Simple English Wikipedia

Screen shot 2013-07-10 at 8.28.57 AMWe are all familiar with the on-line reader-written Wikipedia. Although over the years it has been often criticized for errors, it has been gaining respect for being a surprisingly reliable source of information. While not accepted as a source for scholarly work, it is often an excellent place for the average information-seeker to learn quickly about the life of a bumblebee, the work of an 18th century author or an explanation of scientific phenomena. I turn to it myself quite often. Sometimes I learn ‘enough’ to satisfy my question, and other times I use it as a bouncing off point to research further.

Recently I learned about another Wikipedia.

It’s called Simple English Wikipedia, and it is designed for use by people whose first language is not English.

It is not a dumbed-down version. Rather it is written with basic English and shorter sentences.

From the cover page of their website: “We use Simple English words and grammar here. The Simple English Wikipedia is for everyone! That includes children and adults who are learning English. There are 101,790 articles on the Simple English Wikipedia.”

Simple English Wikipedia. What a great idea!

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Easter Eggs on Your Computer, iPad and iPhone

Screen shot 2013-03-30 at 7.48.59 AMIt is Easter weekend, and the perfect time to send YOU on an Easter Egg hunt.

An “Easter Egg” is a hidden joke or message that a computer programmer has embedded in their work. The very first Easter Egg was hidden in an Atari Game, Adventure, back in 1979. The programmer had secretly stashed his name and it was up to the players to find it.

And these days those Easter Eggs are not just hidden in games, they exist in all kinds of programs. Even those YOU use every day.

So let’s look at two popular Easter Eggs that are ‘hidden’ in Google.

Try this:

Bring up the Google search engine page on your computer or iPhone.

Type in the query: zerg rush

Tap your search button and sit back.

Yikes! I won’t say here what happens … it’s up to you to try it. It won’t hurt anything. It is just a silly Easter Egg reference to a fondly remembered video game for all those wacky programmer folks at Google.

Here is another:

Go to the Google Screen on your iPhone.

Query the word: tilt

When your search results for ’tilt’ show up, they should be ……. tilted. :)

Enjoy your Easter Eggs!

New iPad Stand Leaves Me Speechless

I came across this the other day, and, well, I just don’t know what to say.

Beyond “really?” and “e-wwwwwww“, I’ve got nothing.

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This is no joke. You can buy yours here.

Great Deals on iTunes Gift Cards this Week

If you have an iPhone, or an iPad, or any other subset of Apple Products, then you are no stranger to the iTunes Store. It is the place to go for all your apps, for music, for podcasts, for movies and other programing. (Books, too, but as a Kindle aficionado I tend to forget that. :) )

This time of year, stores often bundle the iTunes cards in a way to give you great deals.

If you stay alert, you can grab some free iTunes money. Really truly free.

If you are planning to give any iTunes cards as gifts this holiday season, these deals will help your $ go a bit further.

So far, I have learned of these three, all good for Thursday (limited hours) and Friday: (but I’m sure there will be others)

Toys R Us:

If you buy a $50 iTunes gift card from Toys R Us, you get an EXTRA $15 card for free.

Target

The $60 pack of iTunes gift cards will be offered at Target for $50. That’s $10 free.

Best Buy

The $100 iTunes card will be offered for $80.

Walmart

Finally, I believe that Walmart will be selling their $100 gift card for $80. $20 free.

Percentage wise, the best deal is at ToysRUs.

With these kind of deals, you can “gift” yourself with the freebie as you buy a card for someone on your Holiday list. :)

********* Thanks to Peace With My Life who tells us that Bed, Bath and Beyond will be offering $25 worth of iTunes for $20. Another goodie!! Thank you!

Get Back Your Maps Street View in iOS6: Live Street View

I sure do wish that Apple and Google could get along. They should have learned how to share the sandbox back in Kindergarten.

Google Maps was one of the things that made the iPhone so awesome. I’m grumpy, now. :( I didn’t know how much I’d miss Google’s Maps.

Especially Street View. I love street view. I have written about it before. It is so very helpful when traveling. Boo. 3D is pretty. But I don’t want to “fly over”. I want to walk on the street.

Apple is telling us that they are going to be improving their maps. Well, duh. If it wasn’t ready, they shouldn’t have released it. Errors are being reported across the internet.

We have come to expect Apple to make “good stuff”. We depend on them to make “good stuff”. This isn’t the “good stuff”. It’s a step backwards, and that is not very Apple.

Improving “awesome” is awesome. Improving “not ready” is a fail.

Some people don’t care. I heard a TV commentator say that he could care less about Maps, that he knows where he’s going. But those of us who have used Maps know that it is so much more than that. The traffic, the public transport, the reliability. Sigh.

