Online Living

Friday Features

I’ve been on a bit of sensory overload…what with the financial crisis, the apparently shoe-in victory for Barack Obama, and preparing for a trip to the most magical place on Earth.  However, I’ve found some really useful and interesting things that I’ve been incorporating into my life recently.  I’m a gadget junkie, but even more, I’m addicted to “productivity tools.”  I love simple things that make life easier…even if they’re not all that simple.

For instance, IWantSandy.com emails and text messages me reminders to pay bills when they’re due, so that I don’t forget them.  Apparently Sandy can do lots of other awesome things…but who has the time to figure this crap out?

And so today, I bring you several things I’ve found useful, and a few not so useful things.

  • Microsoft Live Mesh – this is something that borders on revolutionary . . . but isn’t quite there yet.  (I think that’s Microsofts mission statement -“Almost, sorta, kinda, New and Awesome, but not quite.”)  It’s a “Tech Preview,” which I assume means that it’s actually buggier than Vista on release day.  The remote desktop features don’t work with Mac yet, but the online storage is accessible from a Web Browser.  Basically, this is like DropBox (which I use and love) with social networking features built in.  I can see this being useful in business as well.
  • In the online storage world, I’ve been looking for a solution for backing up pictures online.  I’ve fallen in love with Picasa.  The desktop app is great (way better than iPhoto on Macs) for organizing and doing basic edits.  To me it’s much simpler to use than Flickr, which I still can’t figure out.
    Seriously . . . a lot of these things are supposed to save us time, but it ends up taking more time to work with than it’s worth.  I’m still trying Flickr . . . but I think I’ll be staying with Picasa for now.
  • Ubuntu 8.10 is coming out in 6 days, and has a lot of new usability features built in, with a supposedly much less confusing installation, especially if you are partitioning your hard drive for a dual-boot situation.  I highly recommend.  This website is run off an ubuntu server, by the way.  Check out my series on setting it up.
  • Skype – This is old . . . but I’ve just begun using, and plan on featuring it in a blog about business tech and cost cutting ideas.  It’s a great way to keep up with friends and family who are away…and a great way to save on long distance calls in general ($2.95 per month for unlimited!)

Most of my finds are typically courtesy of Lifehacker.  It’s one of my first reads everyday.  However, Mashable tipped me off to Wigix.  Wigix is awesome, let me say.  It’s like a stock market for things you own or want to buy / sell.  Just like the market, there are buy and sell offers on the table for tons of things, and you can take one (execute) if you want to buy or sell at that price.  If not…put your own buy or sell order out.  As an ex-con -broker, this makes great sense to me, and it’s got an MLM feature with it too.  If you are the first to add an item or category, you make money off all of that product’s sales.  You also make money on referring other people.  So go check it out, and get a good glimpse at the ground floor of the company that will destroy eBay.

Online Living, Technology

eBay: more and more useless everday!

Back in the day, eBay was awesome.  Remember when you got super-good deals, from average Joes selling stuff out of their home?  I do…I bought an awful lot of electronics off of eBay, and sold quite a bit too.  Even back in 2003, though, I saw troubling signs, signaling the direction eBay was going.
I was selling an old laptop, with the intention of purchasing a new one.  Some guy offers me an extra $200 over my reserve if I end the bidding early.  Being quite naive about online scams, at the time, I said, “Sure!” and did just that.  I exchange the emails at work, and his final email instructs me, quite urgently, to ship it that very day.  I saw the money in Paypal, so I was planning on doing just that.  Thankfully, I had to stay at work a bit late that day, and didn’t get to the post office in time.  When I got home, I saw an email from Paypal, stating that the funds were fraudulent, and to not send the item.
I never heard from the guy again, obviously, but that was only the beginning of my troubles.  A near scam later on a purchase (took 2 weeks for the person to send it), and many many buyers who didn’t read the full listing concerning condition of a used item, and I was quite frustrated.
It’s been well over a year since I’ve used ebay, but when we found ourselves with a good deal of new-looking clothes that our daughter had outgrown, we decided to list them, and see what we could get.
Nothing.
We used to make this a regular habit, with most things selling, just a couple of years ago . . . but when I looked at the listings in the little girls categories, it’s mostly junk, mostly with no bids, and mostly sold by junkshop businesses with tons of other junk auction listings.
With eBay’s recent changes, (including allowing major businesses to list with no fee) it really isn’t the big neighborhood market it once was, and is either too pricey, or too scarey to deal with in any meaningful way.  We sold the books and DVD’s on Amazon.com, and are giving away the clothes.  Why pay fees when there’s little chance that anyone is even looking anymore? (Especially when other people don’t pay those fees to begin with.)
I declare eBay a has-been website…you heard it here first.  It’s already turned into that old shopping mall in town…the one with dollar stores, and cheap knockoffs, that’s really gone downhill since the newer and larger mall opened. . .  Only in this case, the newer mall is the increasingly competitive online retail market, which is more attractive now, than ever, considering eBay’s higher prices and fees.