Sunday, February 28, 2010 “Cool Websites and Tools [February 27th]” plus 6 more “Cool Websites and Tools [February 27th]” plus 6 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [February 27th]

Posted: 27 Feb 2010 07:31 PM PST

Check out some of the latest MakeUseOf discoveries. All listed websites are FREE (or come with a decent free account option). No trials or buy-to-use craplets. For more cool websites and web app reviews subscribe to MakeUseOf Directory.

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FollowUpThen – Some people respond to emails on time and some don't. If you've a friend or contact in the latter category it's worth giving FollowUpThen a shot. You don't need to sign up for an account to use the service, either: simply CC the email to the service, using the amount of time between now and the follow-up as the user name and "" as the domain. Read more: FollowUpThen: Schedule Automatic Follow Up Emails by Adding a CC.


ZeroCurrency – If you live in a part of the world where corruption is rampant, ZeroCurrency offers an interesting tool for activists. Simply select the country you live in and you'll be given a high-resolution picture of a fake bill, inscribed with a value of zero. Print this out, and hand it to the next person who asks you for a bribe. Read more: ZeroCurrency: Print Fake Bills To Send A Message About Corruption. – If you need to dish out rhyming words for your next song or poem, then you should check out This online rhyming dictionary provides thousands of rhyming words arranged according to the number of syllables. Read more: Rhymes.Net: Discover Rhyming Words Online.



ECwid – Are you looking to set up your own online store? If you are, then you should check out Ecwid. This nifty web application lets you create your own online store for free within your existing website in less than five minutes. Read more: ECwid: Create Your Own Online Store For Free In Minutes.



DiscountYeti – Unlike other deals websites, DiscountYeti focuses on your neighborhood instead of the whole country. It brings you a listing of cool deals from businesses near you when you search by city name or zip code. Moving your mouse over any deal highlights its location on accompanied Google Maps. Read more: DiscountYeti: Find Deals From Businesses Near You.


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These are just half of the websites that we discovered in the last couple of days. If you want us to send you daily round-ups of all cool websites we come across, leave your email here. Or follow us via RSS feed.

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Geeky Fun: Latest Hilarious Picks

Posted: 27 Feb 2010 07:00 PM PST


Check out the top picks from MakeUseOf Geeky Fun during the last week.

  1. Woman Calls Tech Show When Her Stolen WiFi Disappears (Video)
  2. iMaxi: The Apple iPad Case with Protective Wings (Pic)
  3. Google Threatens To Kill Users (Video)
  4. The Cost of Gadgets Over The Decades (Pic)
  5. Why Computers Suck: Myth Vs. Reality (Pic)
  6. Interesting Facts About The Blogosphere (Pic)

If you would like to keep up with all latest Geeky Fun additions, please subscribe to the Geeky Fun feed here. You can also subscribe and get the latest additions via email.

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Raft Wars – A Fun Pirate Turn-Based Shooter Time-Waster

Posted: 27 Feb 2010 05:30 PM PST

I had about 15 minutes to kill today and I went looking for a fun flash shooter game online. I have covered others in the past including this OMG Zombies game which was really fun. 15 minutes is not a lot of time so I chose the first game that tickled my fancy and was already playing it within 2 minutes.

You can check it out. This game is called Raft Wars and you an play it here.

Once you get to the Raft Wars site, you can click on ‘Play’ to start. They will give you a quick intro and a little tutorial.

shooter games online

I won't spoil it for you by showing you the screen that made me laugh. But here you are — a little baby on the beach.

shooter games online

You find gold and diamonds. And even a baby can be corrupted by greed and money, so here is how the shooter game starts.

shooter games online

Pirates hear about your find and try to take it from you.

free online shooter games

Protect your treasure by aiming and firing. You can hit the pirates directly or have the ball ricochet off the mast and hit them in the back of the head. Either which way you have a Par of 6. So beat them in under 6 shots for a good bonus… Arrrr

free online shooter games

You are babies so it doesn’t make much sense why they don't just walk over and throw your land-loving butt into the water but putting that aside, let’s kick some pirate ass!

