Sunday, July 11, 2010 “Cool Websites and Tools [July 10th]” plus 5 more “Cool Websites and Tools [July 10th]” plus 5 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [July 10th]

Posted: 10 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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GlowDart – If you have ever wished to turn that extra monitor into a news streaming device, GlowDart is a nice news feed ticker you should definitely check out. It is a dead simple tool that displays continuously updating feeds on your screen based on your pre-defined criteria. Read more: GlowDart: News Feed Ticker For Your TV, Computer Or Phone.


LoadImpact – Whether you're hosting your website at home or paying someone else to host it, it's good to put it to the test once in a while. After all, you wouldn't want your site to go down at the critical moment when you get a prominent link. Load Impact is a website stress testing tool that helps by allowing you to run a stress test online. Read more: LoadImpact: Website Stress Testing Online.



PrivacyDefender – Facebook has often been criticized for confusing privacy settings. Users, particularly new ones, find it difficult to enter those detailed privacy controls. PrivacyDefender is something that can simplify those privacy controls. Read more: PrivacyDefender: Check Your Facebook Account Privacy Controls.



eCampus – is a great platform for students that need to get rid of their textbooks. In addition to buying and selling textbooks like dozens of other websites, eCampus also lets you rent textbooks for a small fee. You can rent textbooks for a whole semester, 90 days or 60 days. Read more: eCampus: Rent, Buy & Sell Your Textbooks Online.



SMSMatrix – There are a number of free and paid tools available on the web that offer you unique SMS services. Some let you send international messages for free, some let you send group messages while some let you set up notifications related to those messages. SMSMatrix is different since it lets you do almost everything using a single web based platform. Read more: SMSMatrix: Group Messaging and SMS Broadcasting Service.


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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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Join MakeUseOf On Facebook!

Posted: 10 Jul 2010 06:30 PM PDT

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Manage Multiple Signatures In Gmail Without Browser Plugins

Posted: 10 Jul 2010 03:31 PM PDT

Gmail is superior to desktop clients like Outlook or Thunderbird in almost every way. It’s faster, accessible from any browser and (being from Google) includes amazing search capabilities. I’ve given up email clients altogether in favor of Gmail, and I don’t think I’m alone.

One shortcoming of Gmail, or so I’m told by people considering making the leap to the Gmail-only lifestyle, is the seeming total lack of a way to have multiple signatures at once.

This is a shortcoming, to be sure, and one we’ve addressed before. Saikat wrote about 5 ways to create custom multiple signatures in Gmail, and his list is a good one. In fact, the only problem with this list is that all the solutions he lists all depend on some sort of browser-based plugin in order to work.

The article was accurate at the time of writing. Since then, Gmail has introduce this feature natively.

That’s fine if you primarily access your email from the same computer, but I jump from computer to computer constantly. As such, I’ve been looking for a way to manage multiple signatures from within Gmail. I didn’t think I’d ever find one until I started playing with the Canned Responses plugin found in Gmail Labs.

Canned Responses is intended to save you time by allowing you to instantly send messages you seem to send a lot. Mark explains more in his article about saving time with Gmail email templates using Canned Responses.

But email templates isn’t all Canned Responses is good for; it also makes a pretty good killer tool for managing multiple Gmail signatures. Best of all, because it’s built into Gmail you don’t need a browser-based plugin to use it.

Using Canned Responses For Signatures

You’ll find Canned Responses in the “Labs” section of your Gmail preferences. You can enable it by clicking the “Enable” button followed by the “Save” button at the top or bottom of the lab list.

Once you do enable it, you’re ready to create your signatures. Doing so can be a touch confusing, but don’t worry: it’s simple once you get used to it. Click “Compose Mail.” Simply write your signature where you’d normally write your email text. When you’re done that click “Canned Responses” followed by clicking the “New Canned Response” button seen under “Save.” You’ve now saved your first signature; repeat the process as many times as necessary.

As you can see, I’ve got five different signatures that I use depending on who I’m writing to. You can add as many signatures as you want.

Inserting a signature is easy. Once you’re done writing an email all you need do is click “Canned Responses” and then click your signature of choice under “Insert.” Voila; you’ve added your signature.

Conclusion: It Works But…

The canned responses plugin in Labs makes a great signature manager, but it seems kind of sad that I have to resort to what amounts to a hack in order to achive this functionality. Gmail is by far my favorite email client, but I wonder how it is that such a great service lacks signature management by default?

