Could a Wikipedia backed search engine take down Google?

Jimmy Wales, the man behind Wikipedia, has laid out plans to create a new search engine that focuses on quality results, rather than complete and total crawling.

According to Reuters, "The new Wikia search service will combine computer-driven algorithms and human-assisted editing when the company launches a public version of the search site toward the end of 2007"

It's not likely that Wales efforts will make a short term dent in Google's stronghold but, never forget that Google's prowess came originally from it's ability to return better results. As scammers and Google bombers have continued to find ways to hit the top of searches they aren't entitled to, Google's competence has come into some doubt. If Wales and Wikia can build a better mouse trap, the world just might beat a path to their door.

Microsoft Works 9 to be free and advertising-supported

Microsoft Works 8
If you bought a cheap PC that didn't come with Microsoft Office preinstalled, or at least MS Word, you may have gotten a free copy of Microsoft Works. It's always been sort of an ironic name for a product, because it just barely works. Sure, if all you need is a basic spreadsheet, calendar, or word processor, MS Works will do. But since it can't handle most MS Office documents, Works is barely worth the $50 you'd have to pay if you actually went out and bought a copy.

All of which is to say we have mixed feelings when we hear that Microsoft plans to launch the next version of Works as free, advertising supported software. ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley got the scoop on the new product from Microsoft V.P. Satya Nadella, but nobody else from the company has confirmed the details.

On the one hand, it's great to see Microsoft exploring ways to raise revenue without charging consumers an arm and a leg. On the other hand, a number of other companies have released free MS Office competitors such as, Google Docs & Spreadsheets, and Zoho. Releasing Works, a stripped down version of Office hardly seems like the way to compete.

Around The Water Cooler: Best comment thread roundup

Myspace not the only place to find sexual predators

If you thought Facebook was immune to the sort of sexual predators known to be lurking on Myspace, think again. According to the New York Times, "Connecticut's attorney general, said that investigators in his state were looking into "three or more" cases of convicted sex offenders who had registered on Facebook and had "also found inappropriate images and content" on the service. The inquiry continues, he said, and state officials have contacted Facebook and asked it to remove the profiles."

Myspace recently took major flack for not disclosing the full scope of the problems it faces, when 29,000 profiles were removed, more than 4 times the number previously estimated by the company. Will Facebook begin to fall to the same fate?

15 year old kid build computers for less fortunate

Sometimes you see a story and it just makes you go all squishy inside. 15 year old Jacob Komar has been refurbishing used computers for years, and delivering them to the homes of needy families.

From ABC News, "I was at my sister's elementary school and I found out that they were throwing away a whole lab of computers just because they were outdated. [...] then I kind of thought about it and I was like, "Wow, well, there's got to be kids that don't have computers at home." ... Maybe I could take those computers and fix them up, whatever they need done to them, and then give them to kids at the school who could use them."

Ever since that time he's been refurbishing machines, sometimes two a week. If you're looking for a good volunteer cause to put your geek skills to the test with, this might be an idea for you.

Linux Tip: Schedule tasks in Linux with Gnome-schedule

Linux users: You can turn your Linux machine into an automated masterpiece by wrapping a GUI around cron. The Ubuntu Geek weblog introduces Gnome Schedule which cuts the command-line out of the equation when setting up cron jobs. Gnome Schedule gives Linux users all of the functionality of Windows Task Scheduler and more. Regardless of the recurring task you want to complete, Gnome Schedule can get the job done.

Fall TV shows make it to Bittorrent before they make it to TV

During the last week, highly anticipated fall TV pilots have made their way on to Bittorrent trackers in record numbers. Shows like NBC's "Bionic Woman," ABC's "Pushing Daisies," The CW's "Reaper" are popping up like wildflowers, and network executives are tight-lipped about the matter.

According to TV Week, "Network representatives expressed surprise that the full-length pilots were on the Web and alerted their studio partners. Some said they were anticipating that critic and industry screener copies would leak eventually as smattering of fall pilots have found their way online during the past few years. All networks contacted declined official comment."

[via Digg]

UN opposition to new media is a bummer

The United Nations rarely agrees on anything; They do however seem to find common ground when it comes to kicking bloggers, and any non-traditional media without a hierarchical editing process, out of the public discourse.