free online shooter games

Move the mouse to aim and click (left click) to fire. When you make contact, the pirate’s life meter will deteriorate.

free first person shooter games

Once both opponents are done, you can continue on as you have won the battle. Depending on how many shots it took you to win and how good of a shot you were, you get extra bonus points.

free first person shooter games

The bonus points can be saved up and used at any board’s end or you can buy yourself a grenade with 300 points or a rocket with 500 points. it is your call. You could hold out for an upgrade to your raft as well for 1500 points.

free first person shooter games

Click done when you are finished and we will move on to the next board. Ah, they appear to be Vikings this time around. No more Arrrr's and instead we replace them with Yah's!

free shooter games

Start firing again and take out the offending Vikings! Sheesh can't anyone leave these poor kids alone? And where are their parents anyways??

free shooter games

This board has 3 Vikings and I guess it will increase with each board. On my first shot, I hit the guy closest to me and made him bang into the one behind him. That killed the first dude – I mean Viking – and damaged the second one as you can see in the screen shot above.

It took me 8 shots to do the three of them in and it cost me my little friend’s life. Luckily he was right back by my side in the next round though… And my time is up… Crap 2 hours, late. My bad!

Do you have any good free flash shooter games online? Come on share them with the group in the comments.

Raft Wars – A Fun Pirate Turn-Based Shooter Time-Waster

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8 Online Guides To The Best And Worst Movies Of All Time

Posted: 27 Feb 2010 02:30 PM PST

You probably already knew about IMDB for its movie reviews on upcoming, recent and even older movies, but when you have that wide of a movie selection available, it’s good to have more streamlined ways to help you narrow down which films are worth your while and which most likely aren’t. Good starting places would be movie recommendation sites (such as Criticker or Filmaster), places that aggregate movie ratings from different sites, or reputable sources’ guides to the best and worst movies of all time.

Here’s our list of the latter, which includes the better known sites (that you read about on Saikat’s skillfully written free e-book, The Awesome Internet Guide to the Movie Addict) where you can find great lists to the top (and not-so-much) movies.

All-Time Best and Worst Reviewed Film Guides

Rotten Tomatoes

The site name refers to movies that suffer from a rating of less than 60%, while the movies that get good ratings and reviews are called fresh (tomatoes). Since it has such a large number of reviews, it of course has compiled lists for movie buffs who are eager to watch excellent movies, and want to know which are the worst movies of all time.

For superb films, RT has ranked the best 50 films of all time in the form of a countdown to keep you more excited (though you can skip clicking on Next 49 times with PageZipper’s bookmarklet).

10 worst movies of all time

RT also has the top 50 TV series-to-movie adaptations of all time in the form of a countdown as well.

10 worst movies of all time

RT also honors every year’s best-reviewed movies (by users and RT staff critics) with the Annual Golden Tomato Awards. On this page, you can browse best-reviewed movies by year, genre, release site (UK, Australia, limited release) and user rating.

Now when it comes to bad movies, RT knows terrible films so much it even made a whooping list of the worst 100 films of the 2000-2009 decade, titled Worst of the Worst.

10 worst movies of all time

For a list of each year’s least favorably-reviewed films, RT’s Golden Tomato Awards, which were mentioned above to honor best reviewed films, apparently also honors Moldy films; which are the worst of the worst for a specific year.

top ten worst movies list

If you visit RT frequently, be sure to make use of RT’s feed which will bring you the latest on upcoming movies and release dates.

The Internet Movie Database (IMDb)

IMDb features a gigantic list with the 250 best-reviewed films by IMDb user votes. While RT and IMDb both take into account users’ votes to create these lists, IMDb also packs 200 more films in the list and features commercially successful movies so you can browse the lists of box office-topping movies in the U.S. and UK by week and of all time. You can also browse movies by most DVD rentals, by decades and even gender.

top ten worst movies list

IMDb also has a list, named IMDb Bottom 100, of the 100 lowest-rated movies that have gotten the most votes from IMDb users.

top ten worst movies list

If you frequently check Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb, check out these Firefox addons which are designed to liven up your RT and IMDb visits.


