SAT TEST PREPARATION

khan academyKhanAcademy.org has free preparation for the SAT college entrance exam and other tests. They’re offering hundreds of previously unreleased math, reading and writing questions from old SAT tests, and 200 videos showing step-by-step solutions to each question.

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ELEVEN STEPS TO A PERFECT LOGO

logoEleven Steps to a Perfect Logo” has good tips.

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DOLPHIN ASKS FOR HUMAN HELP AND GETS IT

dolphin Dolphin Asks a Diver for Help, Diver Lends a Hand.” In this amazing video, a dolphin gets untangled from a fishing line by swimming to a diver for help and staying with him until he’s freed.

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THE 22 MOST BEAUTIFULLY SECLUDED PLACES IN THE WORLD

an island in IcelandThe 22 Most Beautifully Secluded Places In The World” are lovely beyond belief, including an island in Iceland, the steppes of Kazakhstan, the Peak District in England, Mount Shuksan of Washington state, parts of Ireland and all over the world.

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16 ROOMS WITH A VIEW YOU’LL WISH YOU HAD

rooms-with-a-view-0716 Rooms With a View You’ll Wish You Had” has some of the most beautiful views we’ve ever seen in London, Cape Cod, the Australian Alps and beyond.

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ILLUMINATED DIORAMAS FROM HAND-CUT PAPER

illuminated dioramasThis Couple Makes Beautiful Illuminated Dioramas From Hand-Cut Paper” has some remarkable art works cut from paper.

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15 INCREDIBLE THINGS CUT IN HALF

Jawbreaker cut in half

Jawbreaker cut in half

15 Incredible Photos of Things Cut in Half–” Search on that phrase to see how odd things look inside. A Leica camera lens looks incredibly complex, jawbreaker gum balls are beautiful, an engine is a marvel and a photo copy machine looks bizarre.

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CUTTING THE CORD

winegard antennaAccording to Forbes Magazine, a fifth of American TV watchers are “definitely” or “probably” going to drop cable TV this year. That’s around 20 million people. Are they right? Should you join them?

Using Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Prime, you can get everything but the latest movies, and cut your home entertainment bill by 80 percent or more. (It seems likely that cable companies will respond by merging.) If you like older movies, you’ll find a lot of them for free on YouTube. We recently watched “The Egyptian,” a lavish production with big-name stars.

That all comes in over the Internet. To bring in some free broadcast channels you just need to add an antenna to your TV set. Aye, there’s the rub. Roof antennas work pretty well, but if you live in an apartment, that’s just not practical.

The best, and lightest antenna we’ve tried so far is the “FlatWave Indoor HDTV Antenna” from Winegard ($34 at Amazon). It weighs only a third of an ounce and is a little bigger than a sheet of letter  paper. It’s so thin, (2/100 of an inch), we thought at first it was a piece of the packaging. But its rubbery feel saved it from the trash can.  Plug it in, hang it on the wall or place it near a window, and scan for channels. We just tossed it behind the TV, and got 18 channels right away. Most came in crystal clear, like high definition TV. A few had pictures that broke up into little pieces, but we’ve had that happen on some cable channels as well.

These channels do not come in from a cable service. If you Google “over the air broadcast schedule,” these are channels usually listed with a decimal point, like “5.1,” for example, instead of channel five. Many of them show movies, often some pretty good movies.

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GETTING THE MUSIC YOU WANT

freemake youtube to mp3It’s easier than ever to fill up a portable device with music to take on the road. A free Windows program called “FreeMake YouTube MP3 Converter” can collect music and voice from any YouTube video. This lets you make your own playlist from favorite movie scenes and concerts. You might also want to take up dialogue from great movie moments.

We think there’s nothing better than the blues and jazz from the movie, “The Blues Brothers.”  So we tested FreeMake by pulling a couple of the best scenes from that movie (they’re all great) into our computer. The program quickly and easily converted the music to digital. We picked up some voice along the way as well, getting a few seconds of Ray Charles before he went into his piano rendition of “Shake a Tail Feather.” Then we collected Aretha Franklin singing “Respect,” from the same movie.

Warning: During installation, be sure to click on “custom” and then uncheck boxes for any extras it wants to install. This is stuff you would not normally want to have since it just gunks up your computer. You’ll actually have to click “custom” twice to be sure you’re not getting unwanted junk. The only box we left checked was the one that created an icon for our desktop, to make finding the program easier.

The program has over 100 million users, but we found their “Freemake YouTube Downloader,” another free program, even handier. Though it’s illegal to download YouTube videos for commercial use, saving them for your own enjoyment seems harmless. And for some frosting on the cake: the program strips out ads.

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NEWS YOU CAN USE

facebook paperThe much-touted Facebook “Paper” is a news app for the iPhone, but it only works if you have the latest iOS 7 operating system. If you have an older iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, it won’t install.

No need to cry over crumpled Paper, though, there are many alternatives. “Flipboard” lets you create your own magazine of news sources. It’s easier to customize than Paper.

For Android phones and tablets, there’s Google Play Newstand, which shows you headlines that expand to full stories when tapped. We use the free AP Mobile (Associated Press) app.

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