Are you excited about all the new gifts you’re going to receive this year? Take a moment and think back to last year. What did you get? How much of it do you still use? I have a gift guide won’t end in buyer’s remorse. My holiday gift guide to you is a mostly a collection of free things I like. I think you’ll like them too. We don’t buy things, we buy into things.

Read at your leisure


Instapaper. It’s a free service that lets you save things to read later. It isn’t the only one but it’s simple and I’ve used it for years. Whenever I run across something I want to read, like a long article, interview or just something I can focus on during my subway trip home it goes into Instapaper. I’ve started forwarding some of the newsletters to Instapaper because it’s a nicer way to read them. The app is not free but the service is, so I’m still counting it.

But what about books?

You need a Book Gorilla. Go to the site and choose genres you like to read. Then the gorilla will send you a daily email with deeply discounted or free Kindle books.

I look forward everyday to receiving a list of things I might like to read for free or at least cheaper than usual.

Listen at your leisure.

If you had asked me yesterday what I use for this, I would have said Huffduffer. It’s perfect to one-off podcasts or a single episode of a certain podcast or it could be an audio file someone posted of a talk or interview that’s not a podcast.

It’s Instapaper for audio. But I’ve never used any of the social features of HuffDuffer and today I found Latr. It has a sparse web page that once you sign up provides the same thing.

Add an audio file. It will create an RSS feed you can then add to iTunes or your favorite podcast player and it will update with new things you put there.

I’ve heard about podcasts but how do I find ones I like?

iTunes is still the biggest and best place for new podcasts. Head on over to the podcast section and look at what’s popular or search for things you’re into. I guarantee you whatever you love, someone else does too.


If you’re into computers/comic books or related things, I highly recommend the good people of the 5By5 Network There are a ton of shows about working from home, movies, web design, pens, android and quitting your job.

Another place to look is Huffduffer. Since it’s a collection of saved audio, search for what you like and see where it leads you. It can be less overwhelming than iTunes.

Can’t you just give me some recommendations?

Sure can, there’s a few shows that I listen to as often as they’re released. I tend to be geeky so a lot of mine are about tech what else did you really expect from me?

Do you like radio dramas? Remember those old-time radio shows? I used to listen to Gunsmoke in the car with my dad on Sunday nights. If you love radio dramas, I can’t recommend this first one enough.

We’re Alive.
It’s a story of survival that begins in California right after the zombie apocalypse. The voice acting is superb, as are the sound effects and music. The tale follows our survivors through their struggles and triumphs. Before you recoil at the thought of zombies, it’s far more about the people surviving than being eaten.

I’ve become attached to the characters and each time we lose one of them I feel a little sad. It’s a wonderful story that I can’t recommend enough.

Where to start: Episode 1. You have to start at the beginning of the story.

The Support Ops Podcast interviews people working in the trenches of customer support. Chase writes:

Customer support is not a hard concept. Someone has a question/problem and it’s your job to fix it and make them happy. Not just satisfied but happy. And if you do it wrong, it can leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.

Customer support is everyone’s job. Even if you don’t work in support, you could learn something from those who do. Those fine people who deal with angry customers and impossible situations. If nothing else, remember there are other people on the other side of that phone line, email or twitter handle.

I would start with Episode #18 – Tech Support with Carl Holscher because it’s me and I was completely blown away when Chase asked me to be on the show.

Generational / Technical Difficulties Podcast

This show had an identity change as the hosts tried to figure out what the show was. But I recommend starting from its beginning. There are some great episodes about technology with kids, being the IT guy in your family and even some great travel tips.

The show reborn as Technical Difficulties features some beautiful show notes. Seriously, they’re little novellas for each episode.

Where to start: There’s no way to choose just one, so here’s a few to get you going.

Reinventing yourself with Merlin Mann on the heels of his interview with The Great Discontent is wonderful. Advice about life, work, doing what you do and defining yourself.

