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ParkPal NYC – the best way to find parking. Free.

November 16th, 2011 David No comments

201104 b parkpal3 ParkPal NYC   the best way to find parking. Free.

New York City drivers (and visitors to the Big Apple) flustered with the elaborate maze of parking regulations, shifting street-sweeping schedules, and frivolous no-parking hours can rejoice. A new app for iPhone and iPad untangles Gotham’s parking knot by illuminating the city’s rules and regulations with a tap of a finger. Building on previous parking apps, ParkPal ($FREE, Apple) delivers an easy-to-operate and accurate—the information comes from the New York City Department of Transportation database—interface with parking ordinances from all five boroughs. But they also have a website

201104 b parkpal1 ParkPal NYC   the best way to find parking. Free.

Presented on a Google map, streets are painted red, green, or yellow to signify parking availability in real time. When users tap on a street, a complete day-by-day, hour-by-hour breakdown pops onto the screen. The app even details regulations that change within the same block and drops a pin on the map to mark the parking location.

201104 b logo ParkPal NYC   the best way to find parking. Free.

Drivers in other major American metropolises can look forward to forthcoming additions as ParkPal’s reach grows. Because as anyone who’s spent time driving endlessly around the convoluted streets of the West Village or strained their eyes squinting at signs in Midtown will tell you, a good spot is hard to find.

Nate Storey is a research assistant at Travel + Leisure.

Categories: Apps, Cool, Gear, web Tags:

Smartphone Home: The 5-Minute Android Analysis

August 16th, 2011 David No comments

With so much choice, there’s never been a better—or more bewildering—time to pick a side in the smartphone wars. We present a quick, four-part guide to soothing your phone-fevered brow

November 18, 2010
android Smartphone Home: The 5 Minute Android Analysis

Let’s face it: This was always going to be about the iPhone. Like comparing your new girlfriend to your ex, or every other woman on earth to Ms. Johansson, the competition has to not merely compete with, but obliterate Apple’s 500-pound gorilla. From the day Google’s smartphone platform was announced, it’s been hailed as the alternative, an open-source savior from the do-no-evil geniuses in Mountain View. So, has Android lived up to its hype? Has it become a proper cure for our iAddictions?

The Good: You can have any iPhone you’d like as long as it’s an iPhone, but on Android there’s a zoo of hardware to choose from, some of them with quite the killer features, from quality QWERTY sliders like the Motorola Droid 2 to 4.3-inch behemoths like HTC’s Evo 4G. If you want your pick of form factor, Android’s the place to be; hell, even on the Samsung Galaxy S I took a liking to, with its unremarkably iPhone-esque design, the Super AMOLED screen’s incredibly dark blacks and deep contrast got more than its share of oohs and ahhs.

In some areas, Android isn’t just on par with the competition, it’s in the lead. It has features like homescreen widgets, giving you quick access to clocks, news feeds, and the like. There’s also the pull-down notification bar, which unobtrusively shows text and e-mail notifications, not just how many signal bars you’re death-gripping away. The Android Market has matured well, and if nothing else covers all the essentials (Yelp, Angry Birds), unless you’re inconsolable without your beloved iGarageDoorOpenCloser 2.5. There’s no doubt, from first glance down to the gritty details, this is a mature platform that’s ready to rumble.

The “Meh”: More than a few people I handed an Android phone to commented, “You know what I notice? The scrolling isn’t as good.” Touch inputs aren’t as fluid or precise as their Apple counterparts, and though it’s come a long way from its beginnings on the dork-tastic T-Mobile G1, the interface still lacks that last bit of shine and polish around the corners. Without a really close comparison—or a smartphone review—in mind, however, for the most part you’d be hard-pressed to care.

The “Huh?”: What’s “Sense,” “Blur,” or “TouchWiz”? The thing about open-source software is, it’s open for meddling. Most smartphones these days are little more than big rectangles with screens on them. If you’re making an Android phone, how do you differentiate yourself from everyone else slapping the same software on their own slabs? Thus, manufacturers are fond of adding what they call “user interface enhancements”; we’ve come to call it “screwing everything up.”

