Tuesday, September 28, 2010

MakeUseOf.com: “Cool Websites and Tools [September 27th]” plus 10 more

MakeUseOf.com: “Cool Websites and Tools [September 27th]” plus 10 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [September 27th]

Posted: 27 Sep 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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Jailbreak Matrix – With an iOS device you normally get two restrictions: your carrier is fixed and you can get apps only from the App Store. To remedy both these issues you will need to unlock and jailbreak your device. The procedure for this on every device is different thus the guides are scattered all across the web. JailbreakMatrix collects all the scattered information. Read more: JailbreakMatrix: Get All The Information Needed To Jailbreak Or Unlock Any iOS Device


MichaelBayifier – Michael Bay is one of the most popular directors for action-adventure movies. His portfolio includes classics like Bad Boys, Armageddon and Transformers. Filled with explosions and special effects, Michael Bay movies have a separate class. MichaelBayifier lets you give that class to any image. Read more: MichaelBayifier: Give Your Image the Michael Bay Effect



Booshaka – With over 500 million Facebook users, you sometimes wonder what everybody is talking about. Well, Booshaka is one way to be in on that. Booshaka is a web service that tells you what's hot on Facebook. Read more: Booshaka: Find Out What's Hot On Facebook



YouSwear – is a free website that you can use to discover swearing words in different languages. An impressive number of languages are covered including many uncommon ones such as Gharian, Hakka, Gujarati, and many more. Read more: YouSwear: Discover Swearing Words In Different Languages



Drupal-Theme – Drupal is a website platform much like WordPress. It offers a number of great microsite creation features suitable for a number of purposes. A custom theme for your Drupal site is necessary for it to make an impression. Creating themes for Drupal has been much simplified by Drupal-Theme. Read more: Drupal-Theme: Create Drupal Themes With Ease


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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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3 of the Best Tools to Translate Using Google Translate

Posted: 27 Sep 2010 06:30 PM PDT

google translateWhilst it is true that the Internet is a huge repository of information, there is still the (small) matter of the language barrier for most people to overcome. Luckily, there is the Google Translate platform, which many developers use as a basis to provide real-time automated text translation tools.

This post looks at various tools (desktop, browser-based and beyond) that make accessing and translating with Google Translate easier and fun.

Browser-Based Google Translate Tools

The main ways to access Google Translate are of course, provided through a standard web browser.

In terms of official products, there is a multi-browser supported Translate bookmarks, which work by allowing users to select a language, store it as a toolbar bookmark and then use it to auto-translate entire pages on demand with a simple click. Besides, Google Translate is a built-in feature inside Google Toolbar:

google translate

Unfortunately, the toolbar can prove to be a bit of a hassle for people who are looking for simple tools to help with international browsing. Sadly (and surprisingly), none of the official tools provides a worthy language auto-detect feature.

If you want something that’s a little more flexible, it may be worth trying out one of the following translation addons for the Firefox browser. The best option is an add-on called gTranslate, this is a great piece of software that allows users to translate any highlighted paragraphs of text from a specific web-page. It automatically identifies the language being used in the text and provides a translation based on the language preferences set up in the user’s browser, whilst providing the option to translate into any of the 50 language supported by Google Translate.

google translate toolbar

Two alternative options for Firefox are My Translator and Easy Google Translate, both of which have similar functionality to gTranslate, although each provides the translations in slightly different ways. My Translator makes the translation available in the context menu, whilst Easy Google Translate displays it as a balloon over the original text (which can be useful when trying to learn a foreign language).

Desktop Based Google Translate Tool

Whilst it isn’t really anything other than a prettier version of the online translation tool, AIRTranslate provides a very clean-looking desktop-based utility which runs off of Adobe Air. Unfortunately (though quite understandably), you still need to be connected to the Internet in order to use it.

As with the Google Translate homepage, you need to manually input (or copy and paste) the text you want to translate into the translation field. The program will then automatically detect the language it’s written in before presenting the user with the option of what language they want it translated into.

google translate toolbar

Translations appear in the same box that the original content was put in, with the option to revert the text back to the initial language by simply double-clicking on the text.

google toolbar translate

Gtalk Translation Bots

If you are an active Google Talk user, turning it to a translation tool might be a good idea. All you need to do is to add one of these Google bots (formatted as [from language]2[to language]@bot.talk.google.com) to friends and send it the message you want translated.

google translate

And which Google Translate tools do you prefer? Please share your thoughts!

