing model, for Windows and Mac systems.

1 year - $54.95 (per computer) (about $4.58/month)
2 years - $99.95 (per computer) (about $4.16/month)
3 years - $129.95 (per computer) (about $3.61/month)

Their bandwidth capping seems pretty fair for the average home user, but in case you've got a whole lot of file-swapping going on, here's their rules:

The first 35GB of data can achieve upload speeds of up to 2 mbps (megabits per second).
Between 35GB - 200GB of data can have the upload speeds reach up to 512 kbps (kilobits per second).
200GB or more of data can be uploaded at up to 100 kbps (kilobits per second).


Got a friend with loads of extra storage space to spare? Have another always-on computer you'd like to back up to? CrashPlan backs up to those locations for free, and also offers a fairly cheap unlimited backup plan.

CrashPlan has a 10 GB plan for $24.99 per year, but that's more like a big Dropbox than actual backup. Their system-friendly plans:

CrashPlan+ Unlimited: $49.99/YR (about $4.17 per month).
CrashPlan+ Family Unlimited: $119.99/YR for 2-10 computers (about $9.99 per month).

CrashPlan is also courting Mozy switchers directly: This link, pitched on their Twitter account and elsewhere, gets you 15 percent off your purchases.

Other Suggestions
Beyond those three fairly direct competitors, we've heard from fans of other services that seem worth checking out.

• LiveDrive has 25 percent off for Mozy users, and offers pretty good pricing for unlimited backup: $6.95 per month or $66.53 per year for a standard backup package, or $16.95 per month or $170.53 per year for a package that includes "briefcase" access to your files from anywhere, including virtual drive mounting. Both packages have pay-ahead discounts.

• Mark Finzel wrote in to recommend TrendMicro's SafeSync:

It seems that it's so new there aren't a ton of reviews or information out there, but as I said it seems very solid. I haven't had any issues with it and it's now successfully backed up and synced about 80GB on 2 computers in my home.

1. Price & no limits - $59.99/yr for unlimited online storage and unlimited computers
2. Storage format / remote drive - it gives you a drive mapped to your computer that you can see your files. They're stored as-is so you can find individual files easily (one thing I don't like about other backup solutions like CrashPlan is it's stored in a proprietary format)
3. You can control bandwidth used and pause syncing when needed. Also, no bandwidth throttling at least as far as I can tell (I've transferred about 80GB so far)

• JungleDisk, a backup service tied to Amazon's per-GB S3 cloud storage service, is always an option. JungleDisk charges $3 per month and $0.15 per GB after the first 5 GB, so the price scales with your needs. If you were Adam Pash and ended up using 226 GB at Mozy, you'd be paying about $36 per month, though—so it's really for those who can and do keep a reign on what they really need backed up.

• Backup obsessive (and long-time Lifehacker confidante) How-To Geek points out that those using DreamHost as their web site host can back up 50 GB of personal data on their backup servers, with some caveats. Handy!

• Reader Scott, a.k.a. Storage Monkey, has a pointed, detailed look at the Mozy alternatives. He favors CrashPlan+, in part because it offers Linux clients (and even Solaris clients), but also the "back up to a friend's house" backup-backup plan.

If you're a Mozy customer who can't swing the new costs, where have you turned for unlimited or large-sized, off-site backup? Tell us about your favorites in the comments.
online_backup  Cloud-based_backup  Comparisons  Lifehacker_showdown  Mozy  offsite_backup  Top  from google
february 2011 by lancejanders
The Geek's Guide to Rebooting Your Kitchen [Video]
Making your kitchen more efficient isn't that different from hacking your workday—decide what you actually do, and trim the resistance to doing it. Here's how you can upgrade your kitchen with a pen, a few hours, and fairly cheap upgrades.
To be honest, the heart of my own kitchen's recent reboot was not cheap—it was a total gut and remodel, with contractors and drywall and all that fun stuff. Putting the root-level changes aside, it was also a chance to empty out our cabinets and drawers, pack up all the dry goods and spices, and rethink where we wanted everything to go. You can do this, too: piece by piece, or, you know, you can jam it all into four hours of French-press-fueled mania on a Saturday night, as shown in the clip above. Your call.

Armed with a copy of Cooking for Geeks (specifically its chapter on "Organize Your Kitchen Like a Programmer") and a bunch of advice from foodie friends and design blogs, here's how I was able to improve by moving things around, buying cheap after-market upgrades, or scribbling with a dry-erase pen.

Issue One: Everything Is Just Kind of Everywhere
I know what you mean. Looking back at how our original kitchen was packed, the methodology could be "It Fits Here, So It Goes Here." Most of us are so understandably anxious to move into a new kitchen, we don't take time to think about how the small inconveniences—walking over to find a pan, searching for a spice, digging through a junk drawer—add up to steal time and make your cooking space feel less comfortable.

Start with a list—a really simple list. Walk through a week of cooking and living in your kitchen in your head. What do you actually cook? What gear do you cook it with? What spices and ingredients typically go into your meals? Don't go through your ideal week, where you're making interesting magazine recipes and eating healthy whole grains every morning. Go through your actual week, with leftovers, takeout surrenders, and lazy weekend mornings included.

Walking through my own week, I realized that my wife and I have a stock American view of weekday meals: protein, starch vegetable. Most of those meals are made on the stovetop or with minimal ovenware. Wilted greens or steamed vegetables, rice or baked potatoes, broiled fish or stir-fried chicken. Some weeks we eat healthier, some weeks we indulge in 14-ingredient roasts, but pans and boiling water are the mainstays. Our recipes generally use olive oil, salt, pepper, maybe some vinegar, and occasionally some fresh or dried spices, but we save the allspice and 18-year balsamic vinegar for the meals where we're impressing guests, and have lots more time to dig and reach.

When we're not making dinners or basic breakfasts, we're making coffee or tea. Lots of it. Beyond that, we're occasionally baking food, or baking cookies or other goods, and occasionally using gadgets like a food processor or mandoline slicer. I roughly drew out my kitchen divided into sections, with the most-used things as close as possible to the stove and sink, no bending or reaching required.

Standard kitchen designs aren't always the best for efficiency and space conservation. If you can, hang your pots and pans. It not only makes it easy to grab them and always put them back in the same place, but frees up an entire cabinet. Julia Child hung her own pots and pans from a pegboard—which, if you don't believe it, you can see in the Smithsonian. Similarly, see if you can move your spices from the cabinet that's usually right near the stove into a drawer—more on this a bit further on.

Cooking for Geeks suggests a simple, revolutionary idea: "Storing your everyday kitchen tools near the food items with which they are most commonly used." Combined with the basic outline I'd made above, that freed me to do great things. I put the French press pot and coffee grinder on the same shelf as the coffee beans, and gave them all an entire shelf, right next to the fridge that held the other components: water and cream. I hung a spare set of measuring spoons next to the spices, and a set of measuring cups near the bulk goods. The can opener went in the drawer closest to our cans, the oven mitts as close as possible to the oven—you get the idea. It looks simple, written out, but look at your own kitchen—is it organized by function, or groups of semi-similar stuff?

Issue Two: The Spice Paradox
You want your spices easily accessible, but also, you don't. That is, you want them convenient to find and pull out, but you also want them kept dark and cool, and so away from the stove.

Cooking for Geeks suggests holding your spices in a drawer instead of a cabinet. This is where buying your own spice jars pays off. You can label the tops of your jars, then arrange them in whatever system (alphabetical, cuisine, regularity of use) you'd like. If your cabinet seems just a shade too short, look to see if you can modify it to fit. Geeks author Jeff Potter managed to shave 1.5 inches off his own drawer by removing a nonstructural slat from the front. Image via flit.

In my kitchen, that tactic wouldn't fly, as the drawers are just too narrow, or deep, to make decent spice stores. So I had to use a cabinet that was just far enough from the stove, but I still improved my situation. I grabbed two of these two-tier chrome shelves for $5 each, and they fit my cabinet perfectly. Label your jars so that the spice name is higher up, and you'll be able to see everything at once, without needing to knock over five jars only to not find the nutmeg in the back.

While you're getting your tiny jars back onto the shelves, check their expiration dates, and be ruthless in tossing anything that's a good bit beyond its prime. Spices get notably dull with time and exposure, and dull spices create dull food.

Issue Three: Lids—Awful, Awful Lids
Lids feel like the third wheel in my loving relationship with my pots and pans. Sure, they're occasionally useful, but they're annoying to store, being neither perfectly flat nor easily stacked.

We've previously suggested two repurposing tricks that our commenters are fans of: the curtain rod as lid-handle holder, and a versatile vertical file holder. I may end up going with the curtain rods. A $5.99 vertical organizer I tried out is going right back to Bed Bath & Beyond, as it both can't hold larger lids without tilting, and holds them too high to close even my tallest drawer. A cheaper incline file sorter from an office supply store fared no better. If I was in the spending mood, a pull-out cookware organizer might do the trick, but after a kitchen remodel, I am not in that mood. (If you've got a great way to stash your lids, by all means—share it in the comments.)

Issue Four: Junk Drawers

Lifehacker reader Lionel Felix offers this advice for a no-nonsense kitchen clean-out: you have to be ruthless. Admit that you made mistakes in your previous purchases, and admit that a drawer with just a few useful items is far handier than a stuffed drawer that barely opens. Above is what my drawers to the left of my stove looked like, prior to my four-hour binge.

Looking around at Lowes (which, at least at my location, has an entire row devoted to Kitchen Organization), I found a expandable "cutlery drawer", and it's even cheaper on Amazon.

Standard cutlery trays are usually cheap and plastic, and if you're renting, they might not look right in your next kitchen. But go with wood or metal, and make sure it's expandable, and a tray like this lets you compartmentalize your not-quite-essential gear—pizza wheels, pastry brushes, tongs, and the like. The expanding nature fits both narrow tools and wider items. If you still can't fit everything in and close your drawer, you'll have to decide if it's worth re-arranging everything to fit that one extra-long whisk, or if it might go up on a top shelf.

Issue Five: In-Between Items
There's stuff you probably use once or twice a year: electric turkey carvers, gigantic salad bowls, outdoor ice buckets. Then there are the items you bring out occasionally, but not often. They want space, but you need as much close-at-hand space for the stuff you cook with.

So spend a bit of time finding the best deal you can on a step stool. Read reviews, make sure it's sturdy, buy one a bit taller than you'd normally have, and make sure it doesn't look too bad folded up inside or just outside your kitchen. Then place your in-between items on the top shelves of your cabinets—or on top of the cabinets, if you're just plain out of room. It seems like the opposite of efficiency, but the twice-a-year, 10-foot lugging of a step stool is going to be far less painful than having a turkey roasting pan fall on you while you're rooting around, looking for that thing you actually do use on occasion. If you lack for top shelves or tops-of-cabinets, put the stuff in your basement, spare closets—just somewhere else. Be terribly honest with yourself about what you cook in the time you have, and you'll get to cook more in that time.

Issue Six: Groceries Get Lost in Cabinets
It's true—when I was re-stocking my shelves, I was amazed at the three kinds of wild rice, five flavors of cocoa mix, and nigh innumerable volumes of various sugars we'd somehow socked away. No matter how much cabinet space you have, stuff always ends up behind other stuff. You might even cook that stuff, if only you could find it.

One solution I'm liking is half-inspired by Cooking for Geeks, half-inspired by my wife's love of marking up paper. Post-It (and many other brands) make "Page Markers", intended for sticking into books and removing without damage. The efficiency is that they're only partially sticky. So buy yourself some uniform storage containers—glass preferably, with airtight lids—and use these notes for easy stick-on, tear-off labeling of all the weird stuff you pick up from recipes and buy on a whim.

Honestly? My kitchen isn't done with a capital D. I'm still figuring out a few odds and ends, and I am entirely open to ideas.
What's the big time-sucker and groan-inducer in … [more]
Organization  Clips  Cooking  Efficiency  Feature  Kitchen  Lifehacker_Video  Saving_Money  saving_time  Top  Video_Demonstration  from google
february 2011 by lancejanders
What We Use: Jason Fitzpatrick's Favorite Gear and Productivity Tips [What We Use]
This week we're sharing the hardware, software, tips, and tricks, that keep our blogging wheels spinning. I'm next up with a tour of my favorite hardware, must-have accessories, and apps to share.
Note: We previously rounded up our editors' picks in the summer of 2008, in one giant post, so we thought it was time for a refresh.

Desktops & Laptops:
Click for a closer view:

I work from a variety of computers throughout the week. This is not because I'm a techno-fetishist but simply because the nature of blogging is such that you have to work long hours from wherever you can work. Every gadget I have is set up in some way to blog whether it's for full-scale work or just for skimming feeds to keep current.

DIY Desktop: My primary machine is a AMD quadcore system with 8GB of RAM. Everyday I ask myself "Why didn't you switch to a 64-bit OS and max our the RAM earlier?". I can't imagine life without the ability to keep 3 web browsers and dozens upon dozens of tabs open without any system slowdown at all.
ASUS Netbook: I love my netbook. The very things that other people complain about (small screen, limited power, etc.) are the things that help me to focus. I'm never as focused as I am when I'm working on it because it simply doesn't have the horse power and screen space to allow for a lot of distraction. It's about as close to working on a typewriter as it comes.


Logitech Trackman: I love this mouse. I love it so much that if they announced they weren't going to make anymore I'd buy 10. I bought my first one over 15 years ago and it's still going strong (and currently connected to a test machine in my workshop). There isn't anything a trackball doesn't make better from scoring awesome FPS head shots to carefully editing photos.
ASUS Monitors: While I noted above that I enjoy the focus the netbook provides I also really enjoy spreading out my work over three monitors. It's awesome. I love writing in the center monitor, reading my source material on the right, and having my IM, email, and calendar open on the left. The only bad thing I can say about having this much screen real estate is that you need to keep an iron grip on your focus or you'll find yourself neck deep in LOL Cats and Reddit comments.
The Stuff in My Backpack: Kevin noted the stuff in his backpack and I'm going to follow suit, if only to note that I hardly carry anything anymore. I carry my netbook (because of the 10 hour battery life I don't even carry the charger), and that's about it besides a legal pad and a pen. Everything I carry slides into a tiny Victorinox bag with room to spare.

Phones, Tablets, and Other Mobile Devices

HTC Hero: I had a Windows mobile phone for a long time. I have no idea why I held onto Windows mobile for 3+ years. It was crap by comparison. I love my Android phone. I check my email on it, read my feeds for blogging ideas, keep an eye on trending social media topics, and (unlike my previous two Windows Mobile phones) stuff actually works the way I want it to.
Apple iPad: The iPad is awesome. People can rip on it all they want, but that doesn't make it any less awesome. It's lightweight, sleek, has an amazing touch screen, and it's fun to use. I'll fully admit to using it mostly for goofing off although I do really enjoy testing apps on it and using slick newsreaders like Flipboard and Pulse.
Canon PowerShot SD1400: I originally bought it for my wife because she was afraid of wrecking one of my DSLRs and she wanted an simple pocket camera. It's a great little camera and I use the HD movie function for recording simple clips. I can't get over how much camera you get for the price.

Click for larger view: 

My desktop spreads out far and wide over 4800 pixels. After years of a single monitor and a few years with dual monitors, I love having three. As I mentioned above the most common setup for me is communication tools on the left, active work in the center, and supplementary stuff like Google Reader and tracking widgets on the right.

Browser Setup
Main Browser: Chrome
I love Chrome. It's fast, it syncs easily across computers, and in the browser feature war it's been in the lead for some time. If you scrutinize my screenshot above you'll notice that I do have Firefox open on the task bar. I have a portable copy of Firefox and an installed copy of Firefox: the installed copy is my wife's browser on my machine (for those times she wants to walk up and use it without disturbing all the apps and browser windows I have open) and the portable copy is my legacy install for a handful of extensions like CoLT that I use for certain posts at Lifehacker and for which there are no equivalents in Chrome.


LastPass: Although I've always used strong passwords and a different password on every site I've recently gotten extra serious about password security. I installed LastPass and I updated all my passwords to beefier versions of their prior selves or outright replaced them with 10+ long string of alphanumeric characters; you should do the same.
After the Deadline: When you're pounding out posts around the clock it's nice to have some robotic eyes to give a quick scan and remind you that you missed a hyphen.
TabRocket: I work a lot in virtual machines and it helps to be able to easily kick tabs between them. TabRocket is a great little Chrome extension that makes it easy to send tabs from one install of Chrome to another (even when that other install is tucked inside a virtual machine on the desktop you're using).
ChromoDoro: Recently I've been using Focus Booster after it was recommended to me by our own Adam Pash, but for the longest time I used ChromoDoro for my Pomodoro Technique needs. I really love timers.


Gmail/Google Calendar/Google Notebook: I like having stuff in one place and Google's mighty reach allows me to do that. I use Gmail for my personal email, for my work at Lifehacker and How-To Geek, and I keep track of everything in Google Notebooks. Recently I've been running into some limitations with the Google Notebook (it's no longer being actively developed) which may prompt me to give Evernote and Springpad a serious look but for now I'm pretty happy using it as a virtual scratch pad.
Google Reader: I put this one as a separate entry because of the sheer amount of time I spend with it. I've logged so many hours with Google Reader that we're common law married in 43 states. I have yet to find a program or web app that handles the massive pile of RSS feeds I have to filter through every day with such efficiency.
Pandora: I tried the whole organizing music thing and the truth is… I just don't care that much to have an encyclopedia archive of 100,000 songs on my hard drive. The reality is that I want to be able to pick the music I'm in the mood for and listen to  it. 99% of the time it's Jazz and Pandora is happy to serve up an infinite supply of it.

Desktop Apps


DisplayFusion Pro: DisplayFusion has become such a seamless part of my multi-monitor computing experience that I completely forgot to include it in this list until someone asked what I was using for my extended taskbar. DisplayFusion is an awesome tool for multi-monitor users. I use it to extend my taskbar, rotate my wallpaper, manage my multi-monitor screensavers, and tweak other small aspects of the experience.
Dropbox: I treat Dropbox largely like a stash of cash and pistol in a bus station locker. Some people really go all out using it for everything, I store my portable apps there in case of emergency. With the copy of Chrome portable, Firefox portable, and other miscellaneous apps I could keep on blogging anywhere I could scrape up some computer time. Aside from my blogging go-bag, I also put files here (like my gradebook and lesson plans) that I want to be able to access away from home.
PhraseExpress: PhraseExpress is the most powerful text replacement tool I've used. I'm certain I'm only using 2% of its abilities. According to it, I've saved tens of thousands of key strokes with all the macros I've programmed for helping out in my blogging adventures.
Photoshop: I've been playing with Photoshop since the days of dialup and turning to it is second nature. Nearly every Hive Five header image passes through my copy at some point.
Windows Live Writer: Gawker has a robust blogging system but at the behest of the How-To Geek some time last year I started writing my longer posts in Windows Live Writer. It's a comfortable blogging tool which is more than I can say for anything else out there.

Mobile Apps
I'm a huge fan of my Android phone and also quite a fan of my iPad (although I'll be the first to admit that the iPad is mostly for fun and the ooh ‘n ahh factor and I use it for so little productive tasks that I'm going to leave it off my Mobile Apps list altogether).

SwiFTP: I hate messing with mounting and dismounting the internal storage on my phone. I use SwiFTP so I can keep files accessible to the system while still uploading and changing them.
Wireless Tether: I originally rooted my phone just to be able to take screen shots but quickly discovered that I could also turn it into a wireless hot spot. During power outages last year I did all my blogging with my netbook and a my phone as my Wi-Fi source.
Full Screen Caller ID: You might be asking yourself how I would consider full screen caller ID a productivity tool. Being able to easily identify calls and SMS messages at a distance (significantly more so than the tiny little thumbnail that's the Android default) saves me tons of time. The picture is so big and clear that I can ID the call all the way in the other room. 

