Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Stock Market- Sports Style: Protrade

So I was surfing the web for a decent interactive sports site and it looks like I pretty much hit gold. ProTrade calls itself "The Sports Stock Market", which immediately lured me in. I'd always liked fantasy sports but really wanted to participate in a sports stock market and I finally found one.
With ProTrade, you start off with 5000 points to use to buy different players after you register for a free account. With these points (no cash value), you basically buy teams and players in NASCAR, MLB, NHL, PGA, NBA and NCAA. Their value can go up and down basically depending on their performance (Alexander Ovechkin is well over $300 while Casey Janssen is around $50 and you earn or lose money based on this.
So the concept is pretty similar to that of the stock market although quite a bit easier.
However, it only gets better. You also can join challenges that can even give you more points or real live cash or gifts. Plus, if you get enough points, you can redeem them for prizes that include iPods and Amazon gift card. Just one catch, to earn the prizes, you have to be in the U.S. and pay $1-$10 as well as a sum of points.
In addition, you can also create a little profile along with a bit of a blog that you can submit sports opinions, news and stories to. You can also read others' blogs and comment as well.
So it's sports dynamite and a more addictive alternative to fantasy sports.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

6 Reasons Why You Don't Need the New iPod Shuffle

People have been oohed and ahhed by the new iPod Shuffle but I certainly have no intention on ever using it. Here's why:

6. The battery life is worse.

With all the new useless features, it appears that Apple has sacrificed one very useful one, battery life. You'd expect the designers to easily have increased this, especially with the iPod Shuffle that doesn't support video or any screen capabilites.

5. You can only use Apple's earphones

And even Steve Jobs would probably admit that these aren't exactly the best quality. However, these are the only ones programmed to work with the Shuffle so if you break them (very likely to happen), you can't just go into an old shelf and find new ones to keep listening: You'll have to instead wait until next Saturday to go to Best Buy to get a new set.

4. Small = breakable + losable

Apple describes their latest device as "durable" with it's "anodized aluminum case" (what the hell?) but that's pretty hard to believe when the thing's not even as wide or thick as a key. Plus, it doesn't really matter what it's made out of once it falls out of the tiny whole in your backpack or that little part that you just don't bother to zip up.

3. Much more advanced iPods

With the new iPod Nano, iPod Touch and iPhone, I don't see much of a point of downgrading to a measly Shuffle, even in these times. Shuffles don't have cover flow, a screen, FM tuners, screens, applications, e-mail or wi-fi.

2. Unimpressive new features

Let's see what they've put in. A new colour (black), a few more playlists, a new and improved on-off switch. Sure the storage is pretty good but as I have demonstrated, the tininess might not be.

1. VoiceOver; Apple's newest crappy idea

Now let's talk about the robotic, monotone voice that is customized to whether you have a PC or Mac. This is supposed to tell you the songs and playlists but it does start to get annoying listening to the poorly pronounced words every single day. Also, unless you download random songs, you'll probably know most of what's on your iPod and don't need variations of Microsoft Sam telling you what they are. And if you really need a friend, try this.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

No More Customization for Yahoo! Music LAUNCHcast Radio

Although I just found it out today, it seems that since early February, the personalized radio feature that I've grown to love from Yahoo! Music has been banished. It has been replaced by none other than the craptastical CBS Radio, which apprently now runs Yahoo! LAUNCHcast.
With this, the whole good part, the customization, is sucked out of this radio. Basically, now all you can customize is what the music genre that you want to listen to is. You can pick Today's Biggest Hits, Hard Rock, Adult Alternative and quite a bit more but that sure doesn't beat what it was before. You would pretty much pick which songs played with your specified music preferences.
You may say this is a financial decision now Yahoo!, but soon you'll regret this very much. Very, very much. Well, actually I still like Yahoo!, I'll just take it out on CBS; no more CBS on my TV. So ha!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Long Lost Secret About Selling on Ebay: What We've All Forgotten

