Posts filed under 'computers & tech'

5 Techie Freebies I Couldn’t Live Without

Maybe that’s a little bit of an exaggeration, but nonetheless, here are the 5 freebies that make my little geeky heart go pitter-pat. šŸ™‚

Photo Editing and Beyond
Photoshop’s Younger (Freeware) Brother. I heard aboutĀ the Gimp way back when I was in high school, and to be quite frank with you, I wasn’t impressed. Yes, it had most of the features that Photoshop had, but the usability was terrible. Several versions later, its almost unrecognizable. I downloaded it last week (my PS Elements didn’t have the features I needed) and I absolutely love it. You might have a little learning curve if you are switching from Photoshop, but remember–Photoshop is hundreds of dollars, and the Gimp is free, so a little extra tutorial skimming isn’t so bad.

Yay Browsers
Browsing, Google Style. If you’re still browsing on IE (which keeps having security issues–yikes!), its time to take a look at what else is out there. My two primary browsers are Firefox andĀ Google Chrome–both great browsers–and I have to say Chrome is my fav. It is more streamlined (you can run a google search right in the address bar) and has all the features you need in a good browser. Word of warning, though: Chrome is still new on the scene, so every now and again it won’t be able to load all the features of a site. Which is why I have my handy dandyĀ Firefox standing by. AND both of them focus on keeping your browsing secure.

Internet Radio
Out of the Box. When I moved last summer from the jam-packed airwaves of San Diego to a quiet little spot on the east coast, I was a little disappointed at the slim pickings on the radio. Thank goodness forĀ Pandora, which creates “stations” based on songs I like (and remembers what I dislike). Not only do I get to hear my old favorites, but it introduces me to new favs in the genres I’m interested in. Downsides? The occasional ad will play (and they have ads on their sidebar while you’re listening) and you can only playĀ 40 hours of music per month for free.

Blogging Software
Send it to Press. I’ve used lots of different blogging platforms, butĀ WordPress is by far my choice for free blogging software for anyone who will be blogging from their own domain. With tons of themes and plugins (and more every day), constant updates to make it better, and a user-friendly interface behind the scenes, it is the real deal, and it doesn’t cost you anything. One note, though–if you won’t be running your blog from your own website, I’d recommend usingĀ Blogger, which is easy to customize (there are wholeĀ blogs about customizing blogger!) and gets better with each update.

Video Chat & More
Share and Share Alike. I’ve mentioned Skype several timesĀ before, because I love it, but when they introducedĀ free screen sharing, too, I really felt bitten by the love bug. Now I can video chat with friends (free!!!) anywhere AND use screen sharing to teach my dad how to work his iMovie without having to make a trip home. Oh Skype, you are just dreamy.

(Want more tips on great deals and freebies? Find out theĀ 10 software freebies every student should know about, or learnĀ how to get free food in college or how toĀ trade books, DVDs, and video games online and get something new-to-you for just the price of postage!)

Are any of these freebies on your love/hate list? I’d love to hear your take–or find out which freebies YOU can’t live without–so fess up!

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1 comment April 12th, 2010

Thoughts On Video Games from a Future Doctor ;)

As I was brainstorming post ideas for you guys the other night, my hubs started shooting ideas at me. One he felt particularly passionate about was sharing some of his own thoughts on video games and college.

Since he got into med school, and therefore I’d consider him pretty successful as far as college went, I figured you might like to hear what he had to say. After all, video games might actually be great prep for future surgeons. So you could even consider this med school prep. šŸ˜‰

Budget Your Money

Like most college students, the mister spent most of college being pretty broke. He footed his own bill with jobs, grants, and some student loans. And because of this limited income (which, with med school coming, we still have) he had to learn to budget, even with video games.

So his first bit of advice to you is this: Pick one game to splurge on, and make it a good one. Make it a game you can play a lot (he’s a fan of multi-player online games like Call of Duty because they offer a lot of social time along with the game play). Make it a relatively difficult game–something that will take you a while to beat. Talk to your friends and see what they’re into, and what is coming out soon (you don’t want to get COD 4 right now if you’d rather get the new Modern Warfare in a few months).

So basically, remember your budget, and make your game purchase a good one.

He also suggests you shop clearance for your easier-to-beat games. Best Buy usually has a big, eBay has Daily Deals that sometimes include games, and Target usually has a little stash at the end of a game row with good clearance items (he found Mirror’s Edge there for $10). I’m sure you guys have some other good spots to share.

And of course, you can swap video games at www.SwapTree.com. Cool. Or just swap with your friends.

Budget Your Time

Once upon a time, back in freshman year, my sweetie was very into a certain Nintendo game. He spent hours upon hours playing it, and as a reward for finishing up his midterms, he allowed himself another good several-hour marathon of game play.

A few hours into it, he looked at the clock. There was this nagging feeling hovering in the back of his mind. Was he supposed to be somewhere? Wasn’t there something he had to do?

