Wednesday, September 1, 2010 “Cool Websites and Tools [August 31st]” plus 11 more “Cool Websites and Tools [August 31st]” plus 11 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [August 31st]

Posted: 31 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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Strobox – Lighting plays a vital role when it comes to taking a good picture. Sites like Flickr let you view billions of photos and some of them are really amazing but there is no way for you to know how that photo was shot. Strobox is a photo sharing community that focuses on sharing photos with lighting schemes. Read more: Strobox: View & Share Photos With Their Lighting Setups


ToneCheck – When speaking, our tone plays an important role in getting the right message across. When we write down our thoughts, our tone is not always properly translated which leaves room for misunderstanding. This is what ToneCheck attempts to solve. Read more: ToneCheck: Avoid Sending Wrong & Passive Aggressive Emails



Nature Sounds -Have you ever been to the park and noticed people reading a book there? Some people work comfortably with the sounds of nature surrounding them. If you are such a person then “Free Nature Sounds” is just the site for you. Read more: Free Nature Sounds Streaming & Downloads



FlexJobs -The internet has provided a new era of working as we get to work in a job that has a more flexible setup and allows us to take control of our time. FlexJobs is a web service that helps people find work opportunities with flexible arrangements such as part-time, telecommute, and freelance jobs. You can view the different job offers from several hundreds of clients. Read more: FlexJobs: Find Telecommuting Jobs & Part-Time Jobs.



Seriesly – Do you constantly check torrent websites for the latest episodes of your favorite TV shows? If yes, then you probably end up wasting a lot of time in this checkup process. Thankfully Seriesly is here to save all of that time. Seriesly is a free web service that lets you stay in touch with good quality torrent links of upcoming episodes of TV shows. Read more: Seriesly: Get New Episode Notifications For Selected TV Shows.


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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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How To Install A BuddyPress Social Network On Wordpress 3.0

Posted: 31 Aug 2010 07:31 PM PDT

wordpress plugin buddypressHave you ever felt like running your very own social networking site?  I know I have.  Have I actually got up and done it?  Not yet.  But with Wordpress 3.0 it is now easy to set one up.

A while back Damien wrote an article about how to install and run your very own social network using Wordpress.  At the time you had to download and install Wordpress MU (or Wordpress Multi User) in order to install BuddyPress and therefore to have your own social network.

Since the advent of Wordpress 3.0, regular Wordpress and Wordpress MU has now been merged together.  In other words, if you have upgraded your blog to Wordpress 3.0, you have the features of MU built right in.  You just have to activate them.

This is good news for someone who wants to use BuddyPress because they don’t have to download and install Wordpress MU.  Check out how easy it is now to install BuddyPress now that we have Wordpress 3.0.

1. Activate Networking Abilities Of Wordpress 3.0.

It’s kind of a mystery to me why the multi-site abilities of Wordpress 3.0 are hidden behind a few hacks but they are.  Wordpress 3.0 does not act like MU right out of the box.  Check out this article about how to turn your Wordpress blog into a blog network using Wordpress 3.0.  Do what’s outlined there and you’ll be ready to move on to the next step.

2. Install The BuddyPress Plugin

Installing the BuddyPress plugin (it’s actually a group of plugins packed together) is as easy as installing any Wordpress plugin.  Just head to the plugins section of the Admin screen and search for Buddypress.

wordpress plugin buddypress

Just make sure it is the correct plugin and you’re good to go.

3. Activate A BuddyPress Compatible Wordpress Theme

After installing the proper plugin, you’ll probably get a message saying: “You’ll need to activate a BuddyPress compatible theme to take advantage of all of the features. We’ve bundled a default theme, but you can always install some other compatible themes or upgrade your existing WordPress theme.”

installing buddypress

If you don’t have one downloaded already, click the “install some other compatible themes” link.  For the time being I chose to use the default theme.

installing buddypress

That’s all there really is to setting up BuddyPress on Wordpress 3.0.  It’s as easy as enabling networking, installing a plugin and installing a compatible theme.  From here it’s up to you to find a niche and users to use this tool.  Take some time and become familiar with some of the features before you get too many users asking for help.  Check out these features:

1. Activity Streams – See What Everyone Is Up To

installing buddypress

You can view the activity streams of individuals, groups or even the whole site.

2. Extended Profiles – “About Me” Pages For Users


You have control over what fields users can fill in to describe themselves.  They can upload an avatar too.

3. Private Messaging

wordpress plugin buddypress

Private messaging is like an internal email system.  Send messages to other users that only they can see (image from the BuddyPress homepage).

There’s also other features common to social networking like friend connecting, blogging, and discussion forums.  Check these out at the BuddyPress homepage.  Also try out the test site by going to and signing up for an account.

