Category Archives: Marketing

If This Then That: The Free Service You Didn’t Know You Couldn’t Live Without

ifttt-product-thumbEver wish that every time it was going to rain, you got notified by text? What if every time you were tagged in a Facebook photo, that photo got automatically saved to your Dropbox? Or whenever you took a photo with Instagram, it got integrated into your computer screensaver?

You need If This Then That (IFTTT), a free service that connects 60 popular networks, including Facebook, Twitter, GMail, and Evernote, and can do whatever you program it to do! Each task is called a “recipe,” and the site provides hundreds of ready-made concoctions to help you better integrate all your digital services. Here are some of the most clever, we think:

The options are nearly limitless, and its free, so it’s definitely worth playing around with. Automate your life and give yourself more time and better organization!

Reviews: Popular Google Reader Alternatives

Alas, our old friend Google Reader is soon to be no more, and honestly, we don’t know why. It seems like it was very popular, since the Internet has joined in group outrage at the RSS service’s impending demise on July 1, and posts about Reader alternatives abound. We, too, had to go shopping for a new RSS reader, and if we’re going to put in the effort, we want to find something even better.

Fact of the matter is, Google Reader was good, but not great. It got the job done, but there was much to be desired in design. So, criteria for our new reader include:

  • Auto-refreshing. If we leave it open for a long time, it will scan all the sites periodically.
  • Speed. We hate waiting.
  • Ability to see posts in their original formats without leaving the reader.

Let’s see how some of the popular alternatives stack up.

NewsBlur
This was our first trial, and at first, things went great. There are lots of formatting options, and it’s one of the few readers that seem to sport the option to see the post in it’s original design. Sometimes the site itself is prettier than the reader, you know? But speed was a problem, as was the overall layout, which looks more like a 1997 web app than a sleek, modern reader. Marking things as read – definitely a key feature in a reader – is also a little confusing.

Netvibes
This could be a winner, minus a few key functionality problems. It’s definitely got a sleeker design than NewsBlur or Google Reader, and it even has useful widgets for the weather and to-do lists when viewed in “widget mode.” However, it’s much more functional as a Google Reader alternative in “reader” mode (there’s a toggle at the top). Figuring out how to delete all their pre-added feeds and add your feeds is very confusing, though, so be ready to invest a little time figuring out their system. Overall, though, the experience seems solid, and definitely a step up from NewsBlur. It also has the ability to switch to a “www” view which shows the article in its original formatting.

Feedly
Almost TOO clear a winner here. Not only is the design excellent and highly customizable, but you still have the ability to see the post in its original format with the “Preview” button. The homepage feature with a magazine style layout of all your feeds is awesome, too. Our concern? It ties directly with Google Reader, so much so that any changes you make to either are immediately reflected on the other. We assume Feedly will become stand alone before July 1, and it seems they do too.

The Old Reader
If all you want, though, is a reader that looks, feels, and acts like your old Google Reader, check out The Old Reader. It’s got a little bit more design savvy, but you should feel right at home.

8 Geeky Websites for Newbie Geeks

So all you seasoned geeks out there can sit back and relax during this post; it’s probably nothing you don’t know. However, if you’re a fledging geek, you need some geeky reading material. So, just for you, we’ve compiled a list of websites all aspiring geeks can enjoy. So click away on the links and get reading!

Wired
Definitely one of the oldest sites on this list, Wired is the digital home of (but is not owned by) Wired Magazine. Always on the latest gadgets, tech and gaming news, and awesome science, Wired is a one-stop site for geeks of all kinds.

LifeHacker
As their tag line reads, LifeHacker is all about “tips and tricks for getting things done.” This includes a lot of productivity gadgets, apps, and software that will have any geek excited to stick to their to-do list.

Gizmodo
The sister site of LifeHacker, this site is less focused on your productivity and more focused on distracting you for hours with tons of cool articles and reviews on gadgets, social media, and science.

Mashable
Specifically geared towards tech and social media, Mashable has you covered on all things digital with news, reviews, and tips. They also love memes and fun videos, so it’s a great way to get your news and stay on top of Internet pop culture.

TED
If you’ve never heard of the TED project, you are in for a treat. Started in 1984, the non-profit sought to promote and share “Ideas Worth Spreading.” Almost 30 years later, they have a huge catalog of videos and podcasts covering innovative ideas ranging from design to technology to, well, everything.

Geekosystem
If you’re looking for geeky news with a dose of hilarity, Geekosystem is your site. We can’t promise you’ll find any information you actually needed, but you’ll certainly get some laughs along with some great tech and science trivia.

