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Technology that works for you

This page is a compilation of the notes and links that were presented in the 2011 SUNY Delhi work shop called: Technology That Works For You.  In this session we discussed you how you can maximize the use of technology in your personal life to either save you some serious cash.  The topics of discussion were:

  • Eliminating your cable bills with online streaming.  The services are out there that offer many of your favorite shows for free streaming over the internet.  You can watch last night's episode of many popular cable TV shows.   You can even stream many channels live over the internet for free.  Most new televisions have the ability to connect directly to a PC.  If you have an older television, most computers can be inexpensively upgraded to provide the necessary connections. 
    • www.hulu.com Great free service with many many shows. You can usually catch the current season of shows here. For $10 per month you can go back and watch previous seasons as well as access the site from ipad, apple tv, android, and iphone. Create an account and get customized queues that can auto subscribe your favorite shows so you can just watch without searching. It can email you when new episodes are added to your queue.
    • www.fancast.com - FanCast – Movies, TV Shows. The best way to describe FanCast is: a Hulu alternative. Some viewers may enjoy the interface of FanCast more, as it has a more spread out navigation. If you can't find something on Hulu, FanCast probably has it.
    • www.streamick.com Watch live television stations from all over the world. Website is an aggregation of internet video feeds from all over the world and include many of the big names you see on your television. The quality of the picture is not crystal clear but the channels are very watchable, and they are free.
    • http://www.channelchooser.com Channel Chooser is pretty much like watching cable TV on the internet. Most channels are actual streams of television shows, some are internet exclusives.
    • www.video.bing.com and www.video.google.com You can search for videos using most search engine. After searching for your show/movie click on the length button on the left to select only videos over a certain length (standard TV show episode is 21 minutes)
    • http://Justin.tv – pay per view events and sporting events.
    • http://www.ustream.tv/ UStream is just about the same thing as Justin.TV, with a different layout and interface. If you can't find a PPV Event on Justin.TV, try UStream.
    • Copyright note:  It was mentioned in this session that some of these sites (particularly the last two: Justin.tv and Ustream.tv) are an aggregation of video feeds from all over the internet.  A question was raised about the legality of watching these types of streams.  There are hundreds or thousands of sites that will let you watch content that is licensed for rebroadcast on the internet.  Justin.tv and Ustream.tv are no different.  These sites however will also have feeds that are not licensed by the content creators.   You as the end user have no way to tell if the broadcasting party has the rights to show the content.  Essentially what it boils down to is that the stream that you are watching may not be legal, but you (the watcher) are not violating any laws.  The responsibility lies with  the broadcaster to ensure they have the rights to broadcast the content.   If the content is not licensed, the content creator can request the feed be blocked and action be taken against the watcher, but there is no legal or civil action that can be taken against the watcher.
  • Eliminating your phone bills with Voice over IP.    These days, voice is treated much the same as other data.  If you have a broadband internet connection, you do not need a phone line.   Your internet provider is probably offering you a digital phone service.  We will show you how you can do the same exact thing for a fraction of the cost.  You can even  make free calls from your SmartPhone using your home number and without using your cellphone minutes.
    • www.ooma.com   The OOMA is an answering machine with Voice over IP technology built in.  It allows you to use any phone you own to make virtually free calls to anywhere in the USA.  It does not require that a computer be left on.  You will need to buy the OOMA unit for about $150, and you will pay about $3 per month for required taxes imposed on telco providers.   The service quality is amazing and the feature set rivals the most advanced plan your phone company will give you.  At $3 per month, the device will pay for itself very quickly, and then some.
    • www.Magicjack.com Complete voice over IP service. Costs $50-70 to buy the device which is active for 1 year at which point you would have to pay another $20 for the next year. It comes with all the standard services you would expect from a phone service (call waiting, voicemail, caller ID) and has unlimited long distance to USA and Canada.
    • www.Truphone.com Have an ipod touch(with a headset)? How about a cellphone that is costing too much money? Get the truphone app and sign up for an account to start making calls using your data or wifi connection at a fraction of the cost. They have an unlimited plan for just $12 per month. That is unlimited calls and text to ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD. Get the app for your phone here: (nokia, blackberry, android, iphone, ipod, ipad)
    • www.voice.google.com This free service gives you a real phone number that people can dial. You input any or all of your real phone numbers and when someone dials your google voice number, all of your phones ring at the same time. You can answer any of them and transfer calls between them. You get a voicemail box and can send and receive text messages for free. Android users can integrate directly with the system to eliminate the need for text plans on your phone. Iphone and other phones also have apps but the integration is not as nice. Voice messages are transcribed into text and emailed to you. This is very handy at Delhi for making personal calls. The service calls you, then calls the number you wanted to dial. Because the call in incoming to Delhi, there is no need to enter a code or pay any charges!