Google apparently is making or has made an app but I’m guessing that Apple will drag its feet before approving it for the App Store.

So what to do?

In the meantime you can go through your browser and bring up Google maps. Click on the action arrow and you will be given an option to add it to your home screen.

This means you now have an icon to take you to Google Maps and it brings back the direction capability for public transport. Ahhhh.

But it does NOT give you Street View.

Fortunately, there is an App that does bring you Street View, and it does a very successful job of it.

It is appropriately named “Live Street View”. There is a free version that comes with ads, but for 99¢ you lose the ads and gain the ability to bookmark.

It is simple and basic. It does the job. Across the top you can tap Map or Satellite or Hybrid.

Simply tap a spot on a street and you get ….. STREET VIEW !! Hurray! And if you turn your device, it turns with you.

Live Street View is a quick and easy solution to give us back our beloved Street View, for now.

Live Street View is 99¢ in the iTunes store.

Free, Really Free: Classic Audio Books, Professionally Read

photo credit: Wikipedia


Last week, Amazon held their press conference, announcing their new Kindles and also a new feature called “Whispersync Voice.”

Let’s first back up a little bit and talk about “Whispersync” in general. This is an incredible, awesome feature of Kindle-reading. I have a Kindle, an iPad and an iPhone, and I read on all three (using the free Kindle app on the Apple devices).

With Whispersync, I can pick up any device and continue reading my book from where ever I left off on any other device. I fall asleep with my Kindle, yet when I am sitting in the doctor’s office the next afternoon, I can open the Kindle app on my iPhone, and I will be in the exact spot of the book that I left off last night. I can bring my iPad to my exercise bike, and if I open the Kindle app, I will be in the spot where I left off at the Doctor’s office in the afternoon. And when I return to bed in the evening, my Kindle will be ready for reading at the place I left off on the iPad. I have come to rely on this feature, and I’d truly miss it if I didn’t have it now.

Whispersync Voice takes syncing to a whole new level. This adds speech to the equation.

Amazon has started to “package” books so that you can buy the Kindle version with a reduced-price audio book (the audio book would cost a great deal more if bought separately).

(*Please note that this is different from the “Text to Speech” function that Kindles have enjoyed since the beginning. (I won’t digress here, but I think many people will be disappointed if Text to Speech is phased out.) With WhisperSync Voice, you are hearing professionally made audio books, not a robot text reader.*)

With Whispersync Voice, you can read your book at home, then get in your car and continue listening to the book from exactly the same spot where you left off. A cool idea, (although it might get a little costly.)

In my family, we might use this a bit differently, since I am a reader, and my husband is a listener. This could work out really well for us, not as a syncing thing, but as an opportunity to get a reduced price audio book of a book that I’ve read and I think he would really like. We’ll see….

And so ……. Let’s get to the FREE part:

Because Amazon wants people to try this new feature, they have taken 22 Classic Books and made the book and the audiobook version BOTH free:

That’s a WOW!

Here is the list:

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Tom Sawyer’s Comrade by Mark Twain

Dracula by Bram Stoker

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

White Fang by Jack London

The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

The Sign of the Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce

House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders by Daniel DeFoe

Awesome list, right?

In order to do this, you must have a Kindle or Kindle App and the Audible App on your iPhone. (There is a version for Android users as well).

Click here to go to the list of FREE Amazon Books and Matching Audiobooks.

Scroll through, and find the book of your choice.

I chose A Tale of Two Cities and clicked on that title from the list. It brought me to this screen:

Notice that the Kindle price is $0 (that’s ZERO dollars). Just “purchase” it as you would any Kindle book.

A box will pop up and you will see this:

Since I have already downloaded and registered with the Audible App, I just breeze through these clicks… I’ll paste each screen, here:

Notice all those zeros? :)

That’s all there is (almost). You will have to download the book to your phone via the Audible App. Just go to the “My Library” section of the app, and you will see your audio book listed in the “not downloaded” section. Just touch it to download it into your phone. That’s it. You can now listen on your device, and it will sync with the book as you read it. I have tried it, and wow .. it works just great.

Audible is an Amazon company, and therefore the two play very well together. I am particularly delighted to see that in the “Manage my Kindle” section on Amazon, your Audio books are included there, as well, to be managed similarly.

And so, to summarize:

Go to the list of free books.

“Buy” a free book.

“Buy” a free audio version of the book.

Download the audio version to your device through the Audible App.

All done! Time to enjoy!

You can learn more about Whispersync voice here

Today Belongs To Apple

Last week it was everything Kindle as Amazon announced their new Kindle Paperwhite and their new Kindle Fire Models.

This week, Apple takes the stage. Today they will be announcing …… ?????

Among the expected goodies:

New iPhone 5 (will it be called the “5”?)

