Sites of the Week: January 4, 2015

“The first to apologize is the bravest, the first to forgive is the strongest, and the first to forget is the happiest.”

– Unknown

At this time of year, many columns list words or phrases that should be retired. This is mine:

  • At the end of the day
  • Bottom line
  • Game changer
  • That having been said
  • It’s all good
  • No worries

Factoid: The U.S. borrowed the money for the Afghanistan War, the longest conflict in U.S. history, and has already racked up $125 billion just in owed interest.

Financial Times
 

Now on to this week’s sites. This week, I’m sending out three ‘Site of the Week’ recommendations.

Ask Bob Rankin: 10 Things Not to Buy in 2015
http://askbobrankin.com/10_things_not_to_buy_in_2015.html?awt_l=IaJwN&awt_m=JJPlGiuLnuP6SL

This Bob Rankin column lists ten goods and services you should avoid buying because they are either available for unnecessary or free or less expensive alternatives are available.
 

Intuit Mint
https://www.mint.com/

It’s a new year. For those in the U.S. and Canada, this site can help you get your finances in order. Mint.com is a FREE web-based personal financial management service from Intuit designed to allow you to centrally manage your cash flow, budgets and bills through their portal. Create a budget, receive alerts for unusual account charges and your credit score for free. Mint.com has over 10 million users and can connect with over 16,000 US and Canadian financial institutions and supports more than 17 million individual financial accounts.
 

AncestryDNA
http://dna.ancestry.com/

Our daughter received this as gift and the results were interesting. You send in your DNA kit with a saliva sample and receive your results in 6-8 weeks. Results include a report of your estimated ethnicity in maps, charts and accompanying explanations. Your results are also integrated with family history resources on Ancestry.com. You can optionally connect with relatives in a safe and confidential way using their online messaging service that lets users contact each other anonymously. When another member sends you a message, you’ll receive an alert in your Ancestry inbox and an email. Regularly $99, a special price of $79 ends January 6. Unfortunately, AncestryDNA test is not yet available to purchase outside the United States.
 

Ernie Orr sez “Check em out!”

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Sites of the Week: Best of 2014

Below—in no particular order—are the ten best ‘Sites of the Week’ of the past year.

Adult Fitness Test
http://adultfitnesstest.org/

The Adult Fitness Test site provides instructions and data collection form for performing 4 fitness tests (aerobic, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility and body composition). After you complete the testing, enter your data online to receive an evaluation.

iCracked
https://www.icracked.com/

Repair or sell your iPhone, iPad or iPod with a local technician. iCracked offers same-day repairs of broken screens, water damage and other issues by certified techs. iCracked techs set their own prices so they can stay competitive in their local markets. Once you talk with your local tech he will provide a no commitment repair quote. You can also purchase a replacement kit (parts, tools and step-by-step instructions) to repair your device yourself.

Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee
http://comediansincarsgettingcoffee.com/

Just over one year ago, Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee was featured as a ‘Site of the Week’. Each unscripted episode features Jerry meeting up with a fellow comedian for a drive–usually in a classic car–and coffee. If you haven’t watched it yet, I recommend it. Season 4 just began June 19. Sarah Jessica Parker was guest star and frankly I was surprised at how enjoyable the episode was.

RezScore
http://rezscore.com/

RezScore is a free service that analyzes and grades your resume using an algorithm for measuring your resume against different metrics such as brevity, impact (effective language choice – active over passive voice, for example), and depth (enough information at each level of experience).

While the basic service is free, the site offers additional billable services including consultation, resume make-over, resume writing and more. So before clicking [Get Your RezScore], be sure to uncheck the “Contact Me About” checkbox-unless you wish to be contacted. Scoring is almost immediate. Along with an overall grade, additional information including tips for improvements are supplied. The site accepts .doc , .txt, or PDF file types, but the parser works best with .doc files. Although the site assures that they “do not sell your information to anyone and only [they] have access to it,” solely for the purpose of contacting you based on the contact preferences you specify, I suggest you modify your resume with invalid contact information before uploading to RezScore.

my Social Security
http://www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount

Up until 2011, the SSA mailed annual Social Security Statements to everyone age 25 and over who was not already receiving Social Security benefits. As a cost-cutting measure, these mailed statements eliminated. However, now you can create an account on my Social Security to view your statement online including estimates of your retirement, disability, and survivors benefits; your earnings record and the estimated Social Security and Medicare taxes you’ve paid. If nothing else, you should do so to check for errors or omissions.

