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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    High Tech Realm: Useful Software for the “Average Joe”

    In December 2008, I attended an event run by NextWeb (www.nextwebny.com) that featured several companies in the digital sphere. Aside from speaking with representatives of the presenting companies, I also met with the founders of two non-presenting companies who also offer interesting products.

    Yelp (www.yelp.com) is a city guide which embraces the Facebook and MySpace models of social networking. The site is filled with numerous reviews and databases. It is the go-to site of restaurant and store reviews. A search for clubs in Stony Brook turned up 547 results, many of which had at least three user reviews.

    Aside from the large amount of data, Yelp has an iPhone application which uses the built-in GPS to show location based results, from a four-block radius to over a mile. For those of you without an iPhone, you can still access Yelp on the go via mobile.yelp.com. Boxee (www.boxee.tv) is a media center program that runs on Windows, Linux and Mac OSX. Unlike many other media center programs, such as Windows Media Center, Boxee does not support cable or satellite hookups, but rather places an emphasis on streaming movie/TV sites such as Hulu and Netflix. The Windows version of Boxee does not have all the features as the Linux and Mac versions because it was only released recently.

    Boxee also supports music, photos and self-produced video collections. Most notably with audio, Boxee integrates with Last.fm, the Internet radio website that picks music based on your individual tastes.

    Aside from integration with different websites, Boxee allows you to show your friends what TV shows, videos, music, etc. that you consume. There also is a thumbs-up, thumbs-down rating system which allows Boxee to recommend related materials to your tastes.

    Boxee also supports integration with remote controls, so a keyboard and mouse are not required to use the program. There are no plans to charge for the service when a final version is released.

    Although they weren’t presenting at the event, CyberSychs (www.cybersynchs.com) is a must for anyone with a BlackBerry, iPhone or Windows Mobile device, although the Windows Mobile version of CyberSynchs is the only version available for testing. As the name implies, CyberSynchs backs up your phone’s contacts, calendars, ringtones and more — up to 1 GB of data — to a secured remote server, so should you lose your phone, your data will still be accessible to you.

    According to Amos Winbush III, the CEO and founder of CyberSynchs LLC, his company places an emphasis on security and privacy such to the point that his software does not backup pictures stored on the phone.

    At the time of publication, CyberSynchs is free, as it is still in beta testing. I was told by Winbush, however, that when it comes out of beta, CyberSynchs will cost $2.99 per month.

    Convos (www.convos.com) is a group collaboration application which is a great medium to host study groups. The application provides a centralized system, similar to Blackboard, which provides mass mailings to group members, rosters of your group, announcement boards, calendars and more.

    Unlike its competitor Basecamp (basecamphq.com), Convos has plans ranging from free, going up to $8 per month. On the other hand, Basecamp ranges from $24 per month up to $149 per month. While Basecamp has features Convos lacks, such as time tracking and enhanced security, Convos should be sufficient for the average college student.

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