Going Google Free: The Search For Search

This is part of a continuing series about my quest to become Google Free by July 1st. Read from the beginning to learn more.

One of Google’s most used products is their search engine. It’s what made Google famous. However, they aren’t the only ones in the game. There are a couple of big contenders such as Bing and Yahoo!, along with a couple of lesser known engines such as DuckDuckGo and Blekko. Being the Trekkie that I am, I’m going to be going on a Search for Spock to prove which search engines are the best.

Google_Search_For_SpockGoogle’s search results

As with any science experiment, you need a control group. For the sake of this post, I’m going to use Google and figure out what the ‘best’ search engine gives me for answers.Google gives me a list of people similar people to Spock. It also gives me some photos of the beloved 2nd in command along with some sites for more information. Surprisingly, there were no ads on the search. This is what the other engines need to compete against.

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Just look at that interface, and those ads!

Next up is Yahoo!. Yahoo! also gives me photos, and links. However, the links aren’t quite as useful. There’s also no list of related people. Along with this, there are ads. I hate to continue to bash on Yahoo!, (okay, that’s a lie) but the interface looks ugly. That may just be a matter of personal preference, but I don’t think it’s attractive at all.

Bing_Search_For_Spock

I took the Bing It On challenge. Google won.

Bing is our next contestant. Bing offers a good amount of information including similar searches, some information about Mr.Spock, images, and decent-ish links. But, there are ads to the side. Along with that is a place for social networking results. Bing appears to be very similar to Google in terms of information, but Microsoft’s search engine takes a slightly different approach to it.

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That ‘Sponsored Link’ is a DuckDuckNo.

After Bing comes DuckDuckGo. DuckDuckGo (or DDG) is a lesser known engine with a strong following. The strength of DDG comes from its bangs (!). For example, typing ‘Spock !i’ will do a search for Spock on Google Images (helpful since DDG doesn’t have image results). There are a lot of different bangs for DDG. Heck, if you want to search this blog from DDG, just type in something like ‘Going Google Free !boardman’. It’s also notable that DuckDuckGo doesn’t track your every move on the web. Anyways, DDG gives you ‘Meanings’ of Spock, along with links to other searches for it on different sites, and some regular results. I also noticed that DuckDuckGo has a ‘sponsored link’, which is essentially an ad.

Blekko_Search_For_Spock

Blekko is probably the best search engine.

Last but not least is Blekko. Blekko is probably the least known out of all of the search engines. Blekko uses slashtags to greatly improve searching. It’s different from bangs in that it keeps you on the Blekko site, and it gives you an even wider range of results. I should also note that, unlike DuckDuckGo, Blekko has image search and video. Unlike other engines, Blekko is bias towards sights. It will do its best to filter out low quality sights. Blekko gives some pretty impressive search results for Spock. It has images (powered by Bing), and some good links. Actually, the links are a bit better than all of the other search engines.

Of course this test was only a search for Spock. Results will obviously be different for other searches. However, I think that through these tests, Blekko is the winner. For the next couple weeks, I’ll be giving Blekko a try. I’ve previously been using DuckDuckGo as my primary search engine, so I recommend that if you aren’t entirely crazy about Blekko. As Spock would say, ‘Live Long and Prosper’.

Do you know of any other search engines or have thoughts about the ones mentioned? Sound off in the comments below!

10 Clever Uses For Cloud Storage

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In today’s age of computing, cloud storage is common place. People can easily get cloud storage for free or cheap. However, they aren’t always using it to its full potential.

1. Email Large Attachments
Email is pretty great. It can send information to people and it can receive it. Unfortunately, nearly every email service provider puts a limit on how big an attachment can be. What if you need to send a large project to someone? Upload the file to the cloud storage of your choosing, click on ‘Share’ or ‘Make Public’, and then email the link to whoever needs to receive it. Feel free to explain why you had to send a link instead of a file; they might think you’re trying to Rick Roll them.

2. Sync Game Save Data Between Computers
You’ve just created an awesome world in Minecraft and your buddy decides that you’re going to his house. You can’t take your desktop that you just made your awesome world on, so you grab your laptop. By having the game save your data to a folder in Dropbox or another cloud service, you can have it so that no matter where you are, you always have your latest save file. Simply redirect the save directory in the game on each computer to the same folder, and you’re good to go!

