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Donate to the Japanese relief fund and get yourself a kooky watch at the same time - TokyoFlash the Japanese watch-makers are donating the proceeds from all watches sold in the next two days to the Japanese Red Cross.

Until 5pm 24th March (Japanese time) any money you spend on the site tokyoflash.com will go directly to Japanese charities. Including the shipping costs.

Time to get one of those beautiful weird TokyoFlash timepieces and make a difference to the people affected by the disaster in north Japan.


Today Yahoo! announced that they will be slimming down their sizable range of services by axing both Delicious and AltaVista.

This announcement, particularly the fate of Delicious, has been with received with a great deal of annoyance by users who use it to organize their web browsing experiences. So while one option is to export your bookmarks, there are other services that will let you tag, save and share. Two of our favourites include Pinboard, and Diggo.


PinBoard

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Pinboard is a relatively simple, tagged, social bookmarking service although it does have a few extra features that Delicious did not have. These include automatic link de-shortening, automatic bookmarking of anything you save to Instapaper or Read It Later, archives of your links and favorites from Twitter, private tags that only you can see, and better bulk editing. The service is available for $7.50 or for $25 per year, Pinboard will keep a copy of each page you bookmark, so that even dead links are readable.

In the how-to section, Pinboard have included instructions for Delicious users on how to export/import your bookmarks.

Diggo

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Diigo not only handles Delicious-style bookmarking, it also includes browser extensions and bookmarklets. In addition it has clients for Android, iPhone, and iPad so that you can save your notes and make them available offline. It also provides users with a number of ways to collaborate with a groups, and allows you to make bookmarks private or public, on a case-by-case basis. The basic version is available for free with the premium services costing up to $40 a year.

What other bookmarking services do you use?

Readability is a great add-on for browsers that transforms any web page into a clutter free page.

Created by Arc90, a technology solutions agency based in New York, the add-on was created in order to provide readers a better reading experience online and to bring our attention back to the content. The system strips the superfluous information and shows the main content in a single column of easy-to-read text. Not only does it make reading easier it can also be very useful for printing web pages.

See how the add-on works in the video below.

Readability - Installation Video for Firefox, Safari & Chrome from Arc90 on Vimeo.

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Sony are making a nice gesture towards easing the pain of the Christmas bill bite. They are offering customers VAT back on most Sony gadgets bought between 28 October and 24 December.

Another good reason to spend before Christmas is that VAT in the UK will hike up to 20% in the first month of 2011, pushing up the cost of things like consumer gadgets.

Sony 3D TV players are included in the deal as are the VAIO notebook range and Blu-Ray players...

The details:
For consumers to benefit from the offer the full price of the item is payable in-store then shoppers have until 31 January 2011 to claim the VAT cash back from Sony on purchases made between 28 October and 24 December. The scheme includes all 3D televisions and Blu-ray products, full high-definition AVC Handycams and selected digital cameras, Readers, VAIO netbooks and iPod docks.

See more on Sony.co.uk/vatback

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If you ever wanted to meet 249 other people at once, but couldn't quite get around to the physical logistics of organising a real-world meeting, then perhaps you might be interested in Join.me.

Forget 10-way calls on Skype, Join.me is an online meeting and screen-sharing tool that will connect up to 250 people. The core is instant messaging not voice calls - in many ways it's like a private Twitter, but with a screen-sharing element which could make it useful for discussing slide-shows and presentations. It could also be useful for showing someone how to do something online.

What they say
"Join.Me is a fast, simple, lightweight screen sharing product. It offers free online meetings for both personal and commercial use to up to 250 participants - no registration, plug-ins or accounts required."

They say it is designed for "both typical online meetings and the quick, impromptu scenarios - the scenarios for which today's web conferencing products are rarely if ever used."

What I think
Like a private Twitter with an extra screen-sharing gadget. From a quick try-out it does seem pretty simple to use, and will sit on top of whatever page you're on. You do have to download an exe file to get the app working, and it does send my computer schizzing out a bit but that's probably my fault for having Windows Vista. There's a play button that lets you share your computer screen with other people in the conversation and a pause button for when you want to stop sharing your screen with other people, handy.

