Monthly Archives: March 2008

The 101 most useful websites

Written by telegraph


Haven’t found what you’re looking for? Use our website guide to find the right information


1 Google

The powerhouse of the internet and the only place many people go for information. But if you thought Google was a still a mere search engine, look again. Click on ‘more’ at the top of the homepage to discover the work of ‘GoogleLabs’ – more than 50 free tools and web pages that could change your internet life.

GoogleDocs lets you create documents, spreadsheets and presentations, store them online, share them with others and access them from wherever there’s an internet connection.

Googlemail is probably the best email program – it has virtually limitless capacity and you don’t need to change your email address to use it. The Google calendar is a powerful searchable diary that you can allow others to access, so family members can make appointments together.

SketchUp could be just the tool you are looking for to design that conservatory extension and see what it will look like once the builders have gone. Add to that databases for searching academic journals and books in the public domain, the powerful GoogleMaps, with its engaging satellite imagery, a finance page with live stock quotes and an easy-to-use online messaging system, and you can see why some people say Google is taking over the world – and, with GoogleMoon and GoogleMars, the rest of the galaxy, too.

2 Anonymouse

Surf the web without disclosing who or where you are.

3 iLounge

Hints, tips and troubleshooting for your iPod and associated software.

4 Only2Clicks

If you use just a few websites, this lets you create a home page that has links to them all. Simple, free and practical.

5 Zoho

A suite of free business programs. From word processing and presentation software to tools for taking notes in meetings, planning projects and creating databases.

6 Backpack

To-do lists, notes, ideas and calendar. Excellent for juggling projects and much more versatile than a ring folder.

7 GetNetWise

All you need to know about keeping the net safe – protecting children, preventing spam, avoiding viruses and stopping others accessing your personal details.

8 DaFont

More than 7,500 free fonts (for Mac and PC), so you can at last stop using Copperplate for your party invitations.

9 Pando

The superfast way to send large files over the web. Don’t attach that family video to an email, Pando it instead.

10 FlipClips

Turn your home videos into animated flip books. Much more appealing than another DVD.


11 Digital Spy

Entertainment, media and showbiz news. Plus, a surprisingly good forum for technology-related problems – a great place to sort out your broadband.

12 BBC iPlayer

On-demand television and radio programmes from the BBC.

13 Whatsonwhen

Events, attractions, openings and exhibitions from around the world. Enter a location and dates and the site will show listings.


Up in lights: a guide to London’s Theatreland is online

14 London Theatre Guide

What’s coming on and what’s making an exit in London’s theatre world. Especially good for seating plans, so you can see where the box office staff are putting you.

15 The Internet Movie Database

The world’s biggest (and still growing) reference for actors, directors, locations, plots…

16 Rotten Tomatoes

A round-up of what the critics thought of films on general release.

17 Screenonline

The British Film Institute’s definitive guide to the British film industry. Plots, features, statistics and news from the film world.

18 Good Reads

Expand your reading. Catalogue your books online and others make recommendations based on what you seem to enjoy.

19 TV Guide

News, features and listings for Britain’s terrestrial and cable television. Customisable interface so your favourite channels are always at the top.

20 Football365

The authentic (and often tangential) voice of the Britain’s ‘real’ football supporters.

21 CricInfo

Everything you want to know about the world of cricket.

22 Beijing Olympics

The official Olympics site, with news, scheduling, features and a countdown to the games themselves.

23 Radio Locator

From shock jocks to orchestral baroque, thousands of internet radio stations to listen to on your computer.

24 Live Plasma

Expand your music and movie tastes. Enter the name of a song, band, movie, actor or director you like and Live Plasma will return some pretty intelligent recommendations for further investigation.

25 Blinkx

A clever way of searching for video clips on the internet – from uploaded episodes of your favourite soap to comedy home-video moments.

26 Lulu

Self-publishing made smart again. Write, design and then print your own books – though you’ll still have to persuade others to buy them.

27 VideoJug

28 Wonder How To

Two great sites full of short videos showing you how to do almost anything, from the incredibly useful (exercises for diabetes sufferers, tying a Windsor knot) to the revelatory (‘learn different kinds of kisses’), via the wonderfully obscure (‘make a moving jaw for your werewolf mask’).

29 Instructables

DIY projects from zombie make-up to LED balloons. Excellent selection of rainy-day projects for bored children (and adults) at home.

30 Flash games

Addictive series of Flash games including the hypnotically soothing Boomshine.


Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass

Stuck on Zelda? The Net can help

31 GameSpot

News, reviews, hints and tips for virtually every console game on the market. Essential if you are still up at 2am trying to find a way into the castle on Zelda.

32 Anagrammer

Online anagram machine for Scrabble players and crossword enthusiasts. Also solves Sudoku.


33 Newsmap

A wonderfully graphical – and customisable – display of news stories from around the world. Click on an item to see the full story.

34 The Eggcorn Database

Continually updated guide to modern-day Malapropisms, misunderstandings and other manglings of language. From ‘high dungeon’ to ‘wreckless driving’, Eggcorn names the culprits and nudges them in the right direction.

35 Arts and Letters Daily

World-class articles from intellectual and influential journals around the world. Browse the day’s selections. Like The Week for eggheads.

36 Ask Philosophers

The academy comes to cyberspace. A panel of mainly American and British philosophy scholars answers questions sent in by the public. Search the database, from Abortion to War, or send in a question of your own.


Muslims on a pilgrimage to Mecca, but when is the Hajj?

37 When Is

Shows you the dates of Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu and American holidays from now to 2010.

38 Rhyme Zone

For when the muse has gone, a rhyme and synonym generator to help you towards the perfect mot. You can also search for Shakespeare quotations, biblical references and other literary inspirations.

39 Nationmaster

Giant but easily searchable database of statistics, maps and profiles for every country in the world.

40 Digg

The people’s approach to news and features, Digg brings together items from across the net, ranked according to how many people have felt them worth recommending. Sometimes a little techie-heavy, but excellent for discovering what the cyberworld is getting worked up about.

41 They Work For You

A powerful way of keeping tabs on MPs and peers: attendance records, voting patterns, recent statements and more.

42 Time Bank

Volunteering opportunities for young people, sorted by region, interest, skills and need.

43 Wikipedia

Controversial, democractic and sometimes error-strewn encyclopaedia that has brought Darwinism to the world of knowledge. Make it your first port of call for looking something up. Just be sure to check somewhere else that what you find makes sense.

44 Wiktionary

Wikipedia’s online multilingual dictionary. Immensely powerful and far less controversial than its encyclopaedic forebear.

45 Motley Fool

The original – and still the best – personal finance site on the web (the American version is at For savers, borrowers, stock spotters and day traders, sound, independent advice that cuts through the jargon.

46 Martindale’s ‘The Reference Desk’

From the arts, business, science and technology, a dry but authoritative conglomeration of data from around the world.

47 PubMed

Free and authoritative database of more than 17 million medical research papers. Not always easy to understand if you are not a medic, but a far better place to look for information than the random sites that come up on Google.


The internet’s version of that clever uncle who always seems to know the answer to your questions. There are few subjects the site doesn’t tackle, though the coverage can be superficial. A good starting point for idle research.

49 NHS Direct

Online information and advice about health and illness, run by Britain’s National Health Service. The site includes a useful self-diagnosis tool that can reassure you that your hangover is not in fact meningitis.

50 Legal Services Shop

General legal advice relating to housing, family law, employment, motoring, consumer issues and personal injury, plus wills, conveyancing and divorce. Good starting point to see where you stand. Will also, for a fixed fee, answer questions and put you in touch with a solicitor.

51 How Stuff Works

Engaging encyclopaedia of the modern (and not so modern) world, with good illustrations and clear text. Can suffer sometimes from an ‘it’s amazing!’ tone of voice..

52 XE

Currency converter covering every world currency. Azerbaijan new manats to Cayman Island dollars? Just a click away.

53 Advice Guide

Find where you stand legally with the Citizens Advice Bureau’s online information resource.

54 Need2Know



Need to know? Find out how to stay fit online

Advice and information for young people, including health and fitness, drugs, problems with bullying, how to study and applying for jobs.

55 Royal Horticultural Society

Advice and suggestions from the world’s leading gardening organisation. A good ‘how-to’ section and seasonal tips for the time of year.