3. Start Torrents Away From Your Computer
If you ever have to start a torrent on your computer while you’re out, don’t fret. In most torrent clients, you can set it up so that it constantly is watching a folder of your choice on your computer. Make it so that it watches a folder in your cloud storage. Then, while you’re at the deli counter waiting for the guy in front of you to finish ordering his 6lbs of roast beef, you can just upload a torrent file to that folder from your phone, and your file should be ready for you when you’re home.

4. Sync Your Phone With Your Computer
A lot of mobile apps for cloud services now offer you an option to auto-upload all of your photos. Now every photo you take is waiting for you on your computer. If you have an Android phone, you can go beyond just photo syncing. If you want to sync your music, just upload the music to your cloud service and download it on your phone. From there, you can open up a file manager and move that music to your Music folder where you can listen to it from your Music app.

5. Create a Simple Social Network
Nearly every cloud service allows you to share files with other people. By uploading a text file (or HTML if you want to be fancy), you can set up your own social network that syncs to each person’s cloud. You’ll be free from stalkers and you will know who is seeing your data.

6. Have Reconfigured Applications That Sync From Desktop To Desktop
By throwing some portable apps into your cloud, you can access all of the same information and accomplish the same tasks on any computer. I recommend PortableApps for Windows users because they don’t require any installation, and they work pretty well. You could go a step further and install applications to the cloud, but I’m not sure exactly how well that would work in the long run. The program could break easily.

7. Minimize The Amount of Storage Taken Up By Your Blog
Blogs like WordPress give you a limited amount of space for your blog. Every photo that you upload uses up this valuable space. Luckily, WordPress allows you to show pictures by URL instead of by uploading. Cloud storage capitalizes on this by allowing you to upload your own photos to their service, and then sharing th URL with people. By doing this, you can still have your own images while using minimum storage on your blog!

8. Easily Configure New Computers By Syncing Script/Text Files
Whenever I set up a new Linux desktop, I always have to make a new alias file. However, by syncing this file with a cloud service, I can make it so that all of my computers are using the same file. If I make an update to one of the computer’s alias file, all of my computers get the update.

9. Easily Side Load Apps on Android
One thing I like about Android is the ability to install apps not found on the Play Store. First, make sure that you have enabled the installation of non-Play Store apps in the settings. Then, just upload the .apk file into a cloud service, and download it onto the phone. Afterwards, click on it, and hit install. It’s nice and simple. Be careful where you get your Android apps from though. Some can be dangerous.

10. Back Up!
You should always back up your data. Not only to the cloud, but to a physical drive. Backing up your data is one of the smartest things you can do with you cloud storage and it probably makes this the most clever use of your storage. There are services like CrashPlan dedicated just to back ups to the cloud. Give them a try.

There are many services that offer cloud storage. I recommend Dropbox, UbuntuOne, and CrashPlan. If you are looking more for business collaboration, check out Box. Microsoft has their own cloud storage called Skydrive which I find to be too limiting, especially when it comes to cross-platform compatibility. Even though I’m going anti-Google, they do offer cloud storage in the form of Google Drive.

Do you have any clever uses for cloud storage? Tell us about it in the comments below!

How to Setup Zoho Mail for IMAP

Recently, we talked about switching from Gmail to a non-Google email service. One of these alternatives was Zoho mail. I’m a fan of desktop email clients, so I fired up Thunderbird and got ready to set up my account. Unfortunately, Thunderbird didn’t recognize Zoho with its default settings. If you want to set up your Zoho account for IMAP, read on!

Setting up your Email

It’s pretty easy to do, just follow these steps.