Tips & Tricks Closest To My Heart

It was tough to pick a few things for this section. I've written thousands of articles for Lifehacker at this point: hundreds of software reviews, hundreds of mobile app tests, baked bread, busted out the Dremel tool, rooted phones, soldered, and otherwise voided warranties. I've incorporated so many of those things into my life it's almost impossible to list them… [more]
What_We_Use  Android  Browsers  Chrome  Desktops  Hardware  ipad  Laptops  Monitors  Mouse  Productivity  Software  Top  Webapps  Xbmc  from google
february 2011 by lancejanders
Sync Your Desktop Between Computers Using Dropbox [Syncing]
We've detailed how to use Dropbox to sync your home folder across platforms, but for people whose entire workflow revolves around their desktop, that's not necessarily enough. The Mac blogger at Not Very Correct describes how he syncs his desktop, as well.

On Macs
His method is something we've seen before. Essentially he's created a symlink to sync files and folders outside the My Dropbox folder. On a Mac, the command looks like:

open up terminal and run the following commands

mv desktop desktop.bak
ln -s /Users/username/Dropbox/ ./Desktop
(change username for your Mac username)
Things may go screwy for a bit, but don't worry. Your next step is to reboot your Mac and login again.
You may then want to go to your Desktop.bak directory and copy the files you want back to Desktop.

On Windows
Not Very Correct's post only covers syncing your Mac desktop, but I think we can get to the bottom of this on Windows. UPDATE: Reader paddirn offers up this simple solution:

There is another way that I've gotten to work with Windows:

Open your User folder, right-click on the folder Desktop, select Properties, open the Location Tab, and click Move; now pick the new location (Dropbox folder) and click Apply.

It's like magic and it's worked great for me for awhile now.

Dropbox Sync Desktop Between Macs [Not very correct]
Syncing  Cloud  cloud_computing  Desktops  dropbox  File_Syncing  synchronization  Top  from google
january 2011 by lancejanders
Everything You Need to Know About the Verizon iPhone and Making the Switch [Explainer]
It seems like the phone-owning world was holding their breath for this moment. Now that Verizon's own iPhone is almost here, you might be thinking of switching—and have many questions. We've got answers—on price, networks, transfers, you name it.
Some Verizon iPhone owners may be upgrading from their existing Verizon phone. Some may be AT&T customers who have been patiently waiting for a better service option. Others may be tied to neither AT&T, Verizon, or even Apple, and just want to know whether it's worth looking into. We hope to have answered some of the most likely questions for all parties.

Got additional Verizon iPhone questions you'd like answered? Sure you do. Leave them in the comments, and we'll circle back occasionally and update the post with more answers.
You can jump right to a particular answer from the list below:

What to Know About the Verizon iPhone for:

The Basics
AT&T iPhone Owners:

Contract canceling
Network differences
Cost of new iPhone
Data plans
Built-in apps ("crapware")?
Transferring data and apps
The "Death Grip"

Verizon Customers:

Switching/upgrading phone costs
Hold out for 4G/LTE?
Cost for Verizon Android switchers
Transfer contacts, data, and apps?

The General Android-to-iPhone Switch

The Basics:

What: Verizon offers the iPhone on its (3G) network.
When: Pre-orders for existing Verizon customers start Feb. 3. General sales start Feb. 10.
Where: Pre-orders will be offered on Verizon's web site, or taken in-store. Verizon and Apple retail stores will offer the phone on Feb. 10.
Who: New customers and Verizon customers eligible for upgrades can get the phone at a relatively friendly price. Impatient contract-terminators will pay a bit more, and very impatient Verizon subscribers will hand over a whole lot of cash for one phone.

I'm an AT&T iPhone Owner, and I'm Considering Switching
How Much Will It Cost to Drop My Contract and Switch?

At most, a $325 Early Termination Fee (ETF); at the minimum, something around $50, if you're perhaps a month away from the finish. You can figure it out more precisely using Wolfram Alpha's iPhone ETF calculator. Then there's the $199 cost of buying a new iPhone which, while significantly reduced from the full unit price, is still no shake-off.

Luckily, because you already own the newest model of iPhone on the market, you can sell your iPhone and likely cover the cost of both your ETF and your new phone. Adam D. showed us how to ditch your AT&T iPhone and switch to Verizon for free, using a combination of value-added selling, crafty carrier negotiation, or contract reselling, if necessary.

What Difference Will I See on Verizon's Network?

The most popular answer, and the one Verizon wants you to think of most, is "fewer dropped calls." But while the phones themselves may look almost exactly alike, the Verizon and AT&T phones come with very different networks attached:

AT&T's GSM-based service can be used in more countries around the world (at a significant cost, of course) and, through the use of SIM cards, makes it easier to switch an account between phones. Verizon's phones aren't quite as interchangeable, and (with some exceptions) work only in limited areas overseas.
AT&T service allows for simultaneous phone talk and data connection, so you could surf the web or pull up data while talking. Verizon's network does not, so you can't currently talk on the phone while checking your email over 3G. (They claim to be working on a "fix.")
AT&T's 3G service is generally faster than Verizon's own 3G-esque offering, although Verizon covers a larger portion of the country. Verizon is starting to roll out an LTE network that's faster than AT&T's 3G service, but the iPhone, at least as it is released next month, won't support that LTE technology.

How Much Will the Verizon iPhones Cost?
Verizon is charging the same amount for each iPhone as AT&T: $199 with two-year contract for a 16 GB iPhone, $299 for a 32 GB model with a two-year contract. If you wanted to buy the phone without a contract, for some reason, that's $649.99 for 16 GB, $749.99 for 32 GB.

How Much Will My Monthly Bill Change When I Switch?

It's unclear at the moment, but you can guess at some basic outlines. Verizon has reportedly re-opened their "unlimited" service options (generally around 5 GB per month before a "warning" or speed reduction is enacted) to accomodate the iPhone, rather than offer the two-tier 150 MB/"unlimited" plans that were recently applied to Android smartphones.

Update: The Wall Street Journal confirmed a $30 unlimited data plan for Verizon's iPhones this morning.

The Wall Street Journal also outlines the current plans from AT&T and Verizon. Strangely enough, the basic voice plans look almost exactly the same, and the data plans aren't that far apart, either: $15 for 200 MB per month on AT&T or 150 MB on Verizon, and $25 per month for 2 GB on AT&T or $29.99 for "unlimited" on other Verizon phones. (Update: And on iPhones, too). Each service, too, offers family plans, in-network calling, and texting bundles that may move the dial one way or the other.

What About Tethering?
Update: Verizon told MacWorld earlier today that its mobile hotspot plans will be much like their standard tethering offerings: $20 per month to enable the service for up to five devices, and it comes with its own 2 GB data allowance. Go over that allowance, and each additional gigabyte is another $20.

Then again, that hotspot feature is included in the latest beta of Apple's mobile operating system, iOS, so it's possible that wireless tethering may come to AT&T and other carriers.

At the moment, AT&T customers must pay $20 per month to tether their phones through USB or Bluetooth connections, and they use the same portion of data as their plan allows. Note that at the moment, webOS users—like those using a Palm Pre or Pixi—can turn on their phone's wireless hotspot feature free of charge.

Wondering about unofficial tethering options, and whether you use enough data to worry about it? We've previously done a comprehensive guide, "Whether to Tether", on the world of phone-to-laptop/iPad connections.

Will Verizon's iPhone Have Built-In, Unremovable, Verizon-Branded Apps?
That's not a bad guess, but, thankfully, no. Apps will be available in the App Store to access Verizon's VCAST and other services, but there won't be built-in apps that users can't remove on Verizon's version of the iPhone—with the exception of Apple's stock apps—the same ones you can't remove from the AT&T iPhone.

Will All My iPhone Data and Settings Transfer to My Verizon iPhone?

If you're up and running with iTunes, and you make sure you've got a good backup in place, you should be ready to roll when you get your new phone. Everything, including your apps, will transfer over to the Verizon iPhone. Even if all goes astray, you can re-download apps you've previously purchased from the App Store at no cost on your new phone, assuming you sign in with the same iTunes account.

Will the Verizon iPhone Suffer the Same "Death Grip" Antenna Problem?
According to Ars Technica's tests, no. It's not that much of a problem for AT&T iPhone owners, though, as Apple seems to have patched the problem up in software and hardware updates, but if it's somehow been the bane of your existence, it doesn't seem to happen on Verizon iPhone 4 models.

I'm a Verizon Customer, and I'm Considering an iPhone Jump
How Much Will the Change Cost?
It depends on where you're at with your New Every Two credit. As explained in Verizon's iPhone FAQ, existing customers can use their New Every Two credit to upgrade, but note that Verizon is ending New Every Two and early upgrade credits. If you're not eligible for a new phone from Verizon, and you're already on a contract, you'll need to pay the full retail price: $649.99 for 16 GB, $749.99 for 32 GB. Here's more on the New Every Two program.

Should I Hold Out for a "4G"/LTE Model?

Apple's Tim Cook said they weren't supporting Verizon's LTE network for the iPhone 4 because it would have "forced design compromises" that the electronics giant wasn't willing to make. That doesn't mean they won't eventually get there, but it's a question mark at the moment.

Apple tends to refresh its iPhone lineup in June—that could mean a 4G chipset is installed, or potentially a white iPhone offering, or no network upgrade at all.

If speed is of the utmost importance to you, you might want to consider one of Verizon's Android models that supports their 4G service—if you live anywhere near a coverage area. Adam D. ran down everything you can know about "4G" at the moment, and found that Verizon is tops in speed with its next-generation network—although not in cost, coverage, value, or device offerings.

Will It Cost to Move from a Verizon Droid to an iPhone? How Much?
Right up front, it's probably going to cost you, unless you're crafty with selling your old (and maybe self-unlocked) phone, smoothing over Verizon's customer service representatives, and general good luck. Even owners of the first Verizon Android phone, the Motorola Droid, aren't quite up for their two-year upgrades, so most Verizon Android owners with two-year contracts will have to pay the $650-$750 retail cost for a new iPhone, or at least a discounted retail price with an early upgrade.

Can I Transfer Contacts, Apps, and Other Data from My Existing Verizon Phone an iPhone?
Possibly yes, and maybe a resounding yes, with everything except the apps. Verizon has an account-linked Backup Assistant tool that can, at least, save your contacts.

What Verizon is really recommending, however, is trying to get as much of your phone's data into your home computer, then hooking it all into iTunes for a future transfer to your Verizon iPhone. You can have iTunes pull data from Google contacts and calendars, Outlook, picture folders on your computer, and many other spots.

I'm an Android Owner—What's In It for Me to Switch?

Tough question—really tough question, and one we've tackled before, though the answer is always … [more]
Explainer  Android  Apple  At&t  Cellphones  Contacts  coverage  Feature  iPhone  Smartphones  Switch  Top  Verizon  from google
january 2011 by lancejanders
How to Create a Portable Hackintosh on a USB Thumb Drive [Hackintosh]
There are tons of awesome live, bootable Linux systems, but what if you need to run OS X? Reader Will shows us how to put a portable version of OS X on a thumb drive and boot it on (most) Intel computers.
People put linux on their flash drives all the time. They also get hackintosh on their hard drives quite often. However, it'd be nice to be able to get the same live experience we get with Linux using OS X. With a distribution of OS X 10.6.2 called iPortable Snow, we can.

You'll need an actual Mac to create the thumb drive (some Hackintoshes may work; mine didn't). Search your favorite torrent site for iPortable Snow and download it. While it's downloading, format your external hard drive or thumb drive (You'll need at least an 8 GB thumb drive for this). Open up Disk Utility and select the drive you want to put OS X on. Go to the Partition tab and create one partition, formatted as Mac OS Extended (Journaled). Hit Options and make sure you're using the Master Boot Record option. Then hit Apply to format the drive.

Now you're done with Disk Utility, so go ahead and close it. Now, open the iPortable Snow installer you downloaded. You should get a window like this:

Double click the icon with the umbrella labeled "iPortable_Snow_x86". That should automatically open a program called CopyCatX, which will look like this:

In the first window, head to the Backup or Restore section, change the selected partition to the one you formatted for your Hackintosh, and click the Backup/Restore button.

In the next window, click the radio button on the right to change it so that you're restoring the drive to a backup. Then hit Start. It'll ask you to find a file to restore from. Use the "iPortable_Snow_x86" volume archive file on the iPortable Snow disk image. It will start copying the files to your thumb drive.

Next, you'll have to fix the bootloader. After it's done restoring, go back to the iPortable Snow Install folder. Open "First Aid". In there, you'll find a program called iPortable Bootfix. Open it. Continue through it normally, but on the third page, click "Change Install Location" (this is very important). You need to change that to your thumb drive. Otherwise, it'll install a new bootloader on your Mac that will break it. Once it finishes, you're done. Go ahead and rename the hackintosh partition whatever you like for the sake of personalization.

You should now be able to boot from your thumb drive just like you would a live Linux thumb drive. Instead of booting into your computer's OS, you'll get the Chameleon screen with a few choices. iPortable Snow is designed to work on most Intel-based computers, though some video cards won't have advanced features (like 3D gaming) out of the box.

Ed. Note: While Will tested this on a few different Intel computers with great success, I could not get it to work on my Hackintosh at home (and sadly, the rest of my friends have Macs, with which iPortable Snow is ironically not compatible). So, if you have some time, give this a shot and let us know how it goes in the comments.
Hackintosh  How_To  Mac_OS_X  Portable  Republished  Thumb_Drives  Top  USB_drive  from google
january 2011 by lancejanders
What Google Voice Number Porting Actually Means for Your Cellphone [Explainer]
Google Voice is offering number porting, but in a limited test. But couldn't Google Voice already work with any number? Isn't it easy to transfer numbers? Here's the long and (very) short of how and why you'd port your digits to Google.
The (Very) Short Version

Google Voice, especially with number porting offered, aims to make actual phone numbers irrelevant, and provide you with One Number for everything. If you've got a cell number that everybody knows, and you really, really don't want to change, now that number can be your new One Number. It requires a somewhat awkward step in-between cellular contracts, which is something most of us aren't used to, and a $20 fee. After that, your old number still works, and now every aspect of Voice is available.

The Longer Explainer
The magical "One Number" has been the goal ever since the launch in late 2007 of Google Voice's predecessor, GrandCentral, which was later acquired and incorporated into Google Voice. If you have a phone at home, in the office, and maybe a work-provided BlackBerry and personal cellphone, your Google Voice number is the one you memorize, tell people about, and list on your card. Google Voice does many other cool things, like transcribe your voicemails and send text messages for free, but this One-Number-many-phones service has always been the core utility.

When someone calls that Google Voice number, it rings first at Google's servers, then quickly checked against any rules you've set up in your Voice account—just like how a new message is run through Gmail's uber-essential filters before arriving for you. You might have set your system up so that when Rick from work calls, after 5 p.m. on a Friday, it goes straight to your voicemail, and doesn't ring on any phone. Or, when your son or daughter calls, it rings every phone you have, and emails and texts you with the transcribed message. In that way, individual phone numbers become plug-and-play. If you have to drop your cable company's digital phone, or trade cellular carriers in a hurry without worrying about number porting ("Ooh! Verizon iPhone!"), it shouldn't really matter; just plug the new number into your Voice settings on the web.

Is it difficult "training" people to use just one number for you, and stop calling the old numbers? Yes. But it can be done. Lifehacker's founding editor Gina Trapani and myself have both taken the hard line and only hand out our Google Voice numbers now; other Lifehacker editors have, to some degree, walked most of the way down that path. But we are writers and freelancers, and we are not reliant on other people having our number to call us on.

Some people legitimately need to keep their number working, because lots of people have that number, and they don't want to miss a call from them. Google has previously offered a voicemail-only, halfway solution for them. But at best, it's a wonky, deep-settings change with a nice result, and one misses out on at least half the service's convenience. So for those with phone numbers tied deeply into their daily lives, Google Voice will soon offer the ability to take that number and make it your One Number—and do so right from the Google Voice web site. No need for a condescending conversation with a service rep at your phone carrier.

What about your existing service? From the looks of Google's number porting setup, as it stands today, Google is actively canceling your contract with your carrier from your site, in the same way a cellular service worker can cancel your contract with another service, right from their desk at the store or kiosk. If you're still under contract to that provider, you'll get a bill with an early termination fee (ETF), no doubt. If not, you'll likely lose your cellular service. You can then buy service from another provider, and when they ask if you have a preference for number, tell them you don't. You'd just take whatever number they offer, set it up through Voice, and carry on. Everyone who knew your old number can still call you, except that now you can filter their calls, send them a text message for free through Voice's web/app tools, and otherwise use Voice to its full extent.

Is this all that convenient? Not really. Even if you're on off-contract and going month-to-month with your carrier, most customers like to make a switch from one carrier to another, without any downtime. But if the only thing holding you back from using Voice was the inability to use it fully with a number you can't let go of, you can probably get by in the time between checking the many verification boxes and buttons in the Voice number porting process and driving to a cellular store (or calling to re-activate service on your existing phone/SIM card, if possible).

So that's the scoop on Google Voice number porting, at least as it exists for a small number of Voice users so far. Google may change the process, or hold off a long time before offering it to everyone. In the meantime, does number porting make you more likely to switch over to Voice, or do you shy away from giving Google your most well-known digits?
Explainer  Cellphones  Google  Google_Voice  number  phone_number  Phones  Portable  Top  from google
january 2011 by lancejanders
Top 10 Clever Uses for the Cloud [Lifehacker Top 10]
The "cloud" is where we've been sharing our lives and storing our files for awhile now, but with so many cloud services there's much more you can do that may not have crossed your mind. Here are our top ten ideas.

Photo by Satchell Drakes
10. Write in Public Without a Blog

Everyone and their mother has a blog nowadays, but how often is it really updated? And even then, how often are people saying anything worthwhile? That said, there are plenty of times we all have a good piece of writing to share but we don't really need to have a blog to share it. QuietWrite (our first look) gives you a place to write anything you want, include pictures, and publish online. If you want to write an article but don't want to create a site just for your occasional writing, QuietWrite offers you that possibility. It's a good way to store and share your written work publicly, in the cloudy.

9. Update Your Resume and Get Feedback

Updating your resume is tedious and often ends up being a last-minute task write before you need to send it out. Each time you have to consider new information, reorganize, and make sure everything fits well on a page. Webapps like CeeVee (our take) help you create a nice resume, or you can leverage LinkedIn's Resume Builder to use information you already have stored in the cloud to create an already up-to-date and well-organized resume. Getting a grade on your resume is also possible with RezScore, which uses proprietary algorithms to analyze your resume and provide you with advice on how to improve it.

8. Keep a Visual Food Log to Aid in Your Diet

We've all heard of keeping food logs when dieting to make sure we stay on track, but according to a study referenced in the Daily Mail, taking pictures of food you're going to eat can make it easier to avoid overeating or just eating poorly by making you really examine what's going in your body. Additionally, we've seen a trend lately with diet, exercise, and weight loss where you publicize your progress so everyone knows how good or bad you're doing. Combine these two things and add your smartphone to get a live food blog. Sign up for an account with Tumblr, Posterous, or a similar site and upload photos of what you eat directly from your phone. This will provide you with a public log and a means of examining your food before you choose whether or not to relentlessly stuff it in your face.

7. Set Up Cloud Printing

Thanks to Google, printing from the cloud is now a possibility. Well, sort of—you currently need a dev build of Chrome for Windows, but that's inevitable a sign of what's to come for those of us on other platforms (or who simply prefer to wait for stable releases). If you don't want to wait for Google and are willing to pay a few dollars, you can set up similar remote printing with a Pogoplug (which also make great little Linux servers). Another cloud-based printing option is making use of the wonderfully versatile Dropbox. We've got instructions on setting it up for both Windows and Mac.

