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News Article: Being Smart About Web Mail October 9, 2008

Posted by Mike in Learning, News, Online Service, Passwords, PC ABCs, Technology.
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Read Michael Horowitz’s article, originally posted on CNET News, for some good common sense practices to help secure your web mail account on Yahoo, GMAIL, Hotmail and others.

Being Smart About Web Mail

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Yahoo has high hopes for calendar makeover October 8, 2008

Posted by Mike in News, Online Service, Organize, Worth a Look, Yahoo.
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The Internet pioneer will revamp its online calendar starting Wednesday. New: subscriptions, sharing, and targeted advertisements for events.

View Original Article

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Election 2008: Find Senate Voting Records Online October 2, 2008

Posted by Mike in Learning, News, Online Service, Worth a Look.
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Here’s a link to McCain’s Senate voting record.

Here’s a link to Obama’s Senate voting record.

Forget the hype.

Forget the spin.

Ignore the commercials, the editorials and the talking heads.

Watch the debates, but compare what is said with their past voting history.

Take a few minutes to review the Senate voting records of our 2 presidential candidates, John McCain and Barack Obama.

The Washington Post has compiled this information on ALL members of the United States Senate and the House of Representatives:

The links have additional information on the 2 men, but the voting records should provide a good indication where the candidate’s stand on a variety issues.

The Internet has put the facts at your fingertips. Reading them is up to you.

Remember to vote in November!


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Election 2008: These Web Sites Verify the Facts September 10, 2008

Posted by Mike in Freebies, News, Online Service, Politics, Technology, Worth a Look.
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Voters in the 2008 Presidential elections deserve to know the facts. Candidates can get carried away with rhetoric at the expense of the facts. FactCheck.org is an unbiased web site dedicated to confirming, clarifying or denying the facts referenced in statements made by Barack Obama, John McCain, Joe Biden and Sarah Palin.

As they said on the classic TV show Dragnet, “Just the facts, ma’am.”

Well, that’s all FactCheck.org cares about. They want to help voters understand the facts so that Americans are choosing a President based on substance and not style.

Another web site to visit is PolitiFact.org, which is a service of the St. Petersburg Times/CQ.

Get the facts and make an informed decision this November. Vote for the candidate that you think will help you the most, but please base your vote on substance and not style. America’s future depends on it.

Green Umbrella Offers Cheap Extended Service Plans For Electronics September 7, 2008

Posted by Mike in Hardware, Online Service, Reviews, Technology, Worth a Look.
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For $9.95 per month, Green Umbrella offers ONE extended service plan to cover all kinds of electronic products in your home or office, from alarm clocks to LCD Flat Panels.

Click here for a comprehensive list of covered products.

Here’s a link to frequently asked questions about their service: FAQs

I glanced through some of the FAQs and here are some things to know:

  1. Mobile phones are not covered.
  2. Items that cost greater than $5000 are not covered
  3. You must register your items to be covered with their service
  4. You must have your original receipts to be eligible for coverage.

I have not used them myself. I thought the concept was worth mentioning for people who may want a service plan after the basic or extended warranty runs out their equipment.

If you’ve had an experience with Green Umbrella, good or bad, please share it.

If you use an alternate service that you like, I’d appreciate a comment with that info too!


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Family Fantasy Sports – A Game for All September 6, 2008

Posted by Mike in children, family, Freebies, Fun, Learning, Online Service, Sports, Technology, Worth a Look.
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The NFL Football season begins tomorrow. Millions of men and women will devote hours of time each week playing fantasy football at the expense of family time.

Well, why not include them in the fun?

Fantasy football can easily be enjoyed by families, much like board games or card games.

Don’t overlook its educational possibilities either. Math skills are key to keeping score, so young children can play with an adult and practice their addition, subtraction and multiplication while spending time with Mom and Dad.

Well, now there’s a free fantasy sports site for family fun. Check out http://www.familyfantasysports.com and enjoy the best of both worlds on Sundays this Fall: Family time and football!

Enroll in Automobile University with an Audio book Service July 17, 2008

Posted by Mike in Freebies, iPod, Learning, Online Service, Technology, Worth a Look, Worth the Money.
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The phrase “Automobile University” will be familiar to anyone who’s read a Zig Ziglar book or heard him speak. It essentially refers to the idea that personal productivity and development can be increased by using commute timecap and gown.jpg for self-improvement and learning. Audio books and podcasts are excellent options for individuals looking to improve their productivity during their daily commute.

Of course, buying audio books isn’t cheap (podcasts are though), but you can take advantage of several online rental services. The various rental plans vary by price and many offer rentals without any late fees or due dates or shipping fees.

The web site eHow offers an article about what you need to do to listen to podcasts.

You can find a variety of inexpensive rental plans and prices from the sites listed below. Some even offer an audio download option , if you’d rather play one on an iPod or other handheld device.

Audio book Rental Services:

  1. Audible.com (celebrating its 10 year anniversary)
  2. SimplyAudiobooks.com offers CD rentals and MP3 downloads.
  3. Booksfree.com offers rentals for audiobooks and good, old fashioned paperbacks.
  4. Audiotogo.com offers a free trial of their service.

Of course, you can rent a good fiction novel to listen to in the car too. With thousands of choices, you’re bound to find a book to make your commute more educational, or at the very least, more enjoyable.

TIP: For many, money is tight these days. If that’s true for you, you may want to visit your local library to see if they carry any audio books. After all, the LIBRARY IS FREE and their selection may surprise you.

Test Driving the Blog Editor in the Flock Browser July 13, 2008

Posted by Mike in Blogging, Freebies, Learning, Online Service, Reviews, Software, Technology.
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The ultra-cool new web browser, Flock, incorporates a blog editor for speedy posting.  I thought I’d try this out with this post.

