Thursday, August 5, 2010

MakeUseOf.com: “Cool Websites and Tools [August 4th]” plus 9 more

MakeUseOf.com: “Cool Websites and Tools [August 4th]” plus 9 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [August 4th]

Posted: 04 Aug 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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MovingLabelKit – Anybody who has moved will tell you that it is a painful process, especially if it is not perfectly planned and organized. Part of that organization is making sure all the boxes you are moving are properly labeled. MovingLabelKit is a tool that helps you with that by letting you download free printable moving labels in PDF form. Read more: MovingLabelKit: Download Free Printable Moving Labels .

 

VanityVid – is an interesting service that adds some flavor to your profile pictures by helping you turn them into videos. So the next time you have a friend click on your Twitter or Facebook profile photo, they could see a nice video of yours instead of just a picture. Read more: VanityVid: Turns Profile Photo To Video.

 

 

Infinite YouTube – Suppose you have a YouTube video which you want to play over and over. How do you go about doing this? Infinite YouTube is a free web service that can play youtube videos in a loop. All you have to do is enter the video's URL into the search bar and click on the "search" button. Your video will then load up in a Flash player at the bottom of the search bar. Read more: InfiniteYouTube: Play Any YouTube Video In A Loop.

 

 

MusicEnthusiast – Keeping track of your favorite band or artist is not an easy task. MusicEnthusiast is a simple tool that lets you track any artist's concert locations on a map. Simply enter the artist name and the tool will show you the tour route of the artist along with indicating each concert venue with a marker. Read more: MusicEnthusiast: View Tour & Concert Map For Any Artist.

 

 

Bragadoo – Are you looking for someone to fix the electrical problems in your house? Are you on a lookout for the best plumbing service in town? Or maybe you're looking for a nanny that you can fully trust to care for your baby and you just don't want to get them from anywhere. If you answered yes to any of those questions, then Bragadoo is the right place for you. Read more: Bragadoo: Hire Reliable & Trusted Home Service Providers.

 

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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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Latest Hilarious Picks [MakeUseOf Geeky Fun]

Posted: 04 Aug 2010 05:31 PM PDT

 

Check out the top picks from MakeUseOf Geeky Fun during the last week.

  1. The Video Website: A Film About Youtube Creators (Must See Parody)
  2. Interesting Fact About Ebay (Pic)
  3. Geosocial Nightmares (Pic)
  4. Wanna See An Optical Illusion? (Pic)
  5. Windshield Wiper for iPhone (Pic)
  6. An Overview Of Computer Programming (Pic)

If you would like to keep up with all latest Geeky Fun additions, please subscribe to the Geeky Fun feed here. You can also subscribe and get the latest additions via email.

 


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How To Make Encrypted Folders Others Can’t View with Truecrypt 7

Posted: 04 Aug 2010 04:31 PM PDT

freeware to encrypt foldersYou've probably heard the story about the paranoid king. The king was sitting, looking at his meal, after having had a slave or two test it to ensure it didn't contain any poison. The king takes another look, shakes his head, and mutters to himself – “I know I'm paranoid… but am I paranoid enough?”

Truecrypt is a practical implementation of paranoia for your PC, and Version 7 has an even bigger stash of goodies to ease your worries, along with better performance. We’ll use that app today to illustrate how to create an encrypted folder that others can’t explore.


Before we begin though, a couple of references. Mark has talked about Truecrypt a couple of versions back, and he also wrote a great article specifically about using Truecrypt on a USB stick. Saikat gave a broader outline on how to hide folders.

What Is It?

So is Truecrypt all about hiding folders? More or less. It's definitely about making sure that your secrets stay secret, and hiding folders – or entire drives – is the most common way to deal with that.

Truecrypt is also cross-platform, as well as being open source freeware to encrypt folders. It's secure. It's also easy. Why wouldn't you use it?

