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App Happy Ep 2: Siri iPhone App Wants to be your Virtual Personal Assistant

Siri is a virtual personal assistant that lives in your iPhone.  It can help you find a place to get a bite to eat, show you movie listings, and even remind you to call your Mom on her birthday.

You have two options when using Siri – You can type out what you’re looking for or you can say it to Siri and it will do its best to figure out what you’re saying.  For example, you could simply tap “restaurants” and then choose what type of food you’re looking for and where.  Siri will grab reviews, menus (if available) and even allow you to add notes to your selection.  You can then map it, email it, or save it to your Siri bookmarks.  You can also choose the “say it” option and say what you want.  I tried saying, “Shutter Island, San Francisco” into my phone and Siri immediately recognized that I was looking for movie listings for “Shutter Island” in San francisco.  It brought up theaters close to me and gave me the option to reserve tickets.

You can say things like, “remind me to call the dentist” and Siri should send that info into the reminders section of your account and allow you to add a time for Siri to email you and remind you to call the dentist.  This only seemed to work about half of the time.  Sometimes it would recognize “remind” and sometimes it would think I was saying “find”.

Another little problem I had was with finding restaurants near me.  Siri doesn’t seem to know of any pizza places closer than 10 miles to my house – And that is definitely not the case.  It was also telling me that some restaurants were much farther away from my location then they actually are.  With that said, this is definitely not a deal breaker for me as Siri does much more than just find restaurants and set reminders.  You can request a cab, get the current weather, set dinner reservations, and pretty much anything else that you would have a real personal assistant do.  Except this one is free. Get Siri in the iTunes App Store here.

To see Siri in action, watch the video below:

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How-to: Google Search in Gmail

I finally got around to checking out Google Search integration with Gmail today and it turned out to be more useful than I had anticipated.

You see, I’m getting ready for my Mom to come visit me in San Francisco this weekend and now, instead of copying and pasting numerous Google search results of places we should check out into an email, I can simply start composing my email to her and then do Google searches within that message.  The search results can all be pasted right into the email, links and all.

You need to go into your lab settings first and enable Google search and make sure your rich text editor is enabled.  That’s all there is to it!

To see how easy it is to use Google search in Gmail, watch the screencast below:

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Create a Custom Homepage in Seconds with ShinySearch

ShinySearch allows you to create a customized homepage with almost zero effort.  It comes loaded with links to most email services, social networking sites, news sites and popular Web destinations.

All you need to do is go to ShinySearch.com and select a theme and give it a name.   There’s no sign up and no need to enter in links to all of your favorite sites.

ShinySearch does have quite a few themes to choose from, but I want to note that I use the term “customized” loosely.  It appears that the only thing you can customize is the theme – which isn’t necessarily bad because it seems to have links to most sites that I visit regularly.  With that said, I would like to see the ability to remove sites that I don’t use and add ones that aren’t listed so that it is truly customized to my needs.

To see ShinySearch in action, watch the screencast below:

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Kikin Adds More Personality to Your Search

Kikin is an add-on that puts relevant search results for Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Amazon, eBay, and iTunes above your regular search results from sites like Google, Yahoo, and Bing.  It works with Firefox, IE, and Safari.

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After you install it just perform your searches like you normally would.  Kikin will appear on the results page at the top, and there will be tabs for each service (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc) with relevant search results. If you connect your Twitter account you’ll also see all relevant tweets or just tweets from people you follow.  You can also reply and send out tweets right from the results page.

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If you’re viewing the YouTube tab, you can watch the videos without leaving the page.  If kikin gets in your way, you can easily minimize it.  To see kikin in action, check out the screencast below (best viewed in HD in full screen):

 

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Get Bids From Multiple Service Providers With Redbeacon

Redbeacon is a service that connects service providers (anything from a handyman to an accountant) to consumers who need such services.

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On the requesting end, all you need to do is select the service that you need, enter in the date(s) and time that you’d like it done, and add any important information that will help the person give you an accurate quote.  You can then choose how long you would like your request to appear – anywhere from 4 hours to 48 hours.  Redbeacon will then send out your request to relevant service providers and they can bid on whatever you need done and also ask you questions.  If you decide on a provider you can set up the appointment right from Redbeacon.

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As a service provider you can use Redbeacon to post your services.  You can add a logo, contact information (only available when you win a bid) and you can opt to receive text messages so you never miss out on a job.  There’s also a handy map so you can display how far you’re willing to travel.

