Synchronize your browser bookmarks

One of the most useful pieces of software for anyone with more than one computer is Foxmarks. Foxmarks is a free plug-in for the Firefox browser that seamlessly synchronizes your Firefox bookmarks and bookmark folders on any computer and any operating system that you are running it on.

This makes your bookmarks all the more valuable. You can find a new site from your home computer, bookmark it, and then see it in your work computer’s bookmarks. Foxmarks will encourage you to organize and better use your bookmarks.

With more and more software moving to the web, bookmark organization is important. Foxmarks makes that easy for all your computers.

Best Instant Messengers

There are many instant messaging options for communicating with your friends and colleagues. In order for instant messengers to work together, they need to use the same protocol. To avoid interoperability issues, consider one of the messengers listed here that supports multiple systems.

Windows and Linux

Pidgin works with all the major IM systems: AIM, ICQ, Jabber/XMPP, MSN Messenger, Yahoo!, Bonjour, Gadu-Gadu, IRC, Novell GroupWise Messenger, QQ, Lotus Sametime, SILC, SIMPLE, MySpaceIM, and Zephyr.

It is also highly customizable with lots of plugins. lists their ten favorite plug-ins.

Mac OS X

By default, the Mac comes with iChat which is the best videoconferencing solution for Mac. Unfortunately, iChat only works with Macs.  It uses a Jabber transport and connects with AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), .Mac, ICQ and XMPP.

For instant messaging and more interoperability on the Mac, Adium is similar to Pidgin and works with all the major IM protocols.

IM + Video + Calling Land Lines

If you also want videoconferencing, Skype is the most popular solution. It works on Windows, Mac, Linux, and even some mobile devices like Windows Mobile PDAs and the Sony PSP (pictured). It also has the paid options of Skype Out (calling a phone) or Skype In (getting a phone number that rings your Skype account). On the downside, Skype is a proprietary protocol that only works with Skype.

Online Real Estate Tools in Washington D.C. Area

Whether you’re buying, selling, or just want to know what’s going on, it’s easier than ever to follow real estate online.

Finding Comparables

Zillow provides a property value estimate based on neighboring comparables and their sale prices. It was started in 2005 by the people who started because they were frustrated that these tools were only available to real estate agents.

Real Estate Listings

Google recently added Real Estate to their Maps option. Google Base also recently began listing Real Estate with full search capabilities.

Long and Foster has been one of the most popular sites to search MLS listed properties.

Credit Report

Before buying a house, you need to know your credit score. You should also check it occasionally just to be sure that there are no errors. It is not uncommon to find that someone has impersonated you or that the credit agency just got something wrong. allows you to request your credit report for free once every 12 months from each of the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

Mortages provides a good starting point for finding mortgage rates.

If you are in the Military or part of a Military family, consider Pentagon Federal Credit Union or the Navy Federal Credit Union. There are local offices in Washington D.C., Virginia, and Maryland.


If you understand the comparables and have done the search yourself, you should consider a low-cost realtor.

Both ZipRealty and PenFed Realty (for Military personnel) both offer low fees or cash back.

Real Estate News

The Washington Post – Real Estate section provides real estate news and stories in D.C., Virginia, and Maryland.

Powerline vs Wi-Fi

Just about everyone knows what Wi-Fi is and most people even have it at home.  Because wireless N is not yet standardized, most people are still using wireless G.  What most people don’t know is that there is an alternative that in many cases will work better than wireless G and it uses lines you already have in your walls.


Powerline connections use your existing electrical wiring.  One huge advantage is the simplicity.  Plug one powerline box into your router with an ethernet cable and the power cord into an electrical socket.  Then put your other powerline box wherever you need ethernet and hook it up to your device with an ethernet cable.  That’s it.  You’ve got internet.  Because of the simplicity, companies like Sling Media sell powerline devices like the Slinglink Turbo Powerline Kit to make hooking up a Slingbox that much easier.


A big problem with wireless is that you never actually get the claimed speeds.  Wireless G claims a theoretical max of 54Mbps.  Cut that number in half if you have two wireless devices talking to each other. With expected interference, such as neighbor’s Wi-Fi, you can likely cut that number in half again.  In my experience, if you get 20Mbps from ethernet device to Wi-Fi device, that’s about typical.  If you’re trying to move some big data like an HD show from one tivo to another, then you’re going from Wi-Fi to Wi-Fi and only getting about 10Mbps.  This is painfully slow.

This is where powerline becomes very handy.  If you just move one of your TiVos to powerline instead of Wi-Fi, you don’t have to cut that speed in half.  Powerline can take some trial and error to setup but if you find the best plugs to use, you can expect to get near 20Mbps and some newer powerline technology claims even more.  The end result is you can double your TiVo transfer speeds because only 1 TiVo on Wi-Fi can use the full 20Mbps while 1 on powerline is also getting 20Mbps.


Finding the best places to put the powerline devices may be the hardest part.  If speed is not important, you can probably use just about any 2 plugs.  I have yet to see 2 plugs that didn’t work at least a little.  The closer they are physically on the wire, the better the performance should be so it helps to know how your electrical is ran in your house.  If you don’t know, trial and error is a must as well as bandwidth testing software such as Qcheck.

Excellent Alternative

Everyone has Wi-Fi but that creates even more interference that slows it down. Powerline is a great alternative or complement to help maximize your home networking. Once wireless N is standardized, it will be much faster than wireless G but it will never be as simple to setup as powerline.

PDF software.. not just from Adobe

PDF, standing for Portable Document Format, is a common format used for sending read-only files. While it was invented by Adobe in 1993, it is now an open standard. So Adobe and others now make some useful PDF tools.

PDF Readers

Of course, you can get the free Acrobat Reader from Adobe.

If you want a smaller and faster reader, try the Sumatra PDF (Windows only).

PDF Writers

A great addition to any computer is a PDF writer, which allows you to create PDF files from other documents. Macs can do this by default as a print option. Windows users can download PDFCreator. It adds PDFCreator as a printer which is handy if you want to make PDFs or just for when you don’t have a real printer around.