Easy Access to US, UK Streaming Services From Anywhere

Netflix Canada, Hulu Canada, iPlayer Canada, iPlayer US, Spotify Canada | UnoDNS

I love being from Canada — but due to licensing issues and the imaginary line I live on the wrong side of, I’m blocked from or limited in using streaming media services that my global neighbours rave about. Fortunately for those of us so geographically challenged (or those of you travelling outside the US or UK and missing your favourite music and video streams), there are services out there that try to solve this problem.

The best one I’ve come across so far, in terms of ease of use and quality of delivery, is UnoDNS. READ MORE

Still Haven’t Filled Out Your March Madness Bracket? Let PickMyBracket.com Do It For You!

Still Haven't Filled Out Your March Madness Bracket? Let PickMyBracket.com Do It For You! | 40Tech

Today is the deadline for most NCAA March Madness brackets — the first game of the second round. If you’ve been invited to participate in a pool or some other sort of friendly competition, you need to get your college basketball stats together in a hurry. It’s a bit of a bear of a project though, isn’t it? Especially if you’re busy, don’t follow basketball like it’s your religion, or statistics make your eyes roll into the back of your head.

Not to worry , though… PickMyBracket.com has come to your rescue! It’s bracket generator algorithm will create a full bracket for you in seconds — and you might even win a “Brand New iPad,” to boot.

PickMyBracket.com was developed by Information Systems students Jerry Potter and Nick Walter at Brigham Young University. The site pulls statistical data on NCAA teams from ESPN and runs comparisons to pick a winner. To make sure everyone has their own bracket flavour, and to keep things interesting, there are random factors you can choose from, as well, such as hotness of coeds, partying reputation of colleges, SAT scores, mascot type, etc.

The idea actually originated with Walter’s father.

“For around the past 10 years he made an excel file that filled out your March Madness bracket for you based off of team’s ranks and some randomness. He called it ‘The Pickalator,’” said Walter. “I thought this would be a great chance to bring The Pickalator to the whole world!”

If you want to participate in this year’s March Madness bracket competitions, but figure you’re out of time or don’t have the know-how, think again! PickMyBracket.com can have you up and running with a good bracket in just a couple of minutes. Get on it now, so you don’t miss out. Who knows… you might win.

What are your thoughts on PickMyBracket.com?

Bye Bye Instapaper, iReader, Readability… Hello Clearly, From Evernote

Bye Bye Instapaper, iReader, Readability... Hello Clearly, From Evernote | 40Tech

Today, I discovered the Evernote Clearly extension. Today, my life changed. If you’re a fan of saving articles for later — or just of reading them in an uncluttered, easy on the eyes format — your life might change too. Clearly brings all of the minimalist beauty of iReader and Readability, does it better, and then sweetens the pot with the ability to send a nicely formatted copy of the article to Evernote with a single click.

It’s awesome. You must try it!

A few screenshots of Clearly in action:

Distraction-free Online Reading with Evernote Clearly | 40Tech  Customize Your Minimalist Blog Post View with Evernote Clearly | 40Tech

Clearly Lets You Read it Later with Single-Click Article Clipping to Evernote | 40Tech  Cleanly Formatted Blog Posts with Evernote Clearly for Google Chrome | 40Tech

Forget Instapaper Easily Send Articles to Evernote with Evernote Clearly | 40Tech  Evernote Clearly Customization, Theme Options | 40Tech

To make things even more fun, Evernote Clearly offers customization capabilities so you can set up your own look and feel, as well as some smooth transition animations, and the ability to preset a tag for the articles you decide clip to read later.

You don’t need an Evernote account to use Clearly, but if Evernote was trying to find a way to get free users to increase the likelihood of needing a paid account, they’ve definitely succeeded.

Clearly is currently available as a Google Chrome extension. Other browsers will be supported soon.

Get Clearly [Chrome]

App of the Week: Easily Find What’s Hogging Space on Your Hard Drive with Space Sniffer [Windows]

Easily Find What's Hogging Space on Your Hard Drive with Space Sniffer | 40Tech

Every once in a while you try to download or install something, only to be told by your impertinent machine that you don’t have enough space. You try and try to resolve the issue, but, for the life of you, can’t find the files that are hogging up your hard drive. Everything seems accounted for. You’ve even emptied your Recycle Bin and cleared your temp folder, but all you get from your computer is some digitized, maniacal laughter — or maybe that’s just me.