 

  • Eliminate software costs with free Open-Source software.  
    • http://osswin.sourceforge.net/ There is a ton of "free" software out there, but in an online world riddled with computer security threats how do we know what is safe and what is not?   Open source software is software that is released to the public, usually for free, but also includes (if desired) the source code that was used to create the software. Other developers are free to take this source code and modify it to their needs and re-release it. As such there is a huge amount of open source software available that can and will do just about everything you can do with the paid software. I have only included one site in this section because that is all you need. Any geek will tell you that if you want open source software, go to sourceforge. SourceForge is a repository of open source software, mostly for Linux. The link below is to a windows software section. There are categories along the top and a long list of software farther down the page. There are a lot of things on the page and you have to click on the link to get the description. I encourage you to browse around in the sections that interest you, I promise you will find something to make your day easier. Here are a few links to get you started..
    • Free Audio / Video players and editors
      • VLC (videoLAN) - This is the best audio video player hands down. It has a very minimalist interface that anyone should be able to navigate. This app is capable of playing just about every audio/video format out there!
      • Gimp Audacity - Audacity is free, open source software for recording and editing sounds. You can use it to record live audio, Convert tapes and records to MP3, and edit all sorts of formats.
      • VirtualDub – VirtualDub is a free video capture and processing utility. It is capable of recording video from the screen or from an input device such as a camera and then performing basic edits. It is essentially a reduced version of Adobe Premiere.

 

    • Free Photoshop alternatives
      • Gimp - Gimp is an excellent and free alternative to PhotoShop. It has many capabilities. It can be used as a simple paint program, an expert quality photo retouching program, an online batch processing system, a mass production image renderer, an image format converter, etc.
    • Free MS Office replacements
      • http://www.openoffice.org/ OpenOffice.org is the leading open-source office software suite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases and more. It is available in many languages and works on all computers regardless of operating system. It is completely compatible with Microsoft Office and most other commercial office suites.
  • Other Cool Stuff
    • PDFSAM - Ever need to split apart a PDF into individual pages? How about combine multiple pdfs into one? Check out PDFSAM (Split and Merge)
    • PhotoRec - PhotoRec is file data recovery software designed to recover lost files including video, documents and archives from hard disks, CD-ROMs, and lost pictures (thus the Photo Recovery name) from digital camera memory. PhotoRec ignores the file system and goes after the underlying data, so it will still work even if your media's file system has been severely damaged or reformatted.
    • KDiff - Do you ever end up with multiple copies of the same document? Kdiff compares or merges two or three text input files or directories and shows the differences line by line and character by character.It provides an automatic merge-facility and an integrated editor for comfortable solving of merge-conflicts. I cannot count how many times this has saved me a few hours work.
    • Pidgin - pidgin is a great instant message app. From a single app you can connect to AIM, MSN, Yahoo, and more chat networks all at once. There are no ads, no popups and it loads very fas

2 Comments

  1. Cool resource, Jon!

    Just a note on ipod touch and Google Voice - there's a free app I recently installed called "Talkatone" which ties into a Gmail chat account, and as such can both receive and make calls via wi-fi using one's Google Voice #. The calls can be to standard phone #'s or to online Gmail chat users. (I ended up getting rid of truphone after I got this!) 

    Also, there is an official Google Voice app for ipod/iphone that provides free SMS in/out, as well as an easy interface for making calls - where you punch in the number and tell it which phone to call you on.

    Between those 2 apps and a Google Voice account, you basically don't need to pay for long distance or SMS texting - as you mention.

    1. Very good to know Clark.  Thanks!