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May 08 2013

22:30

6 Websites That Will Help You Find the Best Places To Live

best places to liveMoving is never an easy prospect. Not only do you have to be concerned about all of the different pros and cons about the house, apartment or flat where you’re going to live, but  you also have to worry about the community and whether it’s one of the best places to live. How safe is the neighborhood and what’s the crime rate? Are there other people around in your age group and with your interests? And if you have kids – how good is the school system and are there family things to do in the area?

The prospect of trying to learn all of these things about a new community, no matter where you’re moving to, can feel like an overwhelming task. There’s just too much information to collate and from too many different sources.  Many times in the past, MakeUseOf has had you covered when it comes to moving, from finding a decent flat to live in, to mobile apps that will help you find an apartment. In fact apartment hunting articles are a bit of a specialty here at MakeUseOf.

However, it’s one thing to find a house or an apartment to live in, but learning about a State, town or a community where you’re planning to live is a whole different story. At least if you currently live within driving distance, you could always drive into the area, hang out at the local businesses and talk to the folks that live in the area to learn a little more about what it’s like to live there. But, if you live too far away, getting the real story about a place becomes a whole lot harder.

Luckily, there are a number of useful websites that can really help you out when you’re looking for a new place to live.

Finding the Best Places to Live That Suits You

The bottom line is that when you’re looking the best place to live, you’re really looking for not only the comforts of a decent home or apartment, but you’re looking for a community of people and a general culture that meshes well with your own values and interests. Obviously, if you’re an avid golfer and you live in a community where there are a lot of fellow golfing enthusiasts, you’re a whole lot more likely to make friends and really enjoy living there.

The same can be true for religion, income level, available jobs, gender makeup, and a whole litany of other demographics that can mean the difference between finding a community where you fit in and thrive, or entering into a nightmare situation where you feel like an outsider in the community.

Research the Statistics

The truth is, almost every region of the world has some organization that is keeping track of the demographics and statistics for a particular area. For example, if you’re looking for a place to live in Europe and you’d like to know what areas suffer from pollution issues, what communities struggle with not having enough resources, or whether there are public health concerns, the European Commission is the place to go.
best places to live
The European Commission regularly conducts research on everything from GDP per capita and growth rate for countries, to where climate change is having the biggest impact, how dramatically demographics are changing in some areas, and other important social issues that will ultimately have an impact on whether or not you like where you choose to live.

The Commission provides very useful information in simple formats, so at a glance you can see the statistics that matter. For example, click on the link for reports on Socio-economic development throughout Europe, and you’ll find a table showing the change of GDP per capita and growth rates from year to year. Seeing the trends can help you identify a country that offers a lot of promise when it comes to economic opportunities.

You can also click on “Graph” to see details by country at a quick glance – a lot easier than trying to pour over the numbers in the table to figure things out.
best places to live in the world

Actually, my favorite tool at this site is the color-coded map, which lets you select the data that you want to see as a comparison between different areas. This shows you how living in a certain region may put you in a location with moderate economic growth, but if it borders on other areas with a poor economy, it could result in increasing crime rates.
best places to live in the world
So there are a lot of factors you have to consider, but the Commission offers a whole lot of that information all in one place on their website. It’s definitely the first place to go if you’re researching the best places to live in the world.

If you live in the U.S. and education is a primary factor for you when house or apartment hunting, then the Department of Education Dashboard is definitely the first place you’ll want to go. This dashboard – similar to the European Commission website – provides links to graphical tools that’ll show you important indicators of a good or bad school system for certain states in the U.S.
best places to live in the world

For example, one map gives you a quick glance at which states have the higher percentage of 3 and 4 year old kids enrolled in preschool (an indication that the community values education).
quality of life
There’s a lot of other data you can research here, such as states with the highest percentage of 8th graders proficient in Math or Reading, states with the highest percentage of Freshmen that graduate high school in 4 years, and more. All of these things are indications of a strong school system, and can help you choose what state you may want to live in if education is a top priority for you and your family.

Another great international resource is a website called the OECD Better Life Index. This is a very creative online tool that lets you rate about 11 indicators of things you value the most in life. As you select options, an ultra-cool graphical symbol for each country shows you how the countries “measure up” in those areas by displaying a color-coded petal for that particular value.

I believe by “measure up” the creators meant which countries have the highest number of respondents that selected a setting for that value that was closest to yours. As those country settings are more aligned with yours, you’ll see the position of that country’s “flower” float higher or lower on the screen, indicating that country is a better choice for you.
quality of life
Another site that gives you an interesting breakdown of issues surrounding certain countries that may matter a great deal to you if you’re moving internationally is a site called Earth Pulse. Earth Pulse is really interesting to explore, because it gives you a much higher-level view of what’s going on in the world versus many of the other tools.
quality of life
You can see where most of the growth is occurring for things like urban populations, how plentiful natural resources are in the area, what sort of impact people are having on the natural environment there, and how wide the gap is between the rich and the poor in that part of the world.

Some of these things matter to some people, while other people really may not care about a lot of them. The great thing about tools like this is that you can hone in on exactly what issues matter the most to you, and see what areas of the world seem to deal with those issues better.

One tool that is more focused on the United States is an online tool called Find Your Spot.  This is actually a very thorough quiz that will gather a wide assortment of information about you, in preparation for matching you with your ideal “spot” in the country. It’s sort of like a dating site, I guess. Except you’re looking to date, you know, a community.

Okay, that didn’t come out quite right.


Anyway, start on the first page and just power your way through the Find Your Spot quiz. It really isn’t all that time-consuming, but if you want the results to be accurate, you’ll want to take the time to make sure you’re being completely honest with your answers.

You’ll be asked everything from your climate preference to your religious beliefs. It isn’t really 100% clear how the algorithm ties a specific city or town in the U.S. to your particular answers, but it’s either a very complicated and brilliant calculation, or it’s a gimmick. Either way, the results that I ended up with were pretty much spot on I think. I’d love to live in any of the places listed in my results (mostly in California, mind you).

When you click on any of the locations, you can see a pretty useful breakdown of the statistics for that city, like average rainfall and snowfall, housing costs, and the cost of living.

I don’t know if I’d base my entire decision about moving on just the one tool, but it’s certainly a great place to start.
The final tool to mention here is one called Maps Of The World. This is actually a website focused on all kinds of maps in great volume, but there’s one particular map that deserves mention here, and that’s the Top Ten Countries by Highest Quality of Life.
best places to live
I don’t know if you’d want to go so far as to buy the map to post it up on your wall as inspiration for your move, but it does have a useful color coded legend that displays the general “quality of life” for different countries. Dark blue is the highest quality of life, and light yellow is the lowest.

In case you’re curious about the best places to live in the world, Norway tops the list on this map, and interestingly enough, Germany and Sweden round out the bottom (at least for the short list of countries rated on this map.

So, are you in the process of looking for a new place to live? Have you used any of these or other tools out there to help you figure out where you want to go? Share your own resources and experiences in the comments section below!

Image Credit: Young Woman Moving Box via Shutterstock

The post 6 Websites That Will Help You Find the Best Places To Live appeared first on MakeUseOf.

April 02 2013

19:01

4 Facebook Alternatives For Couples & Families

family alternative to facebookloathe Facebook. Actually, I loathe what Facebook has become. No longer is it a useful tool for connecting with others. Instead, it’s polluted with obnoxious macro images and tacky quotes followed by comments that typically say “so true”. Admittedly, I keep certain individuals on my Facebook friend list for the same exact reason that I stop and say hello to acquaintances at the grocery store: to be polite. Unfortunately, their virtual shopping carts often get in the way of the people who I actually want to stay close to.

For instance, there’s my girlfriend, and we share humorous videos with each other on nearly constant basis. Then there are my parents. Naturally, I have a few cousins here and there, and I even have a few great-uncles and great-aunts. If I could get rid of the fluff and stay connected only with them, that would be a-okay. After a bit of research, I discovered that a few family alternative to Facebook exist. Read on for the benefit of your social media experience.

Couple

family alternative to facebook

Couple is something that’s a bit more in line for those of you who have a romantic partner. Besides its incorporation of a few groan-inducing mushy features, it’s actually very useful. Packaged in the form of a mobile app, Couple allows you to share photos with your SO, schedule dates on a shared calendar, and even create lists and memos.

