Lifehacker: Tech-y and household tips

>> Lifehacker

“A “hack” is a clever shortcut or a lesser-known, faster way to get something done. While the hacks you’ll find here will focus mostly on technology, they’ll also extend to things like how to get out of paying that parking ticket.”

This site started out aimed mainly at more technically-literate web users, but there’s now such a broad range of useful tips and timesavers here, that most people should find something useful. Don’t panic if you find that the first few entries are full of techno-jargon. Just skip those sections and scroll down until you find posts like
How to Clean Your Dogs’ Ears, Folding T Shirts Fast  and
How to Brew Beer.
You’ll also find lots of recommended downloads, and tech-y tips from how to convert vinyl to MP3s to How to make a solar power generator

Monkey Mondays

>> Monkey Mondays

Not many sites promise you a monkey in your mailbox once a week, so (if you’ll allow me a bit of alliterative licence) I reckon I can get away with billing this as your leading web-based postal primate resource. Canadian artist Rob Elliot hopes that the simian artwork he emails to subscribers every Monday will “provide a bit of levity in what is widely agreed to be the worst day of the week”. In fact Rob offers more than just monkeys – the pictures run the full gamut of primates from orang-utans to lemurs and mandrills.

National Kazoo Day

>> Kazoo History on The House of Musical Traditions

>> Captain Kazooz Kazoo Museum

>> The Kazoo in Popular Music

>> WahKazoo

January 28th is one of the more prominent occasions in the musical calendar as the world marks (inter)National Kazoo Day. The celebration originated in the States but is gaining in popularity internationally. The Kazoo History at the House of Musical Traditions is a highly entertaining but not entirely plausible introduction to the world of the kazoo. Other essential bookmarks include the Kazoo Museum, and’s guide to examples of the kazoo in popular music.
Meanwhile one of the UK’s more prominent (and least serious) kazoo sites is WahKazoo – billed as the innovative product of a pub conversation along the lines of "I wonder what a Kazoo would sound like if it was put through a wah-wah pedal?".

Transport Direct

>> Transport Direct

There are plenty of journey planning sites available, but most of them are restricted to one mode of travel – rail, coach or driving yourself. This is the first site I’ve found which can help you compare door-to-door routes, costs and journey times for both public transport and car journeys around Britain.

Enter your starting point and destination, plus the time you want to set off or arrive, and the site will display a summary of different routes by road or  rail, to help ensure you travel in most efficient way (and cheapest) way.
The calculated journey times take account of average traffic levels at different times of day, and even estimate the cost of driving yourself (including fuel, road tolls, and general vehicle wear and tear)

Surname Profiler

>> Surname Profiler

Here’s another site which ties in nicely with the BBC family history series Who Do You Think You Are?

The Surname Profiler allows users to search for a surname and see where in the British Isles that name was most common in 1881 and 1998. 
The results are often illuminating. Whilst you would expect a high concentration of Williams and Davies in Wales, it surprised me how few of those names (relatively) are found in other parts of the UK.
Mendozas are predominately based in London, the UK’s top area for Wrights is Norwich, Graces are plentiful in Wakefield, and the UK’s HQ for Smiths is Lerwick!
See also:

>> BBC News on the Surname Profiler

>> Family History links on

Haggis Hunt

>> Haggis Hunt

Tomorrow (January 25th) is Burns Night: With less than 24 hours left until the end of 2006’s haggis hunting season, here’s your chance to try and nab some top-notch prizes by spotting roaming wild haggii on a range of Scottish webcam pictures. Elsewhere the Haggisopedia offers hunting tips, and dispels haggis-related myths and there’s a 3D game in which chief ghillie, Farquhar Farquharson is let loose with a large mallet.

Google Earth now available for Mac

Google Earth
>> Google Earth

>> Google announces launch of Google Earth for Mac

When I first mentioned Google’s fantastic “virtual globe” software last year, we had a huge number of very enthusiastic emails and one recurring criticism – Why was there no version available for Apple Mac users?
So it’s good to see that Google have responded to that and finally released a version of Google Earth for Mac OS X.  Like the Windows version, this free download lets you type in a postcode (or the name of a town or road) to zoom into a satellite view of that location. You can fly around the globe from space at dizzying speeds and even follow driving directions from the air.

(NB:  Users on dial-up connections or with older computers may find that the software is slow or unresponsive – Check the Google Earth site before downloading for recommended system configuration).

Showcase and sell your photos online

>> Fotolibra

If you’ve ever taken a photo that you think rivals the work of a professional photographer, this site gives you a web-based showcase and shop-window. Fotolibra is an online photo library (with over 80,000 pictures) which sells pictures to the media. Anyone can upload up to 5 pictures free-of-charge and the site will market your images worldwide.  If any of them sell, the fee is split equally between you and the site. You can also browse the entire catalogue and download low resolution thumbnails free-of-charge.

(NB: If you want to upload more than 5 photos you’ll have to pay a monthly membership fee)

Family History links

Website of the Day: Wednesday January18th


You may have heard Sheila Hancock on last Wednesday’s programme talking about her involvement in BBC One’s family history series Who Do You Think You Are.
The programme’s accompanying site is an excellent introduction to genealogical research in the UK, with guides to reading and interpreting census records and piecing the past together using war memorabilia and house history. There are comprehensive links to the UK’s best genealogical websites and an excellent interactive tool called Bloodlines which lets you store relevant information in a personal online folder.

One of the non-BBC sites used extensively during the series is – who are offerring free access to the complete 1901 census for the duration of the series.

See also:

>> The 1861 Census on 1837 Online

>> Free BMD
>> Stepping Stones (original census images for 1841-1871)

>> Scotland’s People


>> BMD Index

>> Statistics Agency
>> Genes Reunited

My Heritage: Face Recognition

>> My Heritage: Face Recognition

This new genealogy site is yet to fully launch, but their online face recognition software is up and running already and is well worth a look (for entertainment, if not for accurate results!)   
The long term aim of this feature is to be able to associate facial characteristics with family trees, but until that’s fully functional you can still have a lot of fun uploading your photo and letting the site scan it to see which celebrities it thinks you look like.

By uploading photos of the Steve Wright in the Afternoon team (from our biography pages on the Radio 2 site),
We learn that

  • I resemble Andrew Lloyd Webber, George Clooney and Patrick Stewart
  • Steve looks like Jose Carreras and Sharon Stone
  • Janey’s celeb doppelgangers are Meg Ryan, J-Lo and Rod Stewart …. and
  • Tim’s a dead ringer for Gerard Depardieu and Tony Blair!