Sunday, July 18, 2010 “Cool Websites and Tools [July 17th]” plus 4 more “Cool Websites and Tools [July 17th]” plus 4 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [July 17th]

Posted: 17 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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Kayak Explore – is a pretty interesting web based travel planning tool which lets you explore places based on the airfare you can afford, activities you intend to do, the temperature you like and much more. It's a Google Maps mashup which lets you select your preferences and automatically updates the map marking the places you could visit. Read more: Kayak Explore: Shows Where To Travel Based On Budget, Activities & More.


Audioo – is an interesting site which aims to become the largest online archive of all kinds of human voice recordings. While at the moment the site is limited to voicemail sharing, in future they do intend to venture into other ways of collating human voices. Read more: Audioo: Share & Listen To Voicemails Online.



Creaza – With Creaza, you can do a lot – the site can help you write a thesis, help your children with their school science project, and help you create family videos. The website is a free to use web service merging many functions into a single dashboard. Read more: Creaza: All In One Free Online Video/Audio Editor & Cartoon Maker.



OCROnline – Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology automatically recognizes text in pictures and converts it to a text file we can work with – preserving the layout. If you are looking for an efficient OCR tool to with multilanguage support, pay "OCROnline" a visit. Read more: OCROnline: Recognizes Text in Pictures & Converts into PDF, Doc, RTF & Txt Format.



TodaysMeet – Often when companies hold meetings or conferences
with a large number of attendees, they look at our surveys or feedback forms so that they know which parts of the meeting went well and which parts need improvement. To help you do this in a better way, TodaysMeet was created. Read more: TodaysMeet: Provides Disposable Chat Rooms With Twitter Hashtag Stream.


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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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Turn Your Spare Windows PC Into A Remotely Controllable Torrent Box

Posted: 17 Jul 2010 06:31 PM PDT

Chances are if you're reading this article you're the type with an attic full of silicone chips, sticks of RAM and old bits of printer. I'd hazard a guess and say you've got more spare tech equipment up there than Christmas decorations, and it's time to revolutionize your filesharing with a torrent box.

Put simply a torrent box allows you to queue, manage and share all your torrent data via a network connection. You can leave this old PC in the corner, silently chipping away at your downloads and seeding like a trooper whilst you take your laptop out and about for more practical reasons. You won't need a monitor once you've set up the box, which means you can put it anywhere it will fit.

Setting Up

It's always best to start with a fresh operating system, so format and re-install your chosen OS on the PC's hard drive. As we'll be using uTorrent to administer everything remotely, you'll need a copy of Windows 2000 or above. If you've never installed your particular copy of Windows on this machine before, you may need to call Microsoft to validate your key with use on your new (old) machine.

Don't forget that system requirements for Microsoft Windows XP are very low by today's standards – a Pentium 233 MHz with 64 MB of RAM may sound a little choppy, but will function fine. As you're going to be using the machine to store data, you'll need a fairly large hard drive depending on your plans.

If you'd like to use the box as a share for all members of your household, the more storage you've got the better. However if you're using the box as a go-between, before transferring your downloads to shares or backup locations, then space is not so much of an issue. External hard drives can make for easy space upgrades, and provides a very mobile solution when transferring data, though be sure to update any older copies of Windows for USB 2.0 compatibility.

It's important to remember to format the drive on which you will be downloading your torrent data to NTFS, and not the older FAT32 file system. NTFS will allow you to download files greater than 4GB, a constraint when using FAT32 devices.

Make sure you have at least one shared and accessible location from which to access the data. Simply create a folder on your main download drive, right click and choose Share. This is where all your downloaded data will go. It's best to test this on another machine within your network first, just in case. If you make this share writeable, you'll be able to add your own data to the drive and share it straight from the box itself.

Installing uTorrent & The Web UI

The latest version of uTorrent comes with everything you need to configure remote access. Simply download and install it from the official download page, and boot it up. You may want to adjust a few settings, including your connection settings for optimal download and upload performance. Check out this guide to speeding up your torrents for a few tricks you might not have thought of.

Hit Ctrl+P to bring up the Preferences dialog, and within the General tab check Start uTorrent on System Startup. This means if you ever need to restart or move your box you can resume your torrents by simply turning it on. Under Web UI, check Enable Web UI and create a username and password.