It's easy to send chat invitations over email. And one advantage over skype is that you don't need to have an account and neither do your friends.

One big flaw in my opinion - Join.Me does not save a log of the chat, meaning that you can't refer back to it for future reference.

Still, it's free so if this sounds like the sort of thing you need to do occasionally, might be worth a try-out.

The Pro version provides additional features for a monthly or annual subscription.

Download on Join.Me


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A buzz site this week has been "Diaspora". Billed (a bit prematurely) as a Facebook rival, it's the project of four New York students and got touted in a few places last week as the privacy-friendly alternative to Facebook. Why? largely because it just got funded to the tune of $180,664 (as of today)

There are a couple of things we can learn from the funding coup this plucky little start-up has pulled off.
1) Yes, maybe there is a demand for a social network which doesn't store all your personal data on a massive closed server.
2) Those kids were on to a good thing with the Kickstarter funding website they found.

In my opinion the Kickstarter site that's one of the most interesting features of the story. So here's a quick run-down of how it works. If you've a good idea for a start-up it's definitely worth taking a look at.

What is Kickstarter?
It's a website that matches interesting start-up ideas with people interested in funding them.

Are there any criteria for the projects submitted?
Nope anyone can upload anything from starting a tea shop to complicated geek web ventures. Kickstarter divide up projects into certain categories: including Art, Comics, Communities, Tech, Journalism. See the full list on the site.

Why would people give money to random geeks?
Well random geeks have turned up so tech and web start-ups are quite hot investment opportunities. Also, often people might just like the project that is being set-up. Projects often offer differ levels of return on investment so you don't always have to wait for 5 years till the start-up turns a profit before getting something back. For example you receive a tea sachet and a hand-written thank-you note if you fund this Tea Shop.

What if the project doesn't hit its investment goal?
Then no money changes hands, it's all or nothing with the investment... There's a time-limit on investment too, so projects can't sit around for ever..

What's in it for Kickstarter?
They take 5% of funded projects.

Wow, maybe I could get funding to create that Hamster-themed Wonderland that I've always dreamed of.
Yes. Now maybe you could.

See Kickstarter Starting a Project here
See the Kickstarter Home Page here

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I had a rant last week about how difficult it was to link up calendars that I had in different places and to get information about events in the right device to be useful. Lo and behold it turns out it ain't that hard after all. Thanks to some pretty helpful comment suggestions - [thank you ] I've put together a quick guide showing how to sync up Google Calendar (Gcal) to Facebook and your phone.

This article is about Google calendar - the web-based calendar that comes as a widget on Gmail. Syncing options for Windows Outlook and Mac are definitely available, but I'll cover them in a later post.

Syncing Your Phone's Calendar to Google Calendar
This is really useful. For iPhone all that is required is flipping a few options in the Settings menu. It initiates a two-way exchange between the phone and G-Cal meaning that what you input into your phone comes up in Gmail and vice-versa.
There are good instructions on Google Help: for iPhone here
For Blackberry here
For Android here
For Nokia/Symbian here

Syncing Facebook Events to Google Calendar
This is a one way interaction: Facebook Events to G-Cal. It's not super straightforward, but
Fortunately only events you indicate you're "Attending" will show up in G-Cal so your Google calendar won't be flooded with random invites to nights you've never heard of.

1) Basically, in Facebook Events go to Export Events at the bottom of the page
2) Copy the url it provides.
3) In Google Calendar click "add" under "Other Calendars"
4) Chose add by url and paste the url into the text box.

There you go!

Inside Facebook describe it pretty well with some good pictures so go check it out there.

Downside is getting spammy Facebook events turning up in Gcal, though you can always state that you're not attending or hide them

Hope that helped. Any more questions/tips?

