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?

Summify Acquired by Twitter (and Going Bye Bye)

Summify Acquired by Twitter (and Going Bye Bye) | 40Tech

Back in August of last year, we wrote about Summify, a fantastic tool for getting to and sharing the highlights of your social streams and feeds. I’ve used this tool religiously for the past several months and have found it to be incredibly useful, especially with Twitter. Just last week, however, I received an email from the Vancouver-based start-up and discovered that they had become yet another in a long line of services to be snatched up and absorbed by a tech giant — in this case, Twitter. Great for them, but sad for you and me.

The Summify team will be moving to San Francisco, where they will become a part of Twitter’s growth team. Summify the service will be stripped down for the time being, and will eventually shutdown altogether as a standalone product.

Here’s the main list of changes from their announcement:

  • New account registrations have been disabled.
  • Email summaries remain, but only for a few weeks, and then they are gone as well.
  • Users will still receive their summaries via the web app (and the iPhone app, as well, I believe), but will no longer be able to make them public.
  • Profile and influence pages are gone, as is auto-publish.

I’ve also noticed that sharing posts to Twitter from Summify no longer adds credits to the end of the tweet. Previously, the tweet would add in an @mention to a few of those in your network that shared the information with you in the first place, but this is no longer the case, at least from the mobile app.

There is no word yet as to when Summify will shut down completely, or what cool newness might arise in Twitter as a result. Either way, while I’m happy for the people behind the great service, I will really miss Summify as a standalone tool. Hopefully, something truly great comes out of this. In the meantime, we can only hope that Zite — and maybe Flipboard — will pick up the slack by improving how they filter our streams.

My Conversion from iCal to Google Calendar

My conversion from iCal to Google Calendar | 40Tech

40Tech is pleased to present a guest post by Michael Carper.

When I began college, I was determined to keep track of all my homework, papers, tests, and scheduled activities. A staple of college scheduling is the syllabus, which lays out the due dates and assigned readings and homework for each class. However, syllabuses are just pieces of paper. I realized that it would be a huge pain to look up daily, from four or five different sources, what the assignments were for that day. I wanted to look at a single source and grasp all the work I had to do for that day, and for that week. More importantly, I wanted to keep in mind upcoming tests and papers several weeks ahead of time, in order to prepare time to work on them.

With this predilection for planning, I looked to my built-in OS calendar, iCal. There were many advantages to using it. I didn’t have to boot up Chrome or worry about web browsing. I could organize by color, assigning one to events, one to assignments, and another to work. I actually put my entire class schedule, as well as ordinary things like “lunch,” into iCal. I put not only due dates, but little reminders when certain benchmarks should be met in prep for those due dates. It was my lifeline.

However, little problems grew to be big annoyances. The most striking was the way iCal handled longer titles. I copied entire reading assignments into iCal. For some single class periods, this could include multiple texts or several page selections. Shorter entries would be completely displayed in the month-long calendar view, which I always used. I didn’t need to see my days broken down in the traditional week-long format, but I did want to see the tests and papers on the horizons. However, in this view, longer entries were simply abridged. There was no indication that an entry was actually much longer than it appeared, since they always stuck to a single line. On several instances, this lack of informative UI actually led to ignored homework assignments, since the entry was actually much longer than appeared and contained more readings than it appeared to. Ironically, in those instances, my calendar made me less prepared.

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Fall of my freshman year

There were other little things, as well. Entry of events was very manual; you had to put all details in only their specific field. Once made, you could not edit an event after clicking on it, but instead had to go to its “edit” page. The tethering of iCal to my Mac turned out to be a disadvantage, since I often ended up with hours to spare, homework to do, and no personal computer at my fingertips. I couldn’t sync it in any way with my iPod Touch, either.

So beginning of my junior, I finally took a look at Google Calendar. Since I had been a loyal Gmail user for many years, it only seemed natural. Immediately I noticed where GCal improved over iCal. The most prominent was the ease of creating events. I no longer had to cycle through different boxes to mark the date and time. Instead, I could simply jot down, “meeting 12-1” as an entry name for a certain day, and there it appeared, from the 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM slot. And if I felt like changing it, I could edit the entry title from the pop-up that appeared when I clicked it the first time, unlike iCal.

