Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Thing 70 : MP3 Downloads That Are Legal & Free

Summer Girl
This discovery exercise explores beyond Thing 48 and discusses various websites for free and legal MP3 downloads. With this year's library theme for Teen Tech Week being, "Just Press Play" (March 8-14, 2009), I wanted to be ready when someone asks me about free downloads for their new MP3 player. Librarians normally have to do some explaining about free music downloads--such as free music doesn't always equal the current popular songs they are listening to now and if they do find it, it might not be legally uploaded to the Internet.

After going through the 35 website suggestions mentioned in the discovery exercise, I narrowed it down to less than 10 that I would recommend to patrons. I eliminated them if they required any sort of software download or registration, others simply because I thought they were too difficult to navigate to find if there were songs available to download and what was available wasn't worth the effort of the search. Here are the cream of the crop that I thought were the least painful to use and have the most available for selection:

For Downloads to Listen To:

C|Net's Music.Download.Com
CNET has a very simple to use website for free music downloads. You can click on the link "111,052 Free MP3s" at the top of the web page and browse alphabetically. You can sort by artist name, song name, average rating, total listens, and others. Another way to search is to type the name of the artist or song you are looking for in the search box at the top to see if you get any hits. If there is a match, click on the link that says "see all free tracks". Then click on "download free MP3" to start downloading. You can play the song first to see if you want to download it. No registration required.

Mp3.com works with a wide array of musical artists. Click on the "Free Music" Tab and start browsing. You can sort the list by genre or by artist's name. Click "Play" to listen to the song first. Click on the "MP3" button and begin downloading when you're ready. Registration not required.

MP3Raid is a search engine that locates MP3s on the internet. It offers the widest range of free music available. Just type in the artist or song you are looking for in the search box. You may need to rename the MP3 files that are downloaded but MP3Raid will walk you through what you need to do. Registration not required.

PureVolume says that it is a website for the discovery and promotion of new music and emerging artists. Artists have the option of making each of their songs available for free download. Type in the album, artist or song name you're looking for. Click on the link for the artist name. Songs will be listed in the playlist. Some are available only to listen to, others you can listen to and download. Click on the "download" button and begin your download. No registration required.

For Downloads to Use in Your Creations:

Creative Commons MP3s. New artists upload their albums under Creative Commons promote their work. You can play, share, and download the songs to listen to or to use in your own works.

Site dedicated to music that you can download to remix and post your results, all under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommerical 3.0 United States License. Click on the "Search" button to get started.

Don't forget that many artists will offer free downloads of a few songs and podcasts to promote their work. If you go to their website or Myspace page they will mention if that is something they do.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Thing 56: Smilebox

Click to play Book Club
Create your own slideshow - Powered by Smilebox
Make a Smilebox slideshow

I'm backtracking a little bit this entry and picking up Thing 56 : Smilebox. I've been waiting for some of the books to come in on hold that we have done for bookclub to take pictures of. I didn't want to make any members nervous by taking pictures of them in bookclub so I opted to take pictures of the books instead--ha-ha! Smilebox is a small download and will probably fit easily on a flashdrive. There are tons if ideas for slideshows, ecards, scrapbooks, photo albums, and postcards. Plus they are always posting new templates constantly. Creating a presentation was easy. Smilebox is very similar to Scrapblog in Thing 29. It has an intuitive user interface to add photos from your camera, computer or online. Choose your template, add your photos, choose music or not. If you want to add your own music or select from the music selector you will have to pay for the premium design for $1.99 or pay a $5.99 monthly fee for unlimited use.

You can save your creation, email or post it on your blog or website for free. I emailed it to myself and at the bottom of the message received a URL link for it. I also added it to this blog entry easily. Just copy and paste the code into your blog post. Thanks Smilebox for new ways to jazz up your photos!

Friday, January 09, 2009

Thing 69: Feed My Inbox

Bouquet of flowers in a teacher's inbox
This discovery exercise has us exploring Feed My Inbox. Feed My Inbox takes the RSS feed of any blog or website and sends it to your email. It was simple to use. I tested it by subscribing to the comic strip, Unshelved. I made sure that I copied the RSS feed and not the website's URL. Unshelved also has a direct link to subscribe via Email so I could have done this directly without having to use Feed My Inbox. But, not all websites have this service. The confirmation message showed up in my email and I just clicked on the link to activate my subscription. The email also suggested that I add updates@feedmyinbox.com to my address book so that my email provider would not think it was spam.

Feed My Inbox would be good for someone who only has a few feeds to keep up with. But as with anything, time has a way of making a few feeds into a lot of feeds. So for me, I can't say that I would be using Feed My Inbox unless it is to make sure I don't miss an infrequent update in my Bloglines reader. After I received my first feed from Unshelved I promptly unsubscribed. I have way too many feeds to keep up with so a feed reader is much better for me. Also, by using a feed reader, you can avoid some spam that sometimes crops up from sending RSS feeds to your inbox.
As for recommentations to patrons, it would be on a case by case basis. Many websites already have a way for you to directly subscribe on their site. Still it is handy to know about as a back up.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Thing 68: Filtering Flickr

This discovery exercise has us looking at two filtering sites for Flickr photos: flickrCC and Tag Galaxy.

