Saturday, July 10, 2010 “Cool Websites and Tools [July 9th]” plus 9 more “Cool Websites and Tools [July 9th]” plus 9 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [July 9th]

Posted: 09 Jul 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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FreeVideoLectures – This website has a great motto: "to organize the world's educational videos and make them universally accessible and down-loadable". They offer 90 + free online video courses from leading universities universities. All courses are categorized by Subjects and Universities. Subjects range from the usual Anatomy, Economics, and History… Read more: FreeVideoLectures: 90+ Free Online Video Courses From Leading Universities.


Slimber – There are lots of online drawing apps but Slimber is different. In addition to drawing and painting online quickly, Slimber also allows you to replay drawings as a video. You can also save your drawings without going through the hassle of signing up for an account. Whenever a drawing is saved, it is added to the Slimber gallery and can be easily shared. Read more: Slimber: Draw Online & Replay Drawings As A Video.



FreshBadge – If you are thinking about giving a web
2.0 touch to your website or blog but don't have the time or skills, try FreshBadge. It is a simple and free badge maker that lets you create a web 2.0 style badge or sticker that can be used anywhere on the web. Read more: FreshBadge: Free Badge Maker Online.



SproutRobot – Love gardening but not sure when and what to plant? SproutRobot is a tool that can really help. All you need to do is enter your zip code; SproutRobot will use your zip code to calculate the weather conditions in your area and come up with a free calendar that tells you what to grow and when. Read more: SproutRobot: Know When And What to Plant in Your Garden.



TwitFlink – Many Twitter users share URLs from their accounts to share interesting web material. If you want to find the latest links shared by a particular Twitter user, one easy way would be to search for their Tweets. TwitFlink provides an easy way for this. Read more: TwitFlink: Search For Tweets With Links On Any Twitter Account.


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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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The 5 Best Questions From You [MakeUseOf Answers]

Posted: 09 Jul 2010 06:30 PM PDT

MakeUseOf AnswersEvery week MakeUseOf Answers rewards the Best Answer of the Week with $50. More often than not it is tough to pick just one winner. Some of you continually provide helpful answers and the site wouldn’t work this well without you. We don’t take your support for granted, we appreciate it a lot! And one of these weeks, your name will show up here to express our gratitude. Just remember to provide a valid eMail address or log in with your Facebook account.

This week’s Best Answer of the Week was provided by Sueska to this question: “Why won't chkdsk notify screen go away?” Congratulations!

Without further ado, here are the best questions of the week:

  1. How can someone compare speeds of Intel vs. AMD processors when trying to buy a computer?
  2. How can I convert Blu-Ray, DVDs and SWF to play on the iPad?
  3. How can I rescue files from dying external hard drive?
  4. Are there any free programs that will organize and clean all my system folders?
  5. Which software lets me blank out everything on the screen, except for a small window view?

More questions and answers can be browsed at MakeUseOf Answers. You can view Latest Questions, Unanswered Questions or Most Popular Questions. For regular updates subscribe to the Answers RSS Feed.

Need help? Ask us at MakeUseOf Answers! Free, no signup, no spam.

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Top 5 Tools That Will Help You Locate Your Lost Cell Phone

Posted: 09 Jul 2010 04:31 PM PDT

locate my lost cell phoneIt happens to all of us. You set your phone down to go do something and later on you can’t remember where you left it. Or maybe it fell out of your pocket somewhere. Whatever the case may be, a lost cell phone can give you a headache in a hurry.

After all, we’re dependent on these devices. What if it was stolen? You don’t want your private information in the wrong hands, especially since these new phones are capable of making purchases online.

In this article, I am going to cover a few of the tools you can use to locate your lost or stolen cell phone. So the next time you lose your phone, hopefully it won’t take all day to find it.

[Note]: Finding your cell phone is much easier if you have the ringer turned on or at least have it on vibrate. Finding a phone on silent can be done (if you have GPS), but it is by far the trickiest of all recoveries.


how can i find a lost cell phone

For a lot of you, this may be the only tool you need. If you don’t have a house phone (less and less people do every day), you can go to WhereisMyCellPhone and dial your number for free. We’ve covered this app in our directory before. Simply type in your number, click Find It!, and let it ring until your phone is found. There is no registration required to use this app.   This app is US-only.


how can i find a lost cell phone

If you think you’ve left your phone in a public place, you can try this directory app. BlueRetriever is pretty cool in that it allows you to create a wallpaper for your phone that has a site URL and an ID number on it.

how can i find a lost cell phone

When someone finds your phone, they can go to the website, type in the ID number, and they will be able to find out who the phone belongs to. You can even offer them a reward, which you set yourself, of up to $100 in gift cards (Amazon, Starbucks, Target) or donations with Kiva.

