There’s ALWAYS XKCD
One of the internet’s most favorite references is linking to an XKCD comic, that oddly enough, mostly ends up being weirdly relevant to the issue at hand. Incase you’ve been living under a rock since the dawn of the internet and don’t know what on earth XKCD is: its a webcomic created by an American artist Randall Munroe which usually consist of stick figures engaging in rather dry humoresque slice-of-life situations revolving around a particular idea. There are a lot of math and science references, a couple of jabs into popular culture as well as the occasional 4th wall break – perfect geek humor material. GEEKTIP! An XKCD is not just the image and the caption. Try hovering on a comic with your cursor next time 😉 And oh, if you were wondering, XKCD doesn’t stand for anything. It’s just random hard to pronounce letters thrown together. OR IS IT??
The VPN Gauntlet
As a geek, you obviously care about your privacy on the Internet and your digital footprint, unlike all the other sheeple who let companies spy on them and steal data to advertise better.
One of the best ways to achieve that is by using a VPN. It stops people from collecting data on the sites you visit and things you see and as a nice bonus, it also gets around them pesky geo restrictions. But choosing a VPN from the plethora of options available is quite a daunting task. And this is where That One Privacy Site comes in. It has a spreadsheet for almost all the VPNs out there, detailing whether a particular VPN complies with different security parameters with color codes. The creator, That One Privacy Guy (brilliant names, yes, we know) has sunk over 1,000 hours of work into this project and it shows. There aren’t any rankings as such, to keep it unbiased and because everyone’s need from a VPN are different. You have to make the choices yourself and find a VPN that has all the features you most care about even if it lacks in an area that you don’t really care about. Truly the end-all place to pick a particular VPN.
“…. Can we fix it? Yes we can!”
One of a geek’s worst nightmares is his (or her) gear going kaputt. With it costing an arm and a leg to repair almost anything at service centers today, many people just choose to buy a new devic. All hail Consumerism! iFixIt has an easy to follow guide (With the all important pictures! How else are we supposed to know what a spudger is!?) to repair/replace pretty much any part of most common pieces of tech. And the best part is, you can buy the tools and the spares you need right off their guide! Their toolkits are a worthy addition to anyone’s arsenal. Plus… it makes you look absolutely badass to have all those screwdrivers and stuff 😉
Learn to curse in Elvish
Where would we geeks be without our Klingon or Alienese. Yeah, that’s a thing. In the realm of fully fleshed out fictional languages, not much stands out from the rest of the crowd as J.R.R. Tolkien’s creations. “Quneya” which in Evlish means ‘our language’ (what else could it have been?) has its own script, dialects and even grammar. Tolkien took an awfully long time developing each and every aspect of his fictional world and it’s pretty evident if you’ve read his works. So if you’ve been aching to learn another language to increase your nerd-cred then you’d perhaps want to try Quenya.
Track your Anime
If you’ve caught onto the whole “Shingeki No Kyojin” scene then it’s our sworn duty as members of the nerd brethren to inform you that there are much better Anime and Manga out there. And if you wanted a simple website that helps you track which all Anime/Manga you want to watch and when the next episode/issue is coming out, then MyAnimeList is a pretty neat place to track your favourite anime/manga, discover new ones and indulge in mindless frivolity that ensues when you put two nerds in the same room. Except, there are a lot more than two here.
Music makes you lose control(ler)
Aren’t you itching to get your 20-year-old console back to life? To relive all those memories of days spent playing for hours at ends. However, you’re all grown up now and have no time for all that. What if we told you there’s a website that has curated the soundtracks from each and every 8-bit / 16-bit console that you know of and presented in a neat and clean interface? http://vip.aersia.net/ may not have it all but it’s well curated. Ever since we’ve discovered it, we’ve had it running in a tab hidden somewhere in the background. You’ve got tracks from classic games like Mario, Zelda, GoldenEye, ToeJam, etc. as well as from newer gamers like the Mass Effect series, Transistor, Bastion, C&C, etc.
AI plays music for you
Everyone, meet Gnod. Gnod is a ‘self-adapting system’ that’ll try to pick out music you’d like, based off of three of your favorite bands or artists. It has a huge database on music tastes learnt from the thousands of people who used it, that it can use to predict what kinds of bands you will like based on the people whose 3 favorites were the same or similar to yours. Fair disclaimer, usually it just ends up suggesting music you already know (and probably like) but there are times where it can strike gold and give you a new earworm.
