A New Way to Think About Bookmarks

December 30, 2008

Bookmarks are very interesting things. Everybody has websites they want to go to, but they don’t want to have to remember their address to get there. Different people have different ways of solving this problem. Many use many of these techniques that I’ll describe here, but I have a couple of new ideas from products that have recently come out that may give you a new way to handle these links.

Some people just use Google as their memory. Any site they want to go to is just typed into the search engine and off they go. This is a perfectly good method if you are only going to the more popular sites on the web, but for those of us who go off the beaten trail of the Internet. Those who look for resources Google can’t find easily, using bookmarks is a great way to go. You can use your browser’s bookmarks in the drop-down menu at the top of the screen, save it, and off you go.

What happens if you want to bring those links to another computer? Well, in that case you have a few options. The one that I use is actually the crudest, technologically speaking, but it gets the job done, and I think gives you the most control of your bookmarks. Most browsers allow you to export your bookmarks as an HTML file, after you have this file you can e-mail it to yourself, and download the file on whatever computer you want to use. Another option for moving your bookmarks that is exclusively for Firefox is called Foxmarks. This add-on will sync bookmarks between your various computers, but since this is done by an outside service, there is always a possibility of failure, so make sure you back-up those bookmarks periodically.

Finally, what I’m going to talk about today is an interesting new idea and possibility for storing a variety of links on-line in groups. It is called Krunchd. It is in open beta, but I’m pretty impressed with its simplicity and versatility. All you have to is enter the links you’d like on a list, pick a name and description for it and solve a captcha. After that is all done you’ll have a link with all of the links that you have added to the list.

I made an example one at http://krunchd.com/techeapgroup, so that you can see what the end result looks like. In addition to storing your own bookmarks on-line. The folks at ReadWriteWeb point out that this is also a great tool for sharing links with your friends. Simply send them the link, and off they go to the websites you’ve directed them to. This could definitely be a great tool for collaboration.

Bookmarking is a problem with so many solutions that you’ll have to fine the way that works best for you.

If you have any tips of your own, please feel free to comment and join in the linking fun.

Secondary Digital Media Markets

December 19, 2008

Ars Technica has a very thought provoking article that asks a simple question with a not so simple answer, at least legally speaking.

Can I resell my MP3s?

The article describes a service (Bopaboo) that allows you to sell your MP3s by uploading them on to the Internet and letting other users pay to download them. You can read CNET’s more even-handed overview of the service here.

The most troubling part of this process is the fact that you are copying your file on to the web and it is impossible to track what you’ve done with the file that you have uploaded. This breaks the model of the used book or CD market, since when something is able to be copied perfectly, it is hard to prevent you from both keeping a copy and selling one or multiple copies.

Media companies try to get around this in a couple of different ways. The first is through a method called licensing. These companies claim they have not given you the software, they are merely giving you a license to use it in a particular setting. If media organization could convince everyone of this, they would be in great shape because people would then have to buy multiple copies of the same item to consume it in a variety of settings. As you might guess this method hasn’t gained a lot of traction outside of the software industry.

The second method is using DRM (digital rights management, or copy-protection). This method uses a variety of different software systems to try and prevent content from being copied. This inevitably is broken in one way or another, and there is always the problem of what is called the “analog hole.” Basically, this concept means that one could simply play a movie or piece of music and then record the output. You have lost a “generation” of quality. Something familiar to those in the mix tape era, but you still have a pretty good quality copy that is completely DRM-free.

Legally, however, media companies have some protection here from the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (or DMCA). This law states that it is illegal to circumvent DRM. This may also them legal protection against things like Bopaboo, since most likely (it is hard to tell exactly how this would work since Bopaboo is still in private beta) DRM would have to be cleared to make the copies useable by others.

So, the answer to the question that started this debate is still unclear. Until there is a legal court battle over the use of this content, it remains to be seen what is and is not legal in the transfer of digital content.

Was That Photoshopped? (For the true techs)

December 14, 2008

I hesitated posting this because a lot of the surrounding information is technical, so technical that even I didn’t understand all of it. However, I think this information is so interesting it is worth putting out there and letting you decide what it is worth to you.

As I understand it, here’s one method some of the experts use for figuring out if a picture has been digitally offered. This PDF written by Neal Krawetz describes the process of analyzing JPGs in a couple of different ‘spectra.’  These spectra are actually an analysis of the error level of an image.

When you save a file in the JPG format you are losing some of the data. Different quality JPGs mean that more or less data from the original image has been saved from the file. During the process of making edits to an image, the material that is inserted is almost always at a different error rate than the orignal file that existed.

This, however, is not something that would be readily recognizable to the naked eye. There is a program that will allow you to analyze the different levels of error by implementing it on a heat map. Take a look at the link for an example. This program is pretty simple to operate simply open the program. Click on file –> open. Select your picture, and then adjust the bottom bar to a few different locations. It may take a couple of different settings to be able to find the right setting to get the best view of it. Finally, concentrations of unusual color will be suspicious, and are the most likely areas to be altered.

I should mention that I did have some stability problems with this program on Windows Vista, so I’m not sure if that’s a problem with the operating system or the program. It is something to keep in mind.

Wired also has an excellent post and was able to speak to Neal Krawetz about his method.

So beware when you alter that image, most likely someone out there can call you out on it, and now so can you.

‘Tis the Season

December 11, 2008

Even in these tough economic times, where people are cutting back, it is the season for holiday shopping.

Since you’ll be cutting back, but still want to get the best value for your buck here are some of the places that I frequent to get the best deals possible.

The first is http://www.slickdeals.net this site is a little bare-bones in that you just get a list of items that are on sale, but the advantage is that the items here are significantly on-sale. Discounts of over 60% are very common and sometimes you’ll see even better deals. This one I check almost every day.

My next tip is http://dodtracker.com/deals/. This site will track all of those “Deal of the Day” sites like Woot.com and others that only offer one item at a time, usually at a significant discount. Here you’ll find a lot of electronics and then some other very obscure or strange items like a USB foot warmer.

http://shoppingnotes.com/ is an interesting idea, but I haven’t had a lot of luck with yet. The basic idea is that you enter a page on Amazon or other shopping site for it to track. You also give them your e-mail so they can send you alerts when the price goes down. It is a great concept, but I haven’t actually had any luck with it yet. We’ll see how it develops.

For more great shopping sites, that I haven’t gotten the chance to try yet, check out this Lifehacker article.

Happy holidays and keep it Techeap.

Make Some Money with Your Pictures

December 4, 2008

You may not realize it, (I know I didn’t) but there is a market for your photos…potentially.

Obviously, your photos need to look good. They need to be clear and have some quality to them, but who is actually going to buy these photos?

Sitepoint has a very good article on the impressive number of agencies that buy stock photos. What are stock photos, you ask? Stock photos are often what are used in advertising, sales reports and trade publications. These organizations come to websites like these, buy your photos and the website will give you a portion of the money.

It is interesting to notice the large difference between what each agency pays. Some groups pay up to 99% for your photos while others will only give you a few cents on the dollar. It pays to know who pays what and what some of the most popular sites are.

It is also worth mentioning that once you start selling photos for money, things can get a little complicated. Anybody who is photographed technically becomes a model and you’ll need to get a release form from them. Also, you need to be careful of where you take pictures. There are places where taking pictures that you are planning to sell is not allowed, so be very careful of the restrictions in your area.

Many of these sites also have a very good section for beginners to learn what sort of pictures that particular agency is looking for, but if you are looking for a more broad overview, you can check out this summary which has some pretty good information as well.

In this economy, any way to pick up a few extra bucks is appreciated, so good luck and good photos.