Regarding the mush, it has the ability to let you and your lover share a “ThumbKiss” – that is, you press your thumb against your phone’s screen, and a thumbprint will appear in a relative location on your partner’s device. The idea is to have you both press your thumbs on the same part of the phone, allowing for a rather technologically tender moment.

Path

alternative to facebook

Path expands into life beyond your relationship and into the area of close friends (however, you could likely use it as a couple). Once again, this comes in the form of a mobile app, and it allows for a more streamlined social experience. For comparison, imagine Facebook as if it’s your local favorite restaurant and Path as if it’s the corner coffee shop.

Both serve food and drinks, but the as you can tell, the respective crowds are quite different. Path allows for nearly the same exact functions as Facebook, but it’s free from distractions. As described by its developers, it’s a personal journal – a path for your life.

Family HQ

alternative to facebook

Moving on into the world of family (something that we all occasionally know and love), there’s Family HQ. Developed for only your closest loved ones, Family HQ openly focuses on the concept of “narrowcasting”. In short, narrowcasting is the complete and total opposite of broadcasting.

With broadcasting, you send out information to a large group with the idea that your message will be picked up by those who want to listen. On the other hand, with narrowcasting, you send out information to a small group with the idea that your message is important to each member. It’s simple stuff, really. With hefty privacy policies and a focus on your own virtual castle, Family HQ could be a great way to stay connected on a more personal level.

Rootsy

family alternative to facebook

Rootsy – bearing a clever name, mind you – stretches the limits of social networking by incorporating family trees and various elements of internal record-keeping. Rather than just keeping you connected to the surviving members of your clan, the website keeps you connected, well, to your roots.

The service is still a social network through and through, but instead of one, giant web, it’s comprised of several mini-networks for individual families. Furthermore, it pushes forward the whole idea of tracking your family history, offering areas to add important images and family stories.

Conclusion

So there you have it, folks. It is very possible to get past the clutter and connect with the ones that matter most. It may just take a bit of initiative on your part and the willingness of others. Think of it as a pioneering type of movement – to venture beyond the world of Facebook! Besides, it gives you an excuse to get rid of hacked accounts and cluttered walls. You may even decide to permanently delete your account.

Even still, Facebook could easily incorporate some of these sites’ features. Perhaps a separate feed or an option to hide everyone that isn’t related to you at the click of a button. We’ll just have to see.

What do you think? Do you believe these are good family alternative to Facebook to stay connected with those who are closest to you? What other services do you use?

The post 4 Facebook Alternatives For Couples & Families appeared first on MakeUseOf.

September 01 2012

00:30

How To Build Your Family Tree With MyHeritage.com

MyHeritage iconFrom the day we’re born, each of us becomes a part of a family tree that is often larger than we imagined. The personal genealogy site, MyHeritage.com is a powerful, and easy-to-use set of tools  that helps you keep track of your family heritage and kinships by providing tools for building and growing personal family trees, with timelines, photo sharing, and event web pages. MyHeritage looks to be the largest site of its kind and it includes a good basic free plan to get you started.

Founded in 2005, MyHeritage has over 64 million registered members from around the world. Each member of the site gets pages for building family trees, family event pages, timelines, memory card games, charts, and geographical displays, and several other practical features and artifacts.

Building Your Family Tree

MyHeritage provides a PC-based Family Tree Builder, but since I’m a full fledged Mac user, I used the site’s online tree builder application.

MyHeritage familytree

MyHeritage gets you started with building your family tree right when you register. As a site manger, after you provide your name and that of your parents’ names, you’ve just developed your first branch.

Myheritage 10

The basic resources you will need to build your genealogy tree are family photos (preferably portrait shots, or crop photos to fit) birth and death dates, and knowledge of kin relationships. As you grow your tree, you can add other personal information for each member of your immediate and extended family. You can also email and invite members to your site to help build the tree and add data.

Adding Branches

Once you’re in the family tree builder, you continue by clicking on your name or one of your parent’s names to add another branch, e.g., your partner, brother, son or daughter.

Myheritage 9

For each family member on your tree, you add their photo, name (married and maiden names if applicable), birthdate; and indicate whether they are alive or deceased.

Myheritage 8

Don’t worry about filling in all the personal information in order to get started. MyHeritage makes it easy to come back and edit profiles as you go along. Depending on your family size and how wide you want to develop your tree, this project could take a several days or months. And because it’s online, your tree is persevered for other family members to extend the branches. Extended family members will probably want to build their own trees and connect to yours, which of course can be done in MyHeritage.

Myheritage 7

As you might expect in a web application like MyHeritage, each person on your tree gets his and her own profile, in which additional information (place of birth, additional photos, and baptism) can included.

Myheritage 4

All the family members and dates you add to your tree also become part of a family timeline. The latter feature is part of the Premium package, but you do get a preview of what it looks like. The site also uses your family data to build a report that includes where family members live, their ages, who married whom, divorces, and the names of children.

Myheritage 3

Mobile Apps

MyHeritage also developed mobile apps for the iPad, iPhone, Google play. These apps however don’t include a tree builder. They sync with your online family site, and are for displaying family trees and sharing photos. I’m quite sure in future updates the apps may allow users to edit basic information on the fly.

Myheritage 2

MyHeritage has Basic, Premium and PremiumPlus plans. The basic free option allows for limited storage of 250 photos—more than enough to get your immediate clan tree started. The premium plans are for when you’re ready to store lots of photos and make use of MyHeritage’s wide variety of other features. There are options for families to collectively pay for a plan.

Myheritage plans

There’s probably an unlimited amount of features that could be added to the site, but for now it works well as being a clean, easy-to-use web and desktop application, but let us know what you think of MyHeritage. It is a site that will be cherished by family members for years to come.

And for a review of other family genealogy sites, check out Ryan’s Top 10 Free Genealogy Websites to Find Ancestors


July 27 2012

20:00

How To Build Your Own Baby Monitor

If you’re a recent parent, you’ve probably considered getting some sort of baby monitor. You possibly considered the utility of a video monitor and then you may or may not have balked at the exorbitant price tags they come with. If you choose not to pay for such an expensive item, yet still like the idea of having a video monitor for your baby or pet, then this article is for you.

There are dozens of great ways to set up a baby monitor using webcams, old computers and a bit of geek know-how. We’ll go through the simplest method in detail, then give you some other ideas you can use to fuel your creativity if you prefer.

The Skype Baby Monitor

The Skype baby monitor is very easy to set up and only relies on you having a spare webcam, preferably with a microphone inside, and an old computer handy. If you have an old laptop or a Mac mini lying around these would be ideal.

Firstly, on whatever computer you like, set up a Skype account for your baby. You’ll need to make sure it’s kept as private as possible and that the following things are set up for their account.

  • Add yourself and other close relatives as a contact.
  • Video Set-Up tab: Enable Skype video, set to start video automatically and to automatically receive video calls from people in your contact list.
  • Calls tab: Set to auto-answer calls.
  • Privacy tab: Limit calls and chats to only people in your contact list.

In the baby’s room, set up your computer and start Skype, logging in as the baby, and check that any on-board sound has been muted. Adjust the webcam so that the baby can be seen and heard easily by the caller. Ensure any relatives who require access have added the baby as a Skype contact and vice-versa.

This set-up means that you can leave your Skype baby monitor on and only the relatives in the contact list can call. These relatives will instantly get a video feed of the baby whenever they call.

Note that because you can use Skype these days on mobile phones and tablets this option is extremely versatile. You could easily keep an eye on the baby while you’re in the kitchen or the shed getting something useful done. Also, if one parent is away for business this could be a neat way of checking in on occasion.

Other Baby Monitor Ideas

Of course, if you have the old webcam and computer lying about, there are many other ways you can set up a baby monitor depending on your budget, needs, patience and geek skills. Here’s a few more ideas:

  • Set up a Google+ account and try using Google Hangouts similarly to the Skype method. Note: This account could get deleted if Google found out.
  • Get a webcam which doesn’t need to be attached to a computer and connect it directly to your wireless network. If you use a dedicated router for your baby monitor you’ll be able to take this with you when you visit friends and family.
  • Leave an old mobile phone near your baby’s crib. Set it to be on mute and speaker-phone so it picks up baby noises but won’t wake them up. Call the old mobile phone from your current phone whenever you want to check in.
  • You could also set up a baby monitor quickly using your iPhone as the camera with Air Cam Live Video Lite for iPhone and the corresponding software for your desktop.

