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Top 10 Ways to Take Your Media Collections Digital

Top 10 Ways to Take Your Media Collections Digital

There's nothing quite like the feel of a new book, the smell of an old record, or the joy of heading to the comic book store every Wednesday. Sometimes, though, those physical collections can be a burden—like when you're starved for space or want something more portable for traveling. Here are 10 forms of media you can take into the digital age.

10. Scan Photos to Your PC

Top 10 Ways to Take Your Media Collections DigitalExpand

You've probably already switched to a digital camera for most of the photos and video you take, but is any of it organized? And what about all your photos from the pre-digital days? If you have a flatbed scanner, take some time to scan those photos into your digital collection and touch them up. If you have the negatives, those can often produce better results, and this simple DIY negative scanner should work pretty well. Once you've got everything in digital, don't just leave it sitting around—come up with a good organization scheme, whether it's just in folders or using a photo management app like Picasa or Lyn.


9. Subscribe to Your Radio Shows as Podcasts

Top 10 Ways to Take Your Media Collections DigitalExpand

Radio may be convenient, but it doesn't offer many other advantages. If you have a lot of radio shows you really like, chances are they're already available online as podcasts, sometimes with pretty extensive archives. And, with the right app and a little configuration, you can turn all your favorite shows into a custom radio station that you can stream from anywhere, on your own time. Check out our favorite apps for iOS and Android, and our tips on how to supercharge your podcasts for more.

8. Play Your Video Games, Old and New

If you play video games on a PC, you've probably already started using steam to buy and organize them all—after all, why would you want to buy a disc, especially when online stores have such great sales? But when it comes to those classic games from your past, you may still have a few old systems knocking around. Those are great, but if you want to play on-the-go, you can turn your smartphone or tablet into a portable retro game arcade, or create one for your house that combines all those systems into one. You can even create your own retro arcade table for some serious playing.

7. Turn Your Recipes and Cookbooks Into a Digital Database

Top 10 Ways to Take Your Media Collections Digital

Everyone's gotta eat, and cooking for yourself is the ultimate way to save money and eat great food. But once you start building up a good collection of recipes, it can become hard to sort through. Either you've got a shelf full of cookbooks or a box full of disorganized recipe cards you have to hand-write yourself. Luckily, all those cookbook recipes are probably online somewhere, and you can import them right into a digital recipe organization or meal planning tool. Then you can search for the recipes you want, plan your meals for the week, and even create a grocery list from the ingredients. You'll never go analog again.

6. Read Your Newspapers and Magazines Online

Top 10 Ways to Take Your Media Collections Digital

Some of you digital mavens may scoff at those of us who still read old school newspapers and magazines, but they're perfect ways to catch up on news or keep yourself entertained when you don't have time to dig through RSS feeds or crawl Twitter. However, paper news does have one downside: it takes up a lot of space and wastes a lot of paper, especially once you start building up a collection. Luckily, going digital is easy: just grab your favorite news and magazine apps on your phone, tablet, or rooted ereader. Apple's Newsstand and Android's Google Play have some pretty great collections, and you can also get a lot of cheap magazines from apps like Zinio. If you're looking for old issues, you can often find them via Google Books or other sources. And when you're done, those old newspapers make great odor removers. Photo by Hector Alejandro.

5. Immortalize Your Journals, Drawings, and Other Personal Creations

Top 10 Ways to Take Your Media Collections Digital

Chances are you have a few old keepsakes lying around, from journals you wrote when you were younger to drawings and other projects. You probably don't want to get rid of these, and you shouldn't—but if you don't have room to store them nearby or want to make them easier to access, you can scan them in just like you do photos. Going forward, you might consider taking some of those hobbies ditigal—for example, it's really easy to keep a private journal online or get started with digital drawing. It lacks some of the emotion of pen-to-paper, but you can also do a lot of other cool stuff with it.


4. Consolidate Your Massive Comic Book Collection

Top 10 Ways to Take Your Media Collections Digital

If you're tired of digging through long boxes just to read a few of your old comics, it might be time to take them digital. You can subscribe to your favorite comics from companies like Marvel and DC with apps like ComiXology, or use a CBR reader for old, indie, or other scanned issues. Check out the best comic book readers for the desktop, iOS, and Android for more, and start collecting.


3. Load Up Your Ereader with Books

Top 10 Ways to Take Your Media Collections Digital

Physical books still have their time and place for sure, but when you don't want to carry around a giant tome like Lord of the Rings, an ereader is the perfect option. Not only can you load up on ebooks for free or cheap, but a lot of ebook apps actually enhance your reading experience by helping you keep track of characters, look up words and locations, search through text, translate it, and more. Check out the five best ebook stores for more, and if you have some ebooks lying around already, you can consolidate them and remove their DRM with Calibre for a truly organized collection.