56 Babelfish

Automatic translation to and from most European languages and Chinese. The results are sometimes a little strange, but you will usually get your message across.

57 eHow

How to do just about everything, from getting stains off curtains to buying a second-hand car.

58 Eat the Seasons

Updated weekly, information, tips and recipe ideas on British seasonal food.

59 Age Concern

Website of Britain’s leading charity for the elderly, packed with advice about maintaining an active life.


The queen of weather sites, with more information than you would possibly imagine you might need, from pollen counts to surf forecasts.

61 Uncyclopedia

Spoof Wikipedia-style encyclopaedia where nothing is true, but a good deal is very funny indeed. Idle away an afternoon or, even better, hone your comedy skills by making a contribution yourself.

62 Kiva

An easy way to lend small sums (from $25) to business projects in the developing world. Kiva keeps track of your investment, updates you on progress and repays your loan as the business grows.

63 Embarrassing problems

From bad breath and piles to cold sores and beyond, Dr Margaret Stearn dispenses invaluable advice.


64 Noise Mapping England

Click on an area of the map to find out how noisy a street, or even a section of the street, is – handy for light sleepers planning a move. At the moment only London is mapped, but the rest of England will follow.

For sale signs

Banner ads: find out how much properties on your street have sold for

65 Prime Location

One of the best sites for finding property. It is UK-based but has a good international presence.

66 Rated People

User reviews on local tradesmen. You describe the job you need done and how quickly and suppliers contact you with quotes – with previous customers rating them.

67 Zoopla

Possibly the most dangerous site on this list, Zoopla gives sale prices of recently sold homes and – the tricky bit – estimates the value of the rest. We dare you not to look.

68 Money Saving Expert

Subtitled ‘Consumer Revenge’, this is where you find the discounts, tricks and tips to save money. The weekly email is essential reading for canny consumers. It caters only for Britain, but every country should have one.

69 MetaEfficient

Practical guide to making your home more environmentally friendly, from low-flow showerheads to 12V lighting. US-based, but many of the products are available elsewhere.

70 Design My Room

For budding Laurence Llewellyn-Bowens everywhere, it provides the ability to redecorate your home in cyberspace. Choose colours, furniture, accessories and finishes and then publish the results online.

71 Up My Street

Neighbourhood information based on postcode: schools, shopping and, juciest of all, how much the house down the road sold for recently.

72 Home For Exchange

One of many sites where you can swap homes with someone else for a period. This is less cluttered than some of the others and has a good geographical spread.

73 SimplySwitch

The fast way to compare utility suppliers and other services, from broadband to home insurance. Enter your postcode and the site comes back with the best deals.

74 101 Cookbooks

Enchanting recipe and foodie blog from a Californian cook who believes in good food. Subscribe to the email alert service and transform your cooking repertoire.


75 Facebook

The most grown-up (just) of the social-networking sites that are fast taking over the world. Excellent for staying in touch with far-flung friends, though pretty good too for re-establishing contact with those you hoped you had lost.



Good old days: who needs the pub when you can socialise online?

76 WordPress

The quickest and easiest way to create a blog of your own.

77 Ringsurf

Like an online Mothers’ Union meeting (though sometimes a little more risqué), Ringsurf is a chatroom where people exchange ideas about anything from politics to relationships. The quality is not always high, but users have been known to discover new (real-life) friends with interests they thought no one would share. A tribute to the information-sharing capability of the net.


Organise your thoughts by creating mindmaps online and sharing them with others.

79 Technorati

An intelligent, intuitive and inspiring way to read entries from some of the millions of blogs that dot the internet. You can browse by subject or area of interest, read the postings that are catching the world’s attention and bookmark blogs that catch your attention. And if you want to join in…

80 Flickr

The website you graduate to once you’ve discovered how to put your holiday snaps on the net. Here, everyone’s photos are linked by using tags, such as ‘Spain’, ‘beach’ or ‘happy’, which sets you off on an exploration of others’ uploads.

81 BabyCentre

There are plenty of great parenting forums out there – Netmums, Mumsnet – but this is still the best source of considered, authoritative, often soothing advice on everything from colic to tax credits.

82 Friction TV

YouTube for debaters. Upload a short video about an issue close to your heart and others reply in kind or by text.


83 GiftGen

Gift ideas for when you can’t think what to buy someone. You enter their age, sex and interests and how much you want to pay and it scours the net for ideas.

84 eBay

High street

Shopping on the high street, but better deals may be online

Online shopping for (nearly) everything you might want to buy. The original auction formula is still going strong, but plenty more features have been added since it began. Take a look at non-UK sites, such as and, too, for bargains others may have missed. The layout is the same even if you don’t speak the language.

85 Who What Wear Daily

Fashion tips, advice and suggestions. Includes Ask a Stylist for those tricky co-ordination problems and a What Was She Wearing? inquiry service to help you track down your favourite celebrity’s fashion choice.

86 Gumtree

Unabashedly straightforward classified ads site, for everything from new homes to online romance.

87 AbeBooks

The Amazon of the second-hand book world. More than 13,500 booksellers selling 110 million books. If it’s not here, it’s not worth looking for.

88 Kelkoo

There are plenty of price-comparison sites on the web, but this one seems to get it right more often than most. Type in what you want to buy and Kelkoo will come back with the cheapest prices it can find.

89 Endgadget

A (digital) finger on the pulse of the technology world. All the newest developments, discoveries, gadgets and toys – before they hit the shops.

90 Cork’d

Discover more about wine by reviewing what you’ve enjoyed and receiving tips and suggestions from others.

91 I Love Jeans

Find the right jeans for your fit before you even leave home. A cheeky but revealing ‘body type’ guide takes you straight to the brand you should be trying. Search by style, body type or brand. Women only.


92 Sky Scanner


Jumbo jet

Take flight: book your getaway from your own PC

Monitors prices and destinations for all the low-cost airlines so you just type in where you want to go and when to find the best deal.

93 The Man in Seat 61

Routes, tickets, tips and advice – the only guide you need to travelling by train from Britain to Europe and the rest of the world.

94 Walk It

Online pedestrian routefinder for London, Birmingham, Newcastle and Edinburgh that shows you the best route to walk from A to B. Includes calorie counter, CO2 savings and points of interest on the way. Other cities coming soon.

95 Transport for London Journey Planner

Indispensable and almost always spot-on guide to negotiating the capital’s public transport system. You enter your starting point and destination and it gives you the best bus, tube, cycle and even boat routes to get you across town.

96 ViaMichelin

A hi-tech hark-back to the days of leisurely motoring. ViaMichelin gives you maps, routes and directions throughout Britain and continental Europe with added panache. The maps have a pleasant printed quality about them and, naturally enough, your route is accompanied by gastronomic highlights to be found along the way. There’s also information about destinations.

97 Carbon Neutral

Information on your carbon footprint and how to cut it down. Includes an online calculator to measure your effect on the world.

98 Expedia

Excellent all-round travel site. Use it for good prices on flights and holidays, but click on ‘Destinations’ for some well-researched and up-to-date travel guides.

99 SeatGuru

Aircraft seating plans, showing you the prime seats, possible annoyances and seats you should avoid.

100 Airline Meals

A consumer guide to what you can expect to eat on board. There are news and features from the airline catering world, but the best part is a gallery of photos of on-board meals sent in by passengers and listed by airline.

101 World Hum

Travel writing with a twist. Click on the destination you have in mind and be prepared to be inspired. The site also offers tavelogues, news, books reviews, blogs and slideshows.

Top 10 Most Annoying “Lost” Moments

Lost is an awesome show. But every now & then I wonder just what the writers were thinking…

10. Nikki & Paulo

Yes, they were by far the two most annoying characters in television history. I’m glad to see them gone. But, with Patchy resurrecting all the time, Locke cured of paralysis, Rose cured of cancer, and Christian Shepherd sitting around in Jacob’s cabin… Might we see Nikki and Paulo again too? Say it isn’t so! I for one am hoping the immortality theory is not true.

9. Libby’s Death

Guess I’ll never know why she was stalking Hurley at the mental institution. Great way too create a really compelling mystery and then destroy it.

