Friday, April 30, 2010 “Cool Websites and Tools [April 29th]” plus 8 more “Cool Websites and Tools [April 29th]” plus 8 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [April 29th]

Posted: 29 Apr 2010 08:31 PM PDT

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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WaxFM – If you are an old-school music aficionado, you'll know that music on vinyl is unlike music on CD's or MP3 players. WaxFM lets you find your favorite albums on vinyl without any hassle. Just search by name of the album, artist or catalog number. Read more: WaxFM: Find Your Favorite Music Records On Vinyl.


FreeCoversWorld – Every new computer lets you burn your own CD or DVD now with whatever you want to put in it. However, it still doesn't look complete unless you have an appropriate cover. FreeCoversWorld is a collection of over 100,000 free CD and DVD covers. Read more: FreeCoversWorld: Thousands Of Free CD and DVD Covers.



BookingCalendar – Some online calendars are too clunky and slow to use and the fact that we have to log in and open a URL makes it too stressful to implement. On the other hand, there are online calendars that are specialized to make specific tasks easier. BookingCalendar is one such app. Read more: BookingCalendar: Free Embeddable Calendar To Organize Bookings.



LocPDF – There are a lot of specialized search engines that let you find and download PDF files online. However, they can be hard to use if all you see are lists to linked PDFs without any visual recognition to check if you are downloading the correct file that you need. One app that solves this is LocPDF. Read more: LocPDF: Search & Preview PDF Files.



Simplizt – Unlike the hundreds of to-do list apps available on the web, Simplizt focuses on being a simple and intuitive task management system. After you register for a free account, just start typing a task, then add tags to it and/or set a completion date for it. Read more: Simplizt: Simple and Intuitive Task Management Tool.


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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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Give Google Chrome’s New Tab Page A Makeover With Speed Dial

Posted: 29 Apr 2010 06:31 PM PDT

chrome-newtabs1 Google Chrome, the free web browser from Google, has dozens of "small detail" features that can really improve your browsing experience.  One of these features is the new tab page: instead of a useless blank page, Chrome automatically displays a list containing thumbnails from the websites you visit most frequently.

Just because Chrome offers this cool feature doesn't mean it can't be improved, so in this guide I'm going to introduce you to Speed Dial for Chrome, a great extension that can make your new tab page look and function better.

Speed Dial

Speed Dial is a great extension for Chrome that replaces the default new tab page with large, visually-striking buttons and is highly customizable.  With Speed Dial, you can take your standard new tab page:

speed dial for chrome

And turn it into this:

speed dial for chrome

Getting Started

To start using Speed Dial, head on over to the Speed Dial's Chrome extension page.  Click the blue Install button and the extension will be ready to go!

Setting up your favorite websites in Speed Dial is very easy.  When viewing a website you want to include on your new tab page, simply click the Speed Dial icon in the URL bar and select Add Current Page.  To view your new tab page, you have a few options:

  • Open a new blank tab with CTRL + T.
  • Open a new blank tab by clicking the wrench icon in the top right of the browser and selecting New tab.
  • Click the Speed Dial icon and select Open Speed Dial.

speed dial for chrome

Your improved new tab page will show thumbnails of the websites you've chosen and is highly customizable.

Customizing Your Speed Dial Page


The first thing you'll probably want to do is rearrange your Speed Dial icons – this can be easily done by dragging and dropping.  You can also change how many items are displayed on your new tab page by clicking the Options button.

google chrome speed dial If you have a lot of websites you want to include on your new tab page, Speed Dial can be customized to show up to a 9 x 9 grid (81 websites total) – and if you manage to fill the maximum-sized Speed Dial, you better share a link to a picture in the comments!  I prefer to keep things as minimal as possible, so I kept my Speed Dial set at the default 3 x 4 grid.