The net result is the Android experience that can vary widely (and disasterously) from phone to phone. What does the home screen look like? How do I unlock my phone? What order are the hardware buttons in? It depends. You’ll constantly hear the anguished cries of reviewers across the land, wishing that Manufacturer X’s sexy new Phone Y would’ve just stuck to Google’s stock code. The carriers get in on it too, hard-wiring each phone with their own usually useless (AT&T Maps?) sometimes unforgivable (the search engine is Bing, and can’t be changed?) modifications. It’s like if a McDonald’s franchise could swap out fries for onion rings… or candy corn: You never know what you’re getting. It’s why Google tried its hand at standardization with its self-branded Nexus One, and why the rumored/upcoming Nexus S has Android enthusiasts all aflutter.

The Cool Factor: As of today, pulling out one of the glitzier Android phones at a party is bit of a conversation piece. But, with its rapidly growing user base, it’s one that’ll soon lose its novelty. So when the day comes that you’re in the subway with four dozen other Googlephoners, what are you left with?

Well in some ways, a pretty freakin’ nerdy phone. Full-on multitasking sounds great, until it can be a bit of a drag; in fact, Advanced Task Killer, one of the most popular Android apps, does nothing but quit all the background apps you forgot to close. “Hey babe, I’ll jot down your number, right after I free up some RAM…”? We think not. And that’s one of the ways you can see its techie roots still showing: It’s just that bit steeper of a learning curve, and the slightest bit less of a solid, consumer-friendly device. It’s certainly a compelling choice. Depending on how you look at it, it might even be the right choice. But is it cool? Call it ease of use, call it Cupertino’s voodoo magic, but even as the iPhone becomes so ubiquitous your dog probably just got one, it still reigns.

Buy one if… you don’t mind a slight learning curve, maybe because you and your comp-sci buddies had a great time modding Linux distros back in the day. Or if you’re just sick of Jonathan Ive making off with your wallet every Christmas.

Categories: mobile, Podcast & Blogs Tags:

Clean Up and Revive your Mac

July 10th, 2011 David No comments

Clean Up and Revive Your Bloated, Sluggish Mac

1003 32 Clean Up and Revive your Mac Gina Trapanisadmac hed Clean Up and Revive your Mac A few years back you dropped significant cash to switch over from the virus-laden world of Windows to a shiny new Mac, but over time it’s gotten slow and crufty. Let’s clean it up.


Before you get started uninstalling this and deleting that, do yourself a favor: hook up an external drive to your Mac and back everything up with Time Machine or any other free alternative. The last thing you want is for your “clean up” to turn into “holy crap where did all my Documents go.”

Ready? Let’s get started. (PC user? You want this article.)

Find the CPU and Memory Hogs in the Activity Monitor

First things first. If your Mac is acting like a petulant three-year-old, dragging its feet, crossing its arms, and refusing to do what you ask in any reasonable amount of time, it’s time to fire up the Activity Monitor (in Applications > Utilities). Here you’ll see a list of running applications and processes. Sort the columns shown in the screenshot to find out what apps are hogging the most CPU time (Firefox, in this case), what apps are for Intel or PowerPC (it’s a good idea to use Intel-only apps on Intel Macs), and what apps are running at all. If there are processes running for software you don’t need, note them down. Also, if an app is a runaway CPU and memory hog, quit it and restart for immediate relief.

Clean Up Your Startup

startupitems Clean Up and Revive your Mac Whether or not the Activity Monitor is showing processes you don’t recognize, it’s a good idea to audit what programs start up automatically when you log onto your Mac. In System Preferences, Accounts (I know, unintuitive placement), click on the Login Items tab. From there, make sure each and every app listed is something you need and use. If it isn’t? Just select it and click the minus (-) sign. (Rule of thumb: Generally you want to keep things called “SomethingHelper” where Something is an app you use, like iTunes or Growl, as shown.)


Uninstall Unneeded Apps (and Related Files)

Just like your Login Items, you want to cruise through your Applications folder and trash anything you don’t need or use any more. To be clear, this won’t speed up your Mac, but it will reclaim hard drive space.

Before you get to dragging and dropping unneeded applications to the trash, though, it’s a good idea to install a, well, uninstaller program. Strangely Apple still hasn’t shipped a proper uninstaller with Mac OS X, but a few free and pay-for apps will clear out related files when you send an application to the Trash. While the irony of having to install something in order to uninstall something isn’t lost on us, keep in mind: your Mac will be fine if an extra plist file gets left behind by an app you once used.

hazeluninstall Clean Up and Revive your MacBut, in case you’re a neat freak, you want to check out the likes of AppTrap (free, our review), AppDelete (used to be free, now requires a minimum payment of $5 after a few uses, our review), or AppZapper ($13, our review).