According to Inner City Press, "The UN agencies which, since the June 21-22 meeting in Madrid, have refused to answer a single question from Inner City Press including the UN Development Program and the World Health Organization. UNDP, which is embroiled in scandals about its close relations with regimes in North Korea, Zimbabwe, Myanmar, Uganda, has also taken to calling the editors of journalists who ask questions, ostensibly to verify the reporter's assignment and deadline."

Can't we all just get along?

[via Telegrafik]

Om Malik brings Calacanis and Rose together for a rare photo-op

It's no secret that Jason Calacanis -- founder and former head-hancho of Weblogs, Inc. -- and Kevin Rose -- that Digg kid -- have a mild feud between them. After Calacanis re-launched as a competing social news portal, albeit with a different target market, Rose and Calacanis fought publicly on their respective blogs in the public eye.

Valleywag reports on a not-quite tearful reunion and burying of the respective hatchets at a launch party thrown by Revision3, Rose's on-line video company.

Aww, it's good to see thekids play nice for a change.

Gates makes plans to say, "Goodnight and Goodluck"

Love him or hate him, you know he's worked hard to be where he's at. Bill Gates is getting close to making his big exit into retirement, and The New York Times is taking a close look at his plans, or lack thereof.

For what it's worth, Gates has one year left in his planned two year transition into unemployment. He's stated in the past that he will go on to work with the $33 Billion dollar foundation started by he and his wife Melinda which focuses on global issues of poverty and disease. What's unclear is whether his plans will really come to fruition when expected; Microsoft faces more challenges now than it did even 5 years ago, and the traders on Wall St. have refused to believe that MS can meet and beat those challenges to regain its stranglehold dominance on the computing world.

A professor at Harvard Business school is quoted in the Times article with a very strong point, "It's very hard for someone at his age, who has built a company with that much success and with continuing challenges to really walk away"

eBay wins "Buy It Now" patent dispute - for now

Buy It NowA few years back auction company eBay had the audacity to add a feature that lets customers buy items for a fixed price without bidding in an auction. You know, pretty much like every other retailer on the web.

But MercExchange filed a lawsuit claiming that eBay's "Buy It Now" feature violated a patent held by the company. The suit's been working its way through the court system for the last six years. On Friday, a federal judge denied a request for a permanent injunction, meaning that eBay can keep using the "Buy it Now" buttons.

But it ain't over til it's over. In 2003 a jury awarded MercExchange more than $25 million in damages, which eBay has not had to fork over because of the pending litigation. Now it's up to the patent office to decide whether eBay if violating MercExchange's patent. You know, for clicking a button to buy stuff.

[via Information Week]

Featured Windows Download: Embed Outlook on the desktop

Windows only: Freeware app Outlook on the Desktop embeds the Outlook calendar directly into your desktop. Outlook on the Desktop creates a semi transparent layer that pins the Outlook Calendar on the desktop at all times. The premise is to mimic the real life paper calendaring system -- you know the really big calendar you used to keep on your desk. Also, since it uses Outlook, you have full access to all of Outlook's functionality. Outlook on the Desktop requires .NET 2.0. If you do not have it installed, the program's setup will install it for you. Outlook on the Desktop is a free download for Windows only.

Can you really enforce a non-compete agreement?

When you signed on for your job, you likely signed a hefty stack of paperwork as well. Do you remember signing something called a non-compete agreement? It's a fairly standard doc which limits your ability to strike out on your own in your employer's line of business, and also may limit your ability to switch jobs and work for a competitor. A California court has ruled that Non-Compete agreements may not be so universally enforceable.

According to The Labor Law and Employment blog, "The court threw out the clause in the contract that required a penalty to be paid in the event that ultimate client hired any of consulting company's employees. It held that such a clause was simply a non-compete clause dressed up differently. That is, it does not matter how a non-compete clause is structured. The courts will look at the end result, and if it looks like a non-compete, it will be treated as a non-compete."

Mobile Minute: Get some use out of web apps for the iPhone

Apple's decision to keep 3rd party apps locked out of the iPhone (for now) is still disappointing both users and developers alike, but that doesn't mean we can't get some actual functionality out of some truly unique web apps. For this week's brief Mobile Minute, I'm going to highlight some web apps, utilities and bookmarklets designed specifically for the iPhone that are rising above the rest.