You can also specify an Alternative listening port for connecting to your remote interface. If you have trouble remembering your connection port under the Connection tab, stick in some numbers you're bound to remember.

That's it, you're good to go. Now for the easy bit!

Remote Access

Make sure your torrent box is turned on, connected to the network and running uTorrent. Using any machine on your network visit http://192.168.0.x:port/gui/ from a web browser, where x is the computer's location on the network and port is either your uTorrent client’s connection port or alternative listening port.

To find out your computer's location on the network, log into your router and check the attached devices, or you can just use a process of elimination!  If all goes well you will be prompted for the username and password you created under uTorrent's Web UI preferences.

Log in and you will be presented with uTorrent's web user interface. From here you can add, remove and manage your torrents, as well as update your preferences. It's quite literally uTorrent, within your web browser.

Accessing your Web UI is all well and good on your network, but what about when you're not at home?

Well if you have a static IP – no problem, simply visit http://yourip:port/gui/. You can get your IP from What Is My IP on your home network. If your internet service provider rotates your IP then you can use a service such as DynDNS which provides you with a domain name for your home network. There is an excellent guide about doing this here.


I'm always searching for new ways to use old technology, and a torrent box fits my needs and costs nothing to set up. If you've already got an existing media centre or file server, adding torrent functionality is another simple step you can take to streamline your home setup. Remote access gives you the freedom to peruse from afar and have your downloads ready for you and the rest of your network the second you get home.

If you are looking for more information on torrents, check out Saikat’s free guide.  Also check out some of the numerous torrents articles that we have done in the past -

How To Use RSS Feeds To Download Torrents Automatically – by Varun
Top 6 Torrent Alternatives To The Pirate Bay – by Will
5 Ways To Bypass Torrent Connection Blocking – by Jeffry
Find Torrents Of Your Favorite TV Shows With TED – by Sharninder
Top Torrent Search Engines for All Torrent Downloaders – by Varun

Do you have a dedicated torrent box sitting in the corner? Have you combined it with a media centre or file server, or do you simply use your main PC with Web UI? Let us know in the comments below.

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Lucidor – A Clean, Cross-Platform eBook Reader

Posted: 17 Jul 2010 03:30 PM PDT

I love my netbook, and talk about it to no end here at MakeUseOf. I also love reading. While I prefer the feel and aesthetic of actual books to any ebook reader or laptop, I have to admit the digital world offers certain advantages: namely, unlimited access to every public domain work in existence.

But I don’t have a dedicated eBook reader, so my netbook needs to fill this role. I guess I’ve come to the same conclusion as Mark: who needs an Amazon Kindle when you have a netbook? His solution relied on Windows-only software, however, which won’t work on my Linux-based netbook.

To that extent, I’ve been looking for a simple piece of cross-platorm software to read eBooks with. After a bit of searching, I’ve settled on Lucidor. This simple, Firefox-based reader application comes with everything I want: a clean interface, the ability to browse chapters and pretty good library functionality. I’m happy with it, so if you’re looking for software to read with check it out.

Simple Interface

Perhaps what I mostly find so awesome about Lucidor is the simplicity of its interface. When I open it up, here’s what I see:

The program recalls what I was reading last, and offers it to me. Alternatively, I can open my bookshelf or download other books from the web, but I’ll get to that later. If I click one of the books I’m currently reading, I’ll be brought immediately to the page I left off with. That’s how a reader should behave.

The other options are also pretty cool. Open up my book gallery and I can see the collection of covers that make up my library.

Okay, so my library’s not too impressive; just the issue of The Economist I downloaded using Calibre, an application I wrote about earlier this week. Still, as the weeks go by and I pick up more reading it’ll flesh out. It’s also possible to browse Project Gutenburg and other book repositories from Lucidor. Check it out:

If you’re looking for books to read, check out Aibek’s piece on the best places to get free eBooks., though I mostly recommend Project Gutenburg, either on the web or through Lucidor.

Interested in Lucidor? Download it here.


If you’re not looking to replace your eBook reading software of choice, consider this: Lucidor is also available as a Firefox plugin. Yep, you can have a full-featured eBook reading application built into Firefox, meaning any eBook flies you click online load up instantly. It also means the book you’re reading right now could be one of your open Firefox tabs, alongside your email and your work.

This could be a fantastic way to take a glance at a given book before you decide to download it, or to hide the fact that you’re reading books at work from your boss. Check out Luifox here.

