Sunday, August 8, 2010 “Cool Websites and Tools [August 7th]” plus 6 more “Cool Websites and Tools [August 7th]” plus 6 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [August 7th]

Posted: 07 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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TheGuideDB – There are lots of guides and tutorials available online. The problem is, they can be so scattered that it is hard to find the exact guide that can really help you. Fortunately, we have the Guide DB, a Google-powered pdf manual search engine for useful PDF guides. With this website, you can find all PDF guides that you need in one place. Read more: TheGuideDB: Free Pdf Manual Search Engine.


Weekis – Organizers and planners come in all shapes and sizes. If you are looking for one that lets you manage your week easily, Weekis can be a pretty good option. It is a dead simple weekly planning tool that gives you a weekly view and let you enter new events for each day with minimal effort. Read more: Weekis: A Minimalist Weekly Planning Tool.



AnimatedExplanations – is a collection of animated videos that can help you understand various topics related to technology and health. Each animation has been professionaly created and explains the topic in an easy-to-understand manner. The website covers everything from simple questions to complex and highly technical issues. Read more: AnimatedExplanations: Cool How To Animations To Help You Understand Stuff.



FoodSpotting – Searching for a restaurant online is easy enough, and they are detailed too. For example, you can get a list of the most popular cheap Japanese restaurants within 50 miles from your home. But finding the food you like to eat and a restaurant that serves it is very hard. Fortunately, we have Foodspotting. Read more: FoodSpotting: Find The Food You Like & Restaurants That Serve It.



SlowPitchStats – If you are part of a softball team, you'll love this tool. SlowPitchStats is a one stop solution for all your scheduling and statistics needs for your softball team. Once you sign up for a free account, your team gets its own homepage along with player photos and team logo. Read more: SlowPitchStats: Manage Your SoftBall Team Stats Online.


List Your Website Here!

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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Returnil Virtual System 2010 Giveaway Winners

Posted: 07 Aug 2010 06:30 PM PDT

PC security is a subject never to be taken too lightly. There are so many antivirus applications out there that you’ll exhaust yourself before finding the right one for you. That’s where Returnil Virtual System comes in. By creating a virtual environment for your system, Returnil VS protects your computer from the most malicious of threats.

Let’s find out who the 10 lucky winners are.

  1. Nguyennam
  2. Jess Niño Salvador
  3. Laura Lupascu
  4. Rene Hojgaard Frederiksen
  5. Kristin Taylor-Karrer
  6. Rob Kirby
  7. Grr
  8. Debra Watkins
  9. Angelique Salas
  10. Damir Feher

Congratulations to the winners! Your license will be sent via email in the next few days, so check your inbox!

MakeUseOf would like to thank Virpi from Returnil for his generosity while participating in this giveaway. Interesting in sponsoring? We’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with us via email.

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8 Creative Ways To Pop The Question Online

Posted: 07 Aug 2010 03:31 PM PDT

So you’re thinking about proposing? You’ve got the ring and the loving partner ready and you think (hope) they’ll say yes when proposed to. Everything is set. But you want to propose in a way which they’ll remember forever. What to do?

For starters, it’s a wedding proposal. They’ll remember it forever even if it was a simple chat over breakfast. Don’t stress out over it too much. That said, your future happiness depends on this one moment. Don’t screw it up.

If you’re thinking of proposing online, make sure you’re around when they see the proposal (with the ring and a bottle of champagne ready). Getting proposed to is something you really want to celebrate properly.

Also, these days it’s very easy to record using phone cameras, so prepare yourself and try to catch the moment forever. Then stick the footage up on YouTube for the relatives to see!

Most online proposal ideas have been done before. But so have romantic weekends away and no-one ever gets sick of that approach. With all marriage proposals, you basically want to be creative and romantic, but not to get yourself killed or lose the ring in the process.

Don’t forget that you also need to work in some of the tried and tested romantic helpers: poetry, picnics, flowers, writing “Marry Me” in big letters, candlelit dinners, sunsets, the great outdoors (especially rivers and oceans). Make it beautiful and then geek it up a little with some tech. Seriously, you could be on a space shuttle watching the earth from afar, but if all you say is “Wanna get hitched?” they might still think there’s something lacking in the proposal. Think about your words, place and timing. Or don’t. What have you got to lose?