1. 17 iPhone Bookmarklets

Chanpory Rith at LifeClever has published a list of 17 powerful bookmarklets for your iPhone, containing some truly useful stuff beyond the typical web app launchers that are quickly becoming a dime a dozen. At the top of my list are 'marklets like movie times and Wikipedia, which offer one-click popup access to search for local movie times or articles on Wikipedia (respectively). Other really useful ones are 'Find in this page' which is pretty straightforward, as well as 'Open links in new window,' which will reload the current page you're viewing on your iPhone and edit all the links on the page to, well, open in a new window. This is particularly useful since the iPhone doesn't seem to cache pages well (or it possibly uses a caching system that most sites simply haven't accounted for yet), but MobileSafari (the new name many are using for the iPhone's Safari browser) does tabbed browsing like a champ. In fact, it even remembers opened tabs after you power down and restart the phone, making a bookmarklet like this very handy to those like to truly explore the 6 degrees of the world wide web on their iPhone.

To get set up with these bookmarks, visit the LifeClever site in either Safari or Internet Explorer and add them to a folder of bookmarks you're synching with the iPhone. Perform a sync and you're ready to go.

Continue reading Mobile Minute: Get some use out of web apps for the iPhone

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Design Tip: Save the shoot with PhotoRescue

It's your worst digital nightmare, apart from perhaps a full system recovery, the losing of digital photos. We've all been bitten by a memory card or computer itself ruining a set of pictures at some stage, however well-renowned Flickr and Zooomr-based photographer Thomas Hawk points to a handy tool that might just save your bacon: PhotoRescue 3.0 from DataRescue Software.

Hawk also provides a set of tips for using the software at it's most effectively, and one tip that we'd add to the excellent advice is not to fill your memory card as full as absolutely possible - leave a little bit of space to avoid completely corrupting the memory card. There's nothing worse than shooting a couple of gigabytes (or more) of photos, only to have them written off by your own desire to reap value from a massive memory card.

PhotoRescue is not free, although judging by the review linked below, it might just save not only your photos, but your sanity too when the panic of "Er, I just lost a whole holiday's worth of photos" really begins to set it. Your $29 you get a Windows and a Mac licence to the app.

Japanese auto makers to develop a standard car OS

The Japanese government is working with 10 major Japenese auto makers to develop a standardized automobile operating system. While we're tempted to make jokes about blue screens of death and unexpected errors, the truth is many cars now include complex electronics and require a computer system to coordinate all those newfangled parts. And developing a uniform operating system is going to make life a lot easier on your poor neighborhood mechanic.

JasPar, or the Japan Automotive Software Platform Architecture group will be responsible for developing the platform. JasPar is a joint venture that includes the cooperation of Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Toshiba, and other auto and electronics makers. Many of those companies are currently developing their own operating systems.

The goal is to have a prototype available in 2009, with a final version on the market in 5 to 10 years.

[via TechMeme]

Linux Tip: CheckGmail now works with Compiz Fusion

Linux only: Freeware utility CheckGmail now works with Compiz Fusion (and the Compiz/Beryl derivatives). CheckGmail has been a longtime Lifehacker favorite, and due to an incompatibility with Perl, CheckGmail did not work with Compiz, Beryl, and Compiz Fusion. The recent update restores all the functionality of CheckGmail including the ability to archive, delete, mark as read, and report spam messages from the notification area. Restored back to greatness, CheckGmail is a free download for Linux only.

Is YouTube cashing in on child beating?

Sure, any time you stick "Child Beating" in a headline, you're sure to raise an eyebrow. In fact, beating works pretty well on it's own to drive traffic, and adding "child" to the equation only gives it longer legs. A British TV show has chronicled YouTube's refusal to remove footage of brutal kid-fights and is calling or serious action.

According to The Daily Mail, "In the [British TV show], a 17 year old tells how footage of him being beaten up by three other boys was posted on YouTube. The video, which was watched 1,700 times, was removed only when Panorama raised the teenager's concerns with the site."

For its part, YouTube says its own users are responsible for policing the site; Blame someone else seems to work wonders in Web 2.0 land.

Worlds most expensive blog template?

How much would you pay for a blog template? $49.95, $29.95? Or how about free with a little homegrown modification? That's what most of us would opt for. There is a market for pay templates, but we wonder quite seriously if there is a solid market for this one. This $4000 template for Movable Type is designed for an online newspaper, but frankly doesn't look so super special to us.

Sure, it's mostly black and white. Somewhat well formatted, and displays well in Kanji but, $4k US? What's the creator smoking and, if you don't mind us asking, where can we get some?