Site registration is free and BlueRetriever supports the following devices:

  • iPhone Original/3G/3GS.
  • iPod Touch.
  • Blackberry: Curve, Storm, Bold, Pearl.
  • Palm Pre.
  • Google G1.

[Note]: If your phone is not on the list, feel free to try the service anyway. You may however need to crop the image to fit on your phone’s screen.


locate my lost cell phone

This app supports Android, Blackberry, and Windows Mobile phones. Lookout provides security in the form of virus and malware protection, data backup of your contacts and photos, and device location.

The site says that if you can’t find your phone you can make it “scream” (not quite sure what that means) or wipe it out.

F-Secure Anti-Theft

locate my lost cell phone

If you’re really worried about your data being stolen, you can look into F-Secure Anti-Theft (directory). Supported by Symbian OS, Windows Mobile, and Android, this application provides the ability to track your lost phone, remotely lock it, and even remotely wipe out all the data.

If your phone is stolen, you can text message a key to your phone to find its geo-location. Send the phone different keys to perform the activities mentioned above.

We’ve covered similar software in WaveSecure and BuddyWay.

iTag [Android]

If you own an Android phone, you need an app like iTag. Once installed this app will allow you to view your cell phone’s location, make it ring from the website even if it is set to silent or vibrate, lock the keys, back up your contacts, delete the information on the phone, and more. There’s not much this app can’t do in the way of finding your cell phone.


Did you find your lost cell phone? I hope you did.

Other articles you can check out relating to this matter include How To Trace & Deactivate A Stolen Cell Phone, How To Trace a Mobile Phone Location with Google Latitude, and 6 Possible Signs Your Cell Phone May Be Tapped.

Image Credit: boostmobile

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6 Humorous Ways To Annoy Friends On Facebook

Posted: 09 Jul 2010 02:31 PM PDT

funny ways to annoy your friendsFacebook is a fun place to be.  You can call anyone from your closest relative to some acquaintance you knew way back in high school a “friend” and not feel awkward because of it.  Friends on Facebook are basically people you know and Facebook is a fun place to either get to know people better or just to keep up with the family.

Notice that I mentioned the word “fun” a few times in the previous paragraph.  It is true that Facebook is a place to network and to keep up with people.  However, it can also be a fun place to play around with your friends.

No, I am not talking about those stupid little games like throwing sheep around or pretending you know anything about farming.  I’m talking about just plain old having fun at your friends’ expense.  If you are creative enough, you can find all kinds of ways to have fun with each other without selling your soul to any of those applications.

I can come up with a few.  Try them out and see if you can pull them off in the spirit of fun without making enemies.  Without further adieu, here’s how to go out of your way to annoy friends on Facebook.

1.  Go Through Their Profile Pictures, Add Stupid Comments In Speech Balloons & Tag Them.

A friend of mine did this to his sister and the result was hilarious!  The idea is to choose a picture where you can see their faces.  If they are doing something funny, it’s even better.  Go to the page with the picture, right-click and click and save the image.  Open it in your favorite image editing program, and add some mad cool text.  Use a speech balloon if you’ve got the skills.

funny ways to annoy your friends

Don’t forget to tag them or else what would be the fun?

2. Make Annoying Comments On Their Updates.

Try to be creative in your annoyance here.  You could try repeating everything they say (ever done the “copying” game as a kid… or coworker?).  This game becomes easier with a tool like Facebook because you can always copy and paste.  Indubitably they’ll respond with “Stop copying me!” and that conversation could become endless.  You could also respond to every update with something like “That’s stupid.”  You may get lucky and have them respond with “Why?”

funny facebook status messages

3. Create A Fanpage For A Friend & See How Long It Takes Him To Notice.

Fan pages are fun, but not as much fun as making one for a friend!  Make sure you make up lots of goofy stuff that people will know is not true.  Share with the world all of their super powers and the type of stuff they like to eat.  Just make it totally annoying and you’ll have succeeded.

When the fan page is done, start inviting mutual friends and see how long it takes for the friend to notice.  I suppose you could either communicate on his behalf in an annoying manner or just speak about him in the third person.

4. Tell The World Every Single Thing You Are Doing Throughout The Whole Day.

OK, I know this one hits too close to home for a few of you but for the sake of being annoying, take it to a whole new extreme.  Don’t just say that you brushed your teeth, but describe it for us.  Find every detail of your life that day and describe it.

If you want to make life easier, guess as close as possible how your day is going to be, and what you are going to be doing, and use a tool like HootSuite to schedule posts ahead of time.  Schedule them every couple of minutes or even once an hour.  Just enough to really get under your friends’ skin.

funny facebook status messages

5. Paste Random Bits Of Code Into Your Status Updates.

Not sure why you’d want to do this, but random bits of code will be sure to annoy your friends.  It could also show your techier side at the same time.