Extreme Tech
Like Wired, Extreme Tech covers technology, gaming, science, and all things Internet, but with a… well… more extreme point of view.

Singularity Hub
More science than tech, this is your stop for the latest on cyborgs, curing diseases, and the colonization of Mars.

9 Awesome Harlem Shake Videos

It’s Friday, so you’re probably not very motivated to do actual work anyway. So, just for you, we’ve done the strenuous work of sorting through dozens of Harlem Shake videos to find the very best, the one’s just for you.

Now, you’ve probably seen at least one or two Harlem Shake videos already. For this high level of competition, we were looking not only for a great rendition of the meme, but an original one. Just getting a lot of people dancing doesn’t count, guys, it’s got to mean something. Without further ado…

HAPPY FRIDAY

Warning: This is not really the President. Or Michelle, though that’s a striking resemblance.

How could this one not be great?

Slow news day?

We love our firefighters. Especially when they spontaneously turn into Spiderman.

Even if you don’t listen to the Brooklyn indie band Matt & Kim (they’re great, look into it), this video rocks.

This one is literally underwater.

IN THE SKY!

The Daily Show version.

Now this one is just MEAN

5 Ways to Geek Your Fitness

workoutSpring is almost here, and while we’re so excited for short sleeves and kite-flying, it’s also a reminder that beach days are coming, too! If you’re heading back to the gym (or just keeping up your fitness routine), you might be interested in some of these fun, sweat-breaking gadgets, workout-wear and and apps!

Yes we know, we didn’t include any fitness tracking gadgets like the Nike Fuelband or Fitbit. That’s a whole other post, folks, but without further ado: the goods.

JumpSnap Ropeless Jump Rope
Jumping rope is an amazingly efficient cardio workout that can (supposedly) burn up to 600 calories in just 30 minutes. At $40, the JumpSnap is obviously more expensive than your regular old school yard model, but there are definitely perks to going ropeless. First of all, this little gadget tracks your jumps, calories, and workout time. Second, you don’t have to worry about whacking anyone or anything. If you’re looking to take your workout indoors, that might be key for you.

Acoustibuds
Ok, Acoustibuds aren’t very high-tech in and of themselves, but any runner who has ever struggled with keeping their earbuds in, or worse still, ruined a good pair with sweat, will definitely appreciate these cheap little gizmos. Just slip them on your earbuds, and the cover will keep them in place and protect them from sweat. The best part? You can use them on whatever earbuds you like.

Gorilla Workout
Can’t afford a gym, you say? Try the Gorilla Fitness app. Using nothing more than your own body weight, this app designs a whole cardio and strength training routine for you based on your fitness level and goals. The app includes over 40 different exercises, all of which have a video demonstration. ($0.99 on the Apple Store and Google Play).

Xbox Kinect Training Bundle
Turn your workout into a game with this Kinect Bundle that includes the Kinect add on for Xbox, as well as a yoga mat and two games: Kinect Adventures and The Biggest Loser Ultimate Workout. If you spend as much time playing this game as your friends play Halo, you’ll be in great shape in no time!

Withings Wifi Scale
If you’re trying to lose weight, tracking your progress is crucial for maintaining motivation. This scale makes it insanely easy by automatically sending your weight information to an app on your iPhone or Android. The scale also measures BMI and body fat percentage and will track up to 7 family members. Oh, and it recognizes all the users automatically. Very cool… but at a price of $99. A good scale will usually run you about $50 to $60, but we think the multiple user functionality might make this a good purchase if several people in your household are watching their waistlines!

More Key Terms for Anyone Starting a Website

www-questionsSetting up your website can be a pain. It seems like every step of the way involves some unfamiliar jargon, which can quickly make even a tech-savvy person feel totally in over their heads.

Even if you’re not setting up the site yourself, you’re bound to hear your web developer toss around terms like “FTP” and “MySQL,” perhaps prompting your eyes to glaze over and you to simply nod in blind agreement. No more after you read this post!

Here are four common terms you may encounter, and a brief explanation of their meaning and functionality:

FTP – FTP, which stands for File Transfer Protocol, is (as you might guess from the name) a means of transferring files. You or your developer can use FTP as a direct link to upload and download files (like web pages, stylesheets, javascript files, etc) between a local computer hard drive and the web server that hosts your website. In order to get access to the web server, you have to authenticate your computer with a username and password, which are usually set up within your hosting providers control panel.