Potential crazy aside, there is an easy and very handy free tool that you can use to smack some sense into your Windows PC. It’s called SpaceSniffer, and it will help you find and destroy what’s eating your computer’s storage space. You’ll probably be surprised by what you find.

I’ve tried a few different HDD analyzing tools. Many of them are ugly and not very fun when it comes to usability, and they are usually packed with features that you probably don’t need, because they take away from your singular goal: to find and delete what is keeping you from getting that new file or program on your machine.

SpaceSniffer | Easily Find Out What's Taking Up Space On Your Hard Drive

SpaceSniffer’s interface gets to the point. Every button has a point, and the display is clean and easy to understand — in it’s simplest form, the bigger the block, the bigger the file. There are a few simple animations that happen as the files populate, or when you double-click to zoom in on a folder or block, but they don’t distract or have any major impact on speed. If you’re in a hurry, though, you can decrease the graphics refresh rate in the Configure/Effects panel (or remove the animations completely in Configure/Colors). It won’t be as pretty, but it will be faster.

Basically, what SpaceSniffer does is go through your folders and analyzes how your disk space is being used, then presents it in a dynamic grid. From there, you can drill down into folders, tag and filter files to get a more specific look, and use the Windows context menu by right clicking to open folders or get right to the deleting part. You can even navigate during the scanning process, and SpaceSniffer will react to file system events (like clearing your Recycle Bin or deleting a file) to always stay in sync.

There are a few other tips and tricks such as printing customized reports and creating batch files for automation, but chances are you won’t really need them — if you do, check out the Tips and Tricks page of the SpaceSniffer website. You can also get a full list of the features here.

I have to tell you: I love this program. I used it to clear a whopping 50GB of space from my hard drive. 50 frickin’ gigabytes!! Of course, I immediately cut that down by half after installing the free-to-play MMORPG Age of Conan… but that’s another story. Bottom line: 50GB, man! I found files that made no sense, a bunch of space taken up by the mysterious $Recycle.Bin (even though my Recycle Bin was empty), and decided that, since I never use Hibernate in Windows, there was no need for me to allow the OS to reserve 4.5GB for it. I turned that off…

Check Out These SpaceSniffer Videos:

Running a Simple Scan
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 File Tagging
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SpaceSniffer is a portable program that plays nice with your machine, and doesn’t clog up your registry. Download it here, and see what’s taking up space on your hard drive.

SpaceSniffer | Uderzo Software

My Daughter Ate My Stylus — So I Learned How to Make a New (and Even Better) One

My Daughter Ate My Stylus -- So I Learned How to Make a New (and Even Better) One | 40Tech

My little girl is three. Three-and-a-half, to be exact — and before now, we never had to worry about her putting things in her mouth. I’m not sure what changed, really, but now we have to watch her like a hawk. And we do — but, unfortunately, it was already too late for my iPad stylus. For both of them…

The first one, she chewed on. It was pretty much a write-off. The second one, she decided it would be fun to see what the business end tasted like. Now I’m down two pens. They were the cheap kind, thank the tech gods, but that’s still about $40 down the drain! So I decided: the next stylus will be one of my own making. One that will cost me nothing to make, and that I can easily repair. And thanks to the wonders of the internet, making that happen was easy peasy.

There are several articles on the subject of the DIY touchscreen stylus. The ones that caught my eye were those talking about using a real pen. The basic touchscreen stylus isn’t exactly known for it’s ergonomic feel, so working one up from a real pen seemed like a good idea. I found a few iterations, but the basic concept can be traced back to a video on Make Magazine’s Makezine Blog. All you have to do is connect some light-gauge wire to some conductive foam — which can be found in the packaging of computer and electronic components such as microchips and CPUs — feed it through the empty body of a comfortable pen, and then wrap the wire around the outside, where your hand will come into contact with it. Trim the conductive foam tip to desired size and shape, and voila: instant iPad stylus.

YouTube Preview Image

The whole project can be done very quickly, and you can spruce it up a bit by drilling small holes to lock the wire inside the body of the pen, so that you don’t have to use tape. If you happen to have a pen with a metal body, even better. All you’ll need in that case is the conductive foam and you’re good to go! The wire method isn’t so bad, though. It’s not always pretty, but it works.

