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Michael L.

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

Experience: Computers & Technology, Entertainment, Hobbies & Interests

Member since April 2007

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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.


museums, music, movies (in no particular order)

67 Reviews by Michael


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.


I find this site fairly useful for discovering activities in your local area. It has a nice mix of nightlife, outdoor activities, and cultural events, so there is always something interesting, no matter what you're in the mood for. I like the way the site is organized, the social features, and the ranking of events by popularity. But I mostly interact with the site through the weekly email, which seems to show more interesting and less mainstream events that I otherwise would never find out about.


I wouldn't consider myself a very spiritual person, but I do enjoy spending time on this site. Gratefulness.org promotes the ethics of grateful living and uses it to inspire not only personal growth, but positive changes across the world. I have sent many friends to this website when they are feeling overwhelmed or depressed. They have all been surprised by what just a few minutes of reflection can do.

I find the articles in the practices section particularly well written and deeply impacting. It's amazing how reading about and developing an appreciation for something as simple as water can really change your perspective and affect your mood for the rest of the day -- http://www.gratefulness.org/p/index.htm

Can living a more grateful life really change the world? I'm not sure, but I do believe we will all be happier individuals if we learn to better appreciate the things we so easily take for granted in our lives today.


I was hanging out with a good friend of mine the other day and noticed some really bad ass rings on her hands. They were silver and black, very large, in a really exotic design. I asked her where she got them and she said three words: Bad Ass Jewelry. Enough said -- check it out. They sell everything including necklaces, pendants, bracelets, and earrings for both guys and girls. Really neat, edgy stuff!


I usually listen to Digitally Imported, but Mugasha is what I stream at work now. Mugasha has put together a very impressive set collection from most of the top DJs (Armin van Buuren, Ferry Corsten, Tiesto, etc.) The interface is great -- the player breaks up the sets into individual tracks so you can see the title and the artist of each song, and also jump around. For each track, it shows how many people have listened to it and how many people liked it. And if you find one you really like, Mugasha makes it really easy to share it with your friends or purchase it on iTunes.

I do have two small complaints about the site. First, the collection is very trance-heavy. There isn't much progressive house yet, so you'll be disappointed if you're looking for your favorite Sasha or Digweed tracks. Second, the music player is embedded into the website, like Pandora, so you have to keep the browser / webpage open for the music to continue streaming. If you forget and start browing around, your song gets cut off. By contrast, Digitally Imported allows you to stream directly to Windows Media Player or Winamp, so you're free to leave the website to do other things.

Aside from these minor issues, the best and most important thing about Mugasha is the music. Two words: Tiesto ClubLife. Enjoy!


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/


Customer service is top notch -- I found out that my mother was out of town for Mother's Day and called them up the day before to see if I could switch the order. I was able to switch the delivery date to the following week for no extra charge (even though I was using a discounted delivery rate for the holiday). Customer service representative was very friendly and accommodating.

One caveat -- prices are a bit hefty, especially when compared to going direct to local florists. But they do deliver on what they promise and the flowers have always turned out great in my experience.


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.


Is this working?


Most people are already aware of Google's auto complete feature, which tries to guess what someone is searching for based on aggregate data from previous searches. But what most people don't realize is how useful the feature is for conducting societal research.

For example, to see what guys most want from their girlfriends, just type in "how do i get my girlfriend to" and see what pops up. Change "girlfriend" to "boyfriend" to compare the results -- the differences are both hilarious and slightly depressing.

AutoCompleteMe is a site dedicated entirely to the auto complete feature, based mostly on what interesting suggestions ordinary people stumble upon while performing their own searches. What turns up is an entertaining and sometimes insightful look into the zeitgeist and eccentricities of today's society.


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?


