Rule The Web

Missing manual for the web

All our other major devices have user manuals, so why not the web? It’s the gadget we use the most these days. Mark Frauenfelder, an editor with me at Wired magazine and later founder of Boing Boing, has written the missing manual for the web. I thought I was pretty web savvy, but after reading Mark’s book of tips (written in a FAQ format), I felt like a slack-jawed newbie. I didn’t know anything, while Mark seems to know everything and to explain it brilliantly. I bow to him. I dog-eared a hundred pages of the book highlighting great tips for optimizing my web habits. Since I spend so much time online, this is a big deal. Unlike most nerds caught up in the treasures of the web, Mark can put things into perspective, and increase your effectiveness, rather than computer time. This is the user manual to give anyone who is online, which is everyone. The smartest, hard-core, geeky, know-it-all web head will learn tons from it. I hope Mark keeps it updated — on the web of course.

— KK

Rule the Web
Mark Frauenfelder
2007, 416 pages
Available from Amazon

Rule the Web website

Sample excerpts:

How Can I Listen to Three Hours of Podcasts in Two Hours?

Speed up playback of your podcasts in QuickTime. I learned this trick from Phil Windley’s Technometria blog (windley.com). If you like listening to podcasts, but don’t have enough time to listen to all of them, you can speed up the playback using QuickTime (which comes with Macs and can be downloaded for Windows at apple.com/quicktime).

Here’s how:
1. In iTunes, select the podcast you want to listen to and rightclick it.
2. Select “Show song file” from the contextual menu.
3. Right-click the file and select “Open with…QuickTime Player.”
4. Select “Show A/V Controls” from QuickTime’s Windows menu (see page 52).
5. Adjust the Playback speed slider while playing the podcast until you find a speed that still allows you to understand what’s being said. Note that the pitch of the recording remains the same at different speeds, which prevents the narrator from sounding like a chipmunk.

Windley says that a 1.5-times increase in playback speed usually works, but when he really needs to think about what’s being said, he will slide it back to 1.2. You can also speed up audiobooks and podcasts on your iPod. Select “Settings” –> “Audiobooks” –> “faster.”


Where Can I Get Free Sound Effects for My Videos?

Choose from thousands of copyright-free sound effects at the Freesound Project. Home videos are much better with a soundtrack. It’s easy enough to import a song into your video-editing program, but you can further enhance video with some well-placed sound effects. Add a “boing” to a clip of your kitten pouncing on your napping uncle’s belly, or spice up footage of your kid riding her bike with the scream of a dragster engine. You can find almost any sound clip you might need at the Freesound Project (freesound.iua.upf.edu), a treasure trove of over 25,000 sound files, from the crunch of walking on gravel to the shake of a can of spray paint. If you use these sounds for a video you plan to upload for public viewing, remember that you need to credit the creator of the sound effects you use from this excellent archive.


How Can I Find Someone’s Phone Number Even If It’s Unlisted?

Use Zabasearch to find almost anyone. As a freelance journalist, I need to hunt around a lot for phone numbers. All of the big search engines offer some kind of peoplefinder service, but they are little more than online phone books. If a person has an unlisted number, you are out of luck. But not if you use Zabasearch (zabasearch.com). The search engine, which gets its information from public databases that aren’t directly linked to the Web, has got the goods on almost everyone. Even though many of the addresses and phone numbers in it are outdated, I’ve used it successfully more than once to track down someone I needed to get in touch with for a story I was writing. One such person, a well known author, asked me how I got his phone number. When I told him about Zabasearch, he checked out the site himself and emailed me back, thanking me for introducing him to this useful


Find a word within a Web page. It can be frustrating to search Google for a certain term and then go to one of the Web sites it returns only to discover you can’t find the term you searched for. a quick way to find the term is by typing Ctrl-F (Cmd-F on Mac) and entering the word. By typing Ctrl-G (Cmd-G on Mac) you’ll be taken to the next occurrence of the term on the page. You can also click the “Highlight All” button at the bottom of Firefox’s window to give all occurrences a yellow highlight.*

How Do I Restart an Interrupted Download?

Save time and aggravation by resuming a failed download. It’s annoying to be in the middle of downloading a large file, only to lose the Internet connection right before the download has finished. It means restarting the process all over again and crossing your fingers, hoping it won’t happen again. Instead of relying on luck, get yourself a download manager.
These utilities work with your Web browser to automatically resume interrupted downloads at the point where the communication broke down. They are especially useful for downloading files when your Internet connection is flaky. The best download manager also happens to be free: DownThemAll (downthemall.net) is a Firefox extension that not only auto-resumes interrupted downloads, but also speeds up downloads and lets you download every linked file on a page with a single click.


Search for misspelled items to find a bargain on eBay. Bless our educational system for producing so many people who can’t spell. Many sellers on eBay accidentally misspell the name of the thing they’re selling. Go to eBay and do a search on “plam.” You’ll find lots of Palm brand handheld computers and cell phones for sale (as well as plenty of “plam” tree art jewelry). A “plam” is often bargain priced, because it doesn’t show up when people search for a “palm” Pilot or Treo cell phone. Other words to try: “micorsoft,” “snoy,” and “dinsey.” Even easier: go to the Misspelled Auction Search Engine (misspelledauctions.com) and enter the correct spelling for an item, and it’ll search eBay using multiple misspelled variants at once. Used in conjunction with sniping, this is the best bet for getting a great deal on eBay.


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