Metacritic offers a Metascore (where the maximum is 100) for each movie based on reviews by national critics, and also displays user scores (with a maximum of 10) for each movie. However, for the lists the site compiled to present the best movies of the decade and of all time, MC only takes into account the Metascores.

list of the worst movies ever

This list of the best movies of the decade actually contains many foreign and indie films so MC also supplies us with a list of the Best-Reviewed Wide-Release Films of the Decade, 2000-09, and also a second part of the article that’s dedicated to sorting the best movies by genres and categories. And now onto the list of all-time winners.

list of the worst movies ever

While this is an impressive list with 200 of the all-time high scoring movies, the site also compiled a humongous list of the 200 worst-reviewed movies of all-time (since it’s actually 100 more than either Rotten Tomatoes or IMDb’s terrible movie lists, now you have more movies to avoid).

list of the worst movies ever

Exclusively Best Movie Guides

New York Times – The Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made

As if those lists from the sources above aren’t enough, New York Times’ Film Critics have published an astounding alphabetical list on NYT’s website, which is actually extracted from a book, The New York Times Guide to the Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made.

If you’re into classic movies, you will definitely enjoy this list as it seems to include a lot of older movies (there’s only about 37 or so titles from the 2000’s).

Oscar-winning Films

When it comes to moving and thought-provoking films, the Academy (of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) might know a thing or two. Its official site lists all the movies that have earned the award of Best Picture from 1927 and on.

TIME Magazine – ALL-TIME 100 Movies

Two TIME magazine film critics created this easier-to-manage list of 100 best movies, sorted alphabetically here.

If you want a general list with reviews of the best movies aggregated from different sources, check this Wikipedia article.

Exclusively Worst Movies Guides

Empire’s 50 Worst Movies Ever

top 100 worst movies

Maybe you’re trying to avoid wasting your precious time, money and effort the next time you get a movie, or you’re looking to have a fun night with your friends laughing at some bad acting. Whatever your reason, you won’t be disappointed with Empire’s guide to the 50 “most disastrous films ever made.”

Razzie-winning Films

top 100 worst movies

According to its site, the Golden Raspberry (Razzie for short) Awards have been presenting “dis-honors for Worst Achievements in Film since 1980.” Although voters include journalists, film industry professionals and users of the website, the Razzies are meant to be a “light-hearted parody of award shows in general (and the Oscars in particular)” according to the author’s site. Either way, the list of the movies that got recognized as Worst Pictures is worth a look.

top 100 worst movies

Here’s a general list of the worst-reviewed movies on Wikipedia, aggregated from a number of sources.

Now It’s Your Turn

If you’re feeling as excited as I am after such a variety of movie recommendation sites, you can start watching movies on the web (if you can’t play those movies on legal movie sites such as Hulu because you live outside the US, read this piece on how to solve that), create your own Top Movies of All Time list and even blog about your movie-watching experience. Believe it or not, this man was recently featured on ESPN for trying to watch IMDB’s top 250 movies in 1 year.

Feel free to comment on your own list of recommended movies and have fun watching!

Photo credit: Andres Rueda

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The Winners of our Windows® 7 Plain & Simple Giveaway

Posted: 27 Feb 2010 12:00 PM PST

The giveaway is officially over! The responses have been pouring in constantly. Our fans have been extremely enthusiastic. But there can only be 15 winners.

These lucky fifteen will each get a copy of Windows® 7 Plain & Simple from O'Reilly Media worth $17.99 which they will be enjoying on their PC, Kindle, Android or iPhone; learning more about the latest operating system from Microsoft.

And the winners are…

  1. Jason Boyd
  2. Marianne Popp
  3. Mohammad Kashif Choudhury
  4. Shanna Riley
  5. Don Breedwell
  6. Ryan Moultrup
  7. David Cabrera
  8. Anuja Verma
  9. Migui Aguilar
  10. Jules McNubbin
  11. Michele Zenkowich
  12. Keith-Mary Culver
  13. Maja Radić Samir
  14. Frank Rezack
  15. Mohammad Nabil

If you happen to be one of these fortunate winners, please keep your Facebook inbox in check. You will receive a message with more information on to collect your prize.

