Friday, July 31, 2009

Rental book servivces offer an alternative to buying.

According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, college texbooks prices have increased at twice the inflation rate over the past 20 years with students spending an average $1,000 a year on books, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Fortunately, there are several textbook rental companies in the market place ready to save cash-strapped college students, some serious money. Three companies were comparatively studied by the Wall Street Journal for prices, availability, ease of return, buyback options etc; they are:, and A fourth company, doesn't rent books, but with its guaranteed buybacks, acts like like one.
In general, the study shows that renting books is cheaper than buying, be it used or new with the prices of books for shorter semesters, lower than those for longer ones. That goes without saying that if you plan to keep a book longer than one semester, you may be better off buying it.
By comparison, not only books rented from were the most expensive of the three, that was also the only one who charged sales tax.
One general rule is to keep the rented books free of damages otherwise you could be charged the full retail price.

For more, see

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Maybe feeling the pressure from Congress and some consumer groups, Verizon wireless, the U.S. largest carrier in term of subscribers, shocked the cell phone world by announcing last month that it will in the future, limit the length of its exclusive deals with handset manufacturers to no more than six months.
The new measure would opens the doors for small wireless carriers to the most sought after and therefore profitable handsets in the market. However, the new arrangements would not affect existing deals like Verizon's exclusive one to carry the Blackberry Storm made by Research in Motion Ltd. Also, some mid-size carriers like Virgin Mobile and U.S. Cellular Corp do not qualify to benefit from the measure.
Other large carriers have yet to respond to Verizon latest move, but you bet they do not have a choice but to follow suit.

For more, see

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Electricity usage monitoring devices for your home.

If you are sitting at home and wondering what areas of your monthly expenses you can trim to save a little cash, a good place to start would be your electricity use. For too long, most people have paid too little attention to their power consumption around the house for many reasons, one of them being the lack of awareness of the cost per use for all the devices that run on electricity. To help make that knowledge accessible, several companies have seized on the opportunity with different gadgets offerings. According to a test done by the Wall Street Journal, three products currently in the market, do a decent job at an array of price tag. Here, they are listed from the least to the most expensive:
First is the Power Monitor from Black & Decker retailing at $99.99 and the most cost effective when it comes to achieving your goal to cut your power usage because of its easy to read and right to the point display.
Every time you turn on an appliance or a light switch, you get a reading of your actual electric cost per hour or find out how much electricity is being consumed by any given device in use.
Second is the PowerCost Monitor from Blue Line Innovation Inc selling for $109 and which offers a slighter wider display screen and allow a longer range for the wireless signal that transmit the data from the electric meter.
The last of the three, is The Energy Detective 5000 by Energy Inc, with a price tag of $199. What that money will buy you essentially, is a more detailed and sophisticated display that most of us do not need or even understand. It is also the most difficult to set up, requiring a qualified technician while the two first ones are a breeze to connect.
But if you are not ready yet to add these devices to your to-do list, you may be in luck because several power companies are testing their own smart meters which will allow a two-way communication between you and the companies with cutting costs as the objective. And better yet, Google, yes Google the Internet search company's philantrophic foundation, is in collaboration with some power companies to create a free service that would allows you to monitor your power use Online, through a widget.

For more, see the

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Printcasting is a new quick self publishing tool.

Ever dreamed of being a publisher? Now that dream can become reality and you do not even have to leave the comfort of your own home to realize it , thanks to a new Web site called .
The site launched in March, is free to access and use and is funded by Knight Foundation in an effort to find new avenues for local news and for advertisers to reach local potential customers. For now, the site is rolled out only in few states, but it is looking to expand to other cities.
The site principle is very simple: Potential publishers register with the site as in any social network site, and from there, they choose the name and template of their own magazine and fill it with whatever news articles or blog posts that they have uploaded from the web or from their own work if they have their own blog, or from newspapers or other publications that have registered with Printcasting. If they want, they can use a search function for different topics.When they have a final product, and that is the most interesting part of the site, advertisers have the option to place ads in the publications. The magazines can be viewed online by anyone with a PC or a mobile device or if they want, readers can print their own paper versions from their home printers. Publishers can also print copies of their magazines and choose whichever way they want it distributed.
To place ads on these publications, the site charge advertisers $10 per issue regardless how many copies get printed, but the magazines creators can charge whatever they agreed on with the advertisers.
All the ads revenues are collected by the site which keeps 10 percent of it, gives 30 percent to the authors of the articles and 60 percent to the publishers.