More Baby Articles

If you’re browsing for cool tips for your baby, check out these articles:

What’s your favourite idea for a baby monitor using regular hardware you already own? Tell us in the comments.

Image Credit: Shutterstock


July 24 2012

21:31

6 Excellent Wedding Registry Websites

wedding registry websiteWeddings are one of the hallmark moments in the life of any person, regardless of culture or nation. For many couples, having the “perfect wedding” is an extremely high priority – and often, perfection implies expense. But what can you do when you don’t have that much money to spare even for a wedding?

For a long time, the solution has been the wedding registry. Many couples end up going out and signing up with a department store to set up a registry of items that they would like. Wedding guests can then use the registry to help them decide on a wedding gift – after all, it’s always better to get the bride and groom something that they want.

And as technology has evolved, so too has the wedding registry. Nowadays, you can sign up with online registries that simplify the entire process. All you need is a computer with Internet access and you’ll be good to go. Keep reading to learn about the best wedding registry-related services on the web.

Knack Registry

wedding registry website

Knack Registry is a wedding registry website that can be thought of as an “all-in-one” registry. It provides a lot of flexibility for couples who want a variety of items and packages on their registry list. Knack supports all online retailers so you can add even the most obscure items.

For those couples seeking unique items, Knack has their own exclusive catalog with items you won’t find anywhere else. If items aren’t your thing and you’d rather have help towards funding a honeymoon, Knack can do that, too. Guest purchasers can donate cash towards whatever you register for, whether it be a weeklong cruise, an airline flight to the Bahamas, or even money towards that new house.

Gift Registry 360

wedding registry sites

Like Knack, Gift Registry 360 is a well-known online registry that consolidates all of your registry needs into one simple service. Though you can add any items from any online retailer, Gift Registry 360 is partnered with a number of providers, including Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Target, Kohl’s, Amazon, and more. If you’re already registered with one of their partners, you can easily sync their lists with your list on Gift Registry 360.

One cool feature of Gift Registry 360 is their “Styleboards” feature. With it, you can mix and match different products inside a virtual room so you can see how certain items would fit together. This helps you create a registry that works well together, both aesthetically and practically.

Honeyfund

wedding registry sites

When Josh and Sara Margulis couldn’t find a satisfactory honeymoon registry, they went and created their own. Honeyfund is a free service that focuses on helping couples build up a sufficient fund for that perfect honeymoon. There is no signup fee and there are no transaction fees–just the way it should be for couples already pinned down with expense after expense.

Using the website is easy. List the items and services that are necessary for your dream honeymoon: airfare, champagne bottles, hotel costs, dinner reservations, anything! Guests can either purchase those items for you directly or just send in their cash which arrives directly in your own account.

Upon Our Star

wedding registry sites

Would you rather receive cash over physical goodies? Some people may find that to be tacky, but others would gladly hand over a few bucks instead of having to select from a pool of items. If you just want straight up money, then Upon Our Star may be the service for you.

With Upon Our Star, couples make a list of “wishes.” These wishes can be funding for a honeymoon, or money towards a down payment, or even a jumpstart to their future children’s college funds. Whatever the wish, the guest simply donates their money to a particular wish and they’re done.

Deposit A Gift

wedding registry sites reviews

Deposit A Gift is a service similar to Upon Our Star in that they handle a cash registry. Create a list of wedding-related ways that you could use money and guests can make contributions toward those ideas directly. It’s as easy and simple as they come.

According to a few personal anecdotes, Deposit A Gift has great customer service. If that’s something that you appreciate, then you should definitely try this one out.

I Do Foundation

wedding registry website

Now here’s a wedding registry website that is truly unique. With I Do Foundation, you can set up something called a “Charity Registry” where donations will be directly submitted to a charity of your choosing. This is especially awesome when you don’t really need any new appliances or household items but still want to provide a way for your guests to contribute.

If you’d rather not use their Charity Registry feature, then you can still set up a normal registry through I Do Foundation with one of their partner stores. When you do, up to 5% of all the gifts purchased through I Do Foundation will be donated to charity. Definitely a great way to keep up the good deeds while planning for your wedding.

Know of any other online wedding registries? Have you ever used one? Share your thoughts and experiences with us in the comments. We’d love to hear how it turned out.

Image Credit: Wedding Flowers Image Via Shutterstock


April 24 2012

19:01

The Pros & Cons Of Having Your Parents & Other Family As Facebook Friends [Opinion]

According to Facebook, more than 800 million people now actively use the social networking giant. You don’t know most of them, of course – but some are very close to you. Even your grandmother might now be on Facebook this moment, playing Bejeweled and uploading pictures of her cat.

Family members will usually request to be your Facebook friend for obvious reasons. But should you actually go through with it, or should you keep your friends list to, well, friends?

Pro: Never Forget A Birthday Again

Oh, boy. Yesterday was aunt Jen’s birthday, and you didn’t send her a card. Now she’s going to tell your mother, who’s going to guilt trip you into sending a belated birthday email. Or she’ll just act snarky at the next family get-together.

Remembering birthdays can be a huge annoyance, and Facebook can save your bacon by sending you notifications. Not every family member will care about this, but for some, a forgotten birthday is a major social no-no. And for crying out loud, you don’t want to take the chance of forgetting your parents’ birthdays, do you? You’d never hear the end of that.

Con: No One Will Forget Your Birthday

Oh, boy. It’s your birthday. And now you have a constant crawl of happy birthday wishes from everyone with the tiniest bit of common blood. Some are even trying to send you Facebook gifts or asking if you’d like to go out for drinks. You probably do have plans to go out for drinks – just not with your uncle.

And then there are the after-photos. What happens when grandma sees the photo of you drunk at two in the morning, gyrating your pelvis at a monument commemorating local civic leaders? You might not even know she saw it until you find an Alcoholics Anonymous pamphlet in your Christmas stocking.

You can police these photos if you change your Facebook settings so you have to approve being tagged in photos. This can become annoying as well – perhaps you’d be better off if grandma wasn’t a Facebook friend in the first place.

Pro: Keep In Touch With The Family

Some people, particularly those who use Facebook the most, gather great joy from building and maintaining family ties. Do you want to miss the Corvette your dad bought to celebrate his mid-life crisis or the photos your sister took during her first spring break?

Facebook isn’t the only way to do this, of course – but considering its prevalence, it has replaced a lot of other methods of sharing. A decade ago a lot of people in my family were emailing photos taken on digital cameras. Today, they just upload them on to Facebook. It’s quick, easy and complete.

Con: The Family Keeps In Touch With You

Family is supposed to be supportive during rough times. In reality, those closest to us can often be the people we want to hear from the least – at least for a time. This is where Facebook’s advantages can turn around and bite you.

Did you lose your job? Are you dating someone new? Have you broken up with someone? You’ll be sure to receive no shortage of messages and wall posts about it. If you happen to live in a family full of people who are entirely reasonable, sane and supportive, good for you! The rest of us have at least one person who shares our last name but lacks our sanity – and we’d rather they not comment on the latest twist in the story of life.

Pro:  Read Your Family’s Opinions & Thoughts

At some point Facebook turned into a personal soapbox. Status updates rarely are used to actually provide an update on your status. Instead they’re used to rant about the guy who swerved in front of us, complain about political candidates and share personal victories.

This all may seem a little narcissistic, but it’s not a bad thing. By giving people a platform to share our thoughts it provides another way for people to become closer. I live 3,000 miles away from my mom, and though I talk to her about every week, we rarely have time to talk about politics or local news or TV shows. Her updates help me learn things I may not have otherwise known, at least until I flew back home for a visit.

Con: The Family Reads Your Opinions & Thoughts….

…..and that’s great, so long as you and your family agree on most issues. But what happens if you are pro-choice and your dad believes abortions are a mortal sin? Any article or thought you might put on Facebook about the subject opens the door for an online argument or a disapproving comment at family dinner.

Having your family members as your Facebook friends can start to feel like a liability. You might find yourself refraining from posting articles or making comments freely because you don’t want to deal with the fallout at home. This defeats the democratization that supposedly makes the Internet a tool for free thought and leaves you unable to share thoughts easily with your friends.

Conclusion

There’s no easy answer to the question of family on Facebook. It’s a two-way street. Every positive point has a potential negative that comes with it.

Your family will be the determining factor. Some families are more dysfunctional than others, and those that are dysfunctional in real life tend to have issues on Facebook, as well. If you’re afraid that one of your family members is going to go on a tirade the next time you post about this or that political issue, don’t friend them.