You'll probably notice that when you first add sites to Speed Dial, a thumbnail containing a screenshot of the website is displayed by default.  If you're like me and find that to be a little too boring, Speed Dial recently added the option to customize icons with any image you like.  To do this, right click a Speed Dial icon and select Edit Dial.  In this menu you can change the title and address of the button, and you can also select an icon from a predefined list or add your own.

google chrome speed dial

Speed Dial has logos for dozens of popular websites, but if you can't find one you can simply enter a URL to an image in the Dial Image URL field and it will automatically be used as the button's icon.

To remove a website from your new tab page, simply right click it and select Remove Dial.


Since we've all got different tastes, Speed Dial includes several different themes to change the look of your new tab page.  To change your theme, click the Options button and choose from any of the available colors.

google chrome speed dial

If you aren't satisfied with just changing the color of Speed Dial, you can set a background image to really change the look.  Any image works, but it currently needs to be hosted online.  The developer notes that they will soon be adding support for local background images, so keep an eye out for future updates.

Here's a good tip: if you pick a dark background and can't read your text anymore, select the Black theme.  This won't change your background image, but it will make your text white so it will be readable again.


You can get the Super Mario theme here.

Bookmarks, Search, & More

Like the original new tab page, Speed Dial displays a list of your bookmarked websites in a small strip across the top of the new tab page.  You can also quickly perform a search with Google by using the search box just below the bookmarks strip.


Speed Dial has many more options I haven't covered in this guide, so check out the rest of the Options page and play around with the settings to make your perfect new tab page.

Do you know of any other extensions for Chrome that can improve, enhance, or make the new tab page better?  Share them with us in the comments, and don’t forget to check out the rest of our great articles about Google Chrome.

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Google Analytics Dashboard – A Powerful Wordpress Traffic Monitoring Plugin

Posted: 29 Apr 2010 04:31 PM PDT

Are you running a Wordpress blog?  One very important aspect of the blogger’s job is to keep track of his web traffic.  It is good to know how many visitors you have and whether that number is climbing or tanking.

It’s also good to know as much as you can about your visitors.  Where did they come from?  What are they reading on your site or blog?  What kind of changes do you need to make in order to get, keep, or grow that readership?  If you want more reasons to analyze your traffic, check out 7 reasons why your website won’t last without analytics.

Many people reach for one of the most powerful tools out there to do the work for them.  That tool is Google Analytics.

We have covered Google Analytics many times before here on MakeUseOf including Ryan’s recent article about how to put Google Analytics to work for you with email reports.  Google Analytics is probably the most popular traffic analyzing tool there is for webmasters and bloggers.

Sometimes it can become a pain signing into Google Analytics to see what’s going on.  Ryan is right, one way to save some time is by setting up email reports.  Another option you have is to use a Wordpress traffic monitoring plugin that gives you the traffic analysis right in your Wordpress dashboard.

wordpress traffic monitoring pluginWhat if you could have the best of both worlds?  What you want is the power of Google Analytics with the convenience of a dashboard widget.

Well, let me show you the Google Analytics Website Dashboard Wordpress plugin.  I think it can be the answer and can give you the power and convenience that you want.

Setting Up Google Analytics Website Dashboard

The plugin is hosted on the Wordpress plugin site.  That makes downloading and installing it a breeze from within your Wordpress dashboard.  Just head over to the Manage Plugins section and click “Add New.”  Run a search for “Google Analytics Dashboard.”  It should show up as the top result but make sure it is the one by Carson McDonald.

wordpress traffic monitoring plugin

Once you activate the plugin, you will find a Google Analytics Dashboard option in the settings menu.  Just head over there and sign in with your Google Analytics account and choose the profile to display.

wordpress traffic monitoring plugin

That’s about all there is to installing it.

The Wordpress Traffic Monitoring Plugin

Head to the dashboard and have a look at the Google Analytics widget you have just installed.  You should see the graph displaying the visits you’ve had for the past month.  This should give you a good overall look at how your traffic has been doing.

google analytics for wordpress plugin

You’ll also notice some other information including number of visits, pageviews, and pages per visit. I also like the fact that it shows the tops posts, referrers and the top searches.  This gives some good basic information about what’s been popular recently.