6. Run Your Own Makeshift, Private Social Network with a Free Webapp

My friend Erica and I are both big talkers and have trouble shutting up. We get lots in conversations about the most bizarre minutia on a regular basis. Email became a poor way of communicating when we weren't hanging out because it was so hard to keep track of the different threads, so we decided we needed something different. That something ended up being a project management webapp called Teambox (which I looked at last September). Now our communication is up in the cloud using a free Teambox account. It helps us track restaurants we want to try, things we're thinking about, and we can also communicate better by using speed-appropriate channels. While it's just us using Teambox, it's more than capable of handling a group of friends. If you want an actually private social network where you only communicate with friends, you may not have to look farther than free project management webapp. Teambox is an especially great solution because it takes its influences from social media.

5. Manage All Aspects of Your Online Presence

Your social media conversations can get overwhelming at times, what with all the friends and followers you undoubtedly have. Because all of that data is stored online and most social media sites provide useful APIs, several services have been built to help you keep on top of your social media. For example, ManageFlitter can help you clean up your Twitter account, ThinkUp can give you all sorts of informative statistics about your interactions on Twitter, and you can find out what Facebook is publicly publishing about you. You may also want to consider backing up your cloud-based services. Even though data in the cloud often feels like it's always going to be there, you never really know what's going to happen and it's a good idea to keep backups of your data if you don't want to lose it.

4. Use Dropbox to Manage Your Torrents

There are a lot of great hacks for Dropbox, the cloud-based syncing and backup service we love, but one of the coolest is remotely starting you torrents. It's actually very simple to set up. Just set your BitTorrent client to watch a folder in your Dropbox for new torrents and add them automatically. This way when you add any torrents to that folder remotely, they'll be synced back to your home computer and your BitTorrent client will see them. It's a really awesome, simple trick.

3. Make a Cloud-Focused Netbook with Jolicloud

Jolicloud is a lot like Chrome OS, but with great Linux desktop features as well. Even if you're eagerly waiting to purchase a Chrome OS notebook when they're readily available, you might find that putting together a netbook with Jolicloud will work even better for you as you don't have to fully give up the comfort of the desktop while still reaping the benefits of the cloud. Jolicloud is a free OS and makes for a fun installation project with a new or old netbook (or even an old regular computer). Just be sure to check Jolicloud's compatibility page before you dive in.

2. Create a Database of Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

If you're a regular Lifehacker reader, you're probably fairly tech-savvy and also likely to be the person your family, friends, and maybe even co-workers go to for technical support. Beyond that, you're probably a pretty decent problem solver and people come to you for help fairly often. It's always nice to know people trust you to help them, but sometimes it can get a little tedious when the same questions come up again and again. What's an easy way to solve that? Create a database of answers so you can simply search it and send the troubled friend a link. You don't even need to create a true database. You could easily get by with something like Tumblr or Posterous. Not only will you be able to send off frequent answers with easy and save yourself a bunch of time, you'll be contributing your knowledge to the world. Next time you need to help someone with something, write it up and post it. Even if you can't post a great article, simply recording yours or their screen as a demonstration can be a big help down the road.

1. Roll Your Own Dropbox-Like Service with Open Source Software and Amazon S3

We've taken a look at creating an open-source Dropbox-like backup service that you can run out of your home with a couple of computers, but this doesn't provide any off-site backup options. If you really want to make it Dropbox-like you're going to need to start backing up online as well. One excellent resource for backups is Amazon S3. Add that to the mix, or even a web host that allows backups (like Hive Five winner Dreamhost), and you'll have yourself a great homespun alternative.

You can contact Adam Dachis, the author of this post, at You can also follow him on Twitter and Facebook.
Lifehacker_Top_10  BitTorrent  Cloud  Diet  Feature  Google  Health  NetBooks  Open_Source  Printing  Search  Social_Networking  Top  webapp  from google
january 2011 by lancejanders
How to Create (and Stick to) a Realistic Budget with Mint [Budgeting]
We'd all like to be more responsible with our money, but budgeting can take a lot of work. Here's how to create an easy, realistic budget and keep to it without pulling your hair out.
We all have our financial vices, whether we're spending too much on brain-altering coffee, eating out too often, or running wild with the credit card at the mall. This year, make a resolution to keep your budget better by using Mint, a free personal finance webapp that makes budgeting extremely easy. It automatically tracks what you spend, categorizes it, and helps you create realistic budgets. You can even track your financial goals and keep up with your money on-the-go. Here, we'll show you some of the basics of how Mint works, as well as how to use its features to create realistic budgets and stick to them.

How Mint Automatically Tracks What You Spend
Once you've signed up for Mint and linked Mint to your various financial accounts (bank accounts, checking accounts, credit cards, investments, etc.—their wizard will walk you through this surprisingly painless process), you'll be able to view your spending history much like you could at your respective bank's web site. Any time you use your credit or debit card, Mint adds that purchase to its log, so you can see what you're spending (and where) over time.

However, Mint does far more than that. For each purchase, it also automatically categorizes it, so you can see in a more general sense where your money is going. For example, it recognizes shopping at Whole Foods or Meijer as "Groceries", while categorizing iTunes as "Music". Most of the time you won't need to do manually add any categories yourself—Mint does it all for you. Of course, in the (rare) event Mint gets something wrong, or you want to file certain purchases into a different category than the default, you can simply click on the category and change it yourself.

Using those categories, Mint can help you build and manage your budget, accessible from the Budgets tab. When you first start, Mint will have created a few starter budgets for you based off common categories, like "Groceries" and "Restaurants". You can edit these budgets by clicking on them, raising or lowering the monthly budget, allowing it to roll over to the next month (which is good for, say, gas—if you spent less this month because of how the weeks fell, you can let it roll over to the next month). You can also set a budget to track you by a time period other than monthly, if you prefer.

Get Started with Budgets
Anyone who's tried setting up a budget without taking a hard look at what they already spend each month knows that it's easy to derail from what you've planned, because it's easy to budget far too little. Mint makes it easy to tweak your budgets in either direction by providing you with a realistic view of your current spending habits. By examining what you actually spend, you can get a better idea of what expenses are fixed, what you can do without, and refine your budget accordingly—or at least better than if you were making it up off the top of your head, based on what you think you should be spending.

If you head to the Trends tab, you can view graphs of your spending from this month, the last month, this year, or all time. A simple pie graph is a pretty simple way to see where your income is going. If you find that, say, Food & Dining takes up a significant chunk of your budget (more than it should, maybe), you can click on it to view a pie graph of just that category, where it'll show you how much of your Food budget you spent on, say, groceries and how much you spent on eating out.

With such a simple overview, it's really easy to see where you can start trimming fat from your spending. If you find that you're spending a lot on coffee shops, you can go back to the Budgets tab and add a custom budget for Coffee Shops to keep you in check.

Review Your Budget Regularly
Of course, this doesn't do you much good if you don't visit Mint often. The best way to keep up with your budget is to set aside some time, once a week or so, to review your budget. Half of this is going to be fiddling with Mint, and the other half is going to be reassessing how much you have left to spend next week (or for the rest of the month, year, etc.)

Add Cash Transactions to Your Log
While Mint automatically adds every transaction from your credit and debit cards, it has no way of knowing how you spend your cash, so unless you add those transactions in manually, your budget will be a little off-balance. I find the best way to keep track of it all is to get a receipt every time I spend cash, keep it in my wallet, and then pull them all out during budget review time and log them in Mint.

To do so, just hit the "Add a Transaction" button on the Transactions tab. You can add a description of where you spent it, pick a category for it, and even deduct it automatically from your last ATM withdrawal (so your total balance stays the same). Obviously, though, if you got the cash from somewhere other than the ATM (like if it was a gift, or if you owned all your friends in a game of Texas Hold 'Em), you'll want to uncheck that box.

Tweak Categories and Split Transactions
Mint is great at splitting your transactions up into categories, but it's bound to get something wrong every once in a while. For example, I've noticed that it frequently confuses some bars with restaurants, or gasoline with "auto parts & service". Furthermore, some transactions are added as "uncategorized", often understandably so (my Android Market purchases often get thrown in there).

So, when you review your budget every week, this is one of the things you'll want to edit. For example, filter out the uncategorized transactions, go through them, and correctly categorize them. Go through the past week's purchases and tweak any categories you need to. The more accurate all those categories, the more specific and correct your budget will be, and the more effective you'll be at managing your spending.

It's also worth noting that you can split any transaction into two, which is helpful if some of the cost in a transaction falls into one category and some in another. For example, if you spent $30 in the iTunes Store, half of which was music and half of which was movies, Mint will categorize it as Music by default. To split it into two, just click on the transaction, hit Edit Details, then hit Split. You can allocate a certain amount of that transaction to another category (Movies) so you your budget more accurately reflects how you're spending your money.

Tweak Your Budget (and Your Spending)
After reviewing your budget each week (or at least once a month, when you can have a broader overview of your budgets), take some time to reassess where you are. Are you on the right track with your spending? Have you already gone over any of your budgets? Answer those types of questions, then ask yourself what the answer is. You'll either need to tweak your budget to allow for more or less spending, or take a look back at those pie graphs and see where you can trim some of the fat.

It's worth mentioning that as you start to pay more attention to your budget, don't go too overboard all at once. Focus on lowering your spending in just one area at a time, and you're more likely to achieve that goal. If you try to cut out too much spending at once, you might get overwhelmed. Unless your finances are really dire, just start cutting back little by little, and you'll find it much easier to keep to your new budget later on.

After a few weeks or months of tweaking, you should get to a point where your budget balances out and you slide into a good spending routine. Of course, it may take a bit longer to cultivate good spending habits, so don't slack off on your budget reviews just because you've figured out what they should be.

Set up Notifications
Another handy feature of Mint that'll help keep you on track is its notifications. If you head to My Accounts > Email & Alerts, you can set email and SMS alerts to let you know when your balance is low, when you're over budget, when you have a bill coming up, and more. These'll help keep you on track with your budgets even if you don't have time to review it that week, or if you make a large purchase that throws your budget (or account balance) out of whack and you need to attend to it. It's a small feature, and certainly no replacement for regular budget review, but it's nice to have around for the more pressing situations.

You can also send yourself weekly or monthly summary emails that let you know the status of your account and your budgets. As with most things, this can be annoying for some people. However, if you're particularly bad at reviewing your budget (or haven't gotten into the habit yet), they can be a nice weekly or monthly reminder to do so.

Set Goals

The last thing you may want to turn on that'll help your budget keeping is Mint's Goals feature. If you're saving up for something—whether it's a car, a vacation, or just in case of an emergency, Mint can help you save up for it. It's pretty good at figuring out some of the math for you—for example, it can tell you how much you'll need to put away each month to pay for it by the the time you want it—but it can also track what your end goal should be. For example, if you're trying to get out of debt, it can take into account the credit card debt and car loans, for example, already present in your account. If you're saving for a car, it can keep an eye on the blue book value of that car so it knows how much you'll need by the end.

Mint will not only track how much you need to be saving, but also give you recommendations on achieving that goal faster, which is pretty handy. If your goal is a new home, for example, it'll give you advice on improving your credit, shopping for homeowner's insurance, and other related subjects. To set up a goal, just head to the Goals tab and follow the instructions. Again, don't try to work on too many goals at once—if you keep your efforts focused, you… [more]
Budgeting  Budget  Feature  Financial  Mint  Money  Personal_Finance  Resolutions_2011  Saving_Money  Top  Tracking  from google
january 2011 by lancejanders
Make Your Own Consolidated Loyalty Card Without External Services [Wallet Hacks]
While services like previously mentioned KeyRingThing will automate the process of condensing all your loyalty cards, they aren't perfect. If you want to fully customize your mega loyalty card, DIY web site Instructables shows us how to make your own.
Apps like previously mentioned Key Ring on Android and services like KeyRingThing are great, but provide complications—some scanners have trouble scanning phone screens, and having all your barcodes bunched together causes a lot of hassle for cashiers. Furthermore, a lot of services like KeyRingThing don't recognize certain companies, so if you have a lot more obscure cards, it might be harder for a cashier to differentiate between your Wizards of the Coast bar code and your Student ID bar code.

Instead of dealing with all that, Instructables shows us that you have the most control when you do it the old-fashioned way: scan your loyalty cards into your computer and use a photo editor to cut, paste, and spread out those bar codes along your mega loyalty card. You can add in store logos yourself so you know which is which, and you can spread them out enough so that scanning the card doesn't trigger three different bar codes (folding the rest of the card over before handing it to the cashier also helps). If KeyRingThing or Key Ring aren't quite working for you, this old school method is another great option. Hit the link to read the full instructions.

Bonus Card Barcode Hack [Instructables]
Wallet_Hacks  Clutter  Organization  photo_editing  Scanners  Time_Savers  Top  Wallet  from google
december 2010 by lancejanders
Set Up and Get to Know Your New Camera [Merrychristmahanukwanzaakkah]
Whether it takes photos or videos, and whether it fits in the palm of your hand or has interchangeable lenses, you've got a brand new camera to play with. Here's how to get the most out of your great new gift.
Before you dive right in, here are a few things you should do with your camera first:

Format Your Flash Media - We're going to take a chance and assume that the camera you're using is Flash-based. Another prediction? It's probably an SD card, if not the more rare case of CompactFlash. Whatever media you're using, be sure to format the card in the camera instead of on your computer. If you're repurposing a card from an old camera, reformat it in the new one. While this might not be necessary to make it work, it'll help you avoid little problems down the road. As we've found, formatting SD cards in your camera is really a best practice regardless of the use.
Set the Date and Time (and Other Important Settings) - Your new camera will probably prompt you to set the date and time as soon as you turn it on, but if you've already bypassed this request then go into your camera's settings and set it right now. This may seem trivial, but when you're organizing your pictures on your computer you're going to want them to have the right date and time stamp. When you upload them online, the date and time is often included on sharing sites. While it may be fun to post a few photos from the future, ultimately it'll mean that your memories will be mislabeled and that's never good. While you're in your camera's settings, you might as well take a look around. This is one of the first things I always do with a new camera because there tend to be some hidden features I had no idea existed. Playing around can be a little like a treasure hunt, and it's a very good way to learn the ins and outs of your camera's functionality.
Attach the Neck or Wrist Strap - Yes, it might make you look dumb or like a tourist, but nothing looks dumber than a person staring down at a broken camera because they didn't take the necessary precautions. Your hands are prone to drop things. Play it safe and put the strap on. (Keep the jokes to yourselves, please.)

Get to Know Your New Camera and Taking Great Photos

First things first, you're going to want to learn how to use your new camera as best you can. Once you've got the operation down, we've also got some great how-tos for taking better photos.

Get the Most from Your Point-and-Shoot Camera - Just because you've got a relatively inexpensive point-and-shoot camera and not a $1500+ DSLR rig doesn't mean you can't take awesome photos. Here's a look at how you can elevate your regular old point-and-shoot shots to greatness.
Master Your DSLR Camera, Part 1: Program Mode - You ponied up for a digital SLR camera because you hated the shutter lag on your little point-and-shoot. The good news: Your photos have improved! The bad news? You know they could be even better-if only you dared to let go of the camera's "auto" mode. It's as if you've been creeping around the neighborhood in a new Mustang using only first gear. No more! It's time to take control, hit the highway, and learn what you can do in program mode.
Master Your DSLR Camera, Part 2: Manual Mode and More - In part two we're going straight to manual mode to learn about aperture sizes and shutter speeds. So let's do this thing. Put your camera in manual mode by turning the mode dial to the "M" setting as pictured above.
How to Record Great Video with Your HD DSLR Camera - HD DSLRs are incredible-they give you a video camera with interchangeable lenses, depth of field control and stellar low-light performance-but they're not without drawbacks. Here's how to work around them.
Choose the Right Lens for Your First DSLR - If you've taken the plunge into the wonderful world of DSLR photography, you probably quickly learned that your choice of lens is nearly as important as the camera you buy. Tech blog Tested offers a few tips for picking the perfect lens.
How to Take Great Portrait Photos - 2010's coming to a close and everyone's in a rush to get their picture taken for holiday cards, albums, or even their brand new Facebook profiles. Here's how to use any camera you've got and some DIY tricks to take awesome portraits.
Create Realistic HDR Photos - High Dynamic Range photoraphy is a revolutionary tool in the photographer's toolkit, but it can be over done and done poorly. Take more realistic photos with these tips.
Compose with Fibonacci's Ratio for Phenomenal Photos - If you're looking for a way to draw more attention to the crucial elements in your photographic composition, the Fibonacci Ratio offers a way to direct your viewers eye to the critical parts of your photo.
Use White Balance to Avoid Noisy, Grainy Photos Without the Flatness of a Flash - Taking pictures in low light requires a lot more care than does taking pictures with a bright sun behind you-low-light pictures tend to be quite noisy. Here's how to use your flash and white balance to make up for it.
Vimeo Video School Offers Free Tutorials to Help Improve Your Video Skills - If you're looking to get started with your new video camera or just refine your skills, Vimeo's just launched their Video School with some excellent tutorials from Vimeo users and pros alike.

Tricks, Hacks, and Fun Things

Once you've gotten the hang of your new camera, there's plenty more you can do with it. Check out these awesome hacks for improving your camera's functionality, DIY projects to create helpful photography tools, and fun things you can do with your new camera:

Turn Your Point-and-Shoot into a Super-Camera - If you're using a consumer grade point-and-shoot Canon digital camera, you've got hardware in hand that can support advanced features way beyond what shipped in the box. With the help of a free, open source project called CHDK, you can get features like RAW shooting mode, live RGB histograms, motion-detection, time-lapse, and even games on your existing camera. Let's transform your point-and-shoot into a super camera just by adding a little special sauce to its firmware.
Most Popular Photography Tips, Tricks, and Hacks of 2010 - Whether it's before, during, or after you shoot, we've posted some awesome photography tips, tricks, and hacks this year. Here are the most popular for 2010.
Use an 18% Gray Card for Better Color Balance in Your Photos - If you've ever relied on your camera's white balancing algorithms you know how imperfect they can be, but you're not out of luck. Getting accurate color balance with just about any camera is pretty easy with an 18% gray card.
Enhance Your Camera and Photos - If you're looking for a project this weekend, grab your camera. Here are a bunch of tips, tricks, hacks, and techniques to try out when shooting and editing your photos.
How to Create Your Own Photosynths - Photosynths are a 3D-like space from (tons) of your photos. They're free to create and here's how to do it.
Magic Lantern Boosts Your Canon DSLR's Video Capabilities - If you love your video-capable Canon DSLR but wish it had more video options, Magic Lantern can help you out. Offering a number of additional features for your camera, it can aid in your ability to shoot some amazing video.
Modify an Old Telephoto Lens to Fit Your DSLR Camera - Telephoto lenses aren't cheap, and there's no reason to waste money on a new one if you have an older one lying around. With a few modifications, you can fit an old telephoto lens on a new DSLR camera.
DIY Shoulder Camera Stabilizer - We've featured a few ways to stabilize your DSLR or camcorder, but those might not be ideal for certain kinds of shooting. This cheap, compact shoulder rig will keep your camera stable anywhere you need to go.
Build a One-Camera 3D Photography Rig - We've mentioned ways to build a 3D photography rig with two cameras, but DIYer countervideo realized that with just a few mirrors, you can do it with one.
Turn a Candy Tin into a Cheap DSLR Pinhole Lens - Pinhole photography is fun, but what if you want to avoid the hassle of building a pinhole camera and using film that you have to carefully load and get developed? You can make a pinhole lens for a DSLR camera.
Make a DIY Ring Light for Better Macro Shots - If you've been experimenting with macro and closeup photography and been hesitant to shell out for an expensive ring flash, this cheap and simple ring light setup is worth checking out.