Hive Mind: Ask MetaFilter Roundup

Upload video everywhere with TubeMogul

Distributing video online and want to save yourself a ton of time? TubeMogul makes it easy to upload to a number of popular video sharing sites such as YouTube, Myspace, Google Video, Yahoo Video, Revver (our personal fave) and Metacafe.

In addition to a simple one stop upload location, TubeMogul also helps you track your video views across all those sites in one convenient location.

If it could only write, direct and shoot the videos for you, you'd be set.

Site Invites - like InviteShare, but with a different name

Site Invites
You know how Lost was a big hit for ABC, and so the next year every network had a few shows with huge casts, a lot of backstory, and a plot that was impossible to follow. That's what happens when someone comes up with a good idea. Or at least one that works.

And so a few weeks ago InviteShare launched a service that made it easier for anyone who wanted to get into exclusive invite-only beta tests to do so. Now a new service, Site Invites has launched to do exactly the same thing.

The concept is pretty simple. Want an invitation to test Joost, Scrybe, or any of 24 other services? Just leave your contact info. Hopefully someone will come along and take pity on you. If you've got a few invitations to share, you can be the pitier. In fact, the more people you send invitations to, the higher you move up the list for any invitations you're seeking.

The site is advertising supported. But something tells us they group behind this is hoping to make a little extra cash by selling the business. (TechCrunch paid $25,000 for InviteShare). There's just one problem. Anybody could create a similar service if they feel like it. The startup costs are pretty minimal. In fact, TechCrunch was getting ready to develop its own service when the company decided to buy InviteShare instead. The only reason InviteShare was worth $25,000 was because TechCrunch had already written a positive review of the site driving up its profile.

Of course, if you're looking for a really good way to pick up invites to the sexiest services around, just keep reading Download Squad.

Recommendations get friendlier with TrustedOpinion

Recommendations get friendlier with TrustedOpinionRecommendations from friends goes a long way. If a friend suggests a restaurant, chances are you are going to go there. Recommendations have moved onto the web in social networks like LinkedIn and Facebook, and now with TrustedOpinion.

TrustedOpinion uses close social sources as a way to rank the trustworthiness of item in question. It is yet another social network that you have to sign up for. So adding your friends to another account is inevitable if you wish to use this service. Nothing is better than getting recommendations from friends and contacts, it's just the signing up for another network and adding people thing we are having a hard time with.

You can also check out Epinions or Amazon for the down low on the products you are hunting for. lets you flirt from your phone

Match MobileDating website thinks you aren't distracted enough by the prospect of finding love through your computer. So they're launching a Match Mobile.

For $5 per month, you can search through mobile profiles and create your own. If you've already got a regular account you can transfer it to Match Mobile.

Once you find someone you'd like to stalk find out more about, you can send a request to start an anonymous chat. If you're still not convinced Match Mobile is worth $5 of your money, check out the kind of creepy video the company's put together to show how you can try to get lucky while waiting for business meetings to start.

[via Reuters]

Law: Find a good lawyer via the internet

The Wall Street Journal highlights several online tools designed to help regular people find a good lawyer. Alternately, if you can do without a lawyer, the article suggests a few tools that can help you take care of a problem without the help (or cost) of a lawyer. For example, you can handle your own will with software or with the help of a paralegal and save a lot of money in attorney fees. Granted, lawyers are experts, and depending on your situation an expert might be just what you need. With that in mind, I'd love to hear our readers thoughts on when a lawyer is necessary and when you can get away without one (even though most of us might think we need one). Thanks Ben!

Mashup developers, its time to make some serious cash

mashup contestsIf you are a mashup developer, there is no time like the present to make some cash for your creations.

Mashups are not only giant part of the Web 2.0 landscape, but a number of companies are recognizing this, and dipping into their corporate pockets to award creativity and development skills. Ok, so it's cheaper for these companies to run outside contests than to actually develop their own mashups in house, but if you are already fooling around with mashups, or want to get into it, these contests are great to get involved in.

Current mashup contests include a $10,000 pot from Voxbone, $10,000 to develop a PayPal Facebook App, and a trip to Prague from Skype.