Boxcryptor
https://www.boxcryptor.com/

If you distrust the security of cloud-based storage services, pre-encryption software can secure your files. Boxcryptor creates a virtual drive on your computer which acts as staging area for files stored on your cloud-storage service. The process is transparent with files automatically encrypted with a combination of AES-256 and RSA algorithms and then synched to the cloud. Boxcryptor has Windows, Mac OS X, Chrome clients as well as all major mobile platforms and supports all major cloud-storage providers including Box.net, Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft SkyDrive and SugarSync. Boxcryptor is free for personal use, but you are limited to only one cloud service and two devices.

Scribd
http://www.scribd.com

Scribd is a subscription service digital library offering over 400,000 books from over 900 publishers. Scribd is compatible with all your devices: iPhone, iPad, Android, Kindle Fire, and any web browser. Books are synced automatically, so you never have to search for where you left off reading. And Scribd allows you to download books to read offline. After a free 30-day trial, the service is $8.99/month. If you are an avid reader, this could be less expensive than buying your books.

PC Pitstop
http://www.pcpitstop.com/internet/default.asp

I just upgraded my internet service from 12 Mbps to 40Mbps. I wanted to ensure it truly is faster so I turned to this site to measure performance before and after the upgrade. This site doesn’t just measure your speed. If your speed isn’t what you expect, PC Pitstop’s diagnostic tools can help you diagnose and fix connection problems.

Wunderlist
https://www.wunderlist.com/home/

I’m a list-maker. If you are as well, then Wunderlist may be just what you’re looking for. Wunderlist is top-rated, FREE and available for several platforms. I’ve been using Wunderlist for several months now and am pleased with it. While I believe the recurring event functionality could be greatly improved, it’s solid. I especially like that since it’s cloud-based, I have access to my lists from my work and personal laptops, tablet and phone. You can also share lists and collaborate with co-workers, family and friends.

WeTransfer
https://www.wetransfer.com/

WeTransfer is an online file-transferring platform. Yes, there are numerous file sharing/transfer sites, but I like this one because it’s free to transfer multiple files-2 GB total-to multiple contacts. There’s no registration or sign-in and it’s simple and secure to use.

Ernie Orr sez “Check em out!”

Sites of the Week: December 20, 2014

“Once again, we come to the Holiday Season, a deeply religious time that each of us observes, in his own way, by going to the mall of his choice.”

– Dave Barry

Factoid: According to researchers with the British Medical Journal, Dr. Mehmet Oz—often referred to as “America’s Doctor”—only 46% of his recommendations are supported by relevant medical evidence, 15% of his recommendations are contradicted by evidence and 39% had no supporting evidence.

The Washington Post
 

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Happy 2015 to everyone! This week, I’m sending out just one ‘Site of the Week’ recommendation.

Mental Floss List: 27 Winter Holiday Tradition Origins
http://youtu.be/GeaSlcMpPTQ?list=UUpZ5qUqpW4hW4zdfuBxMSJA

John Green, from ‘You Don’t Know Jack!” fame, hosts this weekly show “where knowledge junkies get their fix of trivia-tastic information.” In this episode, he explains the origins of 27 holiday traditions.
 

Ernie Orr sez “Check it out!”

Sites of the Week: November 29, 2014

“Right is right, even if everyone is against it, and wrong is wrong, even if everyone is for it.”

– Quaker leader William Penn

Factoid: The average employer-paid health-care premium will jump almost 6 percent next year, to $11,304 per employee. Workers on average will pay another $2,487 in out-of-pocket costs, an increase of more than 8 percent from 2014.

Forbes.com
 

Now on to this week’s sites. This week, I’m sending out two ‘Site of the Week’ recommendations.

