like shopping online - it's easy to do, secure (pretty much all credit
cards have online protection guarantee and unless you're shopping in shady
online places, you're very safe), and best of all - no driving to the
mall or shop! You simply can't beat the selection of products available
online and the prices are usually much cheaper given online stores' lower
overhead cost. You'd have to pay shipping most of the time, but think
of all the gas and time you're saving.
But how can you make online shopping better? How about with online coupons:
many stores have "coupon code" or "promo code" during
checkout that will give you discounts, free shipping and even free goodies.
Given the highly competitive nature of ecommerce, these coupons can be
very, very good.
The problem is how do you find these coupons? Most online stores give
them to existing their customers to promote return business, but that
doesn't mean that you'd have to buy something first to get a better deal
With a little legwork (fingerwork?) you can save a lot with online coupons.
Simply go to these "coupon aggregator" websites:
You can browse by merchant and categories in CurrentCodes.com, though
it's best if you know exactly what you're looking for. For example,
selecting coupons for computers bring up hundreds of available coupons,
which will take quite a bit of time to sort through.
If you know what you're looking for, say a specific product, then it's
easy to find the keyword using your browser's search capability (CTRL-F
for Firefox, CMD-F if you're using a Mac)
Guy King, the founder of BugMeNot,
an online repository of username and passwords to bypass registration
on otherwise free websites, started another venture in 2006 called RetailMeNot.
The website lets users post and retrieve web coupons from 40,000 stores.
While a lot of online coupon sites concentrate on US retailers and etailers,
RetailMeNot lets you browse for coupons from retailers in UK, Canada,
Australia, Germany, India, France, and the Netherlands.
FatWallet.com was started in 1999 by Tim Storm as a single page listing
coupons for a handful of retailers. I suppose it resonated with cheapskates
everywhere since it has since grown to be one of the largest websites
on the Net!
- Ask Deal
Ask Deal is a new service by Ask.com, aiming to become the premiere
search engine for deals, coupons, bargains, and sales. Ask.com doesn't
host the coupons themselves - instead, they aggregate such information
from the websites above and many others. You can even find local coupons
in your area (by zip codes).
Bonus: Black Friday
There's shopping and then there's Black Friday shopping. In the United
States, the Friday after Thanksgiving is the traditional start of the
Christmas shopping season. Competition is cutthroat and therefore retailers
offer unusually good doorbuster and loss leader deals to draw people to
If you don't mind waking up really early in the morning, standing in
line for hours before the store open, and jostling with hundreds of people
for a few select products, then shopping on a Black Friday can save you
a lot (and I mean a lot) of money. But keep the kids at home
- people have literally been crushed and trampled to death by shoppers
desperate for cheap goods.
Two good websites that offer a sneak peak at Black Friday deals are BlackFriday.info
Working in front of the computer has taught me this about using online
tools: while there are certainly a lot of them, I find that I
only use a handful of the most useful ones every day.
Online tools are wonderful and they certainly are time savers. The hard
part is to wade through hundreds of them to find that one gem. So, to
help you save time, here is a list of the 10 Most Useful Online Tools
1. Google as Calculator, Unit Conversion, Currency Conversion and Translator
I know, I know - everyone already knows about Google. While it's certainly
a popular search engine, did you know that you can use Google to do math,
convert units of measurements, and even translate one language into another?
I use Google for exactly these purposes every day:
- Google as Calculator
Enter what you'd like to calculate in Google's search box as you would
a regular calculator. For example:
You can do both simple arithmetic and advanced math. Google
Guide has a neat article explaining all of the math functions built
into Google's calculator
- Google as Unit Conversion
Need to convert one unit of measurement into another? Just ask Google:
yard to inch OR yard in inch*
meter to feet OR meter in feet
kg to lbs
You can even do math conversion. For example:
5 yards to inch
2 days to seconds
- Google as Currency Conversion
The same goes for currency. Simply query Google:
USD to GBP
Dollar to pound
5 EUR to USD
- Google as Translator
This one is pretty neat: Google
You can enter a word, a block of text or even a URL and have Google
translate it from one of 51 languages supported into another. You can
even have Google auto-detect the language!