Be sure to check back on Monday for our next giveaway!

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Technology Explained: How Does Facebook Work? The Nuts and Bolts

Posted: 27 Feb 2010 11:30 AM PST

Social networking is the art of connecting with those who share common interests. Your 'network' is a community that helps keep you united with others and offers many benefits. Networking via social media sites has revolutionized how we use the Internet and is at the forefront of what we now call Web 2.0.

Facebook is social networking. People have been "facebooking" each other for about 6 years now, making Facebook the most used social network with over 350 million users worldwide. But how does Facebook work?

In this article, I will discuss Facebook's inner workings, covering its architecture and frontend/backend infrastructure—the nuts and bolts that hold Facebook together.

How Does Facebook Work?—The Front End

Facebook uses a variety of services, tools, and programming languages to make up its core infrastructure. At the front end, their servers run a LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP) stack with Memcache. Not a computer science expert? Let's take a look at exactly what that means.

Linux & Apache

how does facebook work

This part is pretty self-explanatory. Linux is a Unix-like computer operating system kernel. It's open source, very customizable, and good for security. Facebook runs the Linux operating system on Apache HTTP Servers. Apache is also free and is the most popular open source web server in use.


how does facebook work

For the database, Facebook utilizes MySQL because of its speed and reliability. MySQL is used primarily as a key-value store as data is randomly distributed amongst a large set of logical instances. These logical instances are spread out across physical nodes and load balancing is done at the physical node level.

As far as customizations are concerned, Facebook has developed a custom partitioning scheme in which a global ID is assigned to all data. They also have a custom archiving scheme that is based on how frequent and recent data is on a per-user basis. Most data is distributed randomly.


how does facebook work

Facebook uses PHP because it is a good web programming language with extensive support and an active developer community and it is good for rapid iteration. PHP is a dynamically typed/interpreted scripting language.


how facebook works

Memcache is a memory caching system that is used to speed up dynamic database-driven websites (like Facebook) by caching data and objects in RAM to reduce reading time. Memcache is Facebook’s primary form of caching and helps alleviate the database load.

Having a caching system allows Facebook to be as fast as it is at recalling your data. If it doesn't have to go to the database it will just fetch your data from the cache based on your user ID.

Downsides to Using LAMP

Facebook has realized that there are downsides to using the LAMP stack. Notably, PHP is not necessarily optimized for large websites and therefore hard to scale. Also, it is not the fastest executing language and the extension framework is difficult to use.

how facebook works

Mike Schroepfer, Facebook's Vice President of Engineering, recently did an interview at EmTech@MIT concerning this. "Scaling any website is a challenge,” Schroepfer said, “but scaling a social network has unique challenges.”

He went on to say that unlike other websites, you can't just add more servers to solve the problem because of Facebook’s “huge interconnected dataset.” New connections are created all the time due to user activity.

Facebook has grown so quickly that they are often faced with issues regarding database queries, caching, and storage of data. Their database is huge and largely complex. To account for this, Facebook has started a lot of open source projects and backend services.

How Does Facebook Work?—The Back End

Facebook's backend services are written in a variety of different programming languages including C++, Java, Python, and Erlang. Their philosophy for the creation of services is as follows:

1. Create a service if needed

2. Create a framework/toolset for easier creation of services

3. Use the right programming language for the task

A list of all of Facebook's open source developments can be found here. I will discuss a few of the essential tools that Facebook has developed.

Thrift (protocol)

Thrift is a lightweight remote procedure call framework for scalable cross-language services development. Thrift supports C++, PHP, Python, Perl, Java, Ruby, Erlang, and others. It's quick, saves development time, and provides a division of labor of work on high-performance servers and applications.

