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Michael L.

5 Level 5 Contributor
  • 67 Reviews
  • 418 Helpful Votes
  • 1 Thank You

Experience: Computers & Technology, Entertainment, News

Member since April 2007

  • Reviews

    67

  • First Reviews

    48

  • Thank Yous

    1

  • Fans

    6

  • Profile Views

    11,343

Review Distribution

About Me

I am interested in the development of new technologies and how they can benefit society.

How I Can Help

I have a background in computer science, business, and internet technologies.

Interests

museums, music, movies (in no particular order)

67 Reviews by Michael

8/23/10
Very cool site for "moving" music across the web. Soundcloud lets you upload, send, share, and download music. Although geared towards aspiring artists hoping to share their music, the site makes it very easy for casual users to receive tunes from their friends, browse or play hosted files, and download the ones they want. The embedded player is simple, slick, and customizable. There is also no limit to the file size you want to upload to the cloud! Definitely worth checking out -- a much neater, music-focused alternative to rapidshare or dropbox.
8/9/10
This is Dave Bruno's blog -- you may know him as the guy who created the 100 Thing Challenge, which basically challenges you to strip yourself of all but 100 of your personal possessions. In an attempt to curb our current obsession with material goods, he endorses living a simpler life in order to achieve lasting happiness. This blog is simple and straightforward -- not that insightful, but a good reminder not to get lost in a world of over-consumption. At the very least, it's a way to participate vicariously in the 100 Thing Challenge by reading about how Dave simplified his life and the resulting inventory of his remaining items.
6/23/10
Hilarious site featuring a guy who responds to ads on craigslist with no intention other than to infuriate the other party and later post the conversation for public entertainment. Some of his pranks are slightly offensive, but I personally find them ingenious and very creative. Definitely worth checking out whenever you want a quick laugh.
6/10/10
8tracks is a very cool site where anyone can put together their own mix, usually around 30 minutes of music (or roughly 8 tracks). It's a convenient way to find the best crowdsourced music by genre. It's very similar to the old muxtape, but apparently legal, so hopefully it will be around for a little longer.

On the site, everything is organized clearly by genre and user. You can browse or search for a genre, and then list all the mixes in that genre by date, popularity, or random. You can also follow certain individuals if you really like the mixes they've created. I really like the minimalistic interface, which lists the song information, lets you skip tracks, and incorporates a lot of social features like commenting and sharing.
12/15/07
Best customizable online cards - This website has the coolest online card offering on the web today. While the selection is not huge, they allow you to put in the faces of your friends and family directly into the cards! It's hilarious! And it's super easy to use -- the interface is very clean and simple for uploading faces from pictures and putting them into really funny cards.

I just created the Snowball Fight card for my family and it took me only 10 minutes. They got a huge kick out of it when they saw it. I absolutely love the application and will use this site for all my online cards in the future.
4/29/07
Terrible, terrible email system - This is the worst email program I have ever seen. The interface is sloppy and confusing. All of the emails from one person are combined into one thread. But they're separate emails! I understand if some of the emails are related, but I don't want all of them together.

Secondly, there are no folders. There is no way of organizing my messages the way I like to organize them. I usually have folders set up for work, friends, etc. but it's just one big mess in Gmail. People say that the search works to alleviate this problem, but I have not found it to be any faster.

These issues, in combination with the privacy issues, make Gmail a terrible web-based email alternative. Much better is the new Yahoo! Mail beta, which functions just like Outlook, but via the web. It's got the slickest interface available (drag-and-drop, real-time sorting) and just added unlimited storage.
4/7/11
As companies like Groupon and LivingSocial continue to explode in popularity, I see many of my friends purchasing hundreds of unnecessary coupons that they never end up using. For those experiencing buyer's remorse from the latest local deals craze, CoupRecoup offers a very valuable service -- it provides a public marketplace for those groupons you can't or don't intend to use anymore. The site basically acts like a craigslist for online coupons, simply connecting buyers and sellers who are then responsible for completing the transaction off the site.

I find the service particularly useful when shopping or browsing for discounted discounts. CoupRecoup makes it very easy to see what the best deals are (after being marked down again in the secondary market), by providing basic sorting and filtering options. Just sort by discount percentage and you'll see things like a month of yoga classes for $10 or one-hour acupuncture sessions for $20. Still completely unnecessary? Yes, but at least I won't feel so bad when I find out I no longer have time to go indoor skydiving.
4/17/10
Wikileaks is a really unique site which enables anybody to anonymously submit sensitive documents and publishes them for the world to see. Examples include the 2004 U.S. Army manual of operating procedures at Guantanamo Bay and the 2007 Apache helicopter attack in which two Reuters reporters were killed in Baghdad.