Personally I prefer Hazel, which will set you back $22 for a license—however, in addition to clearing away application files on uninstall, Hazel can make your Mac self-cleaning, too, which makes it worth the cost.


Do Some Maintenance

Now it’s time to make sure your disks are in tip-top shape, and luckily, you can do this without any extra software. Simply run Disk Utility (in Applications > Utilities) to verify and repair disk permissions (which determine what apps can do what with what files on your Mac) and verify and repair the disk itself. These operations take some time, and you can’t do them while other applications are running, so set ‘em in motion before you head out to lunch or to grab coffee. 

onyx Clean Up and Revive your Mac To run some more hardcore and detailed maintenance tasks, download the free OnyX (our review). While OnyX does lots of fun Mac customization (see the Parameters tab for that stuff), you want the Maintenance and Cleaning tabs. There you can do things like manually run your Mac’s daily, weekly, and monthly maintenance scripts (which don’t on their own if you shut down your Mac at night), and clear out log files and system caches. You can also fix system application-specific issues, by rebuilding Spotlight’s or Mail’s index, if those apps are acting particularly wonky.

Reclaim Hard Drive Space

While you’re on a cleaning spree, figure out exactly what’s taking up all that space on your Mac with a visual tool that maps what’s what. Disk Inventory X (free, our review), is your best bet in this area: it creates what’s called a “tree map” of your hard drive usage that will unearth things like 10 gigabytes of video files you just don’t need any more.To get down to the unneeded-megabyte level, Macworld has some detailed advice for where to find redundant system files and Dashboard widgets. You can also reclaim space taken up by unneeded language files using the free Monolingual (our review).

Care for and Troubleshoot Your Battery and Memory

If you’ve got a Mac notebook and you’re having trouble with your battery, a few troubleshooting techniques might help. First, to get the longest life out of your battery, calibrate it to make sure your life-o-meter is giving you the right readings.

If your Mac’s battery is cutting out before issuing the “You’re running out of power” warning, you want to reset the SMC or PMU, which cleared up that very problem on my MacBook.

Finally, some problems can be resolved by resetting your Mac’s PRAM and NVRAM—but this is generally a last-resort just-short-of-the-Genius-Bar troubleshooting technique for that inexplicable problem your Mac’s having.


Beef Up Your Memory and Get the Latest System Updates

macosxupdate Clean Up and Revive your Mac This should go without saying, but the more memory your Mac has, the snappier it will be. If you’re thinking about an upgrade and you’ve got a MacBook, check out Adam’s guide to adding RAM to your Mac.

Also, it’s generally a good idea to stay up-to-date with OS X patches and versions—and normally Software Update runs on its own and does just that. (Note: Yesterday the 10.5.7 update came out, and while I had no problems with it, Gizmodo reports that some people are having issues. As always, back up your stuff continuously to avoid disaster.)

Got any tales of victory or defeat when it comes to cleaning up and speeding up your Mac? Tell ‘em in the comments.

Gina Trapani, Lifehacker’s founding editor, has a MacBook Pro that’s a bit snappier today than it was yesterday. Her weekly feature, Smarterware, appears every Wednesday on Lifehacker. Subscribe to the Smarterware tag feed to get new installments in your newsreader.

Categories: Apps, Mac Tags:

Microsoft Windows 8

June 10th, 2011 David 1 comment

windows 8 Microsoft Windows 8

Until now, touchscreen PCs were little more than gimmicks – finger-friendly add-ons to a very mouse-oriented OS. Microsoft Windows 8 ($TBA) looks to change all of that. By borrowing heavily from Windows Phone 7, Redmond has built a touch-optimized, tile-based main interface for Windows 8, melding the user friendliness of modern smartphones with powerful PC features like complete access to the file system, the ability to see more than one app at a time on screen, and desktop caliber apps — although we’re still trying to figure out how you’re supposed to use the Office toolbar without a mouse. [Thanks Uncrate!]

Categories: windows Tags:

Mac OS X Lion

June 10th, 2011 David No comments

mac os x lion Mac OS X Lion

Packing in a whopping 250 new features, Mac OS X Lion ($30) looks to be a worthy upgrade to Apple’s awesome operating system. Available in July as a download from the Mac App Store, it’ll bring new features including iOS-style full screen apps, new Multi-Touch gestures, Mission Control and Launchpad (new things for seeing all your apps at once and for finding and launching apps quicker), a redesigned Mail app, Auto Save for everything, and AirDrop (easy file sharing).

