Developed in part with a grant from
the National Science Foundation

Member since April 2007

  • Reviews 66
  • First to Review 47
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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.

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museums, music, movies (in no particular order)

66 Reviews by Michael

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YourMechanic

YourMechanic

7/22/14

I've used this service several times now. Basically, they give you a quote online and the mechanic comes to your house or office to service your car. No more dropping off the car at a garage and being stranded without a ride for several hours.

Each time I've used the service, the mechanic has been super friendly and very knowledgeable. One time, he was able to fix my problem in a mere 15 minutes and I was able to get half the fee refunded to me. I've been impressed so far with their customer service and the costs have seemed very reasonable.

Service
Value
Pttrns

Pttrns

3/17/14

Simple website showcasing great mobile application design patterns. All screenshots are taken from popular mobile applications and arranged in a very browseable grid format. You can also filter the types of screenshots by selecting one of the UI elements from the left column (e.g. comments, search, etc.) If you're interested in UI design or thinking of building a mobile app, make sure to check out this site.

AllClearID

AllClearID

3/17/14

A few years ago, one of my credit cards had a security breach and some members had their personal information stolen. As compensation, my credit card company offered one year of free identity-theft protection from a company called Debix. I really enjoyed the service, which monitored my transactions as well as my credit from the three major credit bureaus and alerted me whenever anything suspicious came up. Fortunately, I never received an alert and therefore never needed to use their extended services of identity repair or identity-theft insurance.

I'm not sure if I would actually pay for the service since I can easily monitor my credit on my own. However, since I used the service, they have rebranded themselves as AllClearID and switched their focus to providing data-protection services to businesses. Because of this, their identity monitoring services are now subsidized by their business customers and completely free to regular users, so I would recommend checking it out if this is something you are worried about.

Facebook

Facebook

5/7/10

is this working?

FlightCar

FlightCar

6/26/13

This is a neat new service which offers travelers free airport parking in exchange for renting their cars out at much lower prices than traditional rental car companies. In addition to providing free parking, they will wash your car and also compensate you if you car is rented while you're gone. For someone who is always debating the best way to get to the airport (and in need of a car wash), I decided to try them out before going out of town for the weekend.

I was able to schedule a drop off just six hours in advance by calling the service -- the FlightCar website doesn't allow you to make appointments online less than 24 hours in advance. Everything went smoothly in the morning. I was especially impressed by the professionalism of the staff, uniforms and branding given how new the service was. When I got back from my trip, I was pleasantly surprised that they washed my car even though it wasn't rented out. However, the shuttle back from the airport didn't show up for 25 min, which was a little longer than expected.

My experience is pretty limited so far, but I will definitely use them again and see how the experience is when someone actually rents my car. I have also not rented from them yet, but hope to try them out after they expand their locations beyond just San Francisco and Boston.

FareCompare

FareCompare

8/20/11

A sophisticated airfare comparison site which differentiates itself on the amount of data it searches and the speed at which it is able to process and present the results. It has the most airlines and search options of all the travel comparison sites I've seen and even pops up multiple windows to other meta-search engines so that you can compare the results. Another neat feature is the ability to sign up for real-time email alerts on price drops for preselected routes.

They are also known to mine the vast amounts of data to which they have access and perform advanced analytics to understand how and when prices fluctuate. The site publishes these findings in a series of very helpful travel advice articles, explaining to consumers not only the best days to travel, but also the best days to *purchase* tickets. It's definitely worth visiting this site even if just to gain greater insight into how the airline industry works.

GeeksToGo

GeeksToGo

7/30/09

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.

Brilliance

Brilliance

5/8/13

While out ring shopping with my girlfriend, she saw a ring she liked, but I knew I could improve upon the design. I looked at various custom jewelers, but Brilliance seemed to have the biggest selection and most transparent design process. I was slightly skeptical since they were strictly an online business, so I called them up and was put in touch with Jonathon Ohayon. He blew me away with his depth of knowledge, experience, and honesty. I immediately felt comfortable enough to lay down the $200 deposit to get the design process started.

The way it works is that once you put down the deposit, you begin working with their designers to come up with the exact design that you want. You can send in drawings, images, or written descriptions and they send you back computerized renderings for you to provide feedback. This continues back and forth for as long as you want, until you are completely satisfied with the design, and then it goes into production which takes about a week. They will even send you the diamond ahead of time for inspection before they mount it in the setting, although I didn't take advantage of this option. Finally, when the ring is ready, it's shipped to you overnight with a beautiful black box, the certification, and a professional appraisal.

I was extremely impressed with every aspect of the process, including the introductory call, the iterative design process, the customer education, the diamond selection, and the final delivery. I was very demanding, but the team that worked with me was always patient and enthusiastic. When it came time to choose the diamond, Jonathon gave very candid feedback on what he thought would look nice and what he thought wouldn't work. And once you're close to your final decision, he goes out of the way to confirm that the stone looks great in person.