If any DLS readers have developed a cool mashup, feel free to share it with us.

eSwarm: theoretical purchasing strength in numbers

Online group buying is not a new idea. Dogs made entirely out of pasta that regenerate themselves after you eat them is a new idea. Unfortunately, this post is about group buying. Pasta dogs (Oodles of Poodles) will hopefully come up later. eSwarm is taking another swipe at the idea that finding groups of people online looking to buy the same thing should theoretically be easy to do. Ignoring the fact that this business model has failed many times in the past might seem like a silly approach, but one can only assume that eSwarm is counting on the fact that the number of online shoppers has increased dramatically in recent years.

The way it works is that you get a free account, then decide what you'd like to buy and try to get other people to sign up for the same item/service/whatever. Then a seller will make an offer to the group. Supposedly, the more people looking to buy, the better the offer the seller will give. After an offer is made, other companies have 48 hours to give the group (swarm, they call them. Because, you know, good imagery is key. Everyone loves being swarmed...) a better offer. Nothing too terribly new, but who knows? Maybe it'll work this time. eSwarm CEO Tim Newcomb seems convinced, claiming that eSwarm is a "global economic revolution". CEO Tim Newcomb is never wrong. Some of his past stellar observations include saying that Hootie and the Blowfish were "going to be seven thousand times bigger than The Beatles" and that the film Air Bud: Golden Receiver was "the best written film since Citizen Kane!"

Transfer your PIM data between Windows Mobile operating systems

PIM BackupIf you're lucky enough to have a Windows Mobile device with support for updating the operating system, you may be in for a surprise. You may not think you've spent much time customizing your mobile device, but it can easily take a few days of tweaking to get Windows Mobile 5.0/6 to run all the programs you enjoyed on your Windows Mobile 2003SE device.

By far the easiest part of the upgrade should be synchronizing your calendar, contacts, and other Outlook data. As long as you synchronized your device prior to upgrading, it should all be copied back to your phone or PDA after the upgrade. But if you could lose a boatload of data if you don't like to sync with a computer, or if not all of your data synchronized properly with the old copy of Outlook 2002 you've got on your spanking new Windows Vista machine (not that this would happen to anyone who writes for Download Squad).

That's where dotfred's PIM Backup comes in. This excellent, free utility creates a complete backup of your PIM data including contacts, appointments, e-mail messages, tasks, and notes. There's are separate versions for Windows Mobile 2003 and Windows Mobile 5.0/6. But if you create a backup using one version, you can restore from that backup using the other.

In other words, you can copy PIM Backup to your storage card to create a complete backup of your data. When you're finished upgrading or downgrading your device, just open the appropriate version of PIM Backup for your new settings and restore from your backup. Easy as PIM.

[via Smartphone & PocketPC Magazine]

In Brief: Here's one way to put your cell phone to ...

Here's one way to put your cell phone to good use: write a novel on it, like science fiction writer Robert Bernocco who typed up his 384-page book on his mobile phone, knocking out short paragraphs of his manuscript each day on his commute to work.

Announcements: Come say hi at BlogHer today and tomorrow

Hi 'hackers - Gina here in Chicago at the BlogHer conference today Friday and tomorrow Saturday. I'll be speaking on two panels, and the Lifehacker book signing time has been confirmed for Saturday morning at 11:45 at the Yahoo!-sponsored Barnes and Noble store. You DO have to be registered for BlogHer to get to the bookstore. If you're here, come say hi! Hit the link for details on the sessions I'll be presenting on.

Featured Mac Download: Caffeine keeps your Mac awake

Mac only: Single-purpose utility Caffeine disables your Mac's screensaver, sleep and screen auto-dimming with one click from the menu bar. Great for presentations, watching videos or extended discussions over something on your screen, Caffeine's much like the previously-posted Jiggler, but with fewer configuration options - just a single-click setting. Caffeine is a free download for Mac only. Thanks, Tinlad!

Weekend Project: Make a camera cozy

A camera cozy keeps your lens cap in place and protects your camera's lens and LCD screen, and making one yourself isn't that hard. Break out the sewing machine and an old pair of jeans and a sweater, and check out instructions from the Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories blog. You'll have just the right size battery compartments and style at the right price.

Shortcut Screencast Contest: Open Google Reader links in one keystroke

Reader Johnny uses a bookmarklet and a Firefox bookmark keyword to navigate directly to the next new post in his Google Reader subscription list. What magic is this, you ask? Hit the play button to see it in action. Johnny just earned himself an autographed copy of Lifehacker the book. Last call for screencasts! Submit yours to the Shortcut Screencast Contest.