If only it were that easy for everyone. You may find yourself in a situation where you don’t want to friend a family member, but the person takes personal offense to the fact you don’t want to friend them. This is a good place to draw a line in the sand if they frequently pressure you, but if you don’t want to deal with the drama you can check out our Facebook privacy guide and our article about using the new privacy controls found on Facebook’s timeline.

Let us know if you friend your family or not on Facebook, and if so, whether it has been a success or a nightmare.


March 18 2012

18:31

3 More Ways To Track Your iPhone & Other iOS Devices

track my iphoneHaving just received notification of my 4G iPad shipping, I decided to look into some better ways of tracking my mobile devices. Right now, I’m a steadfast user of Find My iPhone - both my wife and I use it to log into each others accounts and figure out when we’re coming home, or where we are when trying to meet up in town. But what’s the best way to track multiple devices?

Find My iPhone is perfect for when your iPhone is stolen – you can easily lock, sound an alarm and message, or wipe the phone. In fact, we used it to successfully get my wife’s iPhone back after it was stolen from her workplace. But for daily use with multiple devices or user accounts, it’s far from ideal. You need to be able to access the other person’s iCloud account for a start – something your spouse or children may not be happy with. You have remember quite a few passwords; and you can only track one device or user at any single moment.

Find My Friends

Though written off by most iPhone users as a bonus Apple app that no one uses, Find My Friends [iTunes link] allows you to track multiple people effectively once you’re in their circle of trust. You needn’t access each others accounts; on the downside, it’s easy for users to disable tracking so it might not be what you’re looking for in a family situation.

There are however some really nice features offered in Find my Friends that distinguishes it beyond a simple extension of Find my iPhone :

  • Links to message, FaceTime, or get directions to the friend’s location from where you are now.
  • Ability to show all your friends on the same map – great for organising an impromptu meetup (though I really doubt if anyone actually does this in the real world).

If you’re worried about your own phone being stolen and the thief being able to track your children, the app requires you to log into your own iCloud account upon launch.

track my iphone

Sosumi – Find My iPhone for The Desktop

Sosumi (named after the default system alert sound on OS7) is a free and open source desktop app for tracking multiple accounts and multiple devices. The app remembers your passwords too, so you need only authorize your iCloud account once. There are no fancy social features like FaceTime integration, but you can send a message with optional alarm. You can’t shut down devices or lock them though – that feature is reserved for Find my iPhone only.

One handy function not offered elsewhere though is some additional status information displayed for each device – notably the device type, charging status, and battery level.

track iphone

Life 360

I’ll be doing a full review of the Life 360 free app and all its advanced features next time, but in terms of basic family member tracking, this is an excellent (did I mention free?) solution with online web app version too. In addition, it can run on both Android and iPhone devices – that alone might be the deciding factor for you.

Unlike the other two Apple-only methods, this doesn’t require an iCloud account (you need to register a separate Life 360 account).

track my iphone

One thing to consider is that the app needs location services to be permanently enabled which may drain the battery life significantly. You disable background tracking, without which you can either request a status update from a family family (“James wants to know if you are safe”), or the family member can check in themselves once they reach somewhere (one button click).

UK users – this is very much a US-centric app and contains details of sex offenders that may give a false positive in your area, apparently matching by street address only.

Summary

Find my Friends is adequate in my Apple-only family for just tracking the wife’s and my mobile devices; and the desktop Sosumi app is certainly handy to have around – but Life 360 certainly offers a lot more functionality for family safety. Stay tuned for a full review of the advanced features, or download it now to try it out yourself.

Let us know in the comments which app you prefer to keep tabs on your iOS devices, and why.


February 22 2012

01:31

February 02 2012

00:31

6+ Best Apps To Order Pizza From Your iPhone [iOS]

Ordering food online is by far one of the most convenient ways of securing a meal, and using an app on your iPhone is even simpler. Waiting in line or being put on hold on the phone are a thing of the past with more and more restaurants becoming online-order-friendly every day.

The apps featured in this article are tried and tested methods of ordering your favourite pizza with minimum fuss. Of course some are designed to order all kinds of take-away, so if you’re craving Indian, Chinese, Mexican or something else entirely you’ll only be limited by your local selection. I can tell I’m going to be hungry by the time I’ve finished this.

Pizza Hut (US & AU)

Regardless of what you think of Pizza Hut food, there’s no arguing that they’ve got one of the best mobile apps, at least in the US anyway. Not only do they let you order food and locate restaurants but they also provide a bit of fun, allowing you to construct your meal from scratch as part of the process (or use the app in demo mode without ordering).

Don’t worry, there are quick ways of ordering too (favourites and previous orders) so if you’re in a hurry there’s no messing around.

Currently Pizza Hut have US and Australian apps, though the US edition is better kitted out at the moment. I’d also expect the UK and other parts of Europe to get a similar app before long. US residents can see the full line-up of apps (including Android, iPad and Windows Phone 7 versions) here.

Download: Pizza Hut US @ App Store
Download: Pizza Hut Australia @ App Store

GrubHub (US)

If you’re lucky to live in one of the 19 supported US cities then your pizza and other take-away needs will be satisfied with the official GrubHub app. Featuring more than 20,000 eateries from Los Angeles to Miami to New York, this app will serve up all kinds of food based on the local selections.

The app is loaded with features including GPS location detection, multiple address storage, the ability to quickly order past purchases with a few taps and the ability to save payment information for an even quicker checkout process. GrubHub also has an Android app which can be found here.

Download: GrubHub @ App Store

Snapfinger (US)

Snapfinger isn’t just another restaurant ordering and delivery app, but a listing for pretty much every restaurant local to you. What this means is that though you can’t order from all of the restaurants featured on the service, you do get fairly quick access to menus, phone numbers, prices and the full local selection when choosing where and what to eat.

Ideally this should help you make a more informed decision, even if you have to make a phone call to get what you want. That said, it’s easy to order from those restaurants that are compatible with the service, and of course you can search by cuisine in order to get your pizza fix. The app features more than 500,000 restaurant listings, local eatery discovery and handy features like repeat ordering and directions.

Download: Snapfinger @ AppStore

Menulog (AU & NZ)

I’m currently living in Melbourne, Victoria and have found this service incredibly useful over the past few months. Menulog makes it really easy to order a pizza from the finest local participating restaurants. By now I’ve found my favourite places and meals so ordering takes no time at all. Unfortunately the app is only available on the Australian app store, so my UK account is useless.

Never mind because it plugs into the same great service, providing the same selection depending on where you are. SMS confirmations are usually here within a minute or two, and new businesses are added each week. Now, if only the app were available internationally – for some reason the New Zealand edition is…

Download: Menulog (Home Delivery and Takeaway) @ App Store

HungryHouse (UK)

Unfortunately the UK’s selection of food ordering apps is a bit disappointing at the moment. There are great services like Just-Eat, which sets up many independent businesses with a way to make money online but no iPhone app. Step in HungryHouse, a mobile version of the popular website that features restaurants and deliveries from all over the country.

The service is still growing and at present operates best in large urban areas including London, the Midlands and the North West (Liverpool and Manchester). View more than 3,500 menus, filter by cuisine or simply use your iPhone’s GPS to find nearby restaurants. Even if the service isn’t up and running near you yet it might be worth keeping an eye on it.

Download: HungryHouse @ App Store

Domino’s (US, UK & AU)

Last but not least (or is it?) comes Domino’s, featuring 3 separate apps for 3 separate territories – the US, Britain and Australia. Domino’s Pizza is an entirely subjective experience, so if you like it you’re bound to enjoy being able to order it from your phone. The US version (pictured) appears to exhibit the best design, with the recently launched Aussie version looking considerably better than its British cousin.

Of course all of the apps allow you to order pizza, sides and whatever else you want from Domino’s. That’s the point here, though the UK version does seem to be poorly designed and inferior to the other two.

Download: Domino’s Pizza USA @ App Store
Download: Domino’s UK @ App Store
Download: Domino’s Australia @ App Store

Conclusion

If you thought ordering food in your web browser was easy then your iPhone will delight you. The ability to order anywhere you like, choose delivery times or simply plan ahead is great. Of course this could all have been accomplished with a simple phone call, but that’s no fun now is it?

Hopefully more and more services will launch mobile apps (especially in the UK, which already has some leading online ordering services – but few apps) in the near future to provide an even better selection than we’ve got now.

