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The human brain really isn’t very good at processing masses of abstract data…well, I know mine isn’t, anyway. Brains can usually cope with a few things at one time (“must reply to that email once I get back from picking up the milk”), but when faced with a torrent of information, such as the web bombards us with, most brains start to struggle.

It is for this very reason that virtual dashboards have gained popularity. Developers recognize that even the most basic of web-apps, like a blog, can churn out a mass of data, which can only be seen with clarity if it is delivered in a human-friendly, visual format. Yet the idea of a personal dashboard, possibly the most useful matrix of this kind imaginable, still hasn’t really taken off, despite the traction that services such as iGoogle, My Yahoo and Netvibes gained in their early days.

Perhaps the smartphone has shoved the dashboard into outdatedness and redundancy. Or perhaps the desktop dashboard format just needs some reinvigoration. If the latter scenario is the more accurate, then Dash wants to be that reinvigoration. It is pretty, well connected and dynamic — but is it good enough to be your new homepage?

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Parents with young children (or those expecting) may consider creating a scrapbook for their children. Many document important life events, holidays and family gatherings, to give to their son or daughter on their 18th or 21st birthday. Doing this preserves the memories, the trials and the triumphs experienced during their formative years.

However, I doubt that in 1995, many new parents thought that their child’s 18th birthday party would be organized on Facebook, uploaded to Youtube and checked into on Foursquare.

Limetree offers parents the digital solution. You can upload your pictures, videos, sound files or letters to your account. On your child’s birthday (or any other time you select), the limetree is released. Hard copies fade with age; the cloud preserves indefinitely.
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Keeping a diary is a great way to make sure you remember all the things that are going on in your life for years to come — and yet, it’s incredibly hard to make yourself regularly journal. It’s easier to write something funny on Facebook or Twitter and watch the comments and likes roll in. That’s somehow more rewarding right now. And yet, a private journal where you keep track of your deepest thoughts and fears, hopes and dreams — or just the mundane stuff that happens every day — can be far more rewarding in the long run.

You just need a private space to write that makes it easy to jot your daily thoughts down — and that’s exactly what the new web app Hermit is designed for. It’s just about your daily writing, and that’s it.

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Scribd started out as a place to share class notes, fledgling short stories or a political manifesto —or pretty much any PDF document you might want to share online. Recently, its taken a new direction.

Scribd has launched an eBook subscription service that’s best described as a ‘Netflix for books’. A monthly subscription offers unlimited novels, non-fiction and user generated content through a browser or smartphone app for just $8.99.

The CEO of Scribd, Trip Adler, recently inked a deal with Harper Collins US, allowing them to distribute their books as part of a subscription model, in addition to the books that were already in Scribd’s library for sale, giving Scribd the content they needed to build a huge online library.

Is this biggest change in the publishing industry since the Kindle arrived?

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Last year, a survey by ratings agency Nielsen found that YouTube is the go-to platform for teenagers looking to listen to or discover new music. Indeed, online music streaming is so convenient that it’s easiest to just search for a song and play it online—and especially on YouTube.

Two other popular destinations to search for music are SoundCloud, which has a huge collection of user-uploaded tracks, and DailyMotion, which is a fantastic repository of music videos. Combine these with YouTube and you will probably be able to track down any song you want to listen to.

That’s the aim of Solayo—to make a cool online music player for regular users and let them tap into the resources of these three portals. And on top of that, it wants to build a mini social network for you to discover friends with similar tastes.
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Self-hosted web apps are a great option if you’re worried about your favorite service going offline. Google Reader’s shutdown has made that potential painfully obvious, and yet, most of the best alternate RSS services are still hosted apps that could be shutdown on a whim. Or, if they’re hosted on Amazon S3 like so many services are these days, they’ll go offline along with a significant portion of your apps if Amazon has a bad day.

JellyReader is a new, simple RSS reader app that, while not self-hosted yet, is designed to make sure you can never lose your RSS reader data. Instead of trusting someone else’s cloud with your data, it stores your feeds and saved articles in your Dropbox or Google Drive account.

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It’s easy to assume your customers love your products and services, or your readers love your site, until you get an angry email telling you how terrible your stuff is. Getting your customers’ ongoing feedback would be far better, but most people simply won’t take the time to fill out a survey or write you an email unless something is really bugging them.

What if there was a way to get feedback quickly without bugging your customers? That’s exactly what Temper is designed for.

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There’s Alfred and Quicksilver for the Mac, tools that make help you get tons done just with your keyboard. On the PC, there’s Launchy that does much the same thing. And even in apps like Sublime Text, you can just type in the Command Palatte to get stuff done without resorting to hard-to-remember keyboard shortcuts or your mouse.

On the web, though, the best alternate we have is bookmarklets — typically javascript-powered bits of code that make sharing and tweaking sites simple. In Safari, you can access the first 10 in your bookmarks bar with simple CMD+number shortcut, but everywhere else you’ll have to click your bookmarklet or make workarounds for the ones you use most. It’s far from the efficiency of keyboard-driven launchers.

That is, unless you install the new Backtick.

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Sadly, much of the work done by those in the creative arts isn’t terribly creative. This isn’t because all the talented designers, musicians, film-makers and photographers out there aren’t capable of producing works of stunning originality. It is actually due to the irritatingly small amount of time that they can dedicate to making beautiful things, and the frustratingly large volume of time dedicated to the trials associated with a service-based profession.

One such trial is the toing and froing of work between the professional and the client. Many of the platforms that are technically capable of performing this task are not focused on the client-facing niche of file sharing, and as a result, few prioritize both straightforward operation and high quality presentation.

This is why I think the concept of Sitedrop, a new beta hot off the Betaworks press, makes sense. Based on Dropbox for storage and hosting, Sitedrop wants to make the delivery of your work within a beautiful interface as simple as moving a file. Is that too much to ask? (more…)

My former workplace had very restrictive IT policies and so every computer was locked down, which meant that to install any software, you needed the administrator password. And the last time Canonical released a new version of Ubuntu, it was a living nightmare for me. I needed to download that OS as quick as possible to write about it, but as anyone who has downloaded Ubuntu on day zero knows, it’s pretty much impossible to do that through the direct HTTP download. And here I was, stuck on a PC that wouldn’t let me grab it off the torrent like I usually do.

How I wish I knew about BitTorrent Surf at that time…

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