FreedomPop
http://www.freedompop.com/wireless-internet

FreedomPop offers free mobile phone and high speed Internet service (4G Wimax and 4G LTE mobile broadband networks). FreedomPop offers 200 voice minutes, 500 text messages and 500MB Data for FREE and no contract. But wait… there’s more. You may even be able to use an existing phone. You can also purchase their Freedom Premier service which offers unlimited voice and text for $10.99/month. Voice mail is extra. Additional plans offer unlimited voice, text and larger data plans. Not free, but still a pretty good deal. Now, the caveats. First, you will be automatically enrolled in their Freedom Premier plan after the first month if you don’t opt out. Secondly, if this interests you, it may be wise to hurry. FreedomPop doesn’t have its own network. Instead, it resells airtime from Sprint which is currently in talks to acquire FreedomPop.
 

LoopPay
http://www.looppay.com/

Last month, I set up my iPhone 6 for Apple Pay. Since then, I’ve only used it once. The problem is presently very few merchants accept payment by Apple Pay. That’s where LoopPay comes in. It works on many popular Android as well as iPhone models and is accepted at over 10 million store and restaurant locations. That’s because LoopPay requires no special equipment to accept payments with a LoopPay enabled smartphone or device. The LoopPay solution consists of two components: a LoopPay device (keychain fob, LoopPay card or LoopPay CardCase) and the free LoopPay app for your phone. LoopPay is safer than carrying a wallet because your data is encrypted and the app is locked by PIN and password.
 

Ernie Orr sez “Check em out!”

Sites of the Week: November 23, 2014

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”

– Aphorism often incorrectly attributed to Mark Twain

Factoid: Since 2009 the economy has grown by 12 percent, corporate profits by 46 percent and the broad stock market by 92 percent, but median household income has actually contracted 3 percent. 65 percent of the private sector jobs created in the last five years have paid hourly wages of $20 or less.

The New York Times
 

Now on to this week’s sites. This week, I’m sending out three ‘Site of the Week’ recommendations.

FindTheBest
http://www.findthebest.com/

FindTheBest is a research engine site founded by DoubleClick cofounder Kevin O’Connor. FindTheBest provides detailed information and comparisons on more than 2,000 topics. Its mission is to collect, structure, and connect data on thousands of topics, from products to schools and businesses. For example, we’re looking at switching insurance and this site provided rankings.
 

3DAround
http://3d.dacuda.com

3DAround lets you easily take 3D pictures with your iPhone. The site seems to focus on photography, but its use is not limited to just food. Simply hit record, revolve your camera phone or tablet around an object, and 3DAround stitches together all the photos into a 3D image the viewer can spin at will. Even if you don’t have an iPhone or you’re not especially interested in shooting 360 degree images, you still should be sure to watch their short demo video.
 

BrokerCheck Tool
http://www.finra.org/Investors/ToolsCalculators/BrokerCheck/

This is the FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) site. “FINRA is dedicated to investor protection and market integrity through effective and efficient regulation of the securities industry.” The FINRA BrokerCheck tool enables you to research brokers and brokerage firms and investment advisers and their firms. The site also offers investing advice.
 

Ernie Orr sez “Check em out!”

Sites of the Week: November 16, 2014

“Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip.”

– Winston Churchill

Factoid: Every minute, 48,000 apps are downloaded from iTunes.

The Week
 

Now on to this week’s sites. This week, I’m sending out three ‘Site of the Week’ recommendations.

Artifact Uprising
https://www.artifactuprising.com/

“Inspired by the disappearing beauty of the tangible.” This is a photo printing site unlike most others. As the site states “As one click of the shutter turned to another turned to hundreds of thousands of photos, we realized our documented lives were sitting on our phones and computers with no true place to live on. It’s something we kept coming back to—‘What are we leaving behind?’” This site offers quality photo books, prints and cards at a corresponding price.
 

Mad Genius Radio
http://www.madgeniusradio.com/

The personalized radio service is another crowded field, but Mad Genius Radio is a Denver-based company that is a bit different. It offers dozens of professionally curated genres which you can personalize to your taste. Like other sites, your ratings control how often you hear songs and artists but you’re not limited to a simple thumbs up/down. Mad Genius lets you rate tracks and artists from zero to five or ban them from your mix altogether. Requests let you hear deep cuts or other tracks that may be popular just to you. Soon, Mad Genius will be a subscription-only service following a 36-day free trial.
 

Cost of Living Comparison Calculator
http://www.bankrate.com/calculators/savings/moving-cost-of-living-calculator.aspx

Most of you probably have no immediate plans to relocate, but you still may find this site of interest. Bankrate offers this free cost of living comparison calculator that compares the cost of living of any two locations you select.
 

