Ira Wilsker's archive

We all like getting something for free. In the past, I have written about the thousands of free e-books from Amazon, Google, and other sources. A quick review of Amazon indicates that almost all currently published commercial books, including many college textbooks, are now available in digital format in addition to the bound paper versions. For all of the courses in my program at my college, the students have the option of using free online textbooks. Microsoft has now joined the free e-book club.

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One of the most frequently asked questions I’m asked is how to download YouTube and other videos on the Web. Luckily, there are several free utilities, Web sites and browser plug-ins that make the process easy.

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Ever since I purchased a new Vista-64 computer several years ago, I have enjoyed using several of Microsoft’s desktop gadgets and Yahoo’s desktop widgets. In recent years, I have written several columns extolling the joys of widgets and gadgets, and telling where to find them. Widgets and gadgets are small utilities that can be placed on a Windows or Mac desktop and provide the user with current information of some kind. Yahoo offered more than 6,000 free widgets, and Microsoft offered thousands of gadgets.

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It never ceases to amaze me how much reliable and quality help is available on the Internet. One of my favorite resources for tips, tricks, cheat sheets and apps is the Web site at www.makeuseof.com. Hosted in the U.K. but with an international staff, MakeUseOf has established a reputation of excellence in terms of tips and tricks to improve our cyber lives, regardless of what operating system we choose or devices we own.

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We are now well into hurricane season, and tropical storms started early this year. Compared to just a few years ago, when we had to manually plot storms on a map provided as a free hand out from the supermarket, today there is a plethora of hurricane tracking and information sites available online, and as apps for our Android devices, Windows phones, Blackberry devices, iPads and iPhones.

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