MySQL – If you have a website with lots of pages, and especially one that’s build on a content management system (CMS) like WordPress or Drupal, you’re also using a database service. MySQL is the most common, mainly because it’s free and open-source (meaning the code and functionality are available for anyone to observe and reuse). The database connects with your website and puts certain information, like page titles, content, and meta tags into tables. Then, it remembers where it put all the data, so it can all be accessed quickly.

Subdomain – We talked about domains in our previous post on web terminology, but we forgot to talk about subdomains! You see them a lot, and in fact, you’re on one now. This address, “blog.lunaweb.com,” is a subdomain of “lunaweb.com.” If you own a domain, you can also have subdomains that you can point to a blog, a certain part of your site, or really anything at all.

Redirect – This one’s pretty easy: it’s just when a domain, subdomain, or URL of any kind is pointed to a different URL. Sometimes, it’s a good idea to buy multiple variations of your domain (for instance, say lunaweb.net), and have it redirect to your main site. That way, in case anyone gets the URL slightly wrong, they still get to the right place.

If you’re looking for more terminology, check out some of our previous posts!

A Valentine’s Day Love Letter to Technology

circuit-board

Dear Technology,

Love of my heart and light of my living room after 10pm, you complete me. Your high resolution LED screens and solid state drives are so beautiful. I have fallen for you.

I remember when we first met. You were different then. I laugh when I think of the funny noises you used to make. We’d spend all night together, chatting and browsing. We just clicked. And things only moved faster from there.

With each passing year you got sleeker, more portable, less buggy. You run so much faster and know so much more now. Every morning I’m excited to start up again.

I know I have taken you for granted. I count on your fast connectivity and processing power, and I curse you when you fail me. But your glitches have only made me realize how much I need you.

I believe you have installed the best in me. You have unleashed my creativity – and the creativity of millions of others. You have stretched my mind and challenged my way of thinking by giving me access to global news and collaboration tools. You have given me a voice, a means, and a space to share myself with others. You connect me with my friends, and introduce me to potential friends.

You have made me cry and empathize. You have made me laugh and waste time on web comics. I am a happier, more informed, more inventive person because you are in my life.

I know in my heart you cannot reciprocate these feelings because your insides are copper wiring and circuit boards. That’s okay, technology. Perhaps artificial intelligence isn’t that far off. Be my Valentine?

Love and (almost involuntary) devotion,
LunaWeb

3 Steps to Take Before Starting Your Own Website

www-questionsSo you’ve got an amazing idea for a blog or website, and you can’t wait to get it off the ground. Great! Getting a website up and running is easier than ever, and to make your journey smoother from the start, we’ve compiled four steps any website-owner should take before moving forward with the project. Here goes:

Decide whether you will build your website or hire a third-party.
There are all kinds of services to help you design and build your own website, and given enough time and research, just about anyone could build something beautiful and functional. If you don’t have the time or inclination, though, just turn to your friendly neighborhood web development team. Not only will you not have to dig through any code, but you can have on-going support for your site. Of course, building your site is only have the battle because then there’s the maintenance! Which brings us to…

Consider how often you will update your site and if you feel comfortable doing it yourself.
If you decided to build your site yourself, you’ll probably feel good about updating it yourself, too. However, if you hired a third-party to build, you might still want to be able to update copy or images without consulting your web developer. This is where a content management system (CMS) comes in handy. Building your website on a CMS (like WordPress) makes day-to-day edits very user-friendly, even to those who don’t code. You’ll definitely want one if you’ll be doing your own updates!

If you don’t anticipate making edits very often or ever, a CMS might just add extra weight and load-time to your site. CMS or no, though, you’ll also need to…

Determine the best format for the content you’ll have.
Imagine your ideal front page. Don’t worry about colors or fonts yet, but think about the layout. Is the front page blogposts or static content? Are there advanced elements like sliders, animations, or galleries? Get out a sheet of paper and sketch a rough outline of what you’re picturing. This is called a wireframe, and it will affect the platform on which your site will be built.

A more complicated layout will require a more versatile platform. If you’re going to use a CMS, Drupal or WordPress could be the way to go. A simpler layout could be achieved on Blogger or Tumblr.

Keep in mind that you may launch your initial website with a much simpler layout than you’ve pictured, but the important thing is to look ahead. Migrating your website later will create further complications, so it’s much better to build on a platform that will suit your eventual needs.