You could either use it in conjunction with actually saying something.

funny facebook status messages

or just by itself.

6. Become Infatuated With CAPS Lock.

Ever since the internet began to be popular, the CAPS lock has always meant you are yelling.  Start updating using all caps.  It’ll really get people’s attention.  You may get annoying responses telling you to keep it down as if their ears are actually hurting.

funny ways to annoy your friends

Be careful as you do some of these.  You don’t want to bombard your friends with so much annoying garbage that you start losing them.  Oh and these are just a few ways to get on the nerves of your lovely friends on Facebook.  I know for sure that there are more so share your favorites in the comments, would you?

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Hot Tech Deals [July 9th]

Posted: 09 Jul 2010 01:30 PM PDT

If you’re in the market for a new computer, laptop, mobile phone, games and other accessories; don’t waste your time searching online. We’ve taken the liberty of locating the best tech deals and unifying them into a single post for your convenience.

For more fresh hot deals, visit our Hot Tech Deals page, which is constantly updated.

  1. Dell Adamo Core 2 Duo 1.4GHz 13″ Ultra-Slim Laptop for $999 + free shipping via code “?8CN$RJ?W5TQ0C”
  2. Up to $318 off Dell Inspiron Systems w/ Zune HD 16GB: Deals from $550 + $9 s&h
  3. ECS Atom Dual Core 1.6GHz Barebones PC for $100 after rebate + free shipping
  4. Apple iWork ‘09 for $27 + free shipping
  5. Samsung 1080p Plasma HDTV Deals: 50″ for $919 + free shipping, 3D for $1,189
  6. Folding Wireless Bluetooth Keyboard for iPhone/iPad for $59 + free shipping
  7. Flick Kick Field Goal for iPhone / iPod touch downloads for free
  8. Dell Home coupon: 30% off select Dell LCD displays + free shipping via coupon code “BWMHLGDHF9CP3R”
  9. MobileMe for $59 + $5 s&h, Family Pack for $89

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set

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Top 8 Great Alternatives To Mobile Safari [iPhone/iPod Touch]

Posted: 09 Jul 2010 12:30 PM PDT

alternative to safari browserIf you’re used to surfing in all the glory that desktop web browsers offer (e.g. bookmarks, download manager, themes, etc.), browsing in the iPhone’s mobile Safari can sometimes prove difficult.

There is no in-page text search (though there’s a bookmarklet); no fullscreen mode, no real tabs (though there’s Tabulate, a bookmarklet that aims to provide a way for you to flag links to read later in new tabs); no orientation lock: it becomes inconvenient when you’re leaning back on your comfy chair and can’t surf without being annoyed by the constant orientation changes in mobile Safari; can’t cache pages for offline reading; no download manager; and no incognito mode (one must clear history/cookies manually).

On other platforms, you have some great options, such as SkyFire, which has no problems with Flash. The iTunes App Store surely isn’t suffering from a lack of apps these days so if you dig deep, you can actually find some very worthwhile web browsers. All of the following are free and most are so chock full of great features (trust me, they’re the best out of the 25 browsers I tried) that once you start using any of these, you’ll think of mobile Safari as IE.

Kidding aside, let’s get started with these browsers for the iPhone and iPod Touch (in this article, “iPhod” for short).

A. Everyday-Use Browsers

1. Opera Mini (for iPhod)

iTunes customer rating:

google alternative safari

We talked about Opera Mini before so please don’t hesitate to read it for full feature details. In short, the best features Opera Mini for iPhod offers include:

  • Speed Dial (which lets you access your favorite 9 web pages on startup)

    google alternative safari

  • Ability to save web pages for offline viewing (tremendously useful for iPod Touch users who wish to save MakeUseOf articles!)
  • Unlimited tabs
  • In-page text search and quick navigation to next search result
  • Fullscreen mode

    mobile safari

  • Ability to add search engines (by default, you’ll find Google, Wikipedia, Amazon, and Ebay.)

  • Option to load or not the images to save bandwidth
  • Set font size to small, medium or large.
  • Ability to sync bookmarks, Speed Dial and search engines between computers (Opera web browser for Windows, Mac and Linux) and mobile devices (through Opera Link)

What it doesn’t have:

  • Smooth rendering of some web pages (inevitable since Opera Mini fetches compressed sites from Opera’s servers in order to ensure speed, which may drive away those concerned with security)
  • Orientation lock
  • Bookmark search
  • Private browsing mode

2. VanillaSurf (for iPhod)

iTunes customer rating:

google alternative safari

Best features:

  • Offline webpage browsing: In Options (only available in portrait mode), go to the Tabs section, turn Save Tabs and Offline browsing on. Now open any webpages you want to read in offline mode in a new tab, and they should be saved now even when you’re offline!
  • Bookmarks import and export: VanillaSurf has a built-in web server that lets you transfer bookmarks (saved in .html or .htm files) between your desktop browser and your iDevice.

