Sunday, June 27, 2010 “Cool Websites and Tools [June 26th]” plus 5 more “Cool Websites and Tools [June 26th]” plus 5 more

Link to

Cool Websites and Tools [June 26th]

Posted: 26 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!


Photo Zoom – Facebook glues you to your screen by showing updates from friends and family. While watching latest pictures of contacts is enjoyable, the Facebook picture viewing interface leaves a lot to be desired. One obvious flaw is viewing only one photo at a time. Thankfully there are two tools that remedy this issue: Facebook Photo Zoom for Firefox and Chrome. Read more: Photo Zoom: Enlarge Facebook Photos By Hover Mouse Pointer (Firefox + Chrome).


Filevo – Sharing files over the internet can be done in many ways. File hosting sites can be used for large files but these websites have their own file size and speed restrictions hence you need to be selective. One great file hosting site I recently discovered is Filevo. Read more: Filevo: Send Big Files Through Internet.



GateGuru – is an excellent iPhone app that lets you find shopping stores, restaurants, ATMs and more on airport gates around the world. Once you have downloaded the free app, start by selecting your airport and terminal. GateGuru will then display a list of different places/shops available inside that terminal. Read more: GateGuru: Airport Shop & Restaurant Reviews.



DuckDuckGo – The web's a pretty mouse-oriented place. You click on links to go to a page, and that clicking almost always happens with the device next to your keyboard. If you wish more of the web could be controlled via keyboard I highly recommend you check out DuckDuckGo, the keyboard search engine attempting to rival Google. Read more: DuckDuckGo: Keyboard Search Engine.



Google Location History – is a latest app for the GoogleLatitude that allows you to track your location history and view your past locations on Google Maps or Google Earth. It tells you about your most frequent locations, trips you have made and even alert you when you are at a new place and a friend is nearby. Read more: GoogleLocationHistory: Track Your Location History.


List Your Website Here!

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.

Hey Facebookers, make sure to check out MakeUseOf fan page on Facebook. Over 20,000 fans already!

Similar MakeUseOf Articles

Cog – A Simple Folder-Based Alternative to iTunes [Mac]

Posted: 26 Jun 2010 06:30 PM PDT

If you’re looking for a bloated monstrosity that used to be lean it’s hard to beat iTunes. In the beginning iTunes primarily did one thing — playing music — and did it really well. Today iTunes plays music, movies, podcasts, manages iPods and iPhones, manages software for your iPhone and iPod touch and of course functions as a store for music, movies, TV Shows and iPhone software.

Which is great, if you want to do all those things on your work computer. I don’t.

But I do want is to play music, which brings me to Cog. This bare-bones music player does one thing and one thing well: play music. The UNIX philosophy states that programs should do one thing and do it well,  a sentiment I largely agree with. Cog works this way where iTunes fails.

Getting Started With Cog

Of course you need to begin by downloading Cog, and going through the usual Mac installation process. Find the Cog download here. Installing is done in the usual Mac manner, which I won’t rehash.

Then you just need to fire up the program. You’ll quickly notice that there is no library like there is in iTunes; rather, the user drags music to a playlist in order to hear it. You can do this from the Finder, or, if you prefer, from Cog’s folder drawer.

Using the drawer is easy. Hit Command+D to bring up the drawer. By default, this will show you the “Music” folder on your Mac. You can browse your music and drag folders you want to listen to the playlist to add them. This allows you to quickly make a playlist and then get back to work.

But I don’t have any music in my “Music” folder; I store all of mine on a network drive (my Boxee box). That’s okay; the drawer folder is easy enough to change. Click “Cog” on the menu bar followed by “Preferences.” The “File Drawer” tab will allow you to set the drawer to show any folder you please.

You’ll also notice a few other basic things to configure, including your shortcut keys and Last.FM scrobbling. Beyond this, however, Cog pretty much just plays music.