Photo Editing Tips and Tricks

You've taken tons of great photos, but you know you can make them even better. Bring them into Photoshop (or your favorite image editor) and make some truly beautiful images with these tips and tricks:

Top 10 Photo Fixing and Image Editing Tricks - You probably know what Photoshop disasters look like, but your photos can benefit from more subtle and elegant touch-ups. With these tools and techniques, you can sharpen, texturize, re-contextualize, and remove tourists, among other problems, from your shots worth saving.
How to Get the Best Color Out of Your Photos - Black and white has long been the default "artistic" style for photographs, so it can be easy to forget how compelling a color photograph can be. Here's an in-depth guide to help you get amazing color in your photos.
How to Change a Specific Color in a Photo - We've talked a lot about getting great color our of your photos, but if you don't like the color you have you're not necessarily stuck with it. Here are two ways to change the color of anything in your photo.
How to Give Any Photo the Analog Camera Treatment - Whether you like it or not, hipsters are taking over your smartphone's camera and bringing analog effects to your digital photography. But what about your regular photos? Here's how to take a regular photo and give it that analog look.
Use Levels to Fix Poorly Exposed Photos - Among the many tools in the Photoshop arsenal, a levels adjuster is perhaps the most effective for the widest range of not-so-hot photos. The Digital Photography School blog offers a gentle introduction to levels, graphs, sliders, and what they all… [more]
Merrychristmahanukwanzaakkah  Cameras  Digital_Photography  Feature  Gifts  Holidays  How_To  Photography  Top  from google
december 2010 by lancejanders
How Do I Put Together a Tech Survival Kit? [Ask Lifehacker]
Dear Lifehacker,
I need to put together a tech survival kit with different cables, adapters, and tools. What should it include, and how can I organize it?

Dear Cableless,

We've actually looked at the problem of creating a tech essentials backup kit briefly, but never tackled the subject head-on. What goes into your survival kit is going to depend a lot on your needs, but we've got a few suggestions on how to figure it out and a great way to organize it.

What to Put in the Kit
Ultimately you're going to have to figure out what you need, specifically, but there are a few must-have items that belong in the kit.

The Thumb Drive
It probably takes little to convince a Lifehacker reader that they ought to keep a thumb drive with them, but even if you're not a big fan of the stick-shaped disks it's important to have one with you—plus it's tiny, so why not? While sharing files online and over the network is great and really simple, sometimes those things fail you. Having a thumb drive with you at all times means you have a way to easily copy files between machines regardless of the circumstances (unless there's no USB, in which case you're in a very rare and special situation). Just make sure your thumb drive is formatted so it can be read on Windows, OS X, and Linux so you don't have any cross-platform issues. Generally FAT32 will do the trick, so long as you don't need to move any files over 4GB.

Multiple USB Chargers
Nowadays you're likely a user of many USB devices, so you best be ready to charge them all. While one of our favorite USB chargers is the Belkin Mini Surge Protector—as it offers two USB ports and three plugs in a compact form factor—it's still a little bit bulky. Have a couple of USB-based chargers is useful and takes up far less space if you get the right ones. My personal favorite is Amazon's Kindle Charger, which also comes with a micro-USB cable. It's tiny and works with just about any USB device/cable I've tried. The same goes for Apple's USB charger—which is surprisingly cheaper (but don't come with a cable). Whichever route you take, you'll want to have a few USB cables. If you've got an iDevice, you'll want to make sure you have an iPod sync cable, but everyone should have both mini- and micro-USB cables. Short cables are particularly helpful, but if you need a longer cable you might want to try retractable cables instead.

Video Cables and Adapters
If you hook up your laptop to a monitor and need to go from, say, Mini DisplayPort to DVI, you'll probably want to carry that adapter around. Or perhaps you need a VGA to DVI adapter. Whatever the case may be, most of these are pretty small and easy to come by. Figure out what you need and include it in your kit. This can be a lifesaver when you need to suddenly hook up your laptop to a projector. This situation may not come about too often, but when it does you'll be very glad you were prepared.

Other Cables and Tools You Might Need
You'll have to figure out what cables you're definitely going to need for your particular situation, but here are some suggestions to get you started:

Actual video cables, like HDMI, composite, component, etc.
A headphone splitter, for when you want to listen to a music or movie along with someone else
A stylus for your touchscreen smartphone
A backup pair of headphones or a headset for your phone
A 1/8" stereo audio cable, for plugging your music player or phone into a set of speakers
A portable audio recorder, like the Zoom H1 (I use this all the time and it's awesome)

How to Keep the Kit Organized and Ultra-Portable
Organization is super simple because the best tool for the job is Cocoon's GRID-IT. We took a look at these awhile back, but they're still the best option for organizing a bunch of random stuff in your bag. I use a couple of them for cables, and they're very easy to remove. You can buy them with neoprene sleeves if you need a little extra protection. You can find all shapes and sizes on Amazon, pick them up locally at The Container Store, or get them directly from Cocoon if you want to order them outside of the US (or inside, too).

Hope this helps you get your tech survival kit together!


For those of you who already have some awesome tech survival kits, let's hear about 'em in the comments. Post pictures, too!

You can contact Adam Dachis, the author of this post, at You can also follow him on Twitter and Facebook.
Ask_Lifehacker  always_be_prepared  Backup  Cables  Chargers  Flash_Drives  Organization  Survival_Kit  Thumb_Drives  Top  from google
december 2010 by lancejanders
How to Sync iTunes Across All Your Computers with Dropbox [How To]
If you run iTunes on multiple devices, chances are you've had trouble keeping your libraries in sync. Maybe you've even tried Dropbox but ran into syncing conflicts. Here's how to sync iTunes with Dropbox problem-free, on Windows or Mac.
Why Would I Want to Do This?
Aside from the benefit of having all your iTunes media in sync and backed up, you gain a lot of additional conveniences by syncing your music library using Dropbox. Most of these conveniences will help you get more from your smartphone or mobile device. If you have any mobile device that has an official Dropbox app available (currently that means iOS, Android, and Blackberry), you can access all of your iTunes media directly from your device without the need to sync. If you have an iDevice device, you'll no longer be restricted to syncing it with a single machine. With your iTunes libraries completely in sync, your iDevice will recognize them as the same library—regardless of which machine you're using. This means that no matter which machine you use, your iDevice will gladly sync with it. The last major benefit comes in when you don't have access to any of your devices. Since everything is synced to Dropbox, if you want to play a song for a friend, you can simply log into Dropbox on their machine and you'll have quick access to everything you keep in iTunes.

What You Should Know Before You Get Started
This Will Probably Cost You Some Money (But Maybe Not)

Unless your iTunes library is small enough, you're probably going to have to start paying for Dropbox to do this. Dropbox is generous enough to provide you at least 2GB for free (and up to 16GB if you refer people—possibly more if you're a good samaritan), so if you can fit your music library into your free space then this won't cost you a thing. If you're like me (and probably most people), however, you're probably going to need to pay for a 50GB or 100GB Dropbox account, which will cost you $10 or $20 (respectively, with discounts for pre-paying for the year). We love Dropbox and feel it's worth paying for (the extra space comes in handy for more than just music syncing), but ultimately that's a choice you're going to have to make for yourself.

Syncing with Dropbox Comes with Two Problems—Which We've Solved
Whatever your situation may be, it's very easy to simply sync the music files in your iTunes folder to Dropbox. We'll go over how to set everything up, but it's fairly easy: you just move your iTunes folder into your Dropbox and tell iTunes where it is. While this part is very straightforward, it introduces a couple of problems.

First, everything in your iTunes library must be uploaded to Dropbox and then synced to your other machines. One benefit of selective sync in the latest Dropbox release is that you don't have to sync your entire library to, say, your netbook's tiny hard drive unless you want to. While syncing to your other machines can be quick if you have LAN sync enabled in your Dropbox preferences, uploading everything to your Dropbox can be fairly time consuming. If you have a very large library and a slow upstream connection, this method may not be for you. If you can gather enough patience to make it past the first big upload and your upstream connection is 768kbps or greater, you'll be in good shape.

The second problem is that, because of how iTunes handles the iTunes library file, you can only have one copy of iTunes open at once. Pretty much every tutorial on the web that tackles this subject will simply tell you to remember to only keep one copy of iTunes at a time. We felt that if we were going to do a tutorial on the subject, this problem would need a better solution. Syncing and backing up your iTunes libraries is supposed to make your life easier. If you always have to remember to close iTunes before opening it up on another machine (to prevent any syncing issues), it's not necessarily making your life easier. While there isn't really a perfect solution to this problem, we've figured out a method that works well for us. First we're going to take a look at syncing your iTunes library with Dropbox, and then we'll cover your options for making this syncing experience as painless, easy, and effective as possible.

Syncing Your iTunes Library with Dropbox
Syncing is the easy part, although it will involve a lot of waiting as Dropbox uploads all your music, videos, and anything else you keep in your iTunes folder. Although you shouldn't have any issues, we recommend making a backup of your iTunes library with an external hard drive so you can easily recover should something go awry. Better safe than sorry!

Step One: Move Your iTunes Library
Find your iTunes Library folder and move it to your Dropbox. So long as it's in your Dropbox, you can put it wherever you want. The important thing is that it is in the exact same place on all your machines, otherwise iTunes can get confused So long as your Dropbox location doesn't vary from machine to machine, you should be just fine.

Step Two: Wait
Even if you have a ridiculously fast connection to the internet, syncing gigabytes of files is going to take some time. You can always pause your Dropbox sync should you need your connection, but your best bet is letting this happen overnight and on the weekend so you can avoid any trouble associated with long uploads.

Step Three: Set the New Location of Your iTunes Libraries on All Your Machines

Congratulations! You've now survived what may go down in history as the longest upload of your life. With that out of the way, you need to tell every copy of iTunes—on every one of your machines—where to look for its library. The easiest way to ensure you don't run into any issues is launch iTunes and immediately hold down the alt/option key. Doing this will prompt iTunes to ask you to choose your iTunes library. Do this and select the newly synced iTunes library inside of your Dropbox. Be careful to make sure you select the exact same location on all machines or you can expect trouble. This should be easy enough to do, but it never hurts to double check as your music library will get very disorganized if these locations are not exact.

Step Four: Test It Out
Because we have yet to solve the problem of keeping only one copy of iTunes running at the same time, when you perform your tests you need to make sure you manually close iTunes before opening it on another machine. That said, try copying some new songs to iTunes on one computer. When you're done, quit iTunes and open it up on another machine. If those songs are already there—as they should be (if you have LAN sync enabled)—smile, because it worked!

Ensuring Only One Copy of iTunes is Open on All Your Machines
The big challenge posed by this syncing process is keeping iTunes open on only one machine at a time, no matter where you are. The process isn't hard, but it does involve a little work. It also differs between operating systems, so here are instructions for both Windows and Mac OS X.

On a Windows PC...
Solving this problem is very easy on Windows. All you need is AutoHotkey and a text file. If you'd

Step One: Download and Install AutoHotkey
If you don't have AutoHotkey already installed, you can download it here (you want AutoHotkey_L). Install it and open up the default script in notepad (or whatever text editor you prefer).

Step Two: Add and Edit the Following Commands to Your AutoHotkey Script
Copy and paste the following code into your AutoHotkey script:

; Check the text file to see which computer most recently launched iTunes.
; If it is not the same as the computer running this script, iTunes will quit.
SetTimer, Alert1, 5000 ; Timer to check every 5 seconds

FileRead, FileReadVar, C:\test.txt
if (FileReadVar != A_ComputerName)
IfWinExist, ahk_class iTunes
Process, Close, iTunes.exe

; Launch iTunes and save a file with the network name of the computer running this script.
; This will let other computers running this script know that they should quit iTunes.
Run iTunes.exe
FileDelete, C:\test.txt
FileAppend, %A_ComputerName%, C:\test.txt

Before you save and reload your script, you need to make a couple of changes. First, you'll notice there's a path to a file called test.txt. Currently it's located on the root of your C:\ drive, but you want this file to be somewhere inside of your Dropbox folder. You can name the file anything you want and put it anywhere in your Dropbox, but just make sure whatever name and location you choose is specified consistently in the AutoHotkey script.

The second change is not necessary. Currently the script requires you to open iTunes using Control+Windows+T (written as ^#t in the script). You're welcome to change this command to anything you'd like. Whatever you use, you need to use this command to open iTunes from now on because in addition to opening iTunes, AutoHotkey will also create the text file. In the text file it included a copy of your computer's network name. That text file will sync in your Dropbox to all your machines. Every five seconds, the AutoHotkey script will read that file to check the network name of the most recent computer to launch iTunes. If the machine running the script finds that the name in the text file is the same as its own network name, it'll allow iTunes to continue running. If it doesn't match, it will quit iTunes because it will now know that another machine has more recently launched iTunes. This will prevent iTunes from running on two machines at the same time.

On a Mac...
If you're on a Mac, this is really simple with a free utility called Do Something When and a little bit of AppleScript.

Step One: Enable Remote Apple Events
First things first, you need to enable Remote Apple Events on all of your machines. You can do this by going into System Preferences —> Sharing and checking the box next to Remote Apple Events. By default this will enable the option for all users, but you can opt to enable it for only your user.

You need to do this for all of your … [more]
How_To  Autohotkey  dropbox  Feature  iTunes  Mac_OS_X  Music  Sync  Syncing  Top  Windows  from google
december 2010 by lancejanders
The Best Remote Apps for Your iPhone [Ios]
iPhones are versatile devices, but they resemble a familiar shape: the remote control. Being the pocket computers that they are, iPhones embrace this form with some of the most amazing remotes you could hope for. Here are our top picks.

For the flip side of the mobile OS coin, check out The Best Remote Apps for Your Android.

Apple's free remote application, simply and aptly named Remote, is pretty much everything you'd want in an iTunes remote. It can search, browse, and control any of your iTunes music libraries from your iPhone just as if you were playing the music locally. The same goes for your Apple TV. You can even bring up a keyboard to type things in to avoid the annoyance of selecting each individually with the Apple TV's infrared remote. Regardless of how you use it, since every iPhone user is also (to some extent) and iTunes user, it's a must-have. It's also 100% free.

Remote | iTunes App Store

HippoRemote comes in three different versions, but even on the low (and free) end, it's pretty much the best iPhone wireless trackpad and keyboard you could want. It connects over VNC, so if you have VNC already set up there's nothing to do other than select a computer on your network and enter its VNC password. From there you can use the trackpad and keyboard just like it was a real, physical one. What's pretty incredible is HippoRemote's ability to even support multitouch gestures. I'm pretty much lost without two-finger scrolling at this point, so being able to do that on a virtual trackpad is just beautiful. If you want more than basic features (and no ads), you can upgrade to the basic version for $2 or the pro version for $5. Alternatively, if you'd rather not use VNC to connect and prefer a free piece of server software, give Mobile Mouse Free a try instead.

HippoRemote Lite, Basic, and Pro | iTunes App Store

If the more complex remotes are a bit too much for you and want something a bit simple, like, say, the standard Apple remote, Rowmote is what you're looking for. Syncing up with a free piece of Mac-only server software you install on the Mac you want to control, Rowmote is basically an exact replacement for an Apple remote you'd otherwise have to buy. It'll set you back a dollar, but if you were planning on buying an actual Apple remote you'd be paying a whole lot more. Rowmote also offers a $5 pro version which ads a few features, such as a virtual keyboard and multi-touch trackpad. While you might find that a combination of other free applications handle this same functionality separately at no cost, Rowmote Pro rolls it all into one.

Rowmote and Rowmote Pro | iTunes App Store

If you're an XBMC devotee and an iPhone user, you've probably already downloaded this app. XBMC Remote is a fantastic remote for any XBMC configuration you may have, whether you're running XBMC Live on a nettop or just as an application. While it can work just like a physical media center remote (as depicted), you can also browse and search through your media shares and choose what you want. While it's great when your iPhone can mimic a standard remote control, it's pretty awesome to just click the name of what you want to watch and have it show up directly on your TV. XBMC Remote will set you back $3, but it's a $3 well spent.

XBMC Remote | iTunes App Store

When you really want to control remotely, nothing gives you more control than VNC. There are a ton of VNC apps for the iPhone, however, and most of them are terribly expensive. Remoter, however, is currently on sale for $1 and is a pretty feature rich VNC app. While the vast number of buttons were a little intimating at first, their functionality is pretty clear and they're small enough to stay out of your way. Setting things up is as simple as entering your VNC information and pressing connect. Remoter gives you just about every option you'd need in a VNC client and, in testing, seemed perfectly stable (which is something I can't say about the other cheap VNC apps I've tried). Nonetheless, if the $1 sale price is a bit too steep for your tastes, you can always enjoy the average but free Mocha VNC Lite.

Remoter | iTunes App Store

Honorable Mentions
There are a lot of really great remote apps, but some just didn't quite make the cut. Here are a few more worth mentioning that didn't quite make the short list.

Comcast XFINITY TV (Free) - If you're a Comcast XFINITY customer and have a supported set top box, you can control it along with its DVR functionality directly from your iPhone. It has some neat additional features as well, such as browsing TV listings.
SlingPlayer Mobile ($30) - Both pricey (for an app) and not exactly a remote, SlingPlayer Mobile is still worth an honorable mention. It lets you control your SlingPlayer remotely and watch your TV right from your iPhone.
DVR Remote ($3) - DVD Remote is capable of controlling TiVo Series 3 and TiVo Premier DVRs. It's a pretty straightforward TiVO remote for your iPhone, but has some added bonus features like themes.

What are your favorite remote apps for iPhone? Let's hear 'em in the comments.
ios  Downloads  Feature  ipad  iPhone  ipod_touch  Mobile_app_pack  Remotes  Top  Vnc  from google
december 2010 by lancejanders
Know Your Rights as a Renter When Things Go Wrong [Law]
Renting can be a trial of your ability to handle unexpected surprises—Intermittent heat, massively delayed repairs, and unannounced rent increases, among others. Keep your home and your mind steady by knowing what rights you have under state or local law.
Photo by quinn.anya.

Tenants in the New York, for example, can read a pamphlet on preparing for a landlord-tenant trial to make sure their claims of faulty heat or breach of contract don't go unheeded. Connecticut tenants finding it difficult to gain back their security deposits can read up on how deposits must be kept. Some of the links seem to have died over time, like those in and around Texas, but many provide good, important resources for those feeling they're not getting their money's worth from their pad.

Landlord Tenant Law ~ State by State Rights of Landlords and Tenants [via The Consumerist]
Law  Apartments  Fb  Legal  Rent  Renting  Top  from google
december 2010 by lancejanders
Why You Should Use Google Apps with a Personal Domain Instead of Your Gmail Account [Video]
When it launched, millions of us grabbed free Gmail addresses, and associated Calendar, Docs, Voice, and other apps followed. But personal domains are cheap, and claiming an address to use with Google Apps is easier than ever. Here's why you should.
Future-Proof Email Address that You Control
It's scary, but it's true: There's a possibility that Gmail might not always be the coolest email service in the world. For all we know of the future, there might be two hackers in a garage right now re-inventing the inbox. There might be some desktop software that merges the convenience of the cloud with killer OS integration. Or you might just decide some day that, heck, Yahoo has more of what you need, or that Google's reach across your data is too deep.

You should have an email address that's as portable as your cellphone number—meaning you can switch email providers without losing your current address. With your default address, that's not really an option. With your personal domain, it is.

Sure, if you're using a Gmail address, you can technically access your account from other clients through IMAP, auto-forward email, and otherwise stream your messages out. But if you ever decide on a new line of work, a different kind of username (sayonara,, or a new email service, you're better off having your own domain. Your options for forwarding and import are more robust when you control your own domain, and you never have to send one of those click-and-pray "Hey everyone I've ever emailed throughout time—my address has changed!" messages.

With Google Apps installed on your own domain, your data is still running through Google's own servers. But Google's pretty good about portability, and if it starts looking like they won't be down the road, you've got side door where you can step on out and maintain your identity elsewhere. The great part about using your own domain is that you're not tied to any one email service provider. You can pick up and move your domain to another email provider any time you want.

Professional Polish, Family Friendly
Maybe your Gmail address is a bit better than Gmail, too, holds a more proper imprimatur than AOL, Hotmail, or other eyebrow-raising domains. It still holds true that having an email account on your own server, with a name you can change at any time, makes good sense.