What is right there is not always apparent. This is certainly the case with selling on Ebay. It seems that everyone has forgotten about or is deciding to disregard the one most important aspect of any online marketplace: Trust.
Buying online isn't like going to the store; you can't sample or touch any item, read the package and know you're getting the real deal. Hence, the buyer must trust the seller regarding the quality of the product.
WIth this requirement come another: To earn this trust. Most people know exactly what this means in real life but don't seem to be very web-aware.
To begin with, do not use all caps. While this attracts attention, I can assure you that it doesn't attract customers. Consider it, would you buy anything that has all it's specifications in an amateurish Arial all-caps?
Further, you don't have to be a great photographer to post a decent image of your item. One thing you must not do is retrieve a generic one from Google Images because again, this is unprofessional and appears extremely untrustworthy.
One more small thing that I still see for some reason is links to your blog or website with promotion in mind. Ebay isn't a classifieds host so don't use it as one. It definitely loses my trust nice and quickly if I see blue underlined text.
Lastly, make an effort to create as complete of an auction as possible. Specifiy the shipping price and means instead of leaving it blank, make a "Buy it Now", and insert all the product information (model number, size, battery life, warranty, colour, regular price etc. can make something incredibly impressive). One more tip, if you use sophisticated but understandable language, you'll garner more trust. And of course, your seller rating and feedback makes the biggest difference while a reasonable price that isn't too good to be true is crucial. But hopefully, that's obvious.
So happy money-making!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

10 Things to Consider When Designing a Corporate Website

10. Images and graphics

These are absolutely crucial to the success of a website, but you have to find a balance of words and images. Moreover, many visuals these days are unbearably cheesy and most of these come in the form of animations and marquees. So eliminate any of these that still linger on your site. Otherwise, just remember to stay wary of copyright laws and try to manipulate the image's features (maybe form a collage with the main colours).

9. No ads

Your purpose should not be to generate revenues directly from your page, infuriating viewers in the process, but to utilise your page to generate revenues with your products. Of all things, probably the least impressive on a corporate site would be that little logo that says "Ads by Google".

8. Not too many words

You want to be concise because when at a company web page, most people have a very short attention span and if you don't cut right to the chase, they'll just say "Whatever", and turn away. However, you do have to get a message across but do this in as few words as possible.

7. Legible first, likable second

You might really like both red and neon green as colours but the inconvenient truth is that if you make such a canvas, it will look amateur and nobody will be able to read it. The specific colours might be popular colours but if they can't see anything, then there's really no point.

6. Simple but not plain

Some people like to mask their sites with a bunch of stupid code from backgrounds to countdown clocks to marquees. This creates clutter and clutter as a company message never works. On the other hand, some people don't know a thing about code and type in the little HTML that they know and try to get away with it. This doesn't work either. Here's a good example of finding the balance and it's not as hard as you may think.

5. Dress to impress

If it's within your budget capability, hire a professional web designer to make a decent design, appealing to the eye and professional (this is important). Otherwise, you'll have to find a good, unique layout from the internet and use that. Unless you are adept in web design, don't you dare try to model your site on your own.

Here's an example:
Professional vs. Unprofessional

4. Don't overload

Overloading means putting either too much information, too many images or too many invisible tools. This, first of all confuses and hence puts off potential customers, and second of all takes of valuable loading time. Quality is vital, quantity definitely isn't.

3. Navigation should be easy

Although this isn't exactly a corporate site, this is the one site that comes to mind when I think of poor navigation. If you use it, you'll note that the links aren't organized in a box or at the top in tabs or even in a sitemap. Instead, the text contains a bunch of links to the most crucial parts of the page that you need to carefully try to find. Also, there's no search bar. So basically, links shouldn't be contained inside text unless they're outgoing or are duplicates to ones at the top or on a sidebar. Also, if you can make your search feature more complex than just matching words, that helps as well.

2. Should reflect your vision

If your vision is modern views, use modern colours such as white on black or green as well as modern sans serif fonts. Anyway, before you even contemplate making a site, you must consider your vision and how you are going to portray this in your web page and just about everything else you make or do.

