Over the holidays I found a new and exciting way to spend my money I mean a hobby a new and exciting hobby: photography. To be fair my new acquisition is not the first camera I have ever owned. As a matter of fact it is perhaps the sixth or seventh in my lifetime. There is one main difference between those and this one (two if you include cost) instead of being the last in a string of point-and-shoot cameras, my latest prized acquisition is an SLR or a DSLR to be more specific.
Since my main objective in this cube is not to get into the details of all my new photography exploits, I will get to the point. While doing online searches on the functionality of my new high-end toy, I came across LearnSLR.com. In this site, the owner not only spends some time delving into the features of the Canon XSi (450D), but also spends a lot of time and bandwidth on how to get the best shots. I have used this site to learn techniques and improve my overall photography knowledge.
Once there and reading its forum, I also learned of the-digital-picture.com. This site has excellent, comprehensive reviews on lenses and other accessories for Canon SLRs.
As I get better and my equipment list grows, I find that these two sites have become invaluable resources in my quest for excellent photography results. Kudos to the site owners and contributors; they have done a great job.
Deal or No Deal
It was late last year when I caught wind of DealNews.com as a consolidator of the latest greatest deals in most things from clothing and Legos to (and especially) electronics. I don't remember how I got there, but now I cannot get away from it. It has become embarrasingly addictive. I need to continuously remind myself, "If I don't need it, then it is not a good deal to me." Help me Clark Howard. I have a problem.
This is not the only and may not even be the first of these types of sites. I have heard and have visited others like FatWallet.com. In my humble opinion, DealNews.com beats the rest mainly because of the user interface. All in all, I think the deals listed across all deal consolidators are by and large the same ones.
Of course, Lego.com is the place to go to see what new sets have hit the market. It is also the perfect place to find user groups/forums (especially Mindstorms ones) that show what the other geniuses/creative minds are working on.
Furthermore, nothing is more intriguing to me than Lego artists and their creations mostly because I'm a wannabe. There are two that stand above the crowd in my opinion: Nathan Sawaya and Eric Harshbarger. Sawaya has The Art of the Brick where he displays some of his museum pieces. Likewise, Harshbarger has a ton of "pieces" in his Lego Portfolio.
Recently I found this gem of a site: LegoEducation.com. The site has a great store that offers pieces and bundles unavailable anywhere else.
Created: 12/5/2007 Last Edited: 2/1/2008
Again, if you like to edit videos, then sound effects are always appreciated. What better than a site with free sound effects. That's what The Freesound Project provides. The site allows the search and download of sounds uploaded by users. I have found this site incredibly useful.
SaveTube to Rip Videos Out
If you like to edit videos like I do and find something worth extracting in YouTube, you can find this task quite daunting. That's unless you use SaveTube to rip the flash videos into a usable format.
WSB Radio for Boortz
WSB Radio is where I usually go to get the live streaming of Neal Boortz's radio show during lunch. This is my favorite Atlanta news and talk-radio station and Neal is my favorite host.
Consumer Reports for the Smart Shopper
Although Consumer Reports requires a membership, its cost is easily justified specially if you're in the market for any item of significant cost. Many different brands of cars, electronics (all sorts), appliances, etc all are reviewed and rated. Never spend on a big ticket item without first reading what they have to say about that product (sometimes you must use another model of the same brand as a proxy). You may not like what you hear, but at least you should rest assured you're getting an unbiased report. I have gone on their recommendations a few times and have yet to be disappointed (plasma TV, digital camera, set of appliances and more).
Gamefly for Video Games
I was a member of Gamefly (a game rental service) for a couple of years. I stopped once I upgraded from a modded XBOX to an unmodded XBOX 360 and realized I could download game demos for free (with a membership to XBOX Live not free), thus reducing my need to rent games. Financially speaking, it stopped making sense.
As a member you can also purchase used games for a good price (even better price if you have been a member for a while and have loyalty points).
I go now because I get game reviews, videos, and user comments on all games released. This site consolidates critic reviews from multiple sites along with providing their own rating. This is definitely the best place to go before buying the next hot game. It has become my one-stop-shop for video game information.
Blockbuster and IMDb for Movies
A member of Blockbuster's Netflix-like DVD rental program for a few years now, I visit this site often. Every week, I check out the new releases and add the good ones (or interesting ones anyway) to my queue. I very frequently use the feature "Similar Movies" once I find a film I have enjoyed. Rating some viewed movies should be able to narrow down and customize recommendations, but that feature is seldom worth using (I can see how this would be difficult to execute with a high success rate/degree of confidence).
Aside from being the place where I go to rent flicks, this is one of my sources for movie info. Other users often offer worthwhile opinions on films as well.
My other source for movie details (usually technical details such as dates, character names, actors, directors, etc) is IMDb, the Internet Movie Database. This site offers a quicker reference to film information than any other site I've visited on the net.
Created: 12/5/2007 Last Edited: 12/9/2007
MarketWatch to Watch the Market
I've been checking MarketWatch since CBS used to promote it on their Early Show. Other than my brokerage firm's site to track actual gains, I use this site to read about the market and specific stocks. I like their format and their exclusive articles.
TigerNet for Clemson sports
TigerNet is my source for all Clemson sports-related information. More than that, it's a platform for fans to express themselves at times myself included. Anyone who's a Clemson Tiger should visit. News breaks here earlier than anywhere else (so do rumors and conspiracy theories). All sport schedules are always available. Game pictures and videos are posted often. If anything, be ready to hear a plethora of perspectives on a multitude of subjects (most Clemson-related) coming from all angles.
Clicker beware: this is not the place to go after a Tiger loss. The board usually goes in to what is commonly known as "meltdown mode." This is, though, the perfect time to spot trolls and doomsayers.
The Web Staples
No, this cube is not about Staples (although I just plugged them). This is about the main websites I use for main web activities:
Home Page: MSN - mostly out of comfort I like this site the best. It consolidates (like others of its kind do) news, sports, weather, and other things of interest in an attractive, easy to navigate format.
Search: Google - is there really any other worth using? Sure, but is there any more popular? No. It's hard to imagine life without it. I use its image search often.
Videos: YouTube - everything ever taped somehow makes it into this site (even if only momentarily). This is a source for hours of laughter. I'm not an abuser or even a dedicated consumer mostly just an infrequent visitor.
Trials/Shareware/Freeware: CNet's Download.com - this site serves as my starting point for software searches. It usually provides downloads for the most used computer utilities with user reviews.
Collective Knowledge (or lack-thereof): Wikipedia - this site pools the collective knowledge of all willing contributors in any and all possible things worth explaining in detail. Of course, as with anything that allows unmonitored edits, it is often easy to be led astray by half-truths or inaccuracies. Browser beware. Never believe anything you read on Wikipedia unless you know it to be true or can validate it through other more reliable sources.