[Nice write up]

Categories: Apple, Apps, News, OS Tags:


June 10th, 2011 David No comments

icloud iCloud

Syncing all your stuff between all your digital devices is going to eventually drive you insane. Apple is here, once again, to help. iCloud (Free/$25 a year) seamlessly stores your music, photos, apps, email, calendars, and documents, and wirelessly pushes them to all your devices automatically so everything stays up to date and in sync. When something changes on one of your devices, all of your others are wirelessly updated almost instantly. You can also use iTunes Match to have all of your ripped music available to you on any device for a yearly fee. You’ve been hearing about this “cloud” stuff on crappy IBM commercials for a year, but now (well, this fall when iOS 5 is released) you’ll actually benefit from it. [Nice write up]

Categories: Apple, OS, web Tags:

Top 10 Ergonomic Upgrades for Your Workspace

May 30th, 2011 David No comments

500x ergotastic Top 10 Ergonomic Upgrades for Your WorkspaceIt’s easy to forget about your body’s needs when you’re deep into your work or the net—until your body offers a painful reminder. Save your physical shell some strain with these cheap, customizable ergonomic workspace upgrades.

Photo by IMG_3771 on Flickr – Photo Sharing!.

10. Elevate your laptop to eye level

laptop stand Top 10 Ergonomic Upgrades for Your WorkspaceYour neck can’t text you to explain how annoying it is to have to keep looking down at your laptop. Over time it will let you know, though, in a nagging, painful way. If your laptop is your day-to-day work machine, elevate it to eye level using any one of a number of clever solutions. Perhaps one among our Top 10 laptop stands will do the trick, or a built-to-fit DIY pipe stand. Any of them are better than imagining yourself as a hunched old man or woman, constantly warning the neighborhood kids to sit up straight and look ahead.

9. Mix up your positions with a standing desk

standing desk Top 10 Ergonomic Upgrades for Your WorkspaceIt’s hard to slouch when you’re not in a seat. To help your body benefit from your upright instinct, and give your lower body a break from sitting, work a standing desk into your workspace. You can go for it in a big way, like with this handcrafted setup, stick with something as simple as a $20 model or a surface on a storage rack. If you want to go really fancy, you could try a treadputer or something like this adjustable desk. It doesn’t have to be your only desk, either—just a break room for your butt.

8. Get better sleep support

sleepy Top 10 Ergonomic Upgrades for Your WorkspaceHow your back, neck, and joints fare over eight hours of work can be influenced by how they spent eight hours in bed. Give your body a better night’s sleep by catching up on’s pain and posture basics. According to the post, the standard, no-pain position to shoot for is “on your side, knees bent, pillow between the knees, and your head resting on a single pillow,” or on your back with one pillow under your knees and one under your head. You might need to leave out an element or two from that ideal if you’ve got a hard-set sleeping habit, but it’s worth considering a switch-up. Photo by james.thompson. (Original post).

7. Invest in a real mouse and keyboard

best mouse Top 10 Ergonomic Upgrades for Your WorkspaceIf you’ve stuck with your mouse and keyboard just because your desktop came with them, we feel for you. If you’ve been using a laptop at a desk without an external mouse or keyboard, we’re in tears. Invest in the tools your hands spend thousands of hours on every year by perusing the best mouse recommendations from Lifehacker readers and their ultimate keyboard picks. All of them are designed with a good hand feel and better functionality in mind. Consider your hand comfort worth five cents an hour? You’ll amortize these puppies in no time.

6. Align yourself properly with your computer

usable workspace Top 10 Ergonomic Upgrades for Your WorkspaceAdam’s had his problems with hand, wrist, and back pain from repetitive stress and other conditions at his workspace, and a few years ago, he decided to set up a healthy, usable workspace to get back in shape. His post is a front-to-back assessment of what healthy working spaces should include, but his basic sitting setup involves keeping your elbows bent near 90 degrees, keeping a mouse comfortably within reach of a keyboard, avoiding slouching, and keeping a monitor at eye level, between 18-28 inches from your face.