What's even better is to do these without ever going to Google.com. If
you select Google Search Engine Add-on for Firefox (it should come as
a default), you can enter the query directly on the search box and the
answer is displayed automatically right then and there. *A funny thing
is that "yard to inch" doesn't work here, but "yard in
In 1999, Google did a user testing of its homepage.
The company noticed that after the homepage came up on the screen, the
testers waited ... and waited ... and waited ... When asked what's going
on, they answered that they were waiting for the rest of the page to
load. That's the reason Google beefed up the copyright notice on the
bottom of the page: to let people know that the whole page has loaded!
2. Ta-Da List
Ta-Da is a very useful, easy to use
- and best of all, free - online to-do list by the folks at 37signals.
I use it every day to jot down tasks and ideas. You can even share your
list with other people or make it public.
3. Creative Commons Search
Commons Search is the easiest way to find creative commons- or CC-licensed
images that you can use for your blog or website. Best of all, it is available
as an add-on to Firefox.
Alternatively, you can also do CC license search directly
in Flickr - simply check the "Only Search within Creative Commons-licensed
content" at the bottom of the page.
Be sure to understand the various Creative
Commons licenses - some require attributions, prohibit derivative
works, and allows only non-commercial use of the image.
Sometimes, you simply can't find the appropriate free image for your
blog or website using Creative Commons Search. There are a lot of stock
photo websites, but I find the most cost-effective one is clipart.com.
For $34.95 a month or $159.95 per year (that's just $13.33 per month),
you have an unlimited access to 10+ million royalty-free cliparts, photos,
The downside of clipart.com is that their photo quality is rather poor
when compared to other stock photo websites. My other favorites are iStockPhoto
and Dreamstime. In addition to
buying a single image, they also offer subscriptions, but at a much higher
price than clipart.com.
5. Dafont and What The Font
Need a free font? You can't go wrong with Dafont,
where you can download free fonts (some are restricted to only personal
use). The website classifies fonts according to various categories like
calligraphy, decorative, typewriter, and dingbats. It will even display
your phrase in various fonts so you can see exactly what they look like.
Ever seen a font that you like and want to know what it is? You can submit
an image to MyFonts' cleverly named tool WhatTheFont!
to identify it for you. This online tool is beta, and it doesn't always
correctly identify the font, but at least it gives you useful alternatives
even if it can't find the right one.
6. Down For Everyone or Just Me?
When I can't access my favorite websites or even my own blogs, I always
wonder if it's the fault of my local ISP or whether the sites are actually
down. The simplest way to check is by visiting Down
For Everyone Or Just Me?
All you have to do is enter the domain name and it'll check for you.
I don't know if you'd classify Pandora as an online tool - but
the free Internet radio is so useful for finding new music that I'll put
it on this list. The best thing about Pandora is that you can personalize
it to play only the music you like.
In 2000, Will Glaser, John Kraft and Tim Westergren started the Music
Genome Project to classify songs using a complex algorithm involving
almost 400 attributes. A musician would analyze a particular song and
classify it according to categories like "dominant use of harmony,"
"driving shuffle beat," "highly synthetic sonority"
and so on. The idea is that if you like one song, then you should also
like another one with similar musical qualities (or "genes,"
as they call them).
Today, the technology is used by Pandora
- you can enter a particular song title or an artist's name, then it will
create a special channel that - in theory - only plays similar music.
Unfortunately, due to licensing restrictions, you can only listen to
Pandora if you're located in the USA. If that's the case, there's always
YouTube where you can listen to music videos ...
8. Vector Magic
This one is rather obscure for non-designers, but I find it quite useful.
Whenever I have to convert a bitmap image into vector art, I simply upload
it to Vector Magic and voilà!
