15 techy things to keep you busy this Thanksgiving

From trying out new products and services to updating your devices, here are 15 things to keep you busy this Thanksgiving holiday.
By Zack Whittaker, Contributor
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Thanksgiving can either be a great time of year with family and friends, or it can be a painfully boring time of year... with friends and family. But while you have some time off work and are spending the hours dwindling around the house with nothing to do, here is a selection of 15 techy things to keep you preoccupied for a few hours.

From trying out new products and services, to updating your technology and keeping track of your social networking activity -- as well as picking up some freebies along the way, these things will keep your mind busy for the next few hours as you buy, try and tinker with.

(Image source: Flickr, CC)

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iCloud is Apple's latest venture into cloud computing to enable 'simplicity' across iOS devices, like iPhones and Macs. It even runs on Windows.

But setting it up if you have an existing email account like Gmail can be tricky. If you have an existing non-Mobile Me account, you may finding migrating to iCloud somewhat difficult, and it may not necessarily be worth your while if you already have contact and calendar synchronisation. Why break something that isn't broken?

But once you get there, you will find the experience seamless and easy. It really does "just work" across your iPhone, Mac and other devices.

Apple has published a how-to guide to get started. It's worth every penny -- which is a lot, considering iCloud is free. 


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Applications can be spammy and hijack your profile, and could be one of many reasons why so many people's profiles are 'jacked and suffer malware attacks. Sometimes websites can present themselves as perfectly normal -- like a video sharing site. But when you go to click on the 'play' button, it can "Like" something in the background that shows up on your Facebook profile without your knowledge.

As first reported on by ZDNet's Violet Blue, this same linkspam was reportedly the reason why there was a flood of blood, gore and violent imagery, as well as pseudo-celebrity pornographic imagery flooding the site earlier this month. Facebook subsequently removed the spam and worked with industry partners in an attempt to plug the problem, thought to have originated from a browser exploit.

Start from here in the Facebook Definitive Lockdown Guide (September 2011) and follow the slides through to show you how to remove applications that are spammy, rogue or unwanted. You can even turn off the application platform entirely, to disable all applications from interacting with your Facebook profile.

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SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) is a wide-ranging, vague bill that could soon become law. It not only gives the Attorney General and courts power to block access to websites that are allegedly infringing copyright, it effectively censors the U.S. web, restricting the right to free speech, and could at very least be bending the Constitution.

The web is not perfect, and arguably it is "broken" in a time of overly cautious copyright actions. But the web should stay "broken" and the law will impact every person inside the United States, and even affect those outside its boundaries too.

If you want to make your voice heard, even over the holiday season, you can reach out to your local Representative and make your voice heard.

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iTunes Match is an extension of the popular music application for both Mac and Windows. It allows you to 'match' your low-quality music in your iTunes library, and download a better quality song or album if it is stored in the iTunes Store.

It also allows you to upload songs that it doesn't recognise, including pirated music or illegally downloaded content. Apple apparently does not discriminate.

And the cost? $25 a year for the privilege of 'legitimising' your pirate music collection? That is not a bad price to pay at all. 

Instead of taking days or weeks to upload your entire vast music collection, iTunes Match can do it in a fraction of the time. And, though it's only available in the United States, CNET has a handy how-to guide for you to get started.

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Facebook video-to-video calling may have not taken off as quickly as some had hoped. But since Microsoft bought out Skype, some useful improvements have come to video calling.

Though Skype technology powers Facebook video-calling, users were not able to communicate between the Skype client (for Windows, Mac or iPhone) and Facebook users. It seemed odd to not bring the two together.

But now, the two come together in perfect harmony. Skype users can now speak to their Facebook contacts.

If you are a prolific Skype'r and Facebook'er, then bring the two together and download the new Skype beta. Mac users can get the update here.

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.xxx domains are set to be opened up in the coming weeks -- serving as the first "porn" domain, allowing users to directly access pornography or the complete opposite, should they see such a domain.

But amid some controversy and lawsuits, with major porn players suing ICANN, the Internet domain name registrar is set to open up the .xxx floodgates soon nonetheless.

But some are worried that cybersquatters and others will attempt to jump on websites -- including school and university domain names -- to make a quick buck, or benefit from them with misdirected content. 

So, head over to CNET and discover how to protect your company or business' brand from cybersquatters.

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Google Music is slightly late to the online music store business, but is nevertheless worth checking out. 

Just as Apple has iTunes, Google is trying to bring music to the Android masses. Through streaming or downloading directly to your smartphone, you can access it on the web or on your Android device.

Designed to rival iTunes and Amazon's Cloud Player and music store (at least, kind of), it's only available in the U.S. but it is a fantastic rival, with millions of tracks available at dirt-cheap prices. Some you will find are even free, especially from emerging artists, but also from well-established names too.

Even if you have a spare few minutes, it's certainly worth trying out. You might just fall in love with it.

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The next-generation Windows is here, and has been out in the wild for a few months. Where have you been?!