Run by former hacker and now internet activist Julian Assange, the site strives to increase transparency among governments and hold them accountable for their actions. Wikileaks dedicates most of its technology to create an uncensorable and untraceable submission process, going to extraordinary lengths to protect the identities of its sources.

While a great idea, the biggest concern I have about Wikileaks is that all of the documents and stories it publishes on the site are hand-picked by an editorial committee, thus greatly influencing what the public actually sees. This puts a lot of power into the hands of those running the site and results in an inevitably biased transparency based solely upon which documents the Wikileaks team deems important enough for us to see.

Conversely, allowing anybody to upload virtually any type of information and disclosing too many of those documents raises serious privacy and security concerns. What is stopping someone from hacking into an innocent's personal email or bank account and posting its contents online? Although the editorial policy at Wikileaks states that they only publish documents that have political or ethical implications, I still worry about where that line is drawn.

Lastly, because its purpose is to generate public awareness and maximize social impact, many of the documents are given sensationalized titles like "Collateral Murder", shortened for more convenient mainstream consumption, and edited to include captions written by the editorial team. If this is a site that truly supports transparency, shouldn't it remain completely objective, simply present the documents as they are uploaded, and let the public form its own opinion?
Sethcomedy.com
9/19/08
Seth MacFarlane's twisted comedy hits the internet! - Nobody can deny the recent success of Seth MacFarlane and the mainstream appeal of his edgy and offbeat humor. Despite two separate cancellations, The Family Guy developed a strong following on its way to becoming a $1B franchise, solidifying Seth's place among television's creative elite. Recently, Seth signed a $100M deal with Fox for The Family Guy, American Dad, and The Cleveland Show, making him the highest paid writer / producer in the history of television.

Seth's new website, which showcases his latest project -- The Cavalcade of Comedy -- is a great introduction to his comedic genius. It consists of minute-long internet shorts made in partnership with Burger King (the official sponsor) and YouTube (for distribution). The videos are crass and brilliant and, after being disappointed by www.FunnyOrDie.com, I can appreciate how challenging it is to create something consistently entertaining for an online audience. I can't wait until all the videos are released, but my current favorite is the $25K Pyramid episode. Take a look and tell me what you think!
7/14/08
Calling all Flight of the Conchords fans... - This is the very first and arguably most comprehensive website dedicated to the Flight of the Conchords. If you don't know who they are yet, it's not too late!

Just watch some of the videos here: http://whatthefolk.net/vision.htm and you'll be hooked.

Whatthefolk keeps an up to date journal of all the latest FoTC news and has links to anything and everything FoTC-related: profiles, videos, episode guides, tour dates, lyrics, etc. The forum community is also quite strong and they're fun to chat with.

Spend just a few minutes on this site and you'll be *down* with the Rhymenoscerus and the Hiphopapotamus before you can even say the words "I put a wig on you!"
7/10/08
Great way to tour around Napa Valley without having to drive - I used this company a few months ago and the service was spectacular. The chauffeur was fun to talk with and extremely accommodating. We rented a 16-person limo bus, which was great because it doesn't feel as cramped and the bench seating allows you to face your friends the whole time. They let you to put in your own CDs into the speaker system and also provide unlimited bottles of water (which comes in handy when you are doing a lot of drinking, or if it's really hot outside). They also gave us three FREE bottles of very nice champagne, which we drank throughout the day between wineries. Overall, a great service that truly makes you feel special while you're using them.

California Wine Tours charges by the hour, so if you want, they'll pick you up from San Francisco, but remember that you'll be paying for the commute. We got a discounted rate at $125/hour and maximized our time by having the limo meet us in the morning at the V. Sattui winery. Then we spent the rest of the day doing our own tour by having the limo simply drive us around to the wineries we had mapped out for ourselves.

I highly recommend this service for birthdays, bachelorette parties, or just something different to do with your friends. And for the environmentally-conscious, they just rolled out their new hybrid fleet, so you can feel responsible while getting your wine fix.
6/3/08
Hypermiling website that provides tips to double your gas mileage! - Wayne Gerdes, who leads the current hypermiling movement to curb fuel consumption, started and runs this website with lots of tips on how to save gas. Some of the techniques, however, are not for the feint of heart. Wayne is able to get up to 50 mpg on his Honda Accord, but it involves stuff like shutting down your engine on the freeway and coasting at low speeds!