Why Do I Need It?

how to make an encrypted folderUnfortunately we live in a world where people don't behave the way you might wish they did. Over the last few years, we are also living in a progressively more connected world, which means you are more exposed to those people your mother wouldn't want you to marry. To add to the mess, we are also, especially right now, beginning to live in a thoroughly wireless, portable, mobile world, where not only can these undesirables get close to your stuff, but you help them out by taking your stuff to them!

Even if you never do anything you would like to keep private, if you have an online life of any sort, your identity and your information are valuable items, and you need to look after them. If you are doing anything that some people might not approve of, all the more reason.

How Do I Get It?

Visit the Truecrypt downloads page, and grab version 7. Download it to your PC just the way you might expect. Installation is a breeze.

What Can I Do With It?

The idea is to take a container of some sort, and encrypt the contents of that container. Imagine if we went into your living room, took a good look at the bookshelf, and then somehow removed the contents of all the books, shuffled all the words up in some nearly random way, and then put them all back again. You would have exactly the same information that was there earlier, but no way to make use of it.

If, on the other hand, we gave you a key to the shuffling, then with time and patience, you could put everything back the way it started, and get on with reading War and Peace.

This works just the same way. The container, conveniently enough, can be a drive, a folder, a USB stick… For our example we will just use a folder on your drive. We will shuffle the contents, and then give you a (software) key to let your computer sort things out for you on the fly. Version 7 adds a couple of wrinkles like using hardware acceleration for decryption in some cases, and automatic decryption of USB keys on insertion if you want it to.

How To Create One

Fire up Truecrypt, and you will be presented with the main window.

how to create an encrypted folder

Click the Create Volume button to build that container we were talking about.

There are a number of different types of containers, but for our first attempt we can just use the default file container.

encrypt folders

Click Next.

Along with the various container types, there are advanced options for creating one container inside another. Think of a bookshelf inside a library. But for now, again take the default.

encrypt folders

Click Next again.

Because we are using the standard file container, we need to tell it the name of the file to use. Just in case you're thinking in terms of folders, this can be a little confusing. We are going to create a file, and then eventually it will look like another hard drive on your system, but only when it's mounted.

volume location

So, browse to a folder, and supply a file name. No need for a suffix. When you're ready, hit the Next button again.

Remember I said there were lots of options? You can choose from a number of encryption types and hash algorithms. Ordinary people like me take the advice of the developers, and go with the defaults.

free encrypt or hide folders or files

Yeah. Click Next.

You can create a container of any size up to the available space on your real hard drive. It's worth considering some limits if you ever want to backup the result to portable media, so perhaps you might want to stick with 4GB or so if you want the file to be backed up to DVD. You get the idea.

In our case, we're just creating a small container for some tax files. Setting aside 100MB seems about right, but I have created 60GB containers in the past without any trouble.

free encrypt or hide folders or files

Click Next, yet again.

Passwords are very important in Truecrypt. Tina talked earlier in the year about how to select a good one. I can't expand on that. Make a good choice.

free encrypt or hide folders or files

Next. Again.

This screen is a little unusual. You need to move the mouse around in a random fashion for a while. Go on, you know you want to. A little more. Great.

volume format

Just for a change of pace, click Format. Then take a break.

volume format 2

All being well, you'll get a confirmation when the format is finished.

Successfully created

Go ahead and click OK. It's not as though you have other options.

And that's it. Done.

Volume created

One new Truecrypt volume is quite enough for now, so click Exit, and we can move on to making use of it.

Using The New Volume

Run Truecrypt again.

Select an available drive letter from the list, and then browse to the file you just created. Just to be clear, in this case I'm going to mount the new MUO container as the O: drive.

mount volume

Click Mount to complete the job. You will be prompted for that password you carefully made up earlier. Don't forget it. There are no back doors here.

enter passwordClick OK.

And that's it. I now have a 100MB O: drive, ready for use.

freeware to encrypt folders

Click Exit, and take a look in Windows Explorer.

Keeping Things Going

The drive will be dismounted automatically if you log off or shut your PC down, but it's a good idea to close it yourself, from the same window, when you don't need it any more. You might have trouble if your PC still thinks you have files from the volume open, so close any applications, files, or Windows Explorer views beforehand.