I started with my favorite search term--fairies. I always love the whimsy and fun associated with these pictures.

flickrCC - I was simply amazed by the amount of creative commons photos that were available for fairies. I liked that it had check boxes if you wanted photos for editing or for commercial use. It even has links for if you want to edit the photo inhouse or use Picnik. Also you can click on the size you want and it immediately gives you the URL so you can link to it in your blog, website, or presentation. And of course there is a link back to the Flickr page from which it comes from if you want to comment or add to your faves.

Tag Galaxy - The visual appeal of Tag Galaxy is simply stunning. You enter your tag search and it gives you your tag as a main planet with smaller satellites orbiting your tag that are related. You can select any of these additional related tags to focus your search. Since there are many variations on how to spell fairies, singular and plural, I was glad that Tag Galaxy pulled these out for me automatically. I added: fairy, faerie, faery, and faeries. Very handy.

Then Tag Galaxy pulled together my search into a planet of 309 photos. It would have been nice if flickrCC told you how many hits you got on your tag search. In Tag Galaxy you could zoom in our out with your mouse wheel or show your results in fullscreen mode. You could rotate this planet of photos and select any photo from the sphere. One mouse click gets you a close up and title. Click again and you get the description as well as a link to the original Flickr page so you can get your URL for the photo. Click the "X" to go back to scanning the photos. Be careful about using these photos, they are not all limited to creative commons so you'll need click through to Flickr to be sure it is OK to use.

Then I did a second search to see if fans of the book Neverwhere by: Neil Gaiman had posted any creative commons photos that were inspired by the book. I wanted to spice up my slides for my book club quiz show. I used flickrCC and it brought up 31 creative commons photos. Then I went into Flickr's advanced search option and tried the same search--Neverwhere limited to creative commons photos. This brought up 70 hits. So there were some that may have been missed by flickrCC. Then I went to Tag Galaxy and did a search for Neverwhere. This brought up 96 hits, but since it does not have a way to limit to just creative commons photos I would not be able to use it to search for photos to use in projects.

Overall, both flickrCC and Tag Galaxy have their advantages. Even when you use the same tag in each they bring up a different set of photos to browse. I would tend to use Tag Galaxy for personal use and browsing and flickrCC for specific things and to search for photos for projects. I would also include an advanced search in Flickr itself for photos for projects. They both have a place in my toolbox. Thanks flickrCC and Tag Galaxy!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Thing 67: Stress Savers

This discovery exercise has us exploring three sites: Dial-A-Human, CustomGuide, and UserNameCheck.com.

Dial-A-Human - Dial-A-Human gives you the exact number to press to avoid navigating nerve-wracking phone trees. This will certainly come in handy with several of our library patrons who seem to have a passion about contacting businesses--for all sorts of reasons. I am only afraid that if we offered this for one business and then another was not on the list, there would be disappointment--the expectation was there. The list is mainly for popular national entities. It looks like my phone company/DSL provider is on there but not my cable provider. They even have links to send a new number or report a bad number or broken link. A handy site to have in your reference toolbox.

CustomGuide - CustomGuide offers great tipsheets on the most popular office software products. These will be very handy for both staff and patrons. It is expecially helpful because it offers multiple versions of products such as MSOffice. Now if I have a patron who needs a quick introduction to a software product the library has, I can print out a quick .pdf tipsheet. Thanks CustomGuide!

(Image courtesy of Travelin' Librarian.)
UserNameCheck - Usernamecheck lets you check many Web 2.0 sites to see if your favorite handle is already taken. I ran a check on my favorite username and was very happy to see that it was unique. However, Usernamecheck did think that my handle was being used on two sites that it was not. When I went directly to the sites, they could find no evidence of anyone using that username. Another little thing I noticed is that when you type in your handle to check, be sure to click on the "Check" button. Just pressing [Enter] on the keyboard will sometimes not make it run, or not run correctly. This site seems like it would be more of a novelty than a reference tool, but it was still fun to see it run the check.

Overall, I predict that I will be adding Dial-A-Human and CustomGuide to my reference toolbox. UserNameCheck is fun but I don't think I'll be using it very often. I have to have a reason to register on a site, I just can't see registering for everything to be sure that I have my favorite handle.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Thing 66: AllMyFaves & 43 Marks

This discovery exercise has us looking at AllMyFaves and 43 Marks.

AllMyFaves has living breathing people selecting the best of the web and categorizing it for you, sort of like the early days of Yahoo or the DMOZ Open Directory Project with Google.

I was really surprised to still see the logos for Washington Mutual, Wachovia, and UBS under the banks category because of the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis. I was also surprised to see Second Life in the chat category. I guess it could be called 3D chat. I haven't exactly thought of it that way but I guess it makes sense. I think that it is interesting that they include news readers like Bloglines in the Blogs category but don't include photo editors in the photo cateogory like Picnik. And where is Yahoo! Chat in the chat category? I thought they were the largest chat service. Has someone surpassed them? Also there is no Wired magazine in the Tech category. OK, I'm really starting to get concerned about this site listing the "best" sites in their respective categories. Maybe AllMyFaves is exactly that, the favorite sites of the developers.

