10 Fun and free things to do on the internet during your quarantine

Stuck at home? Still have an internet connection? Here are some fun things to check out

1) Go google maps sight-seeing

When google first offered its satellite view it was always fun to poke around and find interesting things that are visible from space like one the many shipwrecks sitting in the desert of the Skeleton Coast of Namibia, or The Airforce’s Aircraft boneyard (you can also find area 51, well at least what the government wants you yo think is Area 51), or the huge craters of the nuclear testing sites outside of groom lake (zoom out and head south west to see more) or any of the crazy things on this list (ever wondered where the world’s largest swimming pool is? they got that.)

But now, it doesn’t stop there! Thanks to Google street view you can look around at Times Square, Stand at the foot of the worlds tallest building, Burj Kalifa in Dubai, or walk around in The Magic Kingdom at Disney World. Yes, I know it’s nothing like actually being there, but it still is a little fun to be able to hop from the Forbidden City in Beijing to flippin’ Antartica in just a few clicks!

2) Go down a Wikipedia rabbit hole

I am an information addict, I’ve known that since I became acquainted with the term, so Wikipedia is where I often get my fix. What’s fun about Wikipedia is that because all the articles are interlinked you can navigate from one page to another and find constant new things. I’m sure I’m not introducing this to you for the first time, but if you’re looking for a place to start try Wikipedia’s list of unusual Wikipedia articles. It’s quite extensive, and I doubt you’re going to exhaust the list quickly. There’s also games you can play with Wikipedia similar to the six degrees of Kavin Bacon – you could pick two seeming unrelated topics and see how few clicks it takes you to get from one to the other, navigating only using the links inside the articles. Or pick a really well-known historical event or figure and find the longest path you can make from any given topic back to it.

In addition there of course is plenty of summarized history, science, and general knowledge about our world. Do you know how many stars there are in the Paramount Logo and why? Who was the Holy Roman Emperor to hold the title for the shortest period? Maybe you’d be interested in the creepiest articles on Wikipedia. Or this list of interesting articles that will all take you down the rabbit hole. WARNING: Some of these articles are down-right sad, so click at your own risk.

After a while you might find yourself typing random words into Wikipedia and seeing what comes up. “Incident” and “controversy” will give you some intriguing articles. “Failure” will lead you to some cautionary tales. And “Worlds biggest…” will usually give you some fun lists of ships, buildings, mountains, aircraft, canyons etc. Have fun!

3) Brave the subs of Reddit

If you’re not familiar with Reddit, then I should warn you – there is a lot of unwholesome stuff on there, but if you stick to the main subs then you’re likely to get more wholesome stuff, though the discussion everywhere gets pretty non-family friendly. Reddit is a social media platform that is built around discussion and info aggregation. It’s divided into subreddits or “subs” that specialize in a single topic. Your favorite TV show, band, movie, sports team, and even many podcasts all have subs dedicated to them.

If you’ve never visited reddit, I recommend visiting a few of the more popular, wholesome subs. r/AskReddit is one of the largest – click “Top” to browse the most popular posts and click whether you want to browse from just today, this week, this month, or all time. Select some of the more interesting questions and answers that have come up there.

r/Aww is one of my favorites; it’s just pictures that make you say “aww!” There are “humor” “funny” and “jokes” some of those get pretty blue, and even more are just meta humor that you’d have to be a Redditor to appreciate. There’s also r/Showerthoughts which is a list of odd, funny, or interesting epiphanies – the kind you have while in the shower.

The Top ShowerThought of all time

If you want to see people reacting to satirical sites as if they’re real then you can visit r/AteTheOnion. Or if you want to hear stories that people have told on the internet but are way to ridiculous to be true, then head over to r/thathappened. One of my personal favorites is r/WritingPrompts where people submit ideas for a plot and others submit the stories that are inspired by them.

I feel like I should emphasize the above warning, especially if you get an account and start interacting on there Reddit isn’t always the friendliest place, but it can be a fun place to lurk.

4) Learn a new language on Duolingo

It is downright amazing that Duolingo is available for free! There is a paid version, but even without it you can spend all day on this site (and the mobile app.) Not only does it have dozens of languages, it makes learning fun by having these game-like quizzes and it tracks your accomplishments and awards you points – putting you on the leader board against all other Duolingo users. I recently spent 100 straight days trying to learn Romanian.

What is especially cool about Duolingo is that it is actually saving dying languages. There are more people learning the Irish language on duolingo right now than are native speakers. Another fun fact about Duolingo: the most popular language being learned on Duolingo in Sweden is actually Swedish. Go figure.

5) Watch movies and TV shows for free (legally)

There are plenty of places to watch stuff for free on the internet – but here are a few you might not know about

Public Domain Films – If you consider yourself a movie buff and you’ve never watched a Buster Keaton silent film, now’s your chance to put up or shut up.