Is BuddyPress the only way to create your own social networking site?  No.  There are what Damien called “3rd party social network providers.”  Check out Groupsite to create a free network without having to handle all of the installation and setting up.  As we know, there are pluses and minuses to both but your needs may dictate which direction you choose to go in.

Do you run a social networking site?  What do you use to do it?  We want to know.

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The 10 Toughest Tech Questions [MakeUseOf Answers]

Posted: 31 Aug 2010 07:30 PM PDT

Improve your Karma by helping people solve their tech issues at MakeUseOf Answers. And if you don’t care for Karma, you may fancy the cash.  The Best Answer of the Week is worth $50.

A contest winner is announced every Friday. Make sure you use a valid eMail address, Facebook, Yahoo, or Disqus account to share your knowledge. We will use this information to contact you in case you win.

The following difficult or unresolved questions are waiting for your help:

  1. How can I tweak the internet download speed of my mobile phone?
  2. What is the best free java collections framework program online?
  3. How can I make the Windows XP system volume level remain at a fixed level?
  4. Can AcceleNet compression software for servers enhance satellite broadband download speeds?
  5. Why does Windows XP search for HP Smart Web Print anytime I click an item in the start menu?
  6. Can you recommend a financial software for Mac OS X?
  7. Which television service is the best value?
  8. How can I find out when and to whom an 'email as attachment' was sent using Google Docs?
  9. How can I share a wireless connection via ethernet cable on Ubuntu 10.04?
  10. How can I set up an internet connection in Linux Mint?

MakeUseOf Answers may provide solutions to your questions. Browse by Latest Questions, Unanswered Questions or Most Popular Questions. For regular updates subscribe to the Answers RSS Feed.

Need help? Ask A Question at MakeUseOf Answers.

Can AcceleNet compression software for servers enhance satellite broadband download speeds

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10 Reasons You Should Be Visually Bookmarking With Zootool

Posted: 31 Aug 2010 06:31 PM PDT

visual bookmarksI’m a visual learner, so physically viewing something is my preferred experience in life. It is this characteristic that causes me to find a lot of great images and videos on the web. In fact, I find so much interesting stuff that sometimes I just want to save it, so I turn to bookmarking and web clipping apps.

I also like web design and social media, so I save some things as creative inspiration and I like to share others with my friends and followers. Now that I’ve found Zootool, everything just got a lot easier.

In this article, I am going to give you several reasons why you should be using Zootool.

Whether you’re a web designer, photographer, artist, visual observer, or you just like to collect cool stuff you find online, you should find this app useful.

1. Extremely Easy To Use

visual bookmarks

First of all, you won’t get a headache trying to figure out how to use this thing, which is a plus in and of itself. Zootool has what they call a Lasso button.

visual bookmarks

When you first sign up, you will be taken to the quick-tour page where you can drag the Lasso button up to your bookmarks bar. Just click the button whenever you’re on a page to save your favorite images, videos, documents, and webpages in Zootool.

2. Collect Tons Of Cool Stuff

visual bookmarking

Zootool basically allows you to build your own little library of interesting things you find on the web. You can collect images, videos, documents, or whatever else you can think of. Collect whatever you want and you can view it all later. This is what visual bookmarking is all about.

3. Organize ‘Stuff’ Easily

visual bookmarking

After collecting lots of cool stuff you find, it helps to have a way to keep it organized. Zootool allows you to do that quite easily. With its intuitive interface your ‘Zoo’ is really easy to browse and you can use the tagging features to keep everything filed neatly.

Zootool has a great thumbnail feature that allows you to browse your collection visually, instead of by just searching for keywords like you might be used to with other services.

4. Amazing With Evernote

Rather than pitch Zootool as an alternative to Evernote, I feel the two programs work really well together. I’m a huge fan of Evernote as a note-taking/web clipping tool – and yes, technically Evernote can do most of what Zootool does – but I like to keep Evernote for my notes when I work and leave the visual stuff (e.g. images, videos) to Zootool.

visual bookmarking

If you’re a frequent user of Evernote, Zootool can also keep your monthly usage down. For free accounts, Evernote allows you 40MB per month which – if you want to save big images – isn’t very much. I will be using these tools in conjunction with one another to stay organized going forward.

5. Massive Sharing Abilities

Sharing web content has never been easier. Here is a list of accounts you can connect Zootool with:

  • Delicious
  • Facebook
  • Friendfeed
  • Tumblr
  • Twitter
  • Blogger
  • Brightkite
  • Digg
  • Dopplr
  • Dribbble
  • Ember
  • ffffound
  • Flickr
  • Forrst
  • Foursquare
  • Github
  • Gowalla
  • LinkedIn
  • MySpace
  • Pattern Tap
  • Plazes
  • Posterous
  • Slideshare
  • Stumbleupon
  • Vimeo
  • Xing
  • YouTube

Enough said.