We could spend a lot more time on this subject, but I'm sure you'd rather make use of your new encrypted drive. Let me know if there are any details I can go into more depth with, any questions, or any good ideas for use.


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FreshView – Awesome App To Organize & Browse Your Multimedia Files [Windows]

Posted: 04 Aug 2010 02:31 PM PDT

allows you to organize files foldersIf you are like me and you tend to download and store a large volume of media files on your computer, it’s always nice to have a way to preview, sort and manipulate those files for different uses.

While Windows Explorer lets you view the thumbnails of photos in a directory, it isn’t always a simple matter to preview selected multiple files from a long list, or preview other media like video files or audio.

This is why I was pretty excited to discover FreshView, which is sort of like a Multimedia Explorer app – essentially Windows Explorer on steroids – it allows you to organize files and folders like images, audio and video. This application comes fully loaded to support up to 86 file formats including image, audio and video file formats.


This means that not only can you view and preview media files, you can also convert image files from one format to any other.

Here at MUO, we like new ways to sort and make use of media files, such as Oosah for sharing media, EncodeHD for converting media, and of course Israel’s useful list of 5 media file converters. FreshView is a great addition to the list.

Playing With Images In FreshView

FreshView’s strength is in dealing with image files. FreshView can display not only standard image files like jpg and gif, but you’ll be surprised to see that FreshView can also provide preview thumbnails for dib, rle, pcx, scr and cut – just to name a few.

After installing and launching the app, you’ll see a familiar screen that is very familiar if you’re accustomed to how Windows Explorer typically displays common image file thumbnails.

allows you to organize files folders

This is the extent to which FreshView can be compared to Windows Explorer. The additional features that you’ll discover as you start playing around with this app simply blows Explorer out of the water.

The first feature I’d like to cover is the “Slideshow” feature. Setting up a slideshow is as easy as holding down the control key and selecting all of the files that you want to include in the slideshow, then click on the Slideshow icon.

organize files

Immediately, your entire computer screen is transformed into a slideshow display screen, with each image you selected displayed in the center of the screen. You can wait and let the slideshow work through the images in a timed interval and in a loop (configurable in the Settings menu), or you can simply click the mouse to move to the next image whenever you like.

If you right click on an image and select Properties, you’ll see that the displayed properties go far beyond what you may be used to. General image information provides dimensions, color scheme, compression type and even bits per pixel. You’ll also see exactly when the file was created.

organize files

Even better than the general image data is what you’ll learn when you click on the “Histogram” tab. Here, you’ll discover the tonal distribution of colors in the image – a useful piece of information for advanced photography experts.

organize files

Instantly Create HTML Image Slideshows

Beyond the advanced image view features of FreshView, there’s also a very cool feature called the “HTML Album” tool, which lets you instantly convert all of your selected images into an HTML coded slideshow, stored in a directory of your choice.

organize mp3 files

When you choose to create the HTML Album, you just need to configure the title and the directory. Once you’re done, the slideshow is coded for you in a matter of seconds.

Below is what the standard HTML slideshow template looks like. When the web user clicks on any of the images, the view changes to slideshow mode.

organize mp3 files

In slideshow mode, the user can keep clicking “Next” to browse through all of the images you added to the slideshow, or click “Index” to go back to the main thumbnail display of all of the images.

organize mp3 files

Browsing Audio & Video Files

FreshView also makes it a lot easier to take a quick look at your other media files, like your music and videos. At the upper right corner of the application, there’s a “preview” window which not only displays selected images, but it will automatically recognize and offer the ability to play all recognized audio and video files as well.

Here, I simply selected the Mpeg home movie I had created. Immediately, Freshview displayed the first frame of the video in the preview window, with the ability to play the rest.

how to organize files

Supported video formats include Avi and most Mpeg video formats. In addition to the preview pane, you can right-click on any file and select “Shell Open.” This launches the application using the editor you’ve defined in Settings.

allows you to organize files folders

So if you have a certain editor you want to use for your audio files, define it here – otherwise the app opens files with your default editor.