Here’s how I used the blog editor in Flock:

  1. I surfed the web with Flock for an article to blog about.
  2.  Once I found one, I went to the VIEW menu, the sidebars sub-menu and then clicked on the “Web Clipboard”.
  3. With the web clipboard now a visible column on the left, I dragged/dropped a link and an image onto the sidebar.
  4. Next, I went to the TOOLS menu and chose the “Blog Editor” tool and a new window opened.
  5. On the blog editor window, I again went to the VIEW menu and chose sidebar and clicked on “web clipboard”.
  6. In the blog editor, I see the link and the image that I previously saved to the clipboard in step 3.
  7. I drag n’ drop the saved link and image into the body of the blog editor to use in the post.

All in all,  that’s an easy way to post to your blog from your web browser.  The blog editor is fairly basic, not a lot of whistles and bells, but it’ll help you post quickly.  Here are some of the features included in the blog editor:

  • Choose Font, Size, Bold/Italic/Underline, color
  • Bullets or numbers for creating lists
  • Indent buttons
  • Button to create link
  • Button to insert images (if you haven’t used the web clipboard)

Before Flock can send the post to your blog, you’ll need to configure your blog account into the Flock blog editor. It can be configured for a blog hosted on a free service like WordPress.com or a self-hosted blog. This is done from the TOOLS menu in the Blog Editor.

When you’re ready to publish your post, you can choose to create the entry as a new post or to replace an existing one.  You can also assign categories.


SAMPLE LINK:

http://www.engadget.com/ 2008/ 07/ 12/ kodak-intros-the-c913-m1073-is-and-m1063-chea…

SAMPLE IMAGE:

Kodak Cameras

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Ymail – Get the Yahoo Email Name You Always Wanted July 12, 2008

Posted by Mike in Freebies, News, Online Service, Politics, Technology, Worth a Look, Yahoo.
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yahoo-logo.JPGIt’s been said that there is no one else in the world just like you. Well, that’s true. However, the same truism doesn’t apply to your name. If you’re like me, then you discovered that your #1 choice for an email name was already taken when you signed up for the ever-popular Yahoo Mail.

Unless you were an early user on Yahoo or you have a unique name like Barack Obama, chances are you settled for a 2nd choice. The John McCain’s of the world settled for adding numbers or a middle initial, which often causes confusion. (My apologies for the appearance of politics in a tech blog, but it is an election year.)

Well, Yahoo is giving you a second chance to get the name you always wanted….sort of.

INTRODUCING……YMAIL!

(They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so Google should be blushing).

You can now get an email address that ends in @ymail.com. If you already have an @yahoo.com address, you’re not guaranteed to get the same email name with the @ymail.com. In other words, all email names are again up for grabs.

The @ymail.com account can serve as your primary Yahoo ID, if you choose. You’d need to login to Yahoo services with the full email address.

What are you waiting for? First come, first serve! Go get that email name of your dreams right now!

Jott for Blackberry: Reply to Emails with your Voice! June 1, 2008

Posted by Mike in Blackberry, Freebies, Online Service, Software, Technology, Worth the Money.
2 comments

blackberry88001.jpg

Jott’s new service, Jott for Blackberry, will make that device even more user-friendly than it is right now. Now you can respond to any email using your voice, instead of the keyboard and give your tired fingers a break.

When installed on your Blackberry, the Jott software will transcribe your message and send it off in an email, with your fingers never touching the keypad.

The software is free while in beta and will likely be any Blackberry user’s favorite new app. It will definitely be worth the money when it comes out of beta.

I’m glad to see Jott is finding new and useful ways to integrate its technology into products. I’ve blogged about their service before, and you’re welcome to read my earlier post by clicking here.

What’s your favorite Blackberry app?

Free Wireless Amber Alerts on your Phone to Help Find Abducted Children May 25, 2008

Posted by Mike in Freebies, News, Online Service, Technology.
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Something as simple as a text message on your phone could help you save a life.

This free service, sponsored by the Wireless Foundation in Washington D.C, will send a text message to your phone once an Amber Alert has been issued in your area. It will also send you a text message once the alert has been canceled.

CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP.

It is fast and easy to do and it may help quickly locate an abducted child before its too late. Click here to learn how it works.

You can specify from 1 to 5 zip codes in which to receive Amber Alerts. This means, your phone won’t receive a text message from an Ohio Amber Alert when you live in California. Unless, of course, you’ve chosen an Ohio zip code in your settings.

Here’s a link to an FAQ page if you want more information as well.

I’m Now an Official Yahoo Power Mailer! May 14, 2008

Posted by Mike in Blogging, Online Service, Technology, Yahoo.
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Computer graphic of a person holding a gold ribbon

Here’s part of the email message I received from the folks at Yahoo! today:

“As a loyal Yahoo! Mail user, you’re one of the select few to receive our exclusive Power User rewards.”

What privileges does the title of “Power Mailer” bestow upon me?

  • Sending messages up to 20MB in size
    • Never mind that standard Yahoo email accounts only accept 10MB size emails
  • Premium Customer Care
    • Think of it as a Disneyland-esque virtual “Fast Pass” that puts me near the top of the waiting list for technical support help.
  • Priority Notifications about important Yahoo! Mail developments
    • Every blogger’s wish….early info on new products and features for new blog posts!

I promise not to let this esteemed title go to my head….much.

In all seriousness though, it’s nice to know that a company appreciates my loyalty to their services and gives me a few free perks.

The “Power Mailer” features still do not equal those offered by the Yahoo! Mail Plus service, which costs a reasonable $19.99 per year.

Who knew that my 3,707 emails (and counting) in my inbox would earn me Power mailer status? Yes, I’m an email pack rat. But, what’s the harm in keeping emails? Yahoo gives me so much mailbox storage space that I’m disinclined to delete anything and its not like my wife or family has to deal with my virtual clutter.

Should Yahoo! reward its heavy users with perks even though the subscribed to service is free?