Analytics Information For Pages & Posts

Head on over to either the pages or posts section of your Wordpress backend and you’ll see some stats for each page or post on the list.  The plugin actually adds a column called “Analytics” and makes the pageview/exit/unique visitor stats very accessible.

google analytics for wordpress plugin

The Google Analytics Wordpress traffic monitoring plugin doesn’t show all of the data Google Analytics has to offer (visit Google Analytics for more in-depth information).  I think the power of the plugin lies in its ability to save you a trip to Google’s site by displaying just the basics.  What do you think?

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LogMeIn For Linux: Access Your LogMeIn Computers From A Linux Computer

Posted: 29 Apr 2010 02:31 PM PDT

It’s hard to best LogMeIn when it comes to remote desktop software. This program, once installed, allows you to remotely log into another computer – regardless of the router configuration of the computer you’re connecting to.

If you have access to a web browser you can access any and all computers you’ve set up using the service. The entire process is possible with or without a browser plugin, but it’s much faster if you have one. Aibek reviewed the program back in 2006 and since then it’s only got better.

I love this software, and use it for work quite a bit. I’ve had a problem, however: my netbook runs Jolicloud, meaning I can’t install the official LogMeIn plugin for my browser. As such, my remote connections are incredibly slow.

Or at least they were, until I found LogMeIn for Linux.

Yes, there’s an experimental browser plugin for LogMeIn. LogMeIn itself advises that you should not make use of this plugin in a production environment, but it’s still worth checking out. Additionally, if you ever absolutely need a Linux LogMeIn client, this will work in a pinch.


logmein for ubuntu

You won’t find the LogMeIn Linux plugin in your distribution’s repository; it’s too new to be there. You can, however, find a download over at LogMeIn’s “labs” page. The downloads include a DEB package (which offers LogMeIn for Ubuntu, Jolicloud and all other Ubuntu-based distros), an RPM package (which will work with SUSE and Red-Hat based systems including Fedora), and a TAR.GZ package for those who prefer to manually install such things.

On most user-friendly distributions, including Ubuntu, Fedora and Jolicloud, installing is as simple as downloading the package, double-clicking it and following the on-screen instructions. Restart your browser and you’re ready to start using LogMeIn.

If you’re using a distribution in which installation is more complicated than this, undoubtedly you’re smart enough to figure this out on your own. All you need to do is extract the file in the TAR.GZ to the folder your browser plugins are stored in: “~/.mozilla/plugins/“.

The plugin only works with browsers compatible with Mozilla plugins, such as Firefox.

Using The Plugin

logmein for ubuntu

This is LogMeIn as it’s meant to be. Head over to on your Linux machine and log in the way you normally do. As usual, you’ll be able to connect to all of the computers you’ve set up LogMeIn on. When you connect to them, however, you’ll immediately notice the speed difference.

You’ll also notice the full LogMeIn toolset, a lot of which is too slow to use in the flash version of LogMeIn you get without a browser plugin.

logmein for ubuntu


Note that, as stated earlier, this plugin is pre-release right now. LogMeIn makes no guarantee that it will work, and I’d advice you to not use it in situations where success is absolutely crucial.

You should also note that, at this time, there’s no way for you to connect with Linux machines; you can only connect to Windows and Mac machines from your Linux computer. Those hoping to connect to their Linux machine still need to resort to some combination of DynDNS, VNC and/or SSH. I recently wrote about using DynDNS to access your computer from anywhere, and I explained how to connect to your computer using VNC.


This plugin is exciting for me, because it greatly increases the speed with which I can connect to LogMeIn from my Linux-based netbook. I hope LogMeIn continues to develop this plugin, because it really would help out a lot of tech-savvy Linux people who want to help their Windows-and-Mac-based friends.

Why don’t you try out the plugin and then let us know what you think?

We NEED Your Comments!!! Please do share your thoughts in article comments.