If you haven't quite gotten used to Windows Vista (dare I even utter its name) or current favourite Windows 7, then prepare for a shock. While it's easy to focus on the core criticisms of the operating system under development, it certainly offers a fresh new look. That, you cannot deny.

Windows 8, remember, is a developer preview and not a beta, so do not expect it to work like the finished, polished product will. Some things don't work and in some cases, some things clearly are not meant to. But on the whole, it gives you an idea of what to expect.

You can download the Windows Developer Preview from Microsoft. Be warned though, it's a chunky download.

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Steve Jobs' biography is one of the best selling books of this year, and is still gaining momentum in the bookshops.

Many revelations came out of the book, including one of the holy-of-all-holy's Apple iTV, which could bring the dinky Apple-branded box to a physical television set. Set to be integrated with iCloud and all of the users' content, Jobs was said to have "cracked it". The book dates all the way back to his childhood, and gives readers an unprecedented insight into how he thought.

Whether or not you are a Mac user, or an iPod owner, there is no doubt that Jobs was one of the most influential contributors to the technology world of the past and present. The incredibly detailed view of his life and some of the world-changing ideas he had.

The 656-page book is available on Amazon to buy, and instantly downloadable as a Kindle e-book, as well as in all good bookstores.

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Whether you have an Xbox 360 or a PlayStation 3, the latest instalment of the Call of Duty first-person shooter game is available for you. Millions of people will be sitting down to open their Thanksgiving presents and will have a copy in their hands by the end of the morning tear-'em-up session.

The broke records left, right and center. In the first five days alone, it raked in over $775 million.

CoD: Modern Warfare 3 includes new maps, online multiplayer missions, a whole new interface, new weaponry and fantastic graphic quality. Graphic also in terms of gore and violence, it's not for everybody. But whether you are old or young (though, preferably at least 18 years of age, I warn you now), it is something you must play during the lifespan of the game series.

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Google's Street View service is a great way to virtually get around and see places you would never normally see -- all from the comfort of your own home or office. 

But remember when Google was caught (albeit accidentally) payload data from wireless hotspots as its Street View cars drove around capturing street-level imagery? Google used some of that data to create a map of wireless hotspots to increase its location database, in a bid to cut down on the length of time GPS often takes to work out where you are.

But Google has offered U.S. and European citizens the right to opt-out of the database, should you wish random passers-by from using your wireless router to determine their location.

You need to change your wireless router or hotspot's name to append _nomap to make sure that it is opted out. There's more details over here.

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'Batterygate' continues to plague some users of iOS, including iPhone and iPod touch users. While Apple may have appeared at first to do nothing in response to the seemingly widely reported problems with battery life. Apple eventually spoke out and acknowledged the problem.

The latest update to iOS 5 -- Apple's mobile operating system -- should fix the battery bug for most users, as well as adding a few feature tweaks and additions to older devices.

Simply plug in your iPod touch or iPhone in to iTunes and check for updates. It should be downloaded and installed automatically. You can even download the update over-the-air, which offers the advantage that the download is far smaller in size for capped bandwidth connections.

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If you are (or "were") a BlackBerry user a couple of months ago, you may have noticed that your device almost stopped working altogether, after data services were disrupted on a near-global scale that spread over a period of four days.

After a series of communications failures from the BlackBerry maker, Research in Motion, it was clear that the Ontario giant needed to make it up to users. Seeing as only consumers were really affected by the problem, with the vast majority of enterprise users unaffected by the outage, the company decided to issue a series of free gifts to its customers.

Simply head over to the BlackBerry App World on your handset (or download it), and collect your free gifts from the menu option available.

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Google angered a lot of iPhone users earlier this month -- as part of it's 'worst month ever' -- by releasing an unstable Gmail application for Apple users that broke almost immediately after installing it. Users were left even more frustrated by the company then pulling it altogether for download as the company then scrambled to seek out a fix to the problem.

Granted, Google had no choice but to yank the application from the iTunes Store, where it was available to download for all of about an hour.

But lo and behold, only a week later, it was back on the application store and available to redownload. But you might not have heard about it as the media was on the most part still focusing on the fact that the company had messed up.

If you have a Gmail account and an iPhone, find the application in the iTunes App Store

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One more pro-tip for Facebook users, which will no doubt include you, seeing as over 800 million people worldwide are now using the social network.

If you haven't heard, Facebook is preparing a complete overhaul to its profile pages, and will soon introduce the Facebook Timeline instead. It acts, in a nutshell, just as you would imagine -- a timeline of everything you have ever said, posted, commented on or liked across your entire history of using the site.

But considering it's practically a "stalkers paradise", there is no better time than to enable it and to start removing content. It will take days no doubt to go through meticulously and delete every post that you want to remove, but Facebook currently offers no alternative.

If you want to hide your past indiscretions from your Facebook friends and family, follow this gude to enable the Timeline feature, and start deleting content. No better time than a very-very-long holiday weekend to carry out an arduous task like this.

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