Thursday, June 24, 2010 “Cool Websites and Tools [June 23rd]” plus 8 more “Cool Websites and Tools [June 23rd]” plus 8 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [June 23rd]

Posted: 23 Jun 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.

List Your Website Here! – URL shrinking services are a dime a dozen but few stand out due to their unique features. is a bit special because it offers you an additional layer of security while sharing shortened URLs. When you shrink a URL with, you also have the option to set a password protection. Read more: Shorten & Password Protect URLs.


MMC Medic – MultiMediaCards (MMCs) used for mobile phones are prone to memory corruption errors due to improper usage or mishandling. However these problems can often be solved with a simple reformat of your MMC. MMC Medic is a free desktop application that reformats your corrupted MMC so that you can use it again. Read more: MMC Medic: Formats Corrupt Memory Cards Without Hassle.



Adobe eSignatures – Forming and signing important documents online can be a little tricky. You cannot be sure if the person who is creating the document would show you a draft, obtain your approval, then introduce changes without informing you. eSignature presents a solution to signing documents online. Read more: Adobe eSignatures: Signing Documents Online Made Easy.



Favitt – With every web service letting you customize the experience, why leave search engines so restricted and generic? Favitt is a new tool that changes things. Instead of searching only Google or only Bing, Favitt allows you to make a personalized searchengine by adding multiple search engines. You can choose to search only Google, only Bing, or both. Read more: Favitt: Make a Personalized Search Engine.



ButtonMaker – If you are a website developer or graphic designer, you use CSS code every now and then. Buttons are a webpage element type which are often coded in CSS and then embedded in websites. Thinking of and typing up the entire CSS code for a button can be quite a tedious task for designers. But thanks to Button Maker, the job is greatly simplified. Read more: ButtonMaker: CSS Button Code Generator.


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How To Protect Your Privacy on Facebook

Posted: 23 Jun 2010 06:30 PM PDT

Facebook has been hit with a barrage of privacy complaints in recent weeks and, while the company responded by streamlining the Facebook privacy controls with effect from 26 May 2010, there are still some things you need to consider in order to ensure that you don’t over-share your personal information.

This post will look at the top ways you can protect your privacy when using the world’s most popular social network. 

Let’s begin.

Watch what you post 

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Or it used to. Nowadays, what happens in Vegas is posted on Facebook for all to see. It really doesn’t matter how much Facebook privacy options improve or how much time you spend scrutinizing those options, it would be a big mistake to assume that the information you post will stay within your network. Whether because of a Facebook issue such as the recent chat bug or because of over-sharing friends who do not value your Facebook privacy as much as you do, there is always a possibility that what you post will end up being read by people you never expected.

Consequently, you should think long and hard prior to posting disparaging comments about your boss, photos of yourself sunbathing in the nude (you may be perfectly content to share them now, but will you still feel the same way when you’re elected President?) or any other material that you wouldn’t be happy to share with all the world – either now or in the future! 

Watch who’s accessing your account 

Should somebody succeed in hacking your Facebook account, then your privacy will have been completely compromised. Protecting your account with a strong password will reduce the chances of it happening, but how can you tell if somebody has managed to gain unauthorized access to your account? Justin outlined an extremely easy way to do just that in his post How To Find Out If Your Facebook Account Has Been Hacked. While the method certainly isn’t foolproof, it’s nonetheless a big step in the right direction. 

Limit the information in your profile 

Facebook enables you to create and share a very detailed profile that includes everything from your birthday, street address, telephone and cell numbers and employment history -in other words, information that may help somebody steal your identity. Sure, it may seem unlikely – and maybe it is unlikely – that your account will be hacked by an identity thief or that your profile information will be exposed to the world as a result of a Facebook bug, but why take the risk? The best option is to enter only the information that people will need to be able to find and connect with you – assuming you want people to be able to do that – and to use the privacy settings to restrict what you share (see below). 

Use the privacy settings 

As mentioned at the start of the post, Facebook have at long last given a much needed overhaul to their privacy settings – settings that were previously so complex as to cause some people to resort to using third-party tools such as ReclaimPrivacy and SaveFace to check that they were not sharing more information than they realized. The overhaul sees the Facebook privacy settings consolidated and summarized on a single page – accessed by clicking Account > Privacy Settings – which makes it much easier to see what’s being kept private, what’s being shared with your network and what’s being shared beyond your network. The privacy page also makes it easy to accept – or restore – Facebook’s recommended default settings or to apply your own custom settings. 