5. Build your own ergonomic desk from scratch

custom desk Top 10 Ergonomic Upgrades for Your WorkspaceYou don’t have to have Bob-Vila-level woodworking skills to craft your own workspace—after all, college students have been laying doors on cinder blocks for years. To make an actually ergonomic desk from medium-density fibreboard, you need two power tools (your neighbor has them if you don’t), time enough to sketch and plan your cuts, and measurements to know how high you should set up the legs, so your monitor is at eye level and you’ve got just enough room for everything you’re working with. When you’re done, you can paint or stain it whatever color you’d like, and when your friends ask where you got that desk, well, you know the answer. (Original post)

4. Use exercises to ward off RSI

huymnyrohjq Top 10 Ergonomic Upgrades for Your WorkspaceYou can do a lot to prevent stress and pain in your hands working at a computer all day, but you’ll almost inevitably have bad days full of overly long hours, and, over the long haul, risk sidling yourself with repetitive strain injury (RSI). Percussionist David Kuckhermann knows a thing or two about repetitive wrist and forearm strain, as does RSI expert Sherry Smith, and they both recommend and demonstrate a few simple exercises that can ward off and heal the effects of working your hands into knots. (Original post)

3. Fine-tune your desk spacing

ergonomic setup Top 10 Ergonomic Upgrades for Your WorkspaceAre you the type that busts out the tape measure whenever you’re putting anything up on the wall? For setting up your workspace with proper distances and heights between yourself and your computer tools, ergonomic goods firm Ergotron offers an ergonomic workspace planner that, once you enter your height, gives up the details on suggested seat heights, monitor heights and distances, and keyboard shelves. If you’re thinking about working in a standing desk, they’ve got measurements for that, too. (Original post)

2. Use software enforcers

antirsi Top 10 Ergonomic Upgrades for Your WorkspaceIt’s great that you’re dedicated to pushing out this project on time, but unless your deadline’s right this hour and you need every second, you should be stepping back occasionally to give your wrists, eyes, and arms a rest—and maybe even read something off-screen, while you’re at it. If mental reminders aren’t enough, apps like AntiRSI and Timeout for Macs, and Workrave for Windows and Linux, force you, in differing levels of subtlety, to take a break and physically remove your hands from the keyboard every so often. (Original posts: AntiRSI, WorkRave, Time Out)

1. Go easy on your eyes

thumb160x eye Top 10 Ergonomic Upgrades for Your WorkspaceEye strain is particularly bad news for those who write (code, copy, or anything else) or assemble things on a computer all day—it hits you right in what feels like your brain, and makes concentration terribly hard. Two simple solutions are to turn on ClearType and increase your monitor refresh rate in Windows systems, or install a serious protection scheme like EyeDefender. Reader’s Digest suggests other easy eye fixes, like keeping your monitor slightly below eye level to bring less glare into your retinas. And simply using a darker desktop theme is often a nice first step toward reducing the amount of time you feel like you’re staring into a flashlight with words written on it.

What improvements, big or small, have made the greatest difference in your workspace health? Pass on the knowledge in the comments.
Categories: Gadgets, Gear, Health, Home, office, Other, Podcast & Blogs Tags:

11 Tricks to Cutting Travel Costs in 2011

April 9th, 2011 David No comments

BARGAIN hunters will need to be craftier when booking a trip if they want to get the best prices this year. It’s no secret that airfares are up and added fees for everything from checked bags to exit-row seats are pushing the cost of flying higher. On top of that, hotel bargains are expected to be harder to come by as business travelers begin to return, diminishing the need for hotels to discount rooms in major cities.

But that doesn’t mean a year in front of your television. There are still plenty of ways to cut costs. Here are 11 strategies — and some useful Web sites — to help you save on travel this year.

1. SHOP “PRIVATE SALES” A growing number of Web sites, including, and have flash sales of 20 to 60 percent off hotel packages to travelers on an invitation-only basis. Jetsetter, for example, recently offered a Friday night in January at the Angler’s, a boutique hotel in Miami, for $255 a night, down from the $359 offered at the hotel’s site. Another site,, works like Groupon for travel, meaning that the more people who book a deal, the lower the rate. For example, a four-night, all-inclusive stay at the Hilton Papagayo Costa Rica Resort & Spa was initially offered to members for $1,496, or 15 percent off, last month. After 55 bookings, the price dropped to $1,220. At TripAlertz and, which offers last-minute getaways, all you have to do is create an account to access the deals. A Google search for “Snique Away invite” turned up a registration form for that got me in.

2. BUY ON TUESDAY Most airlines begin sales on Monday evenings, and by the following day other airlines have usually matched the lowered fares on the same routes, said Anne McDermott, editor at, which tracks price trends. Last month, for example, Virgin America had a sale on Dec. 13, with one-way fares as low as $79 on some routes, according to Farecompare. The next day, there were sales from AirTran, Southwest and American, with one-way fares from $59. Because sales are hard to predict, travelers looking for the best deal should start their searches three to four months in advance, when airlines begin to look closely at which routes may need a sale to fill seats.

