Ira Wilsker's archive

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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You have undoubtedly seen countless TV and print ads for a service that promises to give you a “free credit report” but requires a monthly or annual membership for credit monitoring in order to get your “free” credit report. According to the Federal Trade Commission, many people did not realize that in order to get their “free” credit report, they were committing to a $79.95 annual fee for credit monitoring.

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Despite the term “Google” becoming somewhat synonymous with the term “search,” where people say “Go Google this” meaning to do an Internet search, Google is far from a monopoly. I sometimes have a hard time convincing others that Google is not the only search engine available, and that Yahoo!, Bing, and others are highly competitive and in some cases superior to the ubiquitous Google. Of the major search engines today, Yahoo! is the oldest, starting operations in early 1994, when the World Wide Web was in its infancy.

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