Helpful Web Sites: Regator, Snopes.com, and More
Regular Hassle-Free PC readers probably know by now that I love trying out new Web sites. A few months ago I pointed you toward some great research spots, a how-to site, and Google tools. (Missed that? Read "Must-Bookmark Web Sites.") This week I thought I'd get you caught up on the sites I've been enjoying lately. Read on for a blog aggregator, DIY projects, and more.
Browse the Web's 'Best Blogs'
Ever feel like you're missing out on the best of the blogosphere? Pay a visit to Regator, which promises the "best posts" from the "best blogs." The site aggregates (it's an aggregator, get it?) posts culled from the Web's kajillion or so blogs, then serves them up for easy consumption.
For example, you can browse the top-rated posts, browse by category, save and organize posts, search, create a personalized Regator page that'll include posts matching any keyword, and so on.
The site also serves up audio and video and lets you build custom RSS feeds if you want to add Regator material to your existing feed reader.
Find Out if That E-Mail Is a Hoax
Your cell phone number is about to be handed over to telemarketers.
Carjackers are sticking flyers on rear windows so they can grab the car when drivers step out to remove the flyers.
Microsoft will pay you $245 for every person you forward an e-mail to.
False. False. False.
It continues to amaze me how many people will blindly forward these and other wild claims to friends and family members. I've received more than I care to count, and no matter how earnest the latest come-on ("This really happened to a friend of mine!"), I know that 99.9 percent of them are false.
That's because I'm a regular visitor to Snopes.com, which catalogs and debunks the hundreds of Internet hoaxes and urban legends that continue to make the e-mail rounds.
The next time one of these often-amusing, sometimes-frightening messages lands in your inbox, copy the subject line, head to Snopes, then paste the subject into the search field.
When you reach the page that shows the "False" nature of the legend, copy the URL, return to the e-mail, click Reply All, and paste it in. (I like to add something like, "Don't believe everything you read!" just so I can feel extra smug.)
In other words, break the chain, people! Stop forwarding this nonsense to people you supposedly care about. Yes, I'm talking to you, Mom.
Find Cool DIY Projects
If there's a cooler do-it-yourself site than Instructables, I haven't found it. The place is home to thousands of fun, wacky, practical, money-saving, scientific, and innovative projects authored and illustrated by your fellow humans.
For example, want to know how to bake a 3D dinosaur cake for your child's birthday party? You'll find it here. Turn a Lego brick into a USB flash drive? That's here, too. Think Altoids tins are just for carrying curiously strong mints? Think again: Instructables has page after page of interesting things you can do with an Altoids tin.
The site is free, of course, but it's worth registering so you can view/print any given project's instructions on a single page rather than having to jump from one page to the next.
If you're interested in other how-to sites, check out WikiHow, another favorite of mine.
Learn How to Clean Stuff
Want to know how to get purple marker off sofa cushions? How to remove a sticky handprint from a suede jacket? How to get grape jelly off new white tennis shoes?
Why, yes, I do have children, why do you ask?
The aptly named HowToCleanStuff.net offers instructions on cleaning just about everything, from car-battery terminals to computer keyboards to pet stains.
Send Anonymous Criticisms
Problem: Your sister-in-law talks too much. Your co-worker has deadly coffee breath. Your neighbor leaves his barking dog outside at all hours of the day and night.
Solution: NiceCritic.com, a site that lets you send gentle but helpful criticisms anonymously.
All you do is pick a category (Appearance, Personal Hygiene, Office Behavior, etc.), choose a canned message from within that category, and then provide the person's name and e-mail address.
Presto! Your criticism gets delivered, the offender adjusts his or her behavior, and the world becomes a better place. All thanks to you.
Seriously, I think services like this are great for dealing with awkward situations in a harmless, nonconfrontational way. And, yes, a NiceCritic message may cause hurt feelings, but I'd certainly want to know if my behavior was bugging someone.
My only complaint is that you can't send a custom message--though I suppose there's a rationale behind that. NiceCritic's messages are polite and straightforward; yours might be, um, less so.