Monday, August 30, 2010 “Cool Websites and Tools [August 29th]” plus 6 more “Cool Websites and Tools [August 29th]” plus 6 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [August 29th]

Posted: 29 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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OpenHeatMap – Data is useless until it becomes information. There are many ways to convert data into intelligent information and if the data you have is a location based data, OpenHeatMap is a great way to do that. OpenHeatMap is a simple tool that takes your Excel, CSV file or Google Docs spreadsheet with Geo data and creates a heat map out of it. Read more: OpenHeatMap: Create Heat Maps For Excel Spreadsheets With Geo Data


FontFonter – Web FontFonts are special screen optimized fonts optimized for viewing within a browser. Many users find them easier to read than regular fonts. To get an idea of how a webpage will look with Web FontFonts, pay a visit to Font Fonter. Read more: FontFonter: Preview Any Website Text in Screen Optimized Fonts



Browser Cover -If you want an image displayed within a certain browser frame, then “Browser Cover” is just the tool for you. Browser Cover is a simple and free web based tool. The tool displays a given image within a browser frame. The site supports a number of browsers including Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. Read more: Browser Cover: Add Browser Frames To Any Image



Sneffel – is a web based whiteboard that lets you create diagrams, share them with friends, embed them on your website, and collaborate on them with others. While this sounds typical of a real-time, virtual whiteboard, Sneffel has an interesting feature which might help it stand out. Read more: Sneffel: Web Based Whiteboard To Share Diagrams & Ideas.



ShrinkTheWeb – You probably heard of ShrinktheWeb, an online tool that compiles website thumbnails and automates the process so you can easily publish them on your website. We love them so much that we decided to make them one of our default tools for generating website thumbnails for our articles. Read more: ShrinkTheWeb: Improved Thumbnail Screenshot Generator.


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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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Thank You To MakeUseOf Friends!

Posted: 29 Aug 2010 07:31 PM PDT

Thank you, friends.

It's time to say thanks to MakeUseOf’s friends who, once in a while, tip us great story ideas, help out on different projects and in some cases offer their services at discounted prices. Thank you, guys!

ShrinkTheWeb – Website Screenshot Thumbnail Service
Ever wanted to add website screenshots to your website? In my professional opinion ShrinkTheWeb is one of the best services for that, both in terms of performance and pricing. The free account gets you a whopping 250,000 impressions with nearly no delay. See it in action in our daily Cool Websites and Tools series.


Walyou – Cool Gadgets for Geeks
new cool gadgets
Walyou is a fun blog covering all sorts of new cool gadgets and other stuff every geek is likely to find entertaining. Everything from world’s largest Gunny Bears to E-hookah gadgets. Make sure to check them out.

PXLEyes – Photoshop Contests and Tutorials
photoshop contests & tutorials
The place for graphical artists! An awesome community with one common interest: a big passion for computer graphics! There are contests, prizes, tutorials, forums and an active community!


rade | eccles – iPhone Application Development
The perfect iPhone development team, rade | eccles managed to put our iPhone app together in record time yet exude professionalism and dedication every step of the way. Our collaboration wasn’t happenstance. We would make the same decision all over again. Our only recommendation for an iPhone developer – rade | eccles.


TrueKolor – Affordable Quality Logo and Banner Design
If you’re looking for a cheap, original and quality logo or banner, check out TrueKolor. We often contact these guys when we need a logo or a banner made, some of the stuff they did for us listed on their portfolio page. Highly recommended.


Mobify – Making the Web a mobile place
More and more users access websites and read blogs using their mobile phone. Mobify lets you mobilize your blog or website by creating lightweight version of it, which loads much faster and looks great on a mobile screen. MakeUseOf’s mobile site was created by Mobify, and we’re proud of it!


Thank you, guys!

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What Do You Think Of The New DIGG? [MakeUseOf Poll]

Posted: 29 Aug 2010 06:30 PM PDT

Last week, we asked which multi-purpose login service you use when you have a choice. And, it seems that for most of us, that’s Google.

From the 345 votes, we had exactly 50% using Google for log-in. 17% of readers choose to make a new account whenever possible (rather than using a multi-purpose login). The next most popular login was Facebook on 10% of votes. Twitter is used by 5% of readers, while all other multi-login choices were used by fewer than 5% of voters – a handful received no votes at all!

Full results and this week's poll after the jump.

Google is quite clearly the MakeUseOf reader’s choice of login.

This week's poll question is: What do you think of the new DIGG?

This week, thanks to John McClain’s suggestion, we’re keen to know what you think of the new DIGG.

Love it? Hate it? Don’t care? Let us know why in the comments!