New Operating system, OS6, rumored to have MANY changes and new features as well.

New connector dock for the new products. The current connector has been unchanged since 2007. (uh,oh, old speakers, charger docks, etc, will be useless?)

Changes to the iPod Touch?

and, (gasp) an iPad Mini? (we previously discussed that rumor, here). With the new selection of Kindle Fires, it certainly seems more likely that Apple will be broadening the iPad choices. The iPad remains a more powerful tablet than the Fire, so will the scaled down version maintain that awesome-ness?

Stay tuned……… :)

Turn in Your Coins = Get Apps (and other Stuff)

photo credit: Kevin via photo pin cc

If you have an iPhone or an iPad, at some point you have to feed iTunes in order to buy the apps that make these devices so much fun.

Did you know that you can exchange your change for an iTunes certificate?

If you have visited a grocery store in the US, you’ve probably noticed those big green Coinstar machines.

They advertise that you can turn your coins into cash … for a fee.

Well, I’m not going to pay a fee to turn my coins into cash! So for a long while, I totally ignored those machines.

However, a while ago I learned that there is another choice. You can turn in your coins and select the option to get an “e-gift certificate” instead. And if you make that selection, there is no fee at all.

Every Coinstar machine seems to list a different set of participating stores, including department stores like Penny’s and Sears, grocery stores, hardware stores and internet companies like Amazon and iTunes.

My local machine offers iTunes (hurray!) and I’ve dumped change in there periodically. Out pops a receipt that kind of looks like a cash register receipt, and on it is a total $ of the coins you turned in, and a redemption code. Simply go to iTunes, and type in the code… and POOF! you have just exchanged your change for iTunes credit.

One caution: I wouldn’t dump a TON of change in at once, just in case the machine isn’t working properly. You want to protect yourself from a fail. But I have only ever had just one issue, so in my experience, it has been quite successful.

You can learn more about this directly from the Coinstar website, with a list of all participating stores, here.

The Way You Shop is Changing: The Future is Here

photo credit: wikipedia

Technology is changing things so fast, it can make your head spin. These changes impact everything, and one area that is moving toward BIG changes is shopping.

More people are shopping online than ever before, and the impact is being felt by the brick-and-mortar stores.

Target and Best Buy have both complained that people come in to browse, and then go home and buy on-line. This is a trend that is only expected to continue as people become more comfortable with buying things online.

Payments are moving to your smartphones. A company called LevelUp is successfully doing that right now (although this is found mostly in cities).

Here are three other ways that your shopping will be changing in the not-too-distant future:

Scan As You Shop

Reuters is reporting that Walmart is trying out a new way to get their customers OUT of the store quickly without waiting in lines.

You’ve probably used, or at least seen, self-checkouts at grocery stores, etc., well now Walmart is experimenting with a process that would take self-checkout to a whole new level. A Walmart in Arkansas recently did a trial run by recruiting a bunch of employees and their invited friends and family to try out a new method of self-checkout: The customers would shop as usual…… however, as they put their items in their cart, they would scan the items, themselves, with their iPhones. Then, at checkout, the only thing left to do is to pay. Scanning would be all done.

The long-term plan would include paying on the iPhone, as well. No check-out needed. Just walk in, shop, scan, and leave. This would mean NO lines (a retailer goal). Just an experiment for now, but it does give us a little peak into the future. You can read more about this here.

Other future shopping changes are even more extraordinary.

Virtual Mirror

How about a virtual mirror where customers can view themselves in various clothes … just by looking in the mirror? Technology would figure out exactly how the outfit would fit, based on body type and fabric. This isn’t science fiction… it’s under development, and should be ‘ready’ in just a few years.

The 3-D Printer

Another mind-blowing shopping concept is the 3-D printer. Imagine clothing, household items, pharmaceuticals, just printed out in your own home! I find it hard to wrap my mind around the concept of a 3-D printer, but they are already in action and have been used to print out hearing aids and model rockets. Amazing. And it’s coming.

You can read more about this mirror and the 3-D printers by clicking here.

Tech Trivia: The Very First YouTube Video

photo credit: RayMorris1 via photo pin cc

I have always enjoyed history … origins, old architecture, historic places, and beginnings.

If you think about it, we are actually LIVING the beginning of all things internet. While this may be very recent history, it is history.

Everything has to start sometime. We all enjoy falling into YouTube now and then. (Two recent YouTube related posts are here and here.) But when did YouTube start? What was first?

Let’s look wayyyyyyy back in time to 2005.

Specifically, April 23, 2005.

Here it is. The very first YouTube video. It’s title is “Me at the zoo” and it is just 18 seconds long.

Pretty underwhelming. But it is the first. And that makes it special.

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