How much information you choose to share is a personal choice and may depend on factors such as the type of material you post, whether you accept work contacts as friends and whether you use lists (more on lists later in the post). 

Note, however, that access to your information is not limited to humans: certain applications and websites can access it too. And you don’t have to be actually using an application in order for it to be able to collect data – if one of your buddies is using a particular application, that application may be able to access your information.  Click Edit your settings to access this screen: 

And then check the settings under each section – What you’re using, Game and application activity, Info accessible through your friends and Instant personalization – to make sure that you’re not sharing more information that you’re comfortable sharing.  Pay particular attention to the section Info accessible through your friends as you’ll note that a considerable amount of data is shared by default: 

Again, there are no hard and fast rules as to what information you should or should not share – it all depends on how you use Facebook and your personal preferences. That said, given the risks associated with over-sharing information, it’s probably wise not to share more than you would if using the Facebook’s recommended settings. 

Use per-post privacy settings 

Facebook enables you to apply per-post rules. Click on the padlock icon below the message composition box and you’ll be presented with options which enable you to specify whether a post will be visible to friends, friends of friends or everyone: 

Further, the Customize option enables you to hide a post from certain people. This feature may be useful for relatively minor matters – organizing a surprise party for somebody, say – but don’t rely on it when it comes to important stuff (you may think that something should be kept private, but one of your friend’s may feel differently!). 

Use lists 

As described in an earlier post about Facebook privacy, you can use lists to place your contacts into groups. However, as with the per-post privacy settings, don’t assume that this will necessarily keep your posts confidential (mistakes are easy to make and you don’t want to discover that you forgot to add the boss you’ve been bad-mouthing to your “work” list!).

The bottom line 

Common sense is the most vital tool when using Facebook and there are two key risks that you need to consider: 

  • Identity theft. There is no good reason to enter your street address, telephone numbers, work information, etc., etc., etc. into Facebook. It’s asking for trouble. Don’t do it.
  • Embarrassment. Ill-considered Facebook posts have cost people their jobs. If you wouldn’t want something to be broadcast to the world, don’t post it to Facebook. It’s a simple as that.

I hope these Facebook privacy tips have taught you to be a smarter, savvier Facebook user. Stay safe!

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Embed a 3D Photo Gallery in Your Website With Cooliris

Posted: 23 Jun 2010 04:30 PM PDT

embed photo gallery in websitePhoto galleries are pretty popular these days. If you have an account with any photo storage and sharing service like Flickr or Picasa, then you probably already have an associated photo gallery with a URL that you can send to friends. But what if your photo sharing needs go beyond a link to some other URL that you have no control over? And why stick with the dull and boring flat 2D photo galleries that most photo sharing sites offer? Instead, wouldn’t it be cool if you could embed a 3D photo gallery directly into your existing blog or website?

Cooliris is one of the most popular 3D photo gallery solutions online. Damien shared how using Cooliris can enhance the photo browsing experience on the iPhone, and Jackson covered the desktop version of Cooliris in some detail. Since then, Cooliris has expanded its offerings and now provides a useful 3D photo gallery plugin that you can create and embed anywhere on the web.

Creating Your Embeddable Cooliris Photo Gallery

The cool thing about embedding a Cooliris photo gallery is that instead of acting as a static photo gallery, it actually serves as a feed that updates each time you add new photos to your photo stream in services like Flickr or Picasa. This is one of the easiest ways to distribute photos to multiple blogs – just embed your one photo stream to however many websites you like, and when you upload photos to your one photo storage account, the updates distribute wherever your Cooliris photo gallery is embedded.