What do you think?


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Saint Patrick’s Day Fun: Turn Yourself Into a Leprechaun March 17, 2008

Posted by Mike in Creative, Freebies, Fun, Holidays, Humor, Online Service.
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HAPPY SAINT PATRICK’ S DAY!  If you’re looking for a wee bit o’ fun, try transforming yourself into one of Ireland’s beloved Leprechaun’s.

In the spirit, of ElfYourself and ScroogeYourself, this free web site should be called LeprechaunYourself.   Like the first two, this one is also sponsored by a corporation (Irish Spring, of course) and may be slow during periods of high Internet traffic.

Upload a photo to this web site and see how you’d look as a Leprechaun:

http://www.colgate.com/app/IrishSpring/US/EN/Bodywash/GetIrishNow/Microsite/Shenanigans/Turn-Irish-Now.cvsp

 P.S.  Just for today, feel free to add an O’ to the front of your name and enjoy your favorite green beverage.

LogMeIn Baby! February 2, 2008

Posted by Mike in Business, Freebies, Online Service, Reviews, Technology.
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Who do you call for tech support?

To paraphrase the Beatles, we all get by with a little help from our friends.

For most of us, that’s quite true when it comes to computer problems and questions. Most of us don’t like to pay for it unless its absolutely necessary. Parents may get their tech-savvy kids to fix things. Girlfriends may call boyfriends or vice versa. Friends call in favors.

That’s great if your tech superhero lives nearby. What if they’re across town or across the country? Maybe you’re on a trip and want to retrieve some information on your home computer. Or, perhaps you want that tech superhero living in New York to be able to help you in California.

Just logmein, baby.

Logmein.com is a free web based service that allows a person to remotely access a computer over the Internet. Its like flying them across the country and having them sit right next to you to see the same screen at the same time. You no longer have to write down cryptic error messages or struggle to follow over-the-phone instructions from your tech superhero.

The basic premise is much the same as Microsoft Remote Desktop or PC Anywhere software. You can connect to a PC to view screen activity, retrieve a file or help a person. However, in my opinion, LogMeIn is much easier for the basic computer user to setup and use.

For instance, just the other day I was working in an office and had my laptop directly wired to a Comcast cable Internet modem. My colleague used my LogMeIn.com account to connect to my laptop to check the settings on the modem.

In my situation, I setup a free LogMeIn.com account and then shared my username and password with my colleague. The computer that will be accessed using the service needs to have free LogMeIn software downloaded and installed or else remote access isn’t possible.

The free account has limited features, but it works fine if you just need remote access. It’s quick and easy to setup and use. I created my account in less than 5 minutes. There are five different LogMeIn plans, each with different features and pricing. The LogMeIn IT Reach plan has the most whistles and bells.

Of course, there’s one problem your tech superhero can’t resolve using LogMeIn.com: a loss of Internet connectivity.

Getting Some Respect: Blogs will soon be included in Google’s Universal Search December 14, 2007

Posted by Mike in Blogging, News, Online Service, Technology.
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Google Sphere

I came across this article by Clint Boulton on eweek.com.

Google Adds Blogs to Universal Search

Just For Fun: ElfYourself or ScroogeYourself December 7, 2007

Posted by Mike in Creative, Freebies, Fun, Humor, Online Service, Reviews, Technology.
4 comments

Happy Friday & Happy Holidays!

If you’d like a quick laugh, try turning yourself into an elf or a Scrooge by using ElfYourself or ScroogeYourself. These sites allow you to paste photos onto the bodies of singing and dancing elves or “Scrooges” who will then do an energetic little song and dance number for your amusement.

The service is free and sponsored by OfficeMax, so you can expect a pop up ad and a little branding too.

All in all, it is quick and easy to do and definitely fun. You just upload a photo, use the tools on the web site to resize your photo onto an elf’s body and you’re done! You can then copy a link and paste it into an email or a blog.

Here’s what I’d look like as a jolly little elf:

http://www.elfyourself.com/?id=1217182128

The web site does get busy, so you may experience occasional problems accessing the site. It’s popular and it’s free so it may not load up during periods of high Internet traffic.

Retrevo Helps Answer Your Tech Questions Quickly December 5, 2007

Posted by Mike in Freebies, Hardware, iPod, News, Online Service, Reviews, Technology.
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The catch phrase on their web site is “matching people and electronics.”  Retrevo.com compiles lots of useful information about a product in a matter of seconds. 

Need a product review before you buy? Retrevo has them.  I typed in iPod Touch and Retrevo listed expert reviews at ilounge.com, zdnet.com and playlistmag.com.

Need a manual for an electronics product?  Retrevo can help find them. I typed in HP Deskjet 5850 and the site found the manual for me.  True, I can go to HP.com to get it, but then it may take a few minutes to narrow my search and find the manual.  Retrevo got the link for me in less than 5 seconds.

Doing the math:  If time=money, then time saved=money saved.  Retrevo’s service will save you money!  Of course, that’s far-fetched claim that you won’t find anywhere on their site, but maybe it’ll help you find the best deal on that iPod Touch which could save you some real coin.

Want to shop for a Slingbox?  Retrevo will give you plenty of sites to browse.

Retrevo will also list blogs, forums and manufacturing info on a given product (when available).

Trust me, this site is worth a look and a bookmark in your favorites.

Tips on Setting up a Holiday Budget November 22, 2007

Posted by Mike in Finance, Freebies, Holidays, Learning, Money, Online Service, Organize, Software, Technology.
2 comments

Holiday Candles

How does holiday budgeting find its way onto a blog about technology? Well, it just so happens that technology can help you setup a budget and stick to it. Not to mention, there are web sites and blogs out there with good advice on personal finance.

While November and December is the time for family, turkey, thankfulness, holiday lights and gift giving, January tends to be the time for credit card bills and financial shock and awe.