I checked out LiveLeak in the video category and yes it is a video site that leaks video media to the public. I also took a look at Break.com and yes it was in the correct category (videos). It's theme is free videos, pictures and comedy for guys.

Then I signed up at 43 Marks to take a look at their start page. It seems like everyone is getting on the start page band wagon. My favorite start page was a part of YourMinis, which they have shut down but still offer widgets to put on other start pages, websites and blogs. We talked about widgets in Thing 26. After YourMinis closed their startpage I moved to Netvibes. I based this on popularity and also it was rated #1 in the 2008 Seomoz Web 2.0 Awards. The organization of 43 Marks is very clean and simple. Simplicity and ease of use are good traits to have. But the layout of the site I think is better for someone who has only a few bookmarks to keep up with, not the 773 like I have on Delicious.com. Also someone who likes the clean lines of Facebook, Google, or BookJetty might also enjoy 43Marks.

I took a look at Propeller in the Info/Ads category. According to its decription: "Propeller is a social news portal, meaning that it is programmed by you — the audience. Our members post links to stories from all over the Web." Hmm, shouldn't it be in a social news category like Digg? 43Marks didn't have a news category. Then I took a look at Kijiji in the same Info/Ads category and this time yes it was classified correctly--it is a Free Local Classified Ad site.

I can see someone using AllMyFaves and 43Marks as a crash course introduction to Web 2.0. But depending on your tastes and style, you might find yourself moving on to other places to organize your social networking and newsfeed day.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Thing 65: Greed Is Not Good

Financial Information
This discovery exercise has us looking at the Financial Crisis of 2008. Remeber Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) from the movie, Wall Street (1987), and the famous "Greed Is Good" speech? About how greed was good for the Teldar Paper Company and for that "other malfunctioning corporation called the USA?"

Well the Subprime Mortgage Crisis of 2008 has set that bit of knowledge on its ear. Now that "malfunctioning corporation" called the USA is having to bare the burden of Wall Street's screw up with mortgage backed securities. In the early 2000s all the qualified consumers that wanted a home, pretty much had one. So to keep making money the banks turned to subprime borrowers to keep the money rolling in. They pretty much had a "Don't ask, don't tell" policy for sub-prime borrowers. Don't tell us anything about yourself because we really don't want to know. If we knew we really shouldn't be lending to you in the first place. And why do you think that they send you all of those credit card applications in the mail?--well--as P.T. Barnum is credited with saying, "There's a sucker born every minute." Telemarketers and mass mailers both know that if they can only convince 1% of the people they contact to get their product they are still going to make a mint. So that is why they do it.

The sad thing is for those that haven't established credit yet-- college students, people that married early without establishing credit on their own, people starting a small business (the business does not have a credit history), or people who recently migrated to the US will not be able to get the loans they need to make a better life. The domino effect is already happening.

Thank your lucky stars if you already have an established credit history. If a crisis happened such as a long term illness (hopefully you have insurance), you would probably be able to get a loan to help pay the bills. If not you will have an extremely difficult time bouncing back.

For businesses, consumers, and the government its time to pull in the belt and start acting responsibly. It is the responsibility of consumers to live within their means, build a savings, and resist the temptation to buy every "next new thing". Maybe consider volunteering to give back to the community instead of always "consuming". Consumption is considered a disease after all.

For businesses they need to drop the get rich quick scheme and make do with the consumers that are responsible like they did pre-2000s. For the government--don't just throw money at it (TARP) and think the problem will go away. Not everyone should get the money. Only those that qualify--let them sweat like consumers do and have lawers present with binding contracts. There better be strings attached to this money to hold the CEOs accountable. Better yet--they should all be fired and new management take their place before they receive any money. And those managers fired should be blacklisted from handling any sort of funds for at least 15 years. Jail would be too good for them, they should have to work a front line service job (not handling money) and serve all the folks that they made suffer. They should get the lowest paid wage that they offered to their employees and a scarlett letter emblazoned on their shirts to show all that they have screwed up.

And we want a transparent government to know who exactly is going to be holding these greedy thieves accountable and to hold them accountable if they don't enforce the law along with tighter regulations for the industry as a whole to prevent this thing from happening again. And other industries trying to clamor on the bailout bandwagon..let's just stop it now. Enough is enough.

When it comes to business and personal finance I always check Money Magazine and BankRate.com. They both are objective have a good focus on what is useful for the individual. So for the financial crisis of 2008 they are going to offer articles that will help an individual make the best choices with their finances. An example is Money Magazine's article, "Answers to your crisis questions". Here's some articles from Bankrate.com, "Surviving a workplace bankruputcy", "Tips to coping with the economy in '09", and of course there's ratings (it is BankRate.com after all) "Safe & Sound Ratings : Is your bank safe? Now you can find out."

There is a sequel to Wall Street in pre-production called Money Never Sleeps (2009). Lets hope that the script reflects the current financial times and ponder what Gordon Gekko sees in the Magic 8 Ball...probably "Cannot Predict Now", "Reply hazy, try again" or "Ask Again Later."


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