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A Quick Way To Get Free SMS & Email Alerts Of Your Twitter Mentions

Posted: 29 Apr 2010 12:31 PM PDT

Perhaps you have taken the plunge and established your Twitter persona after hearing so much about the incredible growth of this social networking application. Now it’s time for you to track how much of your own voice has grown on the Web through Twitter.

Maybe you wish to know how many others are retweeting what you said. You could certainly perform a search over at or monitor your mentions through a Twitter client, but since you want to be productive on Twitter, why not get these searches delivered to your inbox or via free SMS alerts to your phone?

Here’s an easy way to do it if you already have a Yahoo! ID and an AOL account.

Using Yahoo! Pipes

The Digital Inspiration blog posted a nice how-to article on subscribing to password-protected feeds. To summarize it, you can subscribe to your favorite password-protected feed if you type your username and password right in the RSS feed URL, which is why it is a good idea to use Yahoo! Pipes to mask the feed URL.

Not everyone will be comfortable putting their password in plain text, but as long as you don’t publish your feed URL in Yahoo! Pipes, you shouldn’t have to worry too much, since the Pipes aren’t searchable (they’re not indexed in search engines).

  1. First, go to the Yahoo! Pipes site and login with your Yahoo! ID in the top right corner of the page.
  2. Select Create a pipe.
  3. Drag the Fetch Feed module to the larger space at the right of the module and in the text box, type “” without the quotes.
  4. free SMS alerts

  5. What you just entered is actually the RSS feed of your mentions from the regular Twitter website (without the “USERNAME:PASSWORD@” part, as you see below) so now just replace USERNAME and PASSWORD with your Twitter username and password, respectively.
  6. free SMS alerts

  7. Now click and drag the circle from the Fetch Feed module and connect to the circle at the top of the Pipe Output module.
  8. free SMS alerts

  9. Now hit Save at the top right, name this pipe (something like twitter replies could suffice), and click on Run Pipe…
  10. Make sure not to click on Publish once you’re on the freshly-made pipe. Right-click on the orange RSS button (Get as RSS) and select Copy Link Location or Copy Shortcut.

Getting SMS & Email Alerts

Now that you have the RSS feed of your Twitter mentions, you can subscribe to it in Google Reader, Netvibes or your favorite RSS reader. Alternatively, if you constantly check your email, try using Blogtrottr (which is great for real-time email alerts) or FeedMyInbox (which lets you subscribe to 5 feeds for free).

I actually prefer AOL Alerts to get feed alerts delivered to my phone in SMS form, although the service also alerts your inbox of new RSS feed items.

  1. Head to the AOL Alerts page and click on Sign In at the top right corner.
  2. After you have signed in, click on Feeds under Category.
  3. Paste the URL you copied from Yahoo! Pipes in the textbox of the grey Add your own Feeds module at the bottom right corner of the page. Click Add.
  4. sms news alerts

  5. Choose from the Delivery Frequency options. For almost real-time updates, select Live (mentions delivered via SMS are delayed by 10-15 minutes, while mentions delivered via email take 45 minutes to an hour). You can also choose a Scheduled daily delivery at a time you prefer.
  6. sms news alerts

  7. Now choose whether you want updates sent to your AIM screen name, email (you can add your primary address if you click on Change) and mobile phone. You must register your cell number if you haven’t already. This also enables you to receive IMs even when you’re offline so this is excellent for users with unlimited texting plans.
  8. Hit Save.

Since AOL Alerts give you the option of subscribing to keywords in your RSS feed, AOL Alerts could be your own RSS-to-email (with ReadTwit’s incredibly useful service) or RSS-to-IM service (a lot of which are extinct, except for RSS.IM and Inezha) so you won’t have to use Gmail as a middleman forwarder and be forced to use part of your 7+GB storage. You can also try Yahoo! Alerts, but it doesn’t seem to ever update me at my email or mobile.

If you wish for an easier alert system, you could take a peek at other services, such as FeedTwit and TwextMe, which send you direct messages and SMS, respectively when someone mentions you on Twitter. You can also track Twitter keywords from Twitter, from Monitter and by searching Twitter. While you’re monitoring your name, you might as well track what’s being said about you on the web. The method outlined above is just a way to not have to rely on Beta services that may stop working later.

