Search Engines for your Hard Drive

Website of the Day: Friday October 29th

Blinkx>> Blinkx | >> Google Desktop Search
We’ve had loads of enthusiastic emails about Picasa – the free Windows software we featured last week, which helps you find, print, enhance and share your digital photos. Some of those emails have asked why nobody has come up with software to make it just as easy to find other documents or information already stored on your computer’s hard drive. Microsoft are promising that this will be a prominent feature in the next version of Windows, but in the meantime there are a number of downloadable hard-drive search engines already available.

First off the block was search newcomer Blinkx, which has had some very impressive reviews since launching in May. You download and install Blinkx on your PC and as well as searching the web, it will scour your documents and emails for relevant information and links. Once installed it indexes all the information on your hard drive as well as news and broadcast archives. It suggests information and links that relate to the document you are working on, anticipating your future searches and hopefully saving you time. So if you’re typing an email about what DVD to rent at the weekend, it should automatically suggest a range of DVD rental websites, and any other relevant files on your hard disc. Although Blinkx say their product is aimed at home users rather than businesses, it will be most useful to people who do a lot of work on their home PCs…. Using my previous example, I just don’t have that many documents about DVD rental on my hard drive! But If I was writing a business report, it’s easy to see how a tool like this could save an awful lot of time.

DesktopgoogleMeanwhile, search engine giant Google launched a test version of their Desktop Search earlier this month, and I finally got round to installing it this week. First impressions are really good: Once installed it works behind the scenes for an hour or two to index your PC, and after that it’s every bit as simple, fast and effective as Google’s web searches. Blinkx is probably more versatile and has some more advanced features, but it is Google Desktop Search’s very simplicity which makes it so good. I can see it becoming indispensable very quickly

More info:
>> Search Engine Journal: Full review of Google Desktop Search
>> Guardian Unlimited: All Eyes on Blinkx
>> BBC News: De-Clutter that Home Computer

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Online Money-saving toolkit

Website of the Day: Thursday October 28th

Money_savingThe web is a great place for Scrooges as there are so many money-saving opportunities from basic online shopping, to switching fuel and telecom providers, and even reducing your credit card payments by switching to a card with 0% interest for up to 12 months. Careful use of these links should help your monthly paycheck go a lot further:

Price Comparison sites
>> Bookbrain: Compare Book Prices | >> Pricerunner | >> DVD Pricecheck
Pricerunner is my favourite price comparison site covering music, film, books, electricals, furniture, sporting equipment and much more, with links to reviews. DVD Pricecheck and Bookbrain are best for specialist searches.

Save on your Household Bills
For switching to a new telecoms provider try one of these sites:
>> uSwitch | >> My Call Savings

For a comprehensive list of sites which help you switch energy providers, see the Website of the Day from September 22nd:
>> Change your energy provider online

Reduce your Credit Card payments
>> Motley Fool: The Credit Card Centre | >> MoneySupermarket: Compare Credit Cards

Finally an indispensable bookmark for all money-conscious web surfers is this site put together by Jeremy Vine’s regular personal finance pundit Martin Lewis:
>> Money Saving Expert

How to research a new area before you move house

Website of the Day: Wednesday October 27th

Upmystreet>> Up My Street.com | >> Knowhere Guides
Maura McFall recently emailed me to ask:

Miles,

If you’re considering moving to a different part of the Country for work how would you find out about an area or place that would suit you. We are in this position and have spent a few weekends driving around but it’s very time consuming and not always easy to find out actual facts about a place.

We don’t need to worry about schools as our children are grown up – but we do need to have access to good road and rail links and an airport. We also need good doctors/dentist facilities and even more important know that there is a good hospital nearby. Where would you start to try to compile this sort of info?

Many thanks
Maura McFall

Knowhere_guidesThere are two different sites which between them, do an excellent job of answering Maura’s questions (once you’ve waded through all the superfluous adverts!). On Up My Street you simply type in a postcode or placename to find detailed facts for that area including nearest schools, healthcare, train stations and airports, plus performance statistics for schools and councils, local crime rates and contact details for MPs and MEPs.
Knowhere Guide provides much more “warts-and-all” views of area, as submitted by locals – The language and opinions are occasionally frank and fruity, but this is where to go for recommendations of the best (and worst) pubs, chippies, newsagents, and teen hangouts in a particular area

Live Webchat Update

Many thanks to everyone who joined in last week’s Website of the Day Live Webchat or submitted questions. As promised here are some links to sites metioned during the chat. Watch this space for new links over the next few days

Legal Music Downloads:
iTunes Music Store | Napster | OD2 | Wippit | Woolworths Downloads | Karma Download
More info/explanation on this site

Remove Pop-ups and Spyware
Ad-Aware| Spybot Search and Destroy | more info/explanation on this site

How to investigate a suspicious looking email

Snopes>> Snopes.com
If you’ve been online for more than a few weeks, the chances are you’ll have received emails promising you free cash or items of clothing if you forward the message to at least 15 people, or telling you that you’ve recently won millions in an obscure European lottery. On the whole it’s best to assume that if an email looks too good to be true then it’s probably a hoax.
The same is usually true of e-mail messages that warn of a “new and deadly virus, which will destroy your hard-drive”.
Next time you receive a virus warning message or an email promising untold riches, check it whether it’s the real McCoy at Snopes.com – a huge online database of hoaxes and urban myths.

Free photo management software for Windows

Website of the Day: Wednesday October 20th

Picasa>> Picasa: Free photo management software for Windows
Apple Mac devotees are already used to having simple, easy-to-use software to manage their digital photos as part of their operating system, but this free download gives Windows users the chance to manage, print, enhance and share their digital photos with software that’s every bit as stylish, functional and easy to use as Apple’s iPhoto. Picasa is especially useful if you tend to dump your digital photos onto your PC without keeping track of what folder you put them in. It scans your hard drive for photos and displays them in albums grouped by date, irrespective of where they are filed. The software also creates photo web pages and slide shows which can set to your own MP3 music files.

Website of the Day Live Chat

WebchatPUT YOUR QUESTIONS TO MILES!
Website of the Day Live Chat: Thursday October 21st, 3-4pm

• Where can you go for legal music downloads?
• What was that site which saves you money on calling 0870 numbers?
• How can you avoid getting your email address on spam lists?
• What’s the best site to track down former neighbours?

During Thursday’s show I’ll be taking part in a Live Web Chat taking your questions on anything to do with the web, email, downloading, online shopping or pretty much anything else to do with the internet. So if you’ve ever wondered what my favourite sites are, or wanted a personalised Website of the Day recommendation, now’s your chance! You can submit your internet queries now, then go to the Radio 2 site on Thursday between 3 and 4pm to chat live to me and see if I’ll answer your question.