8. Eko’s “Smoky” Encounter

This left something to be desired. Sure, the morphing of Eko’s brother into Smoky was really cool and helped us realize many of the Losties’ hallucinations were actually Smoky appearances. But the next scenes where Smoky was tossing Eko around like a ragdoll were unfulfilling, to say the least. Sometimes Smoky looks and acts way too much like the water creature on “The Abyss” to be taken seriously.

7. Hurley’s Diet

Hurley wouldn’t be the same – or as much fun – if he were skinny. But Hurley really should be losing some weight on the island. He was sneaking Dharma food for awhile, but isn’t that long over?

6. Fake Smoky Appearance

Big goof. Lost viewers everywhere discovered that in the pilot episode, a “smoke monster” was seen hitting the airplane turbine shortly before it exploded. Much speculation ensued about this find. Sadly, the producers later confirmed it was a CGI effect left in the show in error. You can see it here:

5. Charlie: Death by Stupid

Charlie’s death was sad. But the saddest part was that it didn’t have to happen. He could have run to the other side of the door and shut it. There was plenty of time.

4. The Lost Experience

OK, a lot of people will disagree with me on this. Sure, The Lost Experience kept us entertained one summer. But the revelations ended up being very out of place. The solution it offered to Hurley’s numbers was unsatisfying and has never been mentioned on the actual show. Does anyone still believe that was really the answer?

3. Locke’s Bizarre Trust of Ben

Seriously Locke, grow a brain!

Ben shot him and left him for dead in a mass grave. Ben admitted to gassing all those Dharma people and thus committing mass murder. He’s insane. Yet Locke continues to release him and actually believe him. Utter stupidity. Why does Locke insist on trusting liars?

2. Lack of Curiosity Killed the Cat

How many times have we yelled at our TV screens because Locke didn’t follow up on a mystery when he was with an “other” or Jack seemed to care more about Kate and Sawyer than the smoke monster that was killing people? There were plenty of times the Losties didn’t share vital information with one another or “forgot” to ask Danielle or an Other about a question that was bugging all of us.

Sure, Locke finally asked Ben what the smoke monster was. And Ben said he had no idea. But really Locke, of all the people you could ask, you choose Ben?

1. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaallllllllllllllllttttttttttttttttttttttt!

Ah yes, it was the fodder of forum humor everywhere: Michael and his ever-present Waaaaallllltttt scream.

Waaaaaalllllltttttt! haunted us in our dreams. Sadly, we saw it again before “Meet Kevin Johnson.” Think the love of Waaaaaaaaaaaalllllllllttttttttt is over? Just run a Google search on Waaaaaaaaaaaaaalt!! and you’ll see we’re all still talking about it:

Notice the third entry in the picture above. Apparently Waaaaaaaaaalt!!!! translates into any language. No wonder Walt doesn’t want to see Michael anymore.

5 Unconventional Places to Scout for Web Work

Written by sixrevisions

adrian on computer - photo by Bombardier from flickrIf you’re a freelancer or a full-timer looking for additional income, there’s a variety of places you can go to seek for project-based work.

There’s a ton of websites geared specifically for freelance workers, such as All Freelance Directory and Many of these sites do, however, charge you a subscription fee to access their job listings.

Typically, a lot of work comes from referrals, advertising in your local area, or through your website.

But if projects are running thin or you’re seeking to expand your project search, check out these 5 places you might not have considered before.

1) Google Advanced Search

Google Advanced Search screenshotThere’s a ton of sites you can visit to find project-based work, but it’s not efficient to go to each of these places and wade through outdated job listings.

If you want a speedier way, try out Google Advanced Search. You can customize how your search terms are used, extend the number of results per page, and limit the publish dates.

Here’s a few examples you can try (limited to “this week” dates):

2) eBay

ebay logo screenshotSo you’re really desperate, right? No one’s going to your website or responding to your local paper ads. No better way to get people to buy your stuff than on eBay.

If sellers can find people willing to buy a Wizards & Dragons musical snow globe (it’s nice, I’m going to get one), there’s a good possibility that you can get some jobs from there.

Here’s some categories you may want to list in:

3) Job Boards of Popular Blogs

technorati top 100 blogs screenshotThere’s a recent trend where top blogs are beginning to include a job listing section where readers can post and find jobs. It gives their audience – who probably have the same interests – a chance to meet and collaborate with other like-minded individuals.

Here’s a few job listing sections of some popular weblogs.

To help you find other blogs, here’s Technorati’s Top 100 blogs.

4) Classified Listings

Craigslist screenshotYes, craigslist isn’t only for finding dirt-cheap furniture and late night hook-up’s (or searching for your soul mate); you can also find web projects listed in your local area, as well as other geographical locations. Since it’s web work, many seekers don’t mind if you work remotely.

Aside from craigslist, check out these other online classifieds:

5) Websites That Need Work

Iceman Technologies screenshotIf you’re a web worker, chances are, you encounter lots of websites everyday.

Almost instinctively, whenever I see a website that I think needs a bit of work, I automatically check out the page source and reach for some Firefox Web Developer extension options like “Display Div Order“, “View CSS” and “View JavaScript“, looking for traces of Frontpage mark-up, or silly JavaScript code that can be harmful to a website’s security.

If you find a website that you think will benefit from a re-design, or if you find flaws that need immediate attention, shoot the administrator a polite email about the issues you find, and include your proposed fixes.

Contact them in a professional way, and they may hire you to remedy the issue. At the very least, you can feel good about not letting a poorly-developed site go on without doing something about it.

And yes, I am aware of the lack of padding on the left side of Six Revisions which affects people with smaller screen resolutions… and I’m doing something about it real soon. So, please, do exclude it from your list of “websites that need work”, thank you much! 🙂

25 Ways to Simplify Your Life with Kids

Written by Zenhabits Photo courtesy of Sukanto Debnath

“Babies are always more trouble than you thought – and more wonderful.” – Charles Osgood

Anyone who has kids knows that any life with kids is going to be complicated, at least to some degree. From extra laundry to bathing and cooking and shopping and driving and school and chores and crises and sports and dance and toys and tantrums, there is no shortage of complications.

You won’t get to ultra-simple if your life includes children … but you can find ways to simplify, no matter how many kids you have.

Take my life, for example: I have a house full of kids, and yet I’ve found ways to streamline my life, to find peace and happiness among the chaos. How is this magic trick accomplished? Nothing magical, actually, but just little things that have simplified my life over the years.

The main magic trick, however: making my family my top priority, and choosing only a small number of priorities in my life. If you have too many things you want to do, or need to do, your life will become complicated. But if you choose just a few things that are important to you, you can eliminate the rest, and simplify your life greatly.

What follows is a list that might seem complicated to some – 25 items! Trust me, I could easily double this list, but I don’t want to overwhelm you. Instead of trying to tackle everything on this list at once, choose a few things that appeal to you, and give them a try. Bookmark this page and come back to it from time to time to try out other ideas. Best yet, they might inspire new ideas of your own!