If you do freelance work on the side, it's easy to create another account (, one that pipes into your main personal account ( If you decide to help organize a fundraiser, it's a few minutes to create another account for that (, one that doesn't give away your personal address to folks you'll only message once or twice. When your kids get to the age where they get web-savvy, you can set them up with an email address ( and that you have ultimate control over. And for relatives with occasional tech troubles, you can throw them a lifeline and set them up on your server, too.

It's Not That Painful to Switch

The hardest part about getting your own domain name these days is finding a URL that isn't taken—and that's only hard if someone has already registered your exact name. Get a little creative, use a reliable but cheap name registrar, buy a little hosted space and set up the free Google Apps on that domain—some hosts do that automatically for you. And nearly every mobile platform where Google offers some kind of syncing, an Apps address works just fine.

Note: For a full walkthrough of switching from a Gmail account to Google Apps, read Whitson's detailed take on migrating your entire Google account to a new one.

When you've got a domain name and space, you'll find that nearly all of Google's services are available to Apps users. Not every single app, as commenter mawcs points out, but if you can live without History, Buzz, Google Storage, Health, Powermeter, and Profiles, or at least live without for the time being, you're on your way. Even if you have other Google-assisted domains to log into or control, there is an early version of multi-account sign-in available that covers the Apps basics.

In other words, it's possible to live out the entire Google experience—Mail, Calendars, Sync, Docs, even Voice—with your own domain name, rather than Google's Gmail.

That's just one editor's thoughts on Gmail, email, and data portability—and after writing it, he's pretty set on practicing what he's preaching himself. Share your own thoughts and decisions on migrating from Gmail to Apps—or why you won't—in the comments.
Email  Data  data_portability  Domain_Names  Google_Apps  Opinion  Privacy  Rants  Server  Top  from google
december 2010 by lancejanders
Upgrade Your Car This Weekend [Weekendhacker]
The weekend's upon us and we've got some DIY projects to keep you busy. This weekend we're taking it to the road with some DIY car upgrades.

Install a Full Power Panel in Your Car
When I was a kid all I ever wanted was an outlet in the car so I could charge my Gameboy, laptop, iPod, or whatever I was obsessed with at the moment. (Not kidding.) Mom and Dad never made that dream come true, and I just believed it would never happen. Maybe some day when the car I drive isn't a leased vehicle I'll be able install this full power panel in my car. Until then, this DIY is for you.

Install a Full Power Panel in Your Car

Add a USB Power Outlet to Your Car
Maybe all the power you need comes in the form of USB ports. And shouldn't all cars have USB ports, really? If you're not lucky enough to drive a fancy, USB port-addled vehicle you can install some of your own.

Add a USB Power Outlet to Your Car

Turn a Nike+ Sensor into a Keyless Car Entry System
We've all been there: you've just finished the thumb wrestling championship and wound up beaten by a rising new comer. Your thumbs are tired. They've had the fight of their lives. You couldn't possibly ask them to do so much as push the unlock button on your car remote—it's just not fair. Give your poor thumbs a break and build this keyless car entry system out of a Nike+ sensor so you'll never have to press those stupid buttons again.

Turn a Nike+ Sensor into a Keyless Car Entry System

Turn Your Car's Cup Holder Into a Laptop Stand
Nothing good can come from checking your email while driving, but maybe you have a legitimate use for a laptop in your car. If you're lacking a GPS device, or at least something with cellular data access, you can always keep handy driving instructions on your laptop. While this might be a better job for a quick print-out, if you've got a use for a laptop stand in your car you can learn how to make one here.

Turn Your Car's Cup Holder Into a Laptop Stand

Put Together a Winter Car Emergency Kit
It's Winter now and even in sunny Los Angeles it's a little bit chilly. For those of you braving a snow storm, it's best to be prepared for the worst. Here's a little guide on getting together a Winter-specific emergency kit for your car for when the cold weather gets the best of your vehicle.

Put Together a Winter Car Emergency Kit

Turn a To-Go Cup into a Tissue Dispenser for Your Car's Cupholder
We may be in the holiday season, but it's also a wonderful time to get sick. If you're coughing, sneezing, or have any unpleasant fluids exiting your body at a moment's notice you might find it helpful to have tissues right by your side. This cupholder-based tissue holder is really handy, cheap to make, and easy to refill. You'll still be sneezing, but at least it won't be all over your car.

MacGyver Tip: Turn a to-go cup into a tissue dispenser

For more car hacks, check out our Top 10 DIY Car Hacks. Got any great DIY car upgrades of your own? Let's hear 'em in the comments!
Weekendhacker  Automobiles  Car  Car_Hacks  Cars  DIY  DIY_Creations  Driving  Safety  Top  Winterize  from google
december 2010 by lancejanders
Build or Buy: How to Get the Best Boxee Box for Your Money [DIY]
The Boxee Box and other set-top boxes like it promise to pipe the internet to your HDTV with little fuss, for about $200. But Boxee itself is still a free download. Here's why a DIY Box could still be your best bet.
I received a Boxee review unit to play around with, and I have to say, I really like it. Quite a bit more than our colleagues at Gizmodo, for sure, because I enjoy a lot of the non-mainstream web content, dig the remote and the box's look, and absolutely adore the "Friends" menu that lines up all the videos my Twitter and Facebook contacts linked for easy watching. In other words, I could totally see the Boxee Box as a solution for my household's non-cable TV needs—especially once it receives much-needed Hulu Plus and Netflix capabilities.

So why would anyone want to build their own Boxee Box, if Boxee's already put together the hardware they know can pump out 1080p video and be controlled from the couch? There are a lot of good reasons:

The Pitch for DIY

I have an ASRock ION 330 unit hooked up to my TV. It's gone through two different phases—as a Linux-powered DIY Boxee unit, then a Windows-based, non-geek-friendly media center. When Boxee releases the 1.0 software that powers its Boxee Box for free download, I'll likely install that and make it the main interface.

You can find cheaper devices to run Boxee or other media center apps—Adam's Acer Aspire Revo was about $200 when he bought it, and is one of Boxee's own hardware recommendations. And if you've got an older desktop or laptop you don't mind keeping near the TV, that's an even cheaper solution, providing the plugs are right. Beyond cost, there are a few compelling reasons to DIY your Boxee experience:

You Always Have a Path to Netflix and Hulu
At the moment, the two big ways to get mainstream television and movies streaming to your system are Hulu and Netflix. Many devices, including set-top boxes like the Roku series, already support Netflix, and are beginning to adapt for Hulu Plus, the $8/month subscription service that gives viewers access to full seasons of popular shows.

Netflix and Hulu Plus are coming to the official Boxee Box in the near future, through an update, but they're not currently supported. In the meantime, Netflix works on nearly any Windows or Mac browser, and Hulu works on any browser that supports Flash, along with offering a Hulu Desktop player that provides a fairly good lean-back viewing experience.

Netflix plays just fine on Boxee for Windows and Mac, while Hulu is hit or miss on all platforms. Then again, if you don't mind keeping a cheap USB mouse attached to your custom-built HTPC, or running a quick VNC job, it's not too hard to bring Boxee down and pull Hulu Desktop up. It's not ideal, but it works.

Local Storage and Automated Downloading

Boxee is built on XBMC and other open-source software, and it excels at playing back pretty much any video file you can find anywhere. That's true for both the Boxee Box and your own Boxee unit.

But how do you get your files into Boxee? The pre-built Box has no accessible internal storage, but it can can access shared files on your home network, on dedicated network-attached storage (NAS), or on any USB drives you connect or SD cards you slide into its side. None of this is outside the reach of your average Lifehacker reader, and if you've already got a good media storage hub set up, you may only need a thin client like the Boxee Box to play it back for you on a big screen.

For many Boxee admirers, though, the idea of a Boxee "box" is that it's just that—one object that does all the work. When you sit down to watch shows, movies, or internet content, you don't have to wonder whether your media servier is up, or if the laptop you stashed that one particular file on is powered on. Using your own device with a hard drive and full OS installed, you can set up a pretty convenient system, though—like, say, the one I've got going:

A "Magic Dropbox Folder": I'm working on different computers and smartphones all the time, but I always have Dropbox handy—and Dropbox is running on my own unit. Whenever I drop a .torrent (BitTorrent) or .nzb (Usenet) file into the Dropbox folder labeled "HTPC," either uTorrent or SABnzbd see them and start downloading immediately, or at least as soon as the next time I turn the device on.
VNC access: It's nerdy, sure, but with my HTPC connected by ethernet to my home's wireless router, I can always see what's on the screen, and fix issues, using a VNC client from any computer in the house (or even outside the house, using a DynDNS setup.
Amazon Video Integration: Amazon Video on Demand is too often looked over when it comes to television and movie rental and purchase. Just check the chart: its offerings are vast, and it's often cheaper than iTunes or any other competition. With a custom-built Boxee setup, it's pretty easy to set up your device as one of your authorized downloading devices, and have Boxee recognize and index the video files that roll in.

Upgrades and Replacements
It almost goes without saying, but when you buy a small computer and outfit it yourself with a media center, you're in charge of determining whether there's enough hard drive space, physical memory, processing power, and what kind of optical discs it accepts (or doesn't). Busted components can be replaced, upgrades don't require a whole new system purchase, and you decide from the start what the box's capabilities are.

Additional Points

Extra services: What can you do with a computer connected by LAN cable to your router? Plenty. Upgrade the hard drive and make it a home server. Make it your personal proxy server for getting around web restrictions. Serve web pages, software, or anything else you'd like from behind your cable router.
Your smartphone is the best remote: Sure, the Boxee Box has a nice remote with a semi-full QWERTY keyboard built in, but so does your Android, iPhone, or iPod touch—and you're probably a lot faster and better at typing in your searches with it.

The Pitch for the Boxee Box

As stated up top, I'm a fan of the Boxee Box—I'm just living a dual-HTPC existence (for the moment). If I'd never thought to buy my own box, here's why I'd recommend sticking with the pre-assembled Boxee Box:

Form Factor and Quiet, Cool Design
Not everybody loves the look of the Boxee Box, Gizmodo included. It's intentionally different than your standard black box—it doesn't sit square, and its face is so blank as to be mysterious when it's off. Some people may dig that, while others, especially those with lots of other TV-connected hardware, will simply wish they could stack it.

Either way, the Box has been designed to use a minimum of space, to run quietly, and to draw only as much power as it needs to show your stuff. It's also not likely to overheat unless something goes haywire in the software, and even then, only until a forced reboot. Your own HTPC might be smaller, and maybe even stack-able, but there's a good chance it's louder, less sleek, and occasionally involves grunt-inducing cable-switching.

Newer Software, Sooner

The team at Boxee has been very diligent and responsive to its users all along, and they make the bold effort to push out each major release to Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux users, simultaneously. But the Boxee Box is their baby. It's hardware they know all about, running the most up-to-date version of their screen-friendly software. So it's not a surprise that it was the first place Boxee's 1.0 version landed, and already has a bunch of bug fixes and new features.

Will DIY Boxee users get that 1.0 goodness sometime soon? Most likely. But that's not to say that certain features might start off as Boxee-Box-only at first, and that the Box's hardware won't get the most thorough review into the future. That's just how it is. If you'd like more certainty in your media center purchase, maybe the Box is the way to go.

For $200, you'll find it hard to assemble a device with the same kind of specs as the Boxee Box. D-Link is making thousands of the same unit for a single purpose, so they can buy components at a bulk rate. You'll pay a good bit more for the components in an HTPC, and if it comes with Windows pre-installed, you'll have to pay a nominal amount for that, too. Finding a Boxee/Windows-friendly remote control is another cost, as is the time you'll spend doing your initial setup and installation of Windows, Boxee, and, most likely, additional drivers needed to get everything in place and working.

Additional Points

It's really a nice remote: Boxee did something right with their remote, at least to our eyes. It's Apple-like in its simplicity on the main side, but a small keyboard is available for typing in your searches and Netflix demands when you want it. It also looks made for the Box, unlike most of the Windows Media Center remotes out there.
SD card convenience: At first, one wonders why Boxee made the SD card slot so prominent on the, er, front of the device. But for quickly showing off photos, digital camcorder videos, and quickly snatching a file from a laptop, SD cards are small and easy to shuttle around.

Making the Call
If I had to pick one or the other, I'd look around to see if I could find a good, powerful HTPC capable of 1080p playback, and buy it, whether or not it had a physical hard drive. I like the convenience of Boxee Box, but I love the extensibility offered by the DIY route.

That's one Lifehacker editor's take, anyways. We welcome yours, and especially invite your links to great HTPC boxes, in the comments.
DIY  Boxee  boxee_box  Feature  Htpc  Hulu  Hulu_plus  Media_Center  NetFlix  Remote  Streaming_Television  Streaming_Video  Television  Top  TV  from google
november 2010 by lancejanders
The AirPlay-Alternative Guide to Streaming Your Media [Streaming Media]
AirPlay is Apple's great new media-streaming technology, but unless you've purchased a handful of Apple devices, you're not welcome to the party. Here are the best alternatives to AirPlay that offer even more options for streaming your media.
What Is AirPlay and Why Do We Need Alternatives?
AirPlay is Apple's new media streaming technology. It's an upgrade to AirTunes, which let you stream music from your computer or iOS device to your Airport Express or Apple TV. AirPlay retains those abilities, but also allows you to push video and photos to your Apple TV as well. While our testing found it worked very well, and it's definitely a neat feature, there are a handful of significant drawbacks to AirPlay.

For starters, you can only stream media from iOS devices and Mac or PC computers with iTunes to an Apple TV (or an AirPort express, if you're dealing with just audio). This means that only certain devices can send media and other devices can only receive media. For example, you cannot stream video from an Apple TV to an iOS device, an iOS device to a computer, or a computer to an iOS device. Additionally, AirPlay streaming is limited to MPEG4 and H.264 videos that are encoded to Apple's specifications. You can't stream, for example, an AVI or MKV file even if your Apple device can handle the media without issue. Finally, AirPlay only works with Apple devices. This may change in the future, as AirPlay can be implemented by third parties, but currently it's Apple-only. While AirPlay is definitely cool and has its uses, these are pretty significant drawbacks for many people. As a result, we wanted to take a look at the best alternatives you have to streaming your media. You can check out your top options below or just skip to our choice setup.

Your Options
One of the best ways to stream media to your television is with a Home Theater PC (HTPC) and a media server. If you want complete control over practically everything, this is the way to go. In many cases you can control your HTPC with your smartphone or tablet and, in some cases, even stream media to your portable devices as well. File format support is virtually endless and everything will work just as you set it up. With a HTPC and media server you can do virtually everything you want, but it comes with the drawbacks of a (sometimes) higher price tag and a bit more work (at least in setting it up) than other solutions.

The Home Theater PC (HTPC)
A HTPC is pretty much a computer that's connected to your television. You can control it with a wireless keyboard and mouse/trackpad, your laptop via VNC/RDP or Syngergy, or with an actual HTPC remote control (and USB infrared receiver, if necessary). Chances are your HTPC already comes with a media center application (e.g. Windows Media Center on Windows and Front Row on Mac), but several excellent free alternatives that might (and probably will) serve you better:

XBMC - XBMC is a Lifehacker favorite, especially when you can build an amazing, quiet, standalone XBMC HTPC for about $200. If you don't want a standalone machine, you can run XBMC on an existing Windows, Mac, or Linux computer as its own application. If you have multiple XBMC machines, you can even synchronize them between every room in your home. XBMC can be a little intimidating the very first time you use it, but once you get started there's no going back.
Plex - Plex is very similar to XBMC because it's based on XBMC. The main catch? It only runs on Macs. If you're a Mac user, however, you get a bunch of advantages over XBMC in the form of web video support and iOS streaming (more on this later).
Boxee - Of course, you can now buy a Boxee box, but you can also make one with an existing computer. Boxee attempts to give you access to TV shows, movies, music, and photos from various sources (e.g. your media server, Netflix, Amazon VOD, Vimeo, YouTube, etc.). If you want Netflix, Hulu, and other web content available right from your media center software it should be an easy decision to go with Boxee.

For more help in choosing the right media center software for your HTPC, check out Which Media Center Is Right for You: Boxee, XBMC, and Windows Media Center Compared.

The Media Server
Your media server will house all your media files so they can be streamed wherever you like and you basically have two options: get a network attached storage (NAS) device or use another computer (with lots of storage) as your server.

There are a number of advantages to choosing a NAS. To name a few, NAS devices generally use significantly less power than the average computer, aren't much larger than the disks you put in them, should operate without making hardly a sound at all, and take little work to set up. A decent NAS will generally run you about $200 plus the cost of disks you'll put in it. I've used a few different kinds of NAS devices and they all have worked reasonably well. If you decide to buy a NAS, make sure it has the number of drive bays you want (two and four are the most common), has RAID support (if you want it), utilizes the network protocols you need (CIFS/SMB, NFS, SSH, and AFP should work well for all), and is compatible with all the types of computers you have on your network. If you plan to stream to devices other than your HTPCs, you'll want to make sure your NAS is Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) and Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) certified to ensure broader compatibility.

If you have an old computer that's reasonably fast and has plenty of hard disk space (which can, of course, be added internally or externally), or there's a good and cheap one you can buy, you can use it as your server instead of a NAS device. While an actual computer is generally going to be larger, more power-hungry, and in many cases overkill, it does come with some distinct advantages. While many newer NAS devices can download from BitTorrent and Usenet, you gain much more control over the process if you let your server do it. This speaks to the main advantage of using a computer: the control you have to install anything you want. While a NAS comes with a set of features that probably won't change much (if at all) over its lifetime, an actual computer can adapt to your needs pretty easily. This is particularly useful for the mobile streaming options we'll get into next.

For more storage solutions, check out Lifehacker Readers' Best Solutions for Massive, Multi-Terabyte Storage.

Streaming Media To and From Mobile Devices
One of the major advantages of AirPlay is bringing your mobile devices into the picture. While you can jailbreak your iOS devices to use them as AirPlay speakers, streaming any visual media to your iOS devices-using AirPlay-isn't possible at this time. Fortunately, you have options. If you are using an iOS device you have many options. If you've chosen Plex as you're media center software, you can purchase the Plex iOS app and set up Plex streaming for your iOS device. The advantage, here, is that your media files can be in multiple locations. If you're using a computer as your media server, you can make use of Air Video or StreamToMe to push video to your iOS devices. Although we found it didn't work perfectly, LIBOX is another media server application that'll stream to practically any device. If you're not using an iOS device and want to pull video from your media server, LIBOX is a decent choice. You may also want to check out TVersity, which also supports a wide variety of platforms but requires a bit of setup to work with Android. Finally, Andromote is a great Android UPnP client for local Wi-Fi media streaming.

When it comes to streaming media from your phone to a television, you're currently stuck with AirPlay if you're running iOS. If you're an Android user, however, you have a few more options in the form of DLNA media server apps. TwonkyServer Mobile is a (currently) free option that serves your phone's media up to your DLNA-certified device. Compatibility isn't always assured, so give DLNA MediaServer a shot if you need an alternative.

Gaming Platforms and DLNA-Certified Set Top Boxes
Whether your media is coming from a media server or any number of computers around your house, your Xbox 360, PS3, and even your Wii can handle the stream—with a little work, of course.

TVersity is your best bet for streaming to DLNA-compliant devices like your gaming console of choice. TVersity can also handle streaming media to practically any other device, such as iPhones, PSPs, the Blackberry Curve, and more. Though free, a Pro version ($40) is available and adds a bunch of other options, such as streaming Hulu and other "premium web content." It's a versatile way to handle any streaming to any DLNA-compliant devices.

If you'd like to stick with an entirely free product, however, PS3 Media Server will handle your transcoding and streaming needs for PS3, while Orb can handle not only the PS3 but the Xbox 360 and Wii as well (here are instructions for setting up Orb on the Wii).

The nice thing about using DLNA-compliant devices is that you can put together a really inexpensive streaming setup. While a computer as a dedicated server or NAS device is often going to provide an ideal solution, you can also pick up something as simple as a single-disk DLNA-compliant network drive (e.g. Lacie's Network Space or Wireless Space).