Setting up your Cooliris embeddable photo gallery is a very simple three step process, and it is customizable enough to easily match the theme and appearance of your site. The first step is to visit the Express site, and click on “Create your own 3D wall!”

embed photo gallery in website

The first step of the process is to choose what source you’re going to use as your photo stream. In my example, I’m going to use a Flickr account that I’ve used as a bucket for all sorts of photos, from family photos to Ebay products I used to sell. All you have to do is select the content source, and then paste the URL for your photo stream page.

embed photo gallery in website

Keep in mind that each source has different configuration options, so your particular screen may look a little different than this one. Cooliris used to be somewhat limited in the number of sources you could use, at least back in 2008, but today you can use just about any major source of photos, including any media RSS feed. This means that you don’t have to use your own photo gallery. If you want to embed images from someone else’s photo stream or website, just select their source and paste their photo stream URL.

embed photo gallery website

Once you’ve got the photo source configured, it’s just a matter of customizing your theme to match your website. You can choose from a small selection of premade background themes. If none of those suit your site, just click on “Advanced Options” and use a background image URL of your choosing. The ability to use a background image lets you basically create any background theme that you want, so your choice is unlimited. The Advanced tab also lets you modify little details about how the gallery appears and behaves.

embed photo gallery website

On the final page is where you copy and paste the embed code. If you’re using a specific service like Facebook or Blogger to post your dynamic gallery, make sure to select the button for that service, as the embed code will be a little bit different. Otherwise, stick with the default embed code because it will work on just about any blog that lets you embed standard HTML code.

embed photo gallery website

In my case, I’m going to create a specific page just for my images, because my blog is set up to assign a tab at the top of the screen for each unique page I create. I’d like to offer visitors a quick and easy link to my photo gallery, so creating a “My Photo Gallery” page is definitely the best way to go. This is how it appears once I’ve created the page.

embed photo gallery

This is how my Wordpress theme is set up, but if you have a different setup, you may want to just embed the photo gallery into a new post, or maybe you want to embed it into the sidebar. Any option will work because you can just embed the code into the post or into your sidebar widget, and your dynamic Cooliris photo gallery will display right within your blog. It embeds into the page just like you’ve coded a photo gallery onto your site. Your visitors won’t even know that the images and the gallery source comes from another website.

embed photo gallery

Best of all, the cool features that you’ve come to expect from Cooliris, like 3D scrolling and pop-up image view windows, all work perfectly within the self-contained, embedded photo gallery. Click on a photo, and it’ll zoom and display right within the embedded window. Click the scroll button, and the entire gallery tilts and scrolls in 3D right within your own web page.

embed photo gallery

Of course the feature that I like the most is the thing that I’ve mentioned the most in this article – the dynamic nature of the photo gallery. No longer do you have to upload and manage a photo gallery that you’ve programmed into your website or blog, now you can simply update your source – in my case, my Flickr account – and the page automatically displays your new photo stream with those updates. For example, I decided that I wanted to remove my kids’ photos from the image stream, since I’m making it public. Here you’ll see that the stream automatically updated to reflect those changes.

Best of all, within the embedded photo gallery, there are links where your visitor can share the photos via Facebook and Twitter. Or they can click to maximize the display – which, by the way, doesn’t take them away from your website. Once the click on minimize, it returns them right back to the page on your website where they started.

Have you ever tried Cooliris as an embedded photo gallery? Do you like the dynamic update ability and 3D features? Do you know of any alternatives that you like better? Share your insight in the comments section below.

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NicePlayer – A Quick and Light Alternative Media Player For Mac

Posted: 23 Jun 2010 02:30 PM PDT

media player for macWhat do people do after they’ve found something that they can “live with”? Most will settle down. And what will happen after people settle down? They will stop looking around. While this might be good when speaking about a spouse or family, it’s not always good for everything else.

In terms of media players for Mac, most Mac users are satisfied with the existence of QuickTime and VLC for multimedia player. They stop looking around and might miss some nice alternatives, something like NicePlayer.

This is an open source multimedia player built from the ground up. It supports scripts, and those who have tried the app say that NicePlayer requires less system resource than QuickTime and VLC while incorporating the goodness of the two.

Let’s Play Nice

If you want to try this alternative media player for Mac, you can start by downloading the latest version, a 3.4 MB installer – relatively small compared to the 19 MB VLC or 17 MB QuickTime installers. At the time of writing, the latest version is 0.96.2.