As you can see, Fresh View takes the concept of media file exploring and kicks it up a notch with a variety of extra features and impressive tools that make media file browsing a lot easier and more enjoyable.

Have you ever tried the Fresh View media browser? Take it for a test drive, compare it to your current setup for previewing media files, and share your opinions on it in the comments section below.

Image Credit: miguel ugalde


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Hot Tech Deals [Aug 4th]

Posted: 04 Aug 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. Onkyo SKS-HT750B 7.1 Channel Speaker System with 230W Subwoofer $239 via code GEICO10
  2. Vizio SV472XVT 47in LED-Backlit LCD HDTV (1080p, 240Hz, Netflix Streaming) $1099 via code W6DZT2$$ZFJL2Z
  3. Rosewill RTK-045 45 Piece Premium Computer Tool Kit $14.99 via code EMCYWYP43
  4. Dell Inspiron 14z Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300 ULV 14in Laptop (4GB/500GB/2yr Warranty) $700.79 cia code 6KWMM0JFLZK0W?
  5. Panasonic TC-L32X2 32in LCD HDTV (720p) w/ iPod Dock $363 via code AFLPAN363

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set


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How To Automatically Import Downloaded Music To iTunes [Mac]

Posted: 04 Aug 2010 12:31 PM PDT

how do i download music on itunesLegality issues aside, the Internet has long been the main source of music for many of us who live in this modern society. Provided you know where and what to find, you can get virtually any kind of digital song available on the planet.

But downloading is not the same as enjoying and organizing. You still have to manually add your downloaded songs to your chosen music player application, and maybe organize them the way that you want. If you use iTunes to manage your music collection, you can automate the organizing steps and give yourself more time to enjoy your music.

In The Beginning There’s A Folder

how do i download music on itunesThe main actor for this automation system is an iTunes feature called “Automatically Add to iTunes“. This is actually a folder located deep inside iTunes music folders. This feature will automatically import the supported files inside the folder into your iTunes Library. Just manually drag and drop the downloaded files into this folder.

You can make things a little bit easier by placing the folder shortcut in the Mac Finder’s sidebar. So that instead of digging deep into the iTunes music folders, the dropzone is just a sidebar away.

However, knowing the existence of this folder opens up a new possibility – we can set up a system so that the downloaded files will end up in this folder.

Downloaded From Torrents

Let’s start with torrent files. If you use Transmission to download your torrents like most Mac users out there, you can use its built-in grouping feature to automate the process.

Open Preferences by going to “Transmission – Preferences” menu or use the “Command + Comma” shortcut.

import music to itunes

Choose the “Groups” tab, pick one of the available groups and rename it. Or you can also create a new group by clicking on the “Plus (+)” button below.

import music to itunes

After that, check the “Custom Location” box and then find and select the “Automatically Add to iTunes” folder as the custom location. You’ll save a few steps if you’ve already placed the shortcut in the sidebar.

import music to itunes

Then check the “Assign group to new transfers based on criteria” box and start building the filtering rules. Since we are going to filter out music from the rest of the torrents, you will want to add common music extensions as rules. The expressions: “Any File” + “ends with” + “music extensions” work fine for me.

downloadable music apple itunes

You could go a little bit further and enable the “Auto add” feature under the “Transfers – Adding” in the Preferences window and choose to watch the folder where you put the downloaded torrent file.

downloadable music apple itunes

With this system, all you need to do is just click on the torrent file download link that you find on a webpage and the downloaded songs will appear in iTunes.

downloadable music apple itunes

Downloaded From Other Sources

You can set similar arrangements for songs that you download from sources other than torrent networks, such as direct downloads from your friend’s public folder. If your download manager supports filtering that allows you to save a specific kind of file in a a specific location, then you are good to go.