What methods do you use to monitor your Twitter mentions? Also, check out MakeUseOf’s very own Twitter feed for exclusive updates!

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How To Make A Portfolio of Your Online Work With Protopage

Posted: 29 Apr 2010 11:31 AM PDT

As the world transitions to conducting work, business and play online, more and more communications that were formerly done offline in a formal way, are now quickly accomplished on the Internet. One excellent example is how the job hunting process is now almost exclusively online.

You make a portfolio with your resume and work samples and then submit it with your applications and cover letters in electronic format, the prospective employer contacts you via email, and in some cases you may even be interviewed over Skype or some other online conferencing software. The world of snail mail and telephone calls is gradually becoming a thing of the past.

If you find yourself in the job market during this troubled economy, you’ll want to position yourself to compete in a way that will capture the attention of prospective employers. In my experience, nothing impresses a person searching for a high-value employee more than when you inundate them with the overwhelming experience and background that you have in the industry.

In this article, I’m going to take a moment to walk you through how to make a portfolio using the online tool known as Protopage that features your background and your experience – and you can do it in less than 30 minutes, without knowing a single command in HTML.

Make A Portfolio Page That Will Shock & Awe

Protopage came in fourth place, just above iGoogle, in Aibek’s MUO ranking of the top 12 “start pages.” Personally, I don’t particularly like Protopage as a personal start page, because it currently lacks any very good plugins for the most popular services like email, Twitter and Facebook.

However, the strength of Protopage comes from two characteristics. First, the ease with which you can set up RSS feed widgets. It’s really just a matter of clicking on “Add Widgets” and then pasting the feed URL into the RSS field. The second is how insanely easy you can just slide feeds, text boxes, photos and more to any position on the page – reformatting the web page in a matter of seconds.

how to make a portfolio

When you first sign up for a Protopage, you’ll find a bunch of default RSS feeds and widgets – just start deleting all of them, and to modify the tabs at the top, all you have to do is click on them and type replacement text. You can call the tabs whatever you like, and you can add any new ones that you think would be appropriate and useful for anyone checking out your profile.

how to make a portfolio

To get started with adding content to make a portfolio that will attract attention, just start clicking on the “Add widgets” button – this is where all of the magic comes from.

how to make a portfolio

In the widgets page – you won’t see the sort of connections to email, Facebook and Twitter that you’re used to. That’s not really the strength of Protopage. Where this online page-builder really shines is in aggregating feeds from the many websites throughout the web. In this case you’re going to want to add the feed of any website that you’re involved with or which showcases your work – whether it’s photography, writing, graphic design or anything else. This is how you make a portfolio featuring your online work. Adding a feed is as simple as pasting the feed URL into the News Feed field and clicking “Go.”

make a business portfolio

Formatting the feed window is easy, as you can see from the window above. After playing around a bit, I eventually went with “Headlines and previews”, “Regular Feed” and I retitled the widget to “Ryan Dube at MakeUseOf.” It’s nice to have RSS feeds on your page that feature thumbnails, as it adds a bit of color and interest to your portfolio page.

Share More Than Just RSS Feeds

Ideally, you want to set up your portfolio page much like you’d set up a bio on any website, featuring your image and details about you that will tell the prospective employer as much about you as possible within a single webpage. Uploading and inserting images to your page is, yet again, painlessly simple.

make a business portfolio

Just add a widget and choose “Photo” from the list. Upload the image, title it and then drag the resulting photo box to the place on your page where you’d like it to go. Personally, I like it best in the upper left corner, much like the Facebook profile page.

make a business portfolio

Now, just because there’s no integrated Twitter or Facebook widget doesn’t mean you can’t add them to your Protopage profile, it just means you have to dig a little deeper. For Twitter, just go to your profile page on Twitter and click on the RSS link on that page for the URL. Add the Twitter RSS feed into Protopage just as you did every other one.