Our Choice
What's your best option? What works best for you will depend on your needs, but for us it's combination of a computer as a media server that streams to one or more HTPCs running XBMC (whether that means as an application or as a standalone device). Using a computer as a media server allows us the option of easily streaming to mobile devices, whether they're iOS or not, and lets us adapt our setup as things change. For example, if you were to decide you don't want to use XBMC in the future, you could adapt your media server to work with something else. But XBMC has a built-in DLNA client, so if you have a DLNA media server app on your Android phone you can stream your phone's media content to your television… [more]
Streaming_Media  Airplay  Apple  Feature  Htpc  ios  ipad  iPhone  ipod_touch  Media_Center  streaming_audio  streaming_music  Streaming_Video  Top  Xbmc  from google
november 2010 by lancejanders
50 Free Apps We're Most Thankful For [Downloads]
As we prepare to give thanks for our delicious Thanksgiving meals (and impending food comas), let's not forget to pay tribute to the wonderful developers who bring us our favorite free apps.

Earlier this week we asked you to share the free apps you're most thankful for, and you came through with thousands of votes for apps covering the desktop, mobile phone, and devices in between. With a little spreadsheet magic and a few choices of our own, we bring you the top 50 free apps we're all most thankful for. Whether you're celebrating the holiday or not, it's a great list of free software that ought to make for some gluttonous downloading. The popular apps are some of the more obvious, however, so be sure to look further down the list for new free software you may not yet know about. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

The 50 Free Apps We're Most Thankful For

See also: Dropbox Syncs and Backs Up Files Between Computers Instantaneously, The Cleverest Ways to Use Dropbox That You're Not Using, and Create a Highly Organized, Synchronized Home Folder with Dropbox

VLC (Video Lan Client)
See also: Master Your Digital Media with VLC, Set a Video as Your Wallpaper with VLC, and VLC 1.0 Records Video from DVDs

Google Chrome
See also: The Power User's Guide to Google Chrome, 2009 Edition, Create Your Own Google Chrome Themes, How and Why Chrome Is Overtaking Firefox Among Power Users, and Top 10 Must-Have Browser Extensions

See also: Power User's Guide to Firefox 3, Top 10 Firefox 3.5 Features, and Top 10 Must-Have Browser Extensions

See also: Opera 11 Beta Introduces Tab Stacking for Customized Grouping, Opera 11 Alpha Brings Chrome-Like Extensions to the Speedy Browser, and Top 10 Must-Have Browser Extensions

Google Apps
See also: Trick Out Google Apps for Your Domain, Seven Easy Ways to Integrate Your Google AppsCollaborate with Co-Workers Using Google Apps Team Edition, A First Look at Google Voice,Top 10 Clever Google Voice Tricks, and Turn Gmail Into Your Ultimate GTD Inbox

Simplenote and Notational Velocity
See also: The Holy Grail of Ubiquitous Plain-Text Capture, Simplenote Offers Synchronized Notes on iPhones-And Now It's Free, and mNote Syncs Your Simplenote Notes with Android Phones

See also: CCleaner 2.0 Decrapifies Your PC, Run CCleaner on a Schedule to Keep Your PC Crap-Free, and CCleaner Enhancer Makes CCleaner Even Better, Now Cleans 270 New Apps

See also: uTorrent 3.0 Alpha Adds Web Interface Support for iPad, Android and How to Boost Your BitTorrent Speed and Privacy

See also: Manage Your BitTorrent Downloads with Transmission and Transmission 2.0 Adds a Whole Lot of Stability to the Popular BitTorrent Client

See also: How to Get Started with Usenet in Three Simple Steps

Open Office
See also: A First Look at 3.0, 3.2 Improves Startup Times, Office 2007 Compatibility, and 3.1's Usability Tweaks

See also: our full Skype coverage

See also: Expand Your Brain with Evernote and Clever Uses for Evernote

See also: Is GIMP better than Photoshop?, Tweak GIMP to be More Like Photoshop, and Cartoonify Photos with the GIMP

See also: Best Password Manager: KeePass and Eight Best KeePass Plug-Ins to Master Your Passwords

See also: The Intermediate Guide to Mastering Passwords with LastPas

See also: Hive Five Winner for Best File Compression Tool: 7-Zip

See also: Download of the Day: ImgBurn (Windows), Hive Five Winner for Best CD and DVD Burning Tool: ImgBurn, and Turn Your PC into a DVD Ripping Monster

Microsoft Security Essentials
See also: Microsoft Security Essentials Ranks as Best-Performing Free Antivirus and Stop Paying for Windows Security; Microsoft's Security Tools Are Good Enough

See also: Automate Windows with AutoHotkey, Turn Any Action into a Keyboard Shortcut, and The Best Time-Saving AutoHotkey Tricks You Should Be Using

See also: Best Music Discovery Service: Pandora, Discover new music with Pandora, and How to access Pandora from outside the U.S.

See also: Hive Five Winner for Best FTP Client: FileZilla, FTP File Transfer Across Platforms with Filezilla 3.0, and Build a Home FTP Server with FileZilla

See also: Best File Encryption Tool: TrueCrypt and Geek to Live: Encrypt your data

See also: Best DVD-Ripping Tool: Handbrake, Rip DVDs to Friendlier Formats with HandBrake, and Calculate the Perfect Handbrake Video Encoding Settings for Your Device

See also: The Beginner's Guide to Creating Virtual Machines with VirtualBox and How to Run Mac OS X in VirtualBox on Windows

See also: Digitize and Clean Your Analog Audio Collection with Audacity, Learn how to use Audacity for podcasting, and Remove Vocals from MP3s with Audacity

See also: Download of the Day: Paint.NET 3 (Windows), Pinta Brings Paint.NET's Just-Enough Image Editing to Every Computer, and Basic image editing with Paint.NET

See also: Geek to Live: iTunes power tips, Install iTunes Without the Extra Bloat, The 23 Best iTunes Add-ons, and our full iTunes coverage

See also: our full Thunderbird coverage and Backing up Gmail with Thunderbird

See also: Hack Attack: Roll your own killer audio player with foobar2000 and Screenshot Tour: The beautiful and varied world of foobar2000

See also: Chat Across IM Platforms with Pidgin 2.4, Ten Must-Have Plug-ins to Power Up Pidgin, and Use Dropbox to Sync Your Pidgin Profile Across Multiple PCs

See also: our full Adium coverage

See also: Avast Free Antivirus 5.0 Adds Behavior Monitor, Heuristics Engine, and Improved Performance and Free anti-virus roundup

See also: Download of the Day: TeamViewer (Windows) and TeamViewer Arrives on Android for Small-Screen Remote Control and Tech Support

See also: Best Twitter Client: TweetDeck, TweetDeck Offers Features Twitter Lacks, and Use Evernote with TweetDeck for Better Twitter Memory

See also: Integrate Everything Search Tool and Launchy, Take Launchy beyond application launching, and Screenshot Tour: Tweaking Launchy

See also: Hack Attack: A beginner's guide to Quicksilver and Top 10 Quicksilver Plug-ins

See also: Battle of the Bookmark-and-Read-Later Apps: Instapaper vs. Read It Later

See also: Battle of the Bookmark-and-Read-Later Apps: Instapaper vs. Read It Later

See also: Build a Silent, Standalone XBMC Media Center On the Cheap, Turbo Charge Your New XBMC Installation, Transform Your Classic Xbox into a Killer Media Center, and Turn Your XBMC Media Center into a Video Game Console

See also: Put PuTTY in the Tray with PuTTY Tray, Add Tabs to PuTTY with PuTTY Connection Manager, and KiTTY Adds Session Saving, Portability, and More to PuTTY

See also: FTP for Free with Cyberduck and Cyberduck FTP Client Updates with Google Docs Support, New S3 Features

See also: Perian Makes Nearly Every Video Playable in QuickTime

See also: Run Your Personal Wikipedia from a USB Stick

Windows Live Essentials
See also: First Look at Windows Live Essentials Beta's New Social Features and Lifehacker Faceoff: iLife '11 vs. Live Essentials 2011

See also: Manage your music with Winamp and Control Winamp Remotely from Any Browser

See also: Speed up file copying with TeraCopy and Hive Five Winner for Best Alternative File Copier: TeraCopy

See also: Tips for Using Eclipse Effectively

See also: MediaMonkey 3.2 Syncs with More Devices, Adds Auto Folder Watching

And that's the list! Items on this year's list garnered a minimum of ten votes (with a few exceptions), with popular apps pulling in far more. Dropbox took the lead with 137 votes, followed by VLC and 109, and Firefox 97. Happy downloading, and happy Thanksgiving!
Downloads  Feature  Free  Free_Software  Thanksgiving  Top  Webapps  from google
november 2010 by lancejanders
The Most Helpful Ways to Use Google Voice that You're Not Using [Video]
Google Voice is suddenly everywhere—in Gmail, Android devices, and now even on iPhones. Beyond the basic call/text/voicemail services, though, Google Voice can do some pretty incredible things. Here's a look at the more unusual—and unusually helpful—alternate uses.
If you're just getting into Google Voice and all its call-routing, free-SMS-sending, and voicemail-transcribing ways, we'd suggest taking a glance at our tips on easing your transition to Google Voice and these 10 clever Google Voice tricks. Also, if you're signed up for Google Voice, but as a voicemail-only user, take note that not all of these uses may be available to you (but most are).

The Killer Alternate Number
Signing up for the "full" Google Voice service provides you with a new number in your area code of choice. Maybe you don't want to change a number you've had for a while, though, or you just can't bear to switch again. Here are some clever uses for that free Google Voice phone number that don't involve completely changing your number.

Permanent Emergency Contact Number:
Rather than provide your own number, your spouse or parents' numbers, and try to be on top of any changes that occur in perpetuity, set up a Google Voice number and give that out as your emergency number. Hook that number up to your phones and any other emergency contacts' phones, and swap them in and out as your lives progress.

Get a Second Number in Another Area
If you're keeping your standard cellular number, but you'd like to get a number in another area code for logistics or appearances, grabbing a Google Voice number is a free and fairly pain-free way to do it. But what if you already have a Google Voice number and would like a second? Do what reader Phillip did and set that number as a "home" or "work" for the second account (or on both accounts, if you plan to use them equally). Your secondary number won't be able to forward text messages through standard SMS, but you can have them emailed to you instantly. On most smartphones these days, that's as good as SMS.

Trade Pre-Paid/Trac Phones Under One Number
If you're not a heavy phone talker, or you just like the contract-free nature of pay-as-you-go phones, you can at least keep the same incoming number without having to go through a manual switch by hooking those phones into your Google Voice number. Dialing out isn't as convenient, but can be made easier, once you learn your contacts' Voice-specific numbers (detailed by Gina).

Hand Out Your Voice Number, Then Screen It
It's not really a hidden or even obscure feature of Google Voice, but the depth of call screening, filtering, and blocking in the service likely goes unexplored. If you're not dedicated to your Voice number, you can have your contacts keep calling your trusted number. Your Voice number? Give it out to companies or pepole you know will be phone-spamming you, or use it on personal business card (or discrete slips of paper). You can have Voice make each caller say their name and present it for you before taking the call, and set offenders of your free time to always go to a specific voicemail. Truly egregious jerks can even be sent to what sounds like a wrong number. Now, that—that is sweet justice.

The Free Voice-to-Text Transcription Service (for More than Just Voicemail)
Google Voice's voicemail transcribing powers are far from infallible, but it's often good enough to get the gist—especially if you're the one talking, and you know how to speak steady and clearly.

Create a Searchable Personal Dictation Machine
Calling your own voicemail to speak your own ideas is weird. Emailing yourself while driving is deadly. Instead, set up Google Voice to take a call from your own number, transcribe it, and keep it stored in your Voice or Gmail database, or forwarded to any service you use. We turn to Mark Stout's setup and Drew Vogel's idea for inspiration. Vogel sends along his messages to Outlook, while Stout keeps his stashed in Evernote. Mix and modify to fit your own speech-as-text needs.

Blog or Write to Other Services
You can set up Google Voice to blog to a WordPress site when you leave a voicemail, as details. We'd recommend expanding their filter to require an activating word, so that not all of your self-dialed voicemails end up on your site, but it's a great picture overall of how Voice's transcribe-then-email function can interact with any web service that functions through automated email checking.

The Phone Upgrade Tool
By its very nature, Google Voice makes your phones smarter by knowing when to ring them, and ringing them all from one number. But it has a few unofficial ways to save you money and boost your phone's own convenience powers.

The Bill Reducer
Google Voice officially offers free calls through Gmail, but there are other ways you can connect through the service to call for free. We covered one VoIP setup that basically turns Voice into a Skype-like service, and there are solutions for Android phones, too—the How-To Geek's compendium offers an updated how-to on connecting Android to SIPgate. And while Google Voice's official smartphone apps now connect you through individual dialing numbers, you can make what you know will be a long call a freebie by assigning your Google Voice number as one of "your 5" on your cellular plan—just call your own Voice number, then dial out from the menu prompt.

Add Contacts Faces as Speed Dial Icons on an iPhone
There are apps that create custom shortcuts for iPhone screens; some of them require jailbreaking. Using a Google Voice account and a little Web Clip magic to add Google Voice visual speed dialing to an iPhone. It's a little wonky to do over and over, but once you've set up one or two important contacts, you get access to all their numbers, right from your home screen.

Set Recurring or Temporary Quiet Hours on Your Phone
In the Advanced Settings area of Google Voice's Phones menu on the web, you can set the times in which each hooked-up phone will ring. But if you're about to hit crunch mode, or you should otherwise be without rings or buzzes, you can set up a do-not-disturb timer on your account for X minutes, hours, days, or weeks.

The Automatic Voicemail Forwarding Service
If you're in a long-term relationship, you know that sometimes the two members of the team often assume that each person knows everything the other person has heard from friends, relatives, and other contacts. Google Voice itself can only forward all or none of its messages to certain email addresses—but if you forward to a Gmail address, you can then use your Gmail Master filtering skills to have certain messages automatically forwarded to others (i.e. "has the words: 'New voicemail from Dave'"). That way, when the contractor calls and says the appliance delivery is set for Monday at 9 a.m., nobody's left wondering if they'll come home to a refrigerator on the lawn.

The Tool That Turns Gmail Into a Land Line
Adam already covered eight ways to put Google Voice to use in Gmail. The theme of the batch? With Voice calling available from inside Gmail, your regular workstation—desktop, laptop, or other—can serve as a kind of VoIP land line. Switch your calls from your cell to your PC to save on minutes, take a speakerphone or conference call through Gmail, use the pop-up call windows as a form of instant caller ID, and get more control over call recording—just as if the boss had given you one of those fancy phones from the 90s with all the 80+ buttons.

We racked our brains, asked our friends, and dug through the deep archives to find these nifty uses of Google's free phone service. What do you use Google Voice for that's not on the label? What's the cleverest Voice hack you've seen? Tell us about it in the comments, and we'll add it to the post and give you the glory.
Clever_Uses  Android  Cellphones  Clips  Emergency_contact  Feature  Free  Gmail  Google_Voice  iPhone  land_line  Phones  Top  transcription  Voicemail  VoIP  from google
november 2010 by lancejanders
How to Enable and Use Find My iPhone for Free on iPhone 3GS and Other Pre-2010 Devices [How To]
Apple's device tracking, locking, and wiping tool Find My iPhone is available for free with the iOS 4.2. By default it only works on the iPhone 4, fourth generation iPod touch, and iPad. Here's how to get free access from any device.

What Is Find My iPhone?
First, as a refresher, Find My iPhone is a tracking app that runs on your iOS device and tracks its location. If you lose your device, you can log into MobileMe, see the device on a map, and optionally display a message on your device ("Hey, did you find my lost iPhone? Call me at ..."), play a sound (handy if you just left it in the couch cushion), lock the device with a four-digit PIN, or completely wipe your device so no one can access your sensitive data.

It's now available for free on any of the latest generation of iOS devices. If you've got an older device, however, you're not out of luck. As commenters in our announcement post quickly discovered, all you need to get free Find My iPhone access from pre-2010 devices is access to one of the supported devices. From Apple (footnote 3):

You can create a free Find My iPhone account on any iPhone 4, iPad, or iPod touch (4th generation) running iOS 4.2. Once you create an account on a qualifying device, use your Apple ID and password to enable Find My iPhone on your other devices running iOS 4.2.

The TiPb blog confirms. So if you want to get Find My iPhone running on your pre-2010 iOS device, here's how it works:

Download Find My iPhone on a 2010 iOS Device and Register

Launch the App Store and download Find My iPhone.
While it's downloading, jump over to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > and add a MobileMe account. Log into MobileMe using your Apple ID and password, and when it's connected, turn on Find My iPhone.
Now launch the Find My iPhone app, again log in with your Apple ID, and you should be set up.

Repeat Those Steps on Your Pre-2010 iOS Device
Once you've activated Find My iPhone on a newer iOS device, just repeat the steps above on a pre-2010 iOS device and it should work like a charm. I tested the process by turning on Find My iPhone on an iPad, then enabling it on an iPhone 3G.

To verify that everything's working, just point your browser to Find My iPhone and make sure both devices are in your device list.

It Continues to Work Even After You Kill the Connection on the New Device
Since some of you may be using someone else's latest generation iOS device to gain access to Find My iPhone, I then deleted my MobileMe account from the iPad and verified that my iPhone 3G continued to work with Find My iPhone.

So if you are borrowing someone else's iOS device to activate Find My iPhone on your older device, you should be able to safely delete your MobileMe account from their device but continue using Find My iPhone on yours. That means you can always log into MobileMe and the Find My iPhone dashboard, track your phone, display a message or play a sound, lock the phone with a PIN, or remotely wipe it, all for free. Handy.

Update: Reader Casey writes in and notes: "You can only make three MobileMe accounts per device. I tried setting up several people's in my office who have 3GS phones, and it cut me off after the third one. I removed the other MobileMe accounts after enabling their older devices, and the 3Gs continued to work. Even after doing so, it says I maxed out the number of accounts I could create on that phone.
How_To  find_my_iphone  ios_4.2  ipad  iPhone  ipod_touch  Top  from google
november 2010 by lancejanders
How (and Why) to Manage Multiple Music Libraries in Any Media Player [Organization]
Whether you'd rather keep your Christmas music from cluttering up your library for half the year, or you need iPod-friendly tracks alongside your lossless ones, you can make your life easier by splitting your music into two separate libraries. Here's how.
I recently ripped some of my music in lossless format, but since my MP3 player doesn't play the lossless format, and my favorite media programs don't encode music on-the-fly when I sync to my MP3 player, I still needed both high (the lossless) and low (MP3-player friendly) bitrate versions of all those songs. Unfortunately, this creates a lot of duplicates in my library, making it much harder to sift through. So, I separated my music into two "libraries" within the library: one containing the lossless files of those albums, and one with all low bitrate versions.

Of course, separating your music by bitrate isn't the only reason one might want to manage mulitple libraries: maybe you listen to Christmas music for a couple months out of the year but not the other half, or maybe you just find that your enormous classical collection makes your pop library feel cluttered. Whatever the case, it can be hard to have all your music thrown into one hodgepodge of a library, as most programs do by default. If you think you might benefit from splitting things up, here are a few options for keeping your music libraries separated and organized, no matter what platform, program, or portable MP3 player you have. The examples below will use bitrate as the variable, but you can easily tweak any of these methods for your own situation.

Option One: Use Multiple Library Files
Most music players store library data in a file or folder somewhere on your computer, and you can usually work around this file to create two music libraries, choosing which one you use when you launch the program. However, this method is also, in my opinion, the most inconvenient long-term, since you actually end up managing two compeltely separate libraries. Alternatively, you could use separate players for each library—i.e., use iTunes for the library you want to sync to your iPod and MediaMonkey for the library containing lossless files—but that carries with it the same downsides.