2. Rip Your DVDs, Blu-Rays, and VHS Tapes

Top 10 Ways to Take Your Media Collections Digital

If your shelves are buckling under the weight of your massive DVD and Blu-Ray collection, maybe it's time to go digital. Maybe you've already started with a service like Netflix, but when it comes to the movies you already bought, you have a lot of choices for downsizing that physical collection. Our favorite method, though is ripping those discs and crafting your own personal library of movies on a home theater PC or set-top box. You probably know how to rip a DVD, and ripping Blu-Rays is almost as easy, so what are you waiting for? Analog formats like VHS are more complicated, but with the right equipment, it can be done.


1. Organize and Upgrade Your Massive Music Library

Top 10 Ways to Take Your Media Collections Digital

Okay, so you probably knew this was coming—in fact, you've probably already gone digital with most of your music collection anyways. Ripping CDs is a breeze, and music stores like iTunes and Amazon make it so easy to buy music you've probably ditched CDs altogether. But if your library's a little overwhelmed, it may be time to go clean it up a bit—get rid of stuff you don't want, make sure your metadata is all correct, and so on. Try out a new music player or upgrade those old, low-bitrate songs. Streaming services like Spotify and Rdio can get you pretty far, but they probably won't replace your library 100%. And if you do still have some analog music lying around—like old records—you can digitize and clean those up for your library too, so you can listen to them anywhere.

Top 10 Ways to Take Your Media Collections Digital


Five Best Language Learning Tools

Five Best Language Learning Tools


Learning a new language is difficult, which is why there's a huge market for tools and apps to help you do it. Some of them are really helpful and help you get up to speed quickly, others are a money sink. This week we're looking at five of the best, based on your nominations.


Anki, Japanese for "memorizing," is a flashcard program that's been around for years (as early as 2006, although it could very well have been initially developed before that). Because it's a flashcard style program, its focus is on memorization. It'll display you a word, phrase, image, or even play a sound, and then leave it to you to make the connection, repeat it, interpret it, and commit it to memory. Anki is great for languages, but it's also useful for studying equations, diagrams, names and faces, and more—its strength is in the fact that you can load it up with custom card sets depending on what it is you want to memorize. There are tons of shared decks available in the app that you can download and start memorizing right away.

Lifehacker reader Gabriel Wyner was tasked with learning four languages in the past few years for his career as an opera singer, and in the process… Read…

Anki is free (although donations to support the developer are accepted) and cross-platform (available for Windows, OS X, Linux/BSD, iOS, Android, and there's even a web client). If Anki seems familiar to you, it should: We've featured it before, in Gabriel Wyner's guide to how she learned four languages in a few years. It worked for her, and she shows you how she made it work so you can try it yourself.2


Memrise is a language learning program that extends beyond vocabulary and language to things like history and science, but at its core it's a flashcard-style program that's augmented with memory tricks, images, and other useful tools to make learning a new language easier. Its focus is largely on memorization, but it's also designed to help you have fun learning the language you're trying to pick up. Memrise gamifies the process a bit, awarding you points and reputation as you learn, and the opportunity to compete against other users while you learn and complete activities. If you're interested in seeing what you can learn before you sign up, you can browse some of their courses before you give it a try.

Memrise is free, web-based, and has iOS and Android apps so you can take your lessons on the go. Those of you who praised Memrise pointed out that it's free, fun, and even though it too has a focus on memorization and repetition, the courses are numerous and there are some really great ones to sign up for that will help you pick up a new language quickly. However, since the courses are largely crowdsourced, you have to make sure you find a great one.


Duolingo takes a different approach to learning a new language than just memorizing words and phrases. Duolingo allows you to essentially learn a new language while translating sites on the web. Duolingo has language learning programs and lessons for its users, and as you take the lessons, you'll find yourself translating the web as you browse—effectively learning to read and speak the language you're interested in by looking at and hearing what native speakers are writing and saying. Of course, as with most programs you'll spend most of your time translating, seeing the language visually, and dictating. There are some speech exercises too though, although they're not the primary focus. Duolingo has courses in a handful of languages right now, which is a bit smaller than some of the other contenders, but the courses in those languages are incredibly complete. The courses are structured in a way like games as well—you earn skill points as you complete lessons, and if you make mistakes you lose "lives." If you lose too many, you'll have to re-take the lesson.