- it's automatically done. In my experience, it's definitely worth the
$7.95/month subscription, though you can try it for free first.
For a large-ish blog or website, you'll find this service very useful:
a Content Delivery Network or CDN to host static files like images and
media files. Putting these files on a CDN instead of your blog server
helps reduce the load of your server. So instead of serving bulky images,
your server can focus on delivering only small HTML files - thus greatly
improving its performance.
Serving large image files from a CDN should also improve the page load
speed for your readers. This is because most CDNs operate several nodes
spread around the world. A reader in Europe would automatically be served
from a nearby CDN server in Europe, rather than having to wait for the
file to be delivered from, say, a server in the United States.
I use Cachefly, which caters to smaller
companies. I find their setup (a regular FTP) easier than using other
popular CDN services like Amazon's CloudFront
or Simple Storage Service (S3).
The last tool here is actually the one I hope I never have to
use. Carbonite is an online backup
tool that automatically backs up files from your PC or Mac. It costs $54.95
per year, which is a bargain as compared to losing your files if your
hard disk crashed (yes, there are services that fix broken HD, but those
cost hundreds and hundreds and hundres of dollars).
The good thing about using an online backup service is that it's automatic.
Sure you can do this by burning the content of your hard drive into a
CD or a DVD, or copy it into an external hard disk, but when was the last
time you did this? I thought so.
Having had a hard disk crash on me before, I can tell you this: it's
a matter of when, not if. So whether you decide on using an online backup
service (besides Carbonite, there are plenty of others like Mozy,
though I haven't personally used them all) or an external hard drive (I
do both, actually, just in case), please backup your computer today.
Lastly, a caveat: like I mentioned above, I haven't needed to use Carbonite's
restore function. There are people who complain about their service, but
I think the same goes for practically all online backup services.
this one isn't an online tool, but I find my IronKey
to be so useful that I have to include it in this post somehow.
There are plenty cheaper USB or Flash drives, so why choose one that
costs of more than $60 for a 1
(I have the 8
about $170 from Amazon) The answer is simple: built-in encryption. IronKey
is also waterproof, electromagnetically shielded, and darned near indestructible.
Those features are nice (indeed, IronKey is military-grade), but I'm no
James Bond ...
If you want to store sensitive personal data, this is the simplest way
to do so. When you plug it into a standard USB socket, IronKey will ask
for your password before letting you access the data. If it got stolen,
and the thief entered the password wrong 10 times, the drive will automatically
self-destruct and erase its content.
IronKey also offers private surfing using a built-in Firefox browser
- but I find this to be too slow to use comfortably. Anyhow, Firefox 3
(and Microsoft Internet Explorer 8) now offers "Private Browsing"
mode, so the point is rather moot.
Oh, and backing up your IronKey (while maintaining the encryption) onto
your PC is also easy with a built-in function.
I'll be the first to admit that this list is too short - we didn't even
talk about GMail, Google
Docs, Microsoft Office Online,
and Google Analytics. These
are very popular tools and I thought that many of you'd already use them.
Got anything to add? Let's hear about 'em in the comment!
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade ... or use them to polish chrome,
get rid of bad cat litter box odor, deodorize your garbage disposal and
more! Here are some unusual uses of lemons around the house:
science behind these ingenious household uses of lemon is citric acid:
a natural, organic acid that is present in concentrations as high as
8% in some varieties of lemon.
The wonders of citric acid have been known by scholars in Europe since the medieval times.
The benefits of lemon and lime juice were recorded in a 13th century
AROUND THE HOUSE
- Get rid of cat litter box odor
Cut up a few lemons and put near the cat litter box. The lemons will
soon neutralize the odor, leaving the room lemony fresh.
- Get rid of stain on marble
For stubborn stain on marble, cut a lemon in half. Pour some salt on
top of the stain and rub with the cut lemon. Be careful, however, as
the acid in the lemon can actually cause more damage.
