Sunday, July 25, 2010 “Cool Websites and Tools [July 24th]” plus 4 more “Cool Websites and Tools [July 24th]” plus 4 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [July 24th]

Posted: 24 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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FeedSquares – GoogleReader is one of the best tools to skim through your feeds but it can get too texty. FeedSquares is a simple Google Chrome extension that gives your Google Reader a visual boost. All your subscriptions appear as colored blocks and displays the number of unread items. Read more: FeedSquares: Enhances Google Reader With Visual Interface (Chrome).


Invoice Bubble – If you are a freelancer or a small business owner who frequently creates and sends invoices to clients through the web then you might find Invoice Bubble useful. It is a free and simple invoicing program with a nice, intuitive interface, and integrates well with Paypal. Read more: Invoice Bubble: Simple Invoicing Program Online.



LogoSnap – If you need a logo and your small budget does not allow you to hire a professional, head to LogoSnap. It is a user-friendly website which can be used by anybody to create logo for free online. Read more: LogoSnap: Create a Logo For Free Online.



Tatoeba – Knowing multiple languages is a respectable skill and can help you if you find yourself in a different part of the world than your own. While there are many sites that let you learn new languages, few websites let you systematically help others learn your own native language. One of these rare sites is Tatoeba. Read more: Tatoeba: Learn & Submit Sentence Translations In Any Language.



goSnipe – When you place a bid on eBay, other people can see it. In turn, they make a higher bid. This circle keeps on going until the auction's time limit expires. To get the item, you have to be glued to your eBay account till the very end. goSnipe provides a brilliant solution to this inconvenience. Read more: goSnipe: Increase Your Chances To Win eBay Auctions.


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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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Radian: An Awesome Mouse-Oriented Application Launcher [Windows]

Posted: 24 Jul 2010 06:30 PM PDT

application launcherApplication launchers are very useful and can save you a lot of time. In their most basic form, they provide you access to your frequently used files and programs. The more advanced launchers support running of different scripts on your computer to automate tasks.

MakeUseOf has covered application launchers in the past. However, more often than not, an application launcher can be heavy on system resources. They have been known to prolong system startups. Radian is another application launcher for Windows, which has a surprisingly tiny footprint.

At 636KB (installation), it barely leaves a mark on your hard disk. The program itself is more mouse-oriented, so keyboard lovers would be a bit disappointed. Let me take you through the various options provided by Radian. You will need to start by downloading it from here.

Setting It Up

At first run, you will need to hold down your right mouse button to take Radian into the design mode. Radian basically resembles a circle divided into four sectors. Each of these sectors can hold up to 6 shortcuts, thereby giving you a choice of 24 launchers. Each of these 24 options can be customized completely to launch only what you want to use.

In the design mode, 4 buttons are provided, which resemble 4 gears. Each of these can be used to access the settings of each quadrant (such as background color, etc.).

application launcher

Let’s now add a shortcut to Radian. Once you’re in the design mode, click any of the buttons to customize it. This will bring up a small box with two fields. The first one, called “Title” is for you to give a caption to the button. The second one is to enter a path to what you want to launch. Use these boxes to input the settings for the button you just selected. Once done, either hit “Test” to try it out, or click “OK” when you are satisfied. In my example, I’ve set it to launch an image file. You can set yours to anything you like (an app shortcut, a file, a folder, etc.). Repeat this step for all the shortcuts that you want to use.

freeware application launcher

You can set each quadrant to display links from a particular folder as well. For example, the bottom quadrant, in its default settings shows the “Desktop”, and the top quadrant shows links from “Quick Launch”. You can customize what each quadrant shows by clicking on the gear icon for a particular quadrant and and specifying the “Mode” for the same.

freeware application launcher

Using Radian

Now that the hard work is over, we can get down to using this nifty app launcher. Start by holding down your right-mouse button. Now, without releasing the button, move the mouse to any one of the four quadrants of the circle. This will cause the items of that quadrant to pop out. Thereafter, select the item you want and let go of the button to launch the app. Screenshots follow below.

freeware application launcher

application launcher

Given enough time, you will find that an application launcher is something that is indispensable for a computer user. Once you are hooked to the convenience of a launcher, you will hate reverting to a situation without a launcher. If you are a keyboard ninja, you should give EnsoLauncher a shot. In case you use any other launcher, do let us know in the comments.