One of the coolest features about Duolingo is that it checks your progress as you go forward. It learns from where you make mistakes and which types of questions you have trouble with, and goes from there. It's completely free, available on the web, Android, and iOS, and it's earned a lot of praise. We've mentioned it before, and again when its mobile apps came out.


Duolingo is a fantastic new way to learn a new language for free—while also helping to translate the world wide web. The interactive lessons teach… Read…

Duolingo Teaches You a New Language on the Go

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Pimsleur Method

The Pimsleur Method is an audio-based method that focuses on participation in speaking and sound exercises than strict memorization and flashcards. If you've ever seen a parody of someone learning a new language by listening to a tape that encourages them to parrot back phrases and words after a native speaker says them aloud, you're familiar with the Pimsleur Method. The method definitely has reading and vocabulary exercises, but it also focuses on speaking exercises and learning to speak a language aloud as well as learning to read one. Each exercise is about 30 minutes, where you speak phrases in the target language and your own language, and as new phrases and words are introduced, your memory is reinforced with older ones. Pimsleur is available in over 50 languages, has a massively long track record (going back to the 1960s), and has been used by individuals and large organizations to train people in new languages.

Pimsleur is a commercial product, so you should expect to pay for it. How much varies on the type of program you want to take, whether it's conversational or not, any added features, and so on. There are webapps and mobile apps designed to complement your lessons, too. You can grab a 30-minute lesson for free to see if it's the kind of thing that would work for you, and after that you have to pick a language and pay up. Even used in concert with some of the other methods in the roundup for vocabulary and reading, Pimsleur does well at teaching you to speak.


Pore over self-study language lessons and practice chatting with other language enthusiasts at web site LiveMocha. If you need more individual… Read…

Livemocha is an extremely comprehensive language learning community and program, packed with native speakers (over 12 million people from close to 200 countries) and offering instruction in over 38 languages. It's relatively new, having launched in 2007, and much of its content is completely free. The approach is almost entirely web based, with live classes, conversations with native speakers, tutorial videos, and more all available right at your computer. You can even get private tutoring through Livemocha. Part of Livemocha's charm is that it encourages you to use the internet in the language you want to learn. The service also harnesses the power of social media to help you learn your target language as well. You learn from native speakers, are graded by other students who are fluent in the language you want to learn, and you can give back as much as you get.

Livemocha was recently acquired by Rosetta Stone, but that hasn't slowed it down. While the courses are incredibly complete, with dozens of hours of coursework available for each language, you can sign up for free and take a handful of lessons without paying anything. Eventually you'll hit a point where if you want to continue your lessons you'll have to open your wallet. Paying members shell out $99 per year, or $9.95 per month to unlock everything available. Individual courses can set you back $25 each, and if you use Livemocha's built-in credit system and help other people learn your language, you can unlock courses to take.

Five Best Language Learning Tools


Block Facebook Apps From Posting to Your Feed

How to Block Annoying Facebook Apps From Posting to Your Feed

Your friends are having a fun time with some trendy new Facebook app and you don't want to be the cranky curmudgeon that complains, but you also don't want to see their posts. What do you do? Block the app of course.

While this feature isn't particularly new, it can prove very handy if you're one of the growing number of people who don't like to see certain apps. To permanently end the flood of posts from a particular app, here's what you need to do:

  1. Click the drop down menu attached to the post itself.
  2. Select "Hide all from [app name]." (Note: if you're using the new interface, you may have to select "Hide" and then choose to block all from that app.)
  3. Enjoy life.

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If you ever need to unblock the app for whatever reason, you can undo it by going to your Facebook Settings and, under Blocking, removing the block on the app. Though, in certain cases, you may never even want to. This trick works for people too, as we've mentioned before, but we thought this was worth revisiting with the rise in certain apps.


How to Block Annoying Facebook Apps From Posting to Your Feed


Read Later" Apps Compared: Pocket vs. Instapaper vs. Readability

"Read Later" Apps Compared: Pocket vs. Instapaper vs. Readability

Chances are, you stumble upon a lot of articles during the day that look interesting, but that you don't have time to read right now. Lots of services have cropped up to solve this problem, and today we're looking at the most popular three and pitting them against one another: Pocket, Instapaper, and Readability. Here's how they stack up.

We've touched on this subject a few times before, and this article originally appeared back in March of 2012 (which is why some of the comments are outdated). However, with the years come new names, new features, and more. So, we've updated this comparison to include the latest versions of each app.