The whole process took a little over a month, but mostly because I was so specific with what I wanted. The end product was amazing and turned out even better than I had envisioned from the renderings. I gave it to my girlfriend this past weekend and she thought it was absolutely perfect! If anybody needs a custom engagement ring made, I have to recommend Brilliance for their amazing level of professionalism and quality.

TaskRabbit

TaskRabbit

8/4/10

If you have errands to run, but your time is valuable, try hiring a Runner to do it for you. On TaskRabbit you can name your price and the Runners will do anything from moving items, shopping for you, to taking your clothes to the cleaners. All the Runners are immediately reviewed after completing the task, so you can easily tell who is reliable and trustworthy.

On the flip side, signing up to be a Runner is a great way to generate some extra cash if you are unemployed, self-employed, or just happen to have a lot of free time. A lot of the Runners today happen to be stay-at-home parents looking for part-time work.

Currently the service is only available in Boston and San Francisco, but the site is relatively new and will add cities as it continues to grow.

Shazam

Shazam

8/8/08

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!

Walgreens

Walgreens

6/19/11

Very simple and easy-to-use website for ordering contact lenses. And best of all, very cheap -- you typically get free shipping on orders over $99 and there are coupons for at least 15% off all over the internet. After your initial order, re-ordering just takes a few clicks. I've ordered from here a few times already and am a happy customer.

Google Plus

Google Plus

7/7/11

Google's latest attempt at creating a true social network to compete with Facebook, and also their best. The interface is very slick and cleaner than Facebook's. The standout features are: (1) ability to arrange all your friends into and share content with smaller groups or "Circles", (2) ability to do group video chat up to 10 people in "Hangouts", and (3) deep integration with Picasa for photo sharing with a very fast and intuitive interface. I'm still learning all the features and I'm sure they'll improve a lot over the next few weeks, but so far I've been very impressed!

Aplus

Aplus

6/10/08

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.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn

9/3/10

I never really jumped on the LinkedIn bandwagon, but have been using it recently to find "passive" job candidates. The service seemed to work pretty well, except you can't really contact anyone outside of your immediate network unless you pay for that privilege. That is one of the primary ways they get you to upgrade to a "premium" account.

Sadly, LinkedIn is like all the other consumer-unfriendly subscription-based services out there --- they try very hard to get you to subscribe, rely on the fact that you forget about your subscription, and make it *very* difficult to unsubscribe. Subscribing is as easy as clicking a nice, shiny button. But unsubscribing is nearly impossible. After 15 minutes of clicking around the site and researching the issue on the internet, it turns out you have to (1) go to a special page where you must (2) message a member of the customer support staff and (3) request and wait for your subscription to be canceled!

I was successful at getting a response within a few days. But my request for a refund for this month's unused subscription (I explained that I wasn't going to use the service this month and that I had simply forgotten about the subscription) was addressed with a simple copy-and-paste of the terms of service, which states the customer is charged unless he/she cancels ahead of time. Yes, I understand those are the official terms and they are legally protected, but why should a customer be charged for an unused service? LinkedIn really needs to learn a thing or two about customer service, instead of milking each customer for as much money as possible.

Thisiswhyyourefat

Thisiswhyyourefat

5/17/09

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!

Free-tv-video-online.info

Free-tv-video-online.info

8/1/10

Project Free TV is a site which links to user uploaded movies and television shows. The site does not actually host any content and acts more like a directory for user submitted online media. However, it does provide a player to stream the videos without having to leave the site. While the quality of the videos can be a bit unpredictable, it's hard to complain about a service which allows you to watch the latest shows and movies that all your friends are talking about.

Spreeder

Spreeder

3/27/11

On a lark, I recently decided to take a speed reading class, where we were taught simple techniques such as sub-vocalization (supressing the voice inside your head as your read) and getting your eyes used to reading batches of words at a time. Both techniques run counter to a person's natural reading habits and we were given uncomfortable exercises to help unlearn our old ways of reading. Eventually, I was able to get my reading speeds up to 700 words per minute from 400 words per minute, so I'm convinced this stuff actually works.

At the end of the class, our instructor told us about Spreeder, a free online application which allows you to enter any text you want to read faster and then flashes the text back to you at a configurable rate. Not only is it a great way to quickly get through the latest article your boss told you to read, but it's also a great tool to hone your speed-reading skills from time to time. Definitely worth giving a try if you're looking to increase your daily productivity.

Meme Generatorr

Meme Generatorr

8/24/11

Very cool site that allows you to create meme-based photos or posters with customized text. All the popular memes are on there and the interface is extremely easy to use. It's also a cool place to go to see which memes are trending these days. But at the end of the day, your generated image will only be as funny as your captions are creative...

Gmail

Gmail

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.

JibJab

JibJab

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.

Michael Has Earned 415 Votes

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

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