Hopefully, setting a holiday budget can help you get the best of both worlds: Happiness in November and December without the shock and awe of credit card bills.

With Thanksgiving upon us and Black Friday Ads enticing us to shop and save tomorrow, I’ve located a few tools and advice web sites for you to use.

Do you have any tips or tools that you can share regarding a budget? If you do, please share them.

Happy Holidays!

Just for Fun: Create an Old West “Wanted Poster” Online November 14, 2007

Posted by Mike in Freebies, Fun, Online Service, Reviews, Technology.
4 comments

wantedposter.jpg

Create a free Wanted Poster online at GlassGiant.com.

You can customize the name, reward $$ and crime that they’re wanted for. Oh, and upload your own photo of course.

Lots of fun and easy to do! You can create one in minutes and save it as a photo file.

Enjoy!

Kids and Computers: Worried about Online Safety? Consider ‘KidSafe’ November 11, 2007

Posted by Mike in Hardware, Online Service, Technology, Worth the Money.
2 comments

KidSafe_Home.png

Are you worried about your kid’s unsupervised access on a computer in your home?

I know that I will be one day. At the moment, my two year olds are only savvy enough to open the CD-Rom tray and power off my PC (with a grin, of course).

In many homes, kids are the “tech” experts which makes controlling their PC access all the more difficult.

Here’s an easy question: How do you stop your teenager from driving your car?

Answer: Take away the keys.

While window shopping on ThinkGeek today, I saw an ad for a USB computer “key.”

No key, no computer. It’s literally that simple.

You have a key for your car, why not your computer?

If the USB key is in your pocket, you’ll know that your kids aren’t on your computer.

Here’s the web site for more information on the product: KidSafe.

Additional info:

Facts about online safety

Watch a quick video, get some quick facts

Here’s some links to the product in the news:

News article 1

News article 2

News article 3


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Quick Tip: Drag n’ drop to change your driving directions on Google Maps October 13, 2007

Posted by Mike in Blogging, Freebies, Online Service, Technology.
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I just noticed this feature in Google Maps. You can call up driving directions and then re-do your travel route right on the map.

I’m not sure how new it is, but Google is promoting it as such. Maybe it’s a few days new or a few weeks. Heck, maybe its old news. At any rate, it’s news to me so I thought I’d share it with you.

It’s quite simple…….just drag the blue line on the google map along the new route and drop it. The map will update and the turn by turn directions will too.

I found this feature quite helpful one day when Google’s directions chose to take me on a scenic route instead of taking the freeway.

Click here for a sample screenshot.

Which mapping site do you use most often?

Record and Share Your Screen Activity with Jing October 2, 2007

Posted by Mike in Blogging, Business, Freebies, Learning, Online Service, Reviews, Software, Technology, Training, Worth the Money.
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You need to try Jing software by Techsmith. I’ve been using it for a few weeks now and am very pleased with its ease of use.

What does it do, you ask?

Here’s a quick definition, courtesy of the JingProject.com web site:

The concept of Jing is the always-ready program that instantly captures and shares images and video from your computer to anywhere.

Why do I like it?

  1. Easy to use.
  2. Great for sharing.
  3. Great for troubleshooting computer problems.
  4. Great for demonstrations and training.
  5. Great for blogs.
  6. Easy to share recordings with others.
  7. Free (for now). Hopefully, inexpensive when out of beta.

# 6 deserves additional explanation. Techsmith has integrated JING with its Screencast.com file hosting service. When you complete a recording, you can click a SHARE button and the recording is immediately uploaded to your account on the screencast.com web site. From there, you can share the recording as a URL.

I believe the Screencast.com web site is fee-based, but Techsmith offers a free account for those using JING in beta. I am not expecting the free Screencast.com account to last forever, but it is impressive to be able to quickly upload my recordings to their site and share them.

What don’t I like?

The one down side for me is the 5 minute time limit on your recording. Users cannot record longer than 5 minutes.

The program does a good job of tracking your time left with a clock during the recording process, so you shouldn’t be surprised when the recording stops. It would still be helpful to have the option to record a bit longer though.

Please keep in mind that this software is simplified screen recording. It also can capture screenshots in better quality than your “Print Screen” button. It is designed for the masses to capture and share these recordings. It doesn’t allow you to edit your recording after the fact. That said, if you don’t like your recording, then your only option is to delete it and re-record.

How to Use Jing

How many times have you written up instructions about a computer process for a family member, a friend or a colleague?  If you’re like me, the answer is a lot.  

With JING, you can now show someone how to do it. 

Best of all, you can record the steps quickly and send the person a link to view them.  It may not be a polished, presentation ready demonstration, but it is intended for an individual not a group.  Jing gets the job done quickly and that’s what counts.

Competing Products

Adobe Captivate 3 and Camtasia Studio 4. In basic terms, both of these products offer screen recording/capture. However, these two programs have much better editing tools and options for formatting and presenting these recordings. They also have a much higher price tag.

Final Thoughts

Try it. You’ll like it (sort of like green eggs and ham). Ideally, I think this type of technology should be included in future operating systems. The ability to quickly record my PC activity and share it with others is a great way to educate and train users on new products and features via email, blog or instant message.  It is also a great way for a person to show tech support exactly what steps they took to get an error.

The 5 minute time limit is a little short. However, realistically, most people have short attention spans and a 5 minute video may be enough to get your point across.

As an example, I used JING in an earlier blog post to demonstrate how to mail merge.

For details, FAQs and to download the software, please visit JING Project.

BoardFirst.com’s Service Will Get You an “A” Boarding Pass on Southwest Airlines September 5, 2007

Posted by Mike in Online Service, Worth the Money.
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Southwest Airlines Logo

Got $5? 

If you do, then you can use it to pay BoardFirst.com to secure an “A” boarding pass on Southwest Airlines.  If they cannot secure an “A” boarding pass for you, there is no charge.

