The World Wide Web continues to present us with amazing and useful websites. Some of them are even amazing and useful at the same time. Here are a number that have been on my radar screen lately.
For anyone who has ever received an email with some incredible story and forwarded it on to all of your friends, this site needs to be bookmarked now. The Internet is full of urban legends, myths, and plain lies that are forwarded to 300 of your closest friends. People often believe these stories simply because, “It’s on the Internet, so it must be true.” (These folks have obviously not realized that Abraham Lincoln once remarked, “Not everything you see on the Internet is true.”)
Snopes tracks the urban legends and does its best to verify or debunk the stories. You can search by keywords (“ill child collecting business cards”) or browse by topic. Some of the urban legends are so fantastical that it’s a wonder anyone believes them. Regardless, before you forward that email about how a particular politician said something outrageous, check Snopes first. Just as only you can prevent forest fires, only you can prevent the propagation of misinformation online. Snopes is free to browse and enjoy.
At times, it can be useful to print a web page for use as evidence or to memorialize something for your file. Many news sites offer buttons to turn their articles into print-friendly formats, but a surprising number of websites yield lousy results on the printed page. Print Friendly solves this problem by taking any web page and formatting it in a way that is, well, friendly for your printer. Print Friendly is ad-supported, but you can upgrade to a pro version and eliminate any ads.
This site is a repository of more than 1.4 million user manuals for just about everything that has ever been sold. Need a manual for your old Epson laser printer? Search for it on this site and download it as a PDF file. Although many manufacturers have their manuals online, a good number of them require you to type in the model number or otherwise navigate a series of menus. Manuals Lib simplifies the process, and lets you get your hands on that manual quickly. The site is free.
There are moments in life when everyone needs a throwaway email address. A website may require an address, even if the site is not going to do anything with it beyond send a link to confirm your registration. 10 Minute Mail creates an email address for you that self-destructs after 10 minutes (you can extend it for another 10 minutes if you wish). Plug your new short-lived email address into the registration form, receive the confirmation email at 10 Minute Mail’s site, confirm your registration, and let the address disappear. The result? No spam or messages from your new registration ever reaches your real inbox. This site implements an idea that is truly genius, and it can’t be over used. The service is free, although donations will not be turned away.
We’ve all fallen victim to the latest craze social media site. We’ve signed up, posted a few things, and decided that it’s not worth our time. Rather than leaving the account live (and potentially disclosing personal information in some data breach), Account Killer helps you nuke the inactive account by providing specific instructions for each social media service. Whether you should kill an account is debatable, though. As professionals, it might be worthwhile for us to keep the account alive in order to prevent someone from taking it and using it for nefarious purposes. On the other hand, Account Killer could be a great tool for helping our children eliminate any less-than-desirable social media networks from their online lives. This resource is also free.
Productivity experts tell us that we can improve our productivity by tracking our activities and looking at data that reveals where we’re wasting time. Rescue Time lets you install an app that runs securely in the background of your computer. The app tracks time spent on applications (like word processing) and websites (Westlaw vs. Facebook, for example). The site sends you a report that gives you useful feedback on how you’re spending your time while at the computer. The free version provides basic information, although you can upgrade to a paid version that lets you plug in more information (such as time spent in meetings) about how you spend your day.
Using the Cloud to store and transport files is convenient, and in many cases, completely free. For lawyers and others, however, there is a concern about privacy: files in your Dropbox or other cloud file storage service are not encrypted and thus could be viewed by rogue employees or subpoenaed by law enforcement. Viivo provides an easy way to encrypt data in your cloud file storage to keep it away from peeping eyes. It runs on Windows, Mac OS, Android, and iOS. Using the service is foolishly simple. You install the software, and it creates an encrypted folder within your Dropbox folder (or Box, Google Drive, etc.) where you place the files you want to protect. On your other devices, Viivo’s apps let you view and open the files in question. Viivo is a terrific service for attorneys, health care providers, accountants, or those who are a little paranoid. (Of course, just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean someone is not out to get you.) Viivo is free, but like with many other services you can upgrade to a pro version (and even a “business” version) with more features. If you’re using any cloud storage service, you should use Viivo with it. As I tell other lawyers, you don’t want to be the test case in a disciplinary proceeding or malpractice action, trying to defend your decision to not use something free and easy to use in order to protect your client’s information.
Recently I stumbled across a live video feed from the International Space Station that shows the Earth passing by below the ISS. As a little kid, I watched news reports of the astronauts walking on the Moon and returning to Earth. My crummy eyesight (and not being that strong in math) probably kept me out of the astronaut corps, but I still love pictures from space. As a very amateur astronomer, I get chills when I see the ISS pass through the sky at night. Heavens Above lets you see when the ISS will be visible from your location. The site also lets you see when other notable and bright satellites will cross your sky. Heavens Above lets us share the awe with young children (or children who are young at heart). The site is free, and it offers a lot of information for anyone interested in the things that orbit our planet.