04 iGetter Downloads.jpg

But if there’s no such thing in your download manager’s feature list, you’ll need help from a file management system like Folder Action in Automator, Hazel (not free) or SmartShuno. We’ve discussed several Folder Action usages before. So why don’t we try SmartShuno in this discussion?

Our goal is to create a system that will move all of your downloaded music into the “Automatically Add to iTunes” folder. The first step is to open SmartShuno and start creating the rule by clicking on the “Add” button.

04 SmartShuno - Add Rule.jpg

Then describe all of the requirements needed, including file extension, target folder and action to take. Click “OK” to start using the rule.

04b SmartShuno - Rules.jpg

If you set up everything correctly, you will have all of the downloaded music files collected inside the folder.

05a Automatically Add to iTunes Folder-1.jpg

After you open iTunes, they will automatically imported. The unsupported files – which were downloaded along with the songs – will be put inside the “Not Added” folder.

how do i download music on itunes

Do you use iTunes to manage your songs? Do you know any other way to automate the song organizing process?  If so, please share using the comments below.


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10 Google Services That Don’t Get the Limelight

Posted: 04 Aug 2010 11:31 AM PDT

google servicesIt's an irony that Google hides behind its simple page, a gargantuan network of subsidiary web services. The one textbox page of Google Search is like a little door that leads inside to a labyrinth. The way we navigate through Google could make it our Aladdin's Cave or our personal la-la land.

A couple of years ago a poll asked our readers about the “other” Google Services that they used. Minus Google Search, the results brought forward the usual suspects. That's the idea behind compiling this list on the uncommon Google services that we might not be going to or may not have the need for. Also, sometimes these services are so well integrated in the usual search results that they don't get that attention.


We have covered some of these places singly before, or through lists like 10 Google Services That Get No Love. The commonplace is sometimes boring, so let's hop off the beaten path for once. After visiting these ten web places, we can always come back to the usual.

Search Stories

google services

A fun site that mixes storytelling with the topic of search we do on Google. Take the help of the Search Stories Video Creator, enter seven search queries across Google's search tools, choose a background song and upload automatically on YouTube if you wish. It could be great for offbeat messages. For more inspiration check out the videos on the site.

Movie Showtimes

google apps

Usually we type in the movie name with the city or zip code to get the list. Google Search lists three films with a link to more. The movie search is also a standalone page in itself that asks for a second glance. For instance, you can check out ratings and reviews, plus the locations on Google Maps. You can sort the results by movies, theatre, day, and genre. Sure beats flipping the newspaper.

3D Warehouse

google apps

If you don't have a thing for lines and curves (of the design kind), you can give Google SketchUp's library a miss. But it is an excellent 3D model website and a must visit if you are the creative sort. For instance, check out the 'spaceship' results as in the screenshot. 3D Warehouse models are also reusable in your own SketchUp projects.

Panoramio

google apps

We see it in geotagged photos on Google Maps or Google Earth. You can sign in with your Google account and upload your geo-located photos (up to 2GB). Photos uploaded here are viewable in activated layers in the two Google apps.

Like other photo-sharing websites, users can restrict access-sharing or provide it under a Creative Commons license. You can directly search by location from the site itself. The photos are displayed alongside a Google Map.

Mark did a post last year on this very subject.   Check it out here.

Aardvark

google resources

Aardvark is the social question and answer service that was acquired by Google early this year. Aardvark attempts to connect your queries to the right people with firsthand knowledge. Aardvark looks at the questions to see what they’re about and then pairs the question to people with the knowledge to give you an answer.

Aardvark taps into the network using mediums like IM or email as well as syncs with Facebook. Aardvark claims that 'most questions are answered within 5 minutes, and the vast majority is answered within 10 minutes' (depending on the nature of the question).

David did an article on Aardvark last year.

Google Sidewiki

google resources

I took a pretty detailed look at Google Sidewiki last year. Sidewiki is like a sideswiping toolbar in your browser that allows you to add comments and insight on any webpage. It is very similar to adding web notes or annotating webpages you find worthy (or unworthy). Sidewiki adds extra bits to the content you already see and it may further lead you to more resources contributed by others. You can also share your comments via Twitter and Facebook.