6. Works Well With Blogs

You may have noticed that there are a couple of blogging platforms in the above list. Since Zootool connects with platforms like Blogger, Tumblr, and Posterous, you can post all the interesting images and videos you find to your blog for all to see. Just be sure you aren’t violating any of the original image creator’s rights!

7. Sync With Your Other Bookmarking Accounts

visual bookmark manager

You can also sync your current bookmarks with Zootool. You can upload any bookmark file from Delicious, Safari, Firefox, or any other browser or service, as well as export your Zootool bookmarks for use with other services.

8. Enjoy Fancy Previews Of Your Images

visual bookmark manager

I can’t get over how great everything looks in Zootool. When viewing your collection, you are already looking at decently sized thumbnails of all your bookmarks, but if you double-click an image or hit the space bar, you can view a bigger version of the image (with information), not unlike Google’s Picasa program.

9. See What Others In The Community Have Saved

visual bookmark manager

If you’re looking for ideas on what to bookmark, look no further than your Zootool homepage. There you can view what everyone in the community is saving, and you can filter the results by everyone, just those you’re following, and the most popular of the day, week, month, year, or all-time.

10. There Is A Chrome Extension

Last but not least, Zootool has an unofficial Chrome extension. If you’re not keen on the Lasso button or would just rather have the Chrome extension – which you can disable and re-enable at any time – you can download that here.


I could easily go on and give you 10 more reasons to use Zootool, but I don’t want to hold you up any more than I already have. Anyone who is into design will appreciate this app’s simplicity and functionality. When you break it down, the concept behind Zootool is so simple, yet it delivers a great experience and it will help you accomplish most anything you could think of using it for.

If you’re looking for somewhat similar tools I suggest you check out Skloog, SiteHoover, and

Will you be adding Zootool to your arsenal? Leave your thoughts, ideas, and comments below. If you found this article useful, share it with your friends/followers!

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Create A Mobile Website From Your RSS Feed With WINKSite

Posted: 31 Aug 2010 04:31 PM PDT

create a mobile websiteOne aspect of owning a website or a blog that few people think about is offering mobile content. The problem with forgetting about the mobile community is that mobile is the trend of the Internet. More people are checking Facebook, reading and responding to emails, and yes – reading their favorite websites right from their mobile phones.

In 2008, Aibek observed how quickly the mobile Internet was taking off. If you are looking to capture potential visitors wherever they are, then offering mobile content is the way to do that.

The problem is that not everyone has time to put together a mobile version of their website or blog.

In 2010, MakeUseOf began work on offering readers an updated mobile alternative. If you’re looking to offer mobile content, but you aren’t really comfortable or knowledgeable with the web coding required, an excellent option is to make use of WINKSite, a free service that instantly converts your RSS feed into a high quality mobile site.

Setting Up Your Mobile Site

Getting your mobile website set up is ridiculously easy, and requires zero programming knowledge. All you have to do is sign up for a free WINKSite account, and then from the dashboard click on “Create a Site.” The next screen is where you’ll set up an individual mobile site.

If you want to have your existing RSS feed used as the source for your mobile site content, make sure to click on “Blog” and fill in the link to the URL or your RSS feed URL.

create a mobile website

The beauty of this service is that you can personalize the mobile site to look however you like. Adjust the color scheme and upload your own header photo. In my case I’ve uploaded the FWC logo and centered it at the top of the mobile site.

create a mobile website

As you adjust the color and header settings, you can see a small preview of what the mobile site will look like in the right hand column. Once you’re done, you’ll end up on the dashboard page.  Another awesome thing about WINKSite is the fact that there are so many available content types that you can create for absolutely free and add to your mobile site. These are things like a forum, a chat room, surveys and much more.

make a mobile website

Adding Content To Your Mobile Site

While you could just allow your RSS feed to update your new mobile website automatically, you have the option to add new, unique content for your mobile readers only. For example, create a survey that will be featured in the “survey channel” in the link listings. Setting  up a new survey requires that you fill out one simple form, and you’re done.

make a mobile website

You can even create an Ezine to go along with your blog! All setup and content creating takes place on the WINKSite website, and again the entire process makes use of a very simple wizard. You can create the entire e-zine by packaging up several articles within one e-zine issue.

make a mobile website

Fill out the forms to create each article within your e-zine, and you’re good to go. You can schedule the publication date at a later time, and you can make it so articles expire and are only visible publicly for a limited time.

As though all of these add-ons weren’t enough, you can also add a Forum channel to your mobile site, where visitors can post comments and have conversations that pertain to the content on your mobile website. This is a great way to build community around the topics that you publish on your site.

You can even issue “field reports” to your mobile blog by sending a text message or an email that gets posted to the site, depending how you configure it to work in your mobile blog Field Reports settings.