For more, see

Monday, July 27, 2009

Free Internet calling services for cellphones.

Even if the possibilities have been around for a while, making free international calls via cellphones have remained challenging. Two companies, Skype, the market leader and Fring, an Israel based company, offer the most user-friendly cellphone applications for international calls. But, there are still some hussles and for these applications to be worthwhile, someone has to plan to make a lot of international calls.
For these two applications to work best, they better be downloaded on a phone with WI-FI capabilities with the user staying within the hot spot during the phone call.
For both Skype and Fring, users are assigned an ID or name that they use to dial up with the call going through the service's Internet servers.
Calls made to others members of both services are free while those made to non members using a Skype prepaid account, are at a cheaper rate than the one charged by traditional phone companies.
The Skype cellphone application can be dowloaded directly to a phone using Windows Mobile or to a PC and then transfered to the phone later.
According to the New York Times,"for those without a Windows Mobile phone, Skype recently introduced Skype Lite, which runs on dozens of Nokia and Samsung phones with Symbian software, as well as a few Motorola Razr models. On, these users can type in their mobile numbers and Skype will send a message to the phone with a link to download the software."
Skype Lite also runs on the G1, from T-Mobile, also known as the Google phone, which operates on the Android software platform. To get the application,one's only need to visit the “Market,” Android’s app store and click on the free Skype application.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Fluent News delivers news on the go with iPhone app.

Among the multitude of apps for the iPhone, one turns out to be particularly useful for people on the move with the need to constantly check on the news. A new iPhone app called Fluent News by a company by the same name, is a news aggregator designed initially for the iPhone but available for free to any phone with a browser. When fired up, the screen shows up a list a list of headlines and a summary with the possibility to read the whole story by clicking on it. The news are divided onto 12 categories like business, entertainment, technology etc and only story per topic is shown, helping keep the interface free of clutter.

For more, see

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Internet banking solutions for small business.

For small business, anything to help them save time and money in the process, is welcome news today more than ever. With that in mind, not having to make the daily trip to the local branch for a deposit, is a breath of fresh air. Thanks to the Internet, bank deposits can now be made by small business owners without setting foot in a branch.
The basic tools needed to make remote deposits are: a PC, an Internet connection, and a scanner.
When it comes down to the scanner, different systems have various requirements. While most systems require a specialized scanner, more and more systems only ask for a multi use scanner or even a camera phone.
The service is not free, and range in prices from $25 to $80 a month. But some banks offer a discount when the service is bundled with other offerings.
Beyond just check deposits, some banks offer software that go further by combining other functions like entering the scanned data into the small business accounting system.
To qualify to these services, small business will need to have good credit history and a healthy relationship with their financial institutions.

For more, see

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Organazing tools for multiple social networks accounts.

The proliferation of social network platforms make it harder and harder to keep up with all of them if you have to navigate back and forth and open different screens. Fortunately, there are some solutions available for the most social of us.
Those solutions come in the form of desktop applications like Skimmer, offered by
According to the Wall Street Journal, this free download lets you keep up with several social network sites at the same time. After registering with the service, users can log on to their Blogger, Facebook, Twitter,YouTube or Flickr accounts from a single screen and see all their contacts' updates clearly marked by a distinct icon; "F" for Facebook, "T" for Twitter etc.
Another free application is Tweetdeck available at, which "aggregates Twitter and Facebook updates in one customizable screen and allow you to see which Facebook friend is online, and chat with them," according to the Wall Street Journal.
Following multiple people on Twitter can be a challenge but thanks to tools like seesmic desktop application, the process can become less chaotic. With this application, people that you follow are divided into groups organized in columns on your screen, like one each for co-workers, friends,customers etc.
The same application can also be used to track friends and contacts on Facebook; it is available at

For more, see

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Realplayer SP Beta, an solution for mobile download.