Google Code Search

google resources

Google Code Search is a very useful tool for software developers as it gives them a shortcut to speed up product development. It is also a great learning tool for newbie programmers. Google Code Search refers to publicly available code which is usually a part of Open Source software development. For instance, a basic use could be to find good coding examples for a particular language.

Google News Archive

We are quite familiar with Google News. While it aggregates current news from around the world, the Google News Archive Search page is an easy way to search and explore historical archives. The timeline is a useful tool as it tells you when some particular news was 'hot'. If you are into research, clicking on the peaking blue areas on the timeline could lead you to a motherlode of information.

The archive can of course, be accessed from the regular Google News page too with a couple of clicks.

Google Fast Flip

Google Fast Flip is a news reader with a difference. The Google Labs project gives you online news reading with an offline touch. You can flip through the thumbnails of your favorite Google News sources. The flip through is meant to also speed up scanning or reading when we have to go through a lot of news. More than the browser version, I feel that the mobile site of Google Fast Flip (for iPhone and Android) is better suited for what this Google service is trying to do.

Google Sites

google services

With the lion's share going to Blogger (a Google service), WordPress and other content management platforms, Google Sites is almost like the ugly duckling no one talks about. But as Ryan's recent post shows it's a very simple way of making your own free multipurpose webpage or a family site. As the free website building tool is free and quick to build, you can also use it to plan out any content layout.

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How To Become An Amazon Vine Reviewer & Get Free Stuff

Posted: 04 Aug 2010 10:31 AM PDT

amazon vine reviewIf you’re an Amazon.com customer who regularly reads product reviews by other customers, you may have noticed that some reviewers have a little badge (one of several) under their name identifying them as a ”Vine Voice” reviewer.

These Amazon Vine reviewers were invited by Amazon to receive a monthly newsletter of pre- and recently-released books and other products that Vine members can select from and review. Selected products are sent to Amazon Vine reviewers for free.  So how do you become a Vine reviewer?


I'm not a prolific reviewer on Amazon, but about six months ago I was invited to become a member of its “exclusive club of influential Amazon voices.”

Getting free items such as a 1 TB Western Digital External Hard Drive, a Duracell iPhone charger, a very expensive photography bag, computer software, and numerous books in exchange for honest reviews of these products has been a pretty good deal in my view.

amazon vine review

So how does one get invited to the Vine Voice community? Well, Amazon doesn't provide step-by-step criteria for its program invitations, but it does say this: “Customers are invited to become Amazon Vine™ Voices based on the trust they have earned in the Amazon community for writing accurate and insightful reviews”.

Based on my experience as a Amazon customer and reviewer, and checking out ten other Vine Voice members, here are some specific criteria for how you might receive an invitation to become an Amazon Vine reviewer.

Writing Reviews

First off you need to be an Amazon.com customer who regularly writes thoughtful reviews of products. You can certainly write reviews of products that you did not purchase from Amazon (I have quite a few like that), but not too long ago Amazon added a button that you check to let others know if you indeed purchased the product you're reviewing on Amazon.

So writing some reviews of products that you actually purchased on Amazon might provide you with a little more credibility.

amazon vine reviewers

The key to reviews is that they should be genuine. They don't have to be long, drawn out essays, but they should explain how the product is or is not useful to you, and what potential buyers should consider before purchasing.

Reviews should be well written as much as possible and edited. More than a few times, I've gone back weeks later and edited my posted reviews. I've also updated a review or changed the initial rating I gave an item after spending more time with it.

Although most customers post written reviews, you can also produce video reviews, which is something I prefer to do especially for non-book products. Most videos I've done took less than half the time to produce than it would take to write it.

Helpful Votes

To date I've written only 134 reviews since 2005. Many prolific reviewers have written well over 500. Of the ten Vine Voice reviewers I checked out, only one had written less than 100. I also think that you need to be an Amazon customer for longer than six months.