    mobile safari

  • Screenshot: VanillaSurf takes a full screenshot of any website without any of the toolbars or status bar.
  • Startpage: Go to your desired URL and then tap and hold the homepage button till you see the ‘Your homepage is now: [desired URL]‘ message. If you turn on the Save Tabs feature, you’ll see your previously open tabs on startup as well, or you can always keep your multiple favorite sites open and surf in new tabs for a multiple homepage workaround.
  • Private browsing mode (off by default): Turning the Private Mode on disables the saved offline tabs, but you can still tap the Homepage button to load your startpage. You can also choose to clear history or clear cookies manually.
  • Fullscreen mode: You can access your bookmarks, go back or forward in the browser, and switch or go to new tabs in fullscreen mode. You’ll have to go back to the regular view to change the URL.

    mobile safari

  • Themes: VanillaSurf has 2 themes: the regular mobile Safari grey and black.
  • Additional search engines: VanillaSurf lets you search in Amazon, eBay, Wikipedia in addition to Google and Yahoo, while mobile Safari offers only the latter two and Bing.
  • Bookmarklet to open in VanillaSurf from mobile Safari: Find the Javascript code on the iTunes page for VanillaSurf.
  • Orientation lock

What it doesn’t currently have:

  • In-page text search (I tried the mobile Safari in-page text search bookmarklet with no luck)
  • Bookmark search

3. Atomic Web Browser Lite (for iPhod and iPad)

iTunes customer rating:

alternative to safari browser

Best features:

  • Real tabs with favicons, but if you don’t particularly go ga-ga for this, you can hide the tab bar and choose List View instead of Desktop Style Tabs. This Lite version also lets you load 5 tabs at one time.
  • Fullscreen mode: You’ll be able to go back and forward, and show/hide the tab bar. The cool thing is that you can customize what buttons appear on fullscreen (and how opaque/transparent you want them), and some of these buttons are pretty unique to mobile browsers (like ‘Font – Increase‘, ‘Go to bottom‘, ‘Go to top‘).

    A minor inconvenience with the fullscreen mode is that when you open up a new tab, you’ll have to go back to the regular view to input the URL.

  • Additional search engines plus in-page text search: Available search engines include Google, Yahoo, Bing, Amazon, Wikipedia, YouTube and Ebay. You can find and incorporate additional pre-set and customized search engines.

    You can also search for text inside a web page and you’ll get the results highlighted just in a desktop browser (though you won’t get the Next or Previous buttons to navigate to the next/previous search result.)

  • Bookmark scripts (think bookmarklets you can add with one click) that range from Translate webpage (to 9 different languages) to Links to Page (search Google for links to current page) and Track FedEx/UPS package, etc.
  • Increase/decrease font size.
  • Orientation lock
  • Private browsing mode
  • Bookmarklet for mobile Safari to open webpages in Atomic
  • Share URL by email, Facebook and Twitter.
  • Fourteen color themes
  • Option to load or not the images to save bandwidth

What it doesn’t currently have (but its full $0.99 version does):

  • Customizable homepage
  • Option to save pages for offline reading
  • Unlimited tabs (5 tabs are allowed at max in this version)
  • Bookmark importing from mobile Safari
  • Bookmark search

Honorable mention goes out to Mercury (for iPhod), which has gotten 3.5/5.0 stars, but kept crashing on my iPod Touch with iOS 4 though I was able to get this screenshot.

Mercury is a fullscreen browser that saves pages for offline viewing, displays real tabs, has a private browsing mode, as well as customizable startup screens showing a Speed Dial-esque bookmark springboard, homepage, or tabs from the last session. It also seems to have a built-in download manager. If you manage to give it a try, feel free to share your experience in the comments!

B. Private/Secure Browsers

You can manually clear history and cookies in mobile Safari, use VanillaSurf and Atomic Lite from above in their private surfing modes or you could use the following ad-free browsers as they automatically discard your list of visited webpages and cookies. Although your network provider or employer (if you’re on a company network) can still monitor your internet activity, these apps may come in handy if, say, you are worried that your personal information might be disclosed should your iPhod ever get lost or stolen.

Therefore, these browsers will have limited functions as your user settings will be cleared every time you exit out of the app (e.g. you won’t be able to import bookmarks, customize the homepage, etc.)

1. Aquari (for iPhod)

iTunes customer rating:

Best features:

  • Option to set a passcode option for ultimate privacy

  • Guest mode that allows no access of your own bookmarks or history. This mode is activated by entering ‘1234′ as the passcode.