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Spotify is one of those services, that from the day you download, unpack and install it you use it constantly. What suited types call a "game-changer". And they're right.

Spotify is a service that most people will use for months without really thinking about it, without exploring it's amazing and various tricks.

So I thought I'd try and show you what's out there to make your Spotify experience better.

1. Shortcuts. How about the interface itself? As a hardened Spotify user, you'll want to know the shortcuts.

Well here they are. Windows / Mac

Volume up: Control-Up / Command-Up
Volume down: Control-Down / Command-Down
Mute: Control-Shift-Down / Command-Shift-Down
Next song: Control-Right / Control-Command-Right
Previous song: Control-Left / Control-Command-Left
New playlist: Control-N / Command-N
Cursor to the search box: Control-L / Command-L
Play and pause: Spacebar /
Back: Alt-Left / Command-[
Forward: Alt-Right / Command-]
Logout: Control-Shift-W / Command-Shift-W

2. Clever search. Your can search by year like this, year:1992 you then get the most popular songs from that year. The top three for 1992, if you're interested are Under The Bridge -- Red Hot Chili Peppers, Killing In The Name Of -- RATM, Bed Of Roses -- Bon Jovi.Spotifysearch.jpg

You can also search genre like this, genre:funk and you can mix them up like this genre:funk year:1992. Seemingly, 1992 wasn't a good year for funk, but when has there been a good year for funk?Spotify2.jpg

3. Share via your social networks. Those kind sorts at Spotify wiggled this little feature in without much ceremony. But right click on songs or playlists now, and under Share to you'll find options to share directly to your Facebook, Twitter or Delicious accounts. Neat right? I had a friend who was still copying and pasting the http link, what a shmuck!

4. Spotify URLs. They are long cumbersome motherlovers. And we all love a good short URL, we can tweet them easier can't we? And we love Tweeting stuff. Sadly not everyone has Spotify, so it's kind of harsh to mock them with a link to a playlist they can't get to. A real nice way to warn people that the link they're about to hit is a Spotify one is using a Spotify centred URL shortening service.

If they can't tell this http://spo.tl/zNul3 is a Spotify link, then that's there problem, you've done everything you could do. The results are prettier too.spo.tl.jpg

5. Share. There are lots of cool sites to share your playlist magic, here are five:

www.myspotify.com
www.sharemyplaylists.com
www.spotifylist.com
www.spotifyplaylists.co.uk
www.spotifyfriends.com
www.spotifylists.com

6. Party playlists. Because the iTunes Genius function is about as much of a genius as a particularly slow cabbage -- why does it love The Smiths so much? What is that? Does anyone else know where I'm coming from? Anyway, yeah -- so you've got a party coming up. And obviously your friends are pretty serious about they're music what with them being dead cool, (obviously, they're your friends) they're going to want good music. So you throw it open give everyone three vetos and watch the list take shape. Note: If Sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel doesn't make the list at some point you're doing it wrong.

7. Link to a particular time in a song. When pasting a URI just add #02:69 and it'll jump to 2.69 time in the song, useful for showing people when Celine Dion says "hot dogs" in that Titanic song. Oh go on then. Or for better reasons like this, the greatest, simplest drum fill ever. (Note: Clicking this link will open Spotify... eventually)

8. Drag and drop. We all know you can copy and paste the http link, but did you know you can simply drag and drop playlists, songs, and albums straight into most instant messengers, email clients and URL shorteners. Check that.

9. Add-ons. There are quite a few Spotify add-ons appearing these days. My favourite is Spotify Search for Firefox, highlight a band's name in the text of a webpage, right click, and all of sudden search Spotify is an option. Lets face it, highlighting cmd-c, cmd-shift, cmd-v -- that's a bit too much like work.

10. Get playlist happy. More and more music blogs and networks are utilising Spotify to get music out to the masses. DiS's Spotifriday, for example, is a weekly Spotify list really gathering pace. They're out there. Let's go find them and listen to them until our ears fall off! Who's with me? Whoot!