- Get rid of ants
Squirt some lemon juice into holes and cracks where the ants are coming
in. Place small pieces of lemon rinds or peels around the house.
- Get rid of roaches and fleas
Wash your floor with the juice of 4 lemons in about half a gallon of
- Get rid of moths
Hang a sachet of dry lemon rind in the closet to get rid of moths.
- Get rid of mothball smell
Now that you can use lemon to get rid of moths, you won't need those
mothballs anymore ... but how do you get rid of the lingering mothball
smell? Lemon to the rescue (again!) - simply wash the drawers and closet
with a solution of lemon juice in water.
- Polish chrome
Got dull chrome faucets? Simply rub lemon rind, rinse and dry with a
- Clean tarnished brass, bronze, copper, and stainless steel
Make a paste of lemon juice and baking soda and apply to the tarnished
area. Let soak for 5 to 10 minutes and wash in soapy water.
- Air freshener
Put a mixture of lemon juice and water into a spray bottle. Voila! A
natural and inexpensive air freshener. You can also put slices of lemon
in a dish or a dish of lemon juice and baking soda mixture to help absorb
bad odor and freshen the room.
- All purpose cleaning solution
Add lemon juice, vinegar, and water in a spray bottle for a natural,
all-purpose cleaning solution.
- Furniture polish
For varnished wood, add a few drops of lemon oil into a cup of water.
For unvarnished wood, mix equal parts of oilve oil and lemon juice.
Use dry cotton rags to wipe the furniture.
- Toilet bowl cleaner
Make your own toilet bowl cleaner with 1 part of lemon juice to 2 parts
of borax. You can get rid of toilet rings by applying this solution
and letting it sit for a couple of hours before rinsing.
Microwave lemons for 20 seconds before squeezing
- that way, you get a lot more lemon juice out of every single one.
Down(y) with laundry detergent! Skip the powders and turn the Tide against
chemicals and Cheer for the Ultra alternative ... lemon!
- Use lemons instead of bleach
Soak clothes in a mixture of lemon juice and baking soda for half an
hour before washing.
- Get rid of stain, mildew and rust
Scrub mildewed clothes with a paste of lemon juice and salt. Let dry
in the sunlight, then wash. Remember to test for color fastness before
using this technique!
- Whiten clothes
To boost your laundry detergent and whiten clothes, add 1 cup of lemon
juice into the washer.
The custom of serving a slice of lemon with fish
dates back to the Middle Ages. It was believed that if you accidentally
swallowed a fish bone, then the lemon juice would dissolve it. Most
people now do it because lemon to enhance flavor and get rid of that
IN THE KITCHEN
Besides food, lemon have plenty of other uses in the kitchen. For example:
- Get rid of garbage disposal odor
If your garbage disposal smells bad, simply put leftover lemon and orange
peels and grind them down the drain. Do this as frequently as needed
to keep the garbage disposal odor away.
- Get rid of bad fridge odor
Here's an easy way to get rid of musky or bad refrigerator odor. Soak
a sponge with lemon juice, place on a plate and leave it in the fridge
- Get rid of cutting board odor
After cutting meat, fish, onion, garlic and other smelly food, you can
get rid of bad cutting board odor simply by rubbing it with half a lemon.
This also works for wooden cutlery and bowls.
- Clean your microwave
Got hardened gunk of food in the microwave? Don't reach for harsh chemicals,
use lemons instead! Add 1/4 cup of lemon juice to 1-1/2 cup of water
and microwave on High for about 10 minutes. The water will boil and
steam will condense inside the microwave. The gunk will easily wipe
away with a paper towel or cleaning rag.
- Lift tough grease stain
Put lemon peel in a water with some water in a blender. Apply the mash
to the tough grease stain and scrub.
- Brightens aluminum pots and pans
Fill the pot with water and add 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, then boil
for 15 minutes. For the outside of the pots and pans, scrub with a half
of a lemon.