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Pocket (Formerly Read It Later)

"Read Later" Apps Compared: Pocket vs. Instapaper vs. Readability

Pocket was the first of these bookmark and read later services back when it was called Read It Later, and as such has an impressive spread of supported devices and apps. It's also come a long way in the looks department, and has some killer features that make it our favorite of the three.

Price: Free

Supported Devices: Pocket has official apps for iOS, Android, Chrome, and the web. There are also third party clients for Windows Phone, BlackBerry, WebOS, and others available.

Supported Apps: Pocket has, by a good margin, the most support among third party apps. If you want to save articles from Pulse, Flipboard, the Onion, TweetBot, the Alien Blue Reddit Client, and other apps, Pocket is the service to use. It also has browser extensions for Firefox, Chrome, and Safari, and a bookmarklet that works in any browser. For everything else, it has an easy save-by-email function. You can view the full list of supported apps here.

Interface & Features: Pocket is probably the most feature-packed of the three clients. Apart from the features mentioned above, Pocket can also:

  • Save embedded video in any article so you can watch them inline. No other read-it-later app does this (though you must unfortunately be online for this feature to work in Pocket).
  • Send articles to other people via email, or—even better—straight to other Pocket users.
  • Choose from two different fonts, multiple font sizes, and three different color palettes (black on white, white on black, and sepia).
  • Choose from two views on the home screen: a tiled "card" view and a traditional list view.
  • Tag articles for easier browsing

Who Should Use It: When in doubt, Pocket probably supports your device of choice and the apps you use. It has a solid feature set and a well put together interface, plus it's supported by nearly everyone that supports a bookmark and read later app. Currently, it's our favorite read later service.


"Read Later" Apps Compared: Pocket vs. Instapaper vs. Readability

Instapaper was long popular with the iOS crowd, but has since expanded to other platforms. Its always been praised for its design, but we think its biggest strength lies in its article discovery. Not only can you save articles you found on the web, but the ability to follow your friends on Instapaper is a great way to pick up a few more, plus the Editor's Picks help you find articles you wouldn't have otherwise read. It's mainly focused on the Mac and iOS side of things, but has a lot of third party support on other platforms too.

Price: $3.99 on iOS, $2.99 on Android. Instapaper also offers a $1/month subscription service that lets you search your entire archive of articles, which is handy.

Supported Devices: Instapaper officially only supports iOS, Android, and the Kindle. You can also export your articles in ePub format, for use on any ereader that supports it.

Supported Apps: Instapaper doesn't have quite as many supported apps as Pocket, and many of them are iOS and Mac apps (like Reeder, NetNewsWire, and Tweetbot), but the list is still impressive. You can also submit articles via a bookmarklet or by email. Check out Instapaper's list of supported apps for more information.

Interface & Features: Instapaper has a very pretty interface, and has grown to include a solid list of features. Apart from the above, Instapaper also lets you:

  • Choose from 14 different fonts, multiple font sizes, paragraph spacing, and line spacing options as well as three color palletes. Instapaper has more choices for customizing the reader interface than any other app of its type.
  • Follow other people on Instapaper and read articles they've "liked"
  • Discover popular articles others are reading through Instapaper's "The Feature" section (which is a little wonky and includes a lot of duplicates, but is still a great way to find stuff to read)
  • Choose from two views on the home screen: a tiled "card" view and a traditional list view.
  • Scroll through articles by tilting your device back and forth.
  • Define words you don't know using an offline dictionary.
  • Organize articles in folders for easier browsing.
  • Search your entire archive of articles (pro subscription only).

Who Should Use It: If you love choosing between a bunch of different fonts, like novel features like tilt scrolling, and have other friends using Instapaper, this app is for you. In our experience, it doesn't always work as well as other apps at stripping and presenting articles, but as far as design configurability goes, it's the most powerful of the three.


"Read Later" Apps Compared: Pocket vs. Instapaper vs. Readability

Readability has always been a big name in making web articles more readable, but it's way behind the times on the bookmark service and mobile apps. Still, while it may not be as mature and feature-filled as its cousins, its simplicity may win over people who just want to get reading.

Price: Free

Supported Devices: Readability supports iOS, Android, and Kindle devices, and it has extensions for Firefox, Chrome, and Safari, plus the usual bookmarklets and add-by-email features.

Supported Apps: Readability doesn't have a lot of app integration, though it does work with a few popular ones, like Pulse, Reeder, Flipboard, Tweetbot, Longofm, and iCab Mobile. Check out Readability's apps page for more info.