Supported Formats

Simplicity isn’t the only reason to use Cog, of course; it also supports far more codecs than iTunes. Apple’s default player supports only MP3, AIFF, WAV, MPEG-4, AAC (.m4a) and Apple Lossless. Cog, on the other hand, supports many different formats, including some obscure ones. Here’s the run-down from the Cog website:

  • Ogg Vorbis
  • Mp3
  • Flac
  • Musepack
  • Monkeys Audio
  • Shorten
  • Wavpack
  • AAC
  • Apple Lossless
  • Wave/AIFF
  • Video Game (nsf, gbs, gym, spc, vgm, hes, and more!)
  • Tracker (it, s3m, xm, mod)
  • m3u and pls playlists
  • Cue sheets


I find Cog refreshing compared to the likes of iTunes, which has become too large for it’s own good. I think Apple should seriously consider offering a program that simply plays music and another program for managing iPods and iPhones. This would greatly reduced the footprint of iTunes for those who just want to play music.

This is unlikely to happen, however, because Apple’s built its brand on the simplicity of managing iPods using iTunes. It’s ironic that this simplicity is directly responsible for iTunes being needlessly complicated, but such is life.

In fact, this easy-to-use program is complex enough that the MakeUseOf team even has a PDF guide explaining how to use it: The Big Book of iTunes by Jackson Chung. There won’t be a big book of Cog anytime soon, because Cog is self-explanatory. That’s how I like my software to be.

Do you guys think iTunes is too big, or am I just a crazy Ubuntu type obsessed with simplicity? Could you see yourself using Cog, or does iTunes work well for you? As always, I’d love it if you let me know in the comments below but be gentle, this is my first Mac article!

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

Similar MakeUseOf Articles

How To Make Fake High Dynamic Range Photos In Photoshop

Posted: 26 Jun 2010 03:30 PM PDT

We’ve all seen those stunning high dynamic range (HDR) photography on the Web before. For some photographers, the technique simply means touching up a photo to make it look better, but at the same time making it look like nothing was done to it at all. Others go in a different direction, creating a more unreal look and bringing about more of an artistic piece rather than something you’d see in real life.

Whatever the case may be, the results can be pretty impressive, but how is it done exactly? Do you need a fancy camera and special HDR software? Not necessarily.

If you have only one JPEG image, you can create a fake high dynamic range photography look with just a few quick steps in Photoshop. It’s an easy yet effective way to enhance your favorite photos.

What Is HDR?

High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography is simply about capturing a greater range of tonal detail. This usually entails taking at least three photos at different exposures of the same shot and merging them together. If you don’t have a camera that allows you to manually set the exposure, a tripod, or if the subject is moving, don’t worry; you’re not out of luck.

So, How To Make High Dynamic Range Photos

Here’s the photo we’ll be working on. It’s a single JPEG image straight out of a camera.

First off, open up the image in Photoshop and duplicate the Background layer by dragging it to the Create a new layer icon at the bottom of the layers palette or by hitting Ctrl + J (Command + J on a Mac).

how to make high dynamic range photos

With the layer copy selected, set the blending mode to Overlay.

high dynamic range photography

Now, go up to the menu bar and click on Image. Scroll down to Adjustments and hit Desaturate.

high dynamic range

After that, go to ImageAdjustments again, but this time click on Invert (Ctrl + I or Command + I on Mac).

On the menu bar, click on Filter, go to Blur, and choose Gaussian Blur. Select a radius of somewhere around 50 pixels or so. If you notice any halos starting to appear around objects, increase the radius accordingly.

Now, copy the Background layer once again. This time, set its blending mode to either Vivid Light or Linear Light. Start lowering the opacity of this layer to your liking. From my experience, you should end up at around 25%, more or less depending on the image you’re working with. It’s entirely up to you, though.

high dynamic range photos

That’s it. Here’s what we’ve come up with:

Bonus Tip

Here’s an additional tip you can try out. Here’s another photo that’s been through the same technique explained above:

high dynamic range photos

It looks pretty good, but let’s try to tweak the colors a little to make them pop. Make sure you have no layers selected and click on the Create new fill or adjustment layer icon.

Select Selective Color and start going through the colors and adjusting the sliders to your liking, focusing particularly on any dominant colors in your image.

Here’s the final result:

Do you have any experience creating HDR images? Has this high dynamic range photography technique worked for your photos? Let us know in the comments.

Image Credit: MorBCN

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

Similar MakeUseOf Articles

How To Fix Bootloader Problems Due To GRUB

Posted: 26 Jun 2010 12:30 PM PDT

With Windows getting real good and Linux trying to cater to needs of every user, it is not unusual to have a dual boot configuration on your computer.