To use multiple library files in iTunes, just hold the Shift key (or Option key if you're on a Mac) while launching iTunes. It will give you a dialog box asking you to create or choose a library. If you create a second library, you can easily switch between it and your original library by holding Shift/Option when starting up iTunes to choose between them. Other players may not have the same options built-in, but you can usually still use multiple library files, it'll just be a little more hackish (see methods for foobar2000 and MediaMonkey, for example).

The problem with this method is that you literally have to manage two completely separate libraries. In my bitrate example, any time you add music to one, you need to remember to add it to the other, and any time you create a playlist on one, you need to remember to create it on the other. The two can get pretty easily fragmented, and after a little while it may become more trouble than its worth. This method works best if your libraries are, in fact, completely separate—i.e., one contains only low bitrate files and the other lossless, or one is your usual music library while the other is solely Christmas music. If the two libraries overlap at all (say, if you only rip some of your music in lossless), you'll have to use the slightly more workaround-y option two.

Option Two: Use Smart Playlists to Your Advantage
While every player is different, most allow you to filter your music in a number of different ways into Smart Playlists, or at least to show or hide files with a certain criteria. With this ability, you can keep all your music in one library, but only show certain files at a time, thus eliminating the clutter (in this case, "hiding" the lossy versions when I'm just listening, and hiding the lossless versions when I'm synicng my MP3 player). The procedure is slightly different depending on the type of desktop player you're using.

Library-Based Players
Library-based players are players that allow you to cultivate a collection of music, from which you choose what you want to play. They may or may not have "now playing" windows in which you can create playlists on-the-go—the important part is that they have both a pane where you can select a library or playlist and another pane that shows what's in that library or playlist. Examples include:

iTunes (Mac/Windows)
Winamp (Windows)
Songbird (Windows/Mac)
MediaMonkey (Windows)
Rhythmbox (Linux)
Banshee (Linux)

There are a few different ways to do this, and while your situation may allow for a fully automated solution, our example does not. We essentially want to divide our library up into two different versions: one containing some lossless files and one in which all files are low bitrate. Note that in this example, we don't have every album in lossless format, just some of them. What we're going to do is essentially create two smart playlists, each acting as a separate music library: one will contain all of our music in low bitrate format, while one will be a mix of low and high bitrate files. We essentially are just making sure there are no duplicates in either "library".

While our "iPod-friendly" library is extremely simple to create—just make a smart playlist that excludes high-bitrate files (see above)—the "mixed" library is a bit more difficult. We can't easily automate a playlist to check for lossless files and then add the lossy versions, so we need to manually tell our music program which songs are low-bitrate duplicates of our lossless tracks. THe easiest way to do so is to use the multi-purpose "Comments" section: just round up all your lossy duplicates and add something in the comments section to tag them (I just add the word "lossy"). Now, you can just create a smart playlist for songs who's comment section does not contain the word "lossy", and you're in business. From now on, instead of hitting "Music" to view your entire library, just hit one of the smart playlists.

Note that some players, like Winamp, allow you to create "Smart Views" instead of smart playlists—the process isn't any different; it just makes it feel like less of a workaround, since it shows up as a music library instead of a playlist.

Playlist-Based Players
While many players (like MediaMonkey) have a "now playing" queue, playlist-based players focus very heavily on this functionality and may not let you view smart playlists in a separate pane before adding them to your now playing list. Usually, they only have two panes: one with your library, and one with the current track queue. Players falling into this category include:

Amarok (Linux)
foobar2000 (Windows)

Since we can't create separate libraries (since these players make you add smart playlists to the queue to view them), we have to tweak our method a bit. We're going to do essentially the same thing we did with library-based players, except instead of creating a playlist, the best thing we can do is filter the current view. Again, just add the word "Lossy" to the comment field of low-bitrate duplicates, and filter your library pane according to the library you need to work with. In Amarok, filtering for your mixed library would look something like this, using the filter -comment:"Lossy" (meaning, in plain english, that the Cmment field does not contain "Lossy"):

If you were filtering for your iPod-friendly library, you'd change it to something like bitrate:<400:

In Amarok, you can use their handy filter editor, but some programs (like foobar2000) require you to type in the filter yourself.

This method, while very similar to the smart playlist method, has one minor drawback: you may have to retype or reapply the filter every time you want to switch libraries. It's not that big of a deal, but if your player doesn't save recent filters (like Amarok does), it just means it takes a bit more than one click to move to a different library.

These aren't necessarily perfect solutions, nor are they the most user-friendly. However, if you find that your music library has too much clutter in it, you may be best cleaning it out by managing a few different "libraries" at a time. Furthermore, separating your library by bitrate is only one example of when this might be necessary. If you use multiple libraries (or you think you need to), let us know your solutions for organizing your media in the comments.
Organization  Amarok  Annoyances  Digital_Media  Digital_Music  Feature  foobar2000  iTunes  Linux  Mac  Mac_OS_X  MediaMonkey  MP3s  Music  playlists  Tagging  Tags  Top  Windows  from google
november 2010 by lancejanders
Whether to Tether: What You Should Know About Phone-to-Laptop Connections [Explainer]
Pumping your smartphone's 3G/4G data into your laptop, or "tethering," seems like a convenient and money-saving productivity hack. But is tethering as fast or reliable as a dedicated wireless modem or MyFi? Here's what you should know before you tether.
Image via preetamrai.

Tethering is a service you can purchase from your cellular carrier—a basic kind of on/off switch, with a little extra software, to allow you to connect your phone by USB, Wi-Fi, or Bluetooth to your laptop and utilize the phone's cellular internet through your normal browser, email client, and other net-needing apps. Most carriers charge for the privilege of using the web they're serving up to your phone on something other than your phone. But, then again, some mobile apps can do the job for free, on Androids, iPhones, and other platforms.

Free? Yep, free—beyond the cost of your phone's data plan, that is. So why would any sucker pay their carrier for tethering, or a 3G card, or a "MyFi"? A free, occasional tethering solution may, indeed, be the most practical solution for some users, and some tight situations. But here's what you should know.

Phone Tethering Might Not Be Quite as Fast as a Stand-Alone Device
Tethering apps are small in size and fairly quick to start up, once you've set up both ends of the connection—the app on your phone, and the software needed on your PC. And they are, basically, pulling down the same 3G, 4G, CDMA, or whatever signal your carrier would give you on a dedicated USB card or portable device. So shouldn't they be just as efficient as those dedicated devices?

In theory, maybe. In real life, not so much.

I'm a T-Mobile subscriber with a data plan in Buffalo—no high-speed HSPA+ for us yet, and not quite the country's fastest 3G. I'm toting a Nexus One, which still has the built-in USB and Wi-Fi Hotspot tethering options built in. Measuring my phone's connection through the app, and then tethering my laptop to run the same test, I found that my phone averaged about 3.0 Megabits per second, while USB tethering options came in at around 2.3. That's not to say that, in some bandwidth tests, that tethering didn't approach that speed. But all things being equal, tethering apps like PDAnet and Tether didn't seem to consistently deliver the same speeds to my laptop that I could get on the phone alone.

Want proof? Here are my test results, using built-in Android tethering (Nexus One/Froyo only, at this point), PDAnet, and Tether:

Carriers (Generally) Won't Catch You Tethering, But They Will Profit From Your Overages
I know two different people who told me, after obtaining a Droid X on Verizon Wireless and an EVO 4G on Sprint, that they would be dropping their home internet connections. "With tethering," their pitch went, "and only using email and the web, really, I'll save at least $30 a month."

Neither person was able to actually box up the cable modem and return it. That's because no cellular data plan, in the U.S. at least, is really "unlimited," despite whatever naming scheme they use. Once you go over a "soft" limit of 2 or 5 GB of data usage—or 200 MB, if you're on a discount plan—your connection will be throttled to something like a 2G crawl, and/or you bill starts growing exponentially. And if you start using your phone like a primary modem, you will inevitably meet the money-minded folks on the other end of that pipeline.

Having dug around the web in as many geeky corners and forums I could think of—iPhone forums, XDA Android developers' boards, and elsewhere—and obsessive web searching, I found that the answer seems to be somewhere between "They don't know that you're tethering" and "They might know, but it only matters if you're over your limit or hurting their network." For our purposes, a request from your phone for a web address looks the same, because once your phone's antenna and hardware makes the data exchange, it could go to your phone's browser, your laptop's browser through PDAnet, or anywhere.

Update: Reader Pete Gaines tells us that T-Mobile caught him tethering and asked him to upgrade, though we're not sure whether it was a raw data-usage issue, or if they actually detected a desktop-oriented connection.

Update 2: Commenter SinisterFootwear takes issue and says carriers definitely know you're tethering—it's just that most don't respond quite so sternly.

When I first moved into my house, I lacked cable internet for a week. I used my G1 and its Cyanogen-powered tethering to get my Lifehacker work done, but that was it—no YouTube, no leisure browsing, just straight HTML posts and image editing. If I needed evening internet beyond email, I went to a coffee shop. I managed to avoid T-Mobile's wrath and stay under 5 GB. Both acquaintances received stern letters from Verizon and Sprint about their overages, and both argued the confusion of "unlimited data plans." In the end, they might have escaped some overage fees, but dropped the freedom-from-cable idea.

Note: Want to monitor exactly how much you're using over your tether connection? Check out our guide to the best tools for monitoring your cellphone data usage.

Tethering Burns Out Batteries—Even Over Self-Charging USB
If you're going to rely on tethering to save your butt on a long-distance train ride, or for more than an hour without a plugged-in laptop, you'd better bring an extra battery—or two.

Using the built-in tethering on my Nexus One, and toting a spare battery, I wanted to see how long I could last on an Amtrak train, heading West-to-East, when I recently found myself doing just that. Starting from Buffalo's Exchange Street station, I made it to just past Utica before my phone shut down to save itself, and felt as hot as a griddle cake. And that was with the phone connected via USB, so therefore drawing a low level of charge from the plugged-in laptop. Image via Kai Hendry.

It's not just the continuous data pulling that chugs down battery juice—it's going in and out of service, switching between service levels (GPRS to EDGE to 3G and back), and laptop apps that draw on a steady stream of data. Most smartphone apps are written to respect the platform they're on, while standard computer applications generally assume you're plugged in and connected to some kind of decent Wi-Fi.

It's not an issue if you have smartphone battery backups galore, but most of us don't. And when you run out of tethering power, you're also without a phone until you can charge back up.

With an Unofficial Tether, You Can't Get Righteously Ticked at Bad Service
Obvious, perhaps, but when you're paying for your tethered connection, or a dedicated USB device or MyFi-style portable hotspot, it's your prerogative to get righteously angry at the drop-offs in coverage where coverage is expected, to measure your speeds and report just how sad they are, and get credits for data usage that wasn't really warranted. If you're make-shifting your phone into a 3G/4G modem, you're just another phone customer—and as long as you have basic voice coverage, your carrier won't care quite so much that your Gmail SSL connection is taking forever.

Bottom Line: Use Unofficial Tether as a Make-Due Email and Data Sync Tool
From personal testing, anecdotes from web users and acquaintances, and some research into the nature of "unlimited" data plans, we can draw a few conclusions:

Tethering is not a long-term mobile data solution
The Thought Police won't mace and handcuff you for hooking up your laptop through unofficial means, but your natural inclination to open just One More Tab could easily lead to a bigger bill and stern carrier letter.
You need extra phone batteries to reliably tether for more than 30 minutes at a time.
You won't get top speeds while tethering, so make accommodations: sync simple text files through Dropbox rather than open Google Docs sessions, and batch together your online actions through apps like the very Gmail-friendly Thunderbird.

Update: Commenter bdinger agrees about tethering—with a much more detailed post about his experiences with various mobile devices.

Have you made tethering, official or unofficial, into a regular part of your work routine? Got a better tip on getting the most from a phone-to-laptop connection? Tell us your take in the comments.
Explainer  3G  Feature  Laptop  Laptops  Mobile  Smartphones  tether  tethering  Top  from google
november 2010 by lancejanders
Lifehacker Readers' Favorite Pens [What You Said]
In celebration of Writing Week, and as a companion to yesterday's favorite notebooks roundup, here's a look back at Lifehacker readers' favorite pens. It's the place to find the perfect pen for your favorite notebook.
Last week we asked you to share your favorite writing utensil, and hundreds of votes by devoted pen-lovers later, we're back with some of the nicest pens you use to satisfy your pen-and-paper fetish.

Juxmodo said: "I use the Beta Pen. It's got a metal nib on it that won't wear down anytime soon, and it's an awesome conversation piece."

mirileh said: "I'm the only Parker Pen Jotter addict (with the medium blue refill)? Love the flowing thick blue lines."

Xaq Fixx said: "Fisher Space Pen Bullet in black with clip. I keep it clipped to my money clip card case, in my old bill fold I kept it clipped in the fold."

Cowboy Bill said: "PenAgain, helps my horrible handwriting. Busted knuckles from nuns rulers."

Eric Woodward said: "Another vote for the Zebra F-301 compact... When not in use, the thing hardly feels like a pen in your pocket... And I've been carrying them around in my pants pocket for about 18 months, and I have yet to have one of them leak or break."

Aaron Kravitz said: "Pilot Precise.
I always used to use fancy mechanical pencils but once I picked up one of these I never went back. They come in .5 and .7mm, and I swear they make my handwriting better. I'm nigh on illegible with a normal ballpoint or #2 but with this I churn out notes I can actually loan to people. Something about the friction with the paper, since the ergonomics are nothing special."

DarkBls said: "By far a Namiki fountain pen."

archangel57 said: "Received a MontBlanc Starwalker as a gift — absolutely my favorite. But when I'm afraid to take it somewhere, my backup is one of 3 Pilot G2 Limited in different colors."

Jeff Chamberlain said: "Lamy Safari is my favorite so far. It's a fountain pen. I tend to prefer fountain pens as they give a smoother line and flow better across the page when writing."

Note: In general I featured pens highlighted by readers who offered good descriptions of the pen or those who included images in the comment. (Images make it a lot easier to get a feel for what they're talking about.)

If your pen of preference didn't show up here, let's see it—complete with a picture and a link!—in the comments.
What_You_Said  Office_Supplies  Office_Supplies_Fetish  Republished  Top  Writing  from google
november 2010 by lancejanders
uTorrent 2.2 App Studio Finds and Fixes Up BitTorrent Content [Updates]
Windows only: Veteran torrent users use helper apps to automate storage, fix file names, and otherwise tweak their goods. uTorrent 2.2, in addition to improving the core product, offers easily installed "apps" that can find new stuff and fix what you've grabbed.
uTorrent 2.2's apps run the gamut from just nifty and cool, like the uMpap tool for visualizing your connected peers, to useful and expansive, like the TED app for downloading those acclaimed talks, or the skinning, searching, and other utilities built by uTorrents creators. Also of note in the small App Studio is a TuneUp plug-in, from the makers of the very nifty media player cleaning agent.

Along with the apps, there's now a "password-protected boss key" for instant hiding, improvements to privacy when downloading, an automated download-and-move tool for relocating finished files, and an option to pause torrents whenever user activity is detected. You can read more about what's new in this version in the forum post linked here.

uTorrent 2.2 is a free download, currently for Windows only, but likely coming soon to Mac and Linux.

µTorrent 2.2 released [µTorrent Community Forums via The Download Blog]
Updates  app_store  apps  BitTorrent  Featured_Windows_Download  Free  Legal  Security  Top  Torrents  utorrent  Windows  from google
november 2010 by lancejanders
Top 10 Must-Have Browser Extensions [Video]
Your browser of choice may have changed a lot in the past year, but luckily the best extensions for making your browser better have kept up with all the most popular browsers. Here are our cross-platform, must-have favorites.

Last time we looked at our favorite browser extensions, we only looked at Firefox. A lot has changed in a year, and now our favorite-extension pool has expanded to several other browsers.

10. Web of Trust (WOT)

Web of Trust, or WOT, is a browser extension that's designed to help you browse more safely. When you search online, WOT accesses its database to see approximately how safe your search results really are. Next to each result it places a colored circle. Green indicates a safe site, yellow means you should proceed with caution, and red tells you that you should probably steer clear. When you roll over the colored circle, you'll get more in-depth ratings. If you really want to look into a particular site, WOT can provide you with ratings from other WOT users. This is especially useful for online shopping. WOT has a special rating for vender reliability to help warn you of a potentially fraudulent storefront. WOT is available for Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Internet Explorer. For Opera and other browsers, a bookmarklet is available.

Web of Trust (WOT) | Multi-browser Download Page

9. Google Translate
Web translation services are nothing new, but they're exceptionally helpful when you run into a site written in a language you don't speak. While these services have been around for awhile, they've evolved to make the translation process a lot easier. With the Google Translate extension (gTranslate in Firefox) you can just install it and it'll recognize when a page is not in your primary language. You'll receive a request to translate whenever this happens and the extension will reload the page with the translated text. Like all web translations, it's imperfect, but it's the closest things your browser's going to get to a Babelfish. (Note: Google Chrome has auto-translate built in, so no extension's required for Chrome users.)

Google Translate | Firefox • Safari • Opera

8. AutoCopy
AutoCopy does what the title suggests. Whenever you select some text in your browser, AutoCopy will automatically copy it to the clipboard. While pressing Ctrl+C (Cmd+C on a Mac) to do this manually isn't that big of a deal, but what makes AutoCopy really worthwhile (for me, anyway) is the option to copy without formatting. There are so many times where I just want to copy text but want it to conform to the style of the document I'm pasting it into, and AutoCopy cuts out that tedious step no problem.

AutoCopy | Chrome • Firefox

7. Better Gmail
Gmail's great, but it's not perfect, which is why Better Gmail was born—here at Lifehacker no less—out of the need for additional features. It compiles a bunch of the best Gmail-related Greasemonkey scripts to add a bunch of highly desired features to gmail. Those features include hierarchical labels, an unread message count in your browser tab, file attachment icons, row highlights, label links, the ability to hide and show all sorts of things, and more. The official version is Firefox-only, but an unofficial Chrome port is also available.

Better Gmail | Chrome • Firefox

6. PriceBlink

When you're shopping online, you're probably accustomed to searching for the lowest price. PriceBlink removes the need to do any actual work and presents you with your options, automatically, while shopping. Just browse to the page of something you want to buy and PriceBlink will show up if it can save you money. In addition to showing you lower prices, if PriceBlink finds a coupon for the retailer you're visiting it'll offer that up as well. When you're not shopping, PriceBlink will stay out of your hair. It's a pretty great tool for keeping your wallet from getting too thin. InvisibleHand extension.)

Priceblink | Chrome • Firefox • Safari

5. BugMeNot

There are times when you just do not want to sign up for an account. Maybe you're lazy, or maybe you don't want to give out your email address to a web site you're only going to use once. BugMeNot is an extension that uses the BugMeNot web site to retrieve login credentials for the site you're visiting. Browse to a site, click the extension icon, and BugMeNot will offer up accounts to try. If the account works (or doesn't), you can quickly send feedback to BugMeNot to let them know if the credentials are good or bad. This success rate is used to rank the options available to you. BugMeNot uses these ratings to suggest credentials for you whenever you visit a new site. If you want to avoid creating an account, BugMeNot will save you a ton of time.

BugMeNot | Chrome • Firefox • Safari • Opera

4. Tab Cloud
Tab Cloud is an excellent extension for managing your browser tabs on a single computer or across multiple machines. You can name browser windows and save sessions, view a graphical representation of all your tabs and windows, and sync tabs from one browser to another. While Firefox 4 has tab sync already, Tab Cloud gives you a little more control over how you sync your tabs. It's an excellent addition for Chrome, which (currently) has no existing tab sync at all. Regardless of sync, it makes for an excellent organizational tool for those of us who can't help but keep at least 30 tabs open at a time.

Tab Cloud | Chrome • Firefox

3. FlashBlock
With recent reports that the lack of Flash on the MacBook Air nets it two extra hours of battery life, you have to wonder if Apple's choice to leave Flash off its new highly portable laptops was really the right choice after all. Even if you don't use Flash much, there definitely are those few occasions where it's a necessity. That's where FlashBlock comes in. It lets you keep Flash installed on your computer but prevents Flash content from loading without your expressed permission. The upside is that Flash will never run without your intervention, though you can whitelist specific sites that you'd prefer Flash always works on. It's a great compromise for gaining better battery life (and better overall performance) without needing to remove Flash entirely.