Do you know of any great apps for ordering pizza? How about web services? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Image credit: Shutterstock


January 18 2012

01:31

5 Best Websites With Fun Activities For Toddlers

fun activities for toddlersIf you’re looking online for fun activities for toddlers, you’ve probably realised that there’s a lot of garbage out there. So many sites have found their way to the top of the Google results which are so busy being SEO-friendly that they’ve managed to fail to have any useful content on their page. It’s a nightmare to sort through!

So, today we’ve pulled together this list of blogs and websites for fun toddler activities for you. Some sites made the list because of how fun and usable their content is, while others have made the list by having a good variety of content for toddlers on hand. This list should have something for you, whether you’re looking for educational fun, outdoor activities, printable pages, crafts or recipes.

1. Quirky Momma Kids Activities Blog

The Quirky Momma Kids Activities blog is a vibrant, interesting blog of kids activities and they make sure to dedicate sections of the blog to showcasing the best activities for each age group, making it easy to find things for your toddler to do.

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These writers know exactly how to make up activities designed for the precise needs of growing kids. The toddler games focus on sensory activities, fine motor control, discovery, sorting games and building toys.

2. Play Based Learning

Play Based Learning is written by an Australian duo of early childhood educators, hoping to inspire parents and preschool teachers alike. Their colourful site is full of great ideas for toddler play which can be used by families or groups with more resources.

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3. Today Is Fun

Two dads have come together to create Today Is Fun, making the site easy to search or browse by age so it’s easy to find something for your toddler or their older siblings to do. The activity ideas are quite creative and educational and they are colourfully displayed. It’s also possible to browse by handy categories such as “No Props Needed” and “Good For Bathtime”.

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4. The Crafty Crow

The Crafty Crow is an aggregator site of children’s crafts with browsable categorising and a decent amount of toddler ideas. They feature and link to great ideas by smaller bloggers. While aggregators have a little less personality than a dedicated blog, they are certainly good at delivering exposure to numerous bloggers and ideas that may otherwise have not been seen by the reader.

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5. Filth Wizardry

Filth Wizardry is a one-writer blog, so will never compete with the bigger blogs on the number or frequency of posts, yet it has a lot to give in quality. The charm of this blog is in the belief that kids are messy and that messy fun is great. There are some lovely art and craft ideas and ways to get involved with nature in this blog and it’s possible to browse by useful labels such as “at the kitchen table”.

fun activities for toddlers

More Reading For Toddler Fun

These articles might also come in handy for your children:

These websites will offer you a wealth of fun activities for toddlers between them, ensuring you’ve always got a few easy, educational ideas for play up your sleeve. Have fun!

Since there are a great many fantastic blogs and websites for toddler activities out there, we do encourage you to link to your favourites in the comments and tell us why they are the best.


December 15 2011

00:31

3 Free Apps To Help You Get Ready For Ski & Snowboard Season [iPhone]

Winter is right around the corner. This year, I am taking up a new hobby. I am going to start skiing. I have played hockey for the last 15 years, so I am no stranger to winter sports, but skiing is a completely new beast for me. For the first time in my life, I am actually looking forward to seeing snow, and generally, I hate snow more than anyone else in the world.

Since I am a giant nerd, the first thing I did when I decided to ski was to look for iPhone apps dedicated to the sport. It turns out there are a few good ones out there that provide some incredibly useful information for skiers and snowboarders. They offer different features, ranging from mountain conditions to equipment buying guides. With these apps, you will be ready to hit the slopes. Just do not drop your phone in the snow; I can tell you from first hand experience, that will not end well.

Ski & Snow Report

Ski & Snow Report is an awesome application for tracking the conditions at your favorite mountains. This is especially useful at this time of the year, when most of the mountains are still closed and are just getting ready to open. With this application, you can easily store all of your favorite mountains.

The app also has a “nearby” feature, which allows you to check the conditions of the mountains within a reasonable distance of your current location. Not only is this useful for finding out the conditions of the mountains, but you can also use it to find spots to ski that you may not have heard of. Obviously, if you are out of the town, you will probably not be familiar with the mountains in the area, so having an app like this will help a great deal.

The last awesome feature this app has is push alerts. It will tell you whenever one of your favorite mountains receives a fresh layer of powder. You can set the threshold for how much snow it needs to receive before it sends you an alert.

On the Snow Gear Guide

This is an application for finding your new ski or snowboard equipment. After all, you cannot be ready to hit the mountain if you do not have all of the proper equipment. Gear Guide makes it easy to find exactly what you need based on your skill level, gender and sport (ski or snowboard).

When you first start the application, it will ask you the aforementioned questions and show you the equipment that is right for you based on your answers. After all, a new skier does not need to go out and spend hundreds of dollars on high-end skis, when a middle of the road pair would more than suffice.

In addition to the gear guide, this app offers videos and a glossary. The glossary is especially helpful for new skiers who are not familiar with all of the jargon used by more experienced snow sport participants.

AllSnow

AllSnow is another mountain tracking application, similar to Ski Report. It has the ability to find out the status at local mountains. It also tells you lift ticket prices for the mountains you are looking at and provides a link to their website.

They offer complete trail maps of most major mountains. This is very useful if you want to know what kinds of runs the mountains have before you go. The application also has a premium feature, where you can buy runs for various mountains and use GPS to track yourself. It provides information such as time and top speed for runs you have purchased.

This application also has a social aspect. Users can leave reviews of mountains and individual trails at mountains. This way, you can find out what you are getting into before you head to the slopes.

Conclusion

I cannot wait for winter so I can hit the mountains. Now that I have these iPhone apps, I will be much more prepared. I know which mountains are open, and I have a better understanding of the gear I need. Now, you will too.

Are you a skier? Did these apps help you get ready for the season? Let us know in the comments!


December 02 2011

00:31

5+ Best Websites To Find Fantastic Holiday Recipes

The holiday season is the best time to catch up on your culinary aspirations, whether you’ll be cooking, eating, gift-giving or all of them combined. Now that Thanksgiving is over, you can set your mind on the next step of the holiday season.

Cooking and eating the same things every year can get rather boring. True, holidays are all about traditions, but this doesn’t mean you can’t innovate! So check out these 5 fantastic recipe websites which will provide you with all the inspiration you need for this holiday season.

Epicurious

Epicurious is a a true foodie heaven, be it a holiday or not. But when it comes to holidays, Epicurious has you covered no matter what you are celebrating. The holiday index includes almost every holiday you can think of, and for each one you can browse recipes, menus or a complete holiday guide.

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When you choose “recipes” or “menus”, you can then browse them by popular ingredients, by dishes (when browsing recipes), browse only vegetarian recipes and so on. The complete guides also include entertaining tips, gifts and wine.

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The recipes are not all from Epicurious itself, but come from a variety of different sources. You can view everything without being a member of Epicurious, but if you sign up for a free account you can save recipes, share them, rate and review them and create personal notes.

Pioneer Woman

I have written about The Pioneer Woman Cooks in the past, but I could not write a recipe article without mentioning this wonderful blog again. The Pioneer Woman Cooks is a beautifully crafted blog for your everyday cooking needs, which also boasts a fantastic holiday section.

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While not featuring as many holidays as Epicurious, if you’re celebrating Christmas or Thanksgiving, you’re all set. The recipes include entertaining stories about life in the rural United States, and are accompanied by plenty of good photos.

Definitely a place to visit if you’re looking for something with a bit more of a personal touch.

SheKnows

SheKnows deals with much more than food and recipes. In fact, it deals with all the things they believe women should like. Despite the unfortunate name, SheKnows features a great holiday recipe section.

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The recipes do not include a huge amount of images, so if you’re the visual type, you might find this recipe collection to be a bit too “texty”. There is no easy way to screen certain types of recipes, but there are a lot of them. So put on your cooking hat and start scrolling for your next awesome holiday dish!

Martha Stewart

Martha Stewart is one name that’s been rather hard to miss in the past two decades. And when looking for good recipes, it’s still a name you can’t ignore. Martha’s website includes a big holiday section featuring all your usual holidays such as Christmas, Hanukkah and Mother’s day.

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You’re not going to find only recipes here, but also decorations, gift ideas and activities for kids. One of the most inspiring sections is the food gift ideas. If you’re a foodie, or if your friends or family are, you know there’s sometimes nothing better than a holiday gift which is also edible.