3. SEARCH FOR COUPON CODES Practically every travel site includes a box at checkout for a promotional discount code. Sites like or organize such codes into categories so that you can search specifically for airline, car rental or hotel deals. A recent search turned up codes for deals like $94 flights between New York and New Orleans, 15 percent discounts on Avis weekly car rentals and $75 off of three-night Westin Hotels packages.

4. ASK FOR A REFUND Many airlines will refund the difference in price if the fare drops after you purchase a ticket (minus a change fee). helps get you that refund by tracking the price of your ticket and sending you an e-mail or Tweet when the price drops so that you can call the airline to claim the credit. A new site,, offers a similar service for car rentals.

5. AVOID ROAMING CHARGES Skype and Truphone offer free apps for making cheap international calls using Wi-Fi, with rates that start at pennies per minute. You can pay as you go or sign up for monthly plans to make unlimited calls in certain countries for a flat fee: $13.99 a month for Skype calls to land lines and mobile phones in more than 40 countries, or $12.95 a month for Tru calls in 38 countries with TruUnlimited. Another option: the Vonage Mobile app for Facebook allows travelers to make free international calls over Wi-Fi to Facebook friends who also download the app.

6. CHANGE YOUR CREDIT CARD Most American banks charge currency conversion fees, typically up to 3 percent when you use your credit or debit card outside the United States. But there are some exceptions. Capital One does not charge foreign transaction fees, and Chase recently began waiving the fees on its British Airways Visa Signature Card, its Hyatt Card and the Priority Club Select Visa.

7. SAVE ON PARKING YOUR CAR steers drivers toward the cheapest parking at off-airport lots near 79 North American airports. Rates are updated frequently, and sold-out lots are highlighted. A recent search for parking near Newark Liberty International Airport offered a snapshot of rates and locations on a map. The Renaissance Hotel lot was among the cheapest at $12 for 24 hours. There is also a free app for iPhone, Android or BlackBerry users.

8. WAIT A WEEK Avoid the crowds and save by traveling the week after a major holiday. A five-night ski vacation in Breckenridge, Colo., during the last week of December was priced at $1,988 a person, including airfare from Chicago, at For the following week, the same trip was listed at $1,037 a person. Similarly, a vacation including airfare from New York and five nights at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort dropped from $821 to $580.

9. NEGOTIATE Though many hotels say that they offer their best rates online, it pays to ask the front desk for a lower rate. My colleague Seth Kugel regularly uses this tactic, as he pointed out in a column last summer: “I arrive with a solid reservation but then check out five or six other hotels and go back and forth between them in an attempt to set off a price war.” The strategy saved him $20 a night in León, Nicaragua. I have had similar success over the phone with reservation agents at New York hotels like the Ritz-Carlton New York and 60 Thompson.

10. TRAVEL LIKE A STUDENT Student travel agencies like STA Travel, StudentCity and StudentUniverse have begun to extend their low prices to nonstudents and older travelers. While some of the deepest discounts are offered only to travelers enrolled in an academic program, recent college graduates can often save 10 to 25 percent with “youth fares.” For example, a recent search for flights in March on, which limits certain deals to nonstudents under the age of 26, turned up seats for $926 round trip on V Australia Airlines. The best rates for the same dates on were $1,187. Though it is not common for older travelers to use student travel agencies, it is possible to do so. There were no age restrictions for a discounted four-day Inca Trail trek with STA Travel for $674 a person, down from $899.

11. DON’T PAY TO CHECK A BAG Checking bags can quickly add up, with airlines charging between $15 and $35 a bag. Delta’s SkyMiles-branded American Express card allows you and up to eight others on the same reservation to each check a bag at no cost. And American Express introduced a travel-rewards card — the Blue Sky Preferred Credit Card — that offers travelers an annual $100 allowance to cover checked baggage, in-flight meals, entertainment or Wi-Fi purchases, and other fees, on any airline.

Categories: Travel Tags:

20 essential windows apps

April 4th, 2011 David 2 comments

by Lee Mathews

present 20 essential windows apps

Our regular readers can probably rattle off a list of their 20 favorite apps without breaking a sweat — as the comments on this post will no doubt prove. But for our less in-the-know friends, family, and co-workers, it can be challenging to figure out where to download high quality programs that actually do what they need them to do.