The first time you try to play movie using NicePlayer, you’ll notice that there’s nothing but the movie there.

media player for mac

The playback controls will appear when you hover your mouse over the lower part of the screen. Similar to QuickTime, or the other way around? Looking at the original release date, I think Niceplayer’s user interface was adopted by QuickTime.

media player mac

The title bar will also appear upon mouse hover. There’s something more than the title in the title bar. On the most right corner you’ll find the playlist button. Clicking on it will open the playlist pane. You can add movies by dragging and dropping them to the pane.

media player for mac

There are two buttons there. The left one is to arrange the play order: continuously or shuffled, while the right one is the loop button. You can set each item to be played once, or the list to be repeated over and over, or only one item that will be repeated over and over.

The menu “Presentation” allows you to choose the window size, including “Full Screen (Command + F)”.

media player mac

There are rather unusual menus: Present All, Stop All Simultaneously, and Play All Simultaneously. Curiously, I tried them but nothing unusual happened. The movies were played normally.

As mentioned earlier, NicePlayer supports the use of scripts. There’s the “Scripts” menu to access all the available pre-installed scripts, including one that caught my attention: “Just For Fun“.

media player mac

This menu contains two items: “Send To Background” – to put the movie behind every other open windows and “Set Current Window Opacity” – to set the transparency level of the movie.

03c Set Opacity.jpg

If you choose the latter, you can decide on the opacity. My personal opinion is, against colorful background, anything below 70 percent is barely watchable. Below is an example of transparency level set at 50%.

mac media player

If you are the kind of person who eats scripts for breakfast and want to create and use your own in this app, you can put the script in NicePlayer’s scripts folder. You can access the folder by going to the “Scripts – Open Scripts Folder” menu.

For those who wants to dig deeper into NicePlayer ability, you can go to the Preferences menu. There are lots of settings that you can adjust to fit your personal preferences.

mac media player

Don’t Settle

Many people are unaware of the existence of other great alternative apps just because they stop looking. NicePlayer shows us that not well known doesn’t mean not good.

So if you are looking for a small and light media player for Mac, you can try NicePlayer. And if you know other great alternatives, you can share using the comment below.

Don’t forget to check out our other articles about media players for Mac, such as: Clip & Convert Your Video Faster With QuickTime X, How To Play WMV Files on your Mac, and Playing Video Files With Some Twist Using Movist.

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The Best Free Email Clients for Windows 7

Posted: 23 Jun 2010 01:30 PM PDT

free email clientsWindows 7 features a lot of improvements over Vista, but Microsoft did decide to drop some features in its latest operating system. One of the features dropped was Windows Mail, a basic email client which had been available in Windows Vista. It was not replaced by a version of Outlook, either – Windows 7 simply shipped without an email client.

This of course means that if you want a free email client you’ll need to find one on your own. There is a large selection of email clients available, and in general they will do their job. The best email clients for Windows 7, however, distinguish themselves by having a user-friendly interface which is easy to understand and navigate on a daily basis.

Note: We’re only looking at dedicated e-mail clients. Gmail and other browser-based email services aren’t covered here.

Postbox Express

Not everyone needs a complex email program. The basic function of every email program is to display email. An email client which can display email quickly and simply with minimal fuss is always preferable to one which requires some tinkering – and that is where Postbox Express comes in. Check out Angela’s review of Postbox Express.

Like most email clients today, Postbox Express has a very simple install followed by a very simple login procedure. Just put in your name, email address and password and like magic everything else is detected. Postbox Express is not alone in this feature, however. What really impressed me was that Postbox Express was able to take all of my folders which were set up in my Gmail account and accurately reproduce them. The other email clients listed here, good though they may be, did not reproduce the folders correctly.

Postbox Express also benefits from a very easy to use interface. It has a basic two-column design and supports tabs. A row of icons at the top of the program provides all of your basic functionality, such as replying, forwarding, deleting and etc. While this all seems obvious, other email clients in fact do not arrange these interface elements as well as Postbox Express. Another benefit to Postbox Express is how well the client conforms to different window sizes. Reducing the size of the Postbox Express window to only four hundred pixels wide and a few hundred tall doesn’t reduce the programs functionality.

This isn’t to say that Postbox Express is perfect. While Postbox offers tabs, writing a new message opens a new window – something I find annoying. The performance of Postbox Express also seems to be below that of other email clients. I noticed that messages appear to take more time to open in Postbox than in other email clients here. Still, Postbox’s excellent interface makes Postbox Express a good choice for those who want a easy to use Windows 7 email client.


free email clients

Thunderbird, like Firefox, has become increasingly popular. What once started as a small project is now a free email client recognized world-wide as one of the best email clients for Windows 7 – or any other operating system.

