Monday, December 19, 2011

Seven Best Forums

Web discussion boards are a great source of freebies, bargains and money-saving tips. I am going to reveals seven best forums.

Get Free Things

The ‘Get Free Things’ forum at competition website Loquax is full of free trials and ways to get free samples online. The friendly community lists free offers currently being advertised in magazines and news papers, shares new discount codes and even gives away unwanted tickets to shows and gigs. You can view all posts without registering, but to reply you’ll need to sign up.

My Voucher Codes Forum

In this forum, you will find bargains from all over the web that don’t feature on the main site. If you need a discount code for certain website, or area searching for a saving on a particular product, you can ask fellow forum members in the ‘Voucher or Deal Wanted?’ forum. And if you want to know about th latest sales, both online and on the high street, browse the ‘Shopping & Sales’ board.

How to Forum

The ‘How To’ forum at Saga Zone features lots of useful money-saving advice. Topics covered include cutting down on your heating bills during the winter months, having a DIY funeral and the most energy-effective doorbells. The money tips are mixed in with other practical and household advice, so you need to browse to find the best ones. You will have to register to post a reply and share your own tips, but not if you’re only looking.

Money Expert Advice Forum

The forums at Money Supermarket site include an excellent ‘Ask an Expert’ board, where you can post financial queries for the site’s team of money specialists to answer. You can get advice on everything from mortgage repayments and interest rates to loan agreements and banking problems. You need to register to ask a question, but you can browse the forum and search for answers to similar queries without having to sign up.

Money Saving Expert Forum

The forum has a ‘Freebies (no spend required)’ forum, which lists deals that don’t require you to spend any money, as opposed to free offers with purchases or free gifts with subscriptions. It’s a brilliant means of finding out which sites are giving away free samples and it also lists free alternatives to paid-for software. Among the many threads, there are discussions that offer advice about claiming freebies, as well as reviews of the best survey and cashback websites.

Merchant Cashback offers and Merchant Discussion Forum

It is great place to find out which retailers offer the most generous and reliable cash deals. Many of the threads describe members’ success stories and discuss how to make the most of cashback offers, as well as warning about those that are not worth bothering with. The forum helpfully lists any high-street or online deals that are offering cashback as an insensitive to buy. 

Manage your finances Online Forum

The motley Fool’s ‘Managing your finances’ forum lets you discuss any legal or contractual problems you may be having with a company, and the terms and conditions of offers and deals. Members pose specific queries they have about services, and others share advice or their own experiences. It’s also a good place to compare mobile and broadband deals, as well as financial products such as credit cards and loans. You’ll need to sign up to post messages.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Google Latest Changes and Criticisms

Google has made changes to the way it indexes web pages so that searches produce newer and more relevant content. More emphasis will now be put on ‘fresh’ content, such as up-to-date news stories about a particular topic. For example, when search for an event that occurs at regular intervals, such as the Olympics, Google will assume you want  information about 2012 London Olympics rather than a previous Olympics, unless you specify otherwise.

Similarly, if you search for a topic where information changes regularly, such as mobile phone reviews, for example, sites with the most recently updated information will be pushed towards the top of the rankings so you can avoid reviews that are out of date.

While this move sounds like good news for everyone who uses the web, it’s possible that it could be abused. Website owners desperate to attract traffic could potentially re-post existing pages about a certain topic, adding just small amount new information or a few new keywords, to try and push their site to the top of the search results. This could mean that instead finding useful informative articles, searchers will see only hastily written articles containing little valuable information. 
Google Latest changes

However, Google insisted that freshness wasn’t the only quality it was looking for in search results. It would also take topicality and quality into account, although it didn’t outline how exactly these are assessed.

Google has come under fire for changes it’s made to Google Reader. Earlier this month, it introduced a new design and let users share content on the Google+ social network.  However, it also stopped users writing comments and becoming ‘friends’ with and following each other. Dozens of threads complaining about the changes sprang up on the Google Reader help forum, prompting Google software engineer Alan Green to write on the official Reader blog: “Retiring Readers’ sharing  features wasn’t decision that we made lightly, but in the end, it helps us focus better experience across all of Google.”

