Updated: September 18, 2009
Or maybe you have. Today, I'm going to present a selection of useful, unique websites that should grab your attention for more than just a fleeting moment.
Why not place them in the Greatest sites section? you might ask. Well, while they have their merits and usefulness, they are still tad shy of the Hall of Fame. Personal taste, after all. Nevertheless, I think these websites are worthy of visit, regardless of where and how they get listed.
So let's get started. Naturally, do exercise discretion and caution when prowling about the Internet. I cannot guarantee that the sites listed below will satisfy your needs. In this article, I will focus only on pure functionality and leave all legal, para-legal and para-medic issues aside.
Musicovery is a customized, interactive web radio service. It allows you to stream music based not only on genre or particular era you're looking for, but also on your mood. Choose Energetic and you'll hear more sprightly 80s tunes. Choose Dark and you'll probably listen o 70s ballads.
You have the ability to rate songs and discover songs similar to the ones you're listening to, which helps expand your selection beyond the handful of known artists. Optionally, you may want to subscribe to a premium service offering high-quality sound. You can also buy all of the songs from major online retailers.
If you're looking to replace a program, you may not really know what other choices you have. AlternativeTo is a website that caters to this dire need and offers to help you find alternatives to programs you're using.
AlternativeTo sorts programs into individual categories, to make it much easier to find and sort the programs. For any listed title, you can click the Find Alternatives button and get a wealth of potential candidates.
AlternativeTo is particularly useful to people who want to have more than one tool in a particular category, people testing software, users looking to expand the scope of their existing programs, and in general, anyone who wishes to expand their database of useful applications. AlternativeTo works with programs for all major operating systems and online services, too.
HTML Slidy is a set of XHTML and CSS files that you can use to create impressive online slideshows similar to those created in Microsoft Office PowerPoint or OpenOffice Impress, except that you use the browser - any browser, on any operating system - to deliver your content to the audience.
Slidy allows you to move forward and backwards in the presentation using mouse cursors or the PageUp and PageDown keys, automatically adjust font to browser window size, present in full screen, automatically generate the table of contents, and much more.
HTML Slidy is a very elegant solution for people who wish to be able to present on the move, without being restricted by heavy, cumbersome applications. Not surprisingly, the application comes from the same man who has brought us HTML Tidy, Dave Raggett. The only downsize is that you have to be able to use HTML and CSS code to utilize Slidy.
Lupo PenSuite is a massive collection of free, portable Windows software that you can use on Windows. The suite includes more than 200 programs and games and lists another 1900 utilities that you can use, all without having to install them inside Windows; instead, you carry them on external devices and use them when needed.
Lupo PenSuite includes many titles covered in my articles PortableApps and Ultimate Boot CD for Windows (UBCD4WIN), and then some. You have a vast selection of browsers, network tools, registry tools, P2P sharing utilities, multimedia programs, system tools, security applications, and many others. The suite is also available in numerous languages.
Thanks go to Someone [sic] for his/her suggestions. Another similar website you may want to explore is LiberKey.
Note: While I sincerely believe these two website offer a great service, I cannot vouch for every single application listed there. Nor can I promise that you might not stumble across a few legal hitches now and then. If in doubt, your best choice is to contact the website owners and relevant vendors and ask for clarifications.
I am not the greatest fan of Instant Messaging, but you might be. If so, meebo might be the site you're looking for. meebo is an Ajax-based in-browser Instant Messaging program that works with multiple protocols, including Yahoo, ICQ, AIM, Messenger, MySpace, Facebook, and others.
meebo is a very useful tool as it allows you to keep your computer clean of several rather cluttered IM applications, which also have quite a few security and privacy woes. This way, you can manage your accounts with these services simply and cleanly, even when you cannot have these programs installed.
I'd like to thank Raji for his suggestion.
Top 300 freeware
This website is intended for Windows users, who would like to have a nice collection of free, reputable programs at their disposal. Thee programs are briefly introduced in the blog section of the site, along with a screenshot or two, helping you decide whether the listed items are what you need.
Still, browsing through the blog archives can be cumbersome, so you may want to consult some other online sources for help and clarifications. Here, my A-Z guide surely can help.
Likewise, you probably also want to visit Gizmo's Freeware Reviews.
aM laboratory ToneMatrix
Another music-related site. ToneMatrix is a Flash application. It is a simple sinewave synthesizer triggered by an ordinary 16-step sequencer. Each triggered step causes a force on the underlaying wave-map resulting in a tone. Steps are created by clicking with your mouse on any one of the 256 tiles. A sequence of steps should, in theory, become a soft, melodic synthesized tune. Sounds boring? Wait until you start making your own tunes. You won't be able to stop.
I was skeptic about ToneMatrix until I started playing with it. As someone with the musical skills of a chromosome-challenged ape, I did not believe my efforts would result in anything even remotely coherent. And yet, I was able to create beautiful tunes in the matter of seconds. You can copy & paste your tunes by right-clicking inside the ToneMatrix; this allows you to save your creations or import those made by others.
ToneMatrix is incredibly addictive. And fun. It's ideal for relaxation/meditation in your office or as an innocent game for kids. ToneMatrix produces beautiful sounds and will easily lift your mood. If you like randomly clicking with your mouse cursor, the childish wonder of ToneMatrix is a great idea.
Xmarks Site Suggestions
Xmarks website is a powerful search portal with some impressive search capabilities. It combines the indexing power of Google with its own algorithms to produce high-quality, high-relevance results for entered search entries. While this does not seem any different than a hundred other web services, Xmarks truly excels when you use the Site Suggestion feature: perform a query for any website you want and you will also get a long list of websites offering similar or closely related content. What makes the service useful is that it is very accurate.
This is what Site Suggestions is all about. Helping you discover online sources without wasting time. While you can get a lot of information on the searched item, including reviews and its rating in different categories, the true strength of this feature is the power of opportunity it offers the user.
The Site Suggestions feature is invaluable if you want to compare products offered by rival companies - or just discover alternatives to your known database. Whether you're trying to expand your knowledge on a particular topic, delve more deeply into the recesses of the web or discover other websites similar to the ones you like and frequent, Xmarks makes a very useful starting point. The website service is offered for free and anonymously.
Note: Xmarks is also available as a browser extension similar to del.icio.us or StumbleUpon. If you install the extension, you get exposed to a vast database of bookmarks saved by other people, helping you search for the content you like based on other peoples' recommendations. Additionally, you have the option to sync and backup your bookmarks and access them online anywhere. This aspect of Xmarks usage has its possible privacy and trust issues and is a separate topic. We are focusing here on the site functionality only.
What do we have here? Eight websites, catering to completely different styles and needs. We have an online music station, an online music synthesizer, an HTML slideshow generator, a multi-protocol instant messaging browser service, a website that offers alternative programs, and a site suggestions site, all available for users of any browser on any operating system. And then we have two sites with massive listings of Windows programs, one of those specifically usable on portable devices.
As you can see, this short list by no means comprehensive or perfect and there's a chance you may shrug in derision and contempt at the choices I've made here. Still, hopefully, some of you may find some of these sites useful. For instance, online presentations or instant messaging should definitely be useful for people with netbooks that cannot run heavy office suites or people traveling around the world.
That's about it for today. If you have websites you would like to suggest, because of their unique design or functionality, feel free to email me.