Some really cool free things

Work has been so busy recently I haven't had time to pass along some great free Internet services I've been using for a while now.

Sandy, the virtual assistant. I don't have a real-life assistant of my own, but Sandy sometimes makes it feel as if I do. I have a fondness for command-line interfaces, and being able to fire off a quick e-mail to Sandy saying "Remind me to pick up dry cleaning at 9am tomorrow" and having "her" e-mail and text me at that time the next day is very handy. Besides the simplicity of the service, the other thing I enjoy is the pseudo-personalized nature of Sandy's replies. I asked her to remind me of something earlier, and Sandy began her reply, "Wow! You're up late!"

Tripit - Where Sandy's abilities end, TripIt takes over. Most people I know book their travel online, and in the process receive all those oddly formatted travel confirmation e-mails. Then you have to sit there and enter the information into your calendar. It's a pain in the butt, and don't ever do it again. Instead, just forward those e-mails to, and TripIt merges all of them into a master itinerary, adding maps and driving directions and weather and all sorts of other useful information. You can print it, send it to your calendar, send it to your phone, forward it to friends and family, or even enhance it with custom information. Ingenious.

Instapaper - Like many people who've grown up with the web, I exhibit symptoms of Internet-attention-deficit-disorder. I regularly have 20+ tabs open in my browser, and I've long searched for a simple way to save a tab to read later so I can close it out for the time being. Instapaper is the simplest solution yet. Add a simple Read Later bookmarklet to your browser, click it when you want to save the web page to read later, and you're done. Visit Instapaper later and all your saved articles are there to read.