Dual boot means you have two operating systems (most likely Windows and a Linux distro) on your computer. You get some kind of menu to choose which operating system to boot when you start your computer and depending upon your choice, the appropriate system boots up. More often than not, if you are dual-booting with Windows and Linux, chances are that the menu you see at boot time is the GRUB boot menu.

By default, GRUB is installed by many distributions and is available as an option with others. It automatically detects the other operating systems present on your computer and adds them as an entry in the menu along with the Linux distribution you are currently installing. All this happens without any additional steps during the Linux installation process if you install Linux after Windows is already present on the disk.

If you go the other route, that is — install Windows after Linux, or if you play with partitions on your hard drive too much; you can end up messing up GRUB. In that case, depending upon what you just did, you might only be able to boot into Windows or GRUB might fail to display any menu at all. In either case, before you panic and rush to forums or tech support, there is a simple fix that will most likely alleviate your woes. Its to restore GRUB, and you can do it in a snap. Let’s see how.

First off, as is often the case when a new version to a popular software is released, both versions continue to be in use for some time before the newly version is adopted. The same with GRUB. Sadly, the procedure is a little different for both versions and we shall tackle both of them here.

First off, you need a Live CD handy. Your Linux distro CD should work just fine if it installed GRUB on your computer in the first place. You can also use Knoppix or SystemRescueCD. We will be using Ubuntu Live CD. Keep in mind that the CD uses same version of GRUB. This can be insured by using the disc that you used to install Linux.

Boot off from the Live CD and give it some time before you can view the desktop. Next up – fire up terminal and get ready for some command line action. Before we proceed keep in mind that hd0 refers to the first hard disk on your computer, second will be hd1 and so on. Similarly (hd0,2) means second partition on the first hard disk.


  • Type sudo grub, this will give you a the GRUB prompt. Now you can enter GRUB specific commands.
  • Type find /boot/grub/stage1. This should return the location of GRUB files on your hard disk.
  • Next up, use the location returned above and issue the command root(hdX, Y). For example, if the previous command returned (hd0, 1), you should issue root(hd0, 1)
  • Next issue the command setup(hd0) or hdX as the case may be. PLEASE NOTE: This will overwrite the MBR, which is fine if you were using GRUB in the first place or you install Windows after Linux. If you had some other bootloader or custom configuration, you should watch out.
  • Type quit to exit GRUB and then reboot the computer.


  • Enter sudo mount /dev/XdYZ/ /mnt where X can be either ‘h’ or ’s’ and Y represents the hard disk number and Z represents the partition. eg mount /dev/sda3 /mnt, in which case /dev/sda3 is your Linux system partition. You can use sudo fdisk -l, to list all partitions if you are not sure about the system partition. NOTE: If you have a separate boot partition, you will need to mount it explicitly at /mnt/boot
  • Then issue the command sudo grub-install –root-directory=/mnt /dev/sdX X being the hard disk where you want to restore GRUB.
  • Next, unmount the partition via sudo umount /mnt and then reboot your computer.

After running these steps, you should be able to restore GRUB within 5 minutes. If things go well and if GRUB was the reason for your troubles, you just fixed them. If these didn’t fix your problem, you might want to have a closer look at your hard disk’s health and partitions. You can use GParted or the Ubuntu Live CD or any other Live USB/CD that suits you.

Have you ever run into booting troubles? How did you fix it? Shoot off any tips in the comments, that might be helpful to fellow readers!

NEW: Download MakeUseOf iPhone App. FREE!

Similar MakeUseOf Articles

Elite Keylogger Giveaway Winners

Posted: 26 Jun 2010 10:00 AM PDT

This was Widestep’s second giveaway at MakeUseOf. Elite Keylogger seems to be pretty popular among our users as a safe and secure way to monitor activity on computers.

After a week, the giveaway is now over. We hope you had fun participating.

Here are the 20 lucky winners! License information will be sent to your email addresses. Thank you for participating. Be sure to check back for our next giveaway on Monday.