In today age of smart phones, portable devices and Internet videos, one thing was kind of missing, a sure way to convert those videos and transfer them unto those multiple platforms. That was until now with the release of a free download software by RealNetworks Inc, called RealPlayer SP beta.
According to the Wall Street Journal, "the RealPlayer SP with SP standing for social and portable, is a free download that, once installed, grabs videos from the Web, converts them to the right format and transfers them to over a dozen portable devices." Those devices include the ones by iPhone, BlackBerry, Palm ,T-Mobile, Nokia and others.
Another use for the RealPlayer SP, is for downloading and saving videos unto a PC for later viewing or sharing.
The only drawback for that kind of use, is that RealPlayer SP is only supported by PC running Windows operating system, with a Mac version in the works, still according to the Wall Street Journal.
For people looking for more, there is a premium version called RealPlayer Plus SP priced at $40 that offers a DVD playback among others things.

For more, see

Monday, July 20, 2009

Peek simple e-mail mobile devices, now even more affordable.

Back in October, we have posted an article about Peek, a new simple device that does one think and one thing only: send and receive e-mails without a long term contract; today, there is even better news to report. Due to the intense competition between smart phone manufacturers and wireless service providers, the prices of wireless devices are falling at breakneck speed and the Peek devices are not immune to that phenomenon despite their niche character.
Take for instance the Peek Classic which from $99.95 when it launched in September, now can be had for $19.95. Another Peek device, the Pronto, introduced in March and costing $79.95 back then, n0w sells for $59.95. Beside the prices, the two devices have some significant differences.
The Classic only does e-mails and it receives them five minutes after they are sent while the Pronto, like the name suggests, receives e-mails instantly and can send and receive text messages.
Despite these differences, both cost the same to use, $19.95 a month for unlimited e-mails and texts through T-Mobile network, thanks to the use of data compression technology.
Beside its own site, the devices are sold at, at Target and now at RadioShack stores.

For more, see

Friday, July 17, 2009

New Web site to help manage drinking.

Nowadays, there is almost an Online tool for about anything and alcohol problems is no exception. To address alcohol related problems, a new government Web site, has been set up by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism or NIAAA.
The site and the campaign behind it aim to change people attitude towards alcohol consumption and how it can affect lives as a health risk factor. The main goal by the Institute is to raise awareness that such terms like "abuse" and "dependence" generally used to describe someones alcohol problems, are not totally reflective of today's understanding of the issue.
Beside that conceptual realignment, the Institute and the site have devised different levels of risks based on alcohol consumption and offer some practical ways for people to gage their standings, so to speak.
On the site, they can enter their average consumption or twist it anyway they want anonymously and see for themselves what the implications may be. The site also offers some helpful tools for dealing with issues like changing drinking habits, how to deal with drinking triggers, how to track your urge to drink, how to develop your skills to say no in certain social situations etc.

For more, see

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Contact scraping is on the rise in certain social networks.

People using certain social network sites like, or may have seen an increase or even fallen victim of an annoying practice called "contact scraping."
This is a deceptive way used by some of these Web sites to make their users become unwittingly spammers.
Here how it works: Just like those old chain letters, by signing up to these sites and providing them with your real e-mail address full of your contact list and a password, without your express consent or even your knowledge, these sites dig into that contact list and generate an invitation on your name to everyone in it, to click on the site and view some of your pictures. Of course, the sites do not know that you have pictures that you want to share or with whom to share them. So the sent invitations will go to everyone on that list, even to people that you just added to your list, or to people that you are not that acquainted with. In other words, you are sending invitations to see something that may not exist, to people that you are not buddy with. Embarrassing? And this is just the beginning; what follow next will shame you even more.
Once your "friends" got to these sites to see your pictures, they are asked to click on a link that will prompt them to enter their own e-mail address and a password before viewing those "pictures." And right there, they fall into the trap, agreeing to sign-up to the site as a new user and unsuspiciously, giving away their contact lists in their e-mail address for it to be mined by some special software and therefore, contributing to the grow of the "pot."
You may be asking yourself: "What is for these companies to gain?" After all, unlike the old phishing practice where the perpetrators actually try to get get your personal information to defraud you of your identity or your riches, in these case, all that these companies are after, is you as a number, to boost their users population. They are not harmful in the same vein as phishing, but embarrassing and annoying enough to make you look like the village idiot.
But with more people falling victims of this practice, there is a growing concern among some law enforcement in the country and some of them have started to pay more attention. The Wall Street Journal reports that New York attorney general is planning to sue for "deceptive email-marketing practices and invasion of privacy."scrutinitytake a closer look

For more, see

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Snipi, an organizational tool for your Online shopping.