Ernie Orr sez “Check em out!”

Sites of the Week: November 9, 2014

“Worrying does not take away tomorrow’s troubles, it just takes away today’s peace.”

– Unknown

Factoid: Black teens are 21 times more likely to be shot dead by cops than white teens, according to an analysis of 1,217 fatal police shootings reported to the FBI from 2010 to 2012.

ProPublica.org

Now on to this week’s sites. This week, I’m sending out three ‘Site of the Week’ recommendations.

Car Talk Tribute
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnNVxGvXjTg#t=27

Tom and Ray Magliozzi got their start in radio 37 years ago in the studios of Boston’s WBUR station with a call in show named Car Talk. Ten years later, Car Talk went national on NPR and within a few years, Car Talk had a weekly audience of more than 3 million listeners on 660 public radio stations. This past week, co-Host Tom Magliozzi died at the age of 77. This video is a celebration of Car Talk and of Tom and Ray Magliozzi.
 

Vox: 22 Maps and Charts that will surprise you
http://www.vox.com/2014/9/23/6829399/23-maps-and-charts-that-will-surprise-you

Vox Media is one of the country’s largest and fastest growing online publishers. This recent post comes to you via my friend, Gary. The title says it all.
 

WeTransfer
https://www.wetransfer.com/

WeTransfer is an online file-transferring platform. Yes, there are numerous file sharing/transfer sites, but I like this one because it’s free to transfer multiple files—2 GB total—to multiple contacts. There’s no registration or sign-in and it’s simple and secure to use.
 

Ernie Orr sez “Check em out!”

Sites of the Week: October 26, 2014

“You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.”

– George Burns

Factoid: The federal government’s deficit for the 2014 fiscal year fell to $486 billion—a $195 billion drop from 2013. Measured as a share of the economy, the 2014 deficit was 2.8 percent of the gross domestic product. During the Reagan presidency, the deficit averaged 4 percent of GDP.

The Wall Street Journal

Demolishing the case for voter ID

Michael Hiltzik
Los Angeles Times

“In a rational world,” said Michael Hiltzik, U.S. Circuit Judge Richard Posner’s “eloquent, incisive, and angry opinion” on Wisconsin’s voter ID law last week would end all debate on this subject. Posner, a Republican appointed to the federal bench by Ronald Reagan, is “widely regarded as the smartest jurist in the federal judiciary.” In his blistering 30-page opinion, Posner systematically demolishes every argument in favor of voter ID laws, which he says Republican legislatures pass for the sole purpose of “limiting voting by minorities.” But what about voter fraud? Having examined the evidence, Posner concludes that it’s virtually “nonexistent.” Isn’t it easy to get a photo ID? Not, Posner points out, if you’re one of millions of Americans who haven’t kept their birth certificate. Jumping through enough hoops to obtain a photo ID can cost a poor person from $75 to $175—far higher, Posner points out, than the $1.50 poll tax once imposed in Southern states. In Wisconsin alone, voter ID would likely disenfranchise 300,000 voters. To justify voter ID laws, Posner says, Republicans must either be deeply cynical—or live in “a fact-free cocoon.”

Now on to this week’s sites.  This week, I’m sending out three ‘Site of the Week’ recommendations.

Volkswagen Commercial
https://www.youtube.com/embed/JHixeIr_6BM?rel=0&autoplay=1&iv_load_policy=3

This site comes to via my friend Ralph. A movie theatre in Hong Kong encouraged its patrons to leave their mobile phones switched on.
 

LocateMy Name
http://www.locatemyname.com

Have you ever been curious about the origin of your name or that of a co-worker or friend? Ever wonder how many people share your surname. Locate My Name is a site is designed for the sole purpose of answering those questions. mainly used for finding origins of names, curiosity, entertainment and genealogy research. For example, I learned there are over 245,000 with the surname of Russell. In comparison, there are only 56 in the USA with my wife’s maiden surname and the 13 living in California are all her family members. If the name is uncommon such as my wife’s name, it could also help with genealogy.
 