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148 stinky_teddy_logo_oct09.jpgMeet Stinky Teddy, a gossip fuelled real-time search engine. As Read Write Web says, Stinky Teddy "reinvents meta-search for the real-time web".

Okay so what's with the silly name?
It sounds a like a joke student project, but was actually developed by one David Hardtke formerly a physicist at the University of California Berkeley Space Sciences Lab. His search engine was named after his daughter's "trusted (and abused) stuffed bear."

55. evernote_logo.jpgMeet the web service that wants to become your new extra brain. Like a long personal blog - or perhaps a memory... it stores all the random shit you come across in real life or on the internet and lets you remember it.

Then search for it later.

Evernote wants to help you organise your life.

"We're trying to make an external brain," the CEO of Evernote tells Robert Scoble "- your one brain is just not enough these days - too much to remember. Whenever something happens that you want to remember, online or in the real world, you'll be able to relax because you can remember it."

With those words echoing in my ears, and fellow iphoners exclaiming that evernote was their new best friend and god-how-did-they-organise-their-lives-without-it, I tried it, expecting a revelation and immediately got a bit fed up.

Of course like anything else you have to sit down, set it up and keep coming back to it for it to get useful. You don't need an extra brain to work this extra brain, you just need about an hour and several video tutorials. And as several of our Twitter friends mention below: you then need to remember to use it.

Follow on after the jump

FriendFeed - what is it good for?

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Friendfeed
FriendFeed has been getting flak in some quarters for simply copying banal trivia from one part of the internet and putting it in another part of the internet.

I think we all know by now that the human race likes banal trivia. If the existence of small talk hadn't sufficiently proved that, then Twitter certainly has.

A more serious allegation against FriendFeed is that it just duplicates information from elsewhere, and that if you wanted to read your friend's tweets, you'd go to Twitter. However, FriendFeed's ability to collate information then re-present it clearly, make it a valuable addition to all those individual sites and better than similar little aggregators out there. At least until someone else starts doing it better. In the meantime though:

I've just spent three hours plugging sites into other sites and pinging content all over the internet. It's been quite wild, and I still don't quite know how all of it got where it did. But, I think I've worked out some things you can do on Friend Feed that I like and you might:

Bing - why you should be using it

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To say that Google runs the biggest most successful search engine on the world wide web is so obvious it's slightly ridiculous, so when Microsoft launched its search engine Bing I didn't really envisage myself using it beyond the odd curious poke-around.

But having Binged (Bung?) for a few months now, I'm going to recommend Bing for anyone interested in visuals and graphics. It's not just that the wallpapers on its home page are pretty pictures of seahorses and rainforests, it's that the image and video searches are genuinely better.

Apparently several Bing functions are only available in the US, but we'll compare the mutilated version we've got with Google in a quick run-down of key services.

Follow on after the jump

Four great FREE Photoshop style programmes

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Now Photoshop has long since been the favourite programme for those who like to try their hand at image editing, but credit crunch times means you can't always justify forking out £70 odd quid just to remove red-eye. Sure, if your job revolves around editing images you're going to want to buy this (plus Quark/ InDesign etc), but if you're one of the masses who just need a good imaging programme for cheap what do you do?

I've compiled 4 great Photoshop looky likeys for you to try- and they're all free! Two are online, two are downloadable, it's up to you to pick which one best suits your needs.

Number 1: Sumo Paint

This is the first free Photoshop style programme I worked with, and it still holds a special place in my heart. OK it doesn't do everything you want, so if you're really into editing collages and fine tuning and framing pics this may be a bit too basic, but it sure beats your basic Paint round the head, cuts it into little pieces and distributes it at four secret locations. You get a floating toolbox, huge colour palette. Loads of brush editing tools and you can even upload images from your desktop or a URL. You do need to be online to use it though- which also means you'll have it wherever you go, and not be tied to one computer.

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So you're thinking of buying an HDTV? Congratulations, you'll be entering the world of hi resolution imagery, and getting a picture so sharp it will make you want to start attacking your old TV with your fingernails .