If you ever shopped Online and did some comparison before deciding, you know how cumbersome that can be: saving Web pages, seeking someone second opinion, making lists etc. Now, there is a solution to help you organize your next Online shopping expedition; it is called Snipi, a free download from The application as the name suggests, works by letting you gather your Online shopping results in one place by assembling pieces of information about a product from different Web pages and organizise them in lists. Those lists will be stored on your personalised page within the application and available to you anytime.
The snipi application has a mobile version for the iPhone that when accessed, shows the latest updated of the lists created using a PC.
But as of right now, the application and its toolbar which allows you to use all its functions, only works as a browser plug-in with Mozilla's Firefox. Light versions for both Internet Explorer and Apple's Safari are in the works.
On the upside, Snipi has some handy features like save pictures or videos of items you are interested in, a built-in tool that allows you to share your findings with friends on Facebook, Twitter or Wordpress blogs.
It also has a comparison shopping tool which works best for durable goods like electronics and not so for apparel.

For more, see

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

VoIP services offer cheaper alternatives for long distance calls.

Nowadays, people looking for alternatives to the traditional phone companies for long distance calls, have an array of options to choose from thanks to the Internet. In an article written earlier this year, the New York Times found that by " using the Internet system to carry calls rather than the traditional phone lines, voice-over-Internet-protocol (VoIP) companies can offer even cheaper phone service with a wider range of supplemental features." Here is more from that article.
The least expensive VoIP services work only when your computer is on. Users of the online phone service Skype can call other Skype users around the world free, and pay a nominal amount (around 2 cents a minute) to make calls to other, non-Skype phones. Callers use either a headset connected to their PC or a Skype-enabled handset.
If you want to use your existing phone, connect it to magicJack, a $40 U.S.B. computer dongle that works with PCs and Intel-powered Macs to provide free calls over the Internet. The purchase price includes one year of free unlimited calls within the United States and Canada; after that, it costs $20 a year. The company reserves the right to terminate for excessive usage.
In tests of both services, Skype’s quality was spotty, with occasional voice delays and muffled sound. MagicJack’s connection did not always work, and required me to restart the computer or replug the dongle. Because both magicJack and Skype work only when your computer is on, they are poor substitutes for traditional landline service.
Better alternatives are VoIP services that allow you to use your existing telephones. To activate the service, you connect the phone to the company’s hardware, which in turn is connected to your broadband modem. The phone service works even when your PC is off.
Vonage, the best known VoIP service, offers unlimited domestic calling, plus free calls to five European countries, for $25 a month. The necessary Vonage hardware, called a V-Portal, costs $80, but the company gives a $70 rebate for a one-year service commitment.
Ooma, a similar VoIP service, charges a one-time $250 fee for its hardware, with no monthly charge. All domestic calls are free. International calls to Western Europe and Canada are around 2 cents a minute.
To hook up additional phones to Ooma, you use a smaller “Scout” unit; one is included in the box, each additional Scout costs $60.
Ooma also offers a Premier service; for $13 a month or $99 a year, you’ll receive a second line plus enhanced features like call screening, the ability to set up phone number blacklists, and the conversion of voice mail to e-mail.

For more, see

Monday, July 13, 2009

Trade clunker for cash program.

The must awaited and talked about government program meant to boost auto sales and help get rid of gas guzzlers and commonly refereed to as "cash for clunkers", was signed unto law at the end of last month.
Past the initial enthusiasm that the program generated, a closer look reveal a lot of strings attached, making it very restrictive. Here is the breakdown:
-First, the car or truck you are considering to trad-in, must not be more than 25 years old;
-Second, it must be in drivable condition and insured for at least a year prior to the trade-in;
- Third, it must have had a combined fuel economy of no more than 18 mpg or less while new;
- Fourth, the new car must have a combined 22 mpg according to the EPA.
These are the basics requirements; after you met them, another set of rules will be used to determine exactly, the value of the voucher your clunker qualify for. There are two different vouchers; one for $3,5oo and one for the maximum of $ 4,5oo and there are two set of rules depending on you trading a car or a truck.
Lets start with a car:
To get the $3,5oo, the new car must be at least 4 mpg more efficient than the old one.
To get the $4,500, the new car must be at least 10 mpg more efficient than the old one.
For a light truck, minivan, SUV or crossover, the new vehicle must be at least 2 mpg more efficient than the old one to get the $3,500 voucher, and 5 mpg more than the old one, would get you $4,500. Still with me?
Hang on , we are almost there because there are different, even so less restrictive, set of rules if you own larger or heavier duty trucks. But thankfully, those rules are less restrictive. Those rules as well as the rest, can be found at the official Web site set up by the government at
To save yourself from some of the headaches, you can consult sites like or which have compiled lists of vehicles likely to qualify for the vouchers.
Anyhow, these new program is set to start by the beginning of August and run till Nov.1 unless Congress grants an extension.