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Top 10 Beginner Level Video Tutorials To Learn GIMP Fast

Posted: 27 Sep 2010 04:31 PM PDT

gimp tutorialsYou can find a myriad of written tutorials and websites on GIMP, the open-source Photoshop alternative, as well as YouTube channels dedicated to GIMP tutorials, but which tutorials are more suitable and totally worthwhile for beginners?

Since I’m also a learner of GIMP, I thought that tutorials illustrating the first few points of the official user manual from GIMP.org may just be what beginners need to familiarize themselves. This collection here gathers clearly-narrated screencasts and are thus very good starting points for those that don’t prefer to read long user manuals.

So hit the jump to learn more GIMP terminology.

GIMP Basics

This is a video walkthrough of the installation and user interface of GIMP, made by a university instructional design staff member, so you can expect a very easy-to-follow and informative narrative. In the video, he goes over how to perform 7 basic image editing tasks: scaling, cropping, cutting (with transparency), flipping, rotating, reducing and saving.

By watching these, you’re basically going over the first text tutorial on GIMP.org, GIMP Lite Quickies.

Optimizing Images For Web Use

The following video shows how to export a file to JPEG and monitor the file size of the new image. There’s a small hiccup from 1:10-1:30 in the video, but it’s definitely helpful to know that you can select and preview the quality of the new image before you save it especially now that lots of sites have restrictions on maximum file size.

In the video, the user tries to save a JPEG with the highest quality while keeping her image under 256KB which is the YouTube limit for channel background images.


This technique creates a fuzzy frame (this “frame” has an adjustable radius, of course) around a spot in the picture you may want to focus on or copy and paste somewhere else, in which case, the pasted image will blend “unobtrusively with its surroundings.”


The Paths (aka, Bezier curves) tool can help you create more defined shapes by making anchor points. The following GIMP tutorial shows how to cut a piece from image 1 to paste as a layer into another image, using the Paths tool to complete the outline around the piece. Using this tool will allow more control over the outlines or shapes.


According to the user manual, brushes are pixmaps from the paint tools (except for the ink tool) used for painting, erasing, copying, smudging, lightening or darkening, etc. GIMP has a set of basic brushes, but if you don’t find what you are looking for, check out the following video to see where and how to find and install brushes.

QuickMask Mode

QuickMask mode is basically a more intuitive way to fully visualize your selection, so you can do more precise work and effectively adjust your selection when the marching ants just aren’t enough, as according to the official GIMP user manual, “what the marching ants show you as either inside or outside the boundary is really just a slice through a continuum.” For more information, watch the video below.


Red Eye Removal: If you’re ready to play around and get familiar with the simplest of the filters, try following this really simple GIMP tutorial, which you’ll be able to complete very quickly. This is useful if your camera doesn’t have settings to optimize lighting (and thus, prevent red eye) or you have older pictures lying around that could use some red eye removal.

Drop Shadows: To create more depth to text and objects, consider adding a drop shadow by selecting an image (in a specific layer) and going to Filter > Light and Shadow > Drop Shadow.


Layers are individual transparencies on top of an image that can add easily removable effects to specific parts. The following video will also go over layer modes, transparencies, and layer visibility.

This should get you pumped up enough to dabble in GIMP. After this, you should be able to follow those more advanced tutorials, whether they’re text or in video.

What beginners’ video tutorials did we miss? Please help the GIMP-learning author and let us know in the comments!

Image credit: Xylomon

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Diaspora Preview – All You Need to Know About The New “Open Source Facebook”

Posted: 27 Sep 2010 02:30 PM PDT

open source facebookFor a project that received $10,000 funding within the first 12 days of its announcement, Diaspora has quite a lot to live up to. When you factor in that the funding eventually reached $200,641 and donors to the project include Facebook frontman Mark Zuckerburg (describing it as a "cool idea") then this open-source social network venture starts to sound quite exciting.

