Cheap train tickets, Comedy videos and zoomy 3D photos

Something useful:

>> The Train Line Fare Finder


This new tool helps you find the cheapest long distance rail tickets for your chosen journey if you can be flexible about when to travel.

Something funny:
>> Funny Or Die

Will Ferrell’s hugely successful comedy video site
launches in the UK with support and exclusive clips from Matt Lucas and David Walliams.

Something whizzy:
>> Cool Iris

This is a small download which changes the way popular photo and video sites (including Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Picasa, Flickr and Photobucket) appear on your screen. With Cool Iris installed you get a very impressive full-screen 3D view of your photos which lets you quickly zoom in from a photo mozaic to a tiny detail on any photo. It’s a bit like Google Earth for your photos.

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Money and Magic

>> Kublax – Keep track of all your finances in one place

A particularly timely launch for this new personal finance site. This is designed to help you keep track of all your bank, building society and credit card accounts in one place. Create a free Kublax account and enter your bank details once. The site will automatically retrieve transaction details from multiple accounts, categorise them and display them on a graph or pie-chart so you can see at a glance exactly where your money is going.

The site uses the same levels of security and encryption as online banks and will even alert you about unusual Merlintransactions which may indicate possible identity theft.  Additional features include a budget tool to help you track your spending against personal targets, plus links to deals which may save you money on the areas where your spending is currently highest.

>> Merlin’s Magic

A terrific all-animated site to tie in with the launch of BBC One’s new epic sword and sorcery series. If you have a fairly recent Windows PC and a webcam, Merlin’s Magic is a must-try and very cool feature. Download the free software and print out a copy of a ‘Merlinesque’ rune. Turn on your webcam, hold your printout up to the lens, and wait for the magic to unfold  on your computer screen.

Beijing Olympics

Monkey
When I mentioned Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett’s Monkey BBC Olympics promos a couple of weeks ago, I promised to talk in more detail about the Beijing Olympics on the web this week. However I wasn’t banking on laid-up at home nursing my own (non-Olympian) ankle injury.   So here’s a swift online-only round-up to make up for the absence of Website of the Week on the radio.

There’s been plenty of online innovation for the Beeb with the launch of the 2008 Games. There was live streaming of the opening ceremony from the BBC homepage – a first for bbc.co.uk. Throughout the games, the BBC Olympics site will stream six different channels of live coverage to anyone watching in the UK. Other online highlights from the Beeb include an interactive map and a downloadable Desktop Monkey which promised users updates on their favourite Olympic sports and reminders of when events are starting.

The Guardian has a nice piece outlining the full extent of the Beeb’s interactive coverage of the games.
The official site for the games looks lovely – truly comprehensive, with nice bonus features like My Olympic Story which has featured a different story every day for the last 100 days, each one revealing one person’s unique Olympic experience.

Finally Google have launched a dedicated portal page for the games  with features including a Google Map of medals, YouTube video highlights, Google News headlines, a video tour plus 3D models of the venues and an "iGoogle gadget" that tracks medal counts to your Google homepage.

>> Olympics Official site
>> BBC Olympics
>> BBC Interactive Olympics Map
>> BBC Desktop Monkey

>> The Guardian: BBC promises ‘cornucopia of content’

>> My Olympic Story
>> Google Olympics Portal

Osama Loves

Osama the Banker, 31, from London >> Osama Loves
This is interesting – A Dave Gorman-influenced quest from 2 London-based Muslims (in collaboration with Channel 4), to find and meet 500 people who share the same name. In the process, they hope to change many people’s perception of Islam:

"By meeting 500 people who share nothing but their first name, I want to show that, whatever the cultural or religious background, we all love much the same things. (Well… that’s the plan!)
For the next 50 days I’ve got a perfect excuse to do what I like best: chat to strangers. The only difference is, this time they will all be called Osama!"

Long-standing listeners will know that I like a pointless quest, so it’s nice to see a quest/travelogue which aims to do someting a bit more positive. If you know an Osama who they haven’t yet featured on the site, you can submit a photo or video to help them get closer to their target of 500 Osamas.

Cambridge Folk and online Telly

>> Cambridge Folk Festival

All roads lead to Cambridge this weekend for the biggest event in the folk music calendar. Online highlights include:

– Listen again to Radcliffe and Maconie with sessions from Seth Lakeman, Laura Marling, Devon Sproule and Tunng

– Get an exclusive free download of a Devon Sproule session track (UK only)

– Video of performances from many of the headline acts appearing at Cambridge

– Mike Harding’s podcast features a full audio preview of the festival

– Full line-up details with the chance to listen to tracks from many of artists appearing

– Photos

– Folk blog featuring posts from Mike Harding and some of the biggest names in folk.

>> Blinkx remote

This is useful. An easy-to-browse (or search)guide to all the TV shows legally available to watch online or download in the UK from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel Five. All this information is already available elsewhere, but now you can find it all in the same place. Simple and effective!

‘The world’s biggest free music service’

>> Last FM
I’ve been a fan of this site for a few years. It’s an interesting mixture of online radio, music recommendations and MySpace-ish social networking, but until now it’s tended to appeal mainly to younger users or music geeks. This week the site has had a major upgrade which is likely to make it much more appealing even to the least geeky of music fans
Site visitors in the UK, US and Germany can now play full-length tracks and entire albums for free on the Last.fm site. They now bill themselves as ‘the world’s biggest free music service’. You can listen to each track up to three times in full. After that, you can still access 30” clips, and find links to buy that track as a download or on CD.
In addition unsigned artists can upload their own music and get payed every time someone listens to their tracks via the site. If you choose to sign up and create a profile page, Last FM will track your listening habits, create an updating list your most listened-to songs and artists and generate lists of recommended tracks and artists based on your current favourites
Also mentioned today:

Virtual tourism / escapism

On a damp and dismal British Friday, thoughts inevitably turn to beaches and other exotic destinations:

>> Fabsearch
This new travel site trawls glossy magazines like Vogue, Tatler, and Vanity Fair for their best travel tips and features and archives them online by source and location. Site visitors can peruse the features for free and "clip" interesting sections in a "my clippings" file.

>> AfterSunrise
This a great escapist stressbuster – Watch videos of the sunrise on Miami Beach. Each short clip features beautiful beach views, soothing sounds and feelgood quotes from Miami’s early risers talking about what they’re looking forward to doing on the day of that sunrise.

>> Friday Game: Mynci Beach Volleyball
Where turquoise cartoon animals take on brown cartoon animals in a battle for oceanside volleyball supremacy .