online web portfolio

Now, if you contribute to a large number of websites, there may be a few that you don’t really contribute enough to have a dedicated feed, but you do submit content that prospective employers may find of value. Provide quick links to your profiles at those pages using the “Bookmarks” icon. This provides a single box where all of the smaller, but still important, links provide the employer a place to quickly check out your work.

online web portfolio

If you want to share content from a website where there’s no RSS feed, just choose the Web page widget and provide the URL. This actually embeds an actual web page, complete with scroll bars, directly into the page. To see this in action, just check out the embedded web page in the middle of my sample Protopage porfolio, which I’ve made public so you can have a look around.

online web portfolio

If those aren’t enough tools for you to make a portfolio page you’d be proud of, then there’s also the comment box widget, which lets you write occasional comments, almost like mini-blogging, which gets published on the page at regular intervals. Of course, if you have a porfolio, then you need to provide your resume. I was very impressed by the Rich Text sticky note tool, which lets you create (or paste) formatted text, like your resume and embed it directly onto your page – complete with all appropriate formatting.

As you can see under “My Resume” I’ve used this feature to post a sample resume. As you can see, all of the formatting stayed exactly as it should. Without the need for HTML or any other Internet coding skills, you can make a porfolio that’ll make them do a double-take every time. It’s one thing to provide a resume and a few references, but it’s quite another to offer a comprehensive list of all of your past and current projects. If that doesn’t show them that you’re a disciplined, multi-tasking genius – nothing will.

Have you ever put together your own online porfolio? Did you stick to HTML, or did you use any online tools? What do you think of the Protopage solution? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Backup & Restore Data And Files Easily With Back In Time [Linux]

Posted: 29 Apr 2010 10:31 AM PDT

Regular backup of data and files is an absolute must as you might have read a number of times here. Rsync, being the versatile file copy utility that it is, has been the ultimate backup tool for Linux geeks. However, using rsync from the command line is not what you would call a stroll in the park. There are more options than you can shake a stick at, the switches are cryptic, on top of that you are never really sure which one to use until you have goofed up and learnt it the hard way!

The other day, we showed you Grsync, which provides a frontend to the ever so geeky rsync command. You could use Grsync to create your backups for you. However, there are a number of good backup software available for Linux, which make the task even easier. Let’s have a look at one such software.

It is called Back In Time and it is a pretty useful option if you are looking for a backup solution for your Linux computer. On Ubuntu, it is available via Ubuntu Software center, just do a search for back in time, wait till it shows up then click the install button. You could also do a quick sudo apt-get install backintime-gnome (or sudo apt-get install backintime-kde) if you prefer to do so.

backup data and files

Back In Time uses snapshots for backup and recovery. One of the main advantages of Back In Time is the fact that taking backups is very easy and automated once you are done with the initial setup. The configuration itself takes 5 minutes at best:

backup data and files

The first time you run the software, Back In Time displays the configuration screen by default. Here you can configure where you want to backup data and files and how often the files should be backed up. There is no out of the box support for online services or network drives, however anything that is currently mounted can be used to store your backups.

Next you need to specify all what you want to backup using the include tab. You can also exclude certain files from the backup via the exclude tab.

At this point, you can leave the rest of the tabs and configuration and you are good to go ahead with your first snapshot. For the sake of completeness, the other options let you specify when an old snapshot should be deleted, and configure things like notifications and cron settings.

This is all you have to do to ensure that you back up important data, files and folders and that they remain backed up and secure. Yes, that is all. Everything else is taken care of by Back In Time. It will back up the specified files and folders at the set time onto the configured location, creating a new entry within the interface for each snapshot taken.

The other thing that a backup software of this kind must excel at is restoring your files to a particular state you want. Back In Time offers some interesting features for restoring files as well. All the snapshots are listed via the date and time at which they were taken. You can also name your backups to something more descriptive, just in case you need a definite indicator for a particular version of files.

Click on one and you can view which files and folders are available in the snapshot. You can quickly copy from the snapshot or restore the file/folder to what it was when the snapshot was taken.

backup data and files

Back In Time also lets you view what has changed since a particular snapshot was taken and the current state of the files/folders.