It may sound like a lot, but the good news is there are lots of resources to help. LunaWeb is always happy to consult on any questions you may have, and in the meantime, you can browse some of our helpful articles on development and design:

Need-to-Know Keyterms for Starting Your Own Website
Web Basics: DNS and IP Addresses
Why Choose WordPress for Your Website
Web Design Guide: Font Guide

Tech Tips, Apps, and Gadgets for Winter

It’s chilly in Memphis today, and might even snow! In honor of winter, we’ve decided to compile a few tech tips, gadgets, and apps to help you make the most of the brisk weather, while keeping yourself and your gadgets safe and warm.

TIPS

Keep gadgets out of the trunk. If your devices stay cold too long, it can damage the screen or hard drive. Bring your devices in out of the car to avoid electronic tragedy.

Let devices warm up before turning them on. If you absolutely had to leave your device out in the cold, let it come to room temperature before you turn it on, especially if it has a liquid display!

Carry a charger or extra batteries. Cold weather drains batteries faster, so carry an extra batter or charger on you. You may have to recharge sooner than you’re used to.

APPS

Swackett – This app for iPhone, iPad, Android, and web is way more fun than your standard weather report. Instead of hard data, you’ll see a little stick figure, dressed appropriately for day. It’s sure to make you smile, and it’s free!

Winter Survival Kit – If you’re planning on being out and about in extreme winter weather, be sure to download this app first. It includes GPS to locate your position and contact emergency services, tips for when you’re stranded, and even an alarm so you’ll know how long you can run the engine without getting carbon monoxide poisoning. It’s insurance for your winter forays, and it’s free!

Road Trip Weather – Just enter your route and departure time to see any hazardous weather conditions you may encounter on your way. The app will help you change your route and help you know when to leave, all so you get where you’re going safely and on time! ($1.99)

GADGETS

Thermal Leak Detector – If you’re paying too much for heat, this device is for you. Not only does it look like a cool laser gun, but it will help you discover where your house is leaking heat so you can better insulate your home. ($49)

Heated Ice Scraper – Cut the time it takes to clear off your car after a freeze in half with a heated ice scraper! Much safer than pouring hot water on your car, this scraper will safely melt ice without damaging your windshield.

USB Heated Blanket – Chilly while you’re reading this? You could be cozying up with this USB heated blanket! Just plug it in to a spare USB port and you’ll forget how cold it is outside.

Heated Socks – There’s nothing like toasty feet by the fire to make you forget the cold. Don’t have a fire? Slip your cold toes into these socks! Two D batteries will provide 12 hours of podiatric heaven!

Our 7 Tech-Savvy New Years Resolution

Yes, New Year’s Day has come and gone, but we’re just getting around to thinking about resolutions for 2013. Perhaps your own list includes some resolution-favorites like going to the gym or calling your loved ones more often. Our list looks a little different…

Here are seven New Year’s Resolutions for our tech-savvy friends:

Tackle your digital filing system. Maybe you keep all your files in just the perfect order, but if you’re like most of us, there’s a ton of clutter on your desktop and in your downloads folder, plus a ton of old files you really don’t need anymore. Once your digital world is organized, spend the rest of the year trying to keep it that way!

Back up your files. They’re organized but unprotected! In 2013, invest in back up. We love Carbonite, which will back up your whole computer (or just what you tell it to) in the cloud. The program runs in the background and automatically finds new files, so you never have to think about it once you’ve installed it. It is $59 per year, but the price is well worth the peace of mind.

Change your passwords. If you’ve got the same password for Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, and dozens (if not hundreds) of other services, you need to act – and fast. This approach leaves you wide open to online identity theft! Do yourself a huge favor and invest in a password manager (we like LastPass), then change your passwords to something hard. Here is an excellent infographic from Lifehacker on choosing a hard password.

Embrace mobile compatibility. If your website isn’t already mobile compatible, 2013 is the time. Often, the easiest way to do that is with a mobile stylesheet. The best tutorial and method I’ve found for making sure a website reads the right stylesheet is right here. Don’t forget to convert any flash elements into mobile friendly formats!

Recycle old gadgets. Old computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices can be doing more than sitting in your closet, but they need to be recycled properly. Best Buy has a popular recycling program for just about any gadget, but so do tons of other stores. Check out the list that Engadget put together!

Unplug. Go outside! Spend time face-to-face with your loved ones! And even if you don’t leave your cell phone behind, turn off the ringer and notifications so you can focus on what’s around you.

Spread tech love. As a smart and tech-savvy person, you’re probably bombarded with requests from friends and family to troubleshoot all problems on any device with a plug. While we’re not saying you need to drop your own life and assist every request, remember that by helping, you are fueling the technology revolution! Also, just being nice.