  1. The first thing you have to do is Enable IMAP in the Zoho settings. Go to Settings on the website.
  2. Under the mail tab, click on ‘Email Forward and POP/IMAP’.
  3. Enable IMAP.
  4. Go to where you set up an account on your desktop client.
  5. Insert your name, address, and password.
  6. Under incoming, set the server name to ‘imap.zoho.com’, the port to 993, and encryption to ‘SSL/TLS’.
  7. Under outgoing, set the server name to ‘smtp.zoho.com’, the port to 465, and encryption to ‘SSL/TLS’.
  8. Make sure that the Authentication is set to ‘Normal Password’.
  9. Your Username should be your email address, but without the end (Ex. AwesomeDude1441@zoho.com would simply be AwesomeDude1441).
  10. Press Done and you should be good to go.

zoho settings IMAPDouble check to make sure that your configuration looks similar to mine.

Setting up your Calendar

Now if you want your calendar also, follow these steps.

  1. On the Zoho website, go to your calendars.
  2. Under ‘My Calendars’ in the left pane, right-click your calendar and hit Share.
  3. From this screen, click on My Calendars.
  4. Press Export underneath the calendar that you want to export. This will download a .ics file which you can then use in your desktop mail client. (Note that .ics files do not work in every mail client.)
  5. Set up you calendar from the .ics file as you would normally.

Additional instructions for Thunderbird users

Since not all mail clients work the same way in terms of setting up the calendar, I’m not going to give instructions on how to do it in every one. That being said, I am going to give instructions for Thunderbird since that is my mail client of choice.

  1. Install Lightning. It’s a calendar extension for Thunderbird. Think of it as the Simon to Thunderbird’s Garfunkel.
  2. After restarting Thunderbird, go to the menu and click on ‘Events and Tasks’.
  3. Under there, select Import, and choose your .ics file that you downloaded.
  4. Your calendar should now be imported into Thunderbird!

Have you tried setting up Zoho Mail in a desktop client? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!

Going Google Free: Social Networking

Grumpy-Cat.jpgThis is part of a continuing series about my quest to become Google Free by July 1st. Read from the beginning to learn more.

I’m just going to start by saying that I never really got into Google+. For me, there just weren’t enough people that I knew on there for it to replace Twitter or Facebook (on a side note, I’ve ditched Facebook too). There’s a joke between my friends and I about the amount of users on Google+. “Did you hear that Google+ has over 20 million users?” “Really? I didn’t know that Google had that many employees!”

The alternatives for Google+ are obvious. There’s Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Instagram, and App.net. I’m sure that there are a lot more social networks, but those just appear to be the big 5. I’ve severed my connection to Facebook and I’ve never been a big fan of MySpace. I kind of feel like Google+ was a revamped MySpace that all Google users were forced to join. Heck, Google+ users usually only spend 3 minutes a month on it!

Basically, Facebook is for people who want to be able to connect with their friends and see what they’re doing every minute. Twitter is for people who want to connect with people that they knew. MySpace is for Tom Anderson and Justin Timberlake. Instagram is for the aspiring hipster who doesn’t realize that Instagram is too mainstream. App.net is for people who want to have real conversations with people. Personally, I think App.net is the best social network out of these 5 because it contains the least amount of spam and relies solely on third-party developers for their apps.

Even without Google becoming creepy, I don’t think I would have ever gotten into Google+. The social network is plagued with many issues. The number one reason I found it hard to keep coming back to it was the lack of original posts and interesting users. That’s not to say that there weren’t interesting people, but pretty much everybody there has a Twitter account that they update more frequently and with more interesting posts. Another reason I couldn’t really get into Google+ was the lack of 3rd party mobile apps. I’m not saying that the Google+ apps for iOS and Android are ugly or unusable, I just like to have some choice when it comes to how I access my social networks. I truly think that Google+ is for 2 types of people: Hipsters who are in love with Google, and Google employees.

Do you use Google+ or have an opinion about it? Sound off in the comments below and tell us about it.

Survival Tips for the Zombie Apocalypse

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The zombie apocalypse occurs. The world falls to chaos and there are hordes of flesh eaters everywhere. Around every corner lurks something that will get you killed. The zombies find you and begin to surround you. You realize that you are doomed. As your life flashes before your eyes, you vaguely remember a blog post that talked about survival tips, but you can’t recall any of the details. Now as zombies gnaw on your flesh, you wish you had read the entire post and referred it to you friends.