The site also has a lot of practical content, as well as a loyal and active community of fellow "environmentalists" (read: people tired of paying $4.50 for a gallon of gas).
CNN
4/29/07
Greatest online video offering today - CNN has done it once again with CNN Pipeline, a great video product that offers three concurrent streams of video content. It is offered in both a downloadable or web-based package and boasts one of the easiest, most intuitive video interfaces out today. Watch out YouTube! If CNN starts offering user-generated content, your kitten video days are numbered...
4/11/18
I probably wouldn't bring my bag to a formal business meeting, but it's a great looking everyday bag to use at cafes and the office. I've had mine for 6 years already and it still feels like new. It's definitely more durable than any other bag I've owned in the past. It just reeks of coffee from all the time it has spent in the coffee shop!
3/27/11
Neat new site that allows users to search for videos of any television show on the internet and plays them back (but in no particular order). The interface is minimalist and mimics that of an old-school television set. This may be insufficient for those looking for a particular video or used to more controls during video playback. But if you don't mind not knowing what you're watching, how long the clip is, and what's coming next, you may find the simplicity refreshing.

The main problem is that the site runs really slow, presumably because it is pulling the videos from computers all over the world. Hopefully over time the search, loading, and playback will improve so the site can attract a more widespread following.
JustSpotted
10/19/10
This site shows on a map the latest locations where celebrities have been spotted. What a silly and useless idea! Not only is the information fairly out of date, but it also feeds our mindless culture of pop idol worship without providing any interesting information.
8/16/10
Well written and trendy blog mostly about the dining scene in several major metropolitan cities: NY, SF, LA, Miami. Also discusses nightlife activities and bars, but what I like best about it is its broad coverage on local events and food-related news. The blog definitely targets the self-proclaimed "foodies", but is also careful to uncover new interesting places that might appeal to a more mainstream audience. Just one look at its list of top restaurants shows a refreshing balance between up-and-coming venues and the usual perennials of the culinary elite.
8/11/10
I've been using Mozy for several years and consider it one of the best online storage providers out there. There are many alternatives in the crowded online storage space, but Mozy is operated by EMC, a world-class leader in commercial storage and networking solutions, which automatically gives it a lot of reliability and credibility over smaller startups.

What I like most about Mozy is its easy-to-use client. You can use it to specify which files or directories on your computer to back up or restore, as well as when you want an automatic backup to occur. I have mine set at 2am every night, so when I wake up every morning I am welcomed by a reassuring message saying all my data has been backed up and is safe.

The only drawback (and I believe this to be true of all online storage solutions) is that the initial backup or restore takes a long time (several hours or days, depending on your connection). But once you cross that hurdle, all subsequent updates only take a few seconds, since it only updates new or changed files.

I used to use an external hard drive for all my storage, but even that crashed on me and I lost years and year of irreplaceable memories / photos. Now I don't trust any physical device and only rely on the cloud. Since I switched to Mozy, my computer has crashed and been wiped clean several times, and each time I have successfully used Mozy to restore all my files. It's been a lifesaver and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is serious about truly safeguarding their data.
5/24/10
I wish this radio station existed outside of the internet so I could step away from my computer once in a while. I've been listening to Digitally Imported for almost ten years now and the quality of its programming keeps getting better and better. The live tracks from Markus Schulz's Global DJ Broadcasts and Armin van Buuren's A State of Trance are simply the best that trance music has to offer today. Because it's a radio station, the music is broadcast live, consistently fresh, and very difficult to find. Digitally Imported also offers a variety of other stations, including trip hop, drum and bass, progressive, and house, but the trance station has always been the most popular.

Also, if you're interested in learning about electronic music, di.fm recently purchased Ishkur's Guide, which is the best primer on the topic I've seen online: http://techno.org/electronic-music-guide/
5/11/10
I've been using this site to file my tax returns for six years and it keeps getting easier and easier to use Granted my taxes are pretty simple to begin with, but with TaxAct, I am able to reliably file both my federal and state taxes in under 30 minutes for just $18. There are no hidden charges and the interface is super easy to use.

Among the features I really like:
- automatic importing of information from your previous return, which basically fills out 90% of the return for you
- system of automated checks, flags, and alerts to catch any possible errors
- comparison of this year's returns with previous year's returns
- ability to print or save your forms via PDF
- ability to immediately file forms and pay taxes electronically

One thing to watch out for -- TaxAct partners with third parties to offer certain services, such as paying your taxes via credit card. If you choose to use those services, there are usually steep transaction costs which are not disclosed by either TaxAct or the partner. I find this borderline unethical, but believe it to be more the responsibility of the third party.

Overall, I've been very happy with TaxAct and will continue to use them in the future. I've actually seen the interface and features get better every year, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a convenient affordable online service to file their taxes.

Michael Has Earned 418 Votes

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Michael Has Received 1 Thank You

rogerh180
Should-Use-A- D. thanked you for your review of WikiLeaks

“Solid Points.”

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