8. Propose By IM Video & Chat

Long distance relationships suck, but Skype and other video IM makes it better. Although, if you propose on IM long-distance you’d better have a trip planned to see them soon after!

7. Propose In Public & Show It Online

Google Street View was used to propose with great effect by a Google employee. Another guy managed to get a proposal into the top search result for her name. If you know of any public information gathering projects, or anywhere else where you might get your proposal public, give it a go!

6. Propose On A Social Network

Use the direct approach on Twitter/YouTube/Ustream or whatever social network you fancy (as long as they use it too). Even just a website you both hang out on (Reddit/Slashdot have both been done).

5. Propose Using Your Smartphone

Mix tech with real life by using your smartphone. This means you can set up a real-life mystery for them and work magic with online maps, Stickybits, Foursquare, Scribular etc. Code your own app for extra geek points.

4. Propose In A Webcomic

Propose in a webcomic or other form of online art you have been working on (it’s been done in Penny Arcade). In fact, sometimes the artists have helped out fans with proposals too.


Get the domain for and make a whole website out of it (like this). Maybe even incorporate YouTube clips, your dedicated Twitter account (with regular reasons why you love them) and some photos of a proposed venue for the wedding, new house, honeymoon, etc.

2. Propose In A Game

This could be as simple as getting the letters for “marry” followed by “me” and using them in online Scrabble (although that’s probably not very easy when you think about it – far easier offline). Others mess with game maps. Or, you could go crazy and code a proposal into the game for them. Many have done this before – just work it into a game they like. It never gets old.

1. Memes

Jump on the latest meme. So, the memes might get old, but at least you’ll know exactly what the world was getting into when you proposed. Some memey proposals include: Old Spice on YouTube, infographic proposal and a lolcats proposal.


Want more ideas? We’ve previously covered a collection of geeky ways to propose online which covers all sorts of cool ideas like a ring scavenger hunt and making a website of your life together.

And if you’ve proposed online let us know in the comments what you did – we’d love to hear it!

Image Credit: Joy Of Tech (Image used with Snaggy’s blessing)

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Hot Tech Deals [Aug 7th]

Posted: 07 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.

Keep reading to find out today’s Hot Tech Deals.

  1. ThinkGeek Coupon Code $10 off $30+ via code SDCC
  2. Sharp LC-60E88UN 60 inch LCD HDTV (1080p, 240Hz) $1599.99 via code JQHVFPQ3H74RLJ
  3. Dell Inspiron 17 Intel Core i3-350 2.26GHzDual-Core 17in Laptop w/ Discrete Graphics $667.19 via codes 5TK?LC9VJ5F$33 and ?8CN$RJ?W5TQ0C
  4. Panasonic TC-L32X2 32in LCD HDTV (720p) w/ iPod Dock $363 via code AFLPAN363
  5. Sony CyberShot DSC-W370 14MP 7X Digital Camera (Image Stabilized) $179.99 via code CAM82A
  6. Dell Inspiron 14R Intel Core i3-350M 2.26GHz 14in Laptop (4GB/320GB/Office 2010/LoJack) $599.99via code ?8CN$RJ?W5TQ0C
  7. LG LHB535 5.1ch 1100W Home Theater System w/ Netflix Streaming Blu-Ray Player $379.99 via code HTS84A
  8. Apple MB382LL/A 24 inch LED Cinema Display Computer Monitor $709.14 via code geico10
  9. Apple Macbook White Unibody Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4GHz 13.3in Laptop w/ 10hr Battery (REFURB, Newest Gen) $849
  10. Viewsonic VMP70 1080p Digital Media Player $72.04
  11. Linksys WRT160N Ultra RangePlus 802.11n Wireless N Router (Recertified) $29.99 Free Shipping
  12. Dell Inspiron Mini 10v Intel Atom N270 10.1in Netbook (1GB/160GB/XP/3-Cell) $199.99

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set

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5 Simple Ways To Fix Low Audio Quality on Skype (or other VoIP services)

Posted: 07 Aug 2010 12:31 PM PDT

voip audio qualityVoIP, or voice over IP, can save you a lot of money. Services like Skype offer free calls overseas to other computers and really cheap rates to overseas phones.