  • Fullscreen view on landscape mode
  • Multiple tabs (up to 8 tabs)
  • Bookmark folder support (there’s no bookmark import feature but you can add bookmarks.)
  • Ability to remember bookmarks

When you exit the app, your cookies, search/browsing history and any login information will be instantly cleared.

2. Private (for iPhod and iPad)

iTunes customer rating:

Best features:

  • Simple design
  • Speedy web page loading
  • Supports landscape and portrait modes

This browser is for people looking to just surf without additional features (e.g. bookmarks, tabs, and additional search engines other than Google) and without leaving traces of visited websites.

3. inBrowser (for iPhod)

iTunes customer rating:

Best features:

  • Simple design
  • Shaking your iPhod will take you to Google’s homepage (though you could still go back and restore your previous page. Alternatively, you could press the Home button to clear your history.)

Like Private, the inBrowser app doesn’t have support for bookmarks, tabs, and other search engines, but it does give you a one-shake offering to go into a safe page while it also clears your history on exit.

C. Download Manager + Browser

VanillaSurf comes with a built-in web server that lets you transfer bookmarks and other files between your desktop browser and your iPhod, but it’s not very intuitive. If you’re looking to transfer a quick file to your iPhod in Linux, for example, which iTunes doesn’t support, these apps might come in handy.

1. Download Manager Lite (for iPhod)

iTunes customer rating:

Best features:

  • Intuitive file sharing (share by web server or FTP)
  • Supports in-app viewing of common media files (.mp4, .mp3) and office documents (.pdf, .doc, .xls).
  • When playing .mp3 files, you can listen to various .mp3 files (all or by folder) consecutively in a playlist, and enable Shuffle and/or Repeat.
  • Ability to listen to .mp3 files in the background while navigating with the built-in web browser and file manager
  • Option to set a passcode
  • Ability to extract compressed files (.zip, .rar, .tar.gz)
  • Option to send file attachment by email
  • Ability to set a homepage
  • Ability to bookmark pages, but not import bookmarks directly, unless you choose to upload the bookmarks (in a .html file) from mobile Safari via the built-in web server.
  • Ability to save current page or the next link
  • Option to show embedded objects

  • Bookmarklets (e.g. Find On This Page, define in Dictionary/Wikipedia, etc) and search engines (Amazon, Youtube, etc) are pre-installed in the bookmarks.

Only 10 files can be downloaded at maximum for this version. If you want simpler download managers with built-in browsers, be sure to check out Downloads Lite (lets you download up to 7 files) or the very similar MyMedia (has no maximum and no computer-iPhod file sharing).

2. Downloader Lite (for iPhod)

iTunes customer rating:

Best features:

  • Ability to retrieve and display your last copied URL or image once you open up the app so you can download with one-click.
  • Bookmarklet to open up the app from Safari
  • Supports in-app viewing of common media files (.mp4, .mp3) and office documents (.pdf, .doc, .xls).
  • Ability to extract compressed files (.zip, .rar, .tar.gz, .tgz)
  • Has two modes in the built-in web browser: Browse and Download (where tapped links will be downloaded).

    alternative to safari browser

Like Download Manager Lite, Downloader Lite (I know, confusing, right?), has a limit of 10 downloaded files. If you have an iPad, you could also try iSaveWeb Lite, which has gotten 3.5/5.0 ratings, though on my iPod with iOS4, it kept crashing.

Personally, my favorite browsers are Atomic Lite and Download Manager Lite. Which browsers, mentioned here or not, do you prefer?

Image credit: MDGraphs

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10 Sites That Will Teach You How To Draw

Posted: 09 Jul 2010 11:31 AM PDT

how to drawThey say that there are two skills that most humans wish they were born with. The first – to sing and play in tune; the second – to draw with ease. Unfortunately, most of us can only stare with envy as some of the blessed ones give voice to their talents.

I could never hold a tune, but to a moderate degree I succeeded in holding a brush and palette. I never reached the artistic heights of a Picasso or anywhere remotely close, but I did well enough to breeze through Biology's vertical sections and sundry anatomical illustrations. The art classes that I took certainly helped to shore up my understanding of symmetry and perspective.

Let's take computer art. Photoshop and Illustrator can help just that much with their tools and filters. It’s the same with user-friendly drawing apps. To take it to the next level, a good drawing hand is essential. And it's never too late to dust off the years and take up lessons on how to draw. Think of the web and these websites profiled below as your free online drawing and art class. Brush up your skills.

How to Draw It

learn how to draw

How to Draw it is a simple site but with lots of lessons. From the kid who is just beginning to take up the art to the guy who needs to go back to the basics, the lessons cover all. The beginner lessons are composed of 10 exercises from shading to use of watercolors. The fundamental concepts will require a lot of reading, but it's worth that for understanding how creative art comes together. For instance: the laws behind good composition.