Minutes later he was sprinting across campus to a classroom where his real last midterm–the one he had forgotten while playing that wonderful game–was already finished. Long story short: he had to drop the class and retake it the next term.

So, his second piece of advice: Set a maximum time allotment for video game playing (or whatever your other addiction is–TV watching, Facebooking, etc.) and stick to it. Then use the rest of your time to live your life: hang with friends, do some homework, and, uh, show up for your midterms.

Please Share…

I am not an expert. Though I am part owner of a 360 (a Christmas gift), I myself mostly play games like Viva Pinata and the old Gamecube Mario Kart–when I play at all. (Mostly our xBox is a DVD player to me…) So clearly, I can’t offer you more advice on my own. But, if you have tips to share, please feel free to do so in the comments! šŸ™‚

Happy gaming, my friends.

photo by scorpiusNL

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5 comments June 4th, 2009

5 Easy Ways to Go Paperless

There’s just no getting around it, dorm rooms (and new apartments) are tight quarters. Your space is precious, so why clutter it up with paperwork? It’s time to “go paperless.”

There are many, many perks of going paperless, the most important of which are (1) it eliminates clutter, (2) it is a great way to get (or stay) organized, and (3) it’s good for the environment. And it’s also surprisingly easy. Here are 5 quick and easy ways you can go paperless, student-style.

1. Get Online Billing & Statements. Most companies who regularly bill you or send statements offer you the option of either getting them in your inbox or viewing them online. If you can, sign up for online billing/statements for your:

  • Rent,
  • Utilities (gas, electric, water, etc.),
  • Cell phone,
  • Credit card(s),
  • Bank,
  • Car payments, and
  • Student loans

Stay organized by keeping digital copies in PDF on your computer. (Be sure to back them up!)

2. Bring Your Laptop to Class.
I’ve debated the merits and disadvantages of bringing a laptop to class before, and honestly I still believe that taking notes by hand is a better way to drive the message of a lecture home. However, if you’ve got the conviction to both avoid Twitter in class AND go green, taking notes on your computer might well be a good option for you. Many professors offer their lecture note outlines for download, so you may even be able to simply add your notes to their outline.

3. Pay Your Bills Online. There are two ways to go about this–you can either sign up for bill-pay with your bank or credit card (and they send out the payment) or sign up with each of your billers and have them auto-debit from your bank account or credit card each month. Done right, this can save you paper (no check writing!) and money (no late fees or stamps!). Just make sure you always have enough in your account to cover your bills–you don’t want an overdraft fee!

4. Do Your Homework Online.
Sites like Google Docs and Zoho allow you to write documents and spreadsheets, and then share them for editing online (so no more red marks all over your papers when your friends edit them!). They also let you access these docs from any computer with internet. If you haven’t already made the switch, I’d recommend it!

5. Do Your Taxes Online.
I hope that you are one of the lucky ones whose parents do taxes for them, but if you’re not, you should consider doing your taxes online. There are several services to choose from (I like TurboTax) and they walk you through the forms step-by-step. You can also choose to have your refunds direct-deposited into your bank account–again, no check so no paper to worry about, and you tend to get your refund faster this way!

photo: Layoff by xlucas

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2 comments April 10th, 2009

Time Saving Keyboard Shortcuts

I’m on my laptop a lot, for work AND play, so I’m always looking for a way to make that time more efficient. One of the best ways to streamline your process is to learn the keyboard shortcuts so you don’t have to waste time searching through toolbars with your mouse!

So, in the hopes of helping you save a little of your time, I thought I’d collect a few of the most useful PC shortcuts for you. Enjoy! šŸ™‚

Navigation

  • F1: Opens help
  • ALT+TAB: Toggles between open programs
  • Windows Logo+R: Opens the “Run” dialog box
  • Windows Logo+M: Minimizes all
  • SHIFT+Windows Logo+M: Undo minimize all
  • Windows Logo+D: Minimizes all open windows and displays the desktop

And of course the most basic shortcuts…

Basics

  • CTRL+C: Copy
  • CTRL+X: Cut
  • CTRL+V: Paste
  • CTRL+Z: Undo
  • CTRL+B: Bold
  • CTRL+U: Underline
  • CTRL+I: Italic

Want more? Check out these handy shortcut lists:

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4 comments April 7th, 2009

10 Software Freebies Every College Student Should Know About

Oh, I just love free things, don’t you? So why waste time jabbering… on to the list of fantastic free software!

Free Operating System: Ubuntu (ubuntu.com)

Tired of messing around trying to get your copy of Vista to work right? If you’re ready for a change, you might want to try the free operating system, Ubuntu-it has several editions, frequent updates, and free tech support. It also has its own web browser, word processor, instant messenger, and other free software.

Free Office Software: OpenOffice (openoffice.org)

Need a word processor, spreadsheet software, or a way to build databases–without handing over the hard-earned cash from your last paycheck? OpenOffice is your new (FREE!) best friend. With familiar formatting to other (pricier!) office productivity software, it can usually read any files you may have created/saved in that other office suite. Did I mention it’s free?