Here’s a (somewhat blurry) shot of my rough prototype:

image

I made this on a whim, entirely from things I had on hand. I was able to use the original stylus head for the conductive foam, which was nice — we caught her before she swallowed it. I also used some very light speaker wire (all I had, at the time), and the head of an old 1/4 audio jack to provide support for the tip. It fit snugly into the point of the pen, once the pen’s original head was taken off. Note that the wire is only on one side of the pen. I did that because speaker wire is ugly, and wrapping it all the way around would have been a total atrocity, potentially involving metal splinters. The way I hold a pen would have me almost always in contact with it, anyway, and the next round will be prettier.

Looks notwithstanding, due to the ergonomic grip of the pen, I’ve already found that the DIY iPad stylus is much more accurate than those that are up for sale. I’ll never go back.

Looking for a fun, easy project? Make your own stylus! Then tell us all about it. Post pictures, even!

Collin’s Lab: DIY iPAd Stylus [Make]

App of the Week: Use JavaRa to Update Java and Get Rid of Old Versions

Use JavaRa to Update Java and Get Rid of Old Versions | 40Tech

Java is a bit tricky. A lot of applications use it, and many of them come bundled with their own version of the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) — which they happily and oh-so-helpfully install on your system. This leads to multiple and redundant installs of Java on your computer, each of which may contain potential security threats, and may well leave you scratching your head as to whether you can or should delete them. Wonder no more… JavaRa is a free, light-weight utility that will clean up the redundant versions of the Java runtime, as well as update you to the latest version — and it has a few other tricks up its sleeves, besides.

There is no installation for JavaRa. It’s just a simple executable with some language options (English, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, French, German, and Finnish). Just click and go — though you may want to run it in Administrator mode for Windows Vista and Windows 7. The buttons are fairly self-explanatory: Search for Updates will search for the latest Java version, and Remove Older Versions will clean up your system.

If you’re looking to do a little bit more, click on Additional Tasks. You’ll get a pop-up that allows you to remove startup entries, other useless Java bits like logs and temp files, as well as get rid of the Sun Download Manager, and a few other goodies.

JavaRa Additional Tasks | Remove Old Java Files | 40Tech

JavaRa is a great little tool and can be found for free on SourceForge.

Three Low-Cost, DIY Ways to Use Your Smartphone While Wearing Gloves

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So I’m in Winnipeg now. Winnipeg, affectionately referred to as Winterpeg, and thought by some (possibly me) to be a window into the truth behind the colloquialism “when Hell freezes over.” Okay, so I’m being a bit dramatic — but it can get freaking cold here in the depths of winter, man! Minus 75 degrees Celsius in the wind isn’t uncommon here. I have no idea what that is in Fahrenheit, but I’m sure you Americans will agree that anything north of Fargo has got to be cold.

In any case, my new location has me continuing my investigation into how to use my tech while freezing my butt off. Previously, I talked about winterizing smartphones, tablets, and laptops. My latest quest has been how to use my capacitive touch screen devices without having to take my gloves off just to answer the phone. And we all know I’m into doing things on the cheap, so we can squash any thoughts about buying those fancy-schmancy touchscreen gloves. It’s DIY or die, baby! This is what I found:

Perusing the Google brought forth three methods from three different, and trusted sites — Lifehacker, Make, and Instructables.

 

Sewing Conductive Thread

Instructables has a nice tutorial on sewing about a foot of conductive thread into the fingertip of a glove. The idea is to sew just a few close-set stitches (3-5) on the touchy-feely side of the glove, keeping things to about 1/4″ (6mm) in diameter. Smaller is bad, as your iPhone or other smartphone will pretend you don’t exist, and too big will sacrifice accuracy. Why all those inches of thread for just a few, small stitches? Because you want to leave a rats-nest of the special thread on the inside of the glove’s finger, to make sure you get good conductive contact. You may also want to save some for other fingers so you can do multi-touch gestures and the like.

The whole operation costs less than $5 (not including the gloves of course).

Instructables Touchscreen Glove with Conductive Thread

 

No-Sew Method 1: Snap-Fastener

Make Projects has a slightly different take on the subject. They take the complicated sewing out of the equation and shove a brass or nickel-plated snap-fastener right through the fingertip of a heavy glove so it can go clickety-clack on your screen. Now, one might be concerned about scratching or cracking the glass, but if that is the case then I say to you, this: how hard are you tapping your screen anyway? Are you angry? Calm down, guy… seriously.

In a way, this method is more complicated, as it requires more tools than just some thread abd a needle. There is little in the way of precision required here, however, and you get to hit things with a hammer (when you set the snap-fastener’s rivet).

This method costs about $5 to $7.