Image credit: arvindgrover

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Portable Linux Apps Which Work With Any Linux Distro

Posted: 24 Jul 2010 03:31 PM PDT

portable linux appsPortable Apps for Windows and Mac have been around for a long time, but are less common in the Linux world. Due to the complexity of Linux dependencies, and the different way different distributions locate these dependencies, the portable Linux application long seemed like a pipe dream.

Until now.

New website PortableLinuxApps features a number of portable Linux applications, which will work on any Linux distribution. These can run off your flash drive or from a folder in your home directory; it doesn’t matter. Best of all, there’s documentation out there to help you make your own program, should you not be able to find what you’re looking for.

How It Works

Like portable applications for other operating systems, portable Linux apps bundle each and every dependency a program has within a single executable. This has downsides: applications with redundent dependencies will take up more hard drive space, for example. For many the convinence of portable applications outweight this negative, particularly in our present age of cheap hard drives.

Because every dependency of each program is bundled in the program itself, these portable Linux apps can run on practically any Linux distro (although I’m certain someone in the comments will manage to prove this wrong). Ubuntu, Fedora and SuSe are all confirmed to work with these apps, which is a solid start.

Just remember: once you download such an app, remember that you’ll need to change the permission to allow executing the file as a program. If you’re not sure how to do this the simplest way is to right-click the file, then click “Properties” followed by the “Permissions” tab. You’ll find the option to allow execution at the bottom of the window:

portable linux

One Online Collection

It would seem that, for now, is the place to find…well…portable Linux apps.

portable linux apps

The collection currently is quite small but features many MakeUseOf favourites, including:

  • DosBox, a DOS emulator for playing old games.
  • Handbrake, the best way to convert video.
  • Transmission, the light BitTorrent program.
  • Pidgin, the universal IM program.

Just download the software, set the permissions and you’re good to go!

Rolling Your Own

Can’t find a particular program you’re looking for? You can bundle it yourself! The process is relatively easy, if not a little convoluted. The good folks at OMG Ubuntu recently wrote a post explaining how to convert an Ubuntu .deb file into a portable app, so check that out for more information.

Here’s hoping that in the future creating a portable app from a .deb file will be a two-click affair!


portable linux apps

Package management is perhaps what makes Linux great, but it’s also one of the most common complaints newcomers to Linux have. Being used to simply Googling and downloading any program needed, the average new users are a little confused by what they find: .tar.gz files or worse.

This is made worse by the sheer number of different Linux distros on the market, and the fact that they all have different ways of managing packages. The best thing to do, of course, is to learn to use your distro’s package manager. But portable apps are cool, and certainly have their place.

Can you think of cool uses for such technology? Have any apps you’ve bundled yourself that you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below!

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Hot Tech Deals [July 24th]

Posted: 24 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. Samsung 2494LW 24in Widescreen LCD Monitor (1920×1080) $164.99 via code N9B9WPF6CWFTW6
  2. Plextor PX-NAS2-BL1 2-Bay SOHO Gigabit NAS Storage Server (No Hard Drives Included) $89.99 after rebate via code JAM510
  3. Dell Studio One 19 Intel Dual-Core E5400 2.7GHz All-in-One Desktop w/ 19in Multi-Touch Display $584.24 via codes ?$QNC1?HSKNR9F and ?8CN$RJ?W5TQ0C
  4. Sennheiser RS170 Wireless Surround Sound Headphones $184.99 via code BUBBLE20
  5. Logitech MK700 Wireless Keyboard & Mouse $49.99via code 3FRBKSHJKS2CTN
  6. Iomega Select 320GB Portable External Hard Drive $44.99 via code EMCYTZT61
  7. Hand Held Items offers 20% off All Apple iPhone, iPad & iPod Touch Cases via code 20iphonecs
  8. Dell Studio XPS 7100 AMD 6-Core Hexacore 2.6GHz Desktop (4GB/1TB/Radeon HD5450) $699via code ?8CN$RJ?W5TQ0C
  9. Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R Intel X58 LGA1366 ATX Motherboard w/ USB 3.0 & SATA 6GB/S $185.99 via code BUBBLE20
  10. OtterBox Cases Exclusive Coupon – 10% Off via code techbargains6100p
  11. Sharp LC-60E88UN 60 inch LCD HDTV (1080p, 240Hz) $1599.99 via code WWH5F35XD47J1B

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set

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How To Watermark Your Videos In Windows Movie Maker

Posted: 24 Jul 2010 12:31 PM PDT

how to watermark videosIf you’ve always been fascinated by how well some YouTube videos or commercials turn out that you wish to make some of your own, why not try Windows Movie Maker to warm up your video-making skills? Lots of YouTube gurus seem be doing so. Authoring your own videos can be fun and time-consuming at the same time, so if you want to protect your work, make it more distinguishable and even professional, you should consider adding your signature.

