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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Holiday Food Drive Horror Stories

Dallas - City of Ate - Pulp Charity: Holiday Food Drive Horror Stories

Seriously, people, I know this is a food drive where you get rid of stuff you don't want, but surely you can think of something better?!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Definitive Guide to Free Music + the Internet

The vastness of the Internet is home to a myriad of entertainment sources, particularly music. Traditionally, getting your tunes meant walking into your local music store and purchasing CDs (or heaven forbid, vinyl!) Naturally this implies cost and money. As you'll see, though, the Internet is an excellent channel for satisfying your musical fix quickly without costing you a penny.


In order of increasing tech-savviness:

  1. Streaming Audio/Video - YouTube is the most prominent player in this category, but innumerable other sites exist. Unofficial user creations as well as official releases can be found - just be wary of the often disorganized nature and varying quality.
  2. Online Radio - With the likes of Shoutcast, Pandora, and, online radio services provide a user-friendly solution. In exchange for ads or partial tracks, people can listen to both mainstream and indie artists.
  3. Music Portals/Sites - iTunes and the Zune Store might be great for those willing to fork over some dough, but people often don't realize that free music download joints exist as well. The service that comes to mind first is SpiralFrog. In exchange for an ad-laden site and heavily DRM'ed Windows Media Audio files, you get the latest tunes for free. For college students who have a .edu email address, a somewhat more polished service exists - Ruckus. Like SpiralFrog, they force you to live with an onslaught of website ads and WMA DRM. It's a difficult choice - pay for "free" non-DRM music, or pay nothing for "locked" DRM tracks?
  4. Other P2P - Besides BitTorrent, a number of other P2P networks exist. Think Frostwire/Limewire, Ares, etc. In my humble opinion, centralized, node-based P2P networks are on their way out. Nevertheless, you will likely find a decent array of music out there. Beware, though - files are often improperly/incompletely tagged and quality varies from amazing to abysmal. Additionally, the risk of coming across a malicious/fake file is significant.
  5. BitTorrent - I would have lumped this with P2P in general, but the extraordinarily high prevalence of music on BT deserves a special mention. Public trackers like Mininova and The Pirate Bay provide a respectable mix of more mainstream/well-known artists. For the tech-savvy, elite private trackers such as Waffles and serve up a delectable variety of lesser-known works; high quality releases are the norm with lossless FLAC rips of entire albums. In general, one can expect high quality when using BitTorrent - usually, tracks are properly named and labeled, and of consistent bitrate.

Whatever route you decide to go with, realize that getting good music doesn't mean forking over an arm or leg for a new album. Countless other listeners out there enjoy good music as much as you, and, especially in the case of P2P, have been kind enough to share their musical treasures with you.

Quick Tip: Maximize your Firefox viewing experience with Tiny Menu

If you are short on screen space or simply want to maximize your viewing area (like me), I highly recommend that you try out the Firefox Tiny Menu extension. Basically, it compresses your entire menubar - from "File" to "Help" into a short and sweet mini-menu. Then you can consolidate your toolbars and end up with something uber-cool like my setup below:


Grab it at

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Spruce up your Gmail with the new Themes feature

Gmail is sporting a fun new feature - Themes. Logging into my account today, I was greeted by a small info banner at the top, inviting me with a link to the theme settings page:


Quite the selection, indeed! I was impressed by the wide range of new styles available. I highly recommend the retro, ultra-nerdy Terminal theme!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Microsoft May Use Apple's WebKit engine for IE

TG Daily - Microsoft considers WebKit transplant for Internet Explorer

Microsoft has long used its own proprietary rendering engine for its venerable Windows Internet Explorer browser, but this strategy is becoming quite long in the tooth compared to the much faster, more modern, and open-source Gecko engine used in Mozilla Firefox. Now comes a stunning piece of news from Steve Ballmer : "the company may consider moving IE to the open-source WebKit browser engine." WebKit is a rendering platform originally developed by Apple, and is used in the Apple Safari browser. So if this switch did indeed happen, we'd not only have a IE+Safari hybrid (OMG!), but also a major change in Microsoft's closed-source-centric ideology.

Most importantly, though, users would likely see a vast improvement in the functionality and quality of IE - something much needed these days, especially when one compares the anemic IE7 (and even IE8) to its current competitors, like Firefox 3 and Opera 9.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Top Ten Reasons iTunes Sucks

The Top Ten Reasons iTunes Sucks - Webmonkey

GREAT article that details the flaws in Apple's iTunes software, as well as suggest a few alternatives for users on Windows and Linux alike.
May I once again iterate my unbounded love for MediaMonkey!