That’s all well and good, but frequently using such services results in complaints on the other end about poor VoIP audio quality. If you find yourself in this situation, don’t panic: in all likelihood this is a problem you can solve easily. You just need to tweak your home network, and your computer, to use VoIP to its fullest potential.

Again, don’t panic; it’s easier than it sounds. Take a deep breath and we’ll go over a few things you can try.

Change Your P2P Settings

Most ISPs provide a much better rate for downloading than they do for uploading. This is important, because when you’re having a conversation on Skype or any other VoIP service you’re depending on your uploading capabilities quite a bit.

If you like downloading things from peer to peer networks such as bittorrent, you’re also uploading quite a bit. High upload rates on such services could be hogging bandwidth you need to ensure high VoIP audio quality, causing delays in your conversation or even distortion.

voip audio quality

As such, anyone who makes use of both P2P and VoIP should seriously consider capping their upload rate in their file-sharing application of choice; you’ll find the option to do so in the network settings panel of most peer to peer programs.

I myself cap uploads at 30 kb/s, and find this leaves my calls sounding great without comprising my commitment to seeding one to one. Your sweet spot might be different, depending on the speed of your Internet access, so experiment (and post your findings below!)

Check Your Wireless Networks For Conflicts

You might not be getting all you possibly could out of your wireless network. If not, the VoIP audio quality of conversations made using that network will certainly be compromised.

One common problem with WiFi setups, particularly in urban areas, is using a saturated channel. WiFi uses radio waves, and too many networks on the same frequency can lead to a slow connection…and lag in VoIP conversations.

voip audio issues

Free web app WiFi Stumbler can show you how many networks are on a given channel, meaning it’s the perfect way to find out if this problem is affecting you. If your channel is crowded simply access your router’s configuration tools and change the setting to an empty one. Not only will your VoIP work better…your Internet will be faster in general.

Secure Your Wireless Network

voip audio issues

Speaking of your wireless network: is it secured? If not your neighbours could be using up all your uploading capability without you even realizing it. It’s admirable to want to share your Internet access with the community, but if you want to make high-quality phone calls over your internet connection it might be time to raise your shields.

Access your router’s configuration tools and enable WPA encryption. For more detailed information check out Aibek’s article How To Secure Your Wireless Network.

Check Volume Levels

voip audio quality

Still having trouble? The problem might not be your Internet connection. Check your computer’s volume levels and ensure your microphone is loud enough. It may seem obvious, but you’d be amazing how many times I heard complaints about being hard to hear only to realize my mic settings were too low. It never hurts to check!

Get A Better Microphone

Still have problems? Your microphone might not be ideal for what you’re trying to do. Many microphones built into laptops, for example, pick up not only those sitting directly in front of the computer but also a lot of background noise as well. White noise you don’t even notice may be interfering with your call, making you hard to understand.

The best fix for this is to get a better microphone. Headsets tend to work quite nicely at not picking up white noise, and can be easily found at any electronics store.


VoIP can be a very cheap alternative to a traditional phone line, particularly if you tend to make a lot of long-distance calls. Ensuring that you sound good can take some tweaking, but it’s typically worth it.

Do you have any tips to share with frustrated VoIPers? Type them in the comments below and help reduce any suffering that might be out there. Also feel free to chime in if you have any questions; the MakeUseOf community is a helpful one.

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Jam With Musicians All Over The World With Youphonics (Beta Invites!)

Posted: 07 Aug 2010 10:31 AM PDT

Sometimes creative minds need collaboration, and musicians are no exception. You might have come up with the perfect riff, but can’t come up with the complete song. That’s where YouPhonics comes in.