 That’s right.  For the price of 1 venti-double-raspberry mocha at Starbucks, you’ll eliminate the need to arrive extra early to secure that “A” boarding pass at the airport. Waiting is for people with too much time on their hands.

 With the holiday season coming up,  travellers flying Southwest Airlines should take advantage of this inexpensive service.  After all, passengers holding boarding pass “A” are highly unlikely to end up sitting in the middle seat on a 4 hour flight to Denver.

Here’s some additional info:

  1. BoardFirst.com is not owned or operated by Southwest Airlines.
  2. Boarding passes secured by BoardFirst.com can be printed from your computer or from an airport kiosk.
  3. BoardFirst.com only works with Southwest Airlines flights.
  4. The deadline for placing your order is 5pm Pacific Time two days before your departure date.

 You can find FAQ answers on their site.

When it comes to air travel, $5 is a small price to pay for a little piece of mind and the knowledge that you won’t be wedged in a middle seat for hours on end.

Constant Contact: An Email Marketing Campaign Service for Your Business August 28, 2007

Posted by Mike in Business, Online Service, Technology, Worth the Money.
1 comment so far

Constant Contact logo

Customer relationships are the life blood of any business.  Businesses need to keep in touch with clients (existing or potential) to help develop and sustain these relationships. 

If you’re looking for a way to set up a marketing campaign with your clients via email, I’d suggest that you take a look at ConstantContact.com.   Better yet, you can try them for free for 60 days without providing any credit card information.

Here are some of the benefits that I see in their service:

  1. Free 60 day trial…..try before you buy!
  2. Professional HTML email newsletter templates save you time.
  3. Reporting feature allows you to track who looked at your email and when.
  4. Email Campaign Wizard will help you get started.
  5. Import Data from a Text (txt), CSV or Excel (XLS) file.
  6. Live Product Demos, Online Tutorials, Free Technical Support.

 If you have additional questions, you can look at their FAQ page or their detailed description of email marketing features.
With a 60 day free trial and monthly plans starting at $15it certainly looks like an affordable option for small business owners.

Google vs. Yahoo! – Battle of the Email Titans: One Reason Why Gmail is Better August 23, 2007

Posted by Mike in Freebies, Online Service, PC ABCs, Reviews, Software, Technology.
5 comments

Yahoo vs. Google

One reason why Google’s Gmail is better can be summed up in three words:

Free POP Settings.

Yahoo requires users to upgrade to the Yahoo! Mail plus service for an annual $19.99 in order to get to use POP Settings. 

For many, POP settings are important.  It is a fundamental feature that isn’t sexy or flashy, but it is useful. 

For the average computer user, the phrase POP Settings may not mean much.  It is an abbreviation for “Post Office Protocol.” These are email server settings that need to be configured into software programs like Outlook, Outlook Express, Thunderbird and IncrediMail. Once configured,  a person can download their email into one of those programs to manage their email.

To be fair, POP settings have been considered a “premium” feature for free online email services for quite a while.  Google is just re-writing the rules and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Yahoo! and others follow suit in the future to keep their users happy.

If you’re looking for a new email service and want to be able to manage your email in a software program like Outlook, then I’d suggest looking at Gmail

After all, it’s hard to beat free.

Which email service do you prefer?

Pingme and Jott: Two Great Services Mashed Up Together! August 20, 2007

Posted by Mike in Business, Freebies, Online Service, Organize, Technology.
1 comment so far

In my earlier post about PingMe,  I casually suggested that combining the services of PingMe and Jott would be an excellent enhancement to both; kind of like combining chocolate and peanut butter.  Both products benefit. Mmmm. Peanut butter.

 Lo and behold,  Stephen Lombardo of Zetetic LLC was reading.  He and his software development consultancy created PingMe and they’ve now created a PingMe/Jott mashup that turned my suggestion into reality! The mash up allows someone to create a PingMe reminder by calling it in via Jott’s phone to email service!

 Stephen will give you all the mash-up details on the Zetetic site.  Read all about it!

 Thanks, Stephen!

Do You Need a Reminder? Pingme’s Free Online Service will Keep You on Task August 17, 2007

Posted by Mike in Business, Freebies, Online Service, Organize, Technology.
5 comments

 pingmelogo.png

Pingme has designed an easy to use reminder service to help us remember what’s important to us. If you’re like me, you have too much to remember in your daily life. To keep track of it all, I resort to post-it notes stuck to computer monitors, messages scribbled on the back of scraps of paper or emails sent to myself with a “to-do” list.

Whether its a grocery list, an anniversary date or a reminder to pick someone up at the airport, Pingme can help.

With a free Pingme account, you can setup the service to send a reminder to your email address or your mobile phone as a text message. These reminders can be recurring (i.e. once a year to remember your anniversary) or a one time reminder to pickup your friends at the airport.

Pingme also has a “pester” option that allows me to send my reminder more frequently, say every hour, 30 minutes or 10 minutes.   I’d get irritated (at myself) quickly if I received a reminder every 10 minutes.  However, to each his/her own and that may be a valuable feature to you.

When I setup my account, I was asked to verify my email address and mobile phone number (via text message). After doing so, I logged in to create a new reminder for myself. You can add multipe emails and phone numbers too. You’ll be able to choose where to send the reminder (email, phone or both).

I think the folks at Jott and the folks at Pingme should join forces to create a stellar service.

Jott’s voice to email technology could be modified by PingMe to quickly create reminders when I’m driving in my car and not in front of my computer.

Take a look at Pingme and keep it in mind the next time you’re staring at your post-it covered computer monitor trying to remember what you forgot.

How to Backup your Data Online for Free: Shall we Mozy? August 7, 2007

Posted by Mike in Data Backup, Learning, Online Service, PC ABCs, Software, Technology, Training, Worth the Money.
2 comments

Mozy Logo

Backing up your data is critical and using an online service to securely backup your information accomplishes two important objectives:

  1. First and foremost, you have a backup copy of your data!
  2. Second of all, your backup data is stored “off site” or away from your computer.