UltraNewb: Share your Mac's internet connection wirelessly

So you're in a hotel room with your Mac laptop and your roommate's got a PC and there's one Ethernet jack. What do you do? You plug in your Mac and get to sharing the internet love, that's what you do! In System Preferences, go to Sharing and on the Internet tab, click the source (Ethernet) and the way the other computer will connect (for wifi, Airport). Then click the Start button.

This'll set up a wireless connection between your Mac and the PC, and the PC will be able to surf on it via your wired Mac. When I first enabled this in the hotel room here in Chicago, it told me I had "settings that might intefere" with the sharing. Turns out that "Personal Web Sharing" has to be enabled as well on the Services tab.

If you don't want everyone else in the hallway sucking down your bandwidth, click the "Airport Options" button to set a password on your ad-hoc network, before you hit the start button. Give your roomie the password and from there you're good to go.

Or you could just remember to bring a portable router. Either way.

Featured Firefox Extension: Page Saver captures web pages as images

Firefox only: If you capture screenshots of web pages often and don't want to go through the whole Alt-PrntScrn, Open Paint, Ctrl+C, Ctrl+S routine, the Page Saver Firefox extension's for you. Save the visible portion of a web page or the entire page to an image in one click with Page Saver, which is great for reporting web site bugs or just snapping a web page pic for posterity. Page Saver's got lots of configurable options, too, like the default filename for the image (with date variables for time-sensitive grabs), customizable keyboard shortcuts and a choice of PNG or JPEG file output format.

Once the extension's installed use the right-click context menu to capture an image. Unlike previously-mentioned ScreenGrab Page Saver does NOT require Java. Page Saver is a free download that works with and wherever Firefox does. Thanks, Susie and Jeremy!

Love And Money: Thanks to this week's sponsors

Thanks to this week's sponsors for the sprinkling of productivity dust they put into each and every ad: AT&T,, Casio, EBay UK, Mio, Pentax, Reyka Vodka, Sprint, TiVo, Toyota, Verizon, and Zune. Like to sprinkle dust? Advertise with Lifehacker.

Geek To Live: Manage your life via SMS

The command line's making a comeback, but the terminal window, keyword launcher and search box aren't the only textual command interfaces—your cell phone has joined the party. More and more modern webapps let you interact with your data via SMS, updating and retrieving your information in the cloud on the go. You don't need a fancy mobile phone with a full-blown web browser to get organized with your favorite webapps. Your cell phone with simple text messaging capabilities can be your powerful mobile command line.


Not only can Google Calendar text message you event notifications, but you can retrieve and add to your GCal by text messaging short code GVENT. Here are the commands:
  • Send "next" to get a notification regarding your next scheduled event.
  • Send "day" to get a notification containing all of your scheduled events for the present day.
  • Send "nday" to get a notification containing all of your events for the following day.
  • To add an event, send GVENT Lunch at Josie's 2PM Saturday.

Find out more on black belt scheduling with Google Calendar.

Twitter universal SMS interface

Lots of people don't find micro-blogging tool Twitter very useful, but several Twitter bots that interact with your favorite webapp make Twitter pretty powerful. Since Twitter offers an SMS interface (and AIM instant messaging for those of you who IM from the phone), the right Twitter bots can update your web-based data in third party apps using your cell phone.

For instance, if you are already SMS-enabled in Twitter and don't want to set up your cell phone in Google Calendar too, you can add events to your calendar by by direct messaging the gcal Twitter user commands, like this:

  • d gcal metting with paul tomorrow at 7pm
  • d gcal meeting with fred on monday, 25th of june at 9am

Here's where you can Twitter-enable your mobile.

Instant reminders

Speaking of Twitter bots and SMS reminders, when you want to text message your future self in 45 minutes to remember to feed the parking meter or put the laundry in the dryer, skip the more verbose GCal SMS format and direct message the Twitter timer bot instead. Message timer like this d timer 45 pay parking meter to get a wakeup call-style text back in the specified number of minutes (in this case, 45) with your reminder text.

To-do list

Speaking of Twitter bots, even more useful than the gcal bot is the rtm (Remember the Milk) bot, which can add, update and retrieve your todo list via SMS commands. Just send a direct message with the right command to the rtm Twitter user.

Here are some examples:

  • Add todo's to your list with task and optional time, like
    d rtm pick up the milk
    d rtm call jimmy at 5pm tomorrow
    d rtm return library books in 2 weeks.
  • Get today's todo list with d rtm !today
  • Retrieve all tasks for a specific context, with d rtm !getlist shopping.