1. Promote, don't advertise

Advertisements are on TV, newspapers, magazines, other website but not your own page. You should definitely speak highly of your products or services but don't sound to enthusiastic or generic because this gets into the realm of advertisements. And definitely, don't put videos of your TV ads on your site because you think people will be intrigued by them. This is one of the stupidest things you can do.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Less Than Comprehensive Guide to Getting Free Stuff

In tough economic times, everyone needs a ... boost here and there. Free stuff is a boost both financially (sorta self-explanatory) and mentally (it's pretty fun and satisfying getting stuff for free). This is your unofficial step-by-step guide to obtaining your goods and saving a few bucks in the process.

1. Free Stuff Sites

There are so many of these that it's not even funny. Google "free stuff", "free stuff sites" or "freebies" and millions of pages will flood your screen. One good thing to do is to type in your country so offers are available in your area ("Canadian free stuff" or "Australian free stuff"). As well, you might want to subscribe to these sights through RSS or add them to your favorites.

2. Free Stuff Newsletters

These sites occasionally will have newsletters to subscribe to notifying you of new offers. A few are:

3. "Free ..." Searches

"Free baseballs", "free magazines", "free pencils", whatever. This turns up more direct results and generally the results that these searches retrieve are more trustworthy than free stuff sites.

4. Look for it

If you're at your favorite store's site, keep a keen eye out for any small boxes in the corners that either offer free items if you buy another thing or offer you free things if you sign up for something. Furthermore, when you're actually at the store, there might be free samples or at grocery stores, often they give away free newspapers or magazines.

5. Giveaways/Sweepstakes/Contests/Draws

Don't count on winning too many of these but if ever you win $10,000 or a car, all those hours will be worth it. However, don't pay to enter contests and don't give too much contact information either. Usually, just look at the site's design to see if you can trust them; if it's sleek and professional, then it's good.

6. Free Samples

Believe it or not, free samples are everywhere- you just have to find them. And this isn't as hard as you think. They're not buried that deep and most free stuff sites have a section devoted to free samples while company homepages often have links to free sample promotions. Again, just have to have a keen eye.

7. Coupons

Pretty much every store has their coupons, whether in the form of promotional codes to be used online or printable coupons. So before you make a purchase, always look for ways to get discounts. My favorite coupon sites are RetailMeNot, MommySavesBig, CouponCabin and DealTaker .

8. Reminder

Remember to exercise judgment when looking for these things. First of all, if it's free then why the hell would they need your credit card information; and don't fall for some lame excuse like "we are contractually obligated" or something. Also, there are tons of scam sites that make you think you're getting something for free, but in reality, you'll end up having to pay. A few rules: If it's a pop-up, don't trust it; read the small text; no detailed contact information (address is understandable).

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Never Upgrade To Microsoft Office 2007

These days, there are plenty of things with plenty of dumb, useless features. However, somehow Microsoft found a way to sit itself at the top of this list with Microsoft Office 2007. If they're planning a new Office, I'm not aware of this but I'm quite sure it will also be crap. So here are the top 5 reasons why you should never upgrade from Office '03.

5. Defaults have been toyed with

So they decide they want to remove the ruler, change the default fonts to Calibri and Cambria, the default font size to 11 and many other things that you and me will never find.

4. A new interface

Office users are not all stupid. We don't need boxes to come up whenever we hover over a button and we absolutely don't need some geek at Microsoft deciding where the toolbars should go. In 2003, you could customize everything so it suited your needs; now they have a special organization that can't be altered.

3. Stupid features

You'll never come across, use or understand half of the features that are included in 2007 whether it be screen clippings, sidenotes, balloons, citations or envelopes. I'd rather stick with the practical things that I need every day then load up my PC with a load of crap that I'll never use in 20 years.

2. Most people haven't

If ever you decide you need to share one of your files and send it to a co-worker or classmate and they haven't upgraded (which they probably haven't and wisely too), they'll find that they won't be able to view or edit the file because the format of 2007 documents are totally different from other versions. And if you want to prevent this, you'll have to specify that you want the file to be saved in the older format.