Point # 2 is often overlooked.  Folks backup their data to CDs, DVDs or external hard drives and then store those backup files in the same place as their computer.  Even worse, some store it in the same bag as their laptop! 

What happens when your bag is stolen? Bye-bye laptop and bye-bye data backup! 

What happens when your home is damaged by fire, flood or ________ (insert your natural disaster here)?   Bye bye computer and bye bye data backup! 

Ok, so disasters aren’t an every day occurrence.  What if you spill some soda on your external hard drive? Or drop it?  Or misplace it? Or your toddler wants to see if it will float in the bath tub?

Have you ever scratched a CD? Yep, me too.

In order to avoid this type of headache, online backup services are ideal.  I just tested out Mozy.com and found it very user-friendly.  They offer 2GB of free (and secure) storage, which will be either:

  • Woefully inadequate for users with large quantities of data     OR    
  • Just right for backing up a few important files, pictures, etc.

 Here’s what I like about mozy.com’s service:

  • Free 2 GB of storage (no trials or tricks, just good ole’ free!)
  • User friendly software identifies and categorizes files to backup and lists the size of the files (very helpful for novice users who often wonder what to backup)
  • Advanced features for those more comfortable with PCs and configuring backups.
  • Option to schedule backups to run on a regular basis. (In other words, set it and forget it)
  • Larger storage options available for a monthly (not annual) fee.
  • “Slider” setting in the software allows you to control how much bandwidth is used during the backup process.

 Here’s what I don’t like:

  • Slow upload speeds.

 However, this isn’t Mozy’s fault.  It’s a reality for most home users on DSL or cable Internet, except for that lucky 75 year old woman in SwedenUpload speeds are always slower than download speeds.  Regardless of the culprit, transferring large amounts of your data securely onto Mozy’s servers takes longer than transferring them onto an external hard drive or burning them to CD. 

That’s just a limitation of any kind of online backup service. 

I’d suggest you consider giving Mozy a try.  If you like it, you can decide whether to upgrade to a larger account (if you need it).

If Mozy isn’t to your liking, there are other online backup services to explore: 

Carbonite

Xdrive

Kela

Whatever you do, you need to backup your important data.  It will save you a lot of stress and worry when your hard drive crashes or your laptop wanders off. Backing up your important files limits a catastrophe to a mere inconvenience. 

Trust me.

This is experience talking here.    :  )

VFlyer.com: Create and Distribute Flyers Online for Free August 1, 2007

Posted by Mike in Business, Free Kittens, Freebies, Online Service, Technology, Worth the Money.
2 comments

A colleague of mine at work sent around an email the other day.  She found 6 adorable kittens under her house and wanted to find homes for them.  Her husband is very allergic, so keeping any of them wasn’t an option. Her last resort is to turn them into an animal shelter, but she doesn’t want to do so for fear they’ll be euthanized.

I offered to help her by creating an online flyer using vflyer.com.  Their service is great and the flyers are easy to use.  You begin by selecting the purpose of your flyer.  In other words, are you selling your house or your car? Advertising a job opening? Offering your computer services for hire? Classes? Tryouts for a sports team?

They didn’t quite have a flyer for “Free Cats”, but I just took their template for Pet for Sale and set the price to $0.00.  That seemed to do the trick.

 With the flyer created, you can choose to:

  1. Print the flyer
  2. Email the flyer
  3. Publish the flyer to the online marketplace of edgeio, Oodle, Vast, Trulia, Google Base, Craigslist, etc.
  4. Send the flyer to mobile devices, like phones.
  5. Embed the flyer into a widget and post it to a blog.

 Vflyer offers various pricing plans as well as a free account. Not all of the features are available to free account users. 

All in all, it is a very user-friendly and effective service. I’d suggest you give it a try the next time you’re trying to sell your car, your computer or searching for homes for a few cuddly kittens.

YouSendIt.com – How To Send Large File Attachments July 25, 2007

Posted by Mike in Freebies, Humor, International Lawyer, Online Service, Technology, Worth the Money.
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YouSendIt.com

It is bound to happen to you sooner or later.  You’ve got an attachment that is too large to email.  Your email service may limit the size of an attachment you can send or perhaps the recipient of your email has a service that limits their attachment size.  Or, you’ve got no size limit but the sheer size of the attachment brings your email service to a grinding halt as it tries to send the attachment.

Sooner or later, you’ve got to ask yourself if there’s an easier way. 

It happened to my friend James.  James is a globe trotting lawyer with a zest for life and a sense of humor.  This latter character trait led him to an open mic night at a comedy club in Asia.  Now, he thinks he’s funny.  He says he has proof. He has a video. 

He wanted to post it to YouTube but the video is 70 MB in size and he isn’t sure how to compress it.  Emailing it was not an option. Burning it to a CD and sending it via the postal service is so 2001.  We’re in Web 2.0 nowadays, so James found yousendit.com.

YouSendit.com allows you to securely upload large files and then email a link to a person to download the file.  They have a FREE version (gotta love it) and they also have subscription accounts with more oomph, should you need it.

YouSendit.com has been selected as one of the Top 100 private companies for 2007 by AlwaysOn. They were also recently awarded a place on the Webware 100 list, so they’re a highly regarded company.

Their service is easy to sign up for and use. The free account is great for personal use. Small business owners looking for an inexpensive file sharing solution may want to subscribe to one of their business accounts. By doing so, you can securely share files and not have to worry about purchasing computer hardware and hiring a technician to maintain the hardware.

As always, visit the company’s blog for the latest news.

As for my friend James….is he funny? I’ll let you know as soon as I download his video.

