Friday, May 04, 2007

Top 15 geek blog sites

Sure, the list is subjective, but we think this is one of the best catalogs of blogs that has ever been published. The entries ran the gamut, from serious technology news and reviews to commentary on games and the latest tech gadgets. We included some honorable mentions at the end because the competition was so close.

Of course, not everyone will agree with our selection. If you think a blog site that's not on our list deserved a top 15 spot, share it with us in the comments section.

1) Lifehacker
Lifehackers' motto says it all: "Don't live to geek, geek to live." This blog offers timesavers of just about every stripe, from Firefox shortcuts to tips from the "Getting things done" faithful.

2) IT Toolbox Blogs
IT Toolbox has a number of "in the trenches" IT pros who talk about technology and management issues. There are specialist blogs dealing with security, databases and project management, among other subjects. It's a versatile site.

3) Valleywag
Bring in the noise, bring in the snark. Valleywag is for those who believe that the tech industry lives or dies by the scuttlebutt pinging around Silicon Valley. And it's amusing for those of us who prefer that the lotus-eaters of Northern California stick with the dishing and tongue-wagging, leaving the rest of us to get the real work done.

4) Kotaku
Kotaku is the snarky, gamer uber-blog. It has everything from reviews and gossip to cheat tips. Just about anything you'll ever need, including which game to buy and how to play it.

5) Danger Room
Wired's military and defense blog writes about some of the coolest and scariest military technologies -- not to mention scandals, debates and other military news. Lots of video and imagery are included.

6) Gizmodo
Gizmodo's got the scoop on all the latest toys and cool and wacky inventions -- from high-def TVs and coffee makers to booze belts and USB drives. You've got to love a site that publishes photos of a solar-powered bathing suit. Yeah, they also blog about serious technology news too.

7) O'Reilly Radar
This is where you can read Tim O'Reilly (founder of O'Reilly publishing) and others discuss networking, programming, open source, intellectual property, politics and Web 2.0, emerging technology.

8) Techdirt
Techdirt is a newsy, "tell it like it is" blog that frequently features debates on the hot issues in the Internet and computer fields. Scandals are a specialty. Simplicity is its hallmark.

9) Groklaw
Groklaw's raison d'etre is needling SCO in its long-running legal fights against IBM and Novell, but the discussion sometimes veers toward other issues that involve technology, intellectual property, and government regulations.

10) Hack a Day
Want to learn how to add USB to a cheap Linux router? Create a snake robot? How about an XBox 360 laptop? Hack a Day has these basement projects and many more. This site is for the serious techie. At the same time, it's good for a laugh or a new hobby.

11) Engadget
As Coke is to Pepsi, so Engadget is to Gizmodo. It's all about gear, gossip, techish issues and the occasional rant. It's got great product photos, and the editors have access to pre- and early-release gadgetry. Also, some really funny home-made junk. But we prefer Gizmodo.

12) Feedster
Like drinking from the hose. This Web page brings together blog sites about technology, sports, celebrity gossip, food, personal experiences -- you name it. It also offers a blog search feature that allows you to input words or phrases, and it has a very cool RSS aggregator for news feeds. It also injects some great humor into technology news. An all-around great site.

13) Forever Geek
Forever Geek is a great site with a myriad blogs on diverse topics, from technology and general interest news to movie and game reviews. Definitely a geek paradise. If you want to learn about the upcoming Iron Man movie or read a review of Photoshop CS3, this is the place to go.

14) Rough Type
Nick Carr -- of "Does IT Matter?" fame -- has a sharp-minded blog that discusses all manner of issues and trends relating to technology. Always an entertaining read, Rough Type often locks horns with companies, people, technologies and policies that rub Carr the wrong way.

15) Smorgasbord
Billed as a site for gadget- and game-loving geeks, this blog also serves up articles that cross over into the political and celebrity news of the day. The combination of entertainment value and tech news make Smorgasbord a top contender.

Honorable mentions:

1) The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW)
TUAW offers collection of independent bloggers -- that is independent but not undecided or uninformed. It's a good source for Apple-related news. The only reason it didn't make the top 15 was its singular topic focus.

2) Elliot Back's blog
A self-professed computer scientist, Elliot posts everything from his opinions on why XML sucks, to the Titanic's passenger list and reviews of movies like 300. This site is diverse and well composed, offering great tips on topics such as increasing system performance and blocking spam.

3) Ed Foster's Gripelog
There is a new crop of blogs that highlight poor customer service for consumer electronics, bad UIs and outright rip-offs, but Ed Foster has been doing it longer than anyone else. Check out these recent topics: Defective DRM, tricky warranties on plasma TVs and bad mobile phone service.

4) Gadgetell
This is a great site if you want to get the latest gadget and game news along with some topical opinion pieces.

5) 4sysops
This is a very useful with well-written tips and how-to's for Windows admins.

How to Use Google as a Proxy (HOW TO View MySpace at School/Company)

Normally when you view a web page, your computer's browsing software makes a connection to the destination server, downloads the page's data, and displays it for you.

This would normally be the preferred way of doing things, but occasionally you'll find yourself on a work or school connection that disallows you from connecting to certain web sites. In these scenarios, what you need is a proxy. A proxy is a server or service that will connect to the blacklisted server on your behalf and send you back the results.

Now, you still need to directly access the proxy server, so it's important that it's not on the blacklist itself. It's very interesting that Google, a host unlikely to end up on most blacklists, has a couple of tools that can essentially act as a web proxy!

Google Proxy Trick #1
The first tool is Google's translation service. This service will dynamically download and translate any web page you request, and if you specify the "to" launguage as English (or your desired language), Google Translate will just spit out the destination document, acting as a simple proxy. Note that you used to be able to set the "from" and "to" language both as English to ensure no translation, but this feature seems to have been removed. However, I've found that if you specify Chinese to English (or anything to english) on an already english document, you usually get the exact text. The bonus of using the Chinese filter is that you can hover over any text and it'll give you the exact original text.

Just replace in the URL below with a blocked site to see:

The only problem with this is that it doesn't proxy any of the images for you. Those are still coming directly from the destination server, so they will likely be filtered and all you'll see is the page text.

Google Proxy Trick #2
The second Google tool that can be used as a proxy service is the Google Wireless Transcoder. This service was designed to make web pages viewable on mobile phone browsers. It will download a destination site's web page, including images, and rework the entire page, on the fly, to fit into an average cell-phone's screen space.

To try it out, go to and enter the url you'd like to view. You'll quickly see that most of the page formatting has been stripped out, leaving a very simple, single-column page. You'll also notice that all the images are scaled down to mobile phone optimized size. It's a bit of a downside, but google is actually downloading and sending the scaled versions from a google server. So, if you're on a blacklisted site, you'll still be able to view images - they'll just be smaller than usual.

On the plus side, I've found that 99% of MySpace templates look better using the Google Wireless Transcoder.