Make Projects No-Sew Touchscreen Glove with Snap Fasteners

 

No-Sew Method 2: Thermal Compound

Leave it to a Lifehacker contributer to come up with a clever and cheap (albeit messy) way to get the job done. Easy, too. This method would work better for thinner gloves, I should think, but be that as it may, it’s pretty cool — and there is not even a dream of a pun intended there. All you need here is a little CPU thermal compound rubbed in to the fingertip of your glove, and voila! No fuss connectivity. Well… no fuss until you need to rub some more in — and maybe a bit of increased screen cleaning.

This is by far the easiest method, though it lacks permanence. The cost of thermal compound (available at most computer stores) is about $7. You can even get it at Radio Shack.

Arctic Silver CPU Thermal Compound Used for Touchscreen Gloves

 

Those were the best — and cheapest methods I found to use your touchscreen tech in the dead of winter. Which one’s your favourite? If you have any other suggestions, I’d love to hear them!

Winterizing Your Portable Tech

Winterizing Your Portable Tech | 40Tech

I find myself spending an inordinate amount of time in the soon to be frozen hell that is central North America. This has led me to consider things that, heretofore, I had no inkling about while hanging out on the often wet but nearly always mild Northwest coast. Things like: how to touch my smartphone or iPad screen in the freezing cold weather, should I even bring the damned things out in the freezing cold weather and, oh, what about my tech and the, you know, freezing cold weather? So I did a bit of looking around, and here are the best tips that I found…

The biggest — and most obvious — suggestion was to just never take the things out when it’s truly cold, and to make sure you never forget them in your car. This sort of silliness can lead to cracked screens (especially for the glass ones, like iPhones, iPads, and other smartphones and tablets), and dead batteries. That’s not all, though. Condensation is also a concern. Nothing like little droplets of water forming inside your electronics. That’ll make for a fun and expensive day, yes?

Condensation can form inside your device if you turn it on while it’s still cold. The best advice I’ve found to avoid this is to wait until your toy — or essential life device (ELD) as the toys are fast becoming — reaches room temperature before turning it on. Other management options are to try and keep the things warm in the first place. There are laptop warmers out there, and someone is probably bringing heated iPad cases to market as we speak, but the tried and true option is to keep the device close to your body. This only works if you dress warmly, however — and it really only works for smartphones or little wee-tablets.

If you do see condensation, don’t turn on your device. Wait! You’ll want to check if it’s still working but that is an incredibly bad idea! Instead, stick the thing in some uncooked rice — cover it! — and let that attempt to draw the moisture out. It may or may not work, but it’s your best chance, even if you drop your device in a puddle or something.

The phone doesn’t stop ringing just because it’s cold. You can always purchase (or make) some gloves with removable or conductive finger-tips, but a better option in extreme cold weather is to just keep the thing in your pocket and use a good earbud with inline mic and call answer buttons. Something with music track-changing buttons doesn’t hurt either.

Here’s something I didn’t know: I had no idea that leaving your device in sleep mode can increase the potential for problems and damage in cold weather. I read this on a couple of different sites and, while no one ever said why, they all said that turning off your device completely — at least in regard to laptops and netbooks — is always a good idea before going out into the frozen outside world. Better safe than sorry, I say.

Some sites also advised wrapping your device up in a scarf or something if you have to leave it in your car. If you use it often, this could work, as it will help to keep the device’s generated heat from dissipating. If you leave it out over night — or even for an hour — in really cold weather, however, wrapping it up won’t do a thing. Not unless what you wrap it in has it’s own heat source.

So what do you do to protect your portable electronic devices — smartphones, tablets, laptops, et al — in extreme cold weather?

LapGuard Protects Your Tender Parts From Harmful Heat And WiFi Radiation

LapGuard Protects Your Tender Parts From Harmful Heat And WiFi Radiation | 40Tech

Contrary to the current arc of techno-loving crazy flying about the internet, the laptop is not dead, and tablets — though awesome — have not yet taken over the world. In fact, millions of people are using laptops right now. They’ve got them sitting on (surprise!) their laps, whirring away, blasting their tender parts with heat and WiFi radiation. Apparently, recent reports are saying that’s a bad thing; that it can mess with your baby-having potential. Having just had another cute little baby, I can’t really speak to that — but I have been following reports that WiFi radiation can be harmful, and it’s well-documented that heat is no friend to the business of making tiny humans.