Once you’re finished setting everything up, check out your new mobile site by accessing the URL that was provided to you when you created the site. Here is what the main page of my FreeWritingCenter mobile site looks like on my Motorola Droid.

Click on any of the story titles, and you get a view of the RSS feed content. The display will look differently here, depending on whether you post an excerpt or the entire article to the RSS feed. In my case, I post an excerpt, so the visitor will have to click the link to view the entire HTML website. To be more compatible for all mobile phones, it would probably be better to post the entire article to the feed so they can view it from within your mobile site.

Overall, WINKSite is a useful resource for generating a version of your website that will display properly on mobile devices. It works well, and configuration is so easy that anyone can do it. It would be nice to have a little bit more control over the formatting and to have the ability to insert HTML into some of the forms, but for the most part it performs a valuable service for website owners, and it does it well.

Do you have a mobile version of your website? If not, give WINKSite a shot and let us know what you think!

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Top 5 Free Computer Maintenance Tools You Should Know About

Posted: 31 Aug 2010 03:31 PM PDT

computer maintenance toolsComputer systems, like any other device, need maintenance. Computer maintenance is generally different from vehicles, appliances and others, mainly because you have to maintain not only the hardware but also the software that you use on your computer.

Software can get outdated, you might have cruft and then there are chores related to the operating system itself – registry, virus cleaning and the likes.

While you might have to shop around in the local market for hardware maintenance, for software PC maintenance we have some very good free utilities that you should check out.

1. Cleaning Tools

As is obvious from the name, these help you keep your system clean. What they clean your system of, depends on what you are using. There are registry cleaners, file system cleaners, secure file erasers and general purpose all in one solutions.

Most of these operate on the registry, optimizing it for performance. There are others which delete temporary files and dangling shortcuts. While the gain is not substantial, you might experience a snappier performance if you have not cleaned up your computer for a while.

As for the solutions available – CCleaner is well known in the field. It can clean browser tracks and cookies for almost all popular browsers out there, take care of unused icons, invalid shortcuts, DLLs and clean the MRU and recent document history as well.

computer maintenance tools

Another popular choice is nCleaner. nCleaner offers similar functionality along with scan scheduling, a tweaks manager, services manager, a resource monitor and system advisor.

2. Uninstaller

The Windows Control Panel provides functionality that lets you remove unwanted applications from your computer. It does a decent job for the occasional use that you might put it to. However, if you try out a number of software, or if you have experienced a stubborn software that refuses to uninstall, you should look into some of the 3rd party software managers and uninstallers.

computer maintenance software

Revo Uninstaller and IObit Uninstaller are the better ones out there. They offer features like letting you track the most storage hungry software or the ones you rarely use in addition to managing installed Windows updates. Such software usually features a force uninstall mode that lets you override settings or locked files that may be preventing an uninstaller from functioning.

3. Software Updater

computer maintenance software

Keeping software up to date is important. Not only for keeping up with the latest features but also for bug fixes and security updates. Many software these days have an update feature built in, web browsers being an excellent example. The software can talk to a server and let you know of important updates or newer versions.

For other software that do not have the feature built in or if you are more interested in a Linux-like centralized update mechanism, you can have a look at some of the previously covered software updaters. AppSnap, QWinApt or Techtracker should be a good place to start.

In addition there are other ways like subscribing to update feeds and some additional tools are detailed here.

4. System Info Tools

computer maintenance software

While these do not help with maintenance in a direct way, these are certainly indispensable when you need to figure out what is going on with the computer. There are tools that let you view detailed information about your computer and then there are those which can let you monitor the performance of the computer and what is going on inside.

5. Troubleshooter/Fixer

It is very difficult to offer a generalized solution for each and every problem your computer might run into. There can be network issues, security issues, slowdown due to cruft or under performing hardware, each asks for a different course of action.

That being said, there are certain issues that crop up frequently and are encountered by many users. Automated detection and fixes are available for many such problems.

computer maintenance tools

Windows troubleshooting is a good place to start. In addition there are software like FixWin and Microsoft’s FixIt center that take care of such common problems for you. If you are still stuck, hop over to MakeUseOf Answers, and we will try to help you along!

Many problems can also be attributed to viruses and spyware, so you should keep a good antivirus or malware removal tools like McAfee’s Stinger and Malicious Software Removal tool handy.

If you know of any other good PC maintainance software that we might have missed, give us a heads up in the comments!

