Best of the Web: App reviews

We’re taking a trip around the web to find sites with informative and entertaining app reviews. With the explosion of smartphones and social media, apps are now everywhere, and younger kids view them as ubiquitous as television. For the rest of us, it’s amazing how one app can make our life easier and completely change the way we’ve done something for years. Other are just fun as hell. We’re flooded with them however, so it’s always nice to get tips from experts around the web.

Gizmodo iPhone App of the Week
This powerhouse tech blog focuses specifically on apps for particular devices, with this one here for the iPad.

ZDNet
You’ll find an app of the week feature in the content-rich apps section of this popular tech site.

APP Chronicles
Tons of write-ups of free apps.

Bullz-Eye App of the Week
Bullz-Eye.com primarily covers men’s lifestyle topics, but this feature covers a wide variety of apps.

ABC News Technology Review
This tech section has an well-done app of the week series.

Best sites for renting rooms and vacation homes

The sunset view above was taken from my old apartment in Santa Monica. It was right on the beach and I suspect it would have been very attractive to rent on a nightly basis for days I couldn’t be there. The first site listed below didn’t exist at the time, but now people from around the world can rent spare rooms or entire houses or apartments using Airbnb.com with access to over 1 million people who might be interested.

We’v listed some of the best sites out there for renting rooms and vacation homes apart from your standard travel sites. If we’ve missed a good one (or a new one is launched) please let us know.

Airbnb.com
This site is getting all the buzz in this space. You can read much more about it on publications like Forbes and Fortune, as the founders have raised over $120 million in venture capital. The site is beautifully designed and very easy to use. It’s easy to post rooms or places to rent and it’s equally easy to find what you’re looking for. The site is also loaded with photos and users are ranked with feedback so you have some idea of the kind of person you’re dealing with.

HomeAway.com
This site is geared to vacation rentals, and the quality of the rentals seems to be excellent.

CouchSurfing.org
The ethos here is very different. The idea isn’t to make money but to connect with people who are traveling or find people willing to host travelers. It’s much more suited to the backpack set, and this nonprofit has created an interesting community of like-minded people.

HomeExchange.com
The name says it all here. We’ve seen this in the movies and the concept is pretty simple. Swap homes with someone else looking for travel and nobody has to pay anything.

Craigslist
It’s crude and simple, but it’s still an amazing resource. Go to any town and you can find places to rent right away, and you can move in often the same day.

Sublet.com
The design of this site hasn’t been updated in years and it shows. That said, you will find some good listings here, so it’s always worth checking out.

Tom Friedman discovers the cloud

Tom Friedman is usually very good at explaining the disruptive influence of new technology and the implications for the global economy, even if he isn’t the first (or second) to notice something.

The latest phase in the I.T. revolution is being driven by the convergence of social media — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Groupon, Zynga — with the proliferation of cheap wireless connectivity and Web-enabled smartphones and “the cloud” — those enormous server farms that hold and constantly update thousands of software applications, which are then downloaded (as if from a cloud) by users on their smartphones, making them into incredibly powerful devices that can perform myriad tasks.

The emergence of the cloud, explained Alan Cohen, a vice president of Nicira, a new networking company, “means than anyone can have the computing resources of Google and rent it by the hour.” This is speeding up everything — innovation, product cycles and competition.

The October issue of Fast Company has an article about the designer Scott Wilson, who thought of grafting the body of an iPod Nano onto colorful wristbands, turning them into watchlike devices that could wake you up and play your music. He had no money, though, to bring his concept to market, so he turned to Kickstarter, the Web-based funding platform for independent creative projects. He posted his idea on Nov. 16, 2010, reported Fast Company, and “within a month, 13,500 people from 50 countries had ponied up nearly $1 million.” Apple soon picked up the product for its stores. Said Alexis Ringwald, 28, who recently founded an education start-up, her second Silicon Valley venture: “I have many friends — they introduce themselves as ‘reformed’ Wall St. bankers and lawyers — who have abandoned conventional careers and are now launching start-ups.”

Some like Rich Kaarlgard have been describing this as the “cheap revolution” for years. Friedman is explaining the new developments in that area. We now have it all at our fingertips all the time. It’s a powerful and exciting development. Kickstarter is a great crowdsourcing example that thrives in this environment.

Friedman uses the column to contrast Wall Street and Silicon Valley. It’s a good read.

Around the web: Valentine’s Day Gift Guides

It’s that time of year again, as countless companies try to get you to buy stuff for your sweetheart or your spouse (or the gal you’re hooking up with). Several men’s lifestyle web sites have put together gift guides for Valentine’s Day to give you ideas on where you can spend your money.

AskMen.com has a cool guide focusing on some of the Valentine’s Day classics. It’s a convenient checklist of different options, from chocolates to a bed and breakfast getaway.

Bullz-Eye.com’s Valentine’s Day Gift Guide has similar suggestions, but the article by Shelly Perry explores the different ways gifts will be interpreted by a man’s wife or girlfriend. Are you in a serious relationship, or do you want to keep it casual? Your gift will tell a great deal, so put some thought in the message you want to send. For example, jewelry is a very popular gift, but the type of jewelry you give can influence how she interprets the gift!

Maxim focuses on some unique gifts in their gift guide. The scarf idea was a pretty good one.

If your gal likes green stuff, here’s a video about greening your Valentine’s Day.

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