Here are the details on Remember The Milk's full-featured Twitter bot.


The key to sticking to a budget is writing down exactly what you spent on what. If you use a web-based money manager, like Buxfer, you can SMS your expenditures to your account on the go so you don't forget you just dropped 8 bucks on those Buffy comics or that your roommate owes you a portion of the rent. Buxfer's SMS commands get pretty detailed - you can use them to add tags, amounts, and people who are in on a given transaction. Here are the details on SMS interaction with Buxfer.

Also, for some plain text/home server expense-tracking, check out Adam's AIM BudgetBot, which you can SMS with expenditures on the go.

Gas mileage

Another useful personal tracking tool with SMS support is the newly-hatched My Mile Marker, a gas purchase/mileage tracker that calculates your vehicle's MPG. My Mile Marker's SMS interface is also via the mymm Twitter bot. To record your gas and mileage info via text message from the pump, your message should be in the format d mymm [miles] [gallons] [price]. For example:
  • d mymm 15476 15.34 3.129 when the odometer reads 15476, and you filled up with 15.34 gallons at $3.129/gallon.


Finally, for other lookups like dictionary words, flight status, horoscopes, weather, sports scores or movie times, my favorite SMS search engine is 4INFO. Add 4INFO (44636) to your phone's contact list, and text 'em the word help to get back a list of usage examples.

If you're new to text messaging, check out our previously-posted power texting tips. How do you interact with your web-based information via text message? Let us know in the comments.

Gina Trapani, the editor of Lifehacker, has sore thumbs. Her weekly feature, Geek to Live, appears every Friday on Lifehacker. Subscribe to the Geek to Live feed to get new installments in your newsreader.

In Brief: Previously-mentioned Firefox file-sharing ...

Previously-mentioned Firefox file-sharing extension AllPeers has added support for BitTorrent, allowing users to download BitTorrent files directly with Firefox. I still prefer uTorrent, but this is definitely a step in the right direction for AllPeers.

Keyboard Shortcuts: 18 simple, intermediate, and advanced Photoshop shortcuts

photoshop-shortcuts.pngKeyboard shortcuts are the bread and butter of application productivity, and Photoshop is no exception. The Digital Photography School weblog highlights 18 useful Photoshop shortcuts for beginer, intermediate, and advanced users. The 18 shortcuts listed are far from exhaustive, though, so share your favorite Photoshop shortcuts in the comments. If you don't want to move to the keyboard every time you need to change tools, check out how I use speech recognition to swap tools in Photoshop.

Featured Windows Download: Migrate or back up your photos to another online service with Migratr

Windows only: Freeware application Migratr moves your digital photos from one photo sharing service to another, metadata and all. We're pretty into Flickr here at Lifehacker HQ, but Flickr's free account only serves up 100MB of storage space, so we can understand if, for example, you want to move to the 1GB pastures of an integrated Google service like Picasa Web Albums. But since no one wants to lose all the metadata they've plugged into another site, Migratr preserves all of this when you migrate your pics. Migratr supports importing and exporting to and from Flickr, 23HQ, Zoomr, SmugMug, and Picasa; it preserves each photo's title, description, tags, and albums. Migratr is freeware, Windows only.

Note Taking: Take quick notes with Jjot

Jjot is a lightning fast sticky note web application filled with smart features like archiving, search, and sharing. Jjot is very easy to use and understand (which is nice when you're tackling any new web application), but what really stands out about Jjot is its speed. Everything you do on Jjot is satisfyingly snappy, which is so refreshing in an age of bloated web apps. Granted, Jjot's speed might not be enough to make it stand out in the already overcrowded online note-taking and todo applications, but it's on my good list.

How To: Turn mailing lists into an RSS feed

Reader Damon subscribes to a lot of mailing lists that he doesn't need to reply to, but he doesn't like using his Gmail account to keep up with them. Instead, he wants to read his mailing lists in Google Reader. Here's how he works around this problem:

Set up a filter in Gmail so that it forwards e-mails coming from the mailing list to
Now, you can retrieve a feed from (replace whatever in the e-mail address and the feed address with something unique to make sure it's not already in use)

Couldn't get much simpler than that. Now not only can Damon read his lists in Google Reader (or any newsreader, for that matter), but they're still fully searchable within Gmail. Check out how another reader turned email to RSS with temporary email service DodgeIt.