Who’s Your PollDaddy? Create a Poll for Free and post it online! July 22, 2007

Posted by Mike in Freebies, Fun, Online Service, Technology.
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PollDaddy.com

PollDaddy.com makes it fast, easy and free to make a poll and publish it to a page on MySpace, FaceBook or a blog.

It’s a 3 step process. You begin by creating a question and the multiple choice answers. Step 2 is to select a style for the poll or create your own. Step 3 is to get the code you need (javascript, Flash, or a simple hyperlink) and then copy/paste it to your blog, etc.

Here’s a poll that I created on their site. It took me 5 minutes. Please take a moment to answer. I’m curious to see the results.

Poll Question: How do you backup your data?

How to use RSS to Make your Life Easier July 19, 2007

Posted by Mike in Fun, Learning, Online Service, PC ABCs, RSS, Technology, Training.
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RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary.

Why do I need RSS? This is an excellent question.

Someone else has provided an excellent answer. Best of all, it’s in a fun little video clip.

I can’t explain it any better.

I’m just going to give you the link to watch this short, yet very entertaining video clip about RSS and how it makes your life easier.  Enjoy.

[blip.tv ?posts_id=209879&dest=-1]

Terabitz.com – Real Estate Information made Real Simple July 18, 2007

Posted by Mike in Freebies, Online Service, Real Estate, Technology.
1 comment so far

Terabitz.com 

Everybody needs different information when it comes to real estate.  Imagine being able to pick and choose the information you want on a piece of property.  Do you want an estimated price? A list of nearby schools? Restaurants in the area?  Grocery stores? Health care services? Places of worship? Weather? A graph showing housing market trends? Crime stats? Nearby sex offenders?

 Terabitz.com makes it possible.  For free. 

You begin by searching a residential property address in the United States. Using their innovative Dashboard, you can drag and drop up to 9 different modules of information (they call them “bitz”) from a menu of available options. The 9 modules (or bitz) then form a customized snapshot of information on that property and its surrounding community. 

 When you’ve got the modules you want, you can click a button to take a snapshot of the page and either email it to someone or create a URL to share.  If you sign up for a free account, you can store your snapshot for the long term.

Click here for a sample of a snapshot that I created.

The web site is very user friendly and, dare I say, fun to use.  The drag n’ drop functionality is intuitive which will help the average user customize the dashboard to suit their own needs.

Give their site a try.  I think you’ll like what you see.  You can also read the Terabitz blog for a bit more FYI about the site.

Blinksale – Easy Online Invoicing for any Business July 17, 2007

Posted by Mike in Business, Freebies, Online Service, Technology, Worth the Money.
2 comments

Do you need a professional looking invoice for your business? Look no further than Blinksale.  I logged into the site today and took advantage of their free account to create a Sample Invoice.  It took me about 15 minutes. 

If you only need to issue the occassional invoice,  the free account allows you to create and send up to 3 invoices per month.  If you’re doing more business than that, you should consider upgrading to a pay account. The prices are reasonable, ranging from $12 per month to send up to 50 invoices to $49 a month to send up to 1500 invoices.  Click here to read more about pricing. 

A nice feature is the ability to view open, closed and past due invoices via your Blinksale account.  You can email or print invoices.  With a pay account, you can also generate the invoice as a PDF.

All in all, it seems like a good service for the small business person who is looking for an inexpensive yet professional invoicing service.

Checkout the Blinksale blog for more information too.

Need How to advice? Take a look at ExpertVillage.com July 16, 2007

Posted by Mike in Freebies, Fun, Learning, Online Service, Technology, Training, Videos.
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ExpertVillage.com logo  

As I mentioned in my “About me” section on this blog,  I like to find useful sites, services and software to help make my life easier.

 I recently purchased a gas grill and needed some grilling advice.  I needed an expert since my grill skill is still developing.  I needed ExpertVillage.

ExpertVillage.com provides FREE how to videos on a variety of topics including cooking, fitness, music, beauty, automotive, parenting, sports and bartending. Their videos are also found on YouTube, so you can find them easily on either web site.

Some of the videos have brief commercials at the beginning, but it’s a small price to pay for quality advice.

Need to know How to Clean a Gas Grill ? Expertvillage has the answer.

Need advice on ceiling fans? Then, you need George A. Finn III : How To Install A Ceiling Fan.

Throwing a party? Need to learn how to mix drinks? Check this out: Hurricane: Bartending Guide for Rum Drinks.

Need to know How to Deliver a Baby in the Backseat of a Taxi Cab? Yup, Expertvillage comes through again!

The point is that the web has plenty of resources to help you with lots of projects and problems.  Many times, a quick Google search will do the trick.  However, it’s good to know where to find a village full of experts when you need to learn the right way to do it.

Kijiji – The Next Craigslist? July 4, 2007

Posted by Mike in Freebies, Online Service, Technology.
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KIJIJI.COM

It looks like Craigslist is getting some competition from Kijiji.com, a free classified service backed by eBay.

Greg Sandoval of Webware.com gives us the details on his blog. Read about it here.

I took a quick peek at the Bay Area page on Kijiji today. Since it just launched on a large scale in the United States (it’s been available in Canada and other countries for a while), there aren’t a lot of ads yet but I’m sure that will change in the near future. For the same reason, Craigslist.org has more categories at the moment.

Posting an ad on Kijiji essentially follows the same process too. A person fills out an ad and then must post it by clicking on a link in an email address.

Kijiji does offer an RSS feed to alert people to new ads on their site, which is a nice idea. Although, I’m not sure how many folks want to keep track of every type of new ad that comes onto Kijiji. It’d be a better idea to narrow down the RSS feed to a certain type of ad (homes for sale, car for sale, etc).

I do think the name, while catchy, is tricky to spell. I keep finding myself counting the number of “i’s” that I’ve typed in Kijiji. I’ll definitely bookmark it so I don’t have to worry about misspelling it every time.

