Category: Research (Page 1 of 2)

Big Tech Status Websites

Even the biggest tech companies have outages and service failures. If your email or website is on the fritz, it may not be your fault. If iCloud or MS Teams won’t load, it could be their problem to fix. Bookmark this post or any of the Big Tech Status Websites below, so that you can check them at the first sign of trouble.

Microsoft Service Health – relevant to Outlook.com, Teams, OneDrive, Skype and more

Apple System Status – ranging from iCloud to AppleTV+, from Siri to MacOS Updates and many, many more

Google Workspace Status Dashboard – pertaining to Gmail, Google Drive, Google Docs and various other consumer apps

Meta Status and Outages – covering Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and related APIs

As I find other useful big tech status websites, I’ll add them to this post.

Checking the Air Quality Index

Our government has created a great resource for checking the Air Quality Index. AirNow was created by the EPA, NOAA, CDC and other government agencies, and is a simple information tool, without advertisements. Visit AirNow.gov at any time for local AQI info. And feel free to scroll down for more info on forest fires, AQI webcams and more.

But even better, we now have an AirNow app. This, too, is free and shows no ads! So for the ultimate in convenience, throw this app on your Android or Apple smartphone, so you can check the AQI on the fly.

Landlord Lookup Tools

It may seem like, in a rental relationship, the landlord has all the power. But before you sign on the line for an apartment, check out some of these sites:

Rate the Landlord

WYL

OpenIgloo

These websites offer reviews on landlords. You can look up a person or company you are thinking of renting from. You can also leave a review, after you’ve exited a rental agreement. You may not find every landlord on these sites, but the more that people use them, the more informative they become.

Also, some states offer extra tools to help renters, but you may have to search online or call the local government to learn more. For example, Washington DC’s government will help you run a background check on a given landlord. But NYC offers a different type of aid, reporting annually on their 100 worst landlords.

In any case, be careful and consider some due diligence before signing that rental contract!

Free Apps for Identifying Animals

Much like the plant-ID apps I’ve blogged about, there are plenty of free apps for identifying animals. There’s no need to crowdsource your answer from Facebook. Take a pic or recording and send it up to the experts. You can have an AI or website give you the answer immediately. And for free!

Free Apps for Identifying Animals

Got a snake in your garden? First, be careful! Take a pic and use these apps, only if you are at a safe distance from the creature:

Looking to ID a bird in the yard? Upload a pic or a recording of its birdsong, and these apps will give you the info:

If you’re just out in nature and wanting to identify animals & plants in general, give these apps a spin:

If you use other free apps for identifying animals, please drop me a line about them. I’ll test them out and add them to this post!

Santa Tracking

This time of year, some of you want to keep tabs on the Big Guy. If anyone in your house absolutely needs to know his status, check out these Santa Tracking sites:

  • NORAD Tracks Santa – this is the classic program, started by NORAD in the 50’s. Also check this site for links to all their social media pages.
  • Google Santa Tracker – if you want something with more bells and whistles, Google has you covered. Besides a live map of Santa’s whereabouts, there’s games, music, stories and activities for your smol person to enjoy.
santa tracking

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Time Zone Converter Tools

time zone converter tools

Need to figure out what time it is in a different part of the world? Don’t strain your brain; use one of these time zone converter tools at the following websites:

Time and Date

WorldTimeServer

Dateful Time Zone Converter

World Time Buddy

Time.Is

I find myself using these more and more, as I schedule with clients across the country and the ocean. I’d be mortified if I called someone at the wrong time, due to time zone ignorance!

Some of these sites are extra-nice, because they allow you to create a login and save your setup info. If you are frequently scheduling meetings with people in specific time zones, maybe this will help streamline your efforts.

PS: it is possible to do this sort of thing in the World Time section of the Clock app of your Windows or Mac computer. But check them all out and you may find that one works better for you. Each of these time zone converter tools has a certain look and customization level. Bookmark or shortcut your favorite for easy reuse!

FreeAirPump.com

FreeAirPump.com

FreeAirPump.com helps you find places that don’t charge to use their automobile air pump. FreeAirPump.com gives you a map of locations near you (or a specific address or zip code) where you can fill your tires for free.

This site is powered by user-submitted info. If you know of a store offering free use of an air pump, but it doesn’t show on the FreeAirPump map, make sure to send it in!

The Google Dictionary Browser Extension

The Google Dictionary browser extension makes it easier than ever to learn word definitions. Once you’ve installed this freebie, you can simply double-click any plain-text word on the internet, and immediately see its definition.

I’m sure that this tool is going to save you many clicks and help keep up your reading comprehension. No more opening a second tab, just to go to Dictionary.com!

This extension is free to install into Google Chrome on any computer. And now that Microsoft Edge is built on Chromium, it should install in that browser, as well. Get it free here.

Free Apps for Identifying Plants

free apps for identifying plants

Wondering if that volunteer plant in your garden is a weed or not? Curious about that gorgeous tree at the park? Need to know if you’re looking at some Virginia Creeper or Poison Sumac? I know there’s some of you who won’t rest until you know the exact name of the mystery plant you’ve just spotted. And while it’s so easy to jump on social media to ask, it’s often easier and quicker to use free apps for identifying plants.

Powered by AI and plant photography catalogs, these free apps can identify plants for you immediately! Take a picture of a plant using the app, and you’ll get detailed info on the spot. There are many such apps, and here a few reputable ones:

There are also websites for this as well, like Pl@ntNet and Plant.id!

Update: there are similar apps for identifying mushrooms, as well:

  • Mushroom Identify, for Android
  • Mushroom Identificator, for iOS

If you use other free apps for identifying plants, please drop me a line about them. I’ll test them out and add them to this post!

The Wayback Machine

The Internet Archive is more than just a free online library. Another great resource of theirs is the The Wayback Machine.

The Wayback Machine is crawling the internet, constantly, like Google and other search engines. But this creation backs up archival copies of websites as it crawls. And you may use it yourself, to see what a website looked like at some time in the past.

You might just use this for the novelty of seeing a website (Amazon? eBay?) from many years ago. But the research possibilities here can get serious. Some people use The Wayback Machine to find info that was changed or removed. You can copy the URL from any website, and paste it in to the Wayback Machine’s search field, to see what’s available from back in time.

And if you come to use this tool a lot, know that they also offer an Android and iOS app, as well as various browser extensions, also free for all to use.

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