Setting up Thunderbird is arguably even easier than setting up Windows Live Mail, although the Create Account button in the setup is a little unclear if you are simply connecting Thunderbird to an existing account, not setting up a new email. Once installed, Thunderbird uses a familiar two-column format. The interface is compact overall, which makes Thunderbird easier to use effectively in a small window than other Windows 7 email clients. Emails can either be viewed in a small pane at the bottom of the client or can be double-clicked to open them in a new tab. Writing a new email will result in the opening of a separate window, however.

Thunderbird supports many advances features. Tags, filters, fast search and smart folders are all included. Thunderbird also includes default email filtering features which will help sort out spam and scam e-mails, a unique feature among email clients for Windows 7. If your email server doesn’t already perform these actions – or simply doesn’t perform them well – Thunderbird can be a godsend. The extra options do make Thunderbird a tad bit more difficult to use, but it is still easy to understand after a week or so.

Opera Mail

free email clients

Opera is the new Firefox/Thunderbird. It has been around for quite some time, but now that Firefox seems to be gaining mainstream popularity many tech-savvy users are starting to name Opera as the new underdog which could upset the more popular browsers in the future.

Speculation aside, what Opera offers right now is a very robust email client. Accessing it is a bit unusual, because it is accessed straight for the Opera web browser. This is inconvenient if you don’t use Opera as your web browser, and insanely convenient if you do. Setting up Opera is easy, the two-column interface is able to disable quite a bit of information in an understandable format at once. The way Opera renders HTML in the web browser is brilliant. Most email clients make me cringe whenever I receive a HTML-heavy email because they tend to be rendered poorly and are usually slow. Not so in Opera – HTML-heavy emails are crisp and speedy.

Opera uses a tabbed interface which is the same as that of the web browser. This interface is a bit uncomfortable at first. For example, there is a column of icons on the left side of the interface which allow you to switch between contacts, mail, bookmarks and other views. It isn’t obvious what these buttons are for, even after you click on them. However, the interface does offer some advantages – for example, new emails open in tabs instead of new windows. Experienced users will find that Opera is very flexible once you get used to it.

Verdict: Best Windows 7 Email Client?

Postbox Express is the simplest and most straightforward email client for Windows 7. If you just want a free email client for communicating with friends and family, Postbox Express will work. However, Postbox Express’s somewhat slower performance may be an issue to people who read large volumes of email every day.

Editor’s note: Users may experience slow-downs during the initial run, while Postbox Express is indexing your mail.

Those who use their email for business or who receive large volumes of email will probably want to go with Thunderbird or Opera, both of which are among the most robust Windows 7 email clients available for free or otherwise. Which one do you choose? That depends. Thunderbird makes it easier to organize emails, and the filtering is wonderful if you seem to be receiving a lot of unwanted email.  However, I like how Opera handles everything in tabs, even the composition of new emails, and the HTML rendering is beautiful. You may want to install both and try them out for a few days to see which one you prefer.

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3 Free Stick Figure Animation Programs to Kickstart Your Animation Career

Posted: 23 Jun 2010 12:30 PM PDT

stick figure animationIf cave paintings are anything to go by, stick figures could be what man first learnt to draw. They are so simple, we barely pay attention to them, and we move on to make our figures more fleshed out.

But the best thing about stick figures is that they are straight and simple. Even the most artistically inept guy could draw one. Well, a lot of people do draw stick figures.

From toilet door signs to Flash games, from cartoon strips to movie posters, stick figures are there where nothing else quite fits in.

Well, there's no doubt that stick figures are like universal symbols. You just have to do a search on YouTube to see how virally popular they are.

If it's so simple then how do we make a few stick figure animations for ourselves? We can use it in a PowerPoint presentation, use it for education, or just do it for animated fun. We start out with an idea. Then we look at the free software available that can help us give it life.

Let's take a look at three free stick figure animation programs that can help us draw a story in straight lines.