Scribe (log server)

Scribe is a server for aggregating log data streamed in real-time from many other servers. It is a scalable framework useful for logging a wide array of data. It is built on top of Thrift.

Cassandra (database)

how facebook works

Cassandra is a database management system designed to handle large amounts of data spread out across many servers. It powers Facebook's Inbox Search feature and provides a structured key-value store with eventual consistency.

HipHop for PHP

HipHop for PHP is a source code transformer for PHP script code and was created to save server resources. HipHop transforms PHP source code into optimized C++. After doing this, it uses g++ to compile it to machine code.


In a nutshell, that's Facebook. This article could easily be 37 pages longer if I were to go into more detail, but to answer the question "How does Facebook work?" I think this will suffice. If you look past all of the features and innovations the main idea behind Facebook is really very basic—keeping people connected. Facebook realizes the power of social networking and is constantly innovating to keep their service the best in the business.

Did you find this article useful? Leave your thoughts, comments, and ideas below!

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Fotobabble – Be Picture Perfect By Adding Voice to Your Photos

Posted: 27 Feb 2010 09:30 AM PST

How cool would a talking postcard be? Well, I know of talking greeting cards (not the virtual kind) which start playing a tune as you unfold them. It pinches the pocket, but the affection effect is enormous.

I don't think talking postcards have caught on yet. It's definitely not because of the technology but probably because sending a video message is downright easier and cheaper now.

But just as video has its own place, so does a photo. And isn't there something timeless about a memorable photo – something which moving images cannot evoke. Now, what if we add our own babble to our photos…

The usual method for adding sound to pictures would be create a photo story or a slideshow using many applications that are available for it. You can dust off your photo album and use these software to add effects, record your own voice or add music tracks…quite easily create a family 'motion picture'.

The other method of adding sound to pictures would be to use web services which allow us to annotate photos with our voice. The system is quite simple – upload your photos and use the services' web recorder to add your story to them.

Web services like Yodio and Voxpix, which we have covered earlier, cater to this niche. These services also allow you to call in and add your voice narration to the photos.

For those who like their choices in threes, Fotobabble could be the third option.

Fotobabble is a completely free web service which lets us create talking photos in a matter of clicks. Letting your photos speak their own story starts with a simple signup.

The First Click – Creating a Fotobabble

Creating a Fotobabble is just about entering a title and browsing for the photo on your hard drive. We have to make do with uploads for now as importing them from photo-sharing sites like Flickr or Picasa is still an anticipated feature for this year.

adding sound to pictures

The considered choice is between keeping the photos private or making them viewable to other Fotobabble visitors.

The Second Click – Editing a Fotobabble

This is the interface where we do the babbling to complete your Fotobabble.

adding sound to pictures

We can press the Record button on the Flash Player to narrate in our own words what the photo is all about. Fotobabble asks for permission of access to our computer's microphone. A press on stop completes the recording.

The length of the recording that's allowed is not explicitly mentioned but it's till the red progress bar moves to the end. That's about a minute from start to finish.

If you aren't too happy with the first voiceover, don't click on Save. Just click on Record again and do it over the first. Play it back to hear it out.

After finishing our commentary, all that's left is to add a few tags that describe what the photo is all about. All created Fotobabble's can be found in our individual accounts where we can choose to delete them.

The Third Click – Sharing the Fotobabble

We can share our Fotobabble with our friends and family via a host of social sharing sites and email. For instance, for Twitter, the link gets tweeted out and for Facebook, the Fotobabble plays on the Wall. If it's message boards or instant messengers, then the provided link comes in use. The embeddable code can be used on blogs or webpages.

Fotobabble also connects you to Mozilla Add-ons if you want to install the AddThis addon for all-in-one social sharing.

adding sound to pictures

Fotobabble is still a newborn service. A host of services are expected to be launched this year, like creating slideshows and mobile apps (only the iPhone app is available now). Though even now, it's a really quick way to broadcast a photo with a personal voice touch.

Do you think Fotobabble is a great idea to send out vocalized photos? Or think of it as a great replacement for travel postcards. How would you like to use it?

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