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Top 4 Freeware Spam Blockers That Actually Work

Posted: 29 Aug 2010 03:31 PM PDT

In 1978 Gary Thuerk sent the first ever spam email advertising a new range of microcomputers to 400 users of the ARPANET service. In 2010 we're still looking for a solution to this increasingly frustrating problem, and most of us don't want to pay.

We get quite a lot of spam here at MakeUseOf, but then so does anyone with an email address these days. Even if your email's not public, many users get targeted by so-called “dictionary” attacks against their email providers. One solution is to use temporary email addresses, but if you’re already receiving a lot of spam then the problem’s going to remain.

So if you're can't see your inbox for junk and need a break from hitting “delete” then maybe you should try one of these free services.


Ok, so it's not a spam blocker per se – but it’s one of the many features you can take advantage of and it gets the job done. Gmail uses a spam filter known as Postini, which is usually a commercial affair. By using Gmail you're essentially getting a very expensive spam filter completely free of charge.

The beauty of Google's email service lies in the ability to connect your bog-standard POP3 accounts, allowing you to “collect” your mail from Google's web interface. Gmail's advanced spam filtration will help filter all incoming messages, and any detections will be labelled accordingly and kept out of sight.

Once you've registered (choose a good spam-proof address), you can add an address under the Accounts tab in Gmail's Settings. You won't need to go quoting your new email, as you'll still effectively be using your old accounts.

Using the Send mail as tool in the same configuration panel will allow you to send email from the addresses you've added too, and all you need to check and send mail is a web browser.


What's better than one email address? Two, it would seem.

With integrated virus protection, this spam filter works by forwarding mail from your main (probably public and spam-riddled) inbox through the Spamfence filters and on to another private “clean” email address. Any messages that are detected as spam along the way will be marked accordingly, and you have full control over what is done with these messages.

The service adds a subject header to each message, so if you want you can allow everything through and make your own rules up with your client. Think of the extra virus protection as a free gift, not that the service will cost you anything.


If you're a Windows user with a mail client such as Outlook, Thunderbird or Eudora then chances are you'll be looking at a solution you can download and run alongside your existing setup. Spamihilator is just that, and it even claims to have a 98% success rate.

The filter sits between the big bad internet and your client, removing messages it deems to be spam. You can also train this filter, so after a while it'll know what to do based on your previous decisions. There's a training area to help get the learning process started, and you can even add specific words to a blacklist (thus removing future emails featuring these words).

That's not all, there's also link filtration and the ability to download plugins. Spamihilator provides a load of protection from spam, and it’s completely free.

MailWasher Free

The only program on this list with a commercial bigger brother, MailWasher Free is a simple program that can help clean up your POP3, IMAP or webmail email address. Download the program, connect to your email and preview as many incoming messages as you like before deciding whether you want to download them or not.

Using a similar Bayesian filter as Spamihilator, this program will also learn from your actions and train itself to adhere to your rules once you’ve made a few spam-busting decisions.

Being the “Free” version, you're limited to a maximum of 1 email account (and lose out on search, a customizable interface and updates). This isn't so bad, the free version really is free (forever) and if you do decide you really like it, then you could always treat yourself.


Spam’s just as annoying as it ever was, but with a couple of clever moves on your part you can help minimize it. If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, check out Ryan’s guide to setting up SpamAssassin on Windows. And don’t forget to mix it up, for example connecting your POP3 mailboxes to a Gmail account, through Spamfence and then onto another clean account will probably work wonders for your junk email problems.

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Hot Tech Deals [Aug 29th]

Posted: 29 Aug 2010 01:15 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. Razer Mamba Wired OR Wireless Gaming Laser Mouse (Refurb) $79.99 Free Shipping
  2. OCZ Agility Series OCZSSD2 30GB 2.5in Solid State Hard Drive (SSD, TRIM) $85AR
  3. OCZ Gold 6GB (3×2GB) DDR3-1600 PC3-12800 Triple Channel Memory + OCZ 4GB Flash Drive $125.99AR Free Shipping
  4. LaCie Grand 2TB External Hard Drive $119.99 Free Shipping
  5. Seagate Momentus 5400.6 500GB 2.5in Internal SATA Laptop Hard Drive $49.99 Free Shipping
  6. ASUS VE276Q 27 inch Widescreen Monitor (DisplayPort & HDMI) $319.99 Free Shipping
  7. Panasonic TC-P42S2 42in Plasma HDTV (1080p) $643.90 Free Shipping via code BONUSBUY
  8. LG E2250T-PN 22in LED-Backlit Widescreen LCD Monitor $152.99 via code LCDBTSPROMO
  9. Apple iBook G4 1.33GHz 12.1in Laptop (REFURB/1GB/40GB) $269.99 via code APPLE
  10. Dell Inspiron 14z Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300 ULV 14in Laptop (4GB/500GB/2yr Warranty) $700.79 via codes 6KWMM0JFLZK0W? and ?8CN$RJ?W5TQ0C
  11. HHI iPad Flip Leather Case with Magnetic Kick Stand + Screen Protector $12.99 via code ipadflipkstand

