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14 Totally Free Things on the Internet Everyone Should Take Advantage of

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By Wil Fulton

The wunderkinds over on reddit took a break from uncracked safes and banana-based measurements to post a mega-thread addressing the best of the best of all things free on the interwebs, and I couldn't help but share some of the highlights with you all. If you're savvy, you might recognize a few of these bad boys already, but don't spoil the Supermarket Sweep-style fun for the rest of us, OK?

1. COLLEGE COURSES, NO TUITION

Is the fear of smothering, unbearable student debt steering you away from the path of higher education? Class Central exposes hundreds of online class courses from the likes of Harvard, Stanford, and MIT, without that pesky tuition nonsense. This means you can educate yourself in subjects like Molecular Biology, Advanced Operating Systems, or The Rise Of Superheroes And Their Impact On Pop Culture. It's all the information you need to become a fully functional adult in today's global economy, without the loans, leftover futons, and career-debilitating Facebook photo rolls.

2. SELF-DESTRUCTING EMAIL ADDRESSES

With 10 Minute Mail, you can create an extremely temporary email address that will automatically self-destruct in 10 minutes, allowing you to sign up for sites, lists, and deals without the unbearable spam cannon that normally accompanies your quiet compliance. Also good for anonymous threats and insults to friends/family members. Not that I'd do that, of course.

3. AMBIENT SOUNDS FOR ANY OCCASION

If you simply can't work/sleep/make love without some kind of comforting white noise cascading over your eardrums, A Soft Murmur has you covered with all the classic ambient noises, and the somewhat odd ability to play a bunch of them at once. DJ Careless Whisper? You had me at "singing bowl" and "fire."

4. LEARN EVERY LANGUAGE ON EARTH 

If you've ever felt devastatingly isolated at your Swedish cousin's wedding to her Argentinean lover in Seoul (due to the triple language barrier), Duolingo might be right for you. Touted as the free Rosetta Stone—and some consider it to be even better—Duolingo softens the blow of learning another language by taking the pressure off your wallet. You'll be ordering with cultural authenticity at Taco Bell en un santiamén, muchacho.

5. UNLIMITED ACCESS TO A MEGA-LIBRARY OF DOCUMENTARIES

Documentaries have been experiencing a recent boom thanks to their accessibility on Netflix, but one can only watch Jiro Dreams of Sushi so many times, and there's no chance in hell I'm buying a DVD again. With Documentary Heaven, you have access to an endless river of reality piping through your computer monitor, like trout swimming upstream during their annual mating season (watch the documentary, you'll see what I mean).

6. SOMEONE TO SPILL YOUR GUTS TO

Everyone needs somebody, sometime—as Dean Martin once famously crooned, and most of the time, you don't have the funds or time to drop on a therapist or high-end escort. Welcome to 7 Cups of Tea, a completely free way to connect live with a "listener," with a bounty of free counseling options available. It's all anonymous too, so you don't have to worry about any of your dirty little secrets becoming public. What an age to be alive. 

7. AUTOMATIC ALERTS OR ACTIONS FOR EVERYTHING YOU CARE ABOUT

While it's been notorious on the Internet for quite some time, If This, Then That is one of those sites that's bound to blow up one day (in a good way). Once you log in, you can create a "recipe," programming an alert or action that will happen anytime two correlating actions occur on the web. For instance, you can automatically push photos posted on your Facebook to a secure Dropbox, the second they are posted. Or, have an email sent to you anytime someone mentions "Cat," "Shaving," and "Wanted by Authorities" on all your local news sites. The possibilities are endless.

8. FREE USED SH*T 

Craigslist, the domain of questionable career opportunities as well as questionable sexual opportunities, has become a digital smorgasbord of totally free sh*t. If you select your appropriate region, you’ll see a “Free” section under the “For Sale” category (confusing, I know) chock-full to the innuendo-soaked rim with perfectly good items folks are just begging to give away. Check out what you can snag sans payment in NYC alone. Pro Tip: Avoid any cloth-based furniture (for obvious, soiled reasons) as well as any intimate products, also for obvious reasons.

9. OLD-SCHOOL VIDEO GAMES 

For my generation, some of the best childhood memories consist of gathering around a glowing TV screen, slowing rotting our minds with video games while vehemently ignoring the shining sun and temperate climate outside. Man, those were the days. For a quick blast of nostalgia to the face, hit up this SNES, NES, and SEGA emulator to relive your pasty glory years. All you have to worry about is your boss catching you playing Castlevania in between TPS reports. Unless you don’t have a job. Then you probably shouldn't be playing SNES emulators, anyway.

10. ALL THE FONTS YOU COULD EVER WANT 

Normally, finding the right font for your situation isn't a huge problem. But that's probably because you don't know the dizzying heights design has reached in recent years. You are in for the shock of a lifetime, pal, because Lost Type has you covered from stylized head to sans-serif toe. With psychoactive billboard sets and funkadelic superfly stylings, your eyes will be widened to the magical world of spectacular fonts, all free to use in any way you wish. But please, type responsibly.