Even though the zombie apocalypse is going on, it’s not all bad news. While you’re still doomed, there are some things that you can do to prolong your existence as a human. Tell your friends to gather around your computer and take some notes. I’m about to help you survive.

Using a Tuna Can as an Emergency Lamp

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A can of tuna in oil can work as a pretty good lamp. Not only does it supply light for a couple of hours, but it also supplies you with a decent amount of protein. During the zombie apocalypse, you’ll still want to think about nutrients for your body. Another plus side is that tuna can go for quite a while without becoming bad.

Learn to Siphon Gasoline

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I doubt that you’re going to find a 7-Eleven open during the apocalypse. So if you’re trying to get somewhere and you can’t go to a gas station, what are you going to do? Take it from other cars of course! Being able to siphon gasoline is a great skill that can help keep you alive. Just make sure that you don’t accidentally swallow the gasoline!

Learn First Aid

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Picture this: You’re running away from a zombie when all of a sudden, your entire arm gets caught on a nail. It seems like you’re about to die from a different type of infection. Without first aid, it looks like you’re screwed! If you learn first aid, you’ll be able to help yourself and other survivors of the apocalypse. It’s one of those skills that I recommend taking a course on, but if you can’t, than at least look at the Ships Captain’s Medical Guide.

How to Jump from Roof to Roof

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You’re chased onto the roof in a city. Zombies are blocking the only way out. Or so it seems. There’s a building right next to you that appears safe. You run and fall off the side of the building. As your body hits the ground, zombies eat the flesh off of your body. Now had you learned how to properly jump from rooftop to rooftop, that wouldn’t have happened. Shame on you!

Have the Proper Gear

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I could probably make this section into a post all on it’s own. It goes without saying that without effective gear, you aren’t going to be able to survive for long. I personally recommend having a good knife (for cutting through things and killing zombies up close), a water filter (for drinking water that you’re not sure is healthy), and some really strong rope (you can use it for a lot of things!). Other things could include a compass, a crank flashlight, and duct tape. You don’t want to have too much stuff with you though, you don’t want it to weigh you down.

Find Other Survivors

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Have you ever heard of the saying “There is strength in numbers”? Well that still holds true in the apocalypse. Having a group of people around you is beneficial for a lot of reasons. Each person offers a unique skill set that can help you out in a rough spot. Also, you can watch out for each other. This makes night time zombie attacks a lot easier to handle. There is no ‘I’ in ‘Team’, but there is in ‘zombie’.

Find a Safe Place

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Let’s face it. You don’t want to be running around all the time. You’re going to get tired and become easy prey for zombies. Go some place that isn’t heavily populated or well-known. When you’re there, find a secure building. Check to make sure that all of the entrances are sealed and zombie-free. Now that you have a place to rest, it’s time to fortify it. Board up the windows so that zombies can’t get it, but make sure that you can still see outside. Check the house for any weak walls or doors and make them stronger. Besides protection from zombies, you also want protection from weather. Shortly after the apocalypse, the power grid will probably shut down. You won’t have any way to heat up your safe house. Try insulating the windows with bubble wrap. Oh, and do your best not to pop it.

Forage for Food

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Your box of twinkies won’t last forever. You have to be able to find food that isn’t made by people. Besides, after a couple of years, there’s not going to be a lot of food left, and I’m pretty sure you don’t want to be eating a 14-year-old McDonald’s hamburger. Try fishing. You get a healthy meal, and it’s fairly easy. You’ll always have fish. Alternatively, search for some berries and stuff. Make sure that they’re edible and not poisonous though!

Other Assorted Tips

Don’t go down dark passage ways alone. Zombies can get you easily. Make sure that your food and water are clean before eating them. Wear comfortable shoes. Ladies, ditch the high heels. Almost anything can be useful. Most importantly, run. Never look back, just keep running. Help your team the best that you can but when your life depends on it, run.

Now hopefully when the zombie apocalypse happens and the Pringles hit the fan, you’ll be more prepared. Remember, friends don’t let friends be unprepared for the zombie apocalypse, so share this post!

Do you have any tips for the upcoming Zombie Apocalypse? Share below to let us know.