Rerun Century – There are many great TV series that are in the public domain. Most of the Dick van Dyke show is available, as well as the Jack Benny Show, The Adventures of Robin Hood, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Documentary Heaven – You like documentaries on some pretty obscure topics made by people you’ve never heard of? Here you go.

Tubi – many more recent TV shows and Movies for free. I recommend the TV show, “Leverage” it’s basically a weekly Oceans 11. Also if you haven’t watched “The founder” – it’s intriguing. It’s the true story of how McDonalds came to be starring Michael Keaton.

IMDB TV – Also has a lot of newer TV & Movies. I recommend Lie To Me if you’re into detective shows. If you want something twisty and mind bending (and don’t mind the R rating) then Memento is a must watch. If you want to watch a family-friendly drama that is kind of slow, but very sweet “Whale Rider” is an excellent choice.

Many others- there are plenty of legit places to stream movies and TV for free. Youtube actually has quite a selection as well and if you have a TV connected box like a Roku, Fire Stick, or Apple TV, most of the above services have apps for all of those.

6) Download the You Version Bible App

You knew this was coming. But really, do you know how cool You Version is? In addition to the App – which has virtually every translation of the Bible now – there’s a kids app and apps on TV connected devices where you can watch free video content. You can follow friends and send each other messages, or do a Bible study together and participate in discussion.

Also have you checked out their Youtube channel? Or their Bible App for Kids Youtube Channel. Or BONUS an even better Youtube channel in the same vein is the Bible Project – which has some really cool content.

7) Take some personality tests and get to know yourself (and others like you)

My personal favorite personality test is the Myers Briggs Personality Test (MBTI) The official MBTI has to be given by a trained professional, but you can take test that is a pretty good facsimile here. Also really popular right now is the Enneagram, which I’m not as big a fan of (but that’s another blog entry) one of the challenges with it is that there is no definitive test for it (I myself have gotten a different result from every test I’ve taken) and some Enneagram proponents will even tell you that you really just need to read about the nine types and think over it, asking your friends, and really taking time to get to know yourself. But the first one that pops up on Google is this one – which you have to make an account for unfortunately.

There’s also the DISC test the always telling Political Compass Test, Or you could try this list of different tests you can take to get to know yourself that includes both IQ and EQ tests. Who knows, maybe you belong in MENSA.

After you’ve taken some tests you can find groups on Facebook filled with other people who have your same personality. Sometimes it’s fun to go to these pages and ask “Does anyone else….?” questions and find out how similar you are to others with your same type.

8) Read funny Amazon Reviews

If you’ve never Googled “funny amazon reviews” then you are in for a treat. There a bevy of well known Amazon products that are home to some of the most absurd reviews. I should warn you, not all products are family friendly. Here’s one of my favorites that didn’t make the above list. I was with a group of friends not long ago and we read some of these out loud and were all in tears from laughing so hard.

10) Read/Listen to classic books (or volunteer to transcribe/read them)

Project Gutenberg is a great resource if you have a tablet or e-reader and enjoy classic books. There are 60,000 titles that are all public domain. The works of Robert Lewis Stevenson, Jules Vern, Mark Twain, and HG Wells are all available here. If you’re like me and you actually absorb things better when they’re read to you then LibriVox is the site for you. It’s free public domain audio books.

If you’re already a connoisseur of classic literature and you’ve read all of those, then you could volunteer to help with either project. If there’s a book that isn’t in either above library (and is public domain) then you could offer to transcribe it for Project Gutenberg, or record a reading of it for LibriVox.

Tomorrow Television Will Change Forever.

A couple of years ago I wrote an entry about the future of TV. One of the major players in the prediction is the Apple TV. A device that is currently a separate box with WiFi and an HDMI connector for TVs. The catalyst of this proposed future is a device and or TV that simplifies the process of developing apps, monetizes it, and rolls it out in an ecosystem that works for the US.

Most of the major networks have an app for iPad and iPhone already whereby you can watch all the most recent episodes of their current shows. If only there was a way to access the same content on demand on TV in an similar fashion while still being able to stream live events live when the time arrives.

a mock-up of Apple's new TV set

Tomorrow is Apple’s annual Word Wide Developers Conference. At the conference Apple is rumored to announce an updated line of Mac computers and an upgraded operating system for their mobile devices. Mac rumors, a website that tracks patents and leaked news, got wind of the fact that Apple will be announcing a new operating system for their apple TV device, which will presumably be the same operating system that’s used on their fabled TV set, rumored to hit the market sometime this year. Steve Jobs’ supposed final revelation was in regards to this device. Shortly before his death, Jobs talked about the new TV with his biographer, saying that he “Finally cracked it.”