I created some test jobs for a personal trainer and a housekeeper and within 20 minutes I had 5 bids total.  Pretty impressive considering they just launched in the Bay area a couple of days ago.

To see Redbeacon in action, watch the screencast below:

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Use Firefox Add-on InvisibleHand to Make Sure You're Getting the Best Deal

InvisibleHand is a Firefox Add-on that will alert you if a product you’re viewing can be purchased on another Website at a lower price.

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The way it works is simple:  Browse for products on sites like Best Buy, Amazon, OverStock, Borders, etc. and if a lower price is available somewhere else, InvisibleHand will slide open (almost unnoticeably) and show you how much you can save and give you a link to the product page.  It works for many items like electronics, beauty products, books, toys, and video games.  A full list of supported Websites and products can be found here.

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I forgot that I had installed InvisibleHand yesterday afternoon – I was planning on taking it for a spin but got sidetracked.  This morning, when I was briefly browsing OverStock for a new comforter, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the item I was thinking of purchasing was $10.00 cheaper on Amazon.  That’s how invisible InvisibleHand is.  I completely forgot it was installed until there was a good reason for it to make an appearance.

To see InvisibleHand in action, watch the screencast below (best viewed in HD in full screen):

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Want To See What Movies Are Playing Right Now in Your Neighborhood? Try ShowtimeFu

ShowtimeFu is a really simple site that helps you do pretty much one thing:  See what movies are playing nearby at any time during the day.

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All you need to do is enter in your location and click on search.  ShowtimeFu will show you every movie playing nearby with showtimes and theaters.  You can filter your search by what time you’d like the movie to begin and/or end, select specific movies and select specific theaters.  With each listing you’ll see how long the movie is, the average rating on RottenTomatoes and the time you should expect the movie to end.

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If you click on the movie title you’ll get more info from IMDB, trailers, and the theaters where you can see it.  You can also get a map of where the theater is located.

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To see ShowtimeFu in action, watch the screencast below (best viewed in HD in full screen):

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[via TechCrunch]

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Clicker: Like Tivo For Online Video

Clicker helps you find and save video that’s available to watch online, from sources all over the Web.  It’s in private beta now but I received an invite and thought I’d show you around.

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After you sign in you can immediately start searching for your favorite TV shows, movies, music, and Web originals to save to your playlist.  When you find what you’re looking for (using TV as an example) you can add an entire season or just a single episode.  If you add an entire season then every time an episode is available to view online, it will be dropped right into your account.

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Clicker is also part wiki – meaning that you can edit the show descriptions, tags, and add notes and character descriptions.  These edits are reviewed by the Clicker staff before publication.

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After you watch a video that you have in your queue playlist it will automatically be placed in your “watched video” section so you can find it again.  On the Clicker about page they note that Netflix will soon be added so I assume that you’ll be able to also store movies available on “Watch Instant”. You can sign up to get an invite to the service here.

To see Clicker in action, watch the screencast below (best viewed in HD in full screen):

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SeatGeek Predicts the Best Time to Buy Tickets to Concerts and Sporting Events

SeatGeek is a service that wants to help you get the best deal on tickets to concerts and sporting events.  It uses a history of ticket sales to predict whether or not prices will drop and then compares prices from sites like StubHub, eBay, and  TicketCity.

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Begin by searching by venue, artist, or team and then select the event you would like to attend.  SeatGeek will then search multiple ticket sales sites and tell you weather or not to buy or wait for prices to drop.

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You can view the seat numbers as well as the face value of the tickets compared to what they’re currently being sold for.  If you don’t mind the price then you can continue on to buy the tickets.  Otherwise, just lick on “subscribe to alert” and you’ll be emailed if the price drops.

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SeatGeek is currently limited to Major League Baseball Games and select concert venues, but hopefully they’ll have a wider range of events available to track sooner than later.  As of today, SeatGeek helped me see that I can get a better deal on tickets to a Giant’s game I want to attend…let’s hope their prediction is correct.

To see SeatGeek in action, watch the screencast below (best viewed in HD in full screen):

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GButts Gets You To The Google Service You Need, With One Click

GButts is a Firefox Add-on that allows you to create a single menu loaded with all of your favorite Google services.

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After you install it you can choose to have an icon for each service displayed or a drop down from the Google logo (which is what I chose).  You can select as many, or as few, services as you’d like to include in your button.

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To see GButts in action, watch the screencast below (best viewed in HD in full screen):

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