  1. Self-sufficiency. This one tip could simplify your life greatly, over time. However, it will make things more complicated in the short term. The idea is to teach your kids to do things for themselves as they get older and more capable. Teaching them to do something themselves instead of just doing it yourself takes time and can be a little frustrating at first, but it will pay off for years to come. My kids, for example, can make themselves breakfast, shower and dress themselves, brush their teeth, and generally get themselves ready in the morning with only minimal prompting from us. They can clean their rooms, wash dishes, sweep, mop, dust, wash the car. The older ones can cook basic dishes and babysit the younger ones. This type of self-sufficiency has saved my wife and me tons of time and trouble over the years.
  2. One calendar. If you have more than one kid, you might have a lot of activities going on that you need to track, from school events such as Christmas performances and parent-teacher conferences to extracurricular activities such as soccer practice, dance classes, or Spring concerts. Organize your life with a simple calendar (I use Google Calendar) and enter all activities and appointments on this one calendar, from kids’ stuff to your own goings on. When they hand you papers from school, or soccer schedules, immediately enter everything onto the calendar. Then a quick glance at the calendar each day will help you plan your day.
  3. Toy bins. It’s an inevitable fact of life that kids have lots of toys, and that they will be everywhere. You will drive yourself crazy if you try to manage them with dictator-like ruthlessness. Instead, let kids play, but have lots of bins where they can toss the toys inside when they’re done. Then cleaning up is a cinch – they just toss everything on the floor into the bins, and move on to making their next mess. You can have designated bins for certain toys (this one’s for Legos, this one’s for stuffed animals, this one’s for cars), and also have some general-purpose bins for things that don’t fit anywhere else. Don’t be too strict about them – the whole purpose is to make things simpler.
  4. Regular cleanups. If you’re like me, you don’t like a huge mess. Teach your kids to clean up after themselves – let them make a mess, but every now and then, tell them it’s time to clean up. Be sure to tell them to clean up before moving on to something else, such as lunchtime or bedtime. It’s good to have regular times during the day when they do cleanups, such as before bed or before they leave for school, so that the house is always clean at night and during the day.
  5. Quiet bedtime routines. Kids thrive on routine, and no routine is better than the one before they go to sleep. Have a regular routine before bed – it might consist of cleaning up, showering, brushing their teeth, getting into their pajamas, and reading a book. Reading aloud to them just before bedtime is a great idea, because it quiets them down after a day of activity, it gives you quality bonding time together, and it gets them into the habit of reading. Plus, it’s just something that everyone can enjoy.
  6. Prep the night before. Mornings can be a hectic time for parents and kids alike, but they don’t have to be. Instead, prep as much as possible the night before, and have your mornings be a little more relaxed. I like to prep lunches, get their clothes ready (and mine as well), and have them shower, get their homework and school bags ready. Then the morning is simply eating breakfast, a little grooming, getting dressed, and gathering everything together before you head out the door. It’s a great way to start your day.
  7. Don’t schedule too much. Sometimes we schedule things back-to-back-to-back, so that every minute of every day is planned out. That leads to stress and problems. Instead, schedule as little as possible each day, and leave space between events, appointments or activities, so that your day moves along at a more leisurely pace. Start getting ready earlier than necessary, so there’s no rush, and leave yourself time to transition from one thing to another. A more spaced-out schedule is much more relaxing than a cramped one.
  8. Have dedicated family times. Try to find regular times in your schedule when you do nothing else but spend time together as a family. For some people, dinner time works well – everyone sits down to dinner together as a family, and no other activities are planned at that time. For others, weekends, or maybe just one day of the weekend, work better. We reserve Sundays as our Family Day, and try our best not to schedule anything else on that day. It’s something we look forward to. Weekends in general are for our family, as are evenings – all work gets done on weekdays, before 5 p.m.
  9. Simple clothing. It’s best to buy clothes for your kids that will match easily – choose a similar color scheme, so that you’re not always digging through their clothes to find stuff that matches. Go through their clothes every few months to get rid of stuff that doesn’t fit (kids grow so fast!) and donate the old clothes to relatives or charity (or pass them on to a younger sibling). Keep their wardrobe simple – if it doesn’t fit neatly in their drawers, you have to get rid of it or get rid of something else. Don’t stuff drawers, or you’ll make it hard to find stuff. Also, socks are usually a challenge – use mesh bags, one for clean socks and another for dirty ones. Then throw the dirty mesh bag in the laundry, and socks won’t get lost (or at least, not as often).
  10. Always prep early. I try to make it a point to look at the schedule in advance (usually the day before) to see what’s coming up. That allows me to prepare for those events or activities early, so that we aren’t in a rush when we’re getting ready. For example, on soccer days, we make sure that all the soccer gear, plus folding chairs and water bottles and snacks and whatnot, are all ready to go beforehand. Prepping early makes things a lot easier later on.
  11. Always bring snacks. Kids always get hungry. So be ready – if you’re going on the road, pack some snacks in baggies. Crackers, cheese, fruit, carrot sticks, PB&J sandwiches, graham crackers, peanuts, raisins all make good portable snacks. An insulated lunch container with re-usable ice packs help keep things fresh. Also always bring plenty of water, as kids are always thirsty. Can’t help you with the urgent bathroom breaks, though.
  12. Baby wipes and emergency kit. There will always be messes. Be ready. Baby wipes, even after they are past using diapers, are indispensable for all kinds of messes. Pack them in a little “emergency kit” that might include medical supplies, reading material, activities, a towel, and extra clothes – anything you can think of that might prepare you for anything that regularly arises.
  13. Pack spare clothes. We have a little carry-on luggage that’s always packed with a couple of changes of clothes for each kid – good clothes (for a party or something), regular clothes, underwear, socks. This way we’re always ready, if there’s an accident, or should they want to spend the night with grandparents or a cousin while we’re out at a party or something. It’s indispensable.
  14. Create weekly routines. Aside from regular family times (mentioned above), it’s good to have a weekly routine that’s written out and posted somewhere everyone can see it. A weekly routine might include regular practice times, house cleaning day, washing the car, yard work day, errands day, recurring appointments, etc. This makes the schedule more predictable for everyone, and eliminates a lot of surprises.
  15. Communicate as a family. Regular communication between family members solves a lot of problems. Have regular times when the family can talk about family issues. Dinnertime is a good time for that. We also have a weekly “Family Meeting” where we all sit down and talk about household issues, we compliment and thank each other, we plan our Family Day, and we play a fun game at the end.
  16. Go on dates. If you have trouble finding alone time with each child (whether you have one child or more than one), setting up “dates” can be a good way to ensure that you do things together. Make a date with your child for a specific day and time, and together you should decide what you want to do on that date. It can be something simple, like taking a walk in your neighborhood or in a park, reading together, playing board games, sports or video games, or it can be something like going to a restaurant or movie or amusement park. If you have lots of kids, you might have to rotate dates with them.
  17. Create alone time for your spouse. It’s easy to become so busy with your kids that you forget about your significant other. Don’t let this happen – it’s a sure way to drift apart and lose that bond that led you to having a family together. Keep the relationship alive by getting a babysitter (maybe once a week) and doing something together, just the two of you.
  18. Let things go sometimes. I’m not always good at this, but it’s something I work on constantly: don’t always be so strict. Let things go. They’re kids – let them live. I have a tendency to be very strict about things, but I remind myself constantly that it’s not worth all the hassle to get on their cases about things. Instead, let things go, and just relax. They’ll turn out just fine in the end, as long as you love and support them.
  19. Make decluttering a family event. I like to set aside one day every few months when we go through all the stuff in our rooms and declutter. We do it together, and it can be a bonding time. We end up with trash bags full of junk, boxes full of stuff to donate or give to family, and in the end, much simpler rooms. It’s very satisfying.
  20. Spend quiet time at home. Often we get so busy that we’re on the road all the time, going to one thing or another. And when we have family time, that’s often spent on road too – going to movies or restaurants or other fun events. But that can be exhausting, and expensive. Instead, try to spend time at home as often as you can. You can watch a DVD instead of going to the movies, and pop some popcorn. You can play board games or go outside and play a sport. You can read to each other, or by yourselves, or tell stories. There are dozens of things you can do at home that cost nothing, and that are relaxing and fun.
  21. Create traditions. Kids love traditions, from holiday traditions to family traditions. My mom likes all our kids to come over before Christmas to make Christmas cookies, or come over before Easter to color eggs. The kids love those traditions. You might also create some traditions at your house, whether that’s a family dinner time, Family Meetings or Family Day, or anything that brings you together. If you make it a regular thing, and give it special importance, it will be a tradition, and it will be something your kids remember into adulthood.
  22. Make cooking and cleaning a family thing. Cooking and cleaning can be complicated things, and they can take your time away from your kids. Doing these activities as a family solves both problems – having everyone pitch in can really simplify cooking and cleaning, and it gives you quality time together while teaching your children valuable life skills. Make it fun – let them choose recipes, go shopping for ingredients with you. See how quickly you can clean the whole house – if my whole family pitches in, we can do it in about 30-40 minutes. Make everything a game or a challenge.
  23. Reduce commitments. This tip applies to both your commitments and your kids’ commitments. If you have too many, your life will be complicated. If you reduce your commitments, your life will be simplified. It’s that simple. Make a list of all your family’s commitments and see which ones align with your priorities, and which ones are the most important. Which ones give you the most joy and benefit? And which ones just drain your time and energy without giving you much back in return? Keep the essential commitments – yours and your kids – and eliminate as many of the rest as possible.
  24. Get active. These days, kids can become very inactive (and unhealthy) with all the TV, Internet and video games they consume. Get them active by going outside with them and taking walks, going for swims, playing sports. My family likes to play soccer or kickball. Play freeze tag. If you run, let your kids run with you, at least part of the way. Get them bikes and go to the park. Do challenges, like races or pushup or pullup challenges. Make it fun, but get them active. How does this simplify your life? It means they consume less media, which in my opinion is a complicating factor. And even better, it gets them healthy in an inexpensive way, reducing your healthcare costs down the road.
  25. Focus on doing, not on spending. Too often we send messages to our kids about how to live life, based on what we do: we like to go shopping, and eat out, and go to the movies, and so our kids learn that having fun means spending money. We focus on material things, and therefore so do they. Instead, teach them (by talking but also by your actions) that what’s important is doing stuff, not buying stuff. Go for walks in the park, play outdoors, play board games, read, tell stories, play charades, cook and clean, go to the beach or lake, build stuff, wash the car. Spend quality time together, doing stuff that doesn’t cost money.