The Price of Vice
http://gizmodo.com/how-much-a-bottle-of-whiskey-costs-in-every-state-1650381482
http://www.theawl.com/2014/08/how-much-a-pack-of-cigarettes-costs-state-by-state

You won’t need to bookmark either of these sites, but you may find the surveys interesting. These companion surveys compare the price of a pack of cigarettes and a fifth of Jack Daniels whiskey in every state of the USA. I had no idea that a New York couple who each smoke one pack of cigarettes a day would burn through almost $800/month. Amazing.
 

Ernie Orr sez “Check em out!”

Sites of the Week: October 19, 2014

“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”

– Earl Weaver, baseball manager

Factoid: On average, a woman’s earnings decrease 4% for each child she has, while a man’s pay increases more than 6% when he becomes a father.

BusinessInsider.com
 

Now on to this week’s sites. This week, I’m sending out three ‘Site of the Week’ recommendations.

Understanding the United States
http://www.chonday.com/Videos/usunderst2

Chonday.com is a site where contributors from all over the world upload and post videos that its editors consider interesting and relevant. The videos are intended to both educate and entertain. This particular video comes to you via my friend Gary and explains facts about the United States and its territories.
 

Weather Underground
http://www.wunderground.com/

Yes, there are plenty of weather sites on the Web, but Weather Underground is different. U.S. current conditions data comes from 37,000+ weather stations across the country. This includes nearly 2,000 Automated Surface Observation System (ASOS) stations located at airports throughout the country and 26,000 weather stations that are part of the Meteorological Assimilation Data Ingest System (MADIS) which is managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as well as over 16,000 Personal Weather Stations that are part of Weather Underground’s ever-expanding PWS network. Stations are put through strict quality controls and observations are updated as often as every 2.5 seconds. International current conditions are collected directly from more than 29,000 weather stations located in countries around the globe including 6,000 automated weather stations operating at airports plus over 8,000 Personal Weather Stations (PWS’s) and 16,000 MADIS stations. Forecasts are updated every 15 minutes compared to every 4 hours by the National Weather Service.
 

The Most and Least Educated Cities in the U.S.
http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/most-least-educated-cities-u-s-n204856

My Ann Arbor cousins will appreciate this U.S. News article. After analyzing the 150 largest metropolitan areas, WalletHub determined that Ann Arbor has the most educated population “factoring metrics such as percentage of adults with various educational degrees, number of people working in computer, engineering and science fields, and quality and size of schools in the area.” Click here for the full article.
 

Ernie Orr sez “Check em out!”

Sites of the Week: October 12, 2014

“Comparison is the thief of joy”

– President Theodore Roosevelt

Factoid: Craft beers now account for an 8% share of the U.S. beer market, up from just 2.6% in 1998. According to the Census Bureau, the number of breweries in the U.S. has doubled since 2008, with an average of 1.2 craft breweries opening each day and an output of 15.6 million barrels of beer in 2013.

WJS.com
 

Now on to this week’s sites. This week, I’m sending out three ‘Site of the Week’ recommendations.

The True Size of Africa
http://static02.mediaite.com/geekosystem/uploads/2010/10/true-size-of-africa.jpg

With the Ebola epidemic, Africa has been in the news a lot recently. Of course, Africa is a continent–not a country, but do you realize just how large it is? This site comes to you from my cousin, Enzo and illustrates the size of Africa by showing how many countries can fit within its boundaries. Then be sure to read this The Economist article (http://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2010/11/cartography?fsrc=scn/fb/te/bl/ed/truetruesizeofafrica) that explains why Africa typically appears smaller on maps that its actual relative size.
 

Lookmatic Eyewear
http://lookmatic.com/

This site makes buying glasses online easier and even a bit fun. That’s because it allows you to preview how the glasses will look on you by using your Webcam to view results in 3D. You can also upload a photo, but what’s the fun in that compared to 3D? Prescription glasses start at $95.
 

Top Ten Most Commonly Confused Words
http://www.merriam-webster.com/top-ten-lists/top-10-commonly-confused-words-vol-2/flush-out-flesh-out.html

This Merriam-Webster site caught my eye because I’ve been frequently hearing the expression “flushed out” used instead of “fleshed out”. If you make any of these 10 common mistakes, this site may be helpful. If you don’t have a problem with these commonly confused words, you still may find it interesting.
 

Ernie Orr sez “Check em out!”