Monday, December 5, 2011

Windows 7 Desktop Customization

Windows XP lets you set websites as your Windows wallpaper. Simply right-click a blank area of the Desktop, selects Properties, click the Desktop tab and then click the Customize Desktop button. Go to the Web tab and you’ll be able to use your current homepage or enter a different site address.

Windows 7 users don’t have this option because Microsoft removed the feature for security reasons. The good news however, is there are plenty of other ways to add web content to your Desktop.

Windows Gadgets

Windows 7 and Vista come with built-in gadget engine that lets you display movable apps on top of your wallpaper. Just right-click the Desktop and select Gadgets from the context menu. You can display any of the available choices or click the ‘Get more gadgets online’ link to find new ones.

Plenty of companies produce compatible apps, including A3 Labs, which offers a range of gadgets. One of the best is FB Dashboard, which lets you update your Facebook status and view friend activity., notifications, messages and invites, as well as ’like’ items in your news feed.
Windows 7 Desktop Customization

Keep Track of Important Events

This Calendar is a transparent calendar that sits at the top of the screen and shows the current moth at a glace. It doesn’t require installation; you simply unzip it and run the EXE file. Right-click the System Tray icon, select Preferences and enter your Google account details. When you restart the application it will pull your schedule from Google Calendar and mark days with important events in different colors.

Display RSS feeds

LiveRSS displays the latest headlines from your favorite sites in a tiny scrolling line that’s ideal for positioning in a Windows title bar. You can add as many feeds as you like and adjust the scrolling speed. It’s available as Windows gadget or a standalone program.

Desktop Ticker

Desktop Ticker is a similar program that adds a larger, longer ticker to the Desktop. You can dock it to the top or bottom of the screen, set the update frequency, and change its opacity and scrolling speed. Newer stories are shown in red and older ones in black, but you can easily changes the color scheme if you wish.

Feeding’s Approach

If you like to see lots of news headlines at once you’ll probably prefer Feeding’s approach. When you run the program it will add an icon to the System Tray, Right-click and select Configuration to add your feeds. It will display the latest stories from each feed in separate widget-like blocks, which can be stacked together to make a sidebar or tiled so they take over your entire Desktop. You can change the typeface, font size and color of each feed too, to make them easier to identity.


Finally, if you fancy giving your Desktop a major makeover, try Rain Meter. This superb tool adds a sidebar packed with customizable widgets to the Desktop, including a clock, system, disk and network monitors, a Google search bar and, of course, RSS feeds. You can tweak the design and settings to suit your preference, and there is a wealth of different skin designs to pick from.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Google Games

Google Pac-Man

Google's 30th anniversary Pac-Man doodle proved so popular last year, its now available permanently. Guide Pac-Man around a Google-logo maze using the arrow keys, scoffing ‘Pac-dots’ and avoiding ghosts. Eating large dots makes the ghost edible for short time while collection all dots moves you to the next level. Also, if you click the Insert Coins button twice, the game switches to two-player mode. You can control Ms Pac-Man using the W, A, S and D keys on your keyboard.
Google Pac-Man

A Google Day

Test your general knowledge with A Google a Day, which poses daily quiz questions such as ‘ What is speed limit in the most western US town?’ and ‘How many inches has man sailed if he has two swallow tattoos?’ If you type the wrong answer, Google shows you how to search for the right one. You can get questions sent to your Twitter and Facebook accounts, and challenge friends using the Share option.
A Google Day

Chrome Fastball

The Youtube-based game Chrome FastBall invites you to race across the internet, completing challenges that test your knowledge of languages, facts and even public transport using Google tools. The game involves five timed challenges-as you complete each level you move a ball bearing through an obstacle course, and skipping questions incurs a 60-second penalty. You can see how your surfing skills compare on global leader board of around 160,000 players. Despite the name, Chrome FastBall also works in other browsers.
Chrome Fastball

Google Image Labeler

This interesting game matches you with a stranger to see who can create the most tags for Google images. Over a tow-minutes period, you and your partner are shown the same pictures and you earn points for any labels that match theirs. The more you play the higher up the leader board you go. The game also has practical benefit because Google uses the most popular tags for each image to improve its search results.
Google Image Labeler