We’ve put together an assortment that will help you hit the ground running with your new Windows PC. If you’ve got your own suggestions to add, feel free to post them in the comments.

Now let’s take the jump and check out the apps!

Antivirus and antimalware

mse 1293117859 20 essential windows apps

It’s always best to get your protection in place before you do anything else. Microsoft’s Security Essentials is an exceptionally good program and provides excellent, always-on defense against all kinds of malicious software. Version 2.0 is even better than the original, and it’s ready for download onto your shiny new system.

For added protection, we also like to keep Malwarebytes on hand. It’s a dependable program for times when we want to perform a more intensive checkup on our system and has proven itself to be a malware-removing powerhouse.

Download Microsoft Security Essentials
Download Malwarebytes (from Filehippo)

Backup and sync

sugarsync 20 essential windows apps

With security out of the way, it’s time to look at protecting your future data. By setting up a good quality backup or sync app (or both), you can ensure that you’re never going to lose those precious photos or important scholarly articles you saved in your Documents folder. SugarSync gets the nod for sync services, thanks to its 5GB of free space (more than double what most providers give for free) — and mobile apps for Android, iPhone, and BlackBerry.

For straight-up backup duties, Mozy is tough to beat. A free account gets you 2GB of backup space, and a paid account will only run you $4.95 per month for unlimited storage. Mozy can also simultaneously backup to an external hard drive, giving you a second layer of disaster preparedness.

Download Sugarsync
Download Mozy

Web browsing

multibrowse 20 essential windows apps

We certainly recommend installing an alternative Web browser, but because Google Chrome, Firefox, and Opera all have unique features, it’s very hard to pick a ‘best’ browser. All three browsers are fast, secure, customizable, and offer synchronization — which is very useful if you browse on more than one computer. Spend some time seeing what makes each one special, or download ‘em all and go for a few test drives. You can always uninstall them later!

If you’re the adventurous type and you like Internet Explorer just fine, you may even want to download the Internet Explorer 9 beta version. It’s not fully complete, but it’s a big improvement over its predecessors.

Download Firefox
Download Google Chrome
Download Opera

Watching, converting, and burning videos

freemake 20 essential windows apps

For viewing just about any kind of video file, VLC is ready to rock. From MP4 to AVI to VOB, it plays them all — and without making you hunt for codecs (which is especially handy if you’re not sure what a codec is in the first place). When it comes time to burn those videos to a disc or make them play nice with your new smartphone, Freemake Video Converter is up to the task. It’ll even burn your videos to a DVD or Blu-ray disc.

Download VLC
Download Freemake Video Converter

Listening to, transferring, and buying music

doubletwist 20 essential windows apps

Just about everyone who’s touched a keyboard knows about iTunes. It’s a good enough program, but you have other options available. DoubleTwist is a very good alternative, and it can even synchronize songs to your iPhone, iPod, or iPad — something most other apps can’t do. It’s also got built-in access to the Amazon MP3 Store, which offers very good pricing on music downloads — as long as you’re in the U.S. and U.K.

If you don’t own an Apple device, Songbird is another nice choice. One big reason to consider Songbird is that it integrates 7digital for music purchases — and 7digital is available darn near everywhere.

Download Doubletwist
Download Songbird

Communication and instant messaging/chat

skype 1293120226 20 essential windows apps

Skype now handles a mind-boggling number of voice and video calls every single day, and it’s one of the best programs around at adapting to your Internet connection’s speed. That’s important when you’re trying to make sure the person on the other end isn’t seeing a pixelated version of you which stutters and freezes constantly.

As for instant messaging, we’ve got two picks. Windows Live Messenger is a good way to go if you’re primarily going to chat with Windows Live contacts (obviously) and Facebook friends. For those of you who really need to chat with friends on ICQ, Yahoo, Google, Live, and ICQ all at once, do yourself a favor and check out Pidgin. It’s a much better idea than installing three or four different chat apps.

Download Skype
Download Windows Live Messenger 2011
Download Pidgin

Photo management, editing, and sharing

picasa 1293125654 20 essential windows apps

Both Microsoft and Google make terrific photo apps for home users. Picasa and Live Photo Gallery offer plenty of quick-fix tools for adjusting colors, removing redeye, cropping, and otherwise tweaking your pics. Both programs make it easy to generate slideshows for sharing online or on disc. Photo Gallery also works well with Facebook and Flickr — so it’s a better choice if you plan on posting a lot of photos to either site. It also comes bundled with Movie Maker, which is a nice way to bundle your pictures and videos.

