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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.

Interests

museums, music, movies (in no particular order)

66 Reviews by Michael

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Mozy

Mozy

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.

Aaron Koblin

Aaron Koblin

6/12/08

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!

http://www.tenthousandcents.com

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:

http://www.thesheepmarket.com

What The Folk

What The Folk

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!"

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!

Sethcomedy.com

Sethcomedy

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!

TaxACT

TaxACT

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.

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!

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.

Mugasha

Mugasha

5/24/10

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!

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.

Cooking For Engineers

Cooking For Engineers

3/27/11

One of my go-to recipe sites -- whenever I need to know how to cook a particular dish or am looking for something interesting to try out, I come to this site. With its vast collection of well-documented recipes and high quality pictures, it's a great way to expand your repertoire as a cook.

Cooking for Engineers is the personal recipe collection of Michael Chu, an engineer who has invested a lot of time making his favorite dishes accessible to others online. Because of his background, the site is targeted toward a more analytical audience and features step-by-step photo-accompanied instructions, precise measurements, and cooking timelines. I've tried several of his recipes and have found them all very easy to follow. The recipes themselves are pretty good too, which is a credit to Michael's growing credibility as a talented chef.

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.

Tristate Camera

Tristate Camera

1/22/13

Ordered the Olympus Tough TG-1 camera from these guys and was very satisfied with the experience:

1) Price at Tri-State Camera was $60 less than what it was being offered for on Amazon. I usually purchase from Amazon because of their Prime 2-day shipping, but even after selecting the 2-day air option from Tri-State, I was saving a lot of money.

2) I needed the camera before going on vacation and because I had ordered it right before MLK weekend, I wasn't sure I was going to receive it in time. I called them up and found out that, sure enough, it was going to get there one day too late. However, the manager I spoke to, Al, told me he would overnight it for no extra cost and personally guaranteed that I would get it in time.

I got the camera as promised right before my trip, in perfect condition. You just don't get service like that anymore these days from most online retailers. I highly recommend these guys and look forward to buying more stuff from them. You just can't beat the price and the customer service at Tri-State Camera.

ESPN

ESPN

7/11/07

why are there no other great sports sites? - why is espn so dominant in the sports space? every guy i know watches sportscenter and refreshes this website every five minutes at work. but is there not another website for sports info? and don't say cbs...

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.

8tracks Radio

8tracks Radio

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.

KickStarter

KickStarter

10/25/16

Kickstarter is a innovative micro-patronage site which connects aspiring
creatives to those who want to be more involved in endorsing interesting
projects. The way it works is that individuals who conceive of a project but do
not have the money to pursue it or don't want to bear the financial risk can
submit their idea to the site. Donors can then see the projects and decide to
donate as much or as little as they want to support one they find interesting.

The artists benefit from seeing how viable or interesting their idea really is
before they decide to follow through on them. And the donors typically get a
memento or are somehow incorporated into the project. For example, one project
involved a women sending a postcard from around the world every day for 365
days. If you donated to her cause, not only did you help out financially, but
you provide one of the 365 addresses and in turn receive one of the postcards!

Projects have ranged from new restaurants, world travel, movies, and even open
source social networks. The homepage organizes the projects into different
categories so that they are easy to browse and each project shows how much money
is required and has been raised so far. I praise Kickstarter for helping reduce
the friction around true innovation and creativity.

Digitally Imported

Digitally Imported

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/

Nicholas Kristof Blog

Nicholas Kristof Blog

6/7/10

This is one of the few New York Times blogs I find worth reading. Nicholas Kristof is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who cares more deeply about social issues than any other journalist I can think of. Having traveled extensively and lived all over the world, he has developed a profoundly unique understanding of the world and human life. His blog covers a wide range of development issues, including health, human rights, education, and civil war. This is a must read, if not for the reason of becoming more engaged / involved in some of the most pressing issues of our time, then at least for its ability to put the happenings of our own lives and the things we take for granted into their proper perspective.

Gratefulness.org

Gratefulness.org

6/9/10

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.

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