Tips

How to Ditch Your Cable Bill

I am a registered TV-holic.  There have been interventions and anonymous meetings.  So, for me, cutting the cable is not a realistic option (though I did consider it to save money), BUT that doesn’t mean I don’t need more access to my favorite shows, movies and sports (content in general).

My personal favorites are a combination of Netflix and torrents (but we’re not talking pirating right now).

I really wanted to write a post about all the ways that you can use the internet to gain access to your favorite video content but Lifehacker has put together such a comprehensive list of sites and methods that I must defer to it’s greatness.

I must give one caveat before I leave you to cut your cable…

You’ll still be paying for content.  Not everything you want will be available online for free.  Most of your sports will require subscriptions.  Most movies will require a purchase.  So don’t think you’re going to get away for free, but if you don’t need much content in your life, or just need a very specific subset, then maybe you are ready to free yourself.

Click through to Lifehacker for the full article on online TV, movies, sports and the accessories you can use to access them.

via [Lifehacker]

Get Help Finding Tickets!

There are a lot of sites to buy tickets from out there and it can be a bit overwhelming to figure out the best way.

SeatGeek seems to be a pretty slick way to search multiple sites (like Razorgator and Stubhub, but not Ticketmaster) at the same time and get a pretty little diagram of the available tickets with your results.  This definitely makes finding those 4 seats in that one section for that one show much easier.

The site seams to be using SeatQuest.com‘s engine with a nicer front end and in addition to the basic searching features SeatGeek provides forecasts on the ticket price (will it go up or down between now and the event).  This is a cool feature, though at a self described ~83% average accuracy I wouldn’t trust it for tickets that are real important to you.

SeatGeek also publishes TicketPulse, a monthly analysis and report of trends in sports and music based on the data SeatGeek captures from the sites it searches.  For example, “The Lakers vs Celtics game on February 18th represents the highest average ticket price for all remaining games in the second half of the NBA season, selling at an average of $300 or 375% of face value.”  Quirky interesting stuff…

The site is a TechCrunch50 Finalist (for what that is worth) and has announced plans for additional products including one to help ticket resellers maximize their profits by forecasting trends and prices.

If you buy a lot of tickets to sports or concerts you should check out the site and sign up for the email alerts.  Maybe you’ll save a few bucks on your next show.

via [lifehacker]

Get Your Olympics Fix!

Wondering how to get your Olympics fix?  Well, some people are…

Lifehacker has a post going with tips for official and unofficial ways to get all the Olympic content you’re looking for.

The best places to start are going to be The Official Vancouver 2010 Site and The Official NBC Olympic Site.

The west coast feed is being tape delayed so if you want to get live coverage on the left coast you’re going to need to resort to methods other than your cable coverage.

The only highlights I will really be looking to see are snowboarding and skiing, but the DVR will be set to record as much Curling as possible.  If you’ve never watched ‘chess on ice’ I suggest you get an explanation of the rules and then watch it on the first fast forward speed of your DVR (it’s the perfect speed).

Get Your Super Bowl Commercial Fix

MakeUseOf.com has a great rundown of all the different ways you can get your superbowl commercial fix.  I like YouTube’s AdFix which will let you watch the commercials live and vote / comment on your favorites.  Click through for more…

How will you get your fix?

via [makeuseof]

Twitter, the Super Bowl and You – #SB44

The NFL announces the #SB44 tag for Twitter and Flickr (and wherever else you use tags).

Not surprisingly the NFL has a Super Bowl XLIV related site up with all the standard bells and whistles (countdown timer, visitor guide, etc) including a new Super Bowl Twitter Page and announced #SB44 as the official hash tag for all that is Super Bowl 44 related.

The NFL marketing department has designated #SB44 as the tag to use for Twitter, Flickr and wherever else you plan on posting Super Bowl related stuff in an effort to harness the power of social media by organizing the content ever so slightly.  The site itself is a Flash-tastic compilation of tweets and photos you can pan across, but the content must be heavily moderated because there is nothing very interesting being posted (no cursing, no ranting, etc).

This is a great example of how major corporations can use  Twitter to organize their followers and help feed their own hype machine for whatever they have going on.  For users at the game, outside the stadium and across the country searching #SB44 should find you the latest and greatest news (from Twitter, at the least).

via [CNET]

4 Favorite Firefox Plug-ins I Can’t Live Without

First off, if you use Internet Explorer regularly… What is wrong with you?