Another criteria that Amazon probably uses for sending Vine Voice invites is based on the number of helpful votes a reviewer receives. I've never consciously wrote a review in order to get helpful votes. Sometimes my reviews have been hurriedly written, but I have typically based them on how I genuinely feel about the product.

amazon vine reviewers

You should also write about products that you have expert knowledge about. When fellow customers see you're writing about products associated with your profession they may receive those reviews as being more credible. So in your Amazon profile you might want to include a title that identifies what you do.

Once Accepted

amazon vine reviewOnce you're accepted as a Vine reviewer you will want to make sure you follow the guidelines of the program. You are limited to two products at a time and you must write and post your reviews of received products before you can request additional items.

Only choose products you're really interested in, not ones that you will try to resell. In some Vine newsletters there are three or four hot products that sell for upwards to $300. As you might guess the availability of those products run out very quickly.

I've snagged a few choice products like these by simply having my Mail application notify me, using a Mail rule, when the newsletter arrives. I also only request books that I think I want and will have time to read. So there have been a few months when I didn't request anything.

Some people may view the Amazon Vine program as simply vendors giving away products in order to get positive reviews. But based on the reviews I've written and the ones I've read by other Vine reviewers that's far from the case. Vine reviewers simply like helping others make good buying decisions.

I can't guarantee that carrying out the above suggestions will get you an Amazon Vine invitation, but if you don’t mind using some of your time to write reviews on a regular basis, I think you will have a good chance of being selected. The Vine community seems to be pretty large and serious about what it contributes.

Did you get a Vine invitation?   If so, what recommendations would you give to others?   What kinds of stuff has Amazon given you to review?


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Reocities: A Backup Of The Now-Defunct Yahoo Geocities

Posted: 04 Aug 2010 09:31 AM PDT

yahoo geocityFor all the jokes made at the expense of Geocities – and there are quite a few, including the hilarious Geocitiesizer – the fact is that for quite a long time it was the place for amateur web enthusiasts to build their own website. Most of the content may have been crap, but the fact is that some very useful information was hosted there.

This is why, for all the people who said “Good Riddance” when Yahoo shut down Geocities, the Internet was really worse off for the closure. A tremendous amount of information on a variety of topics was ripped from the web overnight.


Or it would have been, if not for mirror project Reocities. This site backed up as much as they could possibly manage, and are accepting further contributions from anyone who might have small pieces backed up.

What It Is

reocities

Of course, an undertaking this massive is going to be with a few faults. Not every site ever hosted on the page is here, but a good chunk are. How does one use it?

This is perhaps the real brilliance of the page. Reocities is only one letter off from Geocities, and the URLs from Geocities are maintained. What this means is that any site unopenable in Geocities can usually be opened by simply replacing the “G” in the URL with an “R”. If the mirror has the site, you’ll have access to it.

If doing this seems too much a pain in the neck, don’t worry: it can happen automatically. There’s a Greasemonkey script capable of doing it automatically; find it here.

It’s also worth noting that most of the spam pages Geocities was famous for are nowhere to be found. This is because Reocities, as a project, aimed to only grab sites that are worth keeping. Naturally some crack made it through the cracks, but it’s pretty astounding how well the filter seems to have worked.

reocities

Finally, if you’re not sure what you’re looking for, I recommend checking out the the neighborhood page as a decent starting point. This is the top-level domain of Reocities, and it’s possible to stumble upon some interesting stuff in here.

A Brief History

Reocities is essentially a feat pulled off by one nerd with a bunch of really nice equipment and a total lack of sleep. You can read the entire tale here, and I highly suggest you do: it’s quite entertaining and very interesting.

reocities

Dutchman jmattheij wrote the scripts that scoured the site that made the bulk of the backup, and also maintained the server cluster that did the job. This has since been supplemented with contributions from The Internet Archive and individual users who backed up a few of the pages that disapeared. The result is a fairly complete backup of Geocities that is still growing.

If you find a former page for yours is missing, and you have the files that make it up backed up on your computer, you should contact jmattheij and send this data to him; he’ll make it part of Reocities as quickly as possible.