Aliases Make Using the Terminal Easier

Using the terminal on Mac and Linux is great. It allows you to complete tasks just by typing in a line of code. However, some lines of code can be rather long and complex. Aliases allow the these tasks to be completed with just a few keys.

What is an alias?

An alias is essentially a shortcut in the terminal. Instead of typing ‘sudo apt-get update’, you could simply set up an alias so that you only have to type ‘upd’. Aliases become even more valuable when you’re using longer or lesser known commands. For example, if I want to watch Star Wars in the terminal, I would have to type ‘telnet towel.blinkenlights.nl’. With an alias, I can simply just say ‘Starwars’ and I can indulge in pure geekery.

Wait, did you just say that you can watch Star Wars in the Terminal???

Yep.

starwars terminal

So how do I set it up?

The first thing you have to do is create a text file in your home directory. I personally like to use Nano in the terminal. Name it ‘.bash_aliases’. We’re naming it ‘.bash_aliases’ because the ‘.bashrc’ file which manages the terminal’s behaviour is looking for that file as a source for aliases. Now you can start making your first alias. You always want to start an alias with the word ‘alias’. This tells the terminal that you are making a new alias. Then type your first shortcut. For this example, we’ll be trying to update the software on Ubuntu. For the shortcut, type ‘upd’. Immediately afterwards, insert a ‘=’ symbol followed by the command that you’re shortening. Make sure that the command is surrounded by apostrophes. If this is confusing, you can use my aliases as a reference.

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The use for aliases is endless. I use aliases to allocate more RAM to my Minecraft so that it runs smoother. If you have to run a series of scripts over and over, you can use an alias to simplify it down to 3 letters. Hopefully this opened up a new world of terminal use for you.

Do you use aliases or have questions about them? Sound off in the comments below.

Ubuntu 13.04 Raring Ringtail Released!

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Earlier today, Ubuntu 13.04 Raring Ringtail was released. This new version of Ubuntu contains many new features which include Online Account integration, new window animations, new icons, improved menus, new lenses, and speed. Oh, and as always, there’s a slightly modified Ubuntu wallpaper. In case you haven’t been noticing, the Ubuntu default wallpaper has slowly been changing from release to release. I guess it symbolises the evolution of the operating system.

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The Ubuntu 13.04 Desktop, complete with new icons and new wallpaper

These new features are pretty great. Overall, I’ve noticed that Ringtail is a lot snappier than the previous release of Ubuntu. However, it’s not quite as snappy as Ubuntu 10.10 which a lot of people have been comparing it to. The new icons were a nice treat, even though it took a couple minutes to get used to them. Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of the Nautilus redesign. I prefer it the way it was.

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Eh, I’m not a big fan of the Nautilus update. I’ll get used to it.

The new Online Account integration was a nice touch. It’s something that Gnome 3 has had for a little while, but it just hit Ubuntu in 13.04. It’s a good idea, but it could be more integrated. The most integration that an account has is a Google account. Signing in with a Google account gives you access to searching your Picasa photos and Google Drive files through the search, uploading your pictures to Picasa through Shotwell, and access to Google Talk.

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The Online Accounts. I connected my Google account only to see what it was all about. I’m still going Google free.

This time around, I decided to do a fresh install of Ubuntu. For about 3 years, I’ve been doing Release to Release upgrades. For some reason, some applications like Shotwell refused to install. Also, I somehow managed to flood my Home directory with a bunch of random files. It was just time for a cleaning. Installing the Ubuntu ISO to a USB drive is really easy if you use Unetbootin. I noticed that Ubuntu installed a lot faster from the USB than from the CD. Unfortunately for you optical drive die hards, 13.04 won’t fit on a CD, so you’re either going to have to install to a USB, or buckle down and invest in some blank DVDs. Ubuntu 13.04 is available on the official Ubuntu website.

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Note to Mac users: some users have noticed that Ubuntu doesn’t fully recognize the trackpad on some of the newer Macbooks. It doesn’t fully support the one button trackpad and apparently it’s a little jumpy. This should be fixed in some future versions as people begin to develop open source drivers for the newer Macbooks.

Have you tried out Ubuntu 13.04 Raring Ringtail? Tell me about it in the comments below.