YouPhonics, currently in private beta, is an online meeting place for musicians to share snippets of music, recorded and uploaded to their free accounts. Other members can then link their own snippets, and in so doing, possibly create a virtual song. Read on if you want to find out how to get in on the private beta.

YouPhonics is a slick website, and couldn’t be easier to use. Once you’ve signed up, you can either go ahead and upload a piece of music, or stem, you would like to share with the community, or look for other stems to collaborate on.

If you want to start with a stem of your own, there are two ways to get it onto the website. You can play it while recording it directly to YouPhonics – but this requires Flash Player 10.1 to be installed. For the less daring, you can upload your piece of pre-recorded music.

The only limitations placed on uploaded files is a maximum file size of 10MB and it has to be an MP3. After you’ve added your stem, you can then name and tag it. Make sure to put the relevant tags that will help other musicians find it.

There’s no limit to the kind of creations you can upload to YouPhonics. If you have some lyrics and a melody, go ahead and upload that for others to create the music around it. If you have a guitar riff, upload, and someone else can add another instrument, and so forth.

If you’d rather find a song to collaborate on – there are a couple of ways to find the music that suits your style. The easiest way to do this is using the search function.

You can filter search results by stems, tags, and users.

If you’re not sure what to look for, you could always take a look at the recommendations and featured artists, as well as the most listened to stems, on the home page.

To add a stem to an already existing piece of music, open it up in the Sound Room. Hover over it and click the New Stem button. From there you can also give the piece of music the thumbs up, add your own tags or even download the MP3.

The magic on YouPhonics happens in the Sound Room when you play several stems at once. For example, someone has uploaded a piece of music, and someone else has attached the accompanying vocals. Play the two stems together by clicking each of them once, and they will play simultaneously.

YouPhonics is of course a social network in its own right. You can message other users, as well as become their fan. Your profile features your fans, members you are a fan of, your stems, and stems you have bookmarked, or essentially, added to your favourites. You can also include a bit of personal information such as your location, website, and a short bio.

To get in on the private beta sign up using the secret code MAKEUSEOFYOUPHONICS, which expires a week from today.

Have you uploaded a song to YouPhonics? Share the link in the comments.

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Paragon Partition Manager Giveaway Winners

Posted: 07 Aug 2010 10:00 AM PDT

Another week has passed and yes another fantastic giveaway has come to an end. Our returning giveaway sponsor, Paragon Software has generously donated 50 licenses to their great partitioning application, Partition Manager 11 Personal, to be given away to our readers.

Let’s find out who won a copy.

  1. Florin Iacob
  2. Jacob Ward
  3. David McCallum
  4. Paul Ashkar
  5. Tony Kennedy
  6. Mark Black
  7. Amjad
  8. Aubrie McGibbon
  9. Milena Araujo
  10. Andrew McClellan
  11. Jim Witherspoon
  12. Tom Steenhuysen
  13. Bartosz Chmura
  14. Jost Krieger
  15. Mehmet Onder
  16. Craig Kempton
  17. Paf Borg
  18. Andy McBride
  19. Mike Throner
  20. Dianne MacIborski
  21. William Albrecht
  22. Shelly Starr
  23. Knox
  24. Zachary Strader
  25. Daniel Fenn
    Vinayan Sreedharan
  1. Michael Favro
  2. Jowin
  3. Jeffrey Schlein
  4. Riyas Mohamed
  5. Karsten S. Andersen
  6. Richard Maitia
  7. Kris Adsit
  8. Alexander Flores
  9. Terrance McClure
  10. SC Baskin
  11. Mitch Buchanan
  12. Robert Zaccano
  13. Berilo Faccio
  14. Rich Session
  15. Grant Wells
  16. Samantha Warden
  17. Vinicius
  18. Christopher Conzen
  19. Satyajit Sahoo
  20. Lee Tilson
  21. MattC
  22. Treeler
  23. Osama Javaid
  24. Lisa

Congratulations to the winners! Your license will be sent via email in the next few days, so check your inbox!

MakeUseOf would like to thank the Paragon Software team for their generosity while participating in this giveaway. Interesting in sponsoring? We’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with us via email.



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