Free Sound/Music Editor: Audacity (audacity.sourceforge.net)

Audacity lets you record and edit music or other sound, and supports Ogg Vorbis, MP3, WAV, and AIFF sound files. You can cut, copy, splice, mix, change speed, add effects, and much more, and… yep, it’s free.

Free Multi-Platform Chat Software: Trillian (download here)

Need any easy way to be able to talk to friends using AIM, Yahoo, MSN, ICQ, MSN and IRC all in one place? Trillian–a free, skinnable software that supports all of the above–may be the perfect solution to your problem.

Free YouTube Downloader: YouTube Downloader (download here)

A basic interface that lets you download YouTube files and convert them to other files that you can play on your computer, iPod, phone, etc., so you can take them anywhere. (Just keep it legal.)

Free Spyware/Adware Remover: Ad-Aware (lavasoft.com/products/ad_aware_free.php)

One of download.com’s top downloads, Ad-Aware is a great addition to your computer-safety campaign. The free home edition (here) helps keep your computer free of ads and spyware.

Free Photo-Editing/Organizing Software: Picasa (picasa.google.com)

Google’s done it again–for free of course–with this handy photo editor & organizer. Even the most disorganized student should be able to find photos now: Picasa combs your computer for image files & helps you decide where they belong, plus offers the capability to edit and add effects to photos or share them online.

Free PDF-Maker: PrimoPDF (promopdf.com)

Super-easy free software that creates PDFs out of hundreds of file types from images to web pages to office software documents.

Free HTML Editor: HTML-Kit (htmlkit.com)

Whether you dabble in web design or are learning HTML for a course, HTML-Kit is a great free tool–bunches of helpful features, hundreds of free plugins, and even tech support if you need it. I’ve been using it for years and am a big fan (plus it sure beats Notepad!).

Free Budgeting Software: Mint.com (mint.com)

Still trying to figure out how to budget? Mint has been a big hit with financial bloggers and magazines alike: it helps track your spending, shows detailed graphs of where the money goes, and helps you learn how you can save. It can even remind you when bills are due!

What are your favorite software freebies?!?

photo: Free Running by nookiez

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17 comments June 19th, 2008

Where to Watch Free Full TV Episodes Online

I was out sick last week, which meant a whole day on the couch resting & drinking OJ. Since we don’t have cable, I tried to get creative with keeping myself entertained and ended up finding a bunch of places to watch good TV online, for free:

Network Sites

The first place I always look is the network websites of shows I like to watch. The following all have full episodes, but if I’ve missed a channel you watch a lot, make sure you check their site!

  • ABC (abc.go.com) Features episodes of shows like Dancing With the Stars, Pushing Daisies, Grey’s Anatomy, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and Lost. Some are in HD!
    .
  • NBC (nbc.com) Shows like The Biggest Loser, Law & Order, Heroes, and The Office.
    .
  • Fox (fox.com/FOD) Episodes of Bones, Cops, House, The Simpsons, and many more.
    .
  • ABC Family (abcfamily.go.com/abcfamily/path/section_Videos/page_Video) Lots of free episodes here, including shows like Kyle XY, Grounded for Life, and one of my dad’s favorites, Eek the Cat.
    .
  • Discover (video.discovery.com) Features shows from three different channels (Discovery, Animal Planet, & TLC). Currently they have shows like What Not to Wear and The Alaska Experiment. They usually offer episodes of only 4 shows at a time, and rotate which shows are offered every couple of months.
    .
  • Bravo (video.bravotv.com/player/?id=0 ) Bravo only occasionally offers a free full episode of shows like Top Chef or Project Runway, but if you’re a true fan its worth a look.

Other Sites

For a more eclectic mix of shows-especially older ones-check out other video sites like these:

  • AOL’s In2TV (television.aol.com/in2tv) AOL’s free full episode player has a plethora of shows: from classic cartoons like The Jetsons, The Flintstones, and Bugs Bunny to old-school faves like Gilligan’s Island and Growing Pains. No new shows here, but lots of fun nostalgia to catch up on.
    .
  • Hulu (hulu.com) Hulu offers a long list of free TV shows AND movies with minimal commercial breaks (seriously, only about 30 seconds!). Shows range from old-school favorites like The Addams Family, Mary Tyler Moore, and Doogie Howser, M.D. to more current shows like Scrubs, Hell’s Kitchen, and Prison Break. They also have lots of movies like Dude, Where’s My Car, Sideways, Weekend at Bernie’s, and Meet Joe Black.
    .
  • TV.com (tv.com) Here you can find bunches of full episodes of shows like Bionic Woman and 30 Rock, plus other TV show clips.

Did you like this post? Don’t forget to subscribe in a reader or for email updates to keep up with all my latest tips!

photo: Green Retro TV Isolated with Clipping Paths by CraigPJ

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6 comments June 12th, 2008

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