Configuring IOS for Others has some great advice on helping friends and family setup and use their new iPhone or iPad. This is particularly useful around the holidays.


Myke Hurley, who founded and ran the 70 Decibels Podcast network until it merged with 5By5 has a way of putting his guests at ease and asking great questions. You can tell the man does his research. He knows who he’s interviewing and has a way of getting good stories out of them. No matter who the guest is, the show is a joy to listen to.

Where to start: That’s like asking your favorite flavor of ice cream. There’s so many so here’s a few to get you going.

#53: Being Pseudonymous, with Dr. Drang is a great talk with the good doctor about the balance of using your real name and a handle in the online world.

#44: Apple and Education, with Fraser Speirs is a good talk about just what it says. Fraser has a deployment of 1:1 iPad to student at the school where he works. He talks about the successes, challenges and joys of such a deployment. He is doing really interesting work with technology and education and co-hosts his own podcast Out of School.

Special mention: The Enough Podcast
Enough deserve a special mention. Even though the show recently ended, it was the one show I eagerly looked forward to every week. Even though it has ended, there is an archive available.

Each week was a conversation between Patrick Rhone and Myke Hurley about what is Enough. Enough is different for everyone. Enough is also a book. I recommend. For some people it’s a big house and fancy cars. For others it’s a backpack and an airplane ticket. Enough is personal. Enough is individual.

Every episode would teach me something. It would change the way I saw people. It would help me find things in my life I could change. It made be a better person for listening.

It helped me find Enough for myself. Enough was not a destination but a journey. And while this chapter of it has ended, the journey goes on.

I love interviews with interesting people!

The Setup is a wonderful collection of interviews I’ve written about before. Each person is asked four questions.

  • Who are you, and what do you do?
  • What hardware are you using?
  • And what software?
  • What would be your dream setup?

The answers to those questions are as varied as the people being asked them. There are years of interviews available so I’ll recommend you start with these to get you going.

My eyes hurt from using the computer late at night.

You need f.lux. F.lux, as well as being a clever name, will warm the colors of your screen after the sun goes down.

This will give your screen less of a white/blue glow and more of an orange glow that’s easier on the eyes. I use it on all my computers and wouldn’t work without it. It has a setting to disable it if you’re doing work where the color matters. But for me, when I’m typing words on a screen, color doesn’t matter.

Give me something new and interesting to read.

You need the pastry box project. Described as 30 People Shaping The Web. One Thought Every Day. All Year Round. Sugar For The Mind I’ve always enjoyed reading it.

There is something new from someone new everyday. Some articles I like, some I ignore, but the rotating cast of writers keep things fresh and interesting.

Sssimpli, “a conscious approach to geekery” is always filled with something new and interesting. If you’re interesting in automating your web there’s a pile of goodness for you. I keep a book journal in Evernote that’s powered by GoodReads.

I love a good email newsletter!

The Listserve is a fascinating idea. There are now 24,886 people subscribed to the list and everyday, one of them is chosen via lottery to write to the list.

Everyday, I receive one email from the list. The emails are wildly different. Some talk about a cool project or charity. Another could be a heart-wrenching story and tribute to a grandparent. Another could be a list of advice.

The writers are young and old and from all over the world. Recently, I recall seeing people from San Francisco, Iowa, London, Paris, and The Netherlands. It’s an interesting experiment and experience. All submissions are sent from the creators so you won’t be spammed, nor subjected to hate speech or other nastiness.

What about something shorter?

I love 3 Things from Sid O’Neill. Every one of them has three things. There is a sample letter on the site when he mentioned a great iPhone app, an article about keeping your day job and a new project called WritingMusic which is a collection of music to write to.

Everyday it’s different and only three things long so it’s a little burst of interesting for your day.

Do you have a good news roundup?

Next Draft is the news, everyday. You can download the iOS app or simply receive it in email as I do. Here’s a taste of the most current newsletter. It truly is a collection of news from across the web about anything and everything.

I read it everyday and always find a couple interesting things in it.