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Hot Tech Deals [Aug 31st]

Posted: 31 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. Vizio RazorLED 42in LED-Edgelit LCD HDTV (120Hz) $629.99 Free Shipping via code X5X5CTXVSS07SZ
  2. $50 off all Dell PowerVault Products over $500 via code F7QNRMBK11ZCC8
  3. Dell Professional P2211H 22in LED-Backlit Widescreen Monitor $189 Free Shipping
  4. Nokia N900 Smartphone (Unlocked, Quad-Band GSM) w/ Touchscreen, 32GB Storage $349 Free Shipping via code 5RMTRF1H8QS3DF
  5. 32″ Sony BRAVIA KDL32EX700 32″ LED-Backlit LCD HDTV (1080p, 120Hz) for $649.99 via code ZTK5338
  6. HHI iPad Flip Leather Case with Magnetic Kick Stand + Screen Protector $12.99 via code ipadflipkstand
  7. Dell Inspiron 14z Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300 ULV 14in Laptop (4GB/500GB/2yr Warranty) $700.79 via codes 6KWMM0JFLZK0W? and ?8CN$RJ?W5TQ0C
  8. Apple iBook G4 1.33GHz 12.1in Laptop (REFURB/1GB/40GB) $269.99 via code APPLE
  9. Netgear ReadyNAS DUO 1TB Network Attached Storage NAS Gigabit $199.99AR

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set

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10 Websites With Really Cool Inventions You Don’t Know About

Posted: 31 Aug 2010 12:31 PM PDT

cool inventionsThis instrument is commonplace today. But when it was first invented, someone said “an amazing invention – but who would ever want to use one?”

The Doubting Thomases were talking about a cool new invention called the telephone. Inventions start off like that. Sometimes necessity is the mother of invention.

A well known misquote said that everything that can be invented has been invented. That was uttered more than a hundred years ago, and if it had been true, we wouldn’t be reading this article sitting hundreds or thousands of miles apart in front of a lit up glass screen. Thank God for the spirit of invention and innovation.

Even the most skeptical among us sits up to take notice when some breakthrough happens. But the really interested of the lot go out looking for any new cool invention that's being cooked up. You can wait for the year-end roundups like the one from Time or check up on any of these websites now and talk about cool (and absurdly weird) inventions.

Popular Science

cool inventions

The site's tagline reads – The Future Now. Popular Science brings new technology and science news as it is happening right now. Most of it is on the cutting edge. If it all sounds too serious, do a bit of crystal gazing on This Week in the Future. But their richest resource can be mined from their 137 year old archived collections made available for free browsing.

New Scientist

cool new inventions

The New Scientist website is all about scientific discovery, and its industrial, commercial and social consequences. It is one of the most popular destinations for those interested in cool inventions and innovations. The patent news blog which made for interesting reads on new cool inventions though has been discontinued. The best bet is to follow the news or use the search feature.

Sci-Tech Today

cool new inventions

Sci-Tech Today brings current news from many areas of human scientific development. As a reader interested in cool inventions, you might like to check out topics headlined under Innovation. I just read a piece and found that a glass first manufactured in 1962 is on the cusp of becoming a multi-million dollar business now, fifty years later. Were you in the know about Gorilla Glass?

Seed Magazine

cool new inventions

Are you looking for a better material? Did you know that there is a unique consultancy that displays a library of innovative new materials that anyone can use for research? Read about such innovations and cool inventions on this online magazine that covers technology and how it impacts business, design, and even politics.


futuristic inventions and cool stuff

You might like this blog after reading all the serious stuff in the previous ones. The blog on cool inventions collates inspirations and innovations from around the websphere and presents it for quick reading but with lots of photos. Check out the mention on the Shark Inspired Personal Watercraft.

Inventor Spot

futuristic inventions and cool stuff is not only about the guy who likes to read up on latest inventions, innovations and interesting ideas, but also for the wannabe inventor. Inventors can check out the well listed resources for their kind like the InventorPages directory. Then there's the Inventor's Forum for all kinds of chit chat.

But as an interested reader, I would check out the Inventor Gallery where lots of cool (and crazy) inventions are arranged around categories. For instance, the Keyboard Organizer is something I could use in my space starved room.

Invention Reaction

futuristic inventions and cool stuff is very similar to the above website in that it provides all the regular dope on inventions from around the world. An interesting read in the Invention Timeline which chronologically lists groundbreaking inventions since the early millennia. You can then balance your reading of the latest cool inventions with a few from the funny and weird inventions list. How about the Defendius Door Chain as a home security system?

Invent Now

Kids are instinctively inventive. That's what comes forward to prove with its gallery of inventions that have been submitted by kids. The website also includes games, message board, contest and other activities. You can search for cool inventions by kids using the search or go through them in the Gallery. You have to move a conveyer belt to look at each one of them.

Invent Help News

Get invention and technology news in the form of free detailed articles which also link to the main sources. The news comes from a variety of fields, from advertising to fashion inventions. How about a Smart Mirror if you have a phobia about shopping on your own.