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Here you will learn how to make cookie compotes, fancy fruitcake, foolproof fudge and much more. They all comes with wrapping and decorating instructions, so you can try to mimic the beautiful little gifts you can see in the picture. There’s even a whole section for gingerbread houses!

Taste Of Home

Taste of Home is another large food & recipe magazine, which provides everything from recipes, videos, and forums to an actual cooking school. But today is all about holidays: Taste of Home features an impressive holiday & celebration section, which includes all your usual holidays, and adds celebrations such as graduations, bridal showers, etc.

taste-of-home-2[3]

The holiday section features the most relevant holidays at the top, but if you scroll down you can find a list of other holidays you can choose from. Once you choose a holiday, you will be able to browse recipes according to dishes and meals: breakfast, dinner, side dishes, main courses, desserts, and more. Each category includes a volley of recipes to choose from.

taste-of-home-1

And again, I must recommend the food gift section, which is a sure way to make the foodie in your life much happier this holiday season.

Bonus: MealPlanningMagic (& More)

If all these huge websites are not really your thing, and discovering smaller more intimate food blogs is one of your hobbies, this is what you’ve been waiting for. This Christmas, many food blogs are holding a “12 weeks of Christmas cookies” blog hop. This means that when you enter one food blog, you can find links to recipes from numerous other food blogs, all about Christmas cookies.

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The blog hop seems to be led by the blog MealPlanningMagic, and is very widespread among food blogs. For example, if you go to this blog and scroll all the way down (after you browse the mouthwatering cookie recipes, that is), you’ll find numerous thumbnails to recipes from many other blogs.

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If you click one of those, you’ll be taken to a different blog, where you can browse some more Christmas cookies and then find your way to even more blogs. This is a fantastic way to discover great food blogs, and to expand your Christmas cookie repertoire.

Conclusion

Cooking and baking is one of the best parts of the holiday season. Don’t let it be a chore; find some exciting recipes you just can’t wait to make, and surprise your family and friends with small presents that don’t take up precious room in the house (except for the room they’ll take up after eating it all!).

If you know of some more places to find fantastic holiday recipes, we’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Image credit: Shutterstock


September 21 2011

23:31

Epicurious: A Free Recipe & Shopping List Management App [iOS, WebOS, Android + More]

shopping appMobile apps have helped change the way we do things for a while now. The humble printed map no longer gets the use it once did, thanks to Twitter there is no longer a reason to spend money on SMS and it’s been a long time since I picked up a cookery book now I come to think of it.

Thanks to services like Epicurious, discovering new recipes and food is easier than ever. Now that the website has rolled out a full course of applications for various mobile platforms, this wealth of tasty knowledge fits into the palm of your hand or comfortably on your kitchen worktop. In this article I’ll be mainly looking at the iPhone version of the Epicurious app, although the WebOS tablet version gets a decent mention too.

Find Your Flavour

As I briefly mentioned above, there are several different versions for different operating systems. As well as iOS versions for both the iPad and iPhone/iPod Touch, there is a version for Android phones, Windows Phone 7 devices and the Barnes and Noble Nook Color. Oddly enough, the WebOS version is not listed on the official site, although you will find it in the HP App Catalog.

If you don’t have a compatible tablet or phone then the Epicurious website works just as well but might not be the portable solution you are looking for in the kitchen. Bizarrely enough there are also apps for Samsung’s smart refrigerator and various HP printers. Download the Epicurious apps now!

For Starters

It goes without saying that the main weight of this application revolves around cookery and recipes. On the app’s opening screen are a list of categories that Epicurious uses to provide quick access to their database. These labels are great, and provide an easy way to browse recipes without simply relying on a search bar (which is, naturally, also present).

shopping app

Categories include things like “Weeknight Dinners” and “Vegetarian Mains” as well as skill-dependent titles like “I Can Barely Cook”. Tapping one of these will take you to a big list of recipes, and using the tablet (WebOS) version I was able to sort, favourite, share and so on directly from this view.

droid shopping app

Unfortunately on the iPhone it is not possible to sort the recipes according to the date added, relevance, rating and such, though you can add a recipe to your favourites quickly by tapping plus. A bigger screen means more space and a nicer experience, and this is what you’ll get with both the iPad and WebOS versions.

The iPhone version shouldn’t be viewed as bad by any means, and overall the app is responsive and pleasant to use when browsing and viewing recipes. The other tabs are reserved for Search, your Favorites, Info about the app and a Shopping List (more on that later).

droid shopping app

The Meat & Gravy

The food on offer, whilst entirely subjective, will probably make you hungry from just browsing. Most recipes are accompanied with a picture, reviews and tips left by those who have tried the concoction and the ability to share, favourite and so on using the plus icon. On tablet versions more space onscreen allows for individual buttons, which makes emailing or saving something for later quick and painless.

droid shopping app

Community involvement is key here, and I’ve seen multiple instances of users leaving tips, variations, workarounds for allergies and so on in the reviews section so if you do spot something you like it’s always worth checking the reviews.

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The WebOS version features a slider which you can move as you complete the recipe. On the iPhone version you can only look at a small portion of the screen at a time, so the slider has been left out (which doesn’t create that much of a problem).

Just Desserts

Finally, for the cook who likes to plan ahead, we have the shopping list function. With a simple tap of a button (or plus button then Add to Shopping List for iPhone users) the ingredients from your chosen recipe are added to a shopping list in some sort of order.

ipad recipe app

The application groups similar items into one list, so you don’t even need to make note of the ingredients you need. This is one aspect that the iPhone version really benefits from – portability. Let’s face it, who wants to carry a tablet around the supermarket when you can quickly check your phone instead?

shopping app

This is a decent feature that, whilst not exclusive to Epicurious, might just make you come back to the app a little more often.

Conclusion

I first used this app on WebOS and instantly saw it as a useful bit of software. On a tablet it’s great for browsing categories, finding new recipes as well as checking recipes whilst cooking. The iPhone’s small screen size does taint the experience slightly, though the app’s performance doesn’t suffer and we’re only a few features away from a top-notch app. There are enough versions of Epicurious available for most people to try it out, and for free there’s very little to lose!

Have you tried Epicurious? Do you have any other favourite recipe and shopping list apps? Let us know in the comments!


September 16 2011

23:31

Online Resources To Help You Start To Become Vegetarian

According to a 2008 study conducted on behalf of the magazine Vegetarian Times, roughly 3.2% (7.3 million people) of US adults follow a vegetarian-based diet. In addition, 10% of US adults, or 22.8 million people, say they largely follow a vegetarian-inclined diet. While there is no way of telling if those numbers are growing, people choose to become vegetarian for several reasons, including improving their overall health, environmental and food safety concerns, weight loss and maintenance, and animal welfare.

I am considering going vegetarian, so I researched some resources about how to make the transition. For you veteran vegetarians out there, please add to this list some of your favorite online resources, in the comments section below.

The Vegetarian Starter Kit

For a well designed and informative introduction to vegetarianism, download a PDF copy of The Vegetarian Starter Kit. This thirteen page guide includes information about basic vegetarian foods, the “protein myth”, the four vegetarian food groups, achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, tips for making the switch, and vegetarian diets for children and pregnant women.

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A handy little section in the guide called “the veganizer” provides suggestions for replacing your existing meals with low-fat vegan meals, e.g. if you regularly eat a doughnut in the morning for breakfast, you might try cinnamon raisin toast with jam as a vegetarian substitute.

The Vegetarian Society

To keep yourself well informed about the vegetarian lifestyle, you’ll want to subscribe to the Vegetarian Society newsletter. The Society defines a vegetarian as “someone living on a diet of grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits with or without the use of dairy products and eggs. A vegetarian does not eat any meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish or by-products of slaughter“.

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The Vegetarian Society includes news and related events, as well as links to associated sites for National Vegetarian Week, and the Young Veggies.

YouTube Videos

To hear the experiences and advice of one person who has made the transition to a vegetarian lifestyle, check out  Journal in Raw, which features over forty videos geared toward people who were making the transition to a raw food diet.

Recent videos on the channel include, Snack Alternatives for Those Transitioning, Bread Substitutes and Raw FoodDetox Diet.

Another related and useful YouTube series is the five-part, Vegetarian Shopping Hints from Vegan Gal.