1. An annoying number of other changes

The "Office Button", the different tab names, the different way of changing zoom. These seem petty now but the minutes that you spend on each of these things slowly add up and add up.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Food, Food and Food: Foodbuzz

Although not recognized as a real competitor to more prominent sites like Yahoo! Food or the Food Network's homepage, Foodbuzz is sure to start making some buzz. Basically, the unique facet of this site is its reliance on user sharing to stimulate the community. In other words, it's literally a Facebook of ... food. A lovely design coupled with powerful features make for a pretty good resource when you're cooking for the next party or looking for a nice restaurant.
With over a thousand "foodies", you'll find the best reviews, photos, recipes, blog posts, videos and more all categorized and searchable so you can easily find them. But one really cool twist is the buzz counter where views, comments, favoritings and votes are factored in to create a score that allows the best content to appear first, all decided by users.
Plus, you've got all sorts of other little features that'll help you tremendously in finding the perfect piece of content for your food situation. Filter by location (useful for finding restaurants), type of post, buzz count or date.
And with all this rich variety of features, you can look for anything that can be posted (reviews, photos, recipes, blog posts and videos) as well as restaurants, specific users and products, each with specialized search bars that let you input particulars on any of these items (price, cuisine, ingredients etc.).
Of course, this isn't a community for just professionals; it's suited for anyone and anyone can post their knowledge and opinions. You can communicate with your "friends" with an mail feature and set a wide range of preferences if you create a free account.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

5 iPhone Apps We All Wish Existed

5. HaHaHa!

Touch the screen and the iPhone will over-emphatically announce, "Ha ha, you don't have an iPhone!" Customizable voices go as annoying as Sarah Palin.

4. I Hate Windows Switch

Connect to any PC installed with Windows and whenever frustrated, simply touch a button on your iPhone and flash a suicide message and shut down dramatically.

3. FixUrBoss

Insert an identification code for boss's computer's and as long as you're within 30 feet of his computer, he'll see Steve Urkel heads randomly pop up on his screen.

2. Dumb as a Bush

Turns microphone on and analyzes any conversations for appropriate places to blare out a stupid George Bush quote.

1. ObamaTrack

Tells you the distance between you and Barack Obama, the most direct route to him, predicts his next moves and gives you a comprehensive guide on being an Obama Fanboy, updated daily.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Eight Generation Video Game Consoles: The Next Line of High-Tech Games

By the time the next decade rolls around in about a year, discussion about the eighth generation of video game consoles will begin to heat up. However, these days, nobody really cares, mesmerized by their current systems and their advancements. Wii's motion control, Xbox's online experience and Playstation's hi-definition gaming are all pretty cool. Still, there are definitely improvements that can be made to each of these in their successors (the Wii 2, Xbox Next and Playstation 4 respectively).


Make the motion control more accurate

I rarely play my Wii but I vaguely recall playing Wii Golf on the Wii Sports disc. And let me summarize in two words: It sucked! The character would simply refuse to react to any motions while putting was almost impossible as the power was almost always distorted.

Improve games

The variety is fine but the ones that are out there are not quality games. They're basically a bunch of mini-game packs. In other words, make a few non-kiddish games that hardcore gamers would like. The gameplay is good on Wii but the other smaller features are horrendous.

Improve graphics

The Wii's unacceptable graphics pale in comparison to that of the Xbox and PS3. In fact, this is one of the main reasons people are straying away from this system.

Improve online experience

Some people might ask me, "How can you improve the online experience if there's none to talk about?" Ok, this is stretching it just a little bit. Wii does support online capability but just barely. There's no chat feature, community lobby/homepage, any downloadable content other than "channels" and it's agonizingly slow.


Reduce number of errors

The notorious red rings of fire phase was enough to make any gamer impatient so the NextBox better be virtually error-free or the gaming world is bound to turn on them.

Increase PC connectability

The PC connectability was definitely not lacking in the 360 but it can be improved. I can see somewhere along the road, from the Xbox, you would be able to access and edit Word, Powerpoint, Excel and Publisher files or perhaps even PDFs. Being able to change some of the computer settings would be nice too although this may raise some security issues.

Do not implement motion control

Motion control will surely crapitize the amazing game line-up that the Xbox features. Developing for motion controls is much harder to do than developing for buttons and thus the neat features of the current Xbox games would be excluded. This would kill the Xbox.


Lower the price

I'll say one thing. The starting price of the PS4 can't be $800 or even $500; $400 is pretty much a maximum, especially if this economic downturn continues. I'd say the price was the one biggest turn-off of the PS3 at launch and Sony can't afford for it to happen again.