Pivot Stickfigure Animator

Pivot Stickfigure Animator (ver. 2.2.5) is the oft-quoted stick figure animation software when it comes to freewares. The Windows freeware is used to make animated stick figures which can be saved in the GIF format. Stick figure animations can be used in webpages or converted to videos.

Pivot Stickfigure is just a 485KB download and it runs on Windows. It hasn't been updated since 2004; it remains a pretty good working software for learning basic stick figure animation.

stick figure animation

The interface is very simple. It opens with a default stick-man figure. You can create one from scratch using the Stick Figure Builder. Stick figures are easily created by adding line segments for the body parts and a circle for the head. Line and circles can be toggled. Using the handles, the segments can be moved to the positions desired. In the Stick Figure Builder, you can change the thickness and length of the segments. Color and scale are the other things which can be changed with just a click. You can add up to 256 stick figures in each frame.

As in all animation tools, the job is to create Frames where each frame differs from the previous in a way that resembles movement. Pivot supports onion skinning, so drawing the next frame on the basis of the previous one is easier.

You can modify each Pivot Stickfigure Animator frame in any way you want, by changing the stick-man, adding color, or changing the size. Backgrounds can be inserted into the frames but each frame cannot have its individual background.

Hit the Play button and set the speed to see how the animation turned out.


Stykz is very similar to Pivot Stickfigure Animator apart from a few differences. The interface is as simple but the stick-men can be drawn in place as Stykz has done away with a separate editor and everything is done on the stage.

Stykz (ver.1.0RC4) is a 3.0MB download and it runs on Windows, Mac OS X, and a Linux version is expected soon.

stick figure animation

Stykz and Pivot are nearly kissing cousins. You can import Pivot files into Stykz. Stykz gives more export options (GIF, PNG, transparent PNG, MOV) than Pivot. The one thing it lacks is the feature to add a graphic background.

You might like working with Stykz because unlike the Pivot Animator it has been kept updated. Stykz lacks a help file but it has a pretty vibrant forum.


TISFAT (This Is Stick Figure Animation Theatre) a free stick figure animation tool that you don't need to install. It comes with a slew of tools, a timeline, and more options that makes creating stick figure animations a more controlled process than the previous two freewares. For instance, the finished stick figure animations can be saved as GIF, BMP, Flash, and AVI movie files.

TISFAT (ver. 0.67) is a 1.2MB download and it runs on Windows and Linux or MacOS via WINE.

animation stick figure

The interface may look more complicated at first glance, but it is usable by someone who does not have any animation experience. The software comes with a detailed help file. It also has a community of users.

TISFAT introduces a few enrichments which the previous two freewares did not have –

Timeline is the stage which holds every component you create and moves it through time to create the animation effect.

Layers are very much like transparent plastic sheets which can hold one object at a time. Layers can be manipulated to hide, reveal, or change the order in which objects are arranged.

Keyframes and Framesets are what the object is at one point of time in the animation. Framesets are a collection of keyframes.

It is the combination of layers, keyframes, and framesets on the timeline that creates the animation.

TISFAT's tools can be used to create shapes, readymade stick figures, or curved lines to give more definition to the animation.

animation stick figure

Added features onion skinning which helps you to see a faint ghost image of the previous frame so you can position the artwork for the next frame make it all the more easier. TISFAT also supports backgrounds and sound support is expected in the next version.

The three stick figure animation programs featured here are great for going through the basics of animation. Pivot and Stykz are dead simple, while TISFAT is a bit more feature laden.

Stick figures are great for quick animations. They can be learnt by kids, by teachers who have no previous experience in animation. Put in some more patience and you can make your stick figures dance to your tune. Would you say it's a great way to kickstart your animation career?

Image: Beat Machine

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View Stunning Photos and Learn Tips with the Guardian Eyewitness App [iPad]

Posted: 23 Jun 2010 11:30 AM PDT

I've written several times how the iPad is a nearly perfect device for viewing photos. The larger size display just begs for photographs —professional and non-professioinal.

In this regard, the UK Guardian newspaper and the Canon camera company have teamed up to produce an iPad version of their popular Guardian Eyewitness online collection of photos. This app features a weekly download of a 100 stunning images of events taken from around the world. These are the type of images you may not see unless you're regular reader of the Guardian or magazines like National Geographic.