DIY: Get rid of flies with a DIY fly trap

I went home to visit my family in Iowa last week, and I'll be damned if I didn't forget how completely annoying big and buzzy flies can be. (Who knew they had virtually no flies in Los Angeles?) DIY web site Instructables provides a guide for building your very own fly trap on-the-cheap using a variety of materials, from cans, screens, jars, string, and wire. We've already discussed how to build a fruit fly trap with a 2-liter bottle, but this Instructable describes several methods and provides detailed illustrations along with a bit of fly trapping theory that should ensure your fly trap will do all the trapping your heart desires.

Call For Submissions: We want to see your non-Firefox browser

We just finished giving our web browser darling, Firefox, four weeks of airtime in the Show Us Yours series because, frankly, we love it. However, believe it or not, there are actually other browsers crawling around the world wide internets. Next week's Show Us Yours call is all about non-Firefox browsers. We're talking Opera, Safari, Camino, Flock, Internet Explorer... whatever you roll with. Hit the jump for details.

If you want to submit your browser for next Thursday's Show Us Your Non-Firefox screenshot tour, here's how:

  1. Take a screenshot of your browser window: If you don't know how to take a screenshot of your browser, you can try one of the many great screenshot apps we've highlighted on Lifehacker. Windows users can try Window Clippings, and if you're a Mac user, our favorite is InstantShot. Both Windows and Mac users might want to take a look at the newly-released Jing. Make your screenshot as big as you want, but just remember, the biggest images can be in our gallery is 1280px wide, so try to use your space wisely. Also, if you've got something particularly cool going on in your browser, do your best to make sure we can see it in action.
  2. Write up a short description of the extensions/themes/add-ons/etc. that make your browser so great: It doesn't have to be long, but once we're all in love with what you've accomplished with your browser, we'll want to know how to do it to ours.
  3. Send your screenshot and description to us: Compose an email to tips at with the subject title Show Us Your Browser, then attach your screenshot and enter your description in the body of the email.

And that's that. We're looking forward to seeing what our readers are doing outside of the Firefox realm we've gotten so used to around here.

Tgif: This week's best posts

Lifehacker's post volume clogging up your feedreader? Get a digest of our best posts once a week using our Highlights feed. For a handful of posts per day, grab our daily top stories feed. This week's best posts include:

Writing: Why proofreading is important

write.pngUnfortunately, there's not a spellcheck program out there that will catch all the potential mistakes you can make while writing. That's why it's so imperative to proofread.

Daily Writing Tips, a blog that aims to improve your writing with simple how-to's, suggests that lack of proofreading not only makes the writer look a little ignorant when there are glaring grammatical or spelling mistakes, it's also a testament to the overall quality of what is written. How do you handle proofreading - is there a specific procedure you like to follow? Thoughts in the comments.

Photography: How to take good birthday party photos

birthday-cake.pngTaking good pictures at a birthday party - whether a child or adult - is made a little bit easier with photography blog Digital Photography School's thirteen tips. One of the best tips is this:

There's nothing worse than getting to the end of a party and realizing that while the camera was out that no one bothered (or had time) to pick it up and take some shots. Give someone the job and release that person from other party duties to just take photos. This way you're guaranteed to get some shots and will have something to remember the day with. It is also good because it means others are able to relax and enjoy the party.

I heartily agree. What are your favorite birthday party photography tips? Let's hear 'em in the comments.

Career: Making the most of walking away from your job

walking.pngSometime in your life, you're probably going to have to walk away from a bad job situation. Financial blog Wise Bread has written up a nice article on how to make this into an opportunity instead of a catastrophe.

There's got to be some level of acceptance first of all, because while anger and bitterness might seem like a good idea at the time, they don't work out well in the long run. Make sure you approach your boss, negotiate an appropriate severance package (if you can), get a recommendation, and.....walk away. What are your best tips when dealing with this kind of sticky wicket? Thoughts in the comments.

RSS: Create a timeline from RSS feeds with XTimeline

timelinex.pngXTimeline, a tool for making timelines about pretty much anything that tickles your fancy, also offers users the opportunity to create timelines from RSS feeds. All you need is the RSS feed URL and you're good to go.

This is a great visual way to connect with what you've been doing over a period of time; you can add images and tag each entry with appropriate keywords in order to better find it on your timeline. Once you make a timeline, you can embed it on your site or pass around your timeline's URL to friends.

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