Streetview Zombie Apocalypse

Using Street View in Google Maps, this addictive game takes you into a location of your choice where you have to escape a zombie invasion. Stay alive for as long as possible by running through streets using the onscreen navigation tools in Street View. Zombies are shown as place markers in Standard-view map, so there’s no horrible zombie graphics or gory violence! You can even set the difficulty from ‘Easy ‘to ‘I am Death Incarnate’. The game works best in Chrome.
Streetview Zombie Apocalypse

Google Image Quiz 

Like an online Version of pub-quiz picture round, this time waster asks you to identify images taken from Google’s library. The more you play the more obscure the pictures get, ranging from films and actors to animals and places. You get three guesses each round and lose points for incorrect answers.
Google Image Quiz

The Google Adventure

If you have ever enjoyed an adventure gamebook, you’ll love this scenario-base game, which takes you through a day in the life of a Google employee. Granted, it’s not a exciting as having to decide between slaying a dragon or bargaining with an ogre, but there’s a secret that you need to uncover and you must make the right choices in order to get the bottom of what’s going on in your office without getting fired.

Dating Site Scammers

I read with interest the article in issue 266 about web scams. I like to think I am pretty savvy and avoid most of the nasty stuff that’s out here, but I would add dating sites to your caution list, especially the free ones, which are often riddled with scammers waiting to relieve you of your cash.

The worst in my experience is Match doctor- nearly all the messages I have received from people on the site seem to be blatant scams. Messages from alleged members come from various foreign locations (I recently received dozens from members claiming to be from all over the US). There is invariably no picture or occasionally one that looks too glamorous and professional to be true. The language is one extreme or another, either extremely flowery or with bad grammar, spelling and punctuation. The age range people claim to be looking for is often ridiculous.
Online dating Site Scammers

It’s common for the profile to read exactly the same as the message, with certain phrases repeated over and over. Most times, an email address or Messenger contact is offered far too readily, and the tone is really OTT and way too gushy for a first genuine contact. I imagine theses scammers end up asking an unsuspecting member for many to fund a visit, Said by David perriman through email.

We asked Matchdoctor to reply to claims of David. The company said, “Spammers / Scammers are an unfortunate part of online dating sites. However, we do not support them. They in fact hurt our business. We have safety warning on our site to inform people of scams. We allow users to report scammers to us directly and have background tools that help us catch the scams quickly. We are also adding CAPTCHA to our website this month to help prevent spam / scam emails and sing-ups.”

4G Phones and Digital TV

Fourth generation phones and tablets known simply as 4G devices could cause interference on digital TV sets and set-top boxes for three-quarters of a million people in the UK. Ofcom has warned. 4G services are due to be switched on in 2012 or early 2013.

The problem is predicated to arise due to the closeness of the bands of spectrum used for 4G services and digital TV. Viewers living close to 4G base stations could suffer interference to digital television services.

Ofcom is investigation potential solutions to the problem, including issuing special filters to fit onto TV’ or set-top boxes that will block 4G signals while letting through TV signals. Ofcom also mentioned fitting filters at the base stations, though didn’t explain how these would work.
4G Phones
Digital TV

Ofcom will also launch an education programme warning viewers of the possibility of interference when 4G services are switched on, and recommending ways to reduce it. Broadcasters will be expected to contribute to the cost of this scheme.

BT has said that it will start trails of 4G services to a limited numbers of customers in Newquay, Cornwall. The trails are part of BT’s plan to get the whole of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly connected to super-fast network by the end of 2014. Though 90 per cent of homes and business in the country will be able to connect to fixed-line, fibre-optic services, BT plans to connect the remaining 10 per cent to 4G networks. The trails will begin in September. 

The government hopes that 4G will be one of the technologies use to bring super-fast broadband services to remote areas where laying fiber-optic cables is too difficult, through 4G will also be available in towns and cities. 4G services are theoretically capable of speeds up to 1Gbps (gigabits per second), through in practice speeds are more likely to be around 100Mbps.