VegWeb

No doubt the biggest concern to making a transition to a vegetarian diet is what is there to eat? While there are several cookbooks on the subject, VegWeb seems to be a good introduction to over 15,000 recipes that you can research by category, such as appetizers, beverages, breads, casseroles, slow cooker recipes, desserts, fruits and vegetables.

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VegWeb is well designed with a user forum, coupons, and links to other sources.

VegDining

VegDining addresses another challenge for going vegetarian, i.e. where to eat out? This site is a resource bank of restaurants and other eateries around the world that provide vegetarian meals. You can easily search your city for vegetarian restaurants, and you get the opportunity to write a review of the places you have eaten at.

Savvy Vegetarian

The Savvy Vegetarian website includes a large assortment of recipes, shopping and cooking tips, and articles about going vegetarian, health, lifestyle, nutrition, and vegetarian children.

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Vegan Recipe Finder

There doesn’t appear to be a good free vegetarian recipe app for the iPhone, but Vegan Recipe Finder is a very affordable option for $2.99. The app includes 13,000 vegan recipes (with photos) and a handy grocery list maker. Recipes can be sorted alphabetically by rating or by number of views.

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Whatever your reasons are for going vegetarian, these websites show that making the transition may not be as difficult as you think.

If you already live on a vegetarian diet, let us know how you got started, and what challenges you face if any in the comments below.  What websites do you use?


19:01

Find Recipes To Share on Facebook With Foodily

How do you share your favourite recipes with friends? Do you write them out? Send emails? Post links on Twitter or Facebook? And how do you find out which recipes your friends like? Do you have a handful of friends who always cook fantastic food? Wouldn’t you love to find out which recipes they’re enjoying?

Facebook users visit the social networking site almost every day to share links and random information. It’s therefore great news that Facebook now has a really integrated recipe application by Foodily for everyone to make use of. While the Foodily website itself is already incredibly useful, this new Facebook application is the ultimate way to share and explore recipes with your friends and family.

Check Out Foodily

Firstly, you can sign up for Foodily itself on their website with either an email address or a Facebook Connect login. There’s no need to use the Facebook application at all, but it does make it more sociable if you do!

If you sign up with an email address, it’s possible to use Facebook Connect to find your friends later.

Once you’re signed in, you’ll see that Foodily revolves around providing you with a recipe “Feed”. This feed is made up of recipes your friends like – and to get you started Foodily has added you as a friend so you can see their recommended recipes.

Search Recipes By Ingredient

Foodily claims to have the world’s largest recipe database since it links in to many of the biggest databases and blogs. The search function is also quite sophisticated, allowing you to quickly find the exact recipe you need.

At the top of all pages in Foodily is the search bar, allowing you to search for anything in the Foodily collection. Results can be limited by low-fat, low-carb, top rated, blogs only and more.

If you want to be able to exclude certain ingredients as well, go back to the home page to enter in your search.

Then all you do is browse away. Foodily gives you a link to the creator of the recipe and a brief list of ingredients. So, you’re always going to refer to the original creator in order to obtain the method for cooking.

If you scroll down to the bottom of the page you’ll see Foodily have also offered some suggested categories for you to browse for great recipes.

Install The Facebook Foodily Application

If you’d like to use Foodily inside Facebook as well, the application can be found here. The interface within Facebook looks very much like the original website, so there’s no surprises when it comes to usage.

Recipes To Share With Your Friends

Whenever you see a recipe you like in Foodily, you just hover your mouse over it and you’ll see a heart icon. Click that and you’ve saved it as a favourite. This is all it takes to share the recipes with friends both on Foodily and using Facebook.

Another link will pop-up after you’ve saved offering the ability to save the recipe to a list, such as for entertaining, kid-friendly or some other list name you’d prefer to use.

Later, you can easily browse your own favourite recipes by checking out your saved recipes and browsing your lists.

Competition

Foodily is one of many great recipe sites available, including Gojee, Kitchen Monki, Punchfork and Yummli. They all have their strengths and weaknesses, but you can’t help but love to browse them all!

What do you think is the most important feature of a good recipe search site? Do you love to share with your friends? Is the search capability more important than the size of the database? Why or why not?


September 02 2011

19:01

Punchfork – A Social Aggregator Of The Best Recipes In The World

Need some food inspiration? Run out of ideas for dinner? Or do you need to find something special for a dinner party? Well, the best possible website to check out would be a site which tells you the most-loved recipes from some of the best recipe sites. That way, the recipes appeal to a wide audience and generally look pretty tasty. Sound good? Well, you need to see Punchfork.

Punchfork aggregates recipes from several of the best recipe sites and ranks each recipe according to how many times it’s been shared on social networks. This is an ideal way of ensuring you see just the best recipes on offer.

Social Aggregator Of Recipes

Sometimes a little social aggregation can really help to filter things. Not everyone has the time to sort the wheat from the chaff themselves. Especially when it comes to recipes – we just want to find something that looks good and give it a try.

Punchfork polls social networks like Twitter and Facebook to find the recipes which are being linked to by the most people. So, you’re only looking at the recipes other people have deemed worthy of sharing with their friends.

The Best Recipes In The World

Punchfork have chosen the recipe databases and food blogs well so that only the best recipes are in the pool of recipes on offer. These are then further filtered by the social ranking process to ensure you’re presented with the best recipes on offer. You’re basically browsing the best recipes in the world!

Save Your Recipes

Before you get into browsing the site, create an account with Punchfork so you can save your favourite recipes for later.

Browsing New Recipes

At the top of the page, Punchfork offers the best ways to browse the recipes. Limit your browsing to just food blogs or use recipes from all of the available food sites.

View trending recipes to check out new favourites, browse the newest recipes to find the ones which were most recently published online, or see the top rated section for the recipes most-loved over time. There’s plenty to check out!

Search By Ingredient

Just like any great recipe website, Punchfork will let you search the recipes for ingredients you happen to have on hand or wish to use. The search function will limit itself to whichever sections you are currently browsing. So, if you’re checking out new recipes only it will return results from the new recipe section.

A quick search for new Kahlua recipes from food blogs found a number of great recipes I now need to try, including Mexican fudge sauce, easy tirimisu trifles, Kahlua brownies with browned butter and much more. There’s no denying the danger of this site!

More Great Ways To Find New Recipes

At MakeUseOf we’re always finding new ways to find the best recipes. Some other great tools you might like are:

What other features do you look for in a recipe website? What would make Punchfork your ideal go-to recipe site? Let us know!


August 17 2011

00:00

Vikido: Family Based Social Sharing Platform


Vikido is a social sharing platform, designed for the web and mobile, that brings the entire family together in a fun, safe way. Learn more
http://www.vikido.com
Brought to you by Go2web20.net - The web applications index

August 04 2011

15:31

How To Protect Your Children With Windows Live Family Safety 2011

Windows 7 has a number of default parental control features built in. Using these, it’s possible to deny access to certain applications and games as well as restrict a child’s account so that is can be used during only specific days and times.

These features may not be enough for all parents, however. Windows Live Family Safety 2011 expands the controls to include web filtering and activity reporting, among other things.

Installation & Setup

To obtain Family Safety 2011 you need to visit the Windows Live Essentials website and download the package. This package contains a wealth of software, but you can choose to only install the Family Safety features if you’d like.

Once installed, you’ll be prompted with a screen that lets you choose which accounts you’d like to monitor. As you can see above, I’ve chosen my example “Child’s Account” for monitoring. In addition to this, Windows will recommend that you disable guest accounts, since they can be used by anyone as a means to bypass account monitoring. Alternatively, you can add a password to the guest account.

Now Family Safety is active, and the accounts you specified during setup have been given some default settings, as shown above.

Web Filtering & Contact Management

Although the Family Safety software must be installed on the PC you’d like to monitor, the settings are adjusted via a web interface made available online through the Windows Live website. There are two specific categories of settings that are now available which aren’t included in the standard Parental Controls.

Web Filtering is the first, and provides a way to automatically prevent your child from accessing certain websites while using his or her account. There are five default settings that can be utilized, ranging from extremely restrictive (only websites you approve can be accessed) to completely open (all websites can be accessed). It’s also possible to block specific websites based on their URL.

The other category, Contact Management, makes it possible to control your child’s contacts when they’re using a Windows Live ID. For example, you could make it impossible for him or her to chat online with anyone you have not approved.

Requests

Although Web Filtering works to prevent your child from seeing unapproved sites, it doesn’t prevent them from entering the URL. Doing so brings up a request page instead of the actual website. Your child can use this page to request access to a specific site.