Increase game line-up, introducing new games and expanding current franchises

The PS3's games aren't spectacular although they definitely trump Wii's. They absolutely need improvement though as hyped games did not exactly turn out while non-hyped ones didn't either. Do see the dilemma here?

Remove the motion control

The "Six-Axis" motion control in the PS3 was simply a load of crap; if you're not going to do it right, why do it at all? This screwed up the games quite a bit and was totally pointless.

Improve the Playstation Network

Sony will have to think outside the box a little bit for their next PSN update. The Playstation Network is currently mediocre. It's better than the Wii's but not as good as the Xbox's. However, PSN actually has a lot of features that Xbox Live has but just does not have that special touch.

Preventing Social Network Mind Control: 11 Ways to Spend Less Time on Facebook

Facebook. Everybody knows about it. Just about everybody has an account. And at least a third of these people are passionate enough to be called addicted. The world of social networking is a harsh place and Facebook is its biggest (and most corrupting) player. Don't get me wrong, Facebook is great but so is fitness, intelligence and experience. Here's how to spend less time on the most popular social network:

11. Don't go on the computer as much.

This is probably the best way to stop going Facebook. However, these days, most people can't spare precious computer time so this isn't exactly the most practical thing to do. Still, if you can cut down, do it; it saves electricity, time, your eyes and your body.

10. Eliminate useless notes.

Trust me, I've seen tons and tons of these "What's your stupidness percentage?" or "How Asian are you?" notes that seem to be gaining in popularity among teenagers. I'm just here to inform you that these are not "cool" and no matter how intensely bored you are, this is still hugely, immensely, vastly stupid.

9. Don't add friends that you don't actually know.

OK, I know it's fun having a guy who poses as your favorite baseball player as your friend but searching for these losers on Facebook just to feel all warm and fuzzy inside is lame and again stupid. Also, if somebody decides they want to start adding random people as friends and you're one of the victims, ignore, ignore, ignore. But that's not all; even if you know somebody's name, but don't really have connections with them, don't add them. 200 friends on Facebook isn't a symbol of popularity, it's a symbol of nerdiness.

8. Delete stupid applications.

You probably know what I'm talking about. Or to give you a better idea, I'll list a few examples: Sports Bets (no practically real prizes), Friends for Sale (totally and utterly gay), Mob Wars (reaches a new level of geeky homosexuality) and Bowling Buddies (social network, not games, social network, not games: repeat this until you get it). In other words, think of Facebook as a utility not a site for personal amusement.

7. Find alternatives to Facebook tools.

Sure, there are some good apps out there but every single one has its actually social counterpart. Half the time, you can just call your friends to tell them something (events, school stuff etc.) and for the movie, tv and restaurant reviews, small talk will give you a good idea of what's hot and what's not.
On the other hand, if you can't find something you like, you're bound to come across other websites that host similar services or tools. This will prevent you from getting attracted to other parts of Facebook from a particular application.

6. No email notifications.

Period. Put your foot down and say, "I don't want any more Facebook spam." Updates on every single comment and note and request are pointless and you can waste 5 minutes just deleting all of them while reading them would take a good hour.

5. Go offline.

This is really simple and can help a lot with getting over email addictions too. Going offline blocks anybody from intruding into what you're doing with a craving for company and tells people that if they send you a message you're not responding any time soon so they might not send you a message in the first place and then you have an excuse to not respond.

4. You don't have to share everything.

This is one of the underlying principles in Facebook reduction. If it's not a legitimately good photo, don't post it; if it's not a legitimately good video, don't post it; if it's not a useful piece of information, don't post it; if has no advantages for you or for others, don't post it.

3. Avoid joining groups/causes/events/whatever the hell else just because one of your Friends invited you.

Fitting in is great but fitting in on Facebook is nerdy. I'll make that plain as hell. Plus, if somebody pressures you into joining, "Take off your pants day" or the group "I go slightly out of my way to step on that crunchy looking leaf" consider breaking your connections.

2. Make a Facebook schedule.

I've never liked to go this far but if you are clinically addicted to the point where you're always on, maybe you want to give this a try. Maybe your schedule will be, come home, have a snack, check email for 5 minutes, check Facebook for 10 minutes and do work. But beware: Your schedule should not (excuse me, cannot) include checking for notifications every 5 minutes.