The word diaspora originated from the Greek meaning "a scattering of seeds", an apt name for any decentralised social network. In modern usage, a diaspora is defined as a group migration, but will the promise of tighter security and an open source attitude be enough to tempt people away from social media giants like Facebook or MySpace?

What's It For?

Diaspora came about when a group of New York University students from the Courant Institute of Mathematical Science were inspired by a speech about freedom and privacy online. Columbia University law professor Eben Moglen described centralised social networks as "spying for free" and the developers came up with Diaspora.

open source facebook

On April 24 2010, the project was announced on Kickstarter. Within a few weeks the team had a few hundred thou' in the bank, a goal to aim for and the open-source world on their side.

The developers aim to create an alternative social network, with the added option of choosing where your data is stored rather than have it sit on the same centralised server. They're also pretty big on keeping work and play separate, so your boss remains oblivious to what you get up to on a Friday night.

open source facebook

The project's main "opposition" (for want of a better word) is undoubtedly Facebook, which has been making headlines for a while over security lapses and privacy boo-boos. Even if the project isn't a massive success, Diaspora's direct approach with privacy and data security will hopefully further encourage Facebook and pals to improve things on their side.

So How Does It Work?

Users are able to set up their own servers (known as "seeds") to store their data, these seeds can then interact with other seeds to share photos, status updates and everything else the internet likes to do.

open source facebook alternative

Not everybody needs to set up a seed, but through having these separate "hubs" you are able to choose where your data is hosted – rather than putting it straight on someone else's servers. Your data remains on the seed you choose, and you have control over what is done with it.

Data migration has also been addressed and developers have said that if a user would like to move data to another seed, Diaspora will support seamless migration from one seed to another and still work afterwards.

Diaspora is still somewhat of a business, much like Facebook. When the platform is finally launched there are plans from the developers to offer paid hosting for seeds, complete with support. Those of you interested in this thinking "No thanks, I've got hosting" probably don't care, as long as you've got support for Ruby in your hosting package.

Apart from that, it all reads a bit Facebook really. The main Diaspora interface looks like Facebook though the current version isn't exactly full of features and consumer-friendly.

open source facebook alternative

The ability to separate your work life and social life is a nice touch, and highly customizable. Diaspora refers to groups of people as "aspects", and contacts are added to these as required. When you post an update online you can then choose to only post to work, family or even just your drinking buddies.

What State Is It In?

The current build is a developer preview, with a consumer alpha due in October. There's undoubtedly still a long way to go, but the open-source nature of the project should help move things along.

At the moment you can post status updates, upload photos, add contacts and edit your profile. The current build is also chock-full of security holes, but that's no surprise as it's still pre-alpha.

open source facebook alternative

Developers have promised a "battery of add-on modules" are making their way to Diaspora, and these are intended to enable "any type of communication". They are also planning their own instant messenger (because you haven't got enough of those already) and VoIP integration.

Also on the to-do list is integration with OpenID, to facilitate logging in and the distribution of encrypted backups between seeds. It all sounds great, it's just not built yet.

Can I Have A Go?

If you do want a play with the current development build then you can register on Openspora and take a look around. Remember – don't go adding too many personal details and your wedding photos. This is still a preview!

Those of you who want something a little more stable and actually usable will have wait for that consumer alpha coming in October.

Diaspora is still in its infancy yet already receiving a lot of interest. If you're concerned about privacy, data protection and what Facebook are planning next then it is probably worth keeping an eye on this one. Whether it's going to be a real contender for the social networking crown remains to be seen.

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Hot Tech Deals [Sep 27th]

Posted: 27 Sep 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. TODAY ONLY Seagate Barracuda LP (Low Power) 2TB Internal SATA Hard Drive $94.99 Free Ship