“You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance.” – Franklin P. Jones

The 10 Most Insane, Child-Warping Moments of ’80s Cartoons

Written by Todd Ciolek

transformerswtf.png The ’80s were supposed to be a harmless time for toys and the cartoons that sold them. Whether shilling lines of action figures or promoting characters who would eventually be action figures, these shows were designed to eat up kids’ attention in 30-minute blocks while ham-handedly promoting good citizenship and hygiene. In spite of this, cartoons sometimes snuck in certain moments that were clearly designed to break impressionable minds and pervert the youth of America. In the interests of helping a generation get through long-stewing cartoon-related stress disorders, we’re confronting the worst things the ’80s ever did to us.

10) Shipwreck’s Family Melts in G.I. Joe
Rule one of traumatizing kids through cartoons: abuse the most beloved character. And G.I. Joe‘s most beloved character was Shipwreck, the likable naval wisecracker who was in no way based on Jack Nicholson. So the episode “There’s No Place Like Springfield” took Shipwreck and stuck him in a bizarre simulacrum of the future, in which he was living in a small town with his wife and a daughter he didn’t remember having.

Of course, the whole thing’s a plot by Cobra, and all of Shipwreck’s down-home friends and family are Synthoid androids. This is slowly revealed as people around Shipwreck start melting right before his eyes (see the eight-minute mark above), and his wife and daughter eventually try to shoot him inside a burning home, before Shipwreck’s pet parrot swoops in and melts them with a magic ray. Paranoia? Fake families? Perfect for the Cold War.

9) The Care Bears Raise the Dead in The Care Bears Movie II
The Care Bears were purportedly intended to promote Christian values, but they generally pushed the same lessons as filthy amoral heathen cartoon characters: believe in yourself, eat your vegetables, don’t litter, don’t cut in line, don’t be an asshole, and don’t sell your soul to demons. Yet there’s one moment where the sky-dwelling bears go into full-blown Jesus mode and raise the dead.

The second Care Bears movie pits the legions of bears and other toy-friendly animals against a malevolent shape-shifting creature named Dark Heart, who demands a picked-on girl’s soul in exchange for making her the best athlete in her summer camp. The girl, later realizing she’d been a moron, joins the Care Bears in confronting Dark Heart at the film’s end, and, in a strangely morbid turn for a cartoon inspired by American Greetings, catches a villain-propelled lightning bolt and, at about the two-minute mark in this clip, dies.

As the human-shaped Dark Heart cradles her lifeless form, the Care Bears devise a solution straight out of old Peter Pan plays: yelling that they care and asking all of the movie’s audience to join in. Of course, it works, thus teaching children that one can resurrect the deceased by sheer force of will. One can only imagine all the soon-to-be-disappointed kids left screaming at dead family pets or grandmothers’ caskets.

8) Turtle-Human Lust in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Over the course of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, each of the turtles got his own love interest, and none of them, mercifully, ever included their most prominent human ally, April O’Neil. As we all saw it, they were all just friends. Our perspective didn’t change until later, thanks to the Internet and a lot of things we’d just as soon not discuss.

Yet there’s at least one scene that gives us viewers pause: in the episode “April Fool,” April leaves behind her yellow jumpsuit for once and dons formal wear. For some reason, she treks down into the sewers to show off her gown to Donatello, Raphael, Leonardo and Michelangelo. At the 3:27 mark here, all of them are on the verge of howling like Tex Avery wolves, with even Splinter, the turtles’ sanguine rat-man mentor, ogling a woman not of his species. And then the turtles follow April out of the room, clogging the door in one writhing mass of undisguised reptile lust. Horrifying.

7) The Smurfs Sing Someone to Death in The Smurfs
On the list of threatening cartoon characters, the Smurfs land just above the Snorks and just below the Shirt Tales, who could probably still tear a grown man apart if they all attacked at once. But there’s another side to the Smurfs and their seemingly innocuous world of mushroom houses and single-trait characters. And it’s not just the “GNAP” virus.

In their first Christmas special, the Smurfs were called upon to save two lost children and their longtime nemesis Gargamel from a sorcerer who, as the show goes on, is clearly painted as an emissary from Hell. The Smurfs fight back the only way they can: by singing an interminable non-Christmas song with the refrain “Goodness makes the badness go away.” And the Satan-worshipping sorcerer screams and screams and screams until he disappears. Don’t fuck with Smurfs.

6) Seaspray Loves a Mermaid, Becomes a Mermaid and Hits on Bumblebee in Transformers
Never mind all of the gruesome mechanical death in the Transformers movie or the episode where Perceptor became a robot geisha on a planet of feudal Japanese aliens; the most screwed-up moment in Transformers cartoon history comes when the burbling-voiced Seaspray commits several crimes against nature.
Dispatched to break up a Decepticon mining operation on a distant civilized planet, Seaspray quickly strikes the fancy of Alana, one of the entirely humanoid natives. In a testament to just how little the writers of Transformers cared at this point in the show, it’s revealed that she and her people use a magic pool to change into mermaids.

Though the pool is shown to destroy robots, Seaspray jumps in and becomes an Aquaman look-a-like. Not only is it weird, it also demonstrates that Transformers have souls…which makes the full-scale robot slaughters in the movie all the more disturbing. Also disturbing: the episode’s opening moments, in which Seaspray has an oddly romantic oceanside conversation with a clearly uneasy Bumblebee.

5) My Little Pony and The Hosts of Hell in My Little Pony
Unlike every other cartoon based on a toy line, My Little Pony had no pre-designated villains, leaving the writers to constantly devise new ones to wreak havoc on the little pastel mini-horses. Some of these antagonists weren’t so threatening; think giant cartoon squids and overweight witches who wanted to flood the Pony Mansion or steal all the Pony Savings Bonds. The first ever Pony villain, however, was a demon overlord.

That’s what we assume, at least. Tirac, the angry horned centaur-thing who debuts at 3:45 in the above clip, certainly looks the part, and sounds it, too, with a raspy voice worthy of Frank Welker’s finest roles. This emissary of Satan sends out dragons and lizard-men to kidnap unsuspecting ponies. Then, in scenes far too creepy for a cartoon ostensibly aimed at 5-year-olds, he chains them up, laughs at their bleats for help, and turns them into monstrous dragons by unleashing the mutating nightmare of his dark magic upon them. Still, his image is shaken later on, when the ponies and their token human ally confront him and the snarling hell-creature is crushed inside…a rainbow. Pansy.

4) Nuclear Zombie Children in Spiral Zone
It’s easy to mistake Spiral Zone for another G.I. Joe retread-because, to some extent, it is. The show’s heroes a pack of conveniently international super-soldiers in hi-tech armor, would’ve fit right into a battle with Cobra. The show’s villains, however, played a little differently. By the show’s beginning, a crazed scientist had already conquered half the world by dropping an insidious bacteria from space, turning people into yellow-eyed zombies with red fungus sprouting from their faces, as we see right from the opening clip.

Between the burned-out city wastelands of infected “zones” and the hollow-eyed victims shuffling around them, Spiral Zone was the closest thing kids’ TV had to The Day After. Sure, the heroes had names like Dirk Courage and the villains, even with their creepy facial lesions, were stupid-looking, but there’s something bleak and unpleasant about Spiral Zone. Was it an allegory for nuclear war? The AIDS crisis? Probably not, but it’s disturbing that the question should arise around a toy commercial.