For example, I limited my Child’s Account to allow Child-Friendly content only. When logged into the Child’s Account, attempting to access a new site like CNN results in the notification below.

Any requests made will show up in the web interface, where they can be approved or denied.

Activity Reporting

Perhaps the most powerful feature of Windows Live Family Safety 2011 is activity reporting. This does what it states. Using the web interface, it’s possible for a parent to see what is happening on a child account.

This includes the websites that are visited, including when they’re accessed, as well as important computer activity such as when the account is logged in and the programs that are used. In the case of web activity, all sites are reported even if they are blocked, and those that are blocked can be approved.

Although the standard Parental Controls allows for parents to proactively stop children from using certain software or accessing a computer at certain times, Activity Monitoring makes it possible to make sure the rules aren’t being stretched. The fact that the interface is web based is also a boon, since it’s possible for a parent to keep tabs on a child’s account even at work or on the road.

Conclusion

Windows Live Family Safety is an impressive software suite, particularly when the low price of free is considered. Although there are other paid solutions available, the default Parental Controls combined with the advanced Family Safety features should provide everything a parent needs to keep tabs on their child’s computer use.

How To Protect Your Children With Windows Live Family Safety 2011 is a post from: MakeUseOf


June 29 2011

17:31

Watch Your Spending & Control Your Budget With These 8 Free Budget Calculators

Any personal finance adviser will tell you that developing and maintaining a financial budget is the best way to meet monthly expenses, save for financial emergencies and plan for the future. Keeping a budget basically means totaling  your income for the month and subtracting the total of all your expenses. A budget calculator allows you to itemize your expenses so you can see where all your spending is going, especially for non-fixed discretionary items like groceries, music downloads, fast food, entertainment, computer software and the like that may be keeping you from paying off your credit debts or building a sufficient savings account.

Mint is one of the best free online budgeting systems, but if you don’t think you need something that elaborate, there are several other free sites for doing month-to-month budget calculations.

The Budget Calculator

This aptly named budget calculator is straightforward and includes expense boxes for many of the most typical types of fixed and non-fixed expenses—rent or mortgage, electricity, water, phone, Internet, etc. You need to input of course what applies to your personal finances.  It also contains boxes for monthly savings, IRA, and investments.

Screenshot701

After you enter the amounts and press “Calculate Budget” you can view and print out your budget for the month. As the site points out, “If the amount you get is a negative number check your expenses and savings to find out what is causing you to spend more than you make, and if you have money left over, put more money into savings or put it towards ‘Fun and Entertainment‘”.

Budget Calculator

This calculator is not as extensive as the one above, but if your expenses are limited to the basics – rent or mortgage, one or two credit cards, car loan, entertainment, etc – then this calculator is useful for quick results.

Screenshot702

College Budgeting Calculator

If going to college is in your plans, the banking website, Chase.com, has a free student loan and budget calculator that computes your assets. This includes job income, scholarships, grants, parents/other, and your expenses – tuition, books and fees, room board, etc.

Screenshot703

Free Financial Advice

Free Financial Advice also has a basic budget calculator, but it also features lots of short article advice for personal finance management and savings, including investing for beginners, ideas for earning extra money, saving gas, clothing, computer software, landscaping, paying off debts, etc.

Screenshot704

Free Financial Advice doesn’t require you to register or provide your email.

DebtSteps

DebtSteps has three extensive budget and loan calculators – Free Household Budget Form, Mortgage Payment Calculator, and a Credit Card Payoff Calculator.

Screenshot705

When you click on the household budget form, select the Print View option at the bottom of the page, and you will get a very extensive list for income and assets boxes, and numerous one for expenses – including unsecured debts, and gifts and donations.

Home Budget Calculator

Home Budget Calculator does what the above calculators do, but it includes two other unique features. It provides data boxes for you and your spouse’s income as well as more specific data, such as your tax withholdings, FICA, and retirement deductions or expenses.

Screenshot707

The calculator also includes a visual pie chart that depicts your monthly expenses.

Frugalpig

Frugalpig is a site dedicated to providing readers with tips and strategies for frugal living. It includes its own budget calculator for finding what the site calls “budget leaks”. If you need or want an old fashion pen and paper method for budgeting, you can also download the site’s free PDF family budget worksheet.

Screenshot708

Frugalpig also provides lots of tips about saving money on groceries, gas, home expenses, entertainment, and shopping in general.

Bankrate

When you get into the habit of creating and maintaining a budget, you will typically start looking for how you can tighten your budget to either meet monthly expenses, pay off a huge debt, or create emergency savings.

Screen shot 2011 06 20 at 3 25 05 PM

Bankrate has a budget calculator as well, but it also includes several other financial calculators for mortgages, auto loans, credit card transfers, and home equity calculations.

Also, check out these articles for other online and software tools about budget keeping:

Manage Your Money Safely with ClearCheckbook – Daniel
Save Money and Track Your Finances with Mint – Karl
How To Use Mint To Manage Your Budget & Spendings Online – Bakari

Let us know what you think of these sites and which online financial tools you have found useful for controlling your budget.

Image Credit: Shutterstock


Need Assistance? Ask questions to MakeUseOf staff and thousands of other readers on MakeUseOf Answers!


Watch Your Spending & Control Your Budget With These 8 Free Budget Calculators is a post from: MakeUseOf

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April 25 2011

17:30

5 Websites For Self Improvement With Some Anonymous Feedback From Friends

anonymous feedback websiteThe web lends itself quite well to anonymity. Visit a blog and you can rant or rave without disclosing your identity. Anonymous feedback (or any feedback) if constructive is a great tool for betterment of a service, or as we will see – an individual.

Getting feedback from your social circle is a cinch thanks to services like Facebook and Twitter. But personal feedback as we all have experienced is great when it’s good but poisonous when bad. For true personal development, we need to hear the bad news as well as the good ones. Anonymous feedback helps us keep our relationships intact, as well as look deeply within ourselves for the faults others see in us.

So, drop your ego, climb on the personal development bandwagon, and see what your family and friends have to say fearlessly about you with the help of these five free web services.

 

Whatiswrongwith.me

anonymous feedback website

Want to see what your friends really think of you? Use this neat anonymous feedback website to collect reactions from your friends without them having to fear your own. The process as illustrated on the landing page is dead simple: register to get your own feedback link. Post this on Facebook (as a status message) or Twitter, or even add it to your email footer. The posted URL helps your friends to link to your feedback page and send in their two bits worth on why you are a horrible person or the nicest thing since Santa. Feedback is supported with multiple languages. (See Directory mention)

Three Words

anonymous feedback tool

You will be surprised what even three words can say about you. After all, it’s the adjectives that define us. This is more of a fun site but can be used to solicit quick responses from your friends anonymously if need be. The process follows the general flow of sign-up – a customized URL which is your feedback form – the three words from your friends who visit the page. You can set an avatar and also post some pictures. You can post replies to Facebook and Tumblr. If you set your page to Public, everyone can see the feedback. (See Directory mention)

Failin.gs

anonymous feedback tool

As feedback websites for self improvements go, this one also has got a perfect name. This anonymous feedback website again gives you a personal URL which you can tweet, share on Facebook, embed on your blog, or mail it across. But this site also goes beyond the simplicity by letting you categorize the feedbacks, and by providing a comment space for your friends for more sentiments. You can section the observations under – I knew this about me, I had no idea, and I totally disagree. Then, you can go to work on the parts you didn’t know about. (See Directory mention)

Have a Say at Me

anonymous feedback tool

Collecting anonymous feedback is easy enough with this site. The sign-up is just a matter of 20 seconds as advertized. You will get alerted when a feedback comes in. You can blast your custom URL across the social networks, blogs, and IMs. The person with the account can also respond privately to address the feedback. (See Directory mention)

Critizise.me

anonymous feedback website

Criticize Me is a well rounded service for anonymous feedback from friends. It’s also very neatly designed. Register and start your own critic’s page. You can ask for an opinion on anything – a text question or even an image. You can set a rating scale as a response or set a choice of three tags, or ask a direct question as a feedback. Set the visibility permissions for your critics page and you are done.

We all have our blind sides. Anonymous feedback services like these can be used as powerful tool for self improvement and development with the help of your family and friends. Let us know the value of these five services or another one called BetterMe which I had covered in detail earlier.

Image Credit: Shutterstock


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