Why Not

cool inventions is about asking questions and generating ideas, some of which will hopefully spark inventions. The community powered website works like an open discussion board where you can post your ideas and get support and inputs from members. Like one of the ideas points to the YouTube video of a machine that converts plastic into oil. The website is less about illustrations and more about enlightened ideas and discussions.

Then there are the websites that help you scour the patents that get filled every day. A web resource like Patent Storm gives you the whole shebang but may be dull as dishwater for the casual reader. But Patently Silly might help to bring the sense of absurd back with a funny look at some cool inventions.

Are you inspired by inventions? Do you like reading about them? Let us know about any web places you like to hang out to read about cool inventions.

Image Credit : Wikimedia Commons

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Overhaul Your PC with 360Amigo System Speedup [MakeUseOf Giveaway]

Posted: 31 Aug 2010 11:30 AM PDT

If you're like me, you like to try out a wide variety of applications for your computer, especially when something new is released. If you're reading this article, chances are you love checking out apps that can add new functionality to your system. The unfortunate downside to these activities, however, is that your computer can start getting really bogged down as programs are added and removed.

Even with normal use, things get "messy" inside your computer. Temporary files are created and forgotten, registry keys are added and deserted, and all sorts of junk simply gets left across your hard drive. The result can be slow startups, applications taking longer to load, and a general state of usability across your entire operating system.

But fear not, your problems can be solved in one click with 360Amigo System Speedup. In this MakeUseOf Giveaway, we're offering 20 licenses of the application worth $400 in total to some lucky readers!

360Amigo System Speedup

Simply put: When you use 360Amigo System Speedup, it takes a look through your system and identifies (and promptly fixes!) a wide variety of errors. This application can also remove unused files from your PC, such as abandoned data left by uninstalled applications, and can optimize your Windows startup for faster start-up times.

When you first fire up 360Amigo System Speedup, you'll see some information about your system and will probably be greeted with a glaring "Your System Status is BAD" message. Clicking the big red FIND ERRORS button is a great way to make the program happy.

By default, the application will jump to the Registry Cleaner which looks through your operating system's registry for unused and old entries. It will also clear out file lists from many popular applications, which helps ensure your privacy.

To put this in perspective: I ran 360Amigo System Speedup on a brand new installation of Windows XP - I'm not talking slightly used, I mean I literally installed Windows XP in a Virtual Machine and then ran the cleaner. 360Amigo found 180 registry errors on a new installation of Windows!

Note: When you clean registry errors, make sure to check the "Create System Restore Point Before Cleaning Errors" checkbox.

Opening the Junk Files tab gives you the option to remove Browser Activity, clean up Windows (like emptying the recycling bin, recent documents, temporary files, and log files), and remove invalid shortcuts. This isn't only a great way to free up some extra space on your system, it's vital to ensure your privacy.

The System Optimizer tab contains goodies that any system administrator would love. First up, NetState allows you to look at a list of all running programs on your computer that are connected to the internet. If you see something fishy, you can easily terminate its access – this is great if you're fighting a malware infestation.

Probably one of the most useful features in the program is the Startup Manager tab, where you can adjust which programs startup with your computer. This can singlehandedly make the biggest improvement in your PC's performance, but be careful – always do some research on Google before removing any applications.

360Amigo System Speedup has many more features which I haven't covered in this article, so enter the giveaway and try it out for yourself!

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7 Free Apps To Make Music On Your iPhone

Posted: 31 Aug 2010 10:31 AM PDT

make music iphoneAs an old-fashioned self-proclaimed (amateur) musician, I was amazed when watching a video showing a local band of five performing a Coldplay song using “only” iPhones and iPod Touches.

I was even more amazed watching a YouTube video of a young Korean girl who calls herself Applegirl doing solo Lady Gaga’s Poker Face cover using her iDevices.

I feel that a revolution is happening in the music world, especially in the iDevices country. So, not wanting to be left behind, it’s only logical that a few of the first apps that I downloaded for my phone were apps to make music with an iPhone.

If you also want to make music using your iDevices, here are some of the free ones that you can try.

The Musical Instruments

Let’s start our list with apps that imitate traditional musical instruments. They are trying to utilize iPhone features to produce the sound and feeling of the real instruments.

1. Touch Xylophone

Xylophone is probably one of the most simple and universal musical instruments. I guess almost everybody is familiar with this one (even though the name might be different and the shapes are slightly different in different parts of the world).

The app is trying to replicate the wooden instrument. But instead of hitting the bars with a stick to produce sound, you just need to touch them.

make music iphone

2. Piano

There are many piano apps available out there. Just do a search in the iTunes App Store and you will find a bunch of them. I use Touch Piano as an example because of the simplicity. You just open it and play.

This one is great for those ice breaking moments or to keep the kids quiet, but won’t substitute the real one. And your fingers should be tiny enough to play this piano comfortably.

make music iphone app

3. Angklung

Angklung is a traditional musical instrument from Indonesia. It’s made from bamboo and you shake it to produce the sound. Each angklung will produce one note, so to be able to play a complete song, you need a set of angklungs (played by one person or by a group of people).