This is simply one of the most amazing services I've encountered in the past few months. GeeksToGo offers a free virus removal service through its community of expert tech support volunteers. In the unforunate event that your computer gets hit with a virus, malware, or spyware, you no longer need to mail out your machine, call an outsourced tech support center, or pay someone to fix it. With GeeksToGo, you can post your problem and within a matter of minutes someone from the community will commit to solving your problem. All interactions are online -- the removal specialist will give you access to free utilities and provide very clear step-by-step instructions to remove the virus. You get emailed whenever the tech is ready to tell you the next step and everything is recorded in the forums, where it is viewable and searchable by the general public. How is this free? Apparently, GeeksToGo is a place where aspiring "geeks" go to learn from the best and train to become experts in their field. In return, they are expected to contribute back to the community by providing free tech support to those that seek it. From personal experience, I can unequivocally say that the service is extremely effective and I am inspired by the community that runs it.

One day, I noticed that I had contracted the very nasty Google Redirect virus. Basically what happens is when you do a Google Search and click on a search result, the virus redirects you to a randomly generated page instead of the webpage you were trying to go to. If you click back and try again, it will give you another random page. Eventually, maybe after five or six times, you will get through to the proper page, but the problem persists with any future searches. I researched the problem for about thirty minutes and found a few relevant threads on the GeeksToGo forums. While there were published instructions on how to fix the problem, the forums state that each computer is different and that you should start a new case if you want to utilize their help. I registered in about thirty seconds, posted my problem, and was very surprised to get a response within 15 minutes. The person assigned to help me went by the handle "handhfan" and was extremely helpful, friendly, and responsive. He never took more than five minutes to get back to me whenever I messaged him.

What was most surprising was how competent and patient he was. The virus I had was a fairly new and stubbornly resilient strain. We tried over ten programs to get rid of it and after six hours, were still unable to stomp it out. "handhfan" was surprisingly honest and said he needed some more time to research and consult some other techs in the community. I was worried that I would never hear from him again, but at 7:30am the next morning, I get a message and we're at it again. After two hours of downloading utilities, generating logs, running custom scripts, and cleaning the registry, the virus was finally gone! As a final step, he sends me a bunch of free programs to protect my computer in the future and asks me to send him the quarantined files so they can "analyze" the new strain. The place is run like the freaking online CDC. Having successfully used the service over the course of two days, I can't rave enough about them to anybody who needs friendly free tech support.


Where dreams become heart attacks. It takes no more than a few minutes on this site to make you wish you didn't eat that cheeseburger earlier today. This is a great community-driven photo blog that chronicles the most disgusting foods that people love to eat. It serves as a critique against the reckless over-consumption that has fueled the current obesity epidemic. The fat gluttony guy in the movie Seven comes to mind. As does Guy Fieri and his diners, drive-ins, and dives... yuck!


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!


Currently the best iPhone application available - Shazam is the application I've always dreamed of building, but never thought possible. Just hold your iPhone up to any streaming music and it will instantly tell you the title and the artist of the song that is playing. It works whether you're in your car or in a club, and the results are amazingly accurate. I'm not sure how they do it, but I think it has something to do with the beat/bass patterns, because it seems to work even when the music is not very clear or when there's a lot of ambient noise.

Shazam is truly a technological breakthrough. I've never seen anything this accurate before. Eventually, I'd like an application that can identify any song you for which you can recite the lyrics or hum the tune, but this is definitely good enough for the times I hear a song I like at a bar. And as an added bonus, after Shazam identifies your song, you can turn your phone on its side and it will start playing the music video on youtube!


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!"


If you're addicted to your blackberry... - This is my favorite site dedicated to all things blackberry. It was started by one of my best friend's childhood schoolmates and has grown into the premiere destination for blackberry users. The site publishes the latest news and updates in the smartphone market, and supports a vibrant forum community. I particularly like their reviews.

Kevin, the community manager, was one of the first people to get his hands on the highly anticipated Blackberry Bold, which should be coming out later this year. Apparently, he paid an arm and a leg on eBay to purchase one of the three that were available. You can read the review here:


This phone looks incredible and in my opinion will be hands down the best phone out in the market! I'm not sure when it will be released to the public, but in the meantime, I'll just have to keep getting my crackberry fix by reading about it on this site.