For more, see

Friday, July 10, 2009

New efforts for better Web privacy proposed by various trade groups.

Faced with renewed scrutiny, Internet advertisers are scrambling to come up with some self regulations in order to dwarf any mandatory federal rules. At the center of the whole debate is how much information and therefore control, to give Web users.The common complaint is that too much information is being collected from Internet users with0ut their knowledge. In an unprecedented move, advertising , media and Internet trade groups have joined together in looking for new measures that would give users more control over their data. Among the measures considered, "is an icon that would would appear either on Web pages or ads alerting consumers if their activity is being tracked. Clicking the icon would reveal information on the activities that a site collects about visitors, along with a list of companies that use this data" according to the Wall Street Journal.
These different trade groups are also looking to finalize propositions related to data security and retention, including how long companies can store information about users, still according to the Wall Street Journal.

For more, see

Thursday, July 9, 2009

ReferQuest, a new service to help you find what you are looking for by offering a reward.

ReferQuest lets you offer a reward to motivate others to find what you're looking for. It's like offering a bounty to speed up your searches. It's free to post a request and reward. You only pay the reward when you've found what you've wanted. The service is in its beta form and you have to register to use it.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Facebook new privacy settings.

Faced with growing criticisms, Facebook is testing means that will give back users, more control over their data. To achieve that, Facebook is focusing on simplifying its privacy settings which count 4o different options spread over six pages.
The simplified privacy settings being tested right now among a limited number of users, consist mainly of "new controls that will allow members to specify which groups or individuals are able to see each text update, photo or video they post on the site" according to the New York Times.
Ultimately, the changes are meant to make people feel more comfortable in sharing data, knowing that they have control over who can and who can not see it. As for a general release of the new settings, no date yet has been set.

For more, see

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

D-Link DIR-685, a multi-function router, backup hard drive.

In the market for a home wireless router or a backup hard drive or both, D-Link has a new gadget that combines those two functions and much more. That new gadget called the D-Link DIR -685, combines a wireless router, a home backup hard drive, and a digital picture frame.
It is equipped with the latest WI-FI(802.11n) signal which can turn an entire house into a WI-FI hot spot and come with all the conceivable home router's features like Application Rules, individual Web site blocking, a sophisticated firewall, network access list, etc. The D-Link DIR -685 has a very distinctive feature in its 3.2 inch color display screen which beside showing the router's settings, can also display some preset Internet information like Twitter posts, photos from Facebook or Flickr accounts, stocks, sports scores etc.With all these features and many more that the D-Link DIR- 685 has to offer, comes the most frustrating part: the device's user guide which comes in PDF form, does not contains a lot of information; one option in figuring it out, is to visit D-Link Web site.
In any case, if you are ready for a wireless router with a lot of potentials but unfortunately with no less irritation, the D-Link DIR-685 is an solid option. The price is also compelling: it retails for $300.

For more, see

Monday, July 6, 2009

Doing good and tracking it, made easier by DoGood app.

Among the plethora of apps available at the Apple store, a new one stands out in two areas: fun and utility. That new app called DoGood, is the invention of a group of students at the University of Michigan.
The free app challenges users to do a different good deed each day, a small act of kindness , like "Make someone laugh today," or "Thank a teacher," "Give someone a hug," etc. Once the deed is done, it can be recorded by clicking "done." The app also keeps count of how many people did a good deed that day and a detailed tally of how many times a particular deed was repeated each day. It goes even further by letting you post and read stories about every deed. The app has a search function for tracking previous entries and also a statistics display screen.
One of the coolest part of the app is its ability to integrate with Facebook and Twitter to allow your friends to follow and maybe be inspired by your deeds.

For more, see

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