1. Do something.

Life is beautiful. Facebook isn't. There's tons of stuff that you can do other than Facebook all day (yes, it is a verb now). Bring out the ambitious side of you and by ambitious I don't mean creating a new group or event; I mean starting a fundraising effort, running a marathon or heck, starting a company (ok, maybe not).

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Google Calendar vs. Yahoo Calendar: The Event Organization Wars


These days, it's been established as a general rule that Google's sites look better than Yahoo!'s. Yahoo!'s are almost always, hard on the eyes with poor choice of fonts and bad colour integration and really pathetic attempts to look modern while Google's web pages appear natural and very modern. This doesn't change in the calendar service battle.

Google: 1 Yahoo!: 0


Yahoo! doesn't really help its cause in this department. Sure, it has the somewhat (ok, very) uncreative stock tracker, weather and sports tracker but there's really nothing else that it can brag about that Google doesn't have. Contrarily, the competitor supports mobile access, public calendar sharing as well as viewing.

Google: 2 Yahoo!: 0


Another well-established rule on the internet today is that Google is always more convenient than Yahoo!. However, Yahoo! apparently is trying to squeeze in a little rebuttal with their calendar service. While Google's version gets extremely frustrating with their drag concept, huge time bars and the need to scroll to view the entire day, Yahoo! has a list of events and tasks at your fingertips and shows everything at a glance.

Google: 2 Yahoo!: 1


Google usually somehow finds the perfect balance of feature-richness and simplicity but not this time. The calendar has way too many buttons that confuse users and again, the drag concept is downright stupid. And the whole fanciness thing starts to turn against them as some thing just get confusing.
Yahoo! though, has a no-nonsense service with a much simpler "Quick Add Event" bar, a simpler way to add events and a moderate number of details that can be specified.

Google: 2 Yahoo!: 2


Both internet companies did a good job in some areas of this. Google allows users to make public calendars that others can view but it seems these days that there is an overload of inaccurate or unmaintained public calendars that some fall into the trap of putting onto their personal calendar. Yahoo! specialises in individual sharing with a very easy way to share calendars with a single person or small groups: All you have to do is send them to a web page (*username*) and enable sharing. You can also collaborate with them on these calendars with those with the label of "Special Friend" permitted to edit your calendars. With Yahoo!, you can make your calendars totally public too but this feature is not as good as Google's.

Google: 2 Yahoo!: 3


Yahoo!'s ease of use trumps Google's potential masterpiece of features. Too bad they didn't execute.

Health Still Matters: Count Calories with Calorie Lab

As one of PC Magazine's top 10 sites of 2008 and a FoodBuzz featured publisher, CalorieLab is definitely one of the few web pages that you can trust the condition of your body to.
Not only does this site have the nutrition facts of numerous generic foods (e.g. apples, fries, candy bars) but it also supplies comprehensive guides to exact nutrition counts of many dishes from pretty much every restaurant chain you'll ever come across, all categorized neatly. So next you go to KFC for example, you'll know that the KFC Chicken Snacker has 320 calories, with 16 grams of fat and 14 grams of protein. There's also a decent list detailing the nutrition facts of some particular brand names. A search bar to find specific restaurants and foods exists as well to help you with navigation.
But how could this site do without a count of calories burned by activities? Of course, this is included too; simply enter your weight, an activity name and you'll be on your way to finding exactly what you need to do to lose a few pounds.
However, if you want professionals to mold your diet for you totally, you'll find instructions to applying everything from the cookie diet, to the maple syrup diet. Experts looking at supplements, weight loss services and diet book reviews are also packed in.
Although I don't quite see what there is to report, another section of CalorieLab is devoted to "Calorie Counter News", basically just more guides to fitness, I guess.
On the other hand, I can't say that everything's flawless; one huge hole in this site is the fact that less prominent foods and eateries don't have many of the nutrition facts filled in. Instead, you'll simple see a gloomy grey N/A or a vague estimate (maybe <500 calories).
Still, it's free and it's absolutely a good investment of a few minutes every week.