Now that that is out of the way lets talk about Mozilla Firefox.  The beauty of open source applications are the plethora (I can’t say that word without thinking of the 3 Amigos) of plug-ins, add-ons and extensions to let you add or tweak features.  Firefox is no exception and offers thousands of add-ons to allow you to manage your web browsing experience.

The key to technology is making it work for you.  Choose applications and technologies that put the power of customization in the user’s hands then take full advantage of making the technology better for yourself.

To that end, here are 4 add-ons that almost everyone would benefit from using regularly.

Sage

I subscribe to a ton of RSS feeds that I need to get through regularly to stay on top of news around the world and sage is my favorite RSS reader.

It is basic and simple, displays in the Firefox sidebar and allows for drag and drop adding of feeds.

Xmarks

Xmarks synchronizes your bookmarks and passwords across to a server so that they can be accessed through the web and in different physical locations.  I spend a lot of time reading articles and bookmarking resources, but I do it at work, at home on my desktop and on the road with my laptop.  Now when I find a work related link while at home I don’t have to e-mail it to myself, it’ll just show up in the bookmarks folder in every location and everything happens in the background so you don’t have to worry about it.

Firebug

I am not a coder, but I do often have to mess with CSS elements of a website to tweak this or that.  Every skill level from code peons like me all the way up to hardcore developers use Firebug to steal look at and tweak code.  From figuring out how a page is laid out to where a particular DIV ends, there is no tool better for getting a quick look at the behind the scenes action of whatever page you’re look at.  If you’re curious, download it and mess around. You wont break anything.

Greasemonkey

Greasemonkey is a plug-in that allows users to run javascript to modify or manipulate web pages.  For example, there are scripts for creating a Facebook Dislike button, re-organizing gMail’s layout and (my personal favorite) automating Mafia Wars playing.  There are thousands of scripts and often many for the same purpose so you should read the comments and consider ratings and # of downloads before you choose  (also don’t be afraid to try one then replace it with another).  Is there some way that you wish you could tweak a site you use every day?  Check userscripts.org and you might find the script to do.

Google Docs Lets You Share Any File For Free

Back in October ’09 the Google Docs team announced shared folders which was a much needed addition to the gDocs featureset.  Now the team has announced the ability to upload any file type you please, essentially making Google Docs into an online file sharing repository.

Users can upload up to 1GB of data and make the files available for viewing and download to anyone they want.  Additional storage is $.25 / GB / Year.

There are many ways out there to share files with friends and coworkers (including creating a Google Site or manually uploading to your FTP site), but being integrated directly with Google Docs makes the process much cleaner, simpler and safer.  Users can leverage their existing accounts to take advantage of the sharing and security features that come with Google Docs.

This isn’t a mind blowing feature, but the next time you need to distribute a file that is to big to e-mail you should think of Google Docs.  It’ll save you a ton of time.

via [Google Docs Blog]

How To Make Twitter Useful For You – Privacy, Advanced Twitter Search

I think Twitter is the best way to get real-time crowd sourced news.  Yes, Twitter can be a clusterfuck of useless people spouting useless information…but it doesn’t have to be!

If you’re not interested in publishing to the masses I’d recommend setting your tweets to private and requiring that you approve followers before they can see your tweets (check your account settings).  This combined with only following people you trust to tweet useful information will go a long way towards minimizing any craziness.

Even if you’re not going to tweet at all, following your favorite news sources is a great way to get access to your news in one place.  If you read CNN, ESPN, NY Times and, of course, Tech to Live By everyday then follow those twitter accounts and your feed will be filled with info from sources you already read (for me it’s often easier than RSS feeds).

Now, searching Twitter is the other side of the equation.  There are millions of tweets that you’ll never see (nor have any desire to see) and that’s the way it should be.  On occasion though, you’ll want information on a topic that hasn’t shown up in your feed.  That is when you can fire up the Twitter search engine.  With millions of tweets constantly flowing through the system there is almost always at least a few people tweeting about whatever it is you’re interested in.

My personal favorites are things like:

  • Finding out why I’m stuck in traffic (and yes, it can be faster than waiting for your navigation system POI to update).
  • Finding out why there are 8 cop cars circling my house.
  • Figuring out if that was an earthquake I just felt.
  • How big an area is affected by this power outage?
  • How long the line is for a ride at Disneyland.