The names of the photographers (for example, Muhammed Mueisen, David Levene, Maya Hitij, Steve Bone) will not be familiar to most, but their photos capture what is taking place in the world today. The images are far reaching, from the gulf shore of Alabama, the June 2, 2010 floodwaters of eastern Guatemala, the Royal Gallery of London, to the streets of the anti-government protests in Bangkok, Thailand.

The subjects as well vary widely from sports and art, to poverty and ecological disasters. You really have to be sitting down to view these images, and take more than a two-second view.

Guardian Eyewitness [iTunes Store link] is a completely free app, only requiring a Wi-Fi connection to download a new weekly collection of images.

The App Interface

The app's interface was specifically updated for the iPad. It includes a tool bar for viewing the photos as a slide show, a star icon for marking images as your favorite, and a drop-down panel for thumbnails of all the downloaded and marked favorite photos. You can also send links of selected photos via email and your Twitter and Facebook.

You can view photos in both landscape and portrait mode of the iPad. Each photo is accompanied with a caption and a pro tip. You can tap anywhere on the screen to have the captions and logos fade away for full-image viewing.

Each week a collection is replaced by a new collection, but the links and thumbnails to the images you mark as favorite are retained.

Pro Photo Tips

Because the app and images are sponsored by the Canon camera company, the photos of course are taken with Canon cameras. What's great about this app is that it's not only a powerful photo digital magazine, it also includes useful photo pro tips for how images were captured or what makes for the graphic appeal.

Many of these tips will be most appreciated and understood by those with background knowledge of photo techniques and the art of photography.

Reading the tips, you learn how composition, small and wide aperture, high ISO, and shooting from various angles can powerfully capture the drama of an event or setting.

In this June 4th sample photo—of the Breathing Room III, made up of 15 interconnecting photo-luminescent frames at the White Cube Gallery in London—the pro tip reads: "The photographer has used a tripod and a slow shutter speed rather than a flash, to capture the low light conditions."

The pro tip of another image—of the Young Communist League in Yan'an, China—reads: "The photographer has used a 35mm lens and an aperture of f/1.4 to achieve the depth of field needed to accentuate the figures in the foreground."

Sure, entire paragraphs could be written explaining photo techniques and processing for each image, but most tips are just enough to give you ideas for your own photography.

While these same photos can be viewed the Guardian Eyewitness website, it's even better to view them at your leisure on an iPad.

Tell us what you think of the Guardian Eyewitness iPad app.

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Similar MakeUseOf Articles – The Ultimate Domain Name Checker for your Website, Twitter, Facebook

Posted: 23 Jun 2010 09:30 AM PDT

domain name checkerThere was a time, long long ago, when knowing whether a domain name was open or not sufficed for those looking to start a web site. Alas, those days are long gone. In the web’s current incarnation it’s helpful to know the availability of not only a domain but also Twitter, Facebook, eBay and even Flickr accounts.

The problem is that finding a name with a free domain is hard enough, even without having to run a check on every social network and website you hope to also register your brand on. That’s what makes so nice: it can not only find out if your desired website name is free on several different top level domains but also on a variety of different social networking sites.

Couldn’t Be Simpler

Getting started with the domain name checker couldn’t possibly be simpler. Just head over to the site and enter the website name you’re looking for into the search bar.

domain name checker

For example, I’m seriously considering starting a site called WhyJustinPotIsSoAwesome. Finding out what sub-domains and websites this name is free on could be useful, so I enter the term into and see the following:

domain name checker

Okay, using this domain name checker, it looks as if that particular domain is wide open. Surprising; I suppose I don’t have many rabid fans listing reasons I’m awesome on the Internet. Note that I can’t have this name on Twitter or Linked In; the name is too long for those sites.

Searching for a more common term, let’s see the results for MakeUseOf.

domain name availability checker software

As you can see our domain is taken on .com, .net, .org and .info. It’s free on .biz, precious few people use that particular top level domain.

It’s also pointed out that MakeUseOf is taken for Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. Naturally we’re on Twitter and Facebook, but our MySpace page is looking as abandoned as MySpace itself.

You get the idea: the site will give you a quick overview of what’s free and what’s not. Why?

