On a typical workday, I have umpteen windows open on my desktop. There’s Entourage for email, Firefox and Safari for browsing, Word to read and edit documents, Quark and Indesign to review layouts, Photoshop for pictures, iTunes for, well, tunes, and an aggregation of Instant Messenger (IM) services that have stealthily crept up on me over the years.
Now IM may be great for both socializing and work productivity (seen your phone bills lately?), but remembering addresses, names and passwords for multiple IM services is a problem that cries out for an Internet solution, especially when you are away from the IM software on your work PC.
Meebo answers the call with its free universal IM service that supports AIM, MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, and ICQ, plus the Jabber service (which Google’s Gtalk uses). I logged in on Meebo, and now I have all of those conversations conveniently stashed away in one of my browser tabs.
Meebo is an Internet-based application that supports the top instant messaging clients and allows you to access your chats on any PC with a compatible Internet browser (the application works with both Internet Explorer and Firefox). When logging in on Meebo, users are prompted to enter their username and password for either AIM, Yahoo, MSN, GTalk, ICQ, or Jabber. A seventh option is the creation of a free Meebo account, which allows users to sign in to any combination of these six services simultaneously. Once you have logged in, a Buddy List window, which contains the names of all of your buddies from the various services, appears inside the browser. To the left of each username in the buddy list window is an icon specifying which service the buddy is using. When you receive a new message from a buddy, the title bar across the top of the browser flashes a snippet of the new message. You can also enable alert sounds, which will play a non-discreet, monotone chime whenever you send or receive a message. I found Meebo to be a terrific third-party option for those who like to chat but don’t want all of the downloads—or windows. Go to www.meebo.com
Widgets, gadgets, or gizmos—call these small applications what you like, but they can transform your desktop into a cockpit, complete with clocks, performance meters and calendars and, of course, my favourite, Yahoo Widget—the mini iTunes remote that occupies so little screen real estate with its compact design, the ability to change my ratings and set my iChat status to your current playing track and even change the transparency of the player itself. No more toggling windows or hunting for the Apple remote amidst the clutter of my desk! You can find it at widgets.yahoo.com/widgets/mini-itunes-remote.
Finding the right mobile device just got a lot easier with www.tryphone.com. The free, still-in-beta TryPhone website gives you the ability to try before you buy with fully interactive online virtual handsets to test-drive mobile devices, applications, content and services, as well as watch demos—right from the comfort and convenience of your browser. You can click the phone’s buttons with your mouse to check out the various menus, launch the mobile Internet browser, fire up the camera, or start dialling a number. The demos take you through such basic tasks as how to set a ringtone, change wallpaper or access voicemail. However, don’t expect to actually surf the mobile Web or add contacts—the interactivity is just to give you a feeling for a phone’s interface. The downside? Tryphone has only a handful of handsets featured—the iPhone, the LG Muziq, the Samsung Juke and the BlackBerry Pearl. That said, the website is still in beta, so hopefully there should be a slew of new devices added soon.
Like most people, I am usually satisfied with Google for my online searching needs. The search engine turns up thousands of results, which I trawl through manfully in my quest for knowledge. For nearly a year now, I have been following a cool social browsing add-on called StumbleUpon embedded in my Firefox Web browser that has put the serendipity back into my online searches! StumbleUpon sits on your toolbar, with a massive range of features to allow for “social surfing”. But, primarily, it selects at random websites that are relevant to you, recommended by other Internet surfers. To get started, download StumbleUpon in Firefox or IE, register a user profile, select your interests from nearly 500 topics and you are ready to start stumbling. Hit the Stumble! button and, like me, you can surf through thousands of excellent pages that have been stumbled upon by other Internet users. Your results become more refined as you “stumble along” and rate the websites you visit by selecting the thumbs up, or a thumbs down icon—clicking a button in the toolbar is a pretty simple way to give feedback.
Now, as StumbleUpon learns what you like and don’t like, it automatically matches you with clusters of users who have similar preferences. Then, as you browse, you can choose to “stumble” to pages that are preferred by other people who are similar to you. Other features in StumbleUpon assist in building a social network as you surf, allowing you to comment about any website and discuss related issues. You can also email other users from within the application, while preserving your anonymity. StumbleUpon is very easy to use and, be warned, simply addictive! Since all you need to do is download the toolbar, install it, and pick your topics, you can be up and running in about 2 minutes. It is not as helpful if you are looking for something specific, but it is a lot of fun and a great time killer. Stumbleupon.com or go through your Firefox recommended add-ons link.
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