Wednesday, August 25, 2010 “Cool Websites and Tools [August 24th]” plus 10 more “Cool Websites and Tools [August 24th]” plus 10 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [August 24th]

Posted: 24 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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OldSpiceVoicemail – As part of a new marketing strategy, OldSpice has suddenly taken the social media by storm using viral videos. A very prominent feature of the person featured as the OldSpice guy is his voice. If you are amongst the millions of people who love that voice, use OldSpiceVoicemail to generate custom voicemail recordings in his tone. Read more: OldSpiceVoicemail: Generate Custom Voicemail Recording In The Voice of OldSpice Man.


Convert PDF To AutoCAD – PDF files are normally difficult to edit. Suppose you had a drawing of a room or building stored as a PDF file; editing it would be an almost impossible task. But having the same drawing in AutoCAD would make modifying the drawing a lot easier. This is what “Convert PDF to AutoCAD” makes use of. Read more: Convert PDF To AutoCAD: Free PDF To Autocad Converter.



Portable Linux Apps – If you are a Linux user and you do not have a flash drive to carry your favorite portable applications in, then there's no need to worry – thanks to “Portable Linux Apps” an internet connection is all you need to access your favorite Linux apps. Read more: PortableLinuxApps: Collection Of Portable Applications For Linux.



Cost Of Living Comparison – The biggest problem people often face, when accepting a job abroad, is to figure out the cost of living in that country. Finally there is a tool that can help you with that. The CostOfLivingComparison tool compares the city you already live in to the city you want to move to and tells you the difference in cost of living. Read more: CostOfLivingComparison: Cost of Living Comparison Between Cities.



Mugtug – is a free to use web service that offers two great web tools. The first of these tools is an online image editor. The image editor has a number of impressive options and a great response time. To get started all you have to do is upload pictures from your own computer, provide a URL for the image, or transfer pictures from Picasa or Flickr. Read more: Mugtug: Your One Stop To Web Picture Editing & Sketching.


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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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The 10 Toughest Tech Questions [MakeUseOf Answers]

Posted: 24 Aug 2010 07:31 PM PDT

MakeUseOf Answers won’t make you rich, but it may help you become a little wiser. Help us answer tough questions for a chance to win $50 in the Best Answer of the Week contest.

All answers posted with a valid email address, Disqus, Facebook, or Yahoo account are considered.

Get started with these unsolved questions:

  1. How can I edit individual frames of video?
  2. What is the best way to connect an iPad wirelessly to a data pro for presentations?
  3. How can I speed read on the iPhone?
  4. What is wrong with my Mac keyboard?
  5. How can I repair or remove and reinstall Internet Explorer 8 on Windows 7?
  6. What Eclipse addons should I use and how should I configure them?
  7. How can I access a Mac server with Windows Vista?
  8. Why does Netflix lock up Windows7?
  9. How can I change colors in a Wordpress theme?
  10. What is the best network device scanner for Mac?

MakeUseOf Answers may have the answers to your questions or vice versa? Browse by Latest Questions, Unanswered Questions or Most Popular Questions. For regular updates subscribe to the Answers RSS Feed.

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Watch Folders & Convert Video Files With DropFolders & HandBrake

Posted: 24 Aug 2010 06:31 PM PDT

convert video filesHaving the ability to convert video files can be pretty useful, especially if you download a lot of video content or create some yourself. There are a lot of potential uses, including converting DVD files into a playable format or making files readable on your iPod, to name a few. Being able to automate this process is even better.

DropFolders can handle all of this for you. DropFolders is an Adobe AIR program to be run on Windows that integrates with HandBrake. It automates the video conversion process by watching specified folders and performing the actions you assign.

In this article, I am going to go over what HandBrake is capable of, as well as how its integration with DropFolders will allow you free reign over your video collection.


HandBrake, by itself, is one of the best free media converters and DVD ripping tools out there. It is an open-source, multi-platform video transcoder that is available for Mac OS X, Linux, and Windows.

convert video files

HandBrake supports all the different variations of DVD source files, including VIDEO_TS, DVD image, real DVD, and some .VOB and .TS files. It also has miscellaneous features such as chapter selection, adding subtitles, an integrated bitrate calculator, picture cropping and scaling, and live video preview.

convert video freeware

Supported file outputs:

  • File format: MP4 and MKV
  • Video: MPEG-4, H.264, or Theora
  • Audio: AAC, MP3, or Vorbis

[Note]: You do not need to install HandBrake separately in order to use DropFolders. However, I recommend that you do anyway because HandBrake itself is a great video conversion tool and you may not always need the features DropFolders provides.


DropFolders allows you to automate some of HandBrake’s features. Simply put, you can use DropFolders to watch a folder, convert the files within, and output the new files to a different folder.

convert video freeware

For those of you who are familiar with HandBrake, you will know that you can tweak various settings with the CLIGuide. DropFolders allows for this too. To better specify how you would like your video files to be converted, you have to input various HandBrake arguments.

For example, in order to make a video file compatible on the iPhone or iTouch, you just need to copy and paste the iPhone presets into the HandBrake arguments box on DropFolders.

convert video files

Once a compatible file is placed into your defined watch folder, DropFolders will automatically start the conversion process and your presets will be saved for later selection. In this example, the newly created file would be placed in your chosen destination folder, ready to be copied over to your iPhone/iTouch.

As stated above, you can find all of the necessary presets for HandBrake on their CLIGuide page. DropFolders handles all of the file input and output commands, so the only presets you’ll need are the encoding parameters, which you can copy and paste over.

If you would like to see DropFolders in action, check out this video walkthrough by Joseph Labrecque, creator of the program:


If you play around with the various settings I’m sure there are plenty of creative ways to use this application. With DropFolders monitoring your specified media folders and convert video files automatically, you can efficiently create the content you’re looking for without having to open and convert files individually using commercial software.

What do you think of DropFolders? Do you like its integration with Handbrake? Leave your thoughts, ideas, and comments below!

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Blow Each Other Up In The Realistic Turn Based Strategy Game Scorched 3D

Posted: 24 Aug 2010 04:30 PM PDT

turn based strategy gamesLong time gamers around the world will likely recognize the name of one of the greatest turn based strategy games of all time – Scorched Earth. Scorched Earth was created by Wendell Hicken in 1991. With great humbleness, he deemed it the “Mother of All Games.” Whether or not you agree, one this is for certain – Scorched Earth consumed many hours of our lives back in the 90s. Your friendly author is no exception.

I really like turn-based strategy games, because it’s a lot like chess on a whole different level. A few cool games previously covered at MakeUseOf include those like BattleDex which Simon reviewed, and the cartoonish Raft Wars, which Karl covered.  The beauty of Scorched Earth wasn’t just the graphics – which, at the time were fairly decent.

The real beauty of this game was that no two situations or battlefields were exactly the same. You choose your weapons and shields, and then enter the battlefield against a computerized opponent that represented one of the more advanced examples of artificial intelligence at the time. The AI enemy would gradually land missiles and bombs closer to you. Your goal for survival – take out the enemy before he takes you out.

For those of you who became addicted to Scorched Earth, what could be better than a complete redesign of that original concept, with the latest computer graphics, animation and sound effects? Enter Scorched 3D – the product of an amazing open source design team from the UK that recreated the old classic in 2009.

Optimizing the Scorched 3D Configuration

When you first launch Scorched 3D, there are two things that you’re sure to notice – the graphics and the sound. The opening scene is a fairly impressive image of a rocky island in the middle of an endless sea. The background soundtrack is very cool. It’s hard to believe that this is a free, open source game.

turn based strategy games

Optimizing the settings for your system is fairly straightforward. Focusing on the resolution and whether you play the game in full screen will ensure that the game doesn’t crash your system. If you have an awesome graphics card, go ahead and play full-screen in high res, but if you have a standard video card it’s best to keep the default resolution and remove “Full Screen.”

turn based military strategy games

Another important area in the setup is the configuration screen for the control keys. The game is pretty straightforward – you’ve got your aiming controls which are up, down left and right, and of course firing your weapon. Also, you can adjust the power level of your shot with either Page Up/Down or the “+” and “-” keys.

turn based military strategy games

When you first launch the game – you have an opportunity to choose your weaponry. Are you going to used a high-power turret, or a more mobile unit, like the A.T.S.T. Walker (of Star Wars fame) or a plain old Abrams tank?

turn based military strategy games

Once you click ‘Play’ – the game begins. Prepared to get blown away by the quality of this game. There’s weather, high quality animation like birds, incoming missiles and ships in the background. The game makers did a brilliant job creating an atmosphere of a battlefield, and so it’s very easy to immerse yourself in this virtual world.

free turn based strategy games

As shown above, your particular weapon is highlighted when it’s your turn. The red and blue lines represent your elevation selection, and you can spot enemy bots highlighted with their name and an arrow.

free turn based strategy games

At the lower right corner of the screen, you’ll find your weapon status including fuel level, life level and what sort of defenses and shielding you have enabled. Grab and move the scene around with your mouse, and use the right mouse button to rotate the scene. Turn your weapon (or move it, if you have fuel), adjust the power level of your shot, and then fire. Pay close attention to where your missile lands, that will help you make the right adjustments for a more accurate shot next time.

free turn based strategy games

The game animation is just awesome. In this next scene, my turret was perched on the side of a mountain, and I moved the 3D scene down to the level of the enemy bot named Jezebel so that I could get a good look at where the missile lands. You can see the enemy tank at the base of the mountain, and here comes my incoming missile – a bit of an overshot.

Status indicators over your own weapon and the enemy show the remaining “life.” Make enough direct or nearby hits, and eventually you’ll destroy the enemy. Of course, a game like this just wouldn’t be complete if it didn’t offer network play where you can compete against real players from across the world. This just takes Scorched Earth to a whole new level of competition and addictive fun.

turn based strategy games

On the main screen, just click “Play Online” and you’ll be presented with a list of active and available servers from across the world. The server screen shows the number of players already in the game, what round they are actively playing, and the game setup – either turn by turn – or a “TurnSimultaneous” free-for-all which is a real blast to play.

If you’re up for some battlefield strategy, cool weaponry and a lot of explosions – then try out Scorched 3D and let us know what you think of the game. How does it compare to other commercial games like it? Do you know of any similar turn based strategy battlefield games? Share your insight in the comments section below.

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How To Easily Run A Low-Tech Live Photo Blog For Your Next Adventure

Posted: 24 Aug 2010 02:30 PM PDT

photo blogsMy wife and I love our adventures in the Adirondack Mountains in Upstate New York. Most of them consist of hiking one of the 46 High Peaks in the park (check out this site for the best Adirondack hiking resources). This summer, I decided I wanted to photo blog live on our trip. I wanted to find an easy way of doing it via MMS and my photo-capable cell phone. Before we left I figured it out and set it all up.

In the end it was a lot of fun. It was also nice to share the adventure with our friends and family. If you are interested in live photo blogging your next trip or adventure, check out how I did it and see if it’s the easiest solution for you.

photo blogs

First, find out what you want to accomplish and what you’ll need in order to accomplish it. I wanted to be able to take photographs with my cell phone and syndicate them to several services. I wanted my Twitter followers and my Facebook friends to be able to follow my shenanigans if they wanted to.  I wanted to be able to do it without a cell phone data plan (I know, I’m cheap) so I had to be able to either do it via email (you knew you could text an email address didn’t you?) or direct SMS/MMS.

I could have added Twitter and Facebook directly for each message but Twitter wouldn’t post my photographs unless I used TwitPic or something similar (I don’t like TwitPic because I hate the homepage where they list all of the latest pics).

I finally chose to use Posterous.

Posterous is an awesome blogging tool for many reasons but for this project it had three major perks. One, I could easily set it up to receive and post emails. Secondly, Posterous is easy to set up to post to other services (such as Twitter and Facebook). Third, Posterous accepts several different types of media (ie. photos, videos, sound files, etc.)

Here’s how I set everything up.

Set up either SMS/MMS or email with Posterous

Obviously Posterous works awesomely with your email address. For this mission, we need to be able to send messages to be posted remotely from your phone. You could set up your phone on your account and send messages to 41411.

photo blogs

Using this method will limit you to only 110 characters and you’ll have to enter “post” before the actual message.  You could do that.

I opted for the email method because it doesn’t have the same limit.  My limit is basically set by my text provider which is 140 characters.

Note: Photo-capable phones make sending MMS messages quite simple. With my phone, every time I take a picture the option to “send” it pops right up. When I choose that option, I am taken directly to a new text message and all I have to do is fill in the recipient (Posterous), the message (sometimes I skip this one but it depends on if you have the time) and the subject. Your phone may be slightly different but it should be similar.

Make sure you put something for the subject because it will label the photo for your followers. You can tag the posts by putting the tag in double parenthesis in on the subject line along with the title. For example: “Starting out ((tag: hiking2010))”.

The cool part is that I don’t have to tell Posterous to “post” it; they already know. I just send it to (entering your Posterous site instead of “yoursite”). For security’s sake, Posterous will hold the first post until you confirm it is really a post by you.

how to make a photo blog

Make sure you do this before leaving home. Once the first post is confirmed, you shouldn’t have any more issues. You should be all set to send a text to the email address and have it posted.

Set up the syndication.

Posterous makes connecting to other services a cinch. They call it autoposting and you’ll find a link to the settings in the left sidebar of your manage page.

how to make a photo blog

Then you’ll want to click the make changes button.

how to make a photo blog

There you’ll find the Add a Service button. Choose the services you want your Posterous blog autoposted onto and go through the authentication processes for each. This will get the word out to your followers every time you send an update of your adventure.

Take a few precautions.

Don't let your phone distract you too much. Yes, take those pics (or even videos) and post them, but don't miss out yourself on the sites around you. Come out from behind that tiny screen every so often. Personally, I also found myself texting while hiking down a mountain. Not so smart. Be aware of what's around you and stop moving while you type, etc.

Let your followers know in advance what you're going to be doing so they know to follow you.

Have you ever live photo blogged with your cell phone?  How'd you do it?

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Hot Tech Deals [Aug 24th]

Posted: 24 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. Dell Vostro 3400 Intel Core i3-370M 2.4GHz 14in Laptop (Aluminum, 2GB/250GB) $589
  2. nMEDIAPC 6000B MicroATX HTPC Media Center Computer Case $69.99 Free Shipping via code HTPC0820A
  3. Flip UltraHD 8GB Digital Video Camcorder (720p) $139.99 Free Shipping via code GRLV3K996Q4TCX
  4. Iomega Prestige 500GB Portable External Hard Drive $54.99 Free Shipping via code L9G5NHWFKP7L3F
  5. Dell Ultrasharp U2311H 23 inch IPS LCD Monitor $239 Free Shipping via code VB5XX0VCT3S037
  6. LG E2250T-PN 22in LED-Backlit Widescreen LCD Monitor $152.99 via code LCDBTSPROMO
  7. Canon PowerShot D10 12.1 MP 3X Digital Camera (Waterproof/Shockproof/Cold Resistant) $215.99 via code 2KVH967BFCQVC4
  8. Panasonic VIERA TC-P42C2 42in Plasma HDTV (720p) $501 Free Shipping via code AFLPAN501
  9. Rosewill minifit XL Aluminum Netbook Cooling Pad (Fits up to 15in) $11.99 via code EMCYWZX56
  10. Hand Held Items Coupon Code: 20% off Apple iPad Cases + 70% discount via code ipadcases20
  11. Hitachi SimpleDrive Mini 500GB Portable External Hard Drive (Carbon Fiber) $59.99AR via code J8QRP?044HZW1Z
  12. Dell Inspiron 14z Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300 ULV 14in Laptop (4GB/500GB/2yr Warranty) $700.79 via codes 6KWMM0JFLZK0W? and ?8CN$RJ?W5TQ0C
  13. HHI iPad Flip Leather Case with Magnetic Kick Stand + Screen Protector $12.99 via code ipadflipkstand
  14. Apple iBook G4 1.33GHz 12.1in Laptop (REFURB/1GB/40GB) $269.99 via code APPLE

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set

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10 Sites to Play with Colors and Create Color Palettes of Your Own

Posted: 24 Aug 2010 12:30 PM PDT

color paletteIn a way, it's good that we can just enjoy colors without understanding them. They are actually quite complex. Okay, we use it match clothes or our home décor. But then, contrasting colors can set off one another — two contrasting colors can clash. Then there are the complementary colors that can flatter each other. You can reduce some of the complexity by using color palettes.

If you are a web designer, or want to be one or you simply like to match different colors to see how they look; play around with these online color palette generators.

A color palette in its simplest definition is a range of colors that's used to make a graphic or a colored work visually consistent. Take the example of our own website which has been designed with a color combination that's uniform across the site. An example of a specific palette is the web safe color palette (a set of 216 colors) that makes them appear the same across browsers and OS.


color palette

ColoRotate helps to mix and match colors in 3D. The flash-based website lets you browse the already created color palettes or adjust them according to your tastes. You can use the color diamond (or use the slider mode) to play with different color combos and create new palettes. The joysticks make for easy adjustment of color, contrast, and tint, or for toggling foreground and background colors. The palette preview also has a dropdown that allows for various vision deficiencies.


web color palette

Call this a community for color lovers. Or a 'colorful' community because it is all about creative people sharing color palettes and patterns. The website is well organized with sections like Channels (which showcases color usage for weddings, home, fashion etc), and Trends (an index for what's happening with color in different media). But for more hands on work, check Tools where you can create palettes and patterns. You might be interested in Themeleon which lets you create custom themes for your Twitter profile.


web color palette

One of our readers suggested the Adobe tool in our How to Search for the Perfect Color Scheme post. You can create cool variations from an image or from the color wheel. If you hit a white wall, you can browse through the many color themes with cooler names already on the site. Try out Pulse where you can browse through thousands of color themes with just a click on a histogram or the color wheel. You can straightaway copy the color values to your clipboard.

Color Scheme Designer

web color palette

Color Scheme Designer is an online color tool that makes it real easy to design the color scheme of your website or blog. Decide on the type of color scheme you want your site to be based on and then pick and choose the colors from the color wheel. Each color scheme presents the primary colors and their complementary colors. You can get a feel from the preview and also adjust it according to text, light and dark backgrounds. Check out our thorough review on Color Scheme Designer.


html color palette

Using your mouse and the site's random Flickr image (or your own), you can generate color schemes. You can pick and drop colors to further fine tune your scheme. You can also fetch colors from websites by giving a URL.


html color palette

The color palette editor is one of Aviary's online tools. You can choose up to 20 colors per palette using color combos or an uploaded image. You can import images from Flickr, Picasa, Tumblr, and Facebook. Import from a URL is also provided but I was getting an unknown error with it. Toucan also lets you check and preview the final palette using a dropdown with color deficiency options.

Color Palette FX

html color palette

If you want to create a color palette from an uploaded image, Color Palette FX is one of the simpler tools going around. Upload a JPEG or PNG and the palette gets made for you. Sort palettes by hue, saturation, brightness, or color frequency and then export them to your graphical application.


The online tool starts off with numerous color blocks which you can mouse over and expand the palettes to edit them. Other tools include Color Galaxy (set of 27 color databases), Color Sphere (for the right color schemes and harmony), Color Studio (create your own colors), Color Conversions Library, and more.

Color Explorer

Color Explorer comes with a quiver full of digital color tools. You can pick a color along with its minute variations. You can browse through common color libraries that have samples of popular print colors as well as RGB colors. You can pick a base color and match colors around it and automate it using the various algorithms given. But what could be of real value are the color analysis and conversion tools that help to match your palette to the prevalent standards and different color systems.


color palette

Just like the last web tool, Genopal too gives a color designer a choice of tools like a palette creation tool from images and words. The fun and interesting one is a recoloring tool which lets you apply color to any uploaded image. For example, Pic2Graphics lets you transfer 'color mood' between two images.

Because our eyes can sometimes lie to us, these online color palette tools help to mix 'n match and tryout a lot of options before you settle down on the right one. Which is the color tool of your choice? Let us know.

Image: geishaboy500

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How to Find Your IP Address On Your Mobile Smartphone

Posted: 24 Aug 2010 11:30 AM PDT

how do i find my ip addressWhether you’re trying to create a media center remote, or wireless file server, there are a number of cellphone and computer applications that need your smartphone’s IP address.

Finding these can be a real drag, on some smartphone brands more than on others. Below is an extensive tutorial to find these IP addresses, both global/public and local.

Read on for an illustrated tutorial for the major smartphone brands, including Android, iPhone, Windows Mobile and BlackBerry.

1. Global IP Addresses

There are two kinds of IP Addresses. A global or public or external IP address is used to identify you across the internet. It’s network specific; this means that every computer using the same network to access the internet (e.g. at your home) have the same global IP address.

If you’ve got a computer on the same (Wi-Fi) network, it might be easier to use than a mobile phone. If you’re accessing the internet using GPRS or 3G technology (i.e. via your carrier), you can use this technique to find your (carrier’s) IP address as well.

how do i find my ip address

Finding your global IP address can be done the same on all smartphone brands. Simply point your mobile phone’s web browser to There you go. Alternative websites are and

2. Local IP Addresses

Local IP Addresses are used to identify a computer within a single network (e.g. at home). Because they are network-specific, these are often re-occurring. They can also change whenever you (re)connect to a network. Amongst other things, this is what you need if you want to remotely access another device.

To be able to see your local IP address, first make sure your mobile is connected to a (Wi-Fi) network.

2.a – Android Phone

On your Android phone, hit the menu button and go to Settings -> Wireless controls -> Wi-Fi settings. If you aren’t already connected to a Wi-Fi network, do so now.

how do i find my ip address

In the networks list, again tap the network you are currently connected with. A pop-up with network specifics will appear, listing your current IP address at the bottom.

2.b – iPhone

On your iPhone, go to Settings -> Wi-Fi networks and make sure Wi-Fi is turned on. If you aren’t already connected to a wireless network, do so now. Tap the blue arrow at the right hand side of the network.

how to find my ip address

You’ll be able to find your IP address on the resulting screen of network specifics. In the far right tab, you can make your IP address static. This will make your telephone pick the IP address upon connecting to the network, instead of the router, and will make sure you retain the IP address if you ever revisit the network.

2.c – Windows Mobile

On Windows Mobile, go to Start -> Settings -> Network cards. Listed there are all the available network adapters. Select the one you need to find the IP address for – in most cases, that’ll be the wireless adapter – and pick Edit.

how to find my ip address

Here you’ll see your IP address, no matter if you use a dynamic or static IP address (see screenshot above).

2.d – BlackBerry

Depending on the type of BlackBerry phone, either go through Manage Connections -> Wi-Fi Options, or via the general Options -> Wi-Fi Connections.

If you’re using BlacBerry Device Software 4.5 or earlier, select Wi-Fi Diagnostics in the Wi-Fi Connections pane. For later versions, select W-Fi Tools -> Wi-Fi Diagnostics.

how to find my ip address

In the network specifics that follow, you’ll be able to find your IP address. If you’re looking for a more elaborate overview, subsequently select Options -> Display Mode -> Advanced, and Options -> Save.

Do you have any other tips on smartphone network diagnostics? Weigh in and direct your questions to the comments sections below.

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Similar MakeUseOf Articles A Beautiful Multi-Platform Comic Reader With A Social Twist

Posted: 24 Aug 2010 10:30 AM PDT

comic book readerTaking into view today’s digital distribution, music and movie are two main industries that are heavily affected by it. But these two are not the only ones. Other industries like newspapers, magazines, and books are also facing the harsh “adapt or die” dilemma.

In order to survive, hordes of players have made their content digitally available since a little while back. But despite the potential of digital media, the comic book industry is still moving in a little bit late. Until recently, finding commercially-published digital comic books is not as easy as other kind of books.

Luckily, everything’s changing now.

Good Looking And Social

If you are a comic lover, you’ll be happy to find this good looking multi-platform app called And aside from the look, the app also has other trick up in its sleeve: it’s social.

What’s the fun of reading good comics if you can’t share them with your friends? Maybe this is the underlying concept behind The app is trying to merge comic reading and social networking. The download page makes that concept clearly visible, along with the fact that this app is available for Windows and Mac (via Adobe AIR).

comic book reader

To maintain the social side of the app, you’ll need to “Sign in” (or “Create an account” – for first time users) before using the app.

comic book reader download

Some people might think that takes the social concept a little bit too far. The home screen is more similar to most social sites’ interface than to comic book reader applications. On the left pane you have Inbox, Feeds, New Comics and My Profile, along with news updates from the creator of the app.

comic book reader download

The middle pane has a “Got something to say?” box and all of your and your friends status updates. Those with eagle eye will notice Facebook and Twitter check boxes there.

comic book reader download

And on the right pane, you have “New Releases” and “Top Comics” recommendation.

comic reader

Getting And Reading Comics

Similar to iTunes for music and movies, also serves both as reader and store for comic books (mostly – if not all – North American comics). There’s the “Categories” on the left, “Featured” in the middle, and “Friend purchases” and “Recommendations” on the right.

comic reader

The good news is, there’s the “Free Comics” category. The bad news is, the category is not working – yet. So I tried the reader using the only free comic that I can find.

After clicking the “Free” (or “Buy“) button for the comics that you want, the comic is downloaded and saved under “My Collection” tab.

comic reader

After the download process is complete, you can start reading it. The first page contains the cover along with other contents that available with the comic.

comic book reader software

The reading process itself is quite straightforward, you click on the right arrow to move forward, the left arrow to move backward, and the scroll bar to move up and down the page. There’s also the zoom slider to enlarge the image to the size that you want.

comic book reader software

One thing that I really don’t like about this app is you that you can’t use the arrow keys (and other keys) on the keyboard to navigate the comic pages. Having to repeatedly point and click the mouse to specific location just to flip page can be really annoying over time.

When you hover your mouse above the page, you might find comment points (I don’t know what they’re really called). Click on these points and you can see the comment box with comments on one detail of the image (something like: “Nice legs!“) or more explanation about unfamiliar terms on the dialog bubble. You can add your comments to the conversation if you want to.

comic book reader software

And There’s More

A dock with more options will show up when you click the small arrow at the bottom of the screen.

There’s the “View Mode” button to choose how you want the comic page to appear.

There’s the “Social” button to share comic page(s) to your friends and to show/hide comment points that mentioned above.

If you own an iPhone or iPad, you could also try the iPhone Version [App Store link] and iPad Version [App Store link] of I personally prefer Comics to read comic books on my iPhone.

comic book reader

Appearance-wise, I personally think that this app is one of the few apps that seems to be “beautifully made“; even though there are some problems with navigation that needed to be fixed.

However, I do have few things on my wish list: to integrate some kind of guided view technology like Comics and to add keyboard shortcuts. And if this app has the ability to read comics from external sources like what Simple Comic does, this would be the perfect comic book reader.

Do you have your own favorite comic book reader? Share using the comment below.

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How To Make Your Firefox Browser Start Up Faster

Posted: 24 Aug 2010 09:31 AM PDT

make firefox fasterAre you tired of waiting for Firefox to launch? Firefox 3.5 had some serious startup issues. Some users had to wait several minutes until Firefox would appear. The reason was that Firefox would access temporary Windows and Internet Explorer files. With the release of Firefox 3.6, this specific issue was fixed. However, there are many more factors that influence the browser’s startup time.

If you would like to understand what is keeping Firefox so long to start up and how you can fix it, read on. In this article I will show you how to tune your browser for a quick startup. Most of these tips will also work in Firefox 4.

1. Toss Out Extensions

The more extensions you’re running, the slower Firefox will start up. Before it can run, it has to shoulder all active extensions like a backpack. The smaller the load, the faster it will be ready to run.

So take the time to go through your installed extensions (> Tools > Add-ons and select > Extensions in sidebar) and toss out the ones you never really use.

2. Clear History On Shutdown

Mark covered this in a previous article back in 2008. All this information about your past browsing session/s will slow down Firefox as it launches for a fresh session. If you don’t ever view data stored in the history, you can set up Firefox to clear it whenever it shuts down.

Go to > Tools > Options and open the > Privacy tab. Check > Clear history when Firefox closes and click on > Settings to customize which parts of the history and other data should be cleared.

make firefox faster

3. Skip Session Saving Or Reduce Number Of Open Tabs

The one thing that slows Firefox down the most is the amount of pages it has to load on startup. Hence, an easy fix would be to no longer load a saved session or at least have it load less tabs. Outsource temporary pages you wish to read to an extension like ‘Read It Later‘. Pages that you use regularly but not daily or right after startup can live in your bookmarks.

If you can reduce your number of open tabs by several pages with the help of an additional add-on or some bookmarks, this will cut rather than add to loading time.

For some ideas, check out Abhijeet’s article 4 Awesome Tools To Save Pages For Reading Later.

4. Speed Up Page Load

If you can’t bear to start Firefox with just a blank page, then the time it takes to load your previous session will determine how fast the browser is available for use. You can speed up page loading by applying several ‘about: config’ tweaks. Mahendra thoroughly described them in points 10 and 11 of his article The Ultimate Guide To Speeding Up Firefox 3.5.

make firefox start faster

5. Trim Down Bookmarks

Apparently, the amount of bookmarks you have can extend Firefox’ startup time. Especially Live Bookmarks will slow it down as Firefox checks for the latest updates. So remove any Live Bookmarks you’re not really using and generally clean out the rest of your bookmarks. Mahendra recommends the CheckPlaces extension to scan for valid and duplicate bookmarks.

If you’re bold, you can remove all but your most-used bookmarks and move the rest to Delicious or a similar online / social bookmarking service. The Delicious Bookmarks add-on will help you keep in touch with your online bookmarks. Although using yet another extension is probably not very efficient.

make firefox start faster

6. Preload Firefox

So you don’t want to mess with about:config, you can’t part with any of your extensions, and you really, really need to restore a session of over 20 open tabs. Well, then your only hope is to preload Firefox on Windows startup. This may slow down your Windows startup a tiny little bit, but at least Firefox will pop up like it was never shut down.

Per default, Windows is already set to preload Internet Explorer, which is why it starts so quickly compared to Firefox. Preloader is a tool that loads parts of Firefox into Windows’ memory before you launch the browser. Naturally, this is not a Firefox extension, but a standalone utility that tweaks your Windows startup in favor of Firefox.

Mark has introduced the extension in his post Give Firefox an Adrenalin Shot with Preloader.

7. Defragment Places Database

Firefox 3.x stores bookmarks, history, and other storage information in a database called ‘Places’. Over time, this database becomes fragmented. Subsequently, defragmenting can speed up any browser process that needs to access the Places database, including the startup.

You can manually defragment the database, but since it’s a tedious task, I recommend an extension called Vacuum Places Improved. Every 30 Firefox starts, the Vacuum Places icon will appear in your statusbar. This is a reminder that you should click it to vacuum or rather defragment your Places database. You can also automate the process by checking > Automatically clean places in the extension’s settings window.

make firefox faster

I hope these tips will help you to reduce the time it takes your Firefox to load. If you haven’t done so yet, check out Mahendra’s post The Ultimate Guide To Speeding Up Firefox 3.5.

What is your biggest complaint about Firefox?

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The 5 Hottest Electronic Gadgets to Buy This Season

Posted: 24 Aug 2010 08:30 AM PDT

hottest electronic gadgetsWe’re now well into the second half of 2010. That means the typical summer shopping slump will soon be on its way out and replaced with holiday deals. If you’re looking for the hottest electronic gadgets around, either for yourself or for someone else, the season for buying is upon us.

But what should you buy? That’s a difficult question to answer fully in less than 20,000 words, but there are some gadgets that really stand out from the crowd. Let’s take a look at five products that you should consider this season.

Amazon Kindle

hottest electronic gadgets

The eReader market has been heating up this year. The Barnes and Noble Nook and the Amazon Kindle seem particularly competitive with each other, resulting in a price war. The newest Amazon Kindle can be purchased for as little as $139 (for the 6″ with WiFi) or $189 (for the 6″ with WiFi and 3G).

These prices are low enough that Kindle starts to look like an attractive alternative even if you read only one or two books a month. The price isn’t the only reason to buy the Kindle, however – in this author’s opinion, the Kindle has always been the best eReader overall. Combine low price with a great product and you have a sure winner.

Samsung DualView TL225

cool electronic gadgets

If you’re on a social network (and you probably are), you may be taking a lot of pictures of yourself. Updating your profile with a self-shot photo, or a self-shot with friends crammed in on either side of you, is common. It also presents a problem. The screen on your camera is on the back and you have no way of making sure a self-shot photo is centered on your face or your knees.

The Samsung DualView solves this problem by putting a small display on the front of the camera next to the lenses. This removes all the guess work normally required. The Samsung DualView is also a pretty nice digital camera besides thanks to 12.2 megapixel recording and 4.6X optical zoom.

Apple Magic Trackpad

cool electronic gadgets

Touch is the cornerstone of Apple’s interface design. The abstraction of a mouse is considered a distraction rather than a helpful tool. The company’s laptop trackpads have long been praised for their multi-touch features, and now Apple has made a trackpad targeted towards the mouse-entrenched desktop market.

The Magic Trackpad is exactly like the trackpad found on MacBook Pro. Once connected to a Mac desktop, it is possible to use a variety of multi-touch features to navigate OS X. You can scroll, zoom, change windows and minimize/maximize windows with a few flicks of your fingertips.

Windows users can reportedly use the Magic Trackpad as well, but you’ll of course be limited to Windows multi-touch functionality. As such, the Magic Trackpad isn’t recommended for Windows users.

Logitech Harmony 900

cool electronic gadgets

Did you know that remote controls can be cool? If not, you obviously don’t have a friend who owns a Logitech Harmony universal remote. The Harmony is meant to replace absolutely every other remote in your home and do so in style. It includes a touch-screen display at the top of the remote with options that simplify your user experience. For example, if you want to watch a DVD, you can simply touch “Watch a DVD.” The remote will automatically take the required steps such as changing sources and turning on devices.

However, all of this functionality doesn’t mean the Harmony is hard to use. The Harmony is programmed by connecting it your PC (via USB) and through a Harmony setup program that asks a few questions about your usage and lets you select your home theater devices from a list.

Sony X-Series Walkman

hottest electronic gadgets

When most people think of an MP3 player, they think iPod. But there are other great MP3 players on the market that give even the iPod Touch a run for its money, one of which is the Sony X-Series Walkman. This player includes a 3 inch OLED touch-screen display with an interface that is comparable to what you’ll find on an iPod Touch. You can scroll through album art and video files with a flick of your finger.

The X-Series also includes WiFi and some related apps. You can watch YouTube on the X-Series, which is handy when you’re on the go with nothing to watch. Another excellent app is The Slacker, a WiFi-enabled radio app. The X-Series actually has a cache of music that is built up while connected to WiFi so you can listen to The Slacker radio even after you’ve left the WiFi hot spot.


Obviously, these aren’t all the hottest electronic gadgets that you’ll find on sale this season. These are, however, some of the best gadgets when everything – functionality, price and awesomeness – are considered. If you have a favorite gadget not included on this list feel free to share it in the comments!

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