Similar to the real thing, you shake the Angklung app to play the sound and it can only produce one note at a time. But this electronic angklung can be set to play any note that you want.

make music iphone app

4. Drums

Again, there are many drums apps out there. Drum Meister Pro Lite is chosen as an example because this is the best that I found among the free alternative music making iPhone apps.

Tapping on one of the drum kits will give you the drum sound, that’s pretty ordinary. But tapping on different parts of a cymbal will also give you a different sound, just like the real thing. Other cool things about this app are the ability to re-arrange the position of the drums, and to record and play your virtual drum playing.

make music iphone app

If you love percussion, you can also try Touch Conga.

5. Guitars

Unlike the Piano and Drums categories, I can’t single out a particular app to use as an example for guitar apps. There are too many of them and each has their own uniqueness. So I’ll show you three different guitar apps: Instant Guitar Solo Lite that will give you instant licks just by tapping a button, Guitar Free which imitates the classical guitar, and Steel Guitar with more strings to play than ordinary guitar.

05 Guitars.jpg

The Music Generators

This second group of apps does not imitate any ordinary musical instruments. Instead, they will help you generate music using unique and different methods.


I had difficulties finding words trying to explain this app. Basically, you are given several “Scenes” to choose and these scenes are unique environments where you can create your music. Some scenes generate music using your voice, some use the touch, and others use the movement of your iPhone.

There are no better way to enjoy this app than using it yourself. You might want to start from the “Interactive – Tutorial Scene” to get familiar with it.

07 RJDJ.jpg

7. Beatwave

In Beatwave, you create your music by placing notes in the “music field“. Then the “music scanner” will continuously move along the field and play any notes it meets along the way. You have four fields to play with, and there are a bunch of settings that you can change – like tempo and sound – to generate different outputs.

Similar to RJDJ, the best way to enjoy the app is to use and experiment with it. And since this one uses regular “scanning” intervals, you can’t help but get electronic vibes in your music.

08 Beatwave.jpg

The Others

I picked up other things during my treasure hunt. Not exactly music making apps, but will help you in the process.

They are: Guitar Tuner that will help you keep your guitar from the land of the false notes,

06 Guitar Tuner.jpg

And iTick, the electronic metronome that will keep your beat in check.

make music iphone

I’m sure that my findings are minuscule compared to the collection of free music making apps available out there. So if you love to make music and you have your own favorite music-making iDevices apps, why not share them with other music lovers using the comments below?

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How To Run A Speed Test On Your Website

Posted: 31 Aug 2010 09:31 AM PDT

speed testWhat would you do if your first impression of a website was that it takes forever to load?

If your own website loads slowly, you will lose your visitors’ attention even before your website has had a chance to make an impression at all. Moreover, Google has factored page speed into its search rankings. So you see it’s important to keep a close eye on your website’s page loading speed.

Running a speed test on your website is very simple.

There are many services out there that run automated tests. Below are some useful resources that will help you analyze not only how fast your website loads, but also what is slowing it down. The recommendations show you which changes are necessary to pass the speed test, which is your visitors’ attention span.

Website Speed Test

This is the best tool for a quick and simultaneous speed test of multiple domains. You can enter up to 10 domains and the site will return a result that includes the page size, total load time, and average speed per KB. Apparently, has been optimized for speedy loading.

speed test

This test only gives you an idea whether or not action must be taken. It doesn’t analyze which elements of your website slow down its loading speed. What it does reveal, however, is the overall size of your start page. Rule of thumb: the smaller it is ,the faster it will load.

However, as the example above reveals this isn’t always true, hence, a more thorough analysis is in order.

Web Page Analyzer

With Web Page Analyzer you can diagnose a URL or its (X)HTML code. The web page speed report provides a thorough diagnosis as well as clues on how to improve your website.

In the ‘Object Size Totals’ section the total loading time is broken up by objects, including HTML, images, scripts, and multimedia. These numbers clearly show what slows down your website.

speed test internet

Conclusions from the raw data are drawn in the ‘Analysis and Recommendations’ section at the bottom of the report. The list not only shows you where you need to improve and recommends action, it also congratulates you on what was already done right.

Firebug & YSlow

YSlow is a Firefox extension developed by Steve Souders, the guy who was hired by Yahoo! to speed up their website and who wrote two books on the topic of speeding up websites. YSlow integrates into Firebug, so it’s essential that you install both of these extensions. Firebug is a web development tool packed into a Firefox extension. It helps you inspect your HTML, debug JavaScript, and analyze network usage and performance of your website.