It wasn’t just the cleaner, more pleasing UI that won me over. Accessing my calendar outside my room was as simple as accessing my email–just log in to Google. I could access it on my iPod as well, albeit not with an official Google app. School events were always announced via email. I could either copy and paste the location and time details from one tab to another, or I could even click “More” in Gmail and create an event based on the email. If viewing an online calendar, such as the one published by my college, I could even import all the events into mine.

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December of my junior year

Six months later, I still haven’t taken advantage of everything Google Calendar has to offer, like sharing my calendar with others or inviting them to scheduled meetings. Those two functionalities are so amazingly useful, it’s a pity I’ve only encountered them at places I’ve interned. The rest of my fellow students, unfortunately, are still stuck in the Stone Age, with their paper syllabuses and calendar. Some of them may have progressed to iCal, marking their progress into the Bronze Age. They, and everyone else, should wise up and join those of us with our Google Calendars in the Golden Age.

I will add that I’ve tried the Fantastical Calendar app. Fantastical syncs with iCal or Outlook, but not Google Calendar, so I had to export from Google Calendar to iCal and then sync Fantastical with iCal. It’s UI is very nice. The recognition of event details is more intuitive than Google Calendar’s, expanding its recognition to location details and invitees whose address you have in your Contacts as well. You can read more about it in Evan’s review. My judgment is that although it has the best user interface, the ability of Google Calendar to sync with other Google apps, especially through email, is invaluable. Since I always have a web browser opened anyway, leaving a tab for Google Calendar is hardly cumbersome. $20 is a lot for calendar software, but, in my opinion, is something that would be used everyday. So if I spent less time on Google, Fantastical would be my go-to calendar.

Michael is a student at Wabash College and writer for the Reading Glasses Shopper blog. He realizes that actually the Iron Age, not the Golden Age, followed the Bronze Age.

What’s The Deal With Pinterest? Even My Wife Likes (Obsesses Over) It!

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So, Pinterest… It’s received a lot of coverage in the past year — it’s even received in the realm of 37 million in funding — but I had trouble seeing the appeal. I wasn’t sure the world needed another social bookmarking site. I wasn’t sure the world needed another way to share, well… anything. I admit, most of this feeling had nothing to do with Pinterest, per se, it was really more about social media overwhelm. I’ve seen a ton of social sharing services go up and down over the past few years, and, as much as I love Google+, I think it maxed me out. Besides, you can do things similar to Pinterest using tools like Evernote and Springpad, right? Right?

Then my lovely wife — a person who has no real interest in tech, barely any interest in social networking, and who only got a smartphone because it was free and I “was bugging her about it” — was somehow inspired to try it out. No prompting from me, or anyone else — she came to it entirely on her own. Now… she’s obsessed. Seriously. For example, I see her awake at 3AM and think that she’s feeding the baby, or something — but no. What’s she’s doing is maniacally pinning and re-pinning things to her boards, and often giggling like mad as she does it. There is apparently a lot of funny on Pinterest…

Title Image clipped from Pinterest Comic

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Recently, she’s taken to sharing some of that funny with me, and I’ve discovered that a good portion of it is Star Wars based. This confused the hell out of me (though I still shared some of it with you here and here). My wife has no interest in Star Wars. She’s one of the few people who has never even seen the films, and (horrifyingly) will actually say things like “What’s a hansolo?” I still love her, though. She’s that awesome. She’s beginning to make me see value in Pinterest, too. Anything that could inspire my wife to share seriously awesome Star Wars stuffs with me has got to be pretty powerful.

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I checked it out a little more thoroughly. I wanted to know what the deal was. Was there a secret sauce? How did it hook her? What I discovered was four things:

Pinterest is incredibly simple.

