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12.22.2011

5 Smart Technologies of 2011


Its one thing to get hyped up on a new site or service (Schemer, anyone?). Its another to hit on new (at least to you) tools you find online that you actually incorporate into your regular life. Be it for work or play, here's a breakdown of sites and apps I've come across this year that I actually use. Some of these are not necessarily new this year, but are all new to me and deserve more users and supporters.




  1. Astrid - Far and away one of the most straightforward good ideas done well. Astrid is basically a to-do list. Now to-do lists are incredibly common and the market is highly competitive, but this is the one that works best for me. The interface is really good and creating little entries for lists and categorizing them. The site is pretty fast, my lists sync seamlessly and there's even a plugin for Locale (another Android app) that lets your lists become location aware.
  2. Tinfoil for Facebook - Available in the Android Market, Tinfoil for Facebook puts facebook's site in its own virtual jail. Facebook's mobile app is a bit of a resource hog and can be pretty intrusive. It can't pester you for location or other information, you sign in and use the site. On the downside you lose the ability to share directly to facebook, but I use apps like picplz and tweetdeck Hoot Suite to update my status, share photos and view friend's activities outside of the Tinfoil solution.Astrid - Far and away one of the most straightforward good ideas done well. Astrid is basically a to-do list. Now to-do lists are incredibly common and the market is highly competitive, but this is the one that works best for me. The interface is really good and creating little entries for lists and categorizing them. The site is pretty fast, my lists sync seamlessly and there's even a plugin for Locale (another Android app) that lets your lists become location aware.
  3.  Alien Blue HD and Reddit News - I'm putting this double shot in as one because they're two great ways to view Reddit on the go. Alien Blue HD is the iPad app and Reddit News is for Android. Both are better smooth to work with and allow all the functionality of the site with very 'finger friendly' designs.  There is a free version of Reddit News, but I decided to buy it to get rid of the ads. Makes for an even better experience on the small screen. 
  4. Calibre - I really like having a Kindle. For most of my day, I stare at a computer. But my Kindle is special. Its pretty plain; grey screen, silver bezel. But its limitations are also its strengths. It just displays clean, readable text and it collects all my pleasure reading into one place. I've got Instapaper, and all the books I've bought from Amazon. Whats nice is that Calibre puts those same books (as well as other text files) into a usable database that I can control. In the worst case scenario that Amazon revokes a title from its library, I can still have my books that I paid for. Calibre also does a good job of converting various ebook file formats (though not perfectly). If you consider yourself at all tech savvy take a few minutes to play with Calibre. Its completely free and open source. You can also use Calibre with just about any other e-reader.
  5. Yubikey - One of those common sins of leading an online life is that, odds are, you aren't using strong passwords. A yubikey is a great lazy solution. It sits in your USB port and can instantly generate a one time password that is authenticated with Yubico's cloud network of authentication servers. Even if someone got your password, it would be useless since you'll never use that password again. You didn't even have to type it, just press the Yubikey button and it spits it out. You can tie Yubikey into other services (like the excellent LastPass service, if you pay them a dollar a month.) Yubikey service is free, but buying the actual key is $25(or more if you want more features, like Symantec VIP or RFID). You can also buy it with a year of LastPass for $30.
      Yes, that is my real hand and my real Yubikey.
  6. IFTTT - IFTTT(short for, "If this, then that") is probably the cleverest web service I've seen. With IFTTT, you can set up triggers and actions across various websites. For example, you can set up a notification that texts you if its going to snow tomorrow. Or you can have your tumblr photos automatically upload to a Facebook album. Or you can have your starred Google Reader items automagically saved to Evernote. If you already have a number of these services set up, IFTTT is the glue you need to get them working together and saving you tedious time with repetitious tasks. Some of the features offered on the site are available from the individual websites, but IFTTT is the one-stop "make these two things work together" site.

Think I overlooked something? Post a comment, a tweet, or compose a symphony to share your best online discoveries from this year.

This post originally appeared on Stuff Smart People Like. Subscribe to the Podcast.

2 comments:

  1. Very nice list. I'm going to check out the Calibre app for my Kindle. And I wish I could get the Yubikey for use at work, but the federal government is a bit touchy and the computers will reject any unauthorized USB access. Which sucks because we have to use like 7 different, complicated as hell passwords that we have to change every 3 months that can't match any of our previous 2 password sets.

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  2. I've used atrid before, but it didn't stick for me (still a pencil and paper list maker). Definitely interested in these others though.

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