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set

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10 Free MP3 Albums To Download [Sound Sunday]

Posted: 29 Aug 2010 12:31 PM PDT

where can I download free mp3sSound Sunday has introduced you to well over 100 free albums in the past couple of months. I do hope you have discovered a few new favorites. This series relies on artists who release their music for free and the artists rely on you.

It’s up to you to support the music you enjoy. Will you buy the umpteenth record of U2 and spend $100 on an overblown show of Madonna, or will you donate a few bucks and go see a small gig of an artist who released an incredibly well done album you could download for free?

In any case, we hope that you will share what you like with your friends and family.

Stars Go Dim – Love Gone Mad

Genre: pop, rock

where can I download free mp3sOriginally, Stars Go Dim never meant to make music professionally. The band was a hobby and the goal was to play a live gig every now and then. But it all changed when they started winning songwriting awards and had their music featured on TV shows and movies. Last but not least, they had a #1 hit in the Philippines.

Download the album from their Homepage, no strings attached. Find the flash banner advertising the free download in the left hand sidebar and click it.

Stars Go Dim MySpace and Homepage.

Brutal Youth – Spill Your Guts

Genre: punk, hardcore

where can I download free mp3sNamed after an Elvis Costello album, this punk band from Newfoundland, Canada just released their debut album Spill Your Guts. With three of its four members also playing in the punk rock band The Class War Kids, they aren’t new to the scene.

Get the album straight from Death To False Hope Records.

Brutal Youth MySpace and Facebook.

Zoogma – Recreational Vehicles

Genre: electronica, rock, jazz, hip hop, dance

where can I download free mp3sZoogma is a rock group with a DJ that mixes up a range of genres to form their very unique sound. The band is touring the US until mid November. Check out the dates on MySpace or their Homepage and go out to see them if you can. I hear they have a fantastic light show.

The album is available from their Homepage in exchange for little bits of information.

Zoogma MySpace and Homepage.

BOSCO – Spectrum 2.0

Genre: alternative, indie, experimental, jazz, soul

where can I download free mp3sBrittany Bosco, aka BOSCO, is an artist from Savannah, Georgia. Being a professionally trained singer, she is able to use her voice in ways most young talents can only dream of. The album was originally released in September last year, but it’s timeless.

Spectrum 2.0 is a free and direct download from Bandcamp.

BOSCO MySpace and Facebook.

Depakote – The Gummo Album

Genre: instrumental, funk, hip hop, soul

where can I download free mp3sThis album is conceptually drawn around Harmony Korine’s 1997 experimental indie film Gummo. Not surprisingly, it adopts the slightly sad atmosphere of said movie. This is Depakote’s second album, released free by his record company to introduce him to a wider audience. That’s you!

The album comes straight from Depakote’s London based record label Highpoint Lowlife. No questions asked. Look for the orange colored word ‘here’ in the first paragraph.

Depakote MySpace and Homepage.

The Basics – /ðə’bæzɪtʃ/

Genre: indie, pop, rock

where can I download free mp3sThe Melbourne based band The Basics recently released the live album /ðə’bæzɪtʃ/. It was recorded “infront of a live studio audience” at the Northcote Social Club in February this year. To round it up the album was mixed at the famous Abbey Road Studios in London, UK.

Download this album from Bandcamp in exchange for your email address and location.

The Basics MySpace and Homepage.

Koen – Outputs

Genre: instrumental, minimalist, beats, hip hop

where can I download free mp3sKoen is the producer of the Dutch hip hop group Blocnotes. Based out of Groningen, Netherlands he has released his own album earlier this month. Outputs contains 7 tracks with a license to chill.

Pull the album from Bandcamp. Input required.

Koen MySpace and Homepage.

StatikMusic – BEAT + 1

Genre: instrumental, hip hop, soul, beats

where can I download free mp3sAmsterdam based StatikMusic invites you to record on any track of their BEAT + 1 album and submit it to them via statikmusic at gmail dot com. They are planning to re-release the album later this year. Also check out their Homepage for free downloads of State and the re-release of Statik.

The album is available from Bandcamp and their Homepage.

StatikMusic MySpace and Homepage.