What do you say when a site prevents you from accessing it because you’re from India? “Not today, mada…” (let’s leave it there). Internet Censorship is a royal pain in the behind and while using a VPN may or may not open things up for you, we know that ProxyPortal sure does. To be honest, some of the sites mentioned do fall into the legality gray area but most of them don’t. If you were hunting for an easy to use, guaranteed proxy service, then this site might be just the one. The listed sites on ProxyPortal are limited and their contents, in turn, are user curated. So you might find pirated content but that’s not why we’ve included the site in this list. No sir, it’s all about circumventing censorship. Honest!
Experiments with Google
And now, for the 9th Whoa moment of the day. If you thought that HTML, CSS and the other web languages were all about making pretty websites and hosting cat videos, then you’ve been blind. Google hosts a bunch of pages where it’s collected all of them experiments they’ve been running with web-based technologies. And sometimes, even more than that. Head over to A.I. Experiments to play around with some simple yet interesting interactive AI experiments. Remember that Google game where you’d draw and Google would guess? It came from here. Then there’s Chrome Experiments which is sure to have you mesmerised with the creative possibilities of using WebGL to make websites. You can simulate a pool complete with liquid physics or you can simply have a 3D visualisation that dances around in tune with music. Go explore, we’re certain you’ll be engrossed for a few days.
Know what’s new in the Linux World
Choosing a particular distro and flavor of Linux is hard in and of itself so ubergeeks just compromise and get different ones for different devices. Keeping track of all the latest releases, in that case, becomes a royal pain in the neck though. But DistroWatch aims to solve just that. It’s a massive collaborative effort with many many volunteers which collects all the details of new releases from most Linux and BSD flavors and presents it in one place. And oh, if you need suggestions, they also do a weekly newsletter with reviews on new distributions which is sure to make it easier for you to choose one. Or harder :/
Mysteries of Music Genres
Did you know that Dancehall evolved from Reggae? Or that Grindcore and Metalcore evolved from Thrash Metal? We’ve already listed a music discovery site that’ll give you recommendations simply by picking a few of your favourite tracks. Now here’s an interactive site that goes into each and every genre and charts out the path of its evolution. What’s even better is that it also has curated lists of YouTube videos to help you understand exactly which all songs fall under that genre. Music genres are up to interpretation as well, to a certain extent. So don’t write in to us complaining that the site got it wrong and you have it right. Please, leave us in peace to enjoy some Norwegian Death Metal. Arch Enemy FTW!
Technology Party Trick!
Have you ever seen those people who can “read your mind” and *cough*cough* guess the person you’re thinking about? Well, now you can do that too! Silently fire up Akinator and answer the questions. It’s usually eerily accurate and the few times it fumbles, it usually guesses right on the next pass. Akinator is far from perfect though, it has a tendency to repeat questions and it isn’t well formatted or optimised but it does make for a fun little icebreaker at social gatherings and did we mention there are mobile apps as well?
Test your Google knowledge
How well versed are you in what the world wants to know? Here’s a chance to test it out: The Higher Lower Game – This admittedly very simple game has you guess which has more monthly searches between two queries. You get consecutive points for each right guess and it ends if you get one wrong. It has nice transitions, it’s addictive and you learn something cool like Gonorrhea is more searched than Acne. Who would’ve ever thunk it, huh?
With no single underlying theme, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal is a webcomic for those who like to have a few grey cells light up while reading comics. It’s got recurring themes such as science, research, philosophy, atheism, romance, parenting, etc. and it’s a daily. So you can now see why we’ve included it in this list here. The comics might be simple sometimes, but it’s the longer ones with six panels or more that really bring out the brilliance of the creator. While there are recurring characters, you can simply jump in anytime and begin enjoying the comic because of the lack of a fixed storyline across comics.
Star Wars Canon timeline
George Lucas’ Star Wars has inspired millions of folks and made him quite a few millions as well. And many of these inspired individuals went on to write novels and novellas of their own chronicling the events in the lives of each and every character. Want to know what Han Solo did before getting the Millennium Falcon? Of course not. You already knew that one. But did you know that it was on the planet Tython that the ancient Je’daii order was founded?
If you want to know more about your favourite character or just revel in the extended universe then you need to know exactly where to begin. After all, there are thousands of Star Wars novels spread over a timeline that extends way past a millennia. Yoda’s Datapad has them chronologically listed according to year of occurrence and also has the relevant “New Canon” (screw you Disney!) works listed as well.