3) Jem Makes Love in Jem
Censors in the ’80s were, we assume, fairly watchful people. They’re the reason every G.I. Joe plane had parachuting pilots, and why the word “die” was avoided like profanity. If we were to pick a cartoon adept at sneaking things past those censors, we wouldn’t have picked Jem, the extended pop-music war where the most objectionable thing was the way the title character’s soulless, computer-aided songs invariably triumphed the slightly less manufactured faux-punk anthems of her rivals, The Danzig-free Misfits.

Yet it’s one of those vapid little songs that slid innuendo past the network watchdogs. In the number “Who is he Kissing,” Jem/Jerrica openly wonders if her Ken-doll boytoy, Rio, is “making love to a fantasy.” Perhaps there were board meetings and studio debates over it, but in a cartoon climate where some stations refused to show interracial dating on Robotech, we find it strange that no PTA group got Jem’s song altered.

2) The Remorseless Eating Machine from The Inhumanoids
The Inhumanoids is the cartoon every maladjusted eight-year-old boy would’ve made if he’d had his own studio of overworked Japanese and Korean animators in 1987. There are some human scientist heroes in there someplace, but it’s all about the show’s hideous giant creatures who dwell deep inside the earth and do horrible, horrible things. In the show’s opening mini-series, for example, the scientists’ lone female member is turned into a drooling skeletal horror at the touch of the undead D. Compose, possibly because she didn’t have an action figure. (See it here.)

Even more unsettling is the Gagoyle, an armless, one-eyed monstrosity with a transparent stomach. After being hatched by the show’s human villains, the creature gruesomely devours all of its unhatched siblings and then waddles around devouring things, including the arm of D. Compose and two underworld guardian statues who, despite being stone, writhe and scream as the Gagoyle rips off their heads (shown at 4:35 in that clip up there). Then the show’s primary villain, Metlar, endears himself to children everywhere by killing the creature. He was a bit too late, though; the nightmare fuel had already leaked onto the beach of our happy childhoods.

1) Naked Thundercats
By the time the ’80s hit, cartoons had gotten away with showing Donald Duck pants-less for decades, but Thundercats pushed the envelope a little more with its first episode, in which all of the title characters arrive on their new homeworld stark naked. Yes, even Cheetara. Granted, there were no nipples showing anywhere, and the show might’ve even passed the lack of clothing off as natural; after all, they’re animals, right?

Not really, no. Later in the episode (around the 5:30 mark in the glorious Spanish episode above), every Thundercat save Snarf puts on clothing, making it quite apparent that all of them were, in fact, completely naked just a few scenes ago. And so a generation lost a little shred of innocence. Some parents doubtless banned their children from watching Thundercats five minutes into the first episode, although, when you think about it, they were doing their kids a favor in the long run.

7 Jobs That Are Better In Video Games Than In Real Life

Written by TKK

We all hate our jobs. Even those of us with cushy gigs like, say, writing dumb lists on the Internet, have reasons to complain about our J-O-Bs. Thankfully, video games are here to save the day-they take the mundane jobs that you and I are forced to do day in and day out and turn them into something awesome. If our jobs were anything like these, we’d probably work for free! Well, actually, no, we still wouldn’t.

7- Food Service Industry

We pity people who work in the food service industry. They work long grueling hours and often wait on whiny, demanding bastards who think that just because they’re paying for a meal, it entitles them to act like they’re royalty. And then there are the hardworking parents who struggle night in and night out to provide a home-cooked meal for their lousy kids who won’t just sit quietly and eat their damn vegetables.

It’s too bad that working in the real food service industry isn’t as awesome as it is in video games. Games like BurgerTime and Cooking Mama make preparing meals and serving it to others seem like fun. Standing in front of a hot griddle while you flip patties sucks; making giant hamburgers by stepping on the ingredients while avoiding contact with mutant food products, on the other hand, does not. And consider this: if you’re a real chef and you mess up an order, you get an angry customer or a jerk of a lead chef yelling at you. But mess up an order in a video game and all you get is a cute cartoon cook offering you some light-hearted encouragement. If only Gordon Ramsay were so understanding.

6- Paperboys

The paperboy is dead; long live the paperboy. What used to be an American institution has now gone the way of the dodo-these days, papers are delivered by shadowy men in cars, which is sort of creepy. Even though it’s a long forgotten occupation, the paperboy had it tough: you had to wake up at the crack of dawn then haul ass on your bicycle around the neighborhood with a heavy sack of newspapers slung around your shoulder. And why did you do this? So you could earn a measly few bucks for that fancy baseball mitt or wooden airplane or whatever it was people played with back then?

Video game paperboys don’t have it any easier: you get chased by angry dogs, killer lawn mowers, swarms of bees and even Death himself. But video game paperboys did have a few benefits that made the job all worthwhile. There was the sweet obstacle course at the end of the block, the fact that the newspaper was dedicated to putting you on the front page every day, and last but not least, you could break the windows of anyone who canceled their subscription without recourse. Throw a newspaper through a former client’s window in the real world and you’d probably get fired; do it in a video game and you got bonus points.

5- Doctors

Being a doctor has a lot of perks. You can make a lot of money if you play your cards right and relatively speaking, it’s a pretty revered occupation. Sure, it can be mentally grueling and the road to becoming a doctor isn’t exactly easy but if you play your cards right, you can make a good living as a doctor. Oh, wait: there is that whole life and death thing and the malpractice suits and the fact that you have to deal with stuff like blood, urine and feces on a regular basis, isn’t there? Okay, maybe being a doctor isn’t so easy after all.

Too bad it can’t be like in video games: you can operate on your patients in a sanitized environment-no muss, no fuss-and in the unfortunate instance that you lose a patient, you can hit reset and try again. And instead of wasting time running tests and diagnosing symptoms, video game doctors can just throw a bunch of color-coded pills at the problem and make it go away. We admit that being a doctor in a video game won’t get you rich and your parents aren’t going to brag to their friends about how good you are a Trauma Center but it beats spending your day collecting other people’s urine in little plastic containers, doesn’t it?

4- Photojournalists

Photogs like Dead Rising’s Frank West and Disaster Report’s Keith Helm embody what every photojournalist wants to be; in the thick of the action, kicking some ass (objectivity be damned), and taking the controversial shot that blows a worldwide conspiracy wide open. Sure, some war photojournalists get to take some pretty gripping shots, but most are stuck taking pictures of blue-haired elderly ladies complaining at town hall meetings or sleeping in their car waiting for Britney Spears to leave her house and (hopefully) leave her baby on the roof of the car as she drives off to Starbucks.

3- Taxi Drivers

Here’s another group of hardworking and underappreciated people: taxi drivers. Where would we be without taxi drivers? Okay, there are some bad cabbies out there who try to cheat you by taking the long way there and who sometimes yak on their cell phones the entire ride out but for the most part, taxi drivers are an essential part of city life.

But being a cabbie in real life sucks. You’re trapped in your car all day, you have to fight traffic on a regular basis and if you get in one minor fender-bender, you run the risk of having your fare sue you for “whiplash.” Video game cabbies have it much easier. Sure, you’re still driving around in your car all day but the upside is that you can drive like a maniac and actually be rewarded for it. Forget about safety: drive on the other side of the road and hit that sweet ramp if you want to-your customers will not only thank you for it, they’ll give you a fat tip to boot. Who’s got time to obey traffic laws when there’s money to be made?

2- Criminals

Gaming has always celebrated breaking society’s rules to get ahead (Hear that, Mom and Dad?), but the Grand Theft Auto series has taken that to the next level. Ever since GTA III premiered on the PS2, millions of gamers have reveled in the seedy lives of fictional criminals. In GTA, you can run over dozens of innocents with a stolen firetruck, wait for the cops to arrive, and then mow them down with a chaingun, give the fuzz the slip by visiting a nearby paint shop, visit a prostitute who actually makes you healthier, and then bash her brains in to recoup your cash. If you get caught, it’s a night in the slammer and a couple hundred bucks out of your multimillion dollar bank account. In real life, you’re selling bootleg DVDs on street corners and running a dozen pyramid schemes a week just to make ends meet. And if you so much as cough around a cop, you’ll probably be Roscoe’s bitch for a good 5 to 7 years.