Download Picasa
Download Windows Live Photo Gallery / Movie Maker 2011


steam 20 essential windows apps

At this stage in the game, Steam is a must-have application (or at least very, very nearly one). There are so many good games available in their extensive catalog that everyone can find something enjoyable to purchase and play. From first person shooters to racing sims to addictive (and typically cheap!) casual games, Steam has become a bit like the iTunes for games.

Download Steam

Office and student work

ltous 20 essential windows apps

If you plan on getting productive with your new computer — and you probably will at some point in the new year — you may as well install the apps you’ll need now. For general note-taking and research, Evernote is a champion and it’s made even better by the availability of mobile apps for virtually all smartphones.

For straight-up word processing and spreadsheet chores, both OpenOffice and Lotus Symphony offer Microsoft Office-like functionality for free. They’re not 100% Office compatible, though, so if you’re worried about documents formatting properly you may want to check into Microsoft’s free Office Web Apps. They run in your browser, so you won’t even need to install anything extra — all you need is a Facebook account!

Download Evernote
Download Lotus Symphony (from Softpedia)
Download OpenOffice
Visit Microsoft Office Web Apps

Password management

keepass 20 essential windows apps

The more Web sites you sign up for, the more important a good password manager becomes. KeePass is easy to learn, can store everything you throw at it, and it will even generate hard-to-crack passwords which you can use to replace your current ones. All you’ve got to do is remember the master password to open your KeePass vault, and you’re good to go!

Download KeePass

Unzipping, extracting and managing file archives

7zip 20 essential windows apps

7-Zip is the name to know. Unlike the more well-known WinZip and WinRAR, 7-Zip is completely free and will never nag you about how many files you’ve opened with it or why you should buy a copy. Using 7-Zip is dead simple: just click any compressed file you download and choose the 7-Zip menu from the pop-up, and then extract your files.

Download 7-Zip for 64-bit or 32-bit Windows

Tune-ups and Maintenance

ccleaner 20 essential windows apps

Windows 7 doesn’t really need to be defragmented, and any new system you buy at this point will be running the OS. A ‘tidy up’ tool like CCleaner is a better choice. It provides an easy way to remove temporary files that are eating up valuable drive space, and cleans your registry. Run it regularly to keep your system spic-and-span, and don’t forget to add CCleaner Enhancer to clean out files from more than 200 additional programs.

Download CCleaner

Present photo by flickr user paulidin

Living in the Cloud

March 22nd, 2011 David No comments

clouds Living in the Cloud

Here at Mac|Life, we really do love free apps. We love loading up our iOS devices with seriously utilitarian apps that live in the cloud, too. Here’s a look at some of our favorite cloud applications that work across ALL platforms–Mac, iPhone and iPad.

screen shot 2010 12 10 at 11.11.53 am Living in the CloudDropbox

If you’re not a part of drop box, you are seriously missing out on one of the most helpful services we’ve ever used. The service plants a folder on your hard drive that syncs across all computers using the service. The mobile app lets you view your documents and even play a song on the go.

db97db869a59f50a19f9566e50ed8a81 Living in the CloudMobileMe iDisk
If you’ve got MobileMe, there’s no reason not to access it on your iOS device. iDisk lets you view and share your MobileMe files, as well as view iWork, Office, Quicktime and PDF files. You can also access other Public folders from this particular app.
screen shot 2010 12 10 at 2.17.49 pm Living in the lets you store up to 5GB Free of files in the cloud. You can view all your files–Word, Excel, Powerpoint, PDFs, audio, and more–on your iPhone and iPad through this nifty free app. You can also add comments on files and folders to differentiate between versions and get a detailed list of what has been uploaded, downloaded and updated.

screen shot 2010 12 10 at 2.17.33 pm Living in the CloudEvernote

I use Evernote for organizing my entirely scattered brain. It’s great for pictures, simple URL saving and snippets. The app is wonderful because I can access my shopping list whenever I’m lost inside a department store, or show friends the ridiculous internet memes I’ve clipped for a later date.
screen shot 2010 12 10 at 2.17.19 pm Living in the CloudFriendly for Facebook

Um, social networking is in the *cloud*, alright? Pictures of last Friday’s party, notes you share between your friends and messages of love and betrayal all reside on those thousands of servers Facebook’s got camped out somewhere in the US. And since there’s no native Facebook app currently available to the massed, this one will have to do.

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