Supported Formats: Limited

This is perhaps the weakest point of Lucidor: it only supports EPUB eBooks. This doesn’t have to be too big of a shortcoming; previously mentioned Calibre fully supports converting one format to another, and Gutenburg offers most books in EPUB. Still, considering that most eBook formats are open in nature, it would be nice to have support for a few more formats.

Other shortcomings include the inability to flip the screen (I’d like to hold my netbook like a book) and the inability to make the text white with a black background. These could be quickly fixed, however, and I’m sure the Lucidor team will get to it eventually.


Lucidor is exactly what I’m looking for: a straight-forward, no-nonsense eBook reading application that works on Linux, Mac and Windows. If you’re looking for the same thing, I highly recommend you check it out.

Or, if you’re so much smarter than me that you’ve already found a much better eBook reading application, I highly recommend you share it in the comments below. I’d love to know about it! I’d also love to hear your thoughts about Lucidor: do you like it or could you do with more features?

So far no major international conflict has started because of comments here at MakeUseOf, so feel free to comment away secure in the knowledge that you’re not putting your country at risk.


Image Credit: Dawn Endico

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5 Great Resources To Learn How To Code

Posted: 17 Jul 2010 12:31 PM PDT

More and more people are turning towards coding as a profession/hobby. From freelancers to actual developers, everyone seems to have their foundations strong in at least one programming platform.

However, more often than not, there seems to be a problem of actually finding good content online that can teach you to code. Experimenting with a language can only get you so far. To master it, you need to have proper guidance from people who actually know what they are talking about.

So where can you find expert guidance without shelling out a fortune for it? You could start with checking out the websites below:

Dream In Code

Just taking a look at their logo ought to tell you that the community at Dream In Code isn’t something to mess around with. You can browse their content for free, or you can sign up to become a permanent member.

They have everything. Right from fundamental elements to programming examples, Dream In Code can help you master any language you choose. That’s because Dream In Code is not restricted to only one language. It covers almost everything under the sun and the community of users/experts is just amazing.

They also have a video channel and links to developers’ blogs if you want to look deeper.


If what you want to master is a Web technology, you’ve got to give W3Schools a look. There’s hardly a place on the Internet that’s as exhaustive as W3Schools when it comes to tutorials about Web technologies.

You can get tutorials ranging from plain-Jane HTML, right up to AJAX and the likes. There’s even Server Side Scripting thrown into the mix if that’s what you fancy.

Eloquent JavaScript

If you’ve ever had to use a Greasemonkey Script or a Bookmarklet, you have a clue about the kind of power that JavaScript possesses. It can dynamically modify the contents of the page that you are viewing.

If you’ve ever wondered how any of this is done, then you’ve got to checkout Eloquent JavaScript. This is an interactive tutorial, which you can either read off the Internet, or download as an archive and use on your local disk. It includes a live console to try out any code that you might want to. The entire tutorial is written in very lucid English, and is very easy to follow.


Ruby is another one of those languages that is taking the world by storm. Slowly, but surely, it’s making its presence felt on the Internet. If you are thinking of venturing out into web application development, then you’ve got to give Ruby a shot. There’s a chance you may never have to look back.

The only trouble is finding good sources of Ruby tutorials. TryRuby is a website that’s dedicated to teaching you about Ruby. When you first open the page, all you get is an interactive console for you to code in. Type “help” (without the quotes) and hit Return/Enter to start the Ruby tutorial.

Like Eloquent JavaScript, TryRuby is not at all intimidating. Five minutes into the tutorial and I was wondering whether the syntax can really be that simple.

A Miscellany of HTML5 Tutorials

Last but not least, we come to HTML5. HTML5 has been creating a furore all over the Internet over the last year or so. It’s definitely going to be big (especially with giants like Apple and Google backing it). Therefore, as a developer, you’ve got to have knowledge (either elementary or advanced) about the capabilities of this standard. Tripwire Magazine has a list of more than 30 tutorials at their website. You can get access to all of them using the link above.

Now that you have our list of resources from where you can learn how to code, why don’t you pick up that keyboard and put your fingers to good effect? Once you master a language and come up with an awesome app, let us know about it and we might just dedicate a post to it.