Conclusion

Many early movies are forever lost to history, because the film was recycled to recover valuable silver. Yahoo shutting down Geocities is similar to me: destroying a piece of history in order to save some money. Unlike these early films, however, vintage Internet is being preserved. That this is even possible is a testament to the power of the web.

What do you think? Is Reocities a worthwhile project, or should Geocities be forever forgotten as a wasteland of useless content? Are you happy the content is somewhere? Can you see yourself using this service? Share in the comments below. Also feel free to share the best Reocities links you can find; I’d love to read some of your favorites!


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Customize Your Facebook Fan Page With A Welcome Tab

Posted: 04 Aug 2010 08:31 AM PDT

customize facebook fan pageHaving a Facebook fan page is a good way to promote your blog, your business, or anything else you do in the online world. As Facebook’s user base increasingly grows larger (it just hit 500 million), so do the benefits of having a fan page to market your content.

If you’re a frequent visitor of other peoples’ fan pages you may have noticed that some of them customize the Facebook fan page with a nice Welcome tab to greet new users of the site. Some even default to that tab every time you visit. But, how do they do that?

In this article I am going to show you how to customize your Facebook page with a Welcome tab. I’ll walk you through the steps you need to take to get the tab on your page, as well as cite examples of how can you use this utility to your benefit.

Join Make Use Of On Facebook

While I have you here, I should probably mention that MUO has a Facebook fan page. If you like what we offer on our site, head over to the Facebook page and join in the conversation that goes on there. We list the most popular articles, hold polls and giveaways, and offer sneak peaks of new articles and features there.

While you’re there, check out our Welcome tab. On it, we give you 10 very good reasons why you should ‘Like’ Make Use Of, as seen here:

customize facebook fan page

See the call-to-action at the bottom there? That’s just one of the ways you can utilize the Welcome tab.

What Else Can I Do?

facebook fan page

Some calls-to-action are a little more blatant, like the patented arrow to the Like button. Like I said, the Welcome tab can be used for many creative reasons, one being to get users to ‘Like’ your page so you can begin serving them content on their news feeds.

facebook fan page

The last example I’ll give is that of the informational welcome message. Some companies use their Welcome tab to describe their services or background story. This can help keep visitors on your page, especially if it isn’t blatantly obvious what you do.

How Do I Get This On My Page?

Now that you see some of the benefits of using a Welcome tab, I can show you where to get this app. The first thing you have to do is navigate to the applications page.

facebook fan page

Once you’re there, just type ‘welcome tab‘ into the search field and hit Enter on your keyboard. Welcome Tab for pages should be the first result that comes up, so click on that to go to the app’s page. You can feel free to try any of the other apps if you like.

how to create a fan page on facebook

Click on Add to my Page to add the application to your fan page (Clicking Go to Application should work too).

how to create a fan page on facebook

Clicking that option should open a pop-up that looks similar to this one. If you manage any fan pages they should be listed there. Select the page you would like to add the tab to and hit Close.

Now What?

Now head over to your fan page. There should already be a Welcome tab there for you to play with (If not try this). They ask for you to sign up to remove a box from the top of your tab page (which I think is pretty lame) but my advice would be to just use a service like Mailinator for that. Feel free to try the app out before doing that part if you like.

customize facebook fan page

Then, you can begin customizing your tab using text and HTML. The app will even keep analytics so you can see the number of people who have visited your fan page over the coming months.

Sweet. Anything Else?

how to create a fan page on facebook

If you go back to your fan page’s home screen and click on Edit Page, you can set your Welcome tab as the default tab everyone who visits your page will see. Simply go under Wall Settings and change Default Landing Tab for Everyone Else to Welcome.

[Note]: If you like, another noteworthy app you should check out is Static FBML. I haven’t tried it but a lot of people have and it has received many very positive reviews.

What do you think about adding a landing page to customize your Facebook fan page? Are there any apps you like better? Leave your comments in the DISQUS section below!


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