But what should you buy? With three main technologies on the market, you're entering a confusing world of LCD, Plasma and OLED, not to mention pixel ratios, bezel size, and of course... price. Well we aim to clear up the confusion, and we're going to use short little words to explain all those baffling terms.

Get cheaper currency with the FairFX card

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Every time I travel I always seem to spend more than I plan. And why is this? It's not because I go seriously crazy in Marc Jacobs USA (well, not that crazy), it's because every time I withdraw cash I get charged a withdrawal fee; and extra money gets taken because they're translating the currency from UK to USA or Europe.

You used to be able to get around this by using the infamous 'free withdrawal' Nationwide card, but seeing as they're stopping this, and no longer absorbing the authorisation fee charged by the Vis , what's a girl to do? Currency rates keep changing as well, so one day you're getting a great deal and next you find that it's cheaper to hang out in Bond Street than in Europe.

The FairFX card may be a useful solution, as it's set FOREVER at the currency rate you buy it at.

Will you be trying Windows 7?

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Windows 7 is now available to download, months on from the announcement at CES.

You can now play with MAC like icons and a moving toolbar along the bottom of your screen- but will you be trying it?

Let me know!


Try it here.

More software news here

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It seems pretty much everyone has a blog nowadays but if you're one of the shrinking number that has never quite got to grips with web 2.0, I'm here to simplify this process for you. It doesn't have to be baffling talk of mySQL and server accounts, I'm going to break down the tools you need to create a site online in five easy steps.

First it's a good idea to plan the kind of site you'd like to create. Do you want a site that's a personal blog, where you just update it occasionally with images and ramblings on topics of your choice? Or would you rather have a professional looking site which will act as an online portfolio to show off your talents? Then there's creating a commercial site which allows you to sell products with PayPal buttons, and there's also the option of creating a website for a company. If you're opting for the most basic option, you'll most likely want to stay within a small budget, whilst if you anticipate heavy traffic to the site, it's worth splashing out a bit more.

Gmail gets multiple inbox panes

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Goodness those Googlers have been busy little bees recently (mainly because they're all allowed to spend 20% of their time on these fun labs side projects). The latest labs product is Multiple Inboxes, which will create separate panes for different filters or labels. So, you can see your inbox, all messages containing the word 'pub', and all those half finished drafts from one screen. You just need to go into 'settings', enable the labs feature, and then check the box next to multiple accounts.

I tried to create you a screen grab of my inbox, but eventually gave up because I couldn't create one that wasn't incriminating in some way or the another. I don't want you knowing that I'm subscribed to the Lindsay Lohen fan list emails, after all. Also, when I tried it, it looked like someone had thrown up emails all over my screen. The creator (Vivi) has a much more attractive inbox.

Google blog

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OK, we've now discovered the world DOESN'T end when it snows. Yes, a day at home was a wonderful experience, but I'd say the majority of the workforce is back at their computer screens now. The snow however, looks like it may be here to stay for while, and now the initial shock has been overcome, you'll want to work out how to capture this winter wonderland.

Taking pictures of snow differs from your usual snapping of friends in drunken poses as the whiteness is so bright, the auto setting can leave you looking rather washed out.

Here's my guide on how to take the best snow pics ever!

January's obsession: Remember The Milk

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I have found something that has changed my life, and it doesn't involve any visits to any places of worship. It's not new, but it is awesomeness personified in a little piece of software. I'd heard about Remember The Milk (RTM to its loyal followers) but it was only with the 2009 Get Life Organised, Stop Forgetting Important Stuff resolution that I decided to take a look at this service, which is essentially an online To Do list.

I freakin' love lists, so the opportunity to tag, prioritise and share the mindless activities I'd be indulging in in 2009 is too much to resist. Using Remember The Milk, you can set deadlines for your tasks, get email reminders, tag tasks and search using those tags, set locations and be reminded of certain tasks when you're in that location and more.

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