  1. Stian Helnes
  2. Tom Steenhuysen
  3. Andrew Lee
  4. Chris
  5. Mir Osman Ali
  6. David Vallieres
  7. Patrick Johnson
  8. Diego Chertoff
  9. Phillip du Toit
  10. Will Chandler
  1. Daniel Wong
  2. Jakharia
  3. Nicole Healing
  4. Jerry Green
  5. Khan Tausif
  6. John Turek
  7. S.M. Karthick
  8. Mark Dickinson
  9. Ronald Cason
  10. Melissa Woods

MakeUseOf would like to thank Amy from WideStep for her generosity while participating in this giveaway. Interesting in sponsoring? We’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with us via email.

Do you like MakeUseOf articles? Do share our articles with others! It’s really important to us.

Similar MakeUseOf Articles

Sync and Share High Defintion Files with Libox

Posted: 26 Jun 2010 09:30 AM PDT

Libox makes it easy to access all your local high definition media from anywhere, and share it with friends and family as well. Signing up is quick and easy, using either your email address, or you can choose to connect Libox to your Facebook account. Once you’ve signed up and activated your account, you will be prompted to download the application, which is currently available for both Windows and Mac.

Libox has several different functions. It acts as a means of syncing your media files across several computers, and and allows you to easily access your files remotely and share them with other Libox users. Libox offers unlimited storage, and allows you and your friends to access your files at any time, at the caveat that your computer has to be turned on, but you do not need to leave the application itself running.

The first step in setting up Libox is importing your files by selecting specific folders on your computer to watch. Navigate to the folders on your computer that contain the photos, videos and audio files that you would like to access from anywhere and they will be imported into your Libox interface.

Once your files have been imported, there are several ways you can browse through your media. The home tab displays all of the files that have been imported. You can either browse through all of your media files, or you can browse through your latest activity which includes recent imports and recently shared files.

You can also browse through each media type individually. Photos can be browsed by date, country and by albums, or you can also choose to browse all imported photos.

Videos can be browsed by date, country or playlist.

And lastly, music can be browsed by tracks, albums, artists, genres or playlists.

While you can play audio and video files directly within Libox, you can’t skip forward or rewind.

When it comes to sharing your files, you can either share an entire folder of videos, photographs or audio files, or you can share individual files.

To share a file or folder, click on it, and at the top of the window, click the “Share” button.

This will open up an email like window, where you can see your attached files, and fill in the email address and subject for your message. If you want to share media from more than one place in Libox, you can continue to add files to the message by clicking on “Add files.”

Once your message is ready to be sent, type in the email address, after which you will be prompted to add the person to your contact list, if you haven’t already. You can create groups in your contact list to easily share files with entire groups of people at the click of one button. You can share your files with up to 40 different contacts.

Libox is a little bit restrictive in its sharing method. You have to add email addresses to your contact list in order to send them any files, and unfortunately, they cannot access the files without signing up for an account, and downloading the software onto their machines. For tech-savvy friends and family, this isn’t a big deal, but this definitely puts Libox out of the running if you’re just looking for a quick and easy way to share media files with your less than tech-savvy friends. If that’s what you’re looking for, you’d be better of using DropBox, or ZumoDrive.

After you have shared, or received an invitation to share files from another Libox user, the files will show up in the respective folder, as well as on the home page displaying your latest activity.

Shared photos can be commented on, exported to your computer and shared with other users.

Shared music and video files can be played but cannot be saved to your computer. If you’re accessing your own account remotely, you should be able to download any of your files.

You can also create collections of media files by clicking on the Select button.

You can then begin to select files one by one to add to your collection.

If you are selecting photos only, you will be prompted to add them to an album,and give it a title of your choice.

If you are selecting audio or video files, you will be prompted to add them to a playlist. If you choose to delete a collection, the files in it will not be deleted from Libox.

If you’re away from your computer and want to access your files from anywhere – you can do so with a mobile phone or any web browser. Simply go to the Libox home page and log into your web-based account. Accessing Libox from any regular browser is a similar experience to using the software. Accessing it from the mobile website is surprisingly pleasant and easy to use, allowing you to play back files, browse photos, and share your files with your contacts. The only drawback is that you cannot add new contacts to your Libox account from the mobile version of the site.

How do you share your high definition media files with your friends and family? Let us know in the comments.

Follow MakeUseOf on Twitter. Includes cool extras.

Similar MakeUseOf Articles

No comments:

Post a Comment