- Prevent potatoes and cauliflower from turning brown
Potatoes and cauliflower can turn brown after being boiled. To prevent
this, simply add a teaspoon of lemon juice into the water before you
turn on the stove.
- Prevent avocado and guacamole from turning brown
The culprit is oxidation - when a cut avocado is exposed to air, an
enzyme called polyphenol oxidase change the structures of phenolic compounds
in the flesh of the avocado and thus their color. Since the enzyme doesn't
work as well in acidic environment, you can slow down this reaction
by sprinkling lemon or lime juice.
- Prevent apple slices from turning brown
Same idea as above. For apple slices, simply rub them with half a lemon.
- Prevent rice from sticking
Add a teaspoon of lemon juice into the water before you cook the rice.
The lemon will also make the rice whiter and brighter!
- Make lettuce crisp again
Got soggy lettuce? Don't toss it way - You can "revive" it
by squeezing half a lemon into a bowl of ice water. Soak the soggy lettuce
for about an hour. Rinse and dry the lettuce before serving in a salad
- Get rid of cabbage odor
If you don't like the smell of cooking cabbage, simply put a slice of
lemon in the pot.
you only need half a lemon, don't throw the other half away! Squeeze
the remaining lemon juice into an ice tray and freeze. Each ice cube
of lemon juice is equals two tablespoons. (You can pop 'em out after
they're frozen and put them in a freezer bag for storage).
HEALTH & BEAUTY
Before you reach for that expensive cream and lotion, give the humble
(and cheap) lemon a try:
- Soften dry and scaly elbows
Make a paste of lemon juice and baking soda. Rub into your elbows to
exfoliate and soften the scaly skin. Repeat daily as required.
- Soften rough hands and feet
Soak in equal part of lemon juice and water. Rinse, then dry with a
towel. Repeat daily as required.
- Clean your face
A rinse with lemon juice and water will clean and exfoliate your face
for pennies as compared to expensive facial soaps.
- Clean your hands
If your hands smell from peeling garlic or cleaning fish, rub your fingers
with a lemon wedge to remove the odor.
- Get rid of dandruff
Got itchy, scaly dandruff? Apply lemon juice directly to your scalp
and massage it in before you hop on the shower. Then rinse away and
wash your hair as usual.
- Remove warts
Apply lemon juice directly on the wart with a Q-tip. Repeat daily until
the wart disappears.
- Treat poison ivy rash
Apply lemon juice directly to the rash to soothe the itching.
- Treat insect bites
Apply a slice of lemon onto insect bites to help soothe the irritation.
- Lighten age spots
Got liver spots and freckles? You can lighten them without expensive
skin creams with lemon juice. Apply lemon juice directly to the spots
for 15 minutes. Then rinse with water. Repeat daily until you lighten
that age spot.
- Whiten nails
Soak your fingertips in a mixture of lemon juice and water (1/2 cup
lemon juice to 1 cup of water). You can also rub lemon rind on the nails
to whiten them.
- Treat acne and blackheads
Got blackheads? Dab lemon juice directly on the acne breakout once a
day for several days until the condition improves.
- Disinfects minor scrapes
If you've got minor cuts and scrapes and don't mind a little stinging,
you can use lemon juice as a disinfectant. Simply apply a few drops
of lemon juice to the cuts and let sit for a minute or two before rinsing
- Heartburn relief
Drink a glass of water and 2 teaspoons of lemon juice.
episode Lemon of Troy
, the beloved lemon
tree of Springfield is stolen by the kids from nearby Shelbyville. To
get it back, Bart Simpsons and friends used Ned Flanders' RV as a Trojan
horse to get into an impound lot to save the tree.
Homer gleefully remarked that "no one in history has ever done
- Shoe polish
Add a few drops of lemon juice to olive oil. Apply to shoes, then buff
with a clean rag for a perfect shine.
- Soil amendment
If you need acidic soil (for azaleas and rhododendrons, for example)
, simply add lemon rinds to the ground.