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.


Mesmerizing artwork based on visualization of human systems - Aaron Koblin, most well known for his "Flight Patterns" piece, has built up a very impressive body of work on his website. This site showcases many of his data visualization masterpieces, constructed from complex software programs and very large data sets.

Among my favorites are Ten Thousand Cents, in which ten thousand people were asked to draw a sliver of a one hundred dollar bill. The finished product shows the power of independent collaboration and also includes graffiti from frustrated contributors!


I also like The Sheep Market, which Aaron created by paying 10,000 people 2 cents through Mechanical Turk to draw a sheep facing to the left. Each sheep drawing was recorded and you can watch how they were all individually constructed:



Aplus.Net hosting has the WORST customer service ever in the history of all companies - Last night we experienced another nightmare scenario for a small, growing company. We went down again for the THIRD time, starting at 12:45am PT. After reporting the problem, I was told that the failed server would get rebooted within 15min. Things got progressively worse from there. After half an hour, I called back and they had no idea what was going on and refused to give me an ETA at this point. After another hour, all of their customer support goes OFFLINE -- i. E. the hosting company goes completely dark and is completely unreachable. Regular server support is offline, dedicated server support is offline, and worst of all, the dedicated server support hotline (phone) starts playing a 30 second generic message and then HANGS UP ON YOU. I called five times with the same result. After yet another hour, I finally see a support person come online and ping her. She says she can't help me because she isn't a dedicated server support representative. I ask her what happened to dedicated server support at her company and she says LUNCH BREAK. Sweet. Two hours into the ordeal, I realize that there is only one person in the entire company that can help me and he is out eating a sandwich.

Fast forward seven hours later and we are finally back up. There's no knowing how many users we lost or pissed off over that time period. But great news, according to their uptime guarantee policy on http://servers.aplus.net/servers_guarantee.html, we will get 35% off next month's bill. Can't wait to save that $80! Well worth the downtime!

The worst part is not just being down, but not having anybody available to talk with. There's no worse feeling than trying desperately to contact your server provider and not be able to reach ANYONE. When will these companies get a clue about what customer service means? When someone is having a real problem, "I don't know", "I can't help you", and automatic messages that hang up on you, just don't cut it.

Stay away from Aplus.Net! At least until someone from their company cares enough to do something about their customer service.

Michael Has Earned 444 Votes

Michael L.'s review of Spreeder earned 9 Very Helpful votes

Michael L.'s review of Gratefulness.org earned 4 Very Helpful votes

Michael L.'s review of LinkedIn earned 24 Very Helpful votes

Michael L.'s review of Vwho.net earned 5 Very Helpful votes

Michael L.'s review of Digitally Imported earned 6 Very Helpful votes

Michael L.'s review of Habbi Habbi earned 2 Very Helpful votes

Michael L.'s review of achedaway.com earned a Very Helpful vote

Michael L.'s review of Autocompleteme earned 3 Very Helpful votes

Michael L.'s review of Aaron Koblin earned 5 Very Helpful votes

Michael L.'s review of Peloton earned 3 Very Helpful votes

Michael L.'s review of Facebook earned 15 Very Helpful votes

Michael L.'s review of TaxACT earned 3 Very Helpful votes

Michael L.'s review of Warby Parker earned 4 Very Helpful votes

Michael L.'s review of FareCompare earned 13 Very Helpful votes

Michael L.'s review of CNN earned 5 Very Helpful votes

Michael L.'s review of David Michael Bruno earned 5 Very Helpful votes

Michael L.'s review of ESPN earned 4 Very Helpful votes

Michael L.'s review of Mugasha earned 2 Very Helpful votes

Michael L.'s review of Cooking For Engineers earned 6 Very Helpful votes

Michael L.'s review of Mozy earned 4 Very Helpful votes

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