In the meantime, check out some other programming / coding posts that we have done in the past, for further inspiration :

Top 10 Professional Sample Code Websites For Programmers – by Ryan
Learn To Code At Any Level With Google Code University – by David
4 Great Websites To Make You A Visual Basic Guru – by Ryan
6 Beginner Resources For Learning Mac Programming – by Bakari
6 Free Sites To Learn About Programming in PHP – by Jack
Top 5 Sites To Learn CSS Online – by Daniel

Image Credit: kakaopor.

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8 iPhone Games You Won’t Believe Are Free & 1 Paid App For Free

Posted: 17 Jul 2010 10:31 AM PDT

There's probably more game apps in the iTunes store than any other kind of app, and while most of them are in the 0.99 cent range, there are some great choices out there that will cost you absolutely nothing.

The following is a list of 8 iPhone games you won't believe are free. They've either got great graphics and sound effects, or are just a great gaming experience overall.

Most importantly, none of these apps have any limitations on the actual gameplay, but a couple of of them are ad-supported free versions of paid apps. In the big scheme of things, that's a pretty small price to pay to get a great app for free.


For all the word nerds out there, Scramboni [iTunes link] is a great multiplayer online game. Each game consists of 20 rounds, where you have to unscramble letters to form a word. There are three levels, and you can only progress to the higher levels after you’ve played, and scored, enough.

For each round, you will find out how fast you were in comparison to your opponents, and overall you will be ranked by the number of points you score.

Texas Hold’em Live

The graphics on Texas Hold’em Live [iTunes link], a huge online multiplayer game are pretty impressive, and it’s surprising that the it’s free.

Play the Texas Hold ‘Em version of poker against opponents from around the world, or if you don’t want to go online, you can also play a quick round against as many AI (Artificial Intelligence) opponents as you like.

Backgammon Lite

If you are a fan of backgammon, Backgammon Lite [iTunes link] will definitely appeal to you with its great graphics and sound effects. And if you don’t know how to play backgammon, this is a great way to learn.

You can either play a single player game against an AI, play in peer to peer mode using Bluetooth to connect to another iPhone or in pass-and-play mode.


Topple [iTunes link] is a game in which you have to stack as many wacky shapes on top of each other to reach a specific goal. As you finish each level, the next level is unlocked, where the target line gets higher and higher. Just make sure you don’t drop too many of the shapes into the abyss, because once you lose 5 blocks, the game ends.

Froggy Jump

Froggy Jump [iTunes link] is a highly addictive game. Guide your frog by tilting your phone, jumping onto little patches of grass that give him a boost to jump higher. As you jump around, try to collect all the letters of the goal word, collect crystals, and unlock new levels and features.

Words With Friends Free

Scrabble fans can have all the free fun they want with the ad-supported version of Words with Friends [iTunes link]. You can either have the game match you up with a random opponent from anywhere in the world, or you can invite your friends to play against you. You can also play and pass with a friend using one iPhone.

Words with Friends also makes use of the iPhone's push notification feature so you don't have to keep the app open to know when it's your turn.

Crazy Chipmunks

Crazy Chipmunks [iTunes link] is a highly addictive game that has three modes of play. In Classic mode you have 30 seconds to tap all of the little brown chipmunks popping out of their holes, avoiding the pinks ones. In challenge mode, there is no time limit, but rather the game ends once you have hit three of the pink chipmunks.

Update: Crazy Chipmunks is no longer free.

The final mode is quite different from the first two, using the same graphics for a memory game.

Kung Fu Touch

Kung Fu Touch [iTunes link] is a cute game with really good graphics. Get in touch with your inner Kung Fu Master, and chop flying sushi (amongst other objects) before they hit you.

The graphics and sounds effects are excellent, but if you're planning on playing this game in a quiet room – you should be warned that the splash intro cannot be muted. There are two modes of play – single player, or online duel gaming with a random opponent.

Traffic Rush

Traffic Rush [iTunes link] is actually a paid app, but it’s available for free for a limited time. In Traffic Rush you have to keep the traffic going at an intersection. Speed cars up by swiping them across the screen, and stop them at the intersection by tapping them. How long can you keep traffic going without a collision?

Traffic Rush’s graphics are simple and are more reminiscent of older games of this sort, but that is part of its charm.

Another great free iPhone game that definitely deserves a mention is Tap Tap Revenge.

What are your favourite free iPhone games? Let us know in the comments.

Image Credit: David Goehring

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