Interface & Features: Readability looks pretty similar to Instapaper, but with fewer options. We think it looks a little nicer and its gestures and animations really make its interface nice, but it isn't nearly as feature-filled as the other apps. With it, you can:

  • Navigate the app with a number of handy gestures
  • Tag articles for easier browsing
  • See what other people are reading with the "Top Reads" list, which is an awesome way to find new articles
  • Choose from two views on the home screen: a tiled "card" view and a traditional list view.
  • Choose from five different fonts, five text sizes, five settings for column width, and two color palletes (light and dark).

Who Should Use It: Readability is probably the prettiest in our opinion, both in interface design, gestures, and animations, but it doesn't have a ton of features or support a lot of apps. If you just want something simple, Readability will work fine, but otherwise, we'd recommend skipping it in favor of Pocket or Instapaper.

Read Later" Apps Compared: Pocket vs. Instapaper vs. Readability


How to Send Large Files Over Email

How to Send Large Files Over Email


Many email servers refuse to accept email attachments over 10MB in size. While attachment sizes haven’t kept up with the times, there are other easy ways to send someone large files over email.

If you’re using Gmail or, your email service will automatically give you a helping hand and suggest alternatives. If you’re using a desktop email client or another service, you may need to know about these tricks yourself.

What’s the Maximum Size of an Email Attachment?

In theory, there’s no limit to the amount of data you can attach to an email. Email standards don’t specify any sort of size limit. In practice, most email servers enforce their own size limits.

In general, when attaching files to an email, you can be reasonably sure that up to 10MB of attachments are okay. Some email servers may have smaller limits, but 10MB is generally the standard.

Gmail allows you to attach up to 25MB to a single email, but this is only guaranteed to work if you’re emailing other Gmail users. As soon as the email leaves Gmail’s servers, it could be rejected by another email server. Many servers are configured to not accept more than 10MB of attachments.


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It’s not even as simple as looking at the maximum attachment size of the service you use and the service you’re emailing — emails often travel over several mail transfer agents when they’re sent, so you may have your attachment rejected by a server along the way if you attach too much data.

You should also bear in mind that email attachments are generally MIME encoded, which increases their size by about 33%. So 10MB of files on your disk will become about 13MB of data when attached to an email.

Use a Cloud Storage Service

By far the simplest option would be storing the file — or files — you want to share in a cloud storage service like Dropbox, Google Drive, or SkyDrive. You could then share the file with someone and inform them that the file is shared over email. They could click a link and download the file directly to their computer.

If you use Gmail or, you’ll find that Google and Microsoft have integrated Google Drive and SkyDrive into their respective email services. Just click the Google Drive or SkyDrive button when sending an email and you’ll be able to share a file via email. Gmail and Outlook will walk you through choosing a file that already exists in your cloud storage drive or uploading a new file.

If you use something like Dropbox, you can share the file from the cloud storage service’s website. For example, right-click a file on Dropbox’s website and select Share link if you use Dropbox.


This is the option many email providers are pushing us towards — if you try to attach a large file in Gmail or, you’ll be prompted to upload it to Google Drive or SkyDrive first.


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If you’re looking for a more traditional, do-it-yourself method, you can opt to split the file up into smaller parts. For example, if you had a 50MB file you wanted to email, you could use a file compression program like 7-Zip to create an archive containing that file, splitting the archive into five 10MB pieces.


You could then attach all the 10MB portions to separate emails. The recipient would have to download each attachment and use a file extraction program to extract the larger, complete file from the separate archives.

This traditional method still works as well as it always did. However, it can be fairly cumbersome. Many people would be confused by the separate attachments and wouldn’t enjoy jumping through hoops to reassemble them. If you’re not sure whether your recipient will know how to do this, it’s probably better to choose an easier method.

Use a Large-File Sending Service


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In response to the difficulty of sending large file attachments over email, a large number of large-file-sending services have sprung up online. These services allow you to upload a file and give you a link. You can then paste that link into an email and the recipient can click the link and download the file.

These services have to make money somehow, and they may do it by displaying ads, limiting the maximum file size available to free users, or demanding a subscription fee. We’ve covered the many online services for sending and sharing large files before.

Such options work fine, but you may prefer using a cloud storage service instead. When you use one of these services, you’re entrusting it with your files — that works okay if your files aren’t particularly sensitive, but you’ll probably want to shy away from uploading sensitive data to a free service you haven’t heard of before. Of course, you could encrypt the files before uploading them — but that would add additional hassle for the recipient, too.


Many email services also block potentially dangerous file types, like .EXE files, because they could contain malware. If you used the services above instead, you’d be able to send links to such files without them being blocked.

How to Send Large Files Over Email

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