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Some Useful Websites in 2009

t’s been a while since we’ve looked at some actually useful web sites, so let’s examine some of the latest the world wide web has to offer.

I like free. Free is good. Text messaging is also good, but it isn’t always free. It’s also not always convenient, if you don’t have your cell phone handy (say for example you are at work or in the house and forgot your phone in the car or in another room). I’m surprised at how many people don’t realize you can send a text message to virtually anyone for free using the web. You need to only know two things. First, you’ll need to know the cell phone carrier. Second you’ll need the number. The first one can sometimes be a bit of a challenge, but you can find out virtually any carrier by going to fonefinder.net and putting the number in. It will tell you if it’s Bell, Rogers, or another carrier. Once you’ve got that figured out, head to www.txtit.ca to send the message. While it’s possible to go to each carrier’s website and send messages from there, the nice thing about this site is that it remembers previous numbers you’ve sent messages to making it very convenient to send multiple messages to one person. It’s a definite time saver.

Are you one of these people that hate leaving your voice on the answering machine? Or maybe you’d rather say it than text it. AT&T has a great text to speech program online that allows you to enter any text and download a recording made by a computer. Only, the voice sounds much more human than it used to. Head over to http://tinyurl.com/34fzsm to see what I’m talking about. You can download a WAV file which can be used on your computer, or simply hold up the phone to your computer speaker and have it play back the message. It’s too bad I didn’t mention this before April Fools Day because I’m sure this site could be used for some great pranks too.

Are you doing some research? Would access to some leaked official documents be useful to you? Now there is a place on the web for just this sort of information. The site www.wikileaks.org contains all kinds of documents from various sources. There is even some interesting Canadian content on there (I won’t spoil the fun but there is an entire category on Canada in there you really should check out). Even if you are remotely curious about some of the confidential documents that are floating around out there, this is a must stop destination.

It seems like we can’t get away from sites that either involve direct social networking or some sort of user contribution (which is a good thing). If you’re stumped on what novel you should read next, why not go to www.whatshouldireadnext.com. This aptly named (if not lengthy) website takes the title or author of the last book you read, and recommends what else you should be reading based on contributions from other authors. Not biased like Amazon.com would be, it does offer you the convenience of ordering the book after you see the results (for which the site would get a commission) but that’s one way they can pay the bills. No registration required unless you plan on submitting your own recommendations for other visitors.

Finally, I thought I’d add a completely useless site to the list. You’ve seen me use TinyURL.com before (even in this article) which is a site that takes really long web addresses and makes them tiny. Someone has decided that the opposite would be great, so if you go to http://www.hugeurl.com and put in a regular website, it will return a URL that is over 3500 characters long. This is perfect for sending a link to the greatest website in the world to your mother or grandmother who is still learning to poke around Google.com. Their tagline “Because bigger is better, right?” is questionable at best. Happy surfing!

Article Copyright ©2009 by Syd Bolton. Original publication date: 4/18/2009.
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