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

What is a podcast?

Evanspodcast >> Download Chris Evans
>> The BBC Download Trial
>> Podcasting Explained
>> How to get a podcast
Radio 2 has recently joined the BBC’s Download Trial by offering an mp3 download of highlights from Chris Evans’ new Saturday show. This is available either as a direct download from the Radio 2 site, or you can subscribe to receive each new download file automatically as a podcast. Many listeners are confused or put-off by the word podcast, so here’s our simple explanation for podcasting beginners.

First of all you do not need to have an iPod to enjoy listening to a podcast. Podcasting is simply a way to have an audio file delivered automatically to your computer for you to listen to at your convenience. You can listen on your computer, or copy the audio file to a CD or a portable mp3 player or compatible mobile ‘phone or PDA.

Podcasting is a relatively new phenomenon, which originated as a way for amateur broadcasters to create an original downloadable radio show in their bedroom. The BBC was at the forefront of adapting the technology to make professional radio shows available as a regular download.

You’ll need specific software to “subscribe” to a podcast and have it automatically downloaded to your computer. There is a large range of software available, much of it free, and you can choose an appropriate programme for your operating system at sites like Podcast Alley or Podcasting News. The most popular free programmes include iPodder, Doppler and Apple’s own iTunes.

iTunes can also handle the transfer of files from your computer to an iPod, but if you want to transfer from a PC to any other portable player you’ll need to use Windows Media Player (or Windows Explorer) to handle the transfers.

For more help and advice on Podcasting see the BBC Download Trial FAQ pages

Compose your own mobile ringtones

Tonetag >> BBC Tonetag
This online tool on Radio 3’s Making Tracks site is the world’s first web-based ringtone composer software – which means you can use it on any computer and with any browser as long as you’re online. So instead of paying £1.50 or more for a ringtone you can use this service to create your own custom ringtone from scratch, and all it costs to send it to your ‘phone is 15p (or less) for one text message plus your network provider’s rate to download the ringtone via WAP. Bye bye crazy frog!

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

Take your email with you

>>Scribe: portable email programme

Very handy this, if you need to check your email on the move, but, like me, you find webmail a bit of a bind. Scribe is a free download – It’s an email programme which will fit on a floppy disc or portable USB drive, so you can enter in all your email settings, carry your floppy around with you (Oooh, Matron) and there’s no need to install it on the computer you’re using – you can run it staright from your portable disc.

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