I certainly wish I did back when I fansubbed a music piece with some (as I was told later) metaphorically incorrect translations and later laughed when I saw the exact same, incorrect lyrics I had spent hours researching for in another similar video. As you can tell, there’s no real harm in spending a few more minutes protecting your work. It may even get you more motivated when you see your own logo in your videos that you’ll continue making videos!

So before we start with the tutorial, note that the first part of the tutorial focuses on adding simple text-based watermarks, and for the second part, we’ll add an image watermark or logo into our video using the code from some brilliant users at the Movie Maker Forums.

Adding A Text Watermark

If you want a simple text watermark, not a logo, of your username or name in the lower portion of your video, you can get started right away with one of the built-in Titles.

First, start up Windows Movie Maker. Press Ctrl + I (or click on Videos under Import in the left sidebar) to import your video from your computer.

how to watermark videos

Drag your video to the timeline. Click on Title and credits under Edit in the left sidebar and then, click on Title on the selected clip.

watermark videos

Type your username or the text you want to appear as your video watermark.

watermark videos

Click on Change the title animation and choose Subtitle that appears under the first Titles, One Line section at the top of the selection box.

watermark videos

If you wish to position your watermark near the bottom right or left, click on Change the text font and color and choose the icon to align text right or left. You can change how transparent or opaque your watermark, as well as your font style (e.g. make the text bold or italicized), size and color.

watermark videos free

Once you like what you see in the Preview (please note that the video player may take a few seconds to display any changes), click on Add Title.

Using the resizer (which appears when your cursor hovers on the edge of the title in the timeline), drag it across the length of your video.

watermark videos free

You can preview your final video if you’d like, otherwise, press Ctrl + P (click on File > Publish Movie) to save the video to your computer.

watermark videos free

This is what the product looks like with the simple text watermark.

Adding An Image Watermark Or Logo

First, if you haven’t already, create your image watermark. If it has a transparent background, it would look even better, so use Photoshop, GIMP, Paint.NET or most web-based image editors to achieve a transparent background (which the built-in MS Paint can’t do). Save it in .PNG or .GIF format in >C:\Program Files\Movie Maker\Shared\AddOnTFX\.

If you don’t have the Shared or the AddOnTFX folder, just create the folders with those exact names. You may also save your image in .JPEG format but note that it can’t contain a transparent background. If you already have your logo saved in your computer, make sure it is saved in either file formats, or you can create a new copy and save it as a .PNG or .GIF file in >C:\Program Files\Movie Maker\Shared\AddOnTFX\.

Now head to this FX Archive page and select either Windows XP Logo Creator or Windows Vista Logo Creator depending on your system.

Select the location in the video where you want your logo to appear.

Then choose the Screen Size which you can quickly find out by looking at your video file’s properties under Dimensions. If your video has different dimensions, just choose the closest numbers or (follow the original forum thread to learn how to modify the code). Then type in the dimensions for your image watermark or logo file.

Now, in the Logo filename, where the default name is image.gif, type whatever the name is for your watermark or logo file, which you saved previously in .PNG or .GIF in >C:\Program Files\Movie Maker\Shared\AddOnTFX\.

In the Name of Title field, you can name it something like MyLogo. Copy the text that appears underneath.

Open Notepad, paste the text in and save as a mylogo.xml (choose All Files (*.*) in the drop-down menu for the Save as type field) in the >C:\Program Files\Movie Maker\Shared\AddOnTFX\ folder.

Open up Windows Movie Maker (or if you have it open, restart it to see the new MyLogo), import your video, drag it to the timeline and choose Titles and credits.

Choose Title on the selected clip and in the text box under Enter text for title, input a single space (this is important!), and click Change the title animation.

You should see MyLogo in the options. Select it and click Add Title.

how to watermark videos

Using the resizer (which appears when your cursor hovers on the edge of the title in the timeline), drag it across the length of your video. You can preview your final video if you’d like, otherwise, press Ctrl + P (click on File > Publish Movie) to save the video to your computer or share it with others or on YouTube!

If you look really hard, there’s actually more tricks that good ol’ Movie Maker has to render a pretty professional video, like the Zooming effects. Do you use Windows Movie Maker or do you prefer another video editor? Let us know in the comments about your preferences and why!

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