We stand on the cusp of an enormous change to the way we receive television. Tomorrow at WWDC Apple will be announcing that developers can now write apps for their upcoming TV Set. What this means is that NBC, ABC, CBS, TNT, TBS, Fox and most importantly – Disney will all be able to create apps for your TV that allow you to interact with their content as they see fit. If they want a world premiere to run live – it will. If they want to make it available for a week after it showed – they can. If you want to email a friend and have them pull up a clip of a TV show right to their TV set and watch it – shebang.

Other cool features like Skype on your TV and the ability to send video messages to friends are possible as well. Advantages like being able to have a live video chat while watching a live event are also feasible. Re-airing classic shows and movies with video commentary or live chat with the stars and creators. Imagine being able to watch something on your iPhone or iPad, pause it and then resume it in full HD on your TV.

And of course let’s not forget the gaming potential. Developers can write games that can be downloaded right to your TV. Using a bluetooth or WiFi connection you can use your iPod as a touch screen controller. You can use voice activation to command the action. You can use your existing Apple game center profile to connect with friends and play co-op games. Oops! Did Apple just merge the computer and console gaming industries – I think they did.

Perhaps most intriguing in this brave new world of TV is the fact that hierarchy will soon be gone. Much like the recording industry has become obsolete in the post-modern era of internet-based marketing and delivery, soon everyone can develop an app that can deliver TV content to the world. Youtube stars and non-profits can create a an app that can sit along side your ESPN app so you can receive new content from them the same way.

When it comes to mainstream content, thought Disney is going to be the Key. I wasn’t joking earlier when I said they were most important. Disney owns the station that most men would pay a premium to have – ESPN. They also own ABC, Disney, Disney XD, ABC Family, ESPNU, 2, 3, Classic Deportes and all associated radio stations and print media. This could be a big outlet for them so long as they can monetize it. And if there is one thing that Apple is good at – it’s making money. Plus Disney and Apple are intertwined as Apple owns the majority stock in Pixar and Pixar and Disney merged a few years back.

After that comes Time Warner and News Corp. Once CNN and Fox News are on board, all of the most watched stations currently only available on cable and satellite will be available through Apple TV. Though, I feel confident that regardless of whether they make the transition cable news stations are going to see a sharp decline over the next few years as most people under 40 get their news from social media. If they don’t adapt it’s entirely likely that CNN and Fox News could both die a slow death over the next ten years.

The biggest opponent to this change is Comcast which is about as big and evil as a media corporation gets. They’ve been under investigation by the FCC constantly for questionable network neutrality, data throttling and for their efforts to block any a la carte offerings by cable stations. Unfortunately Comcast owns 51% of NBC. The fact that NBC is the lead steak holder in Hulu.com is an encouragement, but Comcast is currently the biggest cable/internet company in the States. They might try to hold out in an effort to keep cable as king. If they withhold NBC’s content that would create a large gap in the programming. Even worse if they throw their digital weight around as such to make it harder for people to use their network to access on-demand content. (They’re already suspect of such in regards to Netflix.)

At the same time NBC has been in fourth among the major broadcast networks for several years now. And all of the broadcast stations have been in decline of viewership despite over all TV viewership being on the rise. They’ll all have to follow the audience if they hope to stay relevant. It’s questionable whether stations of any kind will be needed in this new form of TV. Studios could skip the middleman and present their content right to the audience. The structure remains to be seen, but undoubtedly there will be those who adapt and those who don’t survive.

Microsoft already announced their plans to open the Xbox platform to developers in hopes of creating a similar experience – so there is competition which will drive prices down and quality up.

Believe me when I say tomorrow marks the beginning of the end for traditional television, and the dawn of something way cooler.

Music Video Friday: Knights of Cydonia

I first discovered this music video in the summer of 2007. It is still one of my favorite music videos. Its an extremely bizarre mixture of the three iconic b-movie genres: Spaghetti western, sci-fi and kung fu. Like most music videos it doesn’t make much sense, but it is visually engaging and fun to watch. The song, written and performed by muse, is actually a pretty awesome tune as well, though the words are fairly incoherent.

I apologize for the random half-clothed make-out scene in the middle of it, but I should point out that they very purposefully have the ‘director and crew’ very visible in a mirror to the far left of frame in that scene. Check it out, It’s hilarious. You’ll also want to read the credits which are pretty funny as well. One example is at the end the Roman numerals MCMLXXXI appear, which translates as 1981 – giving you an idea of the era in which the spirit of the video comes from.

Unfortunately embedding is disabled for this video, so you’ll have to visit youtube to get it. There’s a link to it at the top of the list below. If you enjoy this video there are several more versions of it that you might get a kick out of so here’s my playlist with links to all the various versions of the video.

For the next cool device, have a look see at Looxcie

The Looxcie LX1 wearable camcorder is one of the coolest devices that you never knew you needed.