1- Plumbers

Real life plumbing is about the worst job you can have. You’re stuck in others people’s bathrooms all day. And not the clean and fancy bathrooms you see on Cribs. We’re talking the nastiest ones possible. When you’re in there you don’t even get to partake in the relaxing bowel release that usually accompanies a bathroom visit. Instead, in a cruel twist of fate, you’re performing the very tense action of sticking your hands and arms in areas that have been visited (or may currently be occupied) by human waste. Video game plumbers get transported to a fantasy world where they can grow to twice their size, shoot fireballs, ride dinosaurs, collect coins, and save beautiful princesses from utterly incompetent enemies. Which job would you rather have?

10 Tips and Tricks for Private BitTorrent Sites

Written by sharky

The first thing to notice when you join a private BitTorrent site is the eye-popping quality of the torrents. Each one is carefully culled, hand-picked through a strict moderation process. However, before you start hammering away on that download link – here are a few things you need to know.

On private torrent sites, everything revolves around ratios. A 1:1 ratio (or 1.0) means that you’ve downloaded exactly the same amount of data as you’ve uploaded. Thus a 0.80 ratio indicates that you’ve uploaded less than you’ve downloaded, which is hurtful to the health of the torrent. Inversely, a 3.0 ratio means you’ve uploaded 3 times more data than you’ve downloaded. Strive to achieve at least a 1.0 ratio – each site will have specific consequences for members who maintain a ratio of less than this. Attain a ratio over 1.0 and the rewards shall follow you into the P2P afterlife.

If you’re brand-new to a private site, it will be difficult in the beginning to acquire a 1.0 ratio. Luckily, users are given a ‘grace’ period to achieve this. Since there are so many more seeds than leechers (a total flip-flop from public BT sites), it becomes harder to upload to others – due to the fact that there are fewer people to share with.

So why go through all the trouble to keep an honest ratio? Because deep down, you’re an upstanding denizen of file-sharing society! Aside from that shameless pat-on-the-back, good ratios offer many perks, including an upgraded account on the tracker (i.e. VIP status), higher download speeds, free “invites” for your friends, and no waiting periods associated with accounts in arrears.

Here are Ten Tips to get your ratio in top-shape as fast as possible:

1. Start out with Smaller Files

Initially, opt for smaller (i.e. under 1 GB) files for downloading. This gives you a greater chance of someone coming along after you and downloading the same torrent (and you’ll be able to upload to them). Obviously a 700MB movie file will be more appealing to other site members than a 30GB ‘Blu-Ray’ rip.

2. Jump on the ‘Newly Released’ torrents

This is a great tip for increasing your ratio in a hurry. Camp out in your favorite private BT site, and refresh the torrent listings frequently. Newly added entries will have many more leechers than seeds, so you’ll be able to share (upload) more data. To maximize this tip, select smaller files – the “TV Episode” category works great for this.

3. Select Files that have a High ‘L’ or upload number

This is important. When selecting torrents, base your initial selections on a high number of leechers (the more, the better). This will ensure you have many avenues to upload to during (and after) the transfer. When starting out on a new private BT site, we would even go so far as to say that you should download torrents that you don’t want – just start grabbing torrents that have lots of leechers. Once your ratio get over the 1:1 (1.0) mark, delete them.

TIP: If one of your seeding torrents remains popular, leave it running in µtorrent permanently. This will always help to boost your upload ratio.

4. Avoid ‘Zero-Leech’ torrents

When you’re new to a private site, steer clear of the ‘zero-leech’ torrents – it is impossible to increase your share ratio when there are no other downloaders. When viewing a list of torrents, look for the “Leecher” column (or just “L”) and avoid anything that has a zero ( “0? ) in it. After your account ratio has become relatively stable, now is the time to snag whatever you want.

5. Leave some tasks running in uTorrent

After the completed download of a torrent, leave the task running (as a seed) in µtorrent to increase your upload statistics. Don’t delete (or move) the files of a running task! You can, however, extract (unRAR) the files, or copy the files from one place to the next. In the event of a movie/video file – you’ll be able to “burn” or “extract” the *.avi file (or even play it on the PC) without affecting the seeding torrent.

TIP: Always keep a few things running as ‘seeds’ in your BT client. If you notice that they aren’t uploading, replace them with newer ones.

6. Go for the ‘Freebie’ downloads

Many private sites will offer “free” torrents that won’t count against your download statistics (thus, your ratio will remain unchanged). Grab these freebies – especially when searching for torrents on a new account.

7. Use ‘Credits’ to purchase…

A popular feature among superior private BitTorrent sites is the addition of a ‘credits’ feature for account holders. Credits can be used to ‘purchase’ VIP status, increased sharing ratios and other perks. Not all sites are the same, but some credits can be acquired just from staying active in their IRC channel, or from just having the torrents available for download in your BT client.

8. Do NOT try to ‘cheat’ the Private Trackers

There are a variety of ratio cheating tips available out there, but don’t be tempted. Trackers are fairly sophisticated and ever-evolving. If you get caught cheating, you won’t even be warned – it’s a permanent ban for you and bye-bye for good.

9. Set a proper Upload Limit

Setting a proper upload limit in the BT client makes all the difference! You’ll want to supply a high enough limit to maximize uploading, but not have it eat into your download bandwidth. The general rule is to set it at 80 – 85% of your upload limit. To figure this out, visit and conduct the simple test. Results are shown in kilobits, so pide the result by 1/8 and then multiply that by 0.85. This will give you the proper number in KB/s (KiloBytes).

In µtorrent, go to OPTIONS > Preferences… > Connection and enter your upload rate. Click “Apply” and then “OK” to save the changes. While your in that same ‘settings’ page, make sure to use a port number from the good list (e.g. 49152 – 65535).

10. And if all else fails…donate

Most sites allow for monetary contributions to keep up with the server costs. If you enjoy a particular site immensely but cannot seem to be able to approach a decent sharing ratio (due to turning off your computer at night, going to work, or sharing your computer with your kids, wife, husband or siblings), think about donating. In most cases even a not-so-generous gratuity will robustly affect your account status – plus you’ll feel good about helping out the BitTorrent community.

Other Tips – Follow ‘The Rules’

Yeah, we know: you hate rules! That’s why you probably moved out of your parents’ basement. Rules are probably why some turned to P2P.

Nevertheless, rules are an important aspect to private BT sites – they ensure healthy torrents and blazing-fast download speeds for all. Each site will have their “rules” posted – the link is usually not hard to find. Below are some general rules / tips that pertain to any private BitTorrent site:

Use an ‘Accepted’ BitTorrent client

Not all private trackers are the same – and each one has different rules in regards to which BitTorrent client is on the “allowable” list. Most sites recommend µtorrent, but only specific versions (or builds) of it. If you stick with v1.6.1 or the latest version v1.7.7 (recommended), you can’t go wrong with ANY private site (avoid any versions in between these numbers). And do not use BitComet on private trackers.

Proper BitTorrent client configuration:

Many trackers recommend that you disable DHT and Peer Exchange (PEX) in your BT client’s settings. To do this in µtorrent, go to OPTIONS > Preferences… > and select the BitTorrent tab. Remove the three checkmarks that pertain to DHT and PEX (see image below):

Do not ‘Hit & Run’ a Private BT site:

A ‘Hit & Run’ (or H&R) is when someone joins a private tracker, and downloads as much as they can before making off without uploading to a proper ratio. While this practice is frowned upon even on public sites such as, it is deplorable to private sites. This can (and sometimes will) lead to your IP address being banned from the site – forever.

Stick within these guidelines for HAPPY Torrenting!

50 Great Things you Never Knew you Could do with Tennis Balls

Written by lifehackery

used tennis balls

You may remember the often-discussed tennis ball headphones or these 99 extraordinary uses for ordinary objects. Those were pretty great, but it makes you wonder what else these little bundles of latex and wool can do. Since they wear out and lose their bounce quickly, most tennis balls simply end up in the garbage when they stop being useful on the court. If you can’t stand to throw them away, they tend to pile up quickly – so what can you do with them?

1) Cut an X in the top of each ball and put them on the bottoms of chair legs to cut down on noise and floor scuffs. If you don’t have scuffable floors (or all of your chair legs are already covered) check with your local school. Many schools take donations for just this purpose.