Moo.com – Creative Cards for Business or Fun July 3, 2007

Posted by Mike in Business, Creative, Fun, Online Service, Technology, Worth the Money.
1 comment so far

Moo MiniCards

Looking for a way to jazz up your business cards? Want to make a memorable “save the date” card for your wedding? Look no further than moo.com.

Their web service allows you to make cards by uploading your own photos or choosing from a large selection of stock photos like nature scenes, puppy dogs, flowers, buildings, city scenes, etc. The cards are quite unique, especially if you’re using your own photos.

The MiniCard size is distinctive too….it’s only half the size of a standard business card. I’d equate it to the size of a stick of gum. Sadly, I don’t have a stick of gum to conduct an official measurement, but it’s in the ballpark. The site lists the miniCard size as 20mm x 70mm. Living in the last non-metric measuring country on our blue marble of a planet, those numbers don’t mean much to me.

One side of the card is the photo……..the other side is your contact info or message. You can order a pack of 100 cards (cost $19.99 + shipping) and select multiple photos for your cards. That’s what I did when I bought some. Variety is more fun anyway, right?

If the MiniCard is too Mini for you, then you may want to look at their NoteCard size instead.

Some people are getting very creative with the cards. Click here for a fun example listed on Moo’s site.

If you’re starting a business and want to be remembered, planning an event or just want to get a bit creative, try Moo.com. I think they’d be great for musicians, actors and artists too. Oh, and read their blog for more Moo.

Freecycle.org – Giving (and receiving) products for free July 3, 2007

Posted by Mike in Freebies, Online Service, Technology.
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Freecycle Network
“Clean out your garage, give someone a “freebie”, and help save the environment all at the same time!”

This quote neatly sums up the purpose of Freecycle.org. It’s a network of people who are looking to give away their unneeded items.

If you’re out to make a buck, then sell your items on eBay, Craigslist or at a local garage sale (no Internet needed for that option). If you need to get rid of something, rather than throw it away, why not post a message and see if someone in your community would like to pick up the item? That’s how it works.

Members are organized into local groups using Yahoo Groups. I recently joined one for my town and there are over 800 members in it so far. I’m number 804.

Why not give it a try? Visit the web site and find a group in your area! If there isn’t a group, you can create one for your community. Who knows….you might be able to get a free lawnmower, picture frame or a lamp from someone in your own town, keeping those items out of the landfill for a few more years.

Click here for a little background on how Freecycle began.

Kodak Gallery – Mobile Photo Scanning June 29, 2007

Posted by Mike in Online Service, Organize, Photos, Technology, Worth the Money.
2 comments

As a regular user of the Kodak Gallery (formerly Ofoto), I get periodic emails about their products and services. A recent email about a mobile Scan Van caught my attention.

Here’s the scoop: Kodak will send a high tech van to a shopping mall, school or other location. They’ll ask customers to schedule appointments with them. Their staff will then scan and upload 200 photos for $24.99 into a customer’s free account at the online Kodak Gallery.

Scanning by professionals with professional equipment for $24.99?

That’s quite a deal, especially for those who either aren’t comfortable using a computer scanner or don’t have the time to do it. A person could convert several photo albums worth of pictures into digital copies quickly and inexpensively.

With the pictures digitized, you can view them online, share them with friends and family and have an online backup of precious photos. It looks like a good idea from Kodak: Taking the hassle out of picture scanning and giving people all the benefits of digital photos.

Of course, the only downside I see at the moment is a BIG one:

At the time of this posting, the Kodak “Scan Van” is only scheduled for events in Atlanta and North Florida. Ouch. I’m not about to hop on a plane to take advantage of their service, but I’ll keep an eye out for any future events in Northern California.

The Kodak Scan Van!

Time to Jott: Convert Voicemail to Email for free June 29, 2007

Posted by Mike in Freebies, Online Service, Technology.
1 comment so far

I recently tested out a new Internet service from the folks at Jott. You sign up for a free account on their site. You can then call a toll free phone number and leave voice message that gets translated into an email. And, best of all, it is free! Like everyone else, I enjoy free. It’s even better when the freebie is useful as well. And believe me, Jott is useful.

While I’m driving, I can now push the 9 key on my cell phone to speed dial the Jott 800 number and leave a message. I don’t have to engage in any dangerous email or text-while-driving activities to get an email delivered to a friend, colleague or family member.

I can also use Jott to leave myself a note, instead of scribbling a phone number or a grocery list onto a piece of paper (which inevitably gets lost).

Here’s a list of the good features and uses of Jott:

  • You can setup Jott to email a group of people.
  • You can import your contacts from AOL, Outlook, Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail or Plaxo.
  • Every time you Jott, you can view a copy of your message on Jott.com
  • You can print your Jotts for your records
  • Your “Jott” email includes an audio clip of your message.
  • You can use Jott to send yourself a reminder.

Jott is still a beta product, so there is room for improvement. Here’s my list of Jott shortcomings:

  • You are limited to 30 second voice messages when you call.
  • The translation is not always 100% accurate. Your Jott email message will often contain mis-spellings, which limits its effectiveness for business purposes.

Because of these shortcomings, I am not comfortable using Jott for business emails. My primary Jotting is for reminder messages to myself or personal emails. The folks at Jott do recommend that you speak clearly and spell out any hard to pronounce or unusual words. With 30 second message limits, this will further reduce your message time.

I do think Jott will work well for a youth sports coach who needs to notify all parents about a cancelled game or a busy mom who needs to remember a phone number or create a to do list.

All in all, Jott is off to a good start and I can’t complain too much if it is free.

There are alternatives to Jott. For example, E.V.A. (Electronic Virtual Assistant) offers the same service for a monthly fee. It is pricey, but better for business because a human being actually listens to your message and accurately transcribes it into an email for you.

If you’d like more Jott info, you can also read their blog.