Sure, with this trick you can have the functionality, but I still think Google should put together a more “official” signature manager that feels less like a hack and more like a feature. For now, however, I’m more than happy with this solution.

What do you guys think? Is canned responses a good way to achieve multiple signatures, or are you having trouble with it? Can you think of a better way to achieve this without resorting to browser-based extensions? If so please share, because I want to hear from you!

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Hot Tech Deals [July 10th]

Posted: 10 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. 7 refurbished Apple iMac Desktops: 20″ for $849 + free shipping, more
  2. Sharp 42″ 1080p Widescreen LCD HDTV for $550 + free shipping
  3. Dell Vostro v13 Celeron M 1.3GHz 13″ Laptop for $449 + $8 s&h
  4. MSI Windbook Atom 1.6GHz 10″ Netbook for $240 + free shipping via coupon code “SUNSHINE15″
  5. Mitsubishi 73″ 120Hz 1080p DLP Projection HDTV for $1,199 + free shipping via coupon code “STCLMMJ3Q$BXVM”
  6. Z-Line Elevations TV Stand for $80 + free shipping
  7. Samsung P3 16GB MP3 Player for $125 + free shipping
  8. Sony 32″ 3D Sound Bar Home Theater System for $220 + $17 s&h via coupon code “SUMMER”

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set

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Top 7 Sites to View and Download Space Images

Posted: 10 Jul 2010 12:30 PM PDT

From an early age, I had an interest in astronomy and the night sky. My dad would take me out on a clear, crisp night and we would look up at the sky through his telescope. One of my favorite magazines was Sky and Telescope, mainly because they published beautiful full color photos of nebulas, galaxies and more.

With the advent of the internet, many of these photos are now available with a quick search. I wanted to share a few sites I use to get my astronomy fix now and again.

Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD)

Astronomy Picture of the Day, or APOD as it is widely known, was launched in 1995 and is one of the earliest Astronomy websites on the world wide web. It is curated by Robert Nemiroff and Jerry Bonnell who are both professional astronomers. Don’t be put off with the 20th century Times New Roman font. The images vary widely, and are always annotated with useful information which helps you learn about the image displayed for that day. The entire archive is available online, and many images make great backgrounds. This is probably my favorite astronomy site.


This site was created by the Hubble Space Telescope’s office of public outreach. Photos are in the public domain and this collection shows off many Hubble photographs and latest discoveries. It is an excellent location for a variety of space photos.

NASA Images

Nasa Images brings this idea of public education to the broader NASA images catalog. This is an excellent website which allows you to sort through photos by category. In addition to astrophotography, it also has images of spacecraft, astronauts and other NASA related media.

Hubble Heritage

The Hubble Heritage project, who on first glance are similar to the Hubblesite photos, are actually quite different. Hubble Heritage takes information from a multitude of sources – photographs, spectrograph readings, x-ray and infrared sources – and compiles it into a photo which is more aesthetically pleasing than what you could see with your naked eye. They employ both professional astronomers and laypersons to compile the photographs and the result are beautiful renditions of the objects of our skies.


WikiSky is an interesting site along the veins of Wikipedia. It allows you to upload your own photographs yet also has a full collection of DSS (Deep Sky Survey) photos. It also works very well as a jumping off point to other websites that have astrophotography on them.

NASA Image of the Day

NASA Image of the Day focuses on different NASA projects. Not specifically an astrophotography site, this site publishes photos of interest to any space enthusiast. It’s worth checking out.

Flickr Astrophotography

Finally but certainly not least, Flickr has some great sets of astrophotography and is probably the best non-NASA website for finding them. Other sites exist but typically feature a single amateur astronomer’s photos. Flickr has some great searches (such as the one linked above) and also groups (linked below) which have spectacular photos. The rights on the photos vary but typically they are free for personal use and some can be downloaded in their original resolution.

If you’re interested in astronomy and astrophotography, you definitely have to join the Astronomy Group and Astrophotography Group on Flickr.

Do you have any sites you would recommend to download astrophotography pictures?

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3 Email Productivity Boosters To Save You Time

Posted: 10 Jul 2010 10:31 AM PDT

It’s easy to get bogged down doing repetitive tasks, or checking your email when you should be doing other things. Or when you’re at work, a lot of your time can be taken up sending out form responses or chasing after replies to your emails. When you’re out of the office, you might find yourself checking your email on your phone, or wondering if you received that one email from your boss.