Perfect for Brainstorming

So you can think of a name, of course. Where this search engine really shines is that crucial stage in every website’s life: brainstorming the name. You can’t really begin a website until you have a name, and you want to make sure the name you come up with is a good one. But having a good name isn’t enough: you also need to make sure no one else is using that name.

That’s’s perfect use. Sit down with your team, discuss names you’d like to potentially use and run them through a search. You’ll have a really good idea which names are usable and which names are not by just glancing at the result of a search.

Of course, once you work out your domain you’re going to need to write quality content if you want readership. Check out Ryan’s article on starting a blog that gets instant traffic to find out how that’s done.

List of Top Level Domains and Services Listed


  • .com
  • .net
  • .org
  • .info
  • .biz
  • .mobi
  • .tel
  • .name
  • .tv
  • .me
  • .us
  • .de
  • .fr
  • .es
  • .in
  • .cn
  • .jp
  • .eu
  • .asia

Websites/Social Networks:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • MySpace
  • LinkedIn
  • eBay
  • Blogger
  • WordPress
  • delicious
  • Flickr


This search engine does one thing and does it well, and nothing else is required of it. I intend to use it a lot in the year to come as I pursue my blogging dreams; I hope you find a use for it to.

Do you guys know of a similar or better domain name checker? I love learning from you, so please so share. Also feel free to share any hilarious domains you discover are somehow taken in your searches, because I also love to laugh.

Picture Credit: They sell a full world map with every country’s domain here.

Got Questions? Ask Them Now for FREE on MakeUseOf Answers!

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How to Sync Notes with CintaNotes and Dropbox

Posted: 23 Jun 2010 08:30 AM PDT

sync notesI just found a little program called CintaNotes via LifeHacker. I have been using my notes application on my Windows Mobile device as well as in Outlook for some close to 10 years now.

My life has changed drastically over this time period and now I have the need to sync and share my notes with my significant other as well as have access to updated notes where ever I am. Using a combination of CintaNotes and DropBox, all my expectations have been realized.

I started by downloading this small 890 KB file from here. The application can be installed locally or to a USB drive. That's right – it can be used as a portable app! The trick to getting it to sync using DropBox is to install it to a shared DropBox folder. This was the changes will be written back and forth as my wife or I change or add notes. CintaNotes is made so that the application does not need to be closed to copy or overwrite the data file. This means notes from my wife's machine will show up as soon as DropBox syncs the folder.

Let's take a look at how it works. When we first run the application we will see an error message about a configuration file missing. This is normal, click OK and we can begin.

sync notes

When we first arrive inside the application our note book will be empty like you see in the screen shot above. Now to get data into the application we can either create a new note or select some text and launch our hot key to create a new note out of it.

We will begin with manually creating a new note. We can do this by going to Edit –> New. That will open up this dialogue box:

sync notes

You can add your notes in the body of the note and you can also add tags (which are searchable) as well as the link to the data you are referring to. I created a few notes as you can see below, so that I can highlight searching by data in the note, tags or URLs.

Your notes appear in chronological order by default. You can hit the date drop-down menu to change it to sort by another field.

As I start typing, CintaNotes filters out items that do not match my criteria. I started typing in the word second and immediatley CintaNotes showed me the correct note. You can hit Escape to cancel.

Now let’s check out how we can clip items from the web or from other documents. First we need to set up our hot keys which we can get to by going to Options –> Hot Keys

Now we are on the configure hot keys screen. The hot key that we will want to set up is the first one. It is called the clip text hot key. Highlight the field and hit the key that you want to use to activate your clipping function. You can configure the show main CintaNotes window and add new note hot keys as well.

Try and use key combinations that are not in use by other applications.

synchronize notes

Now that my hot key is set (I set mine to Control+F2), I highlighted some text from the CintaNotes website and hit the magic key combination:

synchronize notes

And instantly, CintaNotes created a new note with the data I highlighted:

It also used the web page's title as the note's title and it threw the URL of the page in the link field at the bottom of the note:

synchronize notes

The feature that we loved the most was not really mentioned in the help files or online. If you add the folders of two separate CintaNote installations (or where your data lives) to DropBox on both machines, as soon as a user adds or modifies a note, the changes will automatically be synced! The developers modified the application so you do not need to shut down the application to overwrite your data file or copy it. Very nice work guys!

And if you are looking for other ways to take quick and easy notes, check out this post here.

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