I learned about LootCrate from a Chris Pirillo video and it seems like it’s pretty cool. You can watch him unbox his lootcrate below (The unboxing starts at 28:29. Tried to link to that time but it didn’t seem to work):

For just under $20 a month they’ll send you a variety of random geeky products worth up to $40 a box according to their website. I think the idea is pretty neat and hope the service thrives. Right now they have less than 500 subscribers, and the first 500 subscribers are entered to win a Google Nexus Tablet! You can use the coupon code LOCKERGNOME (via Chris Pirillo) to receive a discount on your subscription as well. I look forward to receiving my first loot crate.

iTunes University

I’ve recently gotten addicted to “attending” college courses via iTunes U. With iTunes U you can watch or listen to lectures from various colleges around the world, and some courses are even supplemented with assignments and notes. My favorite so far is Harvard’s CS50 (video from YouTube below. This isn’t the same lecture as the one on iTunes U). The professor is a great speaker and is quite entertaining.

iTunes U is useful in many ways. You can use it simply to sate your own curiosity, or maybe you want to preview a subject before taking an actual course on the subject. It also may be useful to watch a lecture or two on a subject you’re struggling in to see if a different approach will help you understand it better.

The best part about iTunes U is that it’s free (both the app and lectures featured in the app). So get out there and learn something!

I no longer use physical media

A year ago if I wanted a movie I’d go to the store and buy the blu ray, or if I wanted a video game I’d go to Gamestop and buy the disc. I had already given up CDs as a medium for music (I’ve been all iTunes for quite some time), but I hadn’t completely given up on physical media yet. The main reason was my internet at the time just wasn’t good enough to handle my media consumption.

Now things are different. I want a movie? I buy the digital copy on Amazon or now on Vudu, in HD (or HDX on Vudu) and it looks just as good as a blu ray to my untrained eyes. As for video games, most new releases aren’t instantly available in digital form (on the 360 at least) but when they are I prefer digital over a disc any day.

Having a stack of DVDs just doesn’t appeal to me. They take up shelf space for no good reason, it’s not like they’re appealing to look at every day. Plus when I move it’s really annoying to use up precious box space for a ton of DVDs. Having a digital movie collection is awesome. I can browse my collection on my laptop, tablet, or TV and watch what I want in an instant. I never have to hunt down a disc, I never have to put anything in, just click and enjoy. When I’m done the movie stays on the server far away and takes up no space in my room or on my hard drives.

Even better I can access my collection from anywhere. Over at a friend’s house? No problem. I have access to my entire movie library by simply logging into an account. On vacation? My movies are there waiting for me.

I know a lot of people are slow to give up on something they know. They say they like seeing their collection, or if they pay money for something they need something to hold in their hands. Believe it or not there are people who still buy CDs. So be it, but it’s not for me. I welcome the digital age with open arms. I love the cloud.

Online backup

I’ve been realizing lately just how much of my life lives on this laptop. Music, videos, pictures, documents, all valuable data some of which is unique and might not be able to be recovered should something happen to my laptop. I never worried a lot about losing data when I used a desktop PC because I figured should my PC fail I could always pull the hard drive and install it into a new PC. Of course the hard drive could fail, but most of the times when my computers went up in smoke the hard drives survived.

A laptop, however, is a different story. Should this thing fail I wouldn’t know where to begin in an attempt to recover its hard drive and the data stored on it. I’m sure it can be done, but I’m certain it wouldn’t be as easy as it is on a desktop PC. So this has gotten me to ponder whether I should subscribe to an online backup service.

The advantages: My data can be backed up in a remote location where it can be recovered should my hardware fail or get stolen. The data should remain there for as long as I need it (and continue to pay the subscription fee) and the data should be secure. If I buy a new laptop I should be able to download all of my data onto it (I continue to use the word ‘should’ because I can’t say I’m 100% sure on how all this works and how reliable these services are).

My important and valuable data will be backed up automatically without me having to put forth any effort. This will lead to peace of mind as I’ll know that if something were to go wrong I wont one day have a sick feeling in my stomach as I realize all of the data I’ve lost permanently. Music can mostly be downloaded again (especially with iCloud) and most of my pictures exist in various locations across the web (Facebook, Instagram, Flickr) but trying to gather all of this might prove challenging. I might be able to get most of it back, but what about the stuff I don’t even know I have now? I’m sure there’s some long forgotten pictures, videos or files of some sort lost somewhere on my laptop that I haven’t seen in years. I might not miss it now, but maybe some day I’d really wish I had these files.

I must apologize for the random spewing of thoughts above. I’m tired and opened this box and just started typing. Anyway, I’m going to be setting up Carbonite to give it a 15 day trial and might consider purchasing the $59/yr plan (which offers unlimited storage space, there are more expensive plans with more extensive benefits). I’m not sure what I’ll learn from this trial as I hope my laptop doesn’t fail in the next 15 days causing me to need to recover all of my files, but if the software is easy to use and efficient I’ll probably end up subscribing so I can stop worrying about having to one day try to rebuild my entire digital life.

Want to still use Wikipedia?

So Wikipedia has begun its 24 hour blackout to protest the anti-piracy / internet censorship bill SOPA which is cool and all, but we all want to be able to use Wikipedia, right?

Well if you find yourself in need of some quick facts, simply Google whatever you want to find on Wikipedia with the word Wikipedia in your query (i.e. “Mountain Dew wikipedia). When you see the Wikipedia page in your search result click the double arrows to the right of the result which will open a page preview. Above the preview you should see a link that says ‘cached’. Click this and it will take you to Google’s archived version of the page which is still available for viewing.

Here is the cached version of the Wikipedia page on Mountain Dew.