Not much larger than the normal Bluetooth headset, the Looxcie is a Bluetooth enabled camcorder that records what you see. Why bluetooth enabled? Well, with the appropriate app, this small wonder can be used to record to your smartphone for easy sharing over email and social networking sites. You can also use your phone as a viewfinder to easily see exactly what your looxcie is capturing.

One of the coolest features of this device is that you don’t have to hit record to capture something. Looxcie is always recording and anytime something cool happens you just tap the ‘instant clip’ button to save a clip of the last 30 seconds. So if you see something awesome just tap the button and you’ve got a clip to share. Hold the button for 3 seconds and it’ll automatically send the clip to a predesignated email address over your phone’s data connection. You can record clips directly to your phone of up to 30 minutes in length.

At the end of the day you attach looxcie to your USB connection on your Mac (because you don’t have a PC, right?) and transfer all the video recorded that day. The looxcie records up to 5 hours of footage and when 5 hours is up it automatically starts deleting the oldest footage – so you’ll always have the last five hours the your device was powered on for. (be sure to turn it off in the restroom, just sayin.)

It also functions as a bluetooth headset for your phone and it automatically mutes the audio you’re recording if you take a call while taking video. So how much for all these features in a tiny futuristic package? This little device is priced at $199.

Downsides? I can see a few. The biggest is the video quality: 480p which will look ok on youtube, but on an HDTV it’ll look pretty poor. In the sample video you can clearly see that the tiny CMOS chip has a pretty significant rolling shutter effect, which is to be expected, but is a bigger problem than most cameras since you’re wearing the device on your head. What this means is that when you shift your head quickly in any direction, you get a distinct ‘jell-o frame’ effect that looks pretty nauseating.  At first glance the price seems pretty reasonable but its still a $200 camera that gets lower quality than most $200 pocket cameras. (a la Flip Ultra HD)

Cool things you could do with this? Many. Pretty much anytime where it’d be cool to get a person’s POV of an event you can capture it with this device. Any time you’re somewhere and something cool could happen any minute, but you don’t know when – just hit the instant clip button and you have a clip of it saved to your phone. I’d like to wear one while playing frisbee and watch the whole game from my perspective. Do a whole sunday with lots of people wearing these and intercut the footage to make a highlight video. Youth videos? Awesome. Skiing videos? Awesome. Recap videos? Awesome.

 

Some features I’d like to see added in the next version? The main thing is HD video. You can tell that they’re just trying this device out. It’ll be serious when it goes HD. Next I’d like to see an image stabilizer to make up for the rolling shutter CMOS chip.  And finally I’d like to see them make a waterproof version. Imagine swimming around wearing one of these, or taking it water skiing? Awesome. So yeah, I’m excited about the possibilities here.

Don’ you go rounin’ roun to Re Ro

Its been a while since I just posted a goofy video and this one is the funniest think I’ve see on SNL in a long time. I love trailer parodies because it lets the audience fill in their own ideas of what the plot to the movie would be like if the parody were played out.

Music Video Friday: That’s not my name

The Ting Tings are a group from the UK who have made a big splash over the past few years – their song ‘great DJ’ has appeared in numerous movie trailers and shampoo ads. This particular song got stuck in my head yesterday and now I can’t get it out. Fair warning: 1) The refrain does have the word ‘hell’ in it, so it may not be a good one to play around the kiddos if you don’t want them repeating it later. 2) If you listen to this it will be stuck in your head for at least three days.

you’ve been warned.

I love the simplicity of the way this is shot: A turn table and a white background for most of it. The energy comes from the editing and the angles. It also shows the different musical layers visually in the latter part of the song. There’s some cool techniques applied here.

Music Video Friday: Thriller by Michael Jackson

Widely regarded as the greatest music video of all time by everyone but Kanye West, Thriller is more like a musical short film than a music video. And while Its not one of my personal favorites, it is Halloween weekend, so I couldn’t resist featuring it this friday.

Thriller is the most downloaded music video on iTunes and is also probably one of the most referenced music videos in popular culture. A recent parody is a scene in Wizards of Waverly Place wherein zombies partake in a dance battle with the Wizards – said one zombie, “One music video and we’re expected to have dance battles everywhere!” There’s also the only scene my dad ever wants to watch out of the movie 13 Going On 30 wherein Jennifer Garner leads a party in the dance. But really you can find the dance anywhere; prisons, marching band shows, weddings, weddings and more weddings. Dragon*Con even attempted a world record for the most people doing the dance at once. Mexico City holds the record at almost 14,000 people.

So yeah – Thriller is pretty much the undisputed most influential music video to have been produced to date. One last interesting fact about the song that few people seem to recognize: While MJ wrote many of his own songs, Thriller was written by a guy named Rod Temperton who also wrote several other songs for Jacko.

Have a good weekend and a safe Halloween!