Chasing Amee – Sampler 2010

Genre: pop, punk, rock

where can I download free mp3sWith a name clearly inspired by the Kevin Smith flick Chasing Amy, this band from Toronto, Canada isn’t nearly as sweet as Ben Affleck. Chasing Amee are hot and wild! Following their 2009 debut EP Wet Dreams & Drama Queens, they have now released the Sampler 2010.

Download the album one song after the other from PureVolume.

Chasing Amee MySpace and Facebook.

Moxie Black – How Did This Happen?

Genre: pop, electro, hip hop

where can I download free mp3sMoxie Black is a duo from Portland, Oregon, featuring rapper iLLA and producer Brian Dekker. How Did This Happen? is their skilfully crafted debut album. It incorporating electro-pop beats, elements of rock, and melodies of R&B – a fantastic mix.

Download the album from Bandcamp. Questions asked!

Moxie Black MySpace and Homepage.

Past editions of Sound Sunday are available here. Would you like to see your free download featured in an upcoming article? Please get in touch with me (tina at makeuseof dot com). Please contribute your thoughts in the comments. All feedback is appreciated.

What is your favorite album this Sunday?

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4 Great & Inspiring Sites For Creative Writers To Visit

Posted: 29 Aug 2010 10:31 AM PDT

writing sitesWriting is diminishing in these modern, online times. Most of what’s written online is “scanned”, rather than read.

Rather than being incompatible though, the web and (creatively) written words are perfectly compatible. Don’t forget that the Internet started out as just a bunch of text.

As a creative author – professional or aspiring – the web can be a wonderful place. Below are some of the best and most inspiring places a word doctor can go.

Since being founded in 2000, has grown out to be the single largest writing community site on the web – and not only thanks to the convenient web address. Even after a relatively recent design overhaul, the website still looks a bit old school. At times, browsing the website can feel a bit stiff, but what it misses in UI, it makes up for in content.

writing sites

Users can hone their pen by writing within a number of subgroups, embedded in the Interactive and Non-interactive categories. Non-interactive documents are one-document short-stories, poems, essays, interviews and (despite the article subject) even non-fiction. Sadly, a premium membership is required to use the multiple chapter book templates.

The non-interactive categories include interactive stories, campfire stories (spinning stories in a group of close friends), and even quizzes. is the largest, and quite possibly the most feature-rich writing community. Because of its size, evidently not all writing hosted on the writing site is quality material. But the rich interaction, and support for independent formats, makes it a worthy place to try your pen.


Storybird is a rather interesting collaborative storytelling project, focused around picture books. Ordinarily, two or more people connect over the site, and write part of the picture book in turn, in a robin go round style. Additional people need to invited by the one who started the story, so the collaboration is aimed on friends and family – perhaps a parent with child.

If you want, though, you can write the entire story on your own.

writing sites

The pictures are supplied by a small army of artists. Before you hit off, the site asks you to pick a work of art from the gallery, or browse by art themes. Starting off from your initial pick, the Storyboard story maker, depicted above, is filled with a jumble of other drawings by the same artist. You can drag these drawings on the canvas, and add text. Finished picture books can be shared online, made public on the site or (in the future) even printed!


Protagonize is a modern, aesthetic writing community that’s been around since 2008, and has received much acclaim. It’s entirely based around collaborative storytelling, and is perhaps the only one of these kinds of writing sites that actually feels good to use.

Central are the interactive stories, or so-called addventures. These stories consist of small chapters, after which a choice is presented to the reader. The reader can effectively direct the character through the adventure.

It’s by all means not a new concept, but the web has given it a whole new dimension. It’s not just directing the story anymore. You can start, or continue on a whole new branch of the story, and everyone can contribute!

story writing sites

Apart from the addventures, you can also start a collaborative linear story, where other writers are able to add new fragments, but can’t branch off. If you’re not all the community-animal, you can opt for solo stories as well, but believe me when I say you’re missing out on a lot of fun.


Like Protagonize, Bibliofaction is focused on one kind of storytelling, but it’s not interactive. Instead, they believe in the power of the short story, it being “perfect for this busy day and age”. The main goal of Bibliofaction is to re-promote creativity to a generation that has been lulled by fixed-format reality TV, or for that matter, any kind of entertainment.

story writing sites

Like that, Bibliofaction is becoming the modern home of the short story, a day where writers and readers meet, and share experiences. Another nice incentive are the short story competitions, which are held by Bibliofaction. Show off the true might of your pen, and you might even win a couple of attractive prizes.

What do you think of the above writing sites? Do you know any alternatives, that we shouldn’t have missed? By all means, let us know in the comments section below.

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