Pinterest is to sharing fun and useful images what Evernote is to easy, accessible note-taking. It focuses on that one thing, and makes sure that it is the absolute best at it. It doesn’t overwhelm the user.

 

Pinterest is visual — and good at it.

Everyone loves a good picture and everyone loves a good photo gallery. Funny and beautiful pics have been making the rounds since the internet was able to support them. People like to look at the images they like again and again.  And share them, re-share them, and re-share them again, as well. Pinterest makes this easy, but it also makes it beautiful. The designers have done a fantastic job of taking something that could be overwhelming, both in general and visually, and making it joy to experience.

My Wife's Pinterest Categories

 

Like crafty things? This is your home.

There are a ton of cool things to discover on Pinterest, but it really seems to have taken off with the crafty and DIY crowd. This is what ultimately hooked my wife. She loves to see things that people have made, especially if it involves baking or making something cool out of something else. She knows I like that sort of thing as well, and has not only shared some cool Star Wars crafts with me, but also a lot of DIY upcycling and repurposing projects. It’s how I came across Homestyler, actually, which was the topic of my previous post. There is some very cool stuff on Pinterest, and more is pinned every day.

Some of My Wife’s Pins

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It connects to the real world. It useful.

Pinterest is more than just a place to store and share images. The images link back to the site you found them on — and if we follow the crafty and DIY point from above, you end up with well-organized, very visual bookmarks back to sites that contain information that you might actually use in your real-world life. This makes Pinterest more than just a random bookmarking service, and more than just an image-sharing service. It makes it a tool that is useful to you both on and offline. It helps you to find, share, save and use things that are of interest to you.

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We’ve all heard that “<insert service> makes it easy to collect and organize what interests you on the web.” Pinterest actually does it. My wife is living proof. Anything tech-based that can make her go gaga is definitely worth taking a look at. It’s still in beta, but getting an account happens pretty quickly. I recommend giving Pinterest a try. You’ll probably love it.

What do you think of Pinterest? How do you use it?

Redesign Your Living Space Online With Homestyler [App of the Week]

Redesign Your Living Space Online With Autodesk Homestyler | 40Tech

I stumbled across this completely by accident. I was looking at some very cool ideas for creating furniture from shipping pallets (my lovely wife’s new obsession), and I saw that one person had done a mock-up of what she wanted her living room to look like. Then I saw the little “Autodesk Homestyler” branding on the bottom of the image and gave an audible “Heyyyyyyyyyy!”

What followed wasn’t pretty. Picture me — or yourself, if you don’t happen to know what I look like — wandering about my house with a tape measure, measuring every wall, window, doorframe, article of furniture, you name it. I was approximating angles, imagining what changes I might like, and constantly running back to my laptop so I could re-create — and then improve upon — my living space. It was obsessive, it was zen-like, and it was surprisingly effective.

Sure, sure, there were a few little glitches, like, in the panoramic or high definition snapshot 3D rendering of my living room, dining room, and kitchen, things like tables and desks  — and my stove — liked to turn invisible. There were conflicts with some of the models, too — my TV sitting inside my TV-stand, for example, or things just refusing to sit over or near each other, even when I had the placement rules disabled. Also, there is simply no way to change the dimensions of some of the models, or (most annoyingly) the height of the walls. (See images, below.)

These things created a need for that special sort of approximation creativity that we all sometimes have to draw on, but the end result was more than adequate for me to see what it would look like if my living room had a sectional couch, and maybe a mirror on the wall (the mirror even reflects when the panorama is rendered!). I now have a reasonable working model of my living space that I can go to and mess with before trying or buying anything — and it was all free! Free, dammit! Even if the entire app is in Flash, and there is no iPad app, I’m completely down with Homestyler. Once you try it, I bet you’ll love it too.

Here’s a few shots of me working on my place — all done within a few hours of mucking about:

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And here’s a link to my panorama (no iframes hereabouts, sorry).

What are your thoughts on Autodesk Homestyler? If you know of anything comparable, tell us about it in the comments!

Autodesk Homestyler