Note: FlashBlock functionality is already built-in to Chrome for Windows and is in the Mac developer builds.

FlashBlock | Chrome • Firefox • Safari • Opera

2. Greasemonkey / Greasemetal / Etc.
GreaseMonkey is pretty incredible, in that it lets you do virtually anything you want with your web browser with the help of simple JavaScripts. By itself it doesn't do much at all, but when you consider all the available userscripts it's suddenly the most powerful extension you can have. It's basic purpose is to serve as a JavaScript injector. Userscripts that you install will inject JavaScript into a particular page to make it perform differently than it normally would. Although there are tons available, if you know JavaScript you can write your own and get exactly the functionality you're looking for. While Greasemonkey was original written for Firefox, it's possible to run Greasemonkey userscripts in Chrome (Chrome supports installing userscripts by default) and Safari (thanks to a port of the platform).

Greasemonkey | Firefox • Safari

1. LastPass
LastPass is an amazing password manager. Actually, it may be better described as a personal data manager. It can remember login credentials (and automatically log you into web sites), credit card numbers, your address and phone number, and other personal information you often need to enter on a web site or storefront checkout. It stores everything securely and syncs with any machine that has a LastPass extension installed, and it's one of the best timesavers you can install on your browser.

LastPass | Multi-browser Download Page

These days there are far more than ten great, must-have browser extensions. We can't include them all. What are your favorites? Share 'em in the comments.
Lifehacker_Top_10  Add_ons  add-ons  Better_Gmail  browser_extensions  Browsers  Chrome  Extensions  Feature  Firefox  Firefox_Add-Ons  Firefox_Extensions  Greasemonkey  Opera  Safari  Scripts  Sync  synchronization  Tabbed_browsing  Top  User_scripts  Web_browsers  from google
november 2010 by lancejanders
Turn Your DD-WRT Enabled Router into a Whole House Ad Blocker [Ad Blocking]
Ad blocking extensions are great for individual browsers but leave out other devices and applications. Set up a router-level filter to block ads for every device on your home network.
Photo by Rusty Haskell.

Sysadmin Geek—the admin-focused branch of How-To Geek—shares a very thorough guide to setting up Pixelserv on DD-WRT modified routers. Essentially the hack revolves around installing Pixelserv (an ultra-minimal web server) on your router and using that micro-server to poison the DNS requests sent to known ad-serving sites. The end result is that ads of all shapes (banner ads, pop-over ads, video ads) simply fail to load. Unlike a traditional browser-based ad blocker, however, this advertisement white-out extends across your whole network and every device on it.

Check out the full guide at the link below for step-by-step instructions. You'll want to read them carefully and follow along closely; screwing up the configuration means everything gets blocked, not just the ads. If you're running alternative firmware Tomato instead of DD-WRT, make sure to check out our previous guide to ad-blocking with a Tomato-enhanced router.

How To Remove Advertisements with Pixelserv on DD-WRT [Sysadmin Geek]
Ad_blocking  dd-wrt  Filters  Hosts  Router  Server  Top  Utilities  web_server  from google
november 2010 by lancejanders
Fit Finder Matches Men to Their Perfect Shirt [Measurements]
Everybody has that one shirt—it looks good and, more importantly, fits perfectly. Use that shirt to find other great-fitting tops with Fit Finder, an impressively detailed database and webapp.
Pick out that perfect shirt by brand and size, whether it's a simple T-shirt or a buttoned dress shirt with general size. Get specific in describing how it fits your neck, chest, and other qualifications, then run it through Fit Finder. You'll get results showing the best matches to other brands, their specific sizing details, and links to specific shirts available for purchase in that size, if available. Even if you don't find your next perfect shirt, you'll learn a bit about your sizing and how other shops measure their goods. One hopes they'll expand to other clothing items, and maybe both genders, though all in good time.

Fit Finder doesn't require sign-up or anything else to use, other than your browser. It's a stunningly specific counterpoint to, say, the world of men's pants, where waist measurements are entirely unreliable. Thanks for the tip, Kendall!

Fit Finder
measurements  Clothes  Clothing  Comparisons  Shirts  Shopping  Top  webapp  from google
november 2010 by lancejanders
Create a Highly Organized, Synchronized Home Folder with Dropbox [Organization]
When you love Dropbox like we do, you start syncing more and more stuff. The more stuff you sync, the harder it is to organize. Here's a simple way to sort quickly and stay organized across multiple computers, Windows, Mac, or Linux.
We're going to deal with two things here: organization and synchronization. Organization is the big part, since that relies mostly on you (whereas synchronization relies almost entirely on Dropbox). We'll tackle organization first, then take a look at some of the issues you may encounter when syncing almost everything you do on your computer. While I came up with these organizational ideas using Dropbox, many could apply universally to any modern file system. Some will require Dropbox, but you can still use most of these organizational ideas without it.

The Structure
The lovely icons used above that everyone is curious about belong to the Flurry family, created by the the Iconfactory. Dropbox starts you off with a bunch of folders, and rather than change a bunch of things we're going to keep organized by building on that. Before we dive in, let's take a look at the folders you'll want to have in your Dropbox. Once you have those, we'll discuss how to use them.

The Dump
The Landfill
Your Flex Folder
Shared Folders

Alright, let's get started!

Ed. note: If, after consideration, Adam's folder structure doesn't feel right to you, you may also want to consider Gina's My Documents organization structure.

The Dump and the Landfill
We are not perfect. Like many diets, organizational systems expect us to simple curb our flaws for the sake of bettering ourselves. You've got a limited supply of willpower, so how you organize should recognize that. The Dump is all about having a place for your imperfections. You need to have a work folder where you can just save things arbitrarily. Starting on the first day of your week, everything you're creating gets saved to The Dump. It doesn't matter what kind of file it is or what kind of project it's for—if it belongs to the current work week, it belongs in The Dump. If you take lots of screenshots, change the location of those screenshots to The Dump (here's how to do it with OS X's default screengrab). Whatever you create and whatever assets you use to create it, make sure this is where they go first.

When you reach the end of your work week, it's time to organize. You should only need to set aside about 15-20 minutes to go through The Dump and decide what to do with everything. This week I ended up with 145 items and was able to sort them in about ten minutes, so don't worry about how long that list of files get. If you start by listing everything in The Dump by file type you can start cutting the fat more easily.

First go through and find things you've saved to The Dump that you no longer need and delete them. Next, select the files you're not quite ready to throw away and put them in the folder called The Landfill. The Landfill exists so you don't have to spend time deliberating over whether or not you need to keep certain files, and if you do, where to put them. Once a month you'll need to spend some time cleaning out The Landfill, but a month away from most of your "maybe" files will give you better perspective on whether or not you need to file them or throw them away. Most of the files in The Dump will either end up deleted or buried in The Landfill at the end of the work week. Once you've gotten through those, you'll find you have a handful of other files that should only take you a few minutes to sort. Sort those and The Dump is ready to go for next week.

These two folders—The Dump and The Landfill—will be the most important part of how you keep things organized in your Dropbox because they allow you to be a little lazy, but it's important to not just let everything flow or you'll become overwhelmed as it gets later in the work week. When you're working on something new, even if you think it might only require a file or two, make a new folder inside of The Dump to contain it. Do not make efforts to spend time organizing the dump, but definitely take a second to keep similar files together so you can move through The Dump quickly while you're working.

Projects and Documents
Projects and Documents are where you'll end up keeping most of your work. Projects should be made up of active projects you're working on. You can just keep individual project folders inside (e.g., New Rock Ballad, Essay About Strawberries, Johnson Wedding Photos for Album, etc.) or create a sub-structure of project types if you do a lot of different things (e.g. Audio Projects, Video Projects, Photo Projects). The important thing is that this folder only contains files for long-term projects you are actively working on (as in things outside of the scope of the current work week, as those files are relegated to The Dump). I find it helps to keep my to-do list in here as well. I use an awesome Mac application called TaskPaper and save my project to-do list in the root of the Projects folder. You can use whatever you want for your to-dos, but if you need to save a physical file somewhere the Projects folder is a great place to put it.

Where Projects is your active work folder, Documents is your dormant work folder. Consider Documents useful for two things: static documents you may want to reference or use more than once (like stock photos, forms, etc.) and finished projects you want to archive from your Projects folder. Organize Documents however you like, but don't put anything in it that you're going to change. While the Projects and Documents labels work well for me, you'd have a good point if you argued they're not intuitive. The labels Active and Archive might work a little better for some, but choose what's right for you. As with everything described here, this is an organizational idea, not a paradigm. There really are no paradigms—only systems that work for you and systems that don't.

Your Flex Folder
Being that there is no such thing as an organizational paradigm, no system broad system like this can account for your specific needs unless it provides that kind of flexibility. This is where your Flex Folder comes in. Chances are you have something in your life that just needs to exist outside of the big buckets that make up most of your Dropbox. For me, it's a folder called Writing. I love to write, and so it doesn't stop with Lifehacker posts. I write short stories, screenplays, ideas, or really anything I'm in the mood to write. This adds up quickly and I've found it helps to have it all in one place, separate from all the other stuff that I'm doing. As a result, my flex folder is a dedicated Writing folder.

The reason this is necessary is because my Flex Folder is sort of a combination between active projects and archived documents. Everything I save into my Writing folder could end up staying there untouched indefinitely or could be very active. The problem is, I don't know which category each piece of writing will fall under. As a result, having a Flex Folder for writing lets me organize these documents with that extra flexibility. If you do any kind of work that doesn't allow you to apply the active/archive structure, a Flex Folder is often the answer.


Because we're syncing all of these folders between multiple computers, it's easy to end up with a machine that requires a certain Application that isn't installed. While it's not that hard to download what you need online, it's annoying to have to stop your work to search for the application you need, wait for it to download, and then getting back to work. If you're focused and in the zone, you want to minimize these problems as much as possible. Keeping installers for commonly used applications (or even portable applications that you're running directly from your Dropbox folder) in a synchronized folder will help you do that. While you're not going to keep big installers in here (like Photoshop, for example), it's a great place for smaller installers for those applications and utilities you can't live without. As an added bonus, if you ever need to share an app with a friend you can do that directly from your Dropbox.

Movies, Music, and Photos
If you're using a free Dropbox account and surviving by referrals, chances are you're not going to have enough space to sync your rich media. If you're paying for an account of 50GB or more, however, Dropbox can do a great job of handling your media. (Dropbox offers a 50GB plan for $100/year and a 100GB plan for $200/year.)

Movies and photos are both pretty simple, since they can be organized in similar ways. About a year ago I got fed up with iPhoto and decided to try something else. That something else was an organized folder structure for my photos, forgoing any actual application to help me out. Dropbox made for a perfect partner because it provided an automatic backup of all my images. I have an enormous photo collection, but organizing it wasn't all that hard because you really just have to look your Photos folder the same way you'd look at managing your photos in a photo management application: organized by albums. The problem is that a directory isn't ordered any way you want it, but rather based on certain criteria. Generally you're going to organize your files in alphabetical order. To ensure similar albums stayed together, you can just add a tag to the front of the folder name. For events, I added a date stamp (e.g., 2008-09-21). For portraits of people, I added the tag PEOPLE. Folders containing wallpaper were prepended with WALLPAPER. The idea is pretty basic but it helps keep everything sorted nicely. This same method works well for movie clips, too.

Music gets a little tougher because many of us use iTunes, or something like it, to work with our music. The problem with syncing iTunes with Dropbox is not so much keeping files in sync but keeping your iTunes Library file in sync. If you have iTunes open on more than one machine at a time, you'll run into … [more]
Organization  Clutter  Declutter  Digital  dropbox  Feature  File_Storage  folders  How_To  Media  Organizing  Productivity  Sync  Top  from google
november 2010 by lancejanders
The Best "Evil" Apps for iPhone [IPhone]
Locked down for your "safety," your iPhone is designed to operate the way Apple intended. With recently relaxed app store policies and great strides within the jailbreaking community, however, you can add great functionality that Apple never wanted you to have.

Note: For a look at the flip side of the mobile OS coin, check out the best "Evil" apps for Android.

Although there have long been VOIP options like Skype and Fring, Line2 offers up a full phone service and text messaging replacement for a small monthly fee ($10/month for unlimited everything). As we discovered when we turned our iPod touch into an iPhone, Line2 is a highly functional alternative and can save you a lot of money on your monthly bill just through text messages alone. Call quality is pretty much on par with AT&T, and the text messaging portion of the Line2 app is just a little bit nicer than Apple's included app. With Apple's many App Store refusals due to "duplicated functionality" it's a wonder that Line2 actually made the cut. Fortunately it did, because it's often a better way of using your iPhone as an actual phone.

Line2 | iTunes App Store

VLC Media Player
It's still hard to believe the day came where VLC was approved in the app store. Originally just for the iPad, VLC was released as a universal iOS app just a few days ago. While using it with high definition MKVs gives you a clear indication of why Apple doesn't bother supporting other formats, VLC's performance with standard definition files—particularly DiVX AVIs—was basically flawless. (More performance notes here.) Regardless of performance, however, VLC opens up your iPhone to nearly any video format you'd want and that's enough to praise all by itself. Plus, it's free.

VLC Media Player | iTunes App Store

Air Video/StreamToMe
Where VLC Media Player fails, AirVideo and StreamToMe pick up the slack. Although VLC adds support for many new video formats, your iPhone can't necessarily play them (or at least play them well) plus video takes up a ton of disk space. Air Video and StreamToMe are both great solutions that allowing you to stream content from your computer's hard drive to your phone over Wi-Fi or 3G. They convert content on the fly so it'll play nicely with your iPhone, allow you to essentially watch whatever you want regardless of the format. Each app has a few features the other doesn't, so they're not identical, but overall they're both very capable of handling your streaming video needs. If you want to make sure you're fully covered to watch anything, regardless of Apple's support for the format, either app (both $3) will serve you well.

Air Video / StreamToMe | iTunes App Store

MyWi and My3G
Although Apple's opened the gate a bit wider to let some surprising apps into the app store, there are still a number of things you can't do without jailbreaking (or paying hefty monthly fees). One of the most useful of those things: turning your iPhone into a Wi-Fi hotspot. MyWi is designed to let you do just that, and helps with USB tethering as well. Although it comes at a steep price of $20, that's what you'd end up paying for a month of tethering by going through the proper channels (AT&T). In that light, the price isn't really all that bad. So long as you're already paying AT&T for the data bandwidth, we think you should be able to use it however you want. MyWi gives you that freedom when Apple and AT&T won't.

Also from the Intelliborn folks is My3G, which lets you decide which apps can and can't use your 3G connection. The iPhone generally prohibits you from using a lot of things over 3G—like Facetime, downloading anything over 20MB, etc.—so this $4 jailbreak app can give you that control.

MyWi / My3G

Wi-Fi Sync
Wi-Fi Sync is my favorite jailbreak application and entirely worth the $10 it'll cost you. I don't really care for iTunes in general, but when syncing is necessary it just seems so archaic to sync a Wi-Fi enabled devices with a cable. Wi-Fi sync cuts the cord and lets you sync your iPhone over your local Wi-Fi network. It's surprisingly quick when compared to cable syncing and setup is very easy. You just install the Wi-Fi Sync application on your iPhone and your Mac or Windows PC, pair your iPhone with your computer, and start syncing. You're not limited to a single device, either, so if you happen to have an iPad, for example, you can use Wi-Fi sync to sync that too.

Wi-Fi Sync

Honorable Mentions
While the five apps above cover the major missing features of the iPhone, there are still a few niche, awesome apps that serve a more specific purpose. We didn't want to leave them out, and so they've found a place in the honorable mentions.

SNES HD (Free) - SNES HD isn't so much an iPhone app as it is an iPhone-iPad app combination. It turns your iPhone into an SNES controller which you can pair with your iPad. It's a neat idea for people with both devices, but if you're just looking for a straight-up SNES emulator for your iPhone, snes4iphone is the way to go.
Winterboard (Free) - Apple likes to control the look and feel of your iPhone, but you can circumvent those limitations with Winterboard. You can use it to apply your own, custom theme to the iPhone's home screen interface, or you can download and install one of the many existing themes available on the Cydia jailbreak app store.
TextFree (Free) - If you're just looking for unlimited text messages and you're okay with using a separate phone number, TextFree is a free app in the iTunes App Store that'll let you text without cost.

Got any great "evil" apps, available in iTunes or Cydia, that you love? Let us know in the comments.
iPhone  app_pack  Apple  Cydia  Downloads  Evil  Evil_week  Feature  ios  ipad  ipod_touch  Jailbreak  Top  from google
october 2010 by lancejanders
Never Sync Your iPhone with iTunes Again [Sync]
iTunes can be a useful, but it can also be a huge pain. If you've ever used it for sync you've likely experienced problems. Fortunately, with the help of a few apps, you don't ever have to sync with iTunes again.
Regardless of how you want to view your photos and how you want them on your phone, you have quite a few options. Recently we looked at how PhotoSync for Lazy makes for quick, automatic photo syncing with your Windows PC. Photo Sync is a cross-platform solution that lets you wirelessly copy your photos from your iPhone's camera roll onto your computer. Apps like Dropbox are a good way of syncing photos cross-platform as well, but viewing on your iOS device isn't all that great since the Dropbox app doesn't provide any kind of thumbnail previews. You can flick through photos one by one, however. If you're a Flickr user, Photo Wallet will sync your Flickr photos wirelessly (called Photo Pad for iPad users). iPicasa does the same thing for Picasa users. While not every single base is covered with photos, chances are you use a service that'll easily let you avoid syncing your photos with iTunes.

Although you might think video's more difficult, it ends up being pretty easy. You can either use Dropbox to sync and save physical copies of video files on your iPhone or you can use video streaming applications like StreamToMe, AirVideo, and Libox (our overview) to watch your video (that's stored on a home computer) anywhere you have a decent connection.

Music is really where the most concessions come in, but you do have options. While, again, Dropbox will let you save files, that will get annoying fast when you have thousands of songs you want to store. StreamToMe will let you stream your music from your home machine, or you can use any of the several great music streaming services that have iOS apps (some of which are free). Unfortunately, though, if you want true music sync without iTunes you'll either have to resort to jailbreaking your iPhone and hacking together a syncing process without iTunes using WinAMP and ml_ipod.

Podcasts and Spoken Word Content
Podcasts and spoken word content are fortunately a bit easier to handle than music. Recently we looked at AudioPress and found it's a great free app for managing all your podcasts, and some other spoken word content, directly from your iOS device. It'll keep track of your subscriptions and download everything for you. If you're an audio book listener, chances are you get your content through Audible. The Audible app lets you purchase and download audio books directly to your iOS device over Wi-Fi with no need for iTunes. Alternatively, Apple's iPod application, in conjunction with the iTunes Music Store, lets you update your podcasts manually and purchase much of Audible's audio book content. While these third-party apps tend to do a better job, when it comes to spoken work content you can get by with what's already included on your iPhone.

Other Information
For contacts, calendars, email accounts, tasks, and notes, you can always make use of Apple's $99/year MobileMe service or just use Mail2Web instead. There are plenty of individual app alternatives, however. Air Sharing lets you transfer and view files over Wi-Fi. Dropbox lets you access anything you keep in your always-syncing Dropbox, with the option to save files directly to your iOS device without trouble. Simplenote is a great option for syncing plain text and Evernote can handle richer text with graphics. The list goes on and on because there's really no shortage of apps for wirelessly syncing documents and similar content.

Got any great ways of breaking away from iTunes while still satisfying your syncing needs? (You know, besides getting an Android.) Let's hear 'em in the comments.
Sync  ios  ipad  iPhone  ipod_touch  Top  Wireless  from google
october 2010 by lancejanders