11. PHOTO EDITING WITH PANACHE 

For those who want their photos to shine a little bit brighter or to casually drop themselves into Ariana Grande’s vacation pics (no judging), but balk at the big bucks for Photoshop, the photo editing app Pixlr is available for your computer and smartphone for the low price of absolutely nothing. Though it doesn’t have the absurd level of customization and features that Photoshop so smugly touts, it's a very serviceable application for amateur to mid-level Instagrammers who are sick of using Valencia as a crutch.

12. PILES AND PILES OF VALUABLE COUPONS 

Carol Pyles, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

This is extremely relevant for those who not only want free swag, but want their free swag to turn into other free swag. RetailMeNot is an aggregate of comped codes, coupons, and other door-busting deals for both online services and brick & mortar outfits—with offerings varying from H&M to Domino's. So, you can get those organ-constricting skinny jeans on the cheap, with money left over to get cheese-soaked, grease-stuffed sugar sticks to ensure you will never fit in them again.

13. MANAGE YOUR FINANCES AND YOUR FUTURE 

Living paycheck to paycheck? Can't afford to buy milk for your nonexistent cereal? Is your life literally crashing down around you as we speak? The sleek, financial management site Mint is a payment-free resource that allows you to check your credit, pay bills, and manage your bank accounts on a safe, well-designed platform. It will pretty much handle everything that has to do with your hard-earned bacon, aside from actually earning it for you. Still waiting for that upgrade, slackers...

14. HELP FEED THE WORLD 

Meet the only thing on this list ideal for those instances when you are trying to actually give the world something, instead of just reaping the bounty of comped items and services like a cyber-glutton. With Freerice, you can exercise your noggin and help feed hungry humans all over the world, without sparing a dime. The site presents you with a series of questions in subjects like English grammar and basic chemistry, and for every correct answer, the World Food Programme will donate 10 grains of rice to the global cause. You can rack up the grains pretty quickly, though -- and all for a worthwhile cause. It's trivia that can make an actual difference. Unlike Trivial Pursuit, which just tears families apart. Trust me, I haven't spoken to my sister in years. Denise, if you're reading this, please call me.

All images courtesy of Shutterstock unless noted otherwise. 

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Facebook Just Made It Easier to Tell the Difference Between Fake News and Real Reporting
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On Facebook, fake news stories "reporting" international conflicts over Toblerones can appear alongside fact-checked journalism from trustworthy outlets. This leads to some bogus stories racking up thousands of shares while real news stories are deemed "fake" by those who disagree with them. With its latest news feature, Facebook aims to make the distinction between factual and fictional posts clearer.

As The Verge reports, articles shared on Facebook will now display a "trust indicator" icon. Clicking on it reveals information about the publisher of the piece, including their ethics statement, corrections policy, fact-checking process, ownership structures, and masthead. By providing that context, Facebook hopes that more users will make better decisions about which news outlets to trust and which to disregard.

The social media network is launching the feature with a handful of publishers and plans to open it up to more down the road. But unless it becomes mandatory for all media pages, it won't be the end of Facebook's fake news problem: Phony sites and real publishers that leave this information blank will still look the same in the eyes of some readers. Additionally, the feature only works when people go out of their way to check it, so it requires users to be skeptical in the first place.

If you want to avoid the fake news in your feed, looking for trust indicators is a good place to start. To further sharpen your BS-detecting skills, try adopting the CRAAP system: The American Library Association has been using it to spot sketchy sources since before the Facebook era.

[h/t The Verge]

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How to Stop Instagram Photos From Automatically Posting to Facebook
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If you have Instagram photos you don’t mind sharing with your aunts, exes, and former high school classmates, Facebook is the perfect place to post them. But some pictures are better suited to more intimate audiences: For those scenarios, you’ll want to unlink your Facebook from your Instagram account. The Daily Dot put together a simple how-to guide.

To keep your Instagram photos from automatically showing up on your Facebook profile, head to the Instagram app. Go to your profile, tap the gear icon next to Edit Profile, and then scroll down to the Linked Accounts option under Settings. If every photo you share through Instagram is published on Facebook, you should see Facebook highlighted in blue with a checkmark next to it under Linked Accounts. After tapping this, hit the Unlink Facebook button and Unlink a second time when the app asks you to confirm your decision.

Once that’s taken care of, any new posts you share through Instagram will only be seen by your Instagram followers (unless your account is linked to Twitter or some other social media site, in which case you can follow the same steps above). To undo this action, just return to Linked Accounts and tap Facebook to join the two accounts again.

This is a smart way to limit your social media presence or curb potential damage if hackers ever access your Instagram. But if you’re looking to distance yourself from Facebook because of issues you have with the site itself, simply unlinking it from Instagram won’t cut it. Facebook owns Instagram, so any information you post to either profile goes to the same place. There are better ways to control how Facebook handles your personal data. Read this to learn more about the social media giant’s ad targeting practices and what you can do about them.

[h/t The Daily Dot]

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