Click on the snapshots button towards the top right corner. A list of all the snapshots will be displayed. Select the one you are interested in and you can then compare it with the present state of files/folders or any other snapshot if you so please.

Back In Time is a great software for effortlessly backing up your data. There are plenty of options that can help you tweak the software to your liking and preferences. It would be great if they could add certain features like encryption and backup to the cloud. Overall though, Back in Time is surprisingly easy to use yet a powerful tool for your backup needs.

What is your favorite backup software for Linux?

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5 Great Multi-Platform Tools to Take Quick Notes Anywhere

Posted: 29 Apr 2010 09:31 AM PDT

00 Writing Notes.jpgSo you’ve come up with the million dollar idea when you took a shower one morning. You entertained your imagination with a scenario about cashing out on it and living the life of the rich and famous. Then you finished showering, continued your life with the 9 to 5 routine and totally forgot about that chance to be successful until one day you saw somebody on TV getting rich using that very idea!

What should you do about it? Find a lawyer and prepare to sue that “idea thief”? Actually, there’s nothing you can do but continue on with your life. You can’t copyright ideas and it’s very possible that there are several people among millions of others who came up with exactly the same idea.

Aside from taking actions, the first difference between success and failure is the act of taking notes of those ideas.

Anytime, Anywhere, Any Forms

Ideas pop-up unpredictably anytime and anywhere, and most of the time, they are only doing a one time visit. If you are determined to be successful, you’d better always be prepared to catch those ideas or they will gone forever.

The most basic way to do it is to bring pen and paper everywhere. Some people even go further and prepare paper notes on their bedside to write down their dreams. But in this technological era, I personally think that this quick note taking business should be done using gadgets that we use.

00b text input.jpg

We need a note-taking application which can be accessed using any gadget, and all the notes that we take should be automatically synchronized between gadgets.

Here are 5 alternatives to synchronize multi-platform quick notes:

The Many Faces Of Evernote

01 Evernote logo.jpgLet’s start with the most viable solution. We’ve discussed Evernote so many times that I don’t think another introduction is necessary. This note taking service comes for almost every possible gadget – Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Windows Mobile, etc.

The good: available under almost every platform and gadget, with dedicated applications built specifically for that platform.

The bad: the free option is a little bit limited (although it’s good enough for most users).

01b evernote.jpg

Combination Of Dropbox & Any Word Processor

02 Dropbox logo.jpgThis combo also needs no further detailed explanation. Just put any notes in the Dropbox folder and you can access it from anywhere.

The good: available under any platform which can access Dropbox, flexible, can use any note taking app.

The bad: doesn’t have a specific note taking application.

02b Drag to Dropbox.jpg

Zotero & The Synchronization Feature

03 Zotero logo.jpg

Zotero is the favorite of Firefox user researchers. It’s a very capable data gathering tool, with the ability to take and synchronize notes across the platforms.

03b Zotero - App.jpg

The good: available under any platform that can run Firefox.

The bad: cannot work outside of Firefox.

SimpleNote Environment

04 Simplenote logo.jpgSimpleNote started as an iPhone app with its own synchronization center. Then several note taking Mac apps – like JustNotes and Notational Velocity – began supporting it and opened up the possibilities of synchronizing notes easily between Macs, iPod Touches and iPhones.

Simplenote is available for free (ad supported) for all iPhone / iPod Touch / iPad owners. But if you don’t have those iGadgets, the service is also available via web access (require one time small payment).

04 JustNote - Simplenote login.jpg

The good: Supported by many dedicated and great note taking apps.

The bad: Non-Mac users can only access it via web interface (for now). Note: similar app for Windows: PicoNote.

NoteSync & Google Docs

05 NoteSync logo.jpg

There’s a new player on the field. NoteSync is an AIR application that can run under Windows, Mac and Linux. The best thing about this app is that it syncs with your Google Docs, so you can pick up where your Google Docs left off.