The list goes on for a while… It’s really an excellent way to get real time reports of things that wouldn’t normally be covered by a regular news source or just haven’t had time to make it to the larger slower moving news team.

Searching is pretty simple and you can use keywords or #hashtags to investigate a particular topic.  Your searches can be saved as necessary to make running the same search again later easy.

The real power of searching  comes in when you move over to the Advanced Twitter Search page.  Advanced Twitter Search gives you a wide range of ways to search the Twitter stream and brings a lot of new opportunities into the mix.

There are lots of services to help you manage searches, but I like the Twitter’s own version the best.



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Instead of just keywords and hashtags you can search by:

  • Words – Search by word or phrase with various syntax options including hashtags and multi-language support
  • People – Search by username including to, from and referencing that person
  • Places – Search within a radius of a given location. Recognizes different location information (like zip code or ‘NYC’), but the location is limited to what the user sets in in their profile (more on this later).
  • Dates – Search by since / until X date.
  • Attitudes – Search for positive / negative attitude (looks for emoticons) or asking a question.
  • Other – Results include links and/or retweets.

The places search feature being limited to the user’s profile location is not as useful as a real location. Twitter is no doubt working on updating this feature based on their GeoAPI.

Combining all these different search elements you are able to create a search tailored to exactly what you are looking for and really get the most out of the abundance of information that is available through Twitter.

[ NOTE: For nerds and text editor lovers, all these search options are available through basic search using advanced syntax (if you want to use that method then you're smart enough to find the commands online without me giving you a link).]

Hopefully now you can use Twitter to your advantage rather than just being overwhelmed by useless information (or staying off the Twitterscape completely).

Do you have a favorite way to use Twitter?  Let us know in the comments!

http://search.twitter.com/advanced

Google Voice Now On the iPhone with HTML5

I’ve talked about using Google Voice in your daily life before, but Tuesday Google quietly released a new version web based version based on HTML5.

I’ve already been using a gVoice program for my Palm Pre (gDial if you were wondering…and yes it’s updated with this release), but iPhone users were stuck in limbo without an app that Apple would approve.  So, the Big G has basically gone around Apple’s app store and created a web based version that iPhone 3.0 users can take advantage of (accessible at m.google.com/voice).

Users get the ability to make calls from their gVoice number at Google’s rates as well as text message for free.

If you haven’t tried Google Voice yet you need to find someone with an invite for  you and get on it.

The really interesting subtext to this is Google avoiding the Apple app store and the power of HTML5.  If Google can put together as robust a web app as this then there are going to be a lot of people that will opt for HTML5 rather than jumping through Apple’s hoops.  HTML5 provides excellent power and is OS agnostic so developers won’t need to develop for Android, WebOS and iPhone.  They’ll be able to work in HTML5 and deliver their product to multiple platforms much more easily.

via [Google Voice Blog]

Twitter Local Trends keeps you ‘up to tweet’ on the latest in your area

On Tuesday Twitter launched a new feature that (I think) is the first to take advantage of their new GeoAPI from Mixer Labs.

Local Trends builds upon Twitter’s trending topics feature by adding a geo-location layer.  Now you can set your location and see trending topics in your area.

For example, as I write this I can see that both the national and local trending topics include Apple iPad announcements and the canceling of Ugly Betty (seriously people?).  At the same time the state of the #union is a trending topic nationally while in Los Angeles people would rather be tweeting #nowthatsghetto than discussing politics (I do love my hometown).

So, that’s not exactly a profound example (tho it does say something about my angelino brethren), but it’s the middle of the afternoon in the middle of the week.  It’ll be most interesting to see what pops up around the time of big public events or things like power outages and earthquakes.  I already believe that Twitter is the most powerful real-time news search engine available to the public right now.  For example, when there is an earthquake here in LA I’ve found the fastest way to find the epicenter and magnitude is to search ‘earthquake’ on Twitter.  With the addition of this layer of geographical information you’ll be able to get a better picture of what is going on in your area, right now.

Right now Local Trends is limited to a handful of major cities worldwide (mostly in the US), but Twitter will definitely continue to roll out new features associated with geo-location data and Twitter’s ability to deliver useful and relevant search results will continue to improve.

We’ll keep an eye on these features as they evolve and in the future we’ll talk about Twitter’s advanced search function and how you can use it to make your life easier.

via [Twitter Blog]