Whether you believe in the dangers of WiFi radiation or not, I think we can all agree that comfort is a good thing. That’s one of the reasons the lap-desk was invented, and — heat and WiFi blocking powers notwithstanding — Digital Innovations’ LapGuard is one of the best I’ve come across.

In the interests of full disclosure, this is the part where I tell you that Digital Innovations sent me two LapGuards (a regular and a Portable one), with a request that I take a look at them and give a fair and honest review. We did the same thing a while back, when we looked at their SkipDr disc repair and cleaning kits. As then, the contents of this review are unbiased and contain only my real, ever-so-honest opinions.

 

Functionality

The LapGuard scores well on three fronts: it’s comfortable, it’s quiet, and it’s pretty. It also has some nice features. For example, the Portable LapGuard has a nice spot underneath to wrap up and lock away the USB power cable. This makes storing and packing the thing around much less annoying. The regular LapGuard, which is a bit bigger, also handles the USB cable well — but it’s power cable is retractable. To make things more fun, the regular LapGuard also has a handy fan-speed control dial for the dual fans that can help you conserve battery power while still keeping things chill.

LapGuard Laptop Desk | Digital Innovations     Portable LapGuard Laptop Desk | Digital InnovationsLapGuard Lapdesk with Retractable USB Cable | Digital Innovations          Portable LapGuard Lapdesk with Hidden USB Cable | Digital Innovations

I’m not entirely sure why the Portable LapGuard doesn’t allow for variable fan-speed. It should be possible, considering that the only real difference between it and the regular LapGuard is that the regular one has an additional block of padding at the top that allows for some angled ergonomic comfort while working. Ergonomic comfort doesn’t slide into a backpack very well, though, hence the need for the Portable design.

LapGuard Lapdesk Variable Fan-speed | Digital Innovations          LapGuard Lapdesk Side View | Digital Innovations

The fans on both models are, as I said, pretty quiet, and I found that they did a good job of pushing the heat away from me, and keeping my Toshiba cool. And that’s saying something — anyone who has a Toshiba laptop knows that heat can be a problem.

 

WiFi Radiation Shielding

To be perfectly honest, the WiFi radiation shielding seems a bit gimmicky to me. Sure, sure, Digital Innovations is applying patent-pending technology here – but I have no way of testing to see if it works, and depending on what you read and who you talk to, it’s not even proven that WiFi radiation is a problem. However, if it is an issue, I admit I’d rather err on the side of caution — and if it isn’t… well, the things look pretty and currently only cost $29.99 (Portable) and $37.49, respectively. I’ve been using the LapGuards pretty heavily the past few weeks and I’m more than comfortable with those prices just for the basic use and the look of them. Unfortunately, though, those are just sale prices. The LapGuard is regularly $49.99 and $39.99 (Portable). My cheapness (and my wife) might have trouble reconciling the purchase at the regular prices.

 

To Sum Up

Pros

  • Retractable (or otherwise hidden) USB power cables
  • Comfortable
  • Variable fan-speed (regular model)
  • Pretty

 

Cons

  • No way to be sure if the WiFi radiation blocking is working or even necessary
  • No variable fan-speed on the Portable LapGuard

 

Would I buy it?

Yes — for myself or as a gift. Only at the sale price, though.

 

What’s your favourite lap-desk?

Kickass Undelete: Portable Recovery Awesome for Permanently Deleted Files [Windows]

Kickass Undelete: Portable Recovery Awesome for Permanently Deleted Files | 40Tech

Computers are a constant source of fun and potential ulcer-creating stress. This is especially true — at least in the latter respect — when we find ourselves needing that oh-so-important file that we just deleted from the Recycle Bin. Or lost in a crash. Or from any other of the number of creative ways Windows can eat your work. There are several data recovery tools out there, and they come in varying degrees of complication and quality. If you are looking for something simple, though — something that you can take with you, and even use on a flash drive — check out Kickass Undelete.

Kickass Undelete is more than just a fun name. It’s portable, it’s pretty effective, and it’s big-button easy. All you need to do is select the drive you want to scan for deleted files, hit the ginormous Scan button, wait a tick, and then sort through the list of deleted files for the one you’re looking for. To help you along, Kickass Undelete allows you to sort by Name, Type, Size, and Last Modified date. Select the files you want to restore, then hit the also-sizable Restore Files button, and you’re all good!

Kickass Undelete is free and open source. Download it here.

Easily Recover Permanently Deleted Files With Kickass Undelete [AddictiveTips]