Once installed, you will find the Firebug / YSlow buttons in your statusbar. Within the Firebug analysis window, YSlow occupies its own tab. This complex tool will take a moment to digest as there is a ton of features packed into a dozen sub-tabs.

The main aspect is the grading of the website. There are over 20 points that are graded and contribute to the overall performance. For each point, suggestions are made on how to improve the given grade.

speed test internet

The Components are sorted by type into a table that lists their size and response time along with other characteristics. This is useful to find elements that slow down your website. The statistics reveal the site’s weight on an empty or primed cache and breaks up the weight into its components, such as HTML, JavaScript, or images.

speed test internet

Finally, YSlow provides Tools to show all JavaScript or CSS code, receive a printable view of grades, component lists, and statistics, and best of all, can compress all images on your website to save size and subsequently page loading time.

speed test

With the help of all these services you should now know exactly what slows down your website.

If you have meanwhile developed a deep interest in the topic, read this summary of a PhD thesis on Web Page Performance.

Also check out the following articles on MakeUseOf:

What tips do you have to share to improve slow loading websites?

Image credits: vierdrie

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Lose The Cloud With These 4 Locally Hosted Sync Applications

Posted: 31 Aug 2010 08:31 AM PDT

sync applicationsIt seems like everything is becoming a part of the cloud, and it isn’t hard to understand why. Cloud storage services like Dropbox make it possible to access data from numerous computers, a feature that is important for people who own more than one computer.

However, not everyone is ready to marry the cloud. Cloud storage services must be paid for on a monthly basis, and their price can be very costly over time  - the 50GB Dropbox plan will cost you $119.88 over a single year, enough to purchase a 1 terabyte hard drive. Cloud storage services also rarely offer plans large enough to store even moderate amounts of data permanently. Dropbox’s largest plan has a 100GB storage limit.

There is another way. Sync applications, skip the cloud entirely, instead sharing files automatically between designated folders. Using a Sync application means sacrificing the any-time, any-where convenience that comes with cloud storage for a more scheduled and methodical method. This can be a pain, but you won’t have to pay anything and your storage capacity is limited only by the space on your hard drives.

Windows Live Sync

sync applications

Microsoft’s Windows Live Sync is a free file sync application that is a part of Microsoft’s Windows Live services. It uses a web-based interface that lets users designate folders as sync folders. Once designated in this way, files between the folders will automatically be transfered no matter where the computers are located as long as Internet access is available. The folders do not have to have the same name on each computer. It is possible to sync folders among more than one computer as well.

Despite the name, Windows Live Sync also works on OSX and works well. The web interface makes absolutely no distinction between folders that are on a Windows machine and folders that are on a Mac. The web interface does feel a bit clunky however, and you do need to make a Windows Live account if you want to be able to use this application.

Pure Sync

sync apps

Designed for local synchronization, Pure Sync is a tool aimed at home networks that need to synchronize large amounts of data. The main feature of Pure Sync is simply the ability to synchronize folders, and this function is easy enough to set up using the program’s setup wizard. Pure Sync allows for some customization in how you sync folders, including the ability to exclude sub-folders and files and schedule synchronization.

Pure Sync also includes a backup component. If you are interested in synchronization because cloud storage can’t handle large backup files you’ll find Pure Sync to be exactly what you need.

AllWay Sync

sync apps

A deceptively simple sync application, AllWay Sync can be quite complex if you need it to be. If you need to sync two folders on two different computers you can easily so by opening the folders in the main AllWay Sync window and then pressing the Synchronize button. AllWay Sync will handle things from there, and will also provide you with details about what changes were made between the folders during the synchronization. The data can be a bit confusing for new users, so I suggest syncing small folders first.

However, AllWay also includes more complex functionality. It is possible to sync with alternative storage options including removable drives, network folders, FTP servers, Amazon S3 storage and more.  The only catch is that the free version will transfer “only” 40,000 files in one month – if you’re transferring more than that, or you want to use it for commercial use, you’ll have to pay.


sync applications

FreeFileSync will sync your local or network folders. And that is it. There is no ability to sync to outside sources, no ability to sync over the Internet, and no extra features like automatic backup. The only thing you can do is filter out the files you don’t want to sync.

With this said, FreeFileSync is the easiest to use. To sync two folders you simply need to drag-and-drop two folders into the application window, one on each side. If it is your first time syncing the folders you first have to compare them, which is done by pressing the big Compare button. Then you sync them by pressing the big Synchronize button. Instead of flooding you with data the synchronization is represented by a big, friendly status bar.


Obviously, these programs are not as flexible as a cloud storage service, but for some users (myself included) that limitation isn’t a problem. By getting rid of the cloud these applications let you sync huge amounts of data without paying a dime. Letting go of the convince associated with cloud storage can save you hundreds of dollars a year if you have large amounts of information that must be regularly synchronized.

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