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The good: simple, multi-platform dedicated desktop quick note-taking app.

The bad:  Nothing so far.

Honorable Mention: Any browser & Note Taking Web Service

There are quite a few free web note-taking services out there – something like Springpad – so it’s a little bit difficult to discuss them all. Basically anybody with access to the web could use the service – regardless of the platform. The good: accessible from everywhere.The bad: browser dependent, and not so quick.

There you go, 5 (plus 1) methods that you can use to have synchronized multi-platform quick note-taking. If you have your own killer apps or combinations of services, please share them using the comments below.

Image credit: wickenden, Apple

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Create Free PDF Files Instantly & Easily Using PDFCreator [Windows]

Posted: 29 Apr 2010 08:31 AM PDT

Adobe’s PDF (Portable Document Format) has been in the limelight ever since it came into existence in 1993. However, Adobe made it ridiculously expensive for end users to create PDF documents. While the PDF Reader was free, the creator itself was very expensive. And the story hasn’t changed one bit in all these years.

PDFCreator, however, is an open source alternative that lets you create Adobe PDF files. While it doesn’t have the advanced features contained in the latest Adobe Acrobat, it does pack enough power to deal with everyday PDF requirements easily.

How It Works

PDFCreator is an elegant piece of software and is very good at what it does. It installs a virtual printer driver, and any file which is sent to that printer, results in a PDF document.

Once sent to print, the user gets a dialog box to customize anything that he/she might want to. This dialog box also asks for the path of the final document.

Once all settings are finalized, the printer produces a spanking, sparkling new PDF file.

Create Your First PDF for Free

First of all, head over to the PDFCreator page and download the latest version. It’s larger than the average utility at 17.8MB and will take a few minutes to download.

Once downloaded, run the installer and install the application. For current purposes, select “Standard Installation” when prompted during the installation.

create pdf files free

After the installation is completed, fire up PDFCreator from your Start Menu. You’ll be greeted with the screen shown below. This is PDFCreator’s PDF Print Monitor, and this is where you customize all the settings of your virtual PDF printer.

create pdf files free

First of all, we are going to customize the printer so that it gives us the perfect PDF as output. Head over to “Printer > Options” to bring up the Options dialog box. This should bring up an intimidating looking dialog box with  a myriad of options for you to change. Don’t fret though, as we’ll help you get going with this guide. We’ll leave certain settings at their optimized defaults and change some others to suit our needs.

create pdf files free

Click on the “Document” link in the left hand navigation of the Options dialog box. In the right hand side, make the following changes as per your needs:

  • Use Standard Author: Check this option, and enter the text that you want to display under the author field of your PDFs. You can use certain standard tokens for this. Select the token you want from the “Add an Author-Token section“. Selecting this will auto-generate author names for you.
  • Use The Current Date/Time For Creation Date: Check this to time-stamp your PDFs with the exact date/time of their creation.

how to create a pdf file

Next, click on the “Save” link in the left hand navigation pane. In the right hand side, make the following changes:

  • Filename: Enter some text that you’d want to be part of the filename for all your PDFs. Again, you can use Filename-Tokens to auto-generate filenames. For our example, let us leave it at the default, which is “<Title>”. This tells the printer to use the title of the current window as the filename for the document.

how to create a pdf file

Finally, click the “Actions” link in the left hand navigation pane. These settings let you define any actions that you’d like the printer to perform before/after printing your document.

For example, you may want to display a pop-up message once the PDF has been printed successfully. Use the screenshot below as a reference and configure your own version similarly.

how to create a pdf file

Now that you are done, click on the “Save” button and commit all your changes to memory. It’s now time to test the latest geeky addition on your computer. Just head over to any application that supports printing and give it a file to print to create PDF files for free. Make sure you select PDFCreator as the printer before you finalize the command, or else you’ll be printing to some other device. Once done, do let us know about your PDF creation experience in the comments.

In case you want a lightweight PDF Reader to go with your new PDF Printer, check out the previously featured Nuance PDF Reader here.

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