The specialty of the site seems to be the lessons that show how to draw different kinds of animals easily.


learn how to draw

Drawspace is definitely one of the best sites you could go to for learning how to draw and sketch. The person behind the site is Brenda Hoddinott. It's not only the variety of things you can learn to draw or the well supported discussion board on the site. It's also the layout of the site where you can jump straight to your skill level (Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced) or choose a particular skill from the dropdown. Then there is the Gallery of finished art to seek inspiration from.

You might especially like the high quality downloadable PDF tutorials that are detailed with illustrations and steps. You can also view them online. If you doubt your caliber as an artist, download and read the lesson titled – Understanding Talent. To access the lessons in full, you need to register (free).

Rate My Drawings

how to draw

Rate My Drawings is a leading online art community with 50,000 plus members. The site is a platform for drawing tutorials and community discussion forums to learn and share. The site has a Flash based interface that's like an online canvas. Users draw using the Flash based (or the more advanced Java based) drawing software tool, and people rate drawings with a score that's anything between a masterpiece and a disaster. The online drawing tool is also the canvas for multi-user collaborative art. You can draw and chat. For instance, an interactive tutoring session can be easily set up by two or more users. (DrawSketch)

learn how to draw is usually a bouquet of guides written by guides who know their stuff. The DrawSketch section focuses on drawing and art. You can stat from Learn to Draw and go on to the various Projects and Techniques that cover everything from landscapes to anime and manga (Japanese cartoons). There are also a few video tutorials mentioned on the side. One thing you can definitely do is sign up for the newsletter.

Drawing Now

how to learn how to draw

Drawing Now is a user driven site that's simple and not overwhelming for the beginner or the intermediate user. With a free membership you can enjoy interactive features like live chat and IM. The tutorials are step by step and easy to follow. What makes them easier to follow are the screencasts along with the step by step instructions. You can also create your own tutorials, thus teaching others how to draw.

Drawing Coach

how to learn how to draw

Drawing Coach leans more towards caricatures and cartoons. Though the number of lessons isn't that many, it has a lot of variety. The lessons are rated according to their difficulty level, so you can jump straight in. Want to learn how to do tattoos? Check out the lessons that cover tattoo art.

Drago Art

how to learn how to draw

Drago Art is not only about learning to draw dragons. That's just reserved for 80 odd of the 3,000+ tutorials the site offers. If you have drawing tutorials on mythical beasts, then you get ones on sci-fi too. Then there are categories that cover fantasy themes and manga too. Check out all the drawing categories on the left sidebar. Right at the bottom, you will find a few that cover the basics of drawing techniques. Drago Art takes you through the paces with both step by step illustrations as well as video tutorials.

How To Draw Cartoons Online

If you want to learn how to draw Spock or do a drawing impersonation of Darth Vader, check out this site. Though, very basic in looks, the site covers a lot of categories like 80's styled cartoons to video game characters like Pacman. And of course, Mr. Spock and Darth Vader.

Deviant Art

If you have just taken up the paintbrush or the pencil, it will take you a while to reach Deviant Art. Deviant Art is probably the largest art community on the net. The site says it has 13 million registered members. As a beginner, the sole purpose of frequent visits to this online 'art gallery' is inspiration. Though, there is a large enough tutorial resource. The site showcases what you too can create with a bit of work on your artistic skills.


how to draw

YouTube hosts a lot of video tutorials on drawing and illustration. Some of them belong to the sites we have mentioned above. Search YouTube with something like 'drawing' and the search box drops down a few auto-suggestions for you. For instance, with a keyword like 'drawing lessons' you get about 3,300 results.

A simpler search with 'drawing' gives 126,000+ videos. The search throws up a few drawing playlists which are series of videos arranged on the topic. Of course, you can be more specific with the keywords too. You can go into the search options and use filters like Channel and Duration to better organize your search results.

Well, do these sites somehow inspire you to take up the brush (or the digital pen)? Or would you rather pick up the saxophone? Let us know.

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How To Save Your Complete Facebook Chat History

Posted: 09 Jul 2010 10:31 AM PDT

facebook chat historyWhen you’re trying to remember the exact course of a conversation, to retrieve a lost web address, or just want to reminiscence tales of a past long gone, your chat logs can help you out big time.

Taking note of conversations may sound unnecessary, or even plain paranoid, but often proves to be extremely useful. Recalling those conversations word by word is one heck of a superpower.

One thing I’ve always missed about Facebook is that ability to keep logs of your Facebook chat history. As it is, Facebook only remembers short snippets of some most recent conversations – and only per page and in between sign-offs. Because the user has to be online, this can only ever be used to continue some previous conversations where you left off.

Below is an alternative method to permanently save your Facebook chat history, using browser extensions.