Get some Creepypasta inside you
The Secure, Contain, Protect Foundation is a fictional (sshhhh) organization that keep tracks of all the anomalous things out there, eldritch, malevolent, likely to get people killed in creative ways, you know, the works. SCP categorises each specimen and has a detailed bio along with their test results per entry. And there’s like 4000 entries divided into 4 Series with 1000 specimens each. Plenty of spooky material to keep you engrossed for a while, and there’s also some seriously good writing in there. Check it out.
Go down the rabbit hole
A trope, to put it very bluntly is an idea the audience has already encountered and can recognize. It’s used to make storytelling easier instead of having to ruin the immersion by explaining the particular idea in detail. Like Two Guys and A Girl or Flowers of Romance they allow you to grasp the idea very easily because you’ve seen it before. TvTropes.org is a huge collection of popular tropes used in modern movies and shows that’s presented in a nice, clean, easy to read manner and has numerous examples to validate it. Each trope’s description is peppered with hyperlinks to other tropes so a normal trope lookup usually ends with you going down the rabbit hole and reading way more tropes than you thought you would. Yup. Could happen to anyone.
Fantasy Novels or nuffin’
/r/fantasy had a poll asking people to list their top 5 fantasy novel series and the results were all collected to make a list 105 books long. Whew. Talk about some reading list huh? The books are ranked in the page according to their position from the poll and you can click series you’ve already read to gray them out. This will also show you where you stand with respect to other readers. Time to get some Summer reading done! Check the list at http://www.listchallenges.com/reddits-top-105-fantasy-novelsseries-of-all-time
Ogle Hubble’s best photos
The Hubble Space Telescope or HST produced some of the most stunning visuals of space that humankind has ever seen and these are the photos are which piqued public interest to spark better funding for an ailing, budget-cut NASA. Did you know that HST actually takes photos in black and white and colors have to be added in post production? Or that literally anyone can apply to use it? (Getting approved is a whole different ball game though. Very fierce competition) Here are 12 of the best shots HST has taken and boy, do they look good.
Meet the Gods
The only reason you know that Odin is Thor’s father is because you watched the Thor movies. But here’s a fun fact. Loki isn’t Thor’s brother! Loki was in fact given birth to by an eight legged horse. And Heimdall was birthed by nine women (at the same time, not one after the other). The Norse pantheon has these twisted little mysteries and so do the other gods from the Egyptian and Greek pantheons. If you want to know more of such fun facts so that you can entertain yourself and others during movie intermissions, then you should certainly check out this series of illustrations.
Well, if you’re on Otaku, you probably already know of a couple of websites where you can easily watch all your favourite animes for free. Trust us, we know them too. But think about this – Imagine you spend 10+ painstaking hours everyday scripting, drawing, animating, working and not getting paid for at all?
Our pick for the best website where you can watch all the latest anime ‘legally’ is Crunchyroll. They have one of the biggest collection of animes online. You can watch many of them for free and for the full access you can subscribe to their premium membership. The site also has a 14-day free trial, after which you can subscribe for just $6.95/month. The best thing about Crunchyroll however, is that all the latest anime episodes get aired at the same time as Japan!
Never bored of board games
What kind of lister would this be without mentioning at least one sub-reddit. Occasionally, us geeks like to take some time off from our never ending screen-staring and get a dose of the real life. We like to step out into the real world and take a few breaths of fresh air before running straight back in and breaking out our favourite pen-and-paper or board game. The fun in such games comes from having a few people to play with you, or in nerd parlance we call such games co-op. However, not everyone is going to share your interest in such esoteric board games. That’s where this subreddit comes in. You can recruit people for your games or simply play multi-player DnD over Skype. And even discover a new game entirely.
Poor man’s astronomy
Not everyone can afford a fancy telescope with a high enough magnification to peer into the celestial depths. Which is why you have Google Sky, a Google Earth-like service that charts out the skies except it’s… for the sky… and not for earth. Purists would frown upon such an atrocious manner of engaging in the holy art of astronomy, but it’s a great way to get started. Google Sky even has filters to help you see the infrared, microwave and even historical images of the night sky. Historical, in this context, doesn’t mean the past positions of the celestial bodies but the old constellation charts that the likes of Galileo and Copernicus made use of.
This article was first published in the April 2017 issue of Digit magazine. To read Digit’s articles first, subscribe here or download the Digit app for Android and iOS. You could also buy Digit’s previous issues here.