Opt-out of behavioral advertising

Ad networks like DoubleClick, Quantcast and others track the websites you visit and target ads specifically to you. To opt out of these tracking networks, go to the Network Advertising Initiative (NAI) website. It will check your system for tracking cookies from the participating ad networks and allow you to opt out of receiving them.

Visit the NAI website

If you want to block ads and ad tracking altogether, you can install an ad blocker plugin for your browser:

Adblock (Safari)
AdBlock Plus (Chrome/Firefox)
Ghostery (Firefox/Safari/Chrome/Opera/IE)

Screen sharing and conferences calls

I have mentioned a few services for screen sharing and conference calls before. Here are a couple new ones I’ve discovered.

Join.me is a service that allows you to share your screen, chat, send files, and conference call with up to 250 people on your computer or mobile devices. It’s incredibly easy to use. The person sharing their screen downloads the software and sends an email to the attendees. In the email, attendees can click a link to open a view of your screen in their web browser, and can call a number at which the service has created a conference line. It’s a great solution for reviewing documents, training staff, or demoing anything on your computer.

If you need something even simpler, QuickScreenShare allows you to instantly share your screen with another user. No registration or software, just click a button and share the link with your friend. They will be able to view your screen in their browser.

Try Join.me
Try QuickScreenShare

Sharing photos with family/friends

Computers make communication easy, but they also make us lazy. When was the last time you wrote a real letter or sent a photo to your family in the mail? It’s hard to find time to do these things, but services like Picplum and Postcardly have made them easy again.

Picplum: With their monthly subscription plan, send 15 photo prints in the mail for only $7 a month, per recipient (shipping included). They also have a pay-as-you-go plan that is 50 cents per print, plus shipping. Learn more »

Postcardly: Sign-up for a $5-10 monthly subscription and you can send 5-15 postcards a month. You can also pay a one-time fee of $20 for 20 prepaid cards. Learn more »

I haven’t tried either of these services yet, if you try them, let me know what you think!

Discussion Groups

Do you send regular emails to a group of people, like family members, business colleagues, or social groups? You can use a discussion groups service to create a single email address that will reach everyone in the group, so you don’t have to type them all in every time. Once you’ve set up a group online and added members, any member can use the group address to send emails to the whole group. The emails are archived on the web so you can view them and search their contents at any time. Both Google and Yahoo provide this service at no cost.

Custom Webmail Themes

Many free webmail services allow you to customize the look of your mail in your browser. If you want to add a little more pizazz to your email, check out the instructions below.

Gmail: Log into your mail. At the top right of the screen, click on the gear icon and then Mail Settings. Click on the Themes tab and choose your favorite theme.

Yahoo: Log into your mail. At the top left of the screen, click on Options > Themes and choose your favorite photo to appear in the header area.

Hotmail (Windows Live): Log into your mail. At the top right of the screen, click on Options > More Options. Under Customizing Hotmail, click on Themes. Choose your favorite theme and click Save.

AOL Mail: Log into your mail. At the top right of the screen, click on Themes. Choose your favorite theme and click Save.

Watching TV Online

If you don’t have a DVR to record your favorite TV shows then you probably miss them every once in a while. Did you know that the major TV networks allow you to watch recent shows on their websites? Here are a few sites to check out if you’re looking for a show you’ve missed. Keep in mind that they only keep a few episodes online at a time, and episodes usually don’t show up online until a few days after they have aired.

A fair amount of current and older shows are also available on Hulu.

Backing up Social Media

Need to create an archive of your Twitter, Facebook, Flickr or Google accounts? Maybe you have a lot of photos on Facebook or memorable quotes from friends on Twitter. Either way, there are several options (some free, some commercial) to backup all your social data.

  • Twapper Keeper: Archives your or your friends tweets.
  • The Archivist: A Windows program to archive your tweets.
  • SocialSafe: Backup data from both your Facebook and Twitter accounts.
  • Backupify: Backup and restore data from Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Google Apps, Flickr, Picasa and Blogger.

Browser Tab Keyboard Shortcuts

All modern browsers have the ability to open several websites in the same window with tabs. Using tabs instead of opening multiple windows keeps your screen less cluttered and makes it easier to switch back and forth between websites. Instead of using your mouse to open a new tab, you can just hit CMD and T (CMD is the button with the Apple on it) or CTRL and T on a PC. If you want to switch between tabs without using your mouse, hit CTRL-TAB (the tab key). To close a tab, hit CMD-W on a Mac or CTRL-W on a PC.

Mobile Banking

Many banks today offer several ways of banking while on the go. You can check your balance and transfer money via text message, your mobile browser, and sometimes a dedicated mobile app. Chase bank even lets you deposit checks with your smart phone (Android and iPhone). It’s simple, safe and secure. Other banks are likely to get this feature soon, so be sure to check with your bank and see if they offer it.