Send Driving Directions to Your Phone
Want to save a little printer ink and paper? The next time you look up driving directions on MapQuest or Windows Live Search Maps, don't print a hard copy to take along in the car. Instead, send those directions via SMS to your cell phone. (And by the way, SMS is terrifically handy. In "10 Killer Texting Tricks" I've got several other great things you can do with your cell phone and a few choice Web services.)
In MapQuest, input your start and end points like usual and then click Get Directions. Next, click the Send To button and choose Send to Cell. Enter your phone number and other requested details, then click Send. Within a minute, you'll receive a text message (possibly multiple messages, depending on the length of the directions) with the turn-by-turn details and a link to a map.
In Live Search Maps, the process is virtually identical: After getting your directions, click the Send to link and choose Mobile.
Unfortunately, Google Maps doesn't have a send-to-cell option for driving directions-only for business listings. So if you're interested in saving a bit of paper, you'll have to use one of the other two services. Neither one charges anything to send directions via SMS, but standard carrier rates apply.
Convert Videos for iPod or iPhone Viewing
Let's say you downloaded a video from BitTorrent or a similar file-sharing service. And you want to watch that video on your Apple iPod or iPhone. Alas, iTunes doesn't play nice with the Divx and Xvid formats that are the most common types for videos distributed via BitTorrent and the like.
Enter Videora Converter, which can transcode just about any video format (including AVI, FLV, and VOB) to iPod/iPhone-friendly H.264 or MPEG-4. A new 4.04 version was just released, and it's better than ever.
It's not, however, the most user-friendly program in the world, so here's a quick walk-through:
Download and install the proper version for your device (there are six versions of Videora, one each for the iPod Video, iPod nano, iPhone 3G, etc.).
Run the program, then click the Convert button.
Click the Video File tab, and then choose Normal Mode (unless you're an advanced user, in which case you may want Power Mode).
Now you can follow the prompts to select the file you want to convert, choose an output directory, and tweak various video settings. Along the way, watch for the bright orange Next button in the ad-heavy main window-it's not always obvious that you're supposed to click it to move onto the next step.
Now sit back and let Videora work its magic, which could take upwards of an hour or two depending on the size of the file and speed of your PC. By default, the program will add newly converted files to your iTunes library (look in Movies), ready for syncing to your device.
Stream Music From Where You Aren't to Where You Are
Right now I'm working offsite, which for me means the local coffee shop. I forgot to pack my iPod, but no worries: I'm listening to the music library stored on my home PC. No, I didn't bring along a tin can tied to a really long string--I'm using Orb, a free app/service that streams all your media from your home PC to another computer, a smart phone, and other gadgets (see the Web site for details).
All you do is install the Orb app on your home system, sign up for an Orb account, follow a few configuration steps, and then leave your PC running while you're out and about. Then, fire up any Web-connected PC and head to mycast.orb.com.
Next, click Audio-Random if you just want to shuffle-play your song library, or click the Open Application button, and then Audio, for a familiar media-player interface.
Presto! You're got anywhere access to your entire music library. And not just your library, but also hundreds of Internet radio stations. Oh, and photos, documents, games, video, and even live and recorded TV. (I'll cover that stuff another time.)
I'm loving Orb right now, not just because it helped me work around my forgotten iPod, but also because it's free. If you frequently find yourself away from your music (and other media), you'll love this tool, too.