With the methods outlined below, you can automate responses,  follow-up emails, receive notifications when your emails have been read, and notifications when you receive urgent emails. Rather than waste your time constantly checking your inbox for new messages, you can automate a large part of the process and access your email only when you really need to.

Automated Follow-Up With FollowUpThen

There’s always a few people who take a bit longer than they should getting back to you when you send out an email. For those people, FollowUpThen is the perfect solution that saves you time and effort. There is no signup required, but the first time you use their service, you will be asked to verify your email address.

After that, each time you send out an email that might need a gentle reminder, all if you have to do is add a FollowUpThen email address in the CC field.

The email address format depends on how long you want to wait before sending that second follow-up email. You can specify the length of time to wait using or, and so forth, or you can specify the exact date using or Just be sure to use the following format when using an exact calendar date:

If your recipient replies before the allotted time has passed, as long as they hit the Reply All button, a follow up email will not be sent. To avoid unnecessary follow-up emails, it might be wise to place a small note in your signature making sure that when replying, they hit Reply All.

If you prefer, you can also place the FollowUpThen email address in the BCC field, with the one obvious drawback, that if they do reply to the email before the followup is scheduled to go out, they will receive it anyway.

If you’re looking for a way to send automated responses, Gmail users should check out Mark’s post on how to create automated responses to emails using Gmail filters and canned responses.

Find Out If Emails You Send Have Been Opened

If you aren’t a fan of MS Outlook, but would still like to know if an email you sent has been opened, there are third party services you can use to receive a read receipt. The easiest free service available, WhoReadMe, allows you to send fully formatted emails and attachments directly from within their website.

Once you have sent the email, you can check on its status by returning to the WhoReadMe website and see the exact date and time the email was opened.

WhoReadMe’s only drawback is that, while you can send unlimited emails, you are limited to 20 read receipts per day, but that is a small price to pay for the ease of use of the site. If you don’t want to be limited to the number of receipts, give SpyPig a try, or if you want to know if someone has clicked a link in your email, give LinkBlip a try.

Get Urgent Emails Anywhere With AwayFind

AwayFind is one of the most elaborate third party email services out there, and is the perfect companion for the workaholic when they’re not in the office. Rather than waste your time checking for urgent emails on your phone when you’re out and about, AwayFind can alert you of any urgent emails in a variety of ways including sending you an SMS, a direct message on Twitter, a message on Google Talk, or even, surprisingly enough, by email.

Once you’ve signed up for an account, or just connected AwayFind directly to your Google Apps/Gmail account, you can add as many email addresses as you want and choose your notification settings.

The first step is to choose how you want to notified. Either way, you will receive a verification code to add that service. So for example, if you want to be notified by Twitter, you will receive a direct message with a verification code, provided that you are following the AwayFind Twitter account. If you want to receive notification by SMS, you will receive a message on your phone with a verification code.

You can also be notified using chat programs such as Google Talk, MSN, Yahoo Messenger and AIM. And lastly, you can choose to receive an automated phone call to your mobile, landline, or various VoIP services including Skype and Google Talk.

The next step will be to set up your filters. If you want to be sure not to miss any emails from your boss, you can create a filter that alerts you of all messages coming from specific email addresses.

You can also create filters based on who else the email is sent to, or on specific keywords in the subject and message.

When creating a new filter, you can choose from your various notification methods as to how you want to hear about this specific filter, and to limit the notifications to certain time frames on weekdays and weekends. You can also choose to send an auto response to emails that fit that criteria.

One of the best things about AwayFind is that it doesn’t just notify you of the email, but actually lets you know its content. You will be informed of the time and date it was sent, who it’s from, and of the message, even if you are notified by a phone call.

If you don’t want to leave anything at all to chance, you can also create a signature to go out on all emails with a link to a contact form for people to reach you if it’s urgent. While this does open you up to the possibility of receiving more notifications than you would prefer, chances are your filters will not cover each and every possibility of an urgent message. You can customize all of the text that will appear on the page, and choose how to be notified of any new messages sent to you through the contact form.

How do you keep up with your emails and stay productive at the same time? Let us know in the comments.

Image Credit: Adam Bailey

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