2) Donate them to a local nursing home for use on residents’ walkers. They make the walkers easier to push around for people who aren’t strong enough to lift them.

3) Hang one on string from the garage roof to help you park without running into things. When it touches the windshield or rear window (depending on which way the car is pointing), you know it’s time to stop. If you’ve got a lot of time on your hands, make it into a funny character.

4) Keep certain types of gnats or flies away from you when you are outdoors. Just cover a tennis ball in Vaseline and hang it from a tree or bush.

mouse tennis ball

5) Tennis balls with holes drilled in them have been used in the UK as protective homes for field mice. Pet mice or hamsters may enjoy them, too!

6) When packing something for shipping in a box that’s too large, use tennis balls as shock-absorbing cushions that will hold the item steady in the box.

7) Use them to remove scuffs on floors. Many janitors use this trick by placing a tennis ball on the end of a broom so it’s always handy.

surfboard tennis balls

8 ) Protect your surfboard when it goes on an airplane journey.

9) Play a creative catch game that will amuse kids to no end – especially if you’re the one missing the ball.

10) Throw a few tennis balls into the dryer when you are drying comforters, fluffy coats, pillows, or anything else that could use a good fluffing.

11) Tennis balls can also help any laundry load dry faster – just throw two or three in the dryer and your clothes will be done quicker.

12) Speaking of laundry, put a tennis ball into your washing machine along with your shower curtain and 1/2 cup of vinegar, then wash with hot water. The vinegar will kill the mildew and the tennis ball will help to scrub the mildew off.

13) If you or your partner (or, if you’re really unlucky, the guy in the next apartment) snore, attach a pocket to the back of the snorer’s pajamas and secure a tennis ball inside. This will ensure that the snorer sleeps on his/her side – most people snore only when sleeping on their backs.

14) Make your own juggling clubs.

pencil holder

15) Make a very cute pencil/mail/phone holder. (Putting a cigarette in its mouth and giving it long dreadlocks would be really funny, but maybe not so kid-project-friendly.)

16) Cut a slit in one and use it to cover the trailer hitch on your truck.

17) Hide stuff in them. Make a slit in a tennis ball, then squeeze either side of the slit to open it up. Place money or other objects inside, and release to close the opening.

18 ) Use the same concept as above to pass notes or other items over long distances. Just be sure other people don’t pick it up! This idea has been used at auctions to pass receipts to winning bidders.

19) Cut a portion of the ball off so that it will fit over the sharp corner of your coffee table. Repeat for the other corners to baby-proof a room. Use this for all furniture with sharp or protruding bits to protect little foreheads.

tennis ball rose

20) Make a beautiful flower for your sweetheart. You can even fill it with candy, just in case your sweetheart isn’t quite sweet enough yet.

21) Slit a tennis ball open, insert some beans or jingle bells, and seal closed with glue or rubber cement. Give it to a toddler as a musical instrument.

foot massage

22) When you are seated, put a tennis ball (or two or three) under each foot and roll your feet around on them. They make wonderful massagers.

23) Put two tennis balls into a large sock. Tie the sock securely, then use the contraption as a back massager. This is a great tool to have in your hospital bag when you have a baby since concentrated back pressure can help to relieve a great deal of labor pain.

tennis ball couch

24) Make bizarre furniture.

25) Use tennis balls to anchor clusters of helium balloons at parties. Knot together a group of ribbons attached to balloons. Cut a small X in the top of a ball and insert the knot. Fill the ball with sand if you want extra security.


26) If you are an athlete (probably even if you aren’t), learning to juggle tennis balls can improve your hand-eye coordination and visual reaction time. It can also help to keep your brain sharp.

27) Put tennis balls on the tops of poles to mark the edges of your driveway or drainage ditch. The bright yellow balls will be visible in the dark and help you avoid driving into the ditch or over the grass in the dark.

28 ) Put a tennis ball on the end of a broomstick and use it to clean cobwebs from the ceiling.

29) Wrap a piece of sandpaper around a tennis ball. It’s easy on your hands and can be used to sand curves on furniture or woodworking projects.

tennis ball ornament

30) Make a unique ornament for your home or to give as a gift.

31) Make an incognito squirt gun.

32) Prevent your bike’s kick stand from sinking into soft dirt by cutting a small slit in a tennis ball and sliding it over the kick stand.

33) If you find that the legs of your lawn chairs get stuck between the slats of your deck, put tennis balls on the bottoms to keep them where you want them.

34) Keep the yuckiness out of your pool by floating some tennis balls in the water. Supposedly, the balls will absorb body oils from people who swim in the water – but you need to replace them every few weeks to keep them fresh.

35) Cut a tennis ball in half and use it to get a better grip when opening jars. Just place the ball half over the lid, and the rubber on the inside grips the lid to help you rotate it easier.

36) You can apply the same concept to screwdrivers to give you a better grip. Simply cut a slit in the tennis ball and slide it over the screwdriver handle to give you a better grip.

tennis ball stereo

37) Make a tiny stereo.

tennis ball antenna

38 ) Ham radio enthusiasts with gigantic antennae on their cars can use a strategically placed tennis ball to keep the antennae from ruining the paint on the cars.

39) To keep a door knob from smashing into and damaging an interior wall, cut a large slit in a tennis ball and slide it over the knob. This trick also works great to keep curious toddlers out of off-limits rooms…until they figure out how to squeeze as they turn.

40) Use a tennis ball to explain internet security to n00bs.

41) Squeeze a tennis ball in your hand whenever you have an extra few minutes to increase your hand strength.

42) If you want to leave your car door open but don’t want the interior lights to run down the battery, just wedge a tennis ball into the door frame to keep the light switch depressed.

43) When fueling up your car, use a tennis ball to keep the handle of the gas nozzle pushed in to avoid painful hand cramping.

tennis ball snowman

44) Make a snowman ornament for your holiday tree.

45) Explain and illustrate molecular structure.

tennis ball tripod

46) Make a pretty awesome pocket tripod for your small camera.

47) Build a model trebuchet and hurl tennis balls into your annoying neighbor’s yard.

48) Make talking apple puppets. These will amuse kids to no end. Let them be creative and make up their own characters.

49) Put tennis balls under the windshield wipers of vehicles that will be stored for long periods. This will help the blades last longer.

50) Use the time-tested method for finding your car in a crowded parking lot: put a tennis ball on the end of the antenna.

Some words of caution: tennis balls should not be used as dog toys. The felt that covers them can wear down a dog’s teeth. Larger dogs can choke on tennis balls. Ask your veterinarian for advice on alternative toys.

And in case you’ve ever wondered, this is how tennis balls are made:

3 Powerful Safari Features That Few People Use

Written by Daniel Miessler


Safari is an excellent browser for many reasons; its speed, clean aesthetics and ease of use are attractive from the outset. But there are a few extremely attractive and lesser known features that people should be taking advantage of as well.

Browsing and Search Snapback

Search snapback allows you to instantly jump back to the original search you made after clicking on a bunch of results. So if you originally searched for programming, and you clicked on a bunch of Wikipedia links and didn’t find what you want you can, with one action, instantly get back to the original Google results.


There are two ways to do it; you can click the little orange arrow to the right of the search as seen above, or you can use the keyboard shortcut – option-command-s

You can do the same thing with browsing as well, but it works slightly differently. If you type an address into the URL bar and go to that page as your initial page in a tab or window, that page is marked as your snapback page. You can then go anywhere else and snapback to it by hitting the orange arrow or by using the keyboard shortcut – option-command-p


You can also set a new snapback location by marking a current page as your snapback location. The fastest way to do that is with the keyboard shortcut – option-command-k , but you can do it from the history menu as well.

URL Path Navigation

It’s also possible to view and navigate through the various levels of a nested site using Safari. So on my site, for example, I have the root, then /study, then various pages. Well from one of the nested pages I can right-click the title of the page and see exactly where I am on the site. And from there I can navigate up if I want to.


Web Inspector


With the latest version of Safari (3.1) you can now inspect HTML and CSS elements right from your browser. The functionality is similar to the Firebug extension for Firefox, and gives you all sorts of information that’s helpful during web development and design.

To enable the functionality just type the following into a terminal window:

defaults write WebKitDeveloperExtras -bool true

Once you’ve restarted your browser you can then right-click on various elements in the browser and select “Inspect Element”.: