Thursday, August 26, 2010 “Cool Websites and Tools [August 25th]” plus 9 more “Cool Websites and Tools [August 25th]” plus 9 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [August 25th]

Posted: 25 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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NiceEntity – Inserting fancy characters and symbols in your text always helps. However, besides a few common characters, most people don't know the code for many of these. NiceEntity is a web resource that indexes hundreds of special characters along with their HTML and Unicode details. Read more: NiceEntity: Get HTML And Unicode For Symbols & Characters.


Fillerama – Lorem Ipsum is the default filler text that is used on millions of web pages. It is a useful thing in the sense that it fills the space but not so much because it doesn't make any sense to a regular user. Fillerama is a tool that changes this by letting you generate filler text with quotes from popular TV show Futurama. Read more: Fillerama: Generate Filler Text With Futurama Quotes.



TravelPhotoMosaic – When trying to explore a new place or make travel plans, some people like to read about it. Some, on the other hand, have to visualize everything. TravelPhotoMosaic is cool interactive mosaic that lets you visually roam the world without leaving your couch. It contains over 120,000 user submitted photos from around the world. Read more: TravelPhotoMosaic: The Largest Searchable Interactive Travel Mosaic.



notiFINDER – If you are looking for something in particular on Craigslist, then you have to check the site for new listings every day. But thanks to notiFINDER, that task has been greatly simplified. notiFINDER is a free and simple craigslist ad alert tool that can notify you of new classifieds on Craigslist. Read more: notiFINDER: Get Craigslist Ad Alerts For Specific Items.



Randomiser – Have you ever had to randomly choose from a list? It could be a number, color, or any object. Your selection will somehow be biased in some way. To get a truly random pick, pay a visit to Randomiser. Randomiser is a free web service that you can use to randomly select a member from a list. Read more: Randomiser: Easy Way To Randomly Choose From A List.


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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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10 Of The Coolest Map Apps For Use On Bing Maps

Posted: 25 Aug 2010 07:50 PM PDT

bing mapsIf you’re like me, when you think of maps on the Internet you tend to think of Google Maps and Mapquest, but did you know about Bing maps? If you read Evan’s article two months ago entitled, “Bing Maps — Planning Your Car Trips Got Much Easier. Really.“, you probably have.

In Evan’s article, he mentioned a few of Bing’s Map Apps, like the distance calendar, parking finder, and hotel finder. This got me wondering about what other cool apps Bing offers on its map page.

In this article, I am going to show you some of Bing’s coolest Map Apps.

Where Can I Find Bing Map Apps?

bing maps

To get started with Map Apps, just shoot over to Bing’s map page and click the Map Apps button at the bottom of the page. A grid will appear with all of the map applications for you to pick from. You can sort the results by recommended, newest, title, rating, and publisher. Here are my favorites:

My Friends

bing maps download

If you have Facebook, you need to check out the My Friends app. It works with Facebook Connect to retrieve all of your friends’ locations and it posts them on your map for you. It’s a great way to visualize where all of your friends are in the world and it even allows you to check your friends’ current status and post to their wall.

[Note]: Only friends with Current City on their profile will be listed.

Twitter Maps

bing maps download

If Bing’s got a Facebook app you know they’re gonna have a Twitter app too. Twitter maps is really cool because it allows you to see all of the tweets in a specific area visually. You can search by location, keywords, or people and you can opt to view tweets with photos only. Just click on a tweet to view it and you can share it with your followers if you like.

Foursquare Everywhere

bing maps download

If you’ve read any of my articles lately, you know I’m really into location-based apps like Foursquare. Well, Bing has a Foursquare app that lets you log into your account so you can see where your friends are, as well as what’s going on in different cities. You can search and view check-ins and tips at all venues.

Today’s Front Pages

bing maps apps

If you’re into news, this app is really cool. Today’s Front Pages allows you to view the front page of the all the world’s newspapers. If you want to see what’s making front page news in a distant city or foreign land, just cruise on over to that region on the map and start clicking on icons. A really clear image is shown of the newspaper’s actual front page. Click on the image to view it in full-size.

Streetside Photos

bing maps apps

Streetside Photos takes photos from Flickr and allows you to explore different cities. It works similar to Google maps’ street view, only it shows you exactly where the various photos you click on were taken. You can view the photos by themselves or incorporate the map to see the exact street location.

Urban Graffiti

bing maps apps

Urban Graffiti works similar to Streetside Photos, only all of the pictures you will find on the map are of graffiti. This app offers you a really artistic view of some of the cities around the world, as you can view this “art” that you wouldn’t otherwise find on your own.

Roadside Attractions

Speaking of art you wouldn’t normally see, check out Roadside Attractions. This app has pictures posted on everything from the interesting to the bizarre. It will definitely keep you entertained as you stroll across the country and view all of the weird things spotted in towns and cities.


For a more practical application, TrafficLand is pretty cool. It lets you view cameras of live traffic in various regions so you can see which roads are busy and where the traffic jams are. Click on an icon to see a still image and the time it was updated. This app works in conjunction with, so if you click on the image you will be taken to the site where you can view the traffic cam in real-time.


To view weather on your maps, try the WeatherBug app. There are literally thousands of little icons that will appear and you can click on them to view the current weather in the area. WeatherBug will tell you the temperature, wind speed and direction, heat index, high and low temps, and time it was last updated.

Global Action Atlas

bing maps

If you’re thinking globally, you should investigate the Global Action Atlas app. Here’s the official description:

National Geographic invites you to support efforts across the globe to help people in need, protect plants and animals, preserve diverse cultures, and more.

If you’re into helping out a great cause, you’ll find this app very helpful. You can use it for everything from exploration to finding humanitarian projects.

What do you think of the apps I’ve listed? Will you be spending some time on Bing Maps? Leave your thoughts, ideas, and comments below!

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Why You Should Ditch Your MP3 Player’s Firmware In Favour Of Rockbox

Posted: 25 Aug 2010 06:31 PM PDT

rockboxMy MP3 player is five years old. It doesn't have a colour screen, isn't capable of connecting to the internet and the only thing it's really good for is playing music. The day it dies you will see a grown man cry, drop to his knees and emit a Darth Vader-like “Noooo!” before scouring eBay for the same model.

I have an iRiver H-140, and several years ago I waved goodbye to the quite frankly awful proprietary firmware on the device. With a bit of fiddling I installed a third-party unofficial “warranty voiding” firmware called Rockbox. It was like owning a brand new MP3 player whilst retaining everything I loved about my ageing jukebox, and I urge you to do the same.

If you're the kind of guy (or gal, let's not be hasty) who often feels let down by manufacturers who make solid hardware with ropey software, then Rockbox might be for you. This open source gem is a complete rewrite of digital audio player firmware, adding some mind-blowing features and improvements along the way.

The list of compatible devices has grown incredibly over the years, and it is now possible to load Rockbox onto a variety of players including those from Archos, iRiver, Apple, Sandisk and Toshiba. If you're interested, you can check out compatible players on the releases page on the official website.


As Rockbox operates differently on different devices, there isn't a definitive list of improvements that can be guaranteed for every device (some are better than others in the first place). Battery life is one thing the Rockbox developers have strived to improve, and evidence of this can be found on the iRiver release where the battery life has leapt from around 14 hours to 21 hours at the top end.

One area in which the firmware will excel on all players is the decoding of audio. Gapless playback makes an appearance, meaning you'll now be able to listen to those Pink Floyd albums the way Syd intended. Additional audio formats that are supported include OGG Vorbis, FLAC (one for the purists), AC3, MP4, Apple Lossless, WMA (on your iPod) as well as good old MP3 and WAV.

Digital audio players with support for recording will see the benefit of improved recording controls, including volume-activated recording, automatic volume control and pitch control. Add to this the powerful file browser, which allows for the deletion and renaming of files from the device itself and your DAP can keep itself organized fairly easily too.

If you've got the battery life to spare, there's a full set of games included with the release which provides some charming clones of classics like Snake, Breakout and Tetris to entertain whilst you listen, and customization is easy as pie with hundreds of themes and fonts to download and choose from. You can even make your own themes, including changeable Now Playing screens so you only get the information you really want.


For an even more long-winded look at the included features and how they improve on original firmware, check out the official feature comparison table.

Installing Rockbox is also easier than ever before. Back in the day you'd have to download a version specific to your hardware and manually unzip to your device. Those of you who still want to do this can of course, but for everyone else there's the Rockbox Utility.

Available for Windows, Mac and Linux the utility allows you to install and manage your newly Rockbox'd DAP. Simply download, extract and run the application. The first time you run you'll be prompted to configure Rockbox by choosing your manufacturer and model, there's even a handy auto-detect if you're really stuck.

install rockbox

Once you've chosen you'll need to install the bootloader (in order to bypass your existing firmware) and the Rockbox software itself. Choose Complete Installation in order to install Rockbox and all the extras (fonts, games and themes). Click OK to proceed past the warning.

install rockbox

You may need the original firmware in order to install the bootloader. These are quite easily downloaded from your manufacturer's website, and if you're like me you might have a backup somewhere anyway (I keep mine on my device, saves crawling the web).

Locate the file and Rockbox will be installed.

install rockbox

Congratulations, you have a nice new toy to play with. You should notice improved battery life, the ability to take your obscure files with you and the ability to customize your player using the included theme, game and font manager portion of the Rockbox Utility.

rockbox download

Have you tried Rockbox on your device? Will you ever look back? Any favourite themes and games that keep you occupied? Let us know in the comments!

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MakeUseOf Review & Giveaway: CandyShell iPad Case by Speck

Posted: 25 Aug 2010 04:30 PM PDT

Over the past couple of months, our giveaways have gotten a fair bit of attention. We’ve handed out apps for Mac users, ebooks, indestructible hard drives and even a $10,000 trip to New Zealand. But this very moment is probably the pinnacle of our giveaway program because we’ve been joined by fantastic company from Palo Alto, CA. Please join me in welcoming Speck as a returning sponsor, who will be giving away tones of cool free stuff right here at MakeUseOf.

In this debut, Speck will be offering a couple of CandyShell iPad cases worth $49.95 each to MakeUseOf readers. I’ve actually had the honour of testing this particular iPad case. Personally, I’m in love with it. Let me show you what all the fuss is about.

The first thing you’ll notice about this iPad case is that it only covers the back. This is generally going to attack the principles of some hardcore iPad users because there isn’t any front-facing protection. Honestly, I don’t really see the point in a front cover simply because the iPad’s screen is so durable (I’ve had the iPhone 2G for 3 years without a case and it hasn’t been scratched or scuffed at all) so I feel pretty confident using the iPad with this CandyShell case alone. You should too, unless you are super clumsy and always dropping your stuff. In that case, you’ll be better off with one of Speck’s iPad sleeves like the PixelShield or their iPad ShieldView screen films.

Judging from the material and build quality, I can assure you that the case will protect your iPad from a fall, say from about waist-high. It feels extremely sturdy since it’s made from a single piece of high quality polycarbonate plastic — trust me, it exudes tough. The interior surface has a contrasting character and is lined with a soft, rubbery material which doubles as a shock absorber.

Slipping the iPad into the case takes a bit of Kung-Fu but is generally quite manageable. There’s a fine balance between durability and expandability in this case. Instead of a entirely plastic shell, the edges include a fine gap filled with rubber, allowing the CandyShell to minutely expand and envelope the iPad. Genius stuff. Once the iPad is in the case, it’s feels pretty darn good to hold.

It also features a snap off flip-back panel when you need to connect the iPad to a regular or a keyboard dock.

The CandyShell also addresses one of the iPad’s minor design flaws — it reduces the rocking action caused when typing on the on-screen keyboard.

To wrap up, the CandyShell offers superb protection without sacrificing style. I’d recommend one to any iPad owner. But hey, as MakeUseOf readers, we have a great offer for you today. We’re giving away FIVE Speck CandyShell iPad cases to readers worldwide. Here’s how you can win one for yourself.

How do I win one?

It’s simple, just follow the instructions.

Join our Facebook page by clicking the Like button or you can follow us on Twitter, if you prefer. If you’re already following us, you may skip this step.

If you can’t see the fanbox, click on this link.

Here’s our giveaway form. Please fill it in accurately. Be sure to enter your real name and email address so that we can get in touch if you are chosen as a winner. Click here if you can’t view the form.

You’re almost done. Now, all that’s left to do is to share the post. There are 2 options to choose from or you can do both!

Share it on Facebook

Or on Twitter

And that’s it! You’re done!

This giveaway begins now and ends Wednesday, September 1st at 2100hrs PST. The winners will be selected at random and announced via email.

Spread the word to your friends and have fun!

MakeUseOf would like to thank the fabulous team over at Speck 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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Create And Explore Alien Planets & Outer Space With exoExplorer

Posted: 25 Aug 2010 02:30 PM PDT

space simulation gamesThe term “exo” throughout many different branches of science has come to mean the speculative exploration of what forms science may take “outside” of the boundaries of earth. There are exo-biologists, exo-archaeologists and even ex-musicology (I kid you not). Some of these speculative theories are pretty interesting, especially when exploring what forms life on distant planets could possibly take – a bacteria, a colony of mutant ants, or humans just like us?

With the exploration of distant, alien worlds in mind, software developer Tom Morris, of the Division of Natural Sciences at Fullerton College, developed one of the most impressive simulations I’ve seen called exoExplorer

Here at MakeUseOf, we’ve covered a number of cool exploration apps like this, including Google Earth and Google Mars. There was also Jorge’s review of Stellarium, which lets you explore the night sky. But exoExplorer picks up where Stellarium leaves off – and actually lets you explore those alien planets with your own exploration vehicle.

I should note that getting the software to run well without crashing depends heavily upon the graphical capabilities of your video card, and how you’ve configured the graphics to run on your PC. If you have a powerful computer with a high-end video card, you have nothing to worry about. However, if you’re running on a modest or average PC or laptop, consider reducing the resolution and colors so that it runs without crashing.

Setting Up The exoExplorer Planetary Simulator

Setting up the software is a lot faster and easier than you might expect for such advanced simulation software. The first step is to choose the graphics rendering engine that will work best for your system. If you find that one seems to crash often, give the other engine a shot.

space simulation games

Once you do select the rendering subsystem, you can tweak the parameters so that it’ll run more smoothly on your system. In my case, running on my laptop with an average graphics card, I decided to reduce the resolution to 800 x 600 and turn off full-screen mode.

space simulation

Exploring The Universe From Your Computer

Once the software launches, you will be blown away by the depth of detail that has been put into this 3D simulation software. The first thing that struck me was the existing library of planets in the database. Each planet has its own atmospheric and terrain makeup, size, orbit, moon makeup and more. You can see the entire simulated planetary system in the center window – and your planned itinerary for your voyage is laid out in the left “Voyage Itinerary Bar.”

space simulation

As you select each planet from the extensive database listing at the bottom of the window, and then add it to your itinerary, the star, the planet and its orbit is highlighted in blue within the grid system in the center pane.

space simulation

On the right side of the screen, you can review the current properties for that planet. You have the option to modify that planet’s properties if you wish – and create an entirely new “exoPlanet” to explore. Change the terrain, moon properties and more.

space simulation systems

Of course, my favorite part of this software is the top pane called the “Leg Surface Bar.” The “leg” is the leg of your voyage. In this pane, you can use the control keys (A,W,S,D or the arrow keys) to drive your exploration vehicle across the surface of the planet. A word of warning – don’t turn to sharp or you’ll flip it over!

space simulation systems

If you click on the “Voyage Leg Orbit Bar” you can have a look at the layout of the planet’s orbit. The blue path represents the path of the planet’s orbit, and the red line is the radius.

space simulation systems

If you get bored with the current terrain and scenery, just tweak the terrain and moon properties, and change your vehicle to a Hummer, and start racing around a landscape filled with a lava surface. The stars in the sky above, the huge moon or sun that comes into view in the sky as you turn, and the rolling hills and valleys of the planet really turn this simulation into a fun and relaxing experience.

space simulation games

While there is a certain scientific aspect to this software, in that it was created as a theoretical way to correlate a planet’s properties with what it may be like to explore that planet, it is also filled with some cool features that make it like a simulation game in it’s own right. The project page portrays that you can select a small airplane as an exploration vehicle, but I wasn’t able to get that feature working (would love it if any readers could tell me how!)

Overall, exoExplorer is a great way to let your imagination come alive and see what it would be like to drive across alien landscapes. So install the software, fire up your Hummer, and head out on your voyage!

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Hot Tech Deals [Aug 25th]

Posted: 25 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. TODAY ONLY Crucial 2GB DDR2-667MHz PC2-6400 Dual Channel Laptop Memory $33.99
  2. TODAY ONLY Gigaware Foldable Laptop Cooling Fan $9.99 Free Shipping
  3. HP tm2t Intel Core i5 ULV 12in Touchscreen Laptop (6GB/500GB/Radeon HD5450/Blu-Ray) $909 via code NBH719469
  4. Kodak M340 10.2MP 3X Digital Camera $59.99 Free Shipping
  5. TODAY ONLY WD Caviar Green WD20EARS 2TB 64MB Cache 3.5in SATA Desktop Hard Drive $99.95 Free Shipping
  6. nMEDIAPC 6000B MicroATX HTPC Media Center Computer Case $69.99 Free Shipping via code HTPC0820A
  7. Flip UltraHD 8GB Digital Video Camcorder (720p) $139.99 Free Shipping via code GRLV3K996Q4TCX
  8. Iomega Prestige 500GB Portable External Hard Drive $54.99 Free Shipping via code L9G5NHWFKP7L3F
  9. Dell Ultrasharp U2311H 23 inch IPS LCD Monitor $239 Free Shipping via code VB5XX0VCT3S037
  10. LG E2250T-PN 22in LED-Backlit Widescreen LCD Monitor $152.99 via code LCDBTSPROMO
  11. Canon PowerShot D10 12.1 MP 3X Digital Camera (Waterproof/Shockproof/Cold Resistant) $215.99 via code 2KVH967BFCQVC4
  12. Panasonic VIERA TC-P42C2 42in Plasma HDTV (720p) $501 Free Shipping via code AFLPAN501
  13. Rosewill minifit XL Aluminum Netbook Cooling Pad (Fits up to 15in) $11.99 via code EMCYWZX56
  14. Hand Held Items Coupon Code: 20% off Apple iPad Cases + 70% discount via code ipadcases20
  15. Hitachi SimpleDrive Mini 500GB Portable External Hard Drive (Carbon Fiber) $59.99AR via code J8QRP?044HZW1Z
  16. HHI iPad Flip Leather Case with Magnetic Kick Stand + Screen Protector $12.99 via code ipadflipkstand
  17. Dell Inspiron 14z Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300 ULV 14in Laptop (4GB/500GB/2yr Warranty) $700.79 via codes 6KWMM0JFLZK0W? and ?8CN$RJ?W5TQ0C
  18. 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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How To Be More Productive With The Help Of Services [Mac]

Posted: 25 Aug 2010 12:30 PM PDT

mac servicesOne of the most overlooked great features of Mac OS X is probably “Services“. There are people who have used Mac for years and still don’t have slightest idea about this feature. Maybe it’s because this feature is “hidden” within the menu.

Services can unleash the potential power within Mac OS X and help any Mac users to be more productive. For example, one can quickly rotate images, rename files, or even convert video for iPod without the need to open any application. So let’s get acquainted with this feature and learn more about it.

A Little Bit About It

Finding the right words to explain about Services is not easy. So I’ll just tell you Apple’s definition, quoted from Automator:

Services are contextual workflows available throughout Mac OS X. They accept text or files from the current application or the Finder. Services appear in the Services menu.

From what I understand, Services allow users to access features of one application from within another application. For example, you can select text from a website in Safari and create and send an email message using the selected text.

mac services

The term “contextual” means that only a specific kind of Services will appear from within specific file types or applications. PDF-related services will only accessible from PDF files or applications which support PDF. So, even though there are literary hundreds of Services available, the Services menu won’t be cluttered with unused items.

You can access Services items via the application’s menu or via the pop-up right click menu. To access Services which are related to a specific file type, right click on the file from Finder, or select the file and click the task button.

mac services menu

Enabling, Disabling And Customizing

Applications that come with Mac OS X have services items related to their features. Most third party applications add their own services to enhance usage. Users can also create their own customized services if they want to. All of these services items can easily be enabled/disabled and customized according to your needs.

Open “System Preferences” and navigate to “Keyboard“.

mac services menu

From within Keyboard Preferences, go to “Keyboard Shortcuts” and choose “Services” from the left pane.

mac services menu

You will have the list of all available services items. To enable an item, check the box next to it. To disable, do the opposite.

The “Plus (+)” button is useful to add shortcuts to application’s menu. But that’s the topic of another discussion.

You can add shortcuts to Services items that you use a lot and save yourself several clicks to access them. To do that, select an item, press “Return“, and key in the combination that you like.

After enabling and assigning shortcut to an item, it will appear on the Services menu. As an example, I enabled the ability to turn selected text into spoken audio track. The result is a track called “Text to Speech” spoken by the chosen System Voice.

Now, every time I come across articles that I want to save and listen to from my iPod while I’m on the road, I just highlight the text and press the shortcut combination (Command + Option + T). I’m sure you can duplicate the method for other Services that useful for you.

Adding More Services

As mentioned above, Mac users can create their own customized services. But we would need a little help from an automation friend to achieve that.

Open Automator, and choose “Service“.

Decide what kind of input should the service that you are building receive. Also choose what application should this Service related to. Then drag and drop actions to build your Service.

mac services

Don’t forget to save your work after the building process is done.

Another way to add more services is by using pre-made services. You can use search engine to find services scattered around the net. One of the site that you can visit to get more ready to use services is Mac OS X Automation. The site also has nice tutorials on building Services.

Now that we are more familiar with Services, we can integrate more Services to our daily Mac usage. Hopefully Services can help us become more productive.

Do you use Services? Have you tried to build one tailored to your need? Share your experiences using the comment below.

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8 Panorama Websites For A 360 Degree Virtual Tour Around The World

Posted: 25 Aug 2010 11:30 AM PDT

panorama websiteThe beauty of a panorama can never be described in words; it has been to be seen to be believed. In an extremely crowded world, panoramic spots are few and far between. Oh yes, you can see an entire city laid out in front of you from the top of a skyscraper. But nothing beats watching the natural ones. For instance, the one from Yavapai Point at Grand Canyon is a natural wonder.

Wide angle photography and stitching software help creating our personal panoramas quite easy. It is these very skills and tools that have gone into creating panoramic worlds we can view in our browsers. You can consider panorama websites as another peephole for a bit of virtual tourism. Of course, just like the travel videos we covered earlier, they aren't the real life deal.

But even in a browser you might feel a touch of vertigo while taking in a bird's eye view of some of the world's most favored places. Widen your eyes and glance at these eight places for panoramic views from around the world.


panorama website has a good collection of panoramic vista from around the world. Most of the panoramic shots are geo-referenced and interactive. You can start off from the Editor's picks or go to their World panorama map and the Photographer map for travelling to a spot from a world map. You can watch the panoramas in full screen and navigate on it with the controls provided. The sweep of the eye is also represented on a Google map alongside.

If you have Google Earth installed, you can literally travel to spots around the world and view panoramas using a downloadable KML file.

But right now, I am checking out what they advertise as the world’s largest 360 panorama – an 18 Gigapixel shot of Prague.

panorama maker

The panorama website is the work of Hans Nyberg, a photographer and an enthusiast of immersive panoramic images. As he says, an interactive VR panorama cannot be seen in a book or on a printed image. It has to be experienced on a computer screen. The site also has links to other great resources for learning more about the art of VR photography. The site has a huge collection of panoramas from around the world. You can even check out Obama's Nobel Prize speech or panoramic photos from Tour de France.

Me? I went to the Grand Canyons.


panorama maker

The Gigapan panorama website is all about gigapixel panoramic images from around the world. What's interesting is that GigaPan was developed by Carnegie Mellon University in collaboration with NASA Ames Intelligent Robotics Group, with support from Google.

The panorama website also has a community formed around the common passion for panoramic photography. You can join for free. Use their uploader to share your panorama shots with the general community. You can search through the collection using the search box, or go for the orange filters at the top that are marked as – Most Popular, Most Recent, Tags, and Conversations. You can view a lot of the panoramas on Google Earth using the link given just below the snaps. The site does not give a full screen view, but Google Earth does.

I am checking out The Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz.


panorama maker

Immerse yourself in panoramic vistas of cities, museums, parks, local cafes and stores, cathedrals, and more. ARounder is an online travel magazine and a neat panorama website with a smaller collection than the ones before it. But it is neatly arranged according to region. And there are two outer-worldly places on the moon and Mars too for the space buffs. You can click a location and take a wide-eyed virtual tour through the place. You can also get ARounder's free iPhone app for some virtual sightseeing while on the move.

I am not going to Tahiti; instead let me do a bit of virtual roaming across the landscape of Mars for a change.



Panoguide is a free central stock of information and community discussion on panoramic photography. Their About page says that the panorama website is also a how-to on techniques for creating panoramic images using a conventional camera and “stitching” the images together on a computer. Click on the tab that says Gallery and dive into their collection that's arranged around country names. You can also use the Google Map for a point and click approach.

I always wanted to visit the Colosseum in Italy. Here I am doing it at night.



Select the wide variety of locations from the dropdown or on the map and you are there with two clicks. You can watch the default panorama or go for the high resolution image. The site's forum is also a spot to visit if you are interested in panoramas and photography.

I am returning to my country with a visit to the St. Carmel Church in Goa.



Panedia is a combination of Panoramic & Encyclopedia. It is actually a professional services site for 'georeferenced photography using immersive panoramic technologies'.  The site has a small collection of panoramic photos, all on Australia. Every panorama has hotpsots which are clickable links to more panoramas. If you like the Australian outdoors you can check out their small demo collection.

I am heading for the Garden of Eden Walk.

1001 Wonders

panorama website

It is a panorama tour of the sites that are listed on the World Heritage List compiled by UNESCO. Presently, 263 places are being showcased on the website. The ultimate goal is to panophotograph 1001 sites.

I am starting out with the Great Wall of China.

Like a 'third eye', Panorama virtual tours reveal the beauty around us. Tell us about your favorite virtual travels or even a real one.

Image credit: Hamed Saber

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Take Your Photography To The Next Level By Entering Free Photo Contests

Posted: 25 Aug 2010 10:31 AM PDT

free photo contestsOne of the ways to take your photography to the next level is by entering photo contests. Photo contests can be both a challenge for you as a photographer as well as provide you with exposure for your skills and creativity.

There are several contests which require an entry fee, but if you're just starting out, it will probably be best to check out several free options.

All but one of the contests listed below feature regular and monthly contests in which you can enter more than once. While the competition looks stiff for all these contests, the key to winning is submitting a lot and not being discouraged because you don't win. Above all, just have fun.

When you enter photo contests, you become a part of a community of serious and talented photographers who are sharing their work with the world.

Ampersand Magazine

The UK-based magazine, Ampersand, is holding its first annual open photography competition. It's open to all photographers, professional and non-professional.

”Submissions may or may not be landscapes, portraits, still lifes, wedding photography, glamour shots, theatrical scenes, wildlife, marketing photography, food photography, fashion photography, paparazzi or photo journalism. They may or may not be spontaneous or staged. They may or may not be natural or digitally augmented.”

free photo contests

The deadline is August 30th. A sample of the photos that have appeared in the magazine can also be viewed on their site, Capture the Fade.


If you have a little newborn or baby whom you no doubt take photos of on a regular basis, everybabies offers a free monthly contest for photos of babies between the ages 0 and 4. Any parent or guardian can enter the contests which are open to contestants from around the world.

The rules and schedule for submissions are very straight forward and easy to enter. TheCuteKid has a similar free contest open to its members.

photo contests


The photo gallery website, Soaphoto holds a free monthly contest for its members. Check out the work of past contest winners to get a feel for the competition. The contest is limited to the U.S. and all photos submitted must be shot with a digital camera.

photo contests


The very popular online photo magazine, JPGMag runs a series of thematic challenges, for self-portraits to urban photos. As a member of the free site, you can both submit and vote on entries for each challenge. Selections from the most favored photos are included in the magazine.

You do not have to subscribe to the magazine in order to participate. The challenges and photo guidelines have no geographic limits.

photo contests


online photo contests

Photos2win is an international photography contest site that holds a series of contests for both its free and paying members. Open contests are based on a wide range of topics and the monetary prizes are from $50 and up.

See entry guidelines for more information.

free photo contests

The best way to prepare a photo contest is to visit photo sites and view popular and well made photos. Try out various shooting and photo processing and enhancement techniques, and shoot, shoot, shoot. Often your best shots are not planned but come as a result of lots of shooting.

If you're new to photography, check our free MakeUseOf Essential Guide to Photography.  And let us know about other free contests that we missed.



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Watch Streaming Live TV News Online with Livestation

Posted: 25 Aug 2010 09:30 AM PDT

streaming newsWhen desktop apps become web apps, the result is usually happiness. That’s how I feel about Livestation, an online TV service we last reviewed in 2008. The site’s made huge strides since then, of course, offering streaming news stations from within your browser as well as expanding its players to many platforms. Whether you own an iPhone, a Blackberry, a Playstation 3 or even a Boxee box you can get live streaming news with this app.

In my recent article about websites where you can watch news online I mentioned that Al Jazeera offered 24 hour a day streaming news. It makes sense, then, that Al Jazeera is offered at Livestation, but what I wasn’t prepared for were the other stations offered here. Let’s take a look around!

Web Interface

streaming news

Head over to Livestation’s web site and you can start watching streaming news immediately. This is a huge improvement over the previous model, which required users to sign in before they could do so.

On the web you’ll have access only to Livestation’s partner stations. These include:

  • Al Jazeera, English and Arabic
  • BBC World Service (Radio Only)
  • BBC Persian
  • France24 (French, English and Arabic)
  • NasaTV (live feeds from space missions!)
  • UN TV

There’s more, of course; check out the full list of official stations here and start watching immediately. The formal partnerships Livestation has with these stations ensures they will be online 24/7 (or when available for stations like NASA that only broadcast during events.) Overall, Livestation’s web interface is a great way to quickly find a news broadcast to watch.

Desktop Client

But of course Livestation is more than a website. There’s a very nice desktop client available. It works for Windows, Mac and Linux computers, and has improved a lot since 2008. For example, the service now offers picture-in-picture:

Another cool feature is the “carousal,” a slick interface that makes for quick browsing of your channels:

streaming news

The desktop also gives you access to the many user-generated stations Livestation offers. These streams are similar to services such as UStream (check out this article for more information on starting your own broadcast with UStream.) Because these streams are unofficial, and frequently pirated, they tend to go down a lot. Still, it’s nice to have access to more content and these streams certainly deliver that.

Another new feature is the ability to pay for premium channels, including CNN International and Bloomberg. This is probably useless if you have cable, but could prove interesting for those who only want to pay for stations they actually watch.

Other Clients

If the web and your desktop just aren’t enough don’t worry: Livestation offers many ways to access it’s content, including:

Naturally the site keeps adding new services, so check frequently to see what’s being added.


I don’t have cable TV, so to me this is a wonderful addition to my web TV lineup. What I really love is the sheer diversity of ways to access the content, and the international nature of the content.

Can you find a use for a program like this? Do you like the changes Livestation’s made since our most recent review? As always comments make me happy, so do your part and say something!



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