Using A Firefox Add-On Or Google Chrome Extension

Before we head off, let’s dispel a common misconception that has already earned these extensions some bad ratings. This technique does not allow you to delve into long lost conversations, prior to the usage of these extensions. Why not? Simple; because Facebook does not keep those around. So unless you can find yourself a time machine, there’s no way to recover those.

From the moment you’re set up however, these extensions will remember every single word said. And those can be retrieved later on.

Start out by downloading and installing Facebook Chat History Manager as a Firefox add-on or Google Chrome extension. There’s still a little work ahead before they’re running smoothly, though.

facebook chat history

On Google Chrome, go to Window -> Extensions -> [FbCHM] Options, as can be seen in the screenshot above. You’re now in the extension’s Options pane. On the left, select ‘Get Facebook ID‘.

On Firefox, go to Tools -> Facebook Chat History Manager -> Get Facebook ID.

After logging into your account and authorizing the Facebook application, you’ll be able to view your Facebook ID. This is a number unique to your Facebook account. Copy it to your clipboard; you’ll need it in the next step.

On Google Chrome, go to Window -> Extensions -> [FbCHM] Options -> Create Account.

On Firefox, go to Tools -> Facebook Chat History Manager -> Create Account.

Use the previously obtained Facebook ID to create your account. The passwords here do not have to match your Facebook log-in password. It’s solely to keep your chat logs safe. Because you’ll have to log in later on, and again whenever you want to browse your chat history, an easy to remember login name can speed this up. This is optional though.

After creating your account, the set-up process is complete. The browser extensions will quietly keep track of your Facebook chat history, and allow to access it later on.

facebook chat history

The Google Chrome extension will place an icon on your address bar, as can be seen in the screenshot above. Clicking it will prompt you for your username and password, before sending you off to your chat logs.

On Firefox, simply go to Tools -> Facebook Chat History Manager ->View History. Here too, you’ll need to enter your account details.

The Facebook chat history viewer isn’t very pretty, but does what it’s meant to do. On the top bar, you can select a period; on the left, a friend. To view older conversations, select ‘previous‘, or use an input field to jump to a specific page.

If you’ve got anything to add – whether tips or alternatives – feel free to make use of the comments section below!

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Download Entire Sections Of The Internet To Read Offline With WinWSD

Posted: 09 Jul 2010 09:31 AM PDT

download entire websitesWhat if I told you that you could download entire websites, or select “chunks” of the Internet to your laptop or to a portable hard disk, and then browse that saved piece of the Internet while you’re traveling on a plane, train or bus without the Internet? This is something that would allow students and researchers the ability to read through websites whenever it’s most convenient, even if they are not online.

In this article I’m going to introduce you to a cool freeware app called WinWSD, written by Attila Keszi of Hungary.

This application is similar to the apps Tina covered in her mini series about offline browsing, where she covered Scrapbook and HTTrack. However, WinWSD is a bit unique because it lets you identify not only a single website, but multiple “start pages” that it will crawl through and download the entire section of the web you’ll need to later browse each website from those starting points.

Downloading An Entire Website

The most common use for applications like WinWSD is to download a “mirror” of an entire website. This will basically let you browse every single page on an entire website even though you’re offline. Obviously many external links or images won’t work properly, but all of the local files, scripts, images and videos will all work without an Internet connection.

Initiating a download is easy. Once you’ve installed WinWSD, just go to “New Project“, create a new folder for your local copy, and then the Project Settings window will open.

download websites

The Project Directory will be the directory you’ve just created before this window. The project name can be whatever you like, but most important is the “Starting URLs” field. To download an entire website, insert the root domain of that site in this box. You can click or unclick any of the boxes to define how the program will crawl through the site, but default settings are usually fine. Once you’re done and back on the main page, just go into the “project” menu option and click “Start/Restart.”

download websites

This initiates the crawling script, which will go through all links, starting from the “starting URL” and it will download each entire page including all images, videos and more. As the process goes on, you’ll see 5 threads (downloads) running at once at the bottom of the screen. You can increase or decrease the number of threads depending on your processor power.

download websites

The window to the left shows the download and website statistics – things like the download speed, the hard drive space consumed by the mirrored site on your drive,  and any errors.

download websites

The large center pane of the application is basically a web browser. Once you have an entire website backed up to your hard drive, you can use this application to browse through the website while offline. You can also browse the site using any Internet browser of your choice by opening the index.html file in your project folder with that browser.

download entire websites

You can see the location of the file that you’re viewing at the lower part of the browser window. You know you’re browsing offline when you see that the location starts in “file:///” and the url is the project location you defined in the settings.

The file structure for a site mirror is basically a directory for every web page, which includes all files like html pages, images, videos and whatever else makes the page load correctly. Local links on the page go to the directory for that new page. External links remain the same, so obviously those won’t work while you’re browsing offline.

Download Entire Websites From Several Start Pages

Now, this application really stands out when you want to conduct offline research using articles from multiple websites. Let’s say that you’re working on a research paper and you’re conducting Google searches for good reference material. You’ve got a trip coming up, so you don’t have time to read through those websites, but you jot down the URLs in Notepad.

One option you could use if you want to read through those entire web pages offline is to take a mirror of those pages using the article URLs you found as the “Starting URLs” in the Project Settings.

Here, I’ve pasted three URLs I found for some research on a speech that President Obama gave in Michigan. I set the three references that I found as the Starting URLs for a new project, and then clicked on Start/Restart under “Project.”

As you can see above, such a search takes a lot of space (1,483 files in this example), but if you have a portable hard disk, it shouldn’t be a problem. Basically you’re downloading the entire page with images and other files, as well as downloading the entire page of any internal sites that page links to. This way, while you’re reading those articles offline, you can click to any other internal pages and those links will still work.

Here is what offline viewing looks like, and you can see the offline location as well as the subdirectory for this particular “Project.”

download entire websites

You can create a new project for every research topic you want to work on offline, which helps keep all of your work organized. If you travel a lot, WinWSD can really help optimize your research work even though you have no access to the Internet.

Have you ever used WinWSD? What do you think about the software? Do you know of any other offline browsing alternatives? Share your insight in the comments section below.

Image Credit: Internet and Future by CJLUC

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Zinio – Read Your Favorite Magazines On Your iPad (or PC)

Posted: 09 Jul 2010 08:31 AM PDT

magazines for ipadWhen I walk into my local book stores I sometimes cringe when I see the number of magazines on shelves un-read and un-purchased, but yet so well designed and full of great information. I've asked store clerks more than a few times what happens to the magazines that they don't sell. Each has said the same thing: they're boxed back up and shipped off for recycling.

It's great that so much expensive paper is recycled, but in the age of the iPad I long to see a lot less paper magazines on magazine stands and a lot more available to subscribers using the iPad and other forthcoming tablet devices.

ipad magazines

As it stands now, Zinio Magazine & Reader (iTunes Store link) is the most useful digital magazine publication app for the iPad. Zinio has been around for a while as a computer magazine reader. It distributes thousands of full-color magazines, from Rolling Stone, Car and Driver, to Time Magazine. Many of the most popular magazines that you see on newsstands can be downloaded from Zinio. Most of the publications are not free, but the Zinio apps, both the mobile and desktop versions, are very much free.

In my experience as a Zinio user, its iPad app has opened a new experience with magazine subscriptions for iPad. As I have said many times, the iPad lends itself to great reading experience of nearly all publication formats, e.g. PDFs, e-books, magazines, and webpages.

ipad magazines

With the Zinio magazine reader on my iPad, I'm starting to reduce the amount of paper magazines on my book shelves and in my office closet. I look forward to reading all my magazines using apps like Zinio. When you subscribe to a magazine for iPad, you don't have to wait several months for that subscription to begin, and when new issues are released they are available to your Zinio account much sooner than the paper versions in the mail.

Zinio for the iPad is a pretty straightforward application that downloads your magazine subscriptions to your device. Similar to e-readers like iBooks and Amazon Kindle for the iPad, it has the familiar vertical turning pages feature, a quick linear and thumbnail access to the table of contents of selected publications, and – for us readers with poor eyesight – a very useful zoom feature for enlarging pages.

ipad magazines

While the “page turning” in the app is smooth, it takes a second or two for the pages to fully load. Other than that, however, the resolution quality of the digital pages is very good for both words and images. There's also a text-only features for magazine articles.

magazines for ipad

Some magazines come with interactive extras, e.g. audio and video. With your Zinio account, you can also sync subscriptions between your mobile devices and your computer – Mac, Linux or PC.

Zinio Reader

Zinio has just released an updated Adobe Air version of its computer reader, Zinio Reader 4. The experience of reading magazines on your computer, or even the iPhone, is not, in my view, as friendly as reading on the iPad. However, the desktop reader has many more features than the iPad version.


With Zinio Reader you can share via email and other social networking sites links to selected pages of your subscribed magazines, as well as bookmark pages and clip content with comments. This is a very useful tool that is completely missing for some reason from the iPad app. Also missing from the mobile version is the ability to search keywords in publications.

magazines for ipad

Missing annotation features from the iPad version are a big impediment to this app; I look forward to these features in forthcoming updates.

These shortcomings, however, don't prevent this e-reader magazine reader from being a very useful application for the iPad. Perhaps Apple will eventually include magazine and newspapers as part of its iBooks download, but until then Zinio is the best solution.

Let us know about your reading experiences on your iPad or iPhone. Do you get most of your reading done on these devices?

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