  2. Logitech HD Pro Webcam C910 (Records at up to 1080p Video) $69.99AR Free Shipping

  3. Nashbar Coupon Code: 20% off any Single Item via code 20SINGL

  4. Garmin nuvi 1350 Portable GPS Navigation (REFURB, 4.3in, Text-to-Speech) $80.63 Free Ship

  5. EXPIRING Jetway Mini-TOP Intel Atom D525 NVIDIA ION 2 Barebone Desktop $209.99 Free Ship via code EMCYXNZ38

  6. Cisco Linksys E1000 802.11n Wireless 300Mbps Router (Refurb) $32.99 Free Shipping


  1. Dell Home: Free Shipping on Computers $599+ Coupon Code: ZQQZSGW6HFDG3K

  2. Dell Coupon: 25% off All Laptops & Desktops on this landing page Coupon Code: ?$QNC1?HSKNR9F

  3. Dell Coupon: 20% off all Dell Desktops & Laptops in this link with Coupon Code: 5TK?LC9VJ5F$33

  4. Dell coupon: Free Shipping on Dell Studio/Studop XPS Laptops $699+ Coupon Code: ?8CN$RJ?W5TQ0C

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set

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3 Easy Ways to Turn Your Blog into an eBook for Free

Posted: 27 Sep 2010 12:30 PM PDT

convert blog to ebookIf you’ve been thinking about creating an eBook but aren’t sure where to start, why not take a look at your blog? You probably already have a ton of carefully written content, that could make for an interesting eBook. And there are a few free online services that make it as simple as possible to take all of that online content and convert your blog to an eBook.

Whether you’re catering to Kindle or iPad users, whether you’re doing it for fun or want to sell your eBook online, each of these services has something for you.


If you have a Wordpress blog and want to turn your blog posts into a book, the easiest, no-hassle way to do this is to use the Wordpress plugin, Anthologize. Download the plugin and upload the zip file to your plugins folder through your Wordpress dashboard.

convert blog to ebook

Once you've activated the plugin in, you'll find two new tabs in your menu – the Anthologize tab, and the imported content tab. With Anthologize, not only can you use content from your own blog, you can also import content from other sites with an RSS feed.

blog to ebook

Anthologize makes the process as easy as you could possibly imagine. If you’re using content from your own blog, you can filter your posts by tags or by category.

blog to ebook

Once you've decided what content you want to use, you can start creating 'Parts' or chapters. Create a new part, and drag and drop the posts that you want to include. Any images in your posts will be included as they appeared in the post.

blog to ebook

Once you have all your chapters and content ready, you can export it in one of several formats including PDF and ePub. You can also include a dedication or acknowledgement, choose between A4 or letter size, and select the font.

turn blog into book

The final file includes a copyright page, where it states that the ebook was generated by Anthologize, while the table of contents consists of click through links leading you the content at the click of a button.


If you don't use wordpress, Zinepal an easy-to-use alternative that will help you achieve similar results. Simply enter the URL to your blog or feed, and it will pull up a list of the latest posts.

turn blog into book

Select the posts you want to use and add them to your ebook. Of course, the list is limited to the most recent stories from any given site. If you want to include older posts, you can use the handy bookmarklet and clicking on it on any given webpage you want to add to your eBook. You can also use this method to create an entire eBook without using an RSS feed at all.

turn blog into book

Once you've added all your content, you can choose the fonts and preview the ebook in PDF format. The ebook itself can be created as a PDF, in ePub format or in Kindle format.

Zinepal uses a magazine-like layout, but you do have a certain amount of control over the appearance as far as fonts and the number of columns used. When previewing your eBook, click on ‘Customize eBook’ to change the orientation, page size, number of columns and more.

You can also add your own logo and advertising to your eBook using Zinepal, and although it would appear that you can choose to keep your ebook private on their site, there seems to be a glitch with that feature at the moment.

ePub Bud

Although ePub Bud doesn't provide an easy way to convert your blog to an eBook, it has a great feature that earns it a spot on this list. Catering primarily to a children's books audience, you can create any kind of book on their site, share it with the community and download the .epub file ePub Bud’s best feature by far is that it gives you the ability to sell your book through their site, and they don't take a percentage of your profits. The only payment method accepted through the site is Paypal.

Creating the ebook itself is a cinch. If you already have your book in PDF or .doc format, you can upload it to the site and convert it to the .epub format. If you want to use content from your site, use Zinepal to conver the RSS feed into a PDF file and upload that to ePub Bud.

And if you'd rather start from scratch, use their intuitive, easy-to-use interface to get all your text and pictures into your ebook, and format the text exactly the way you want it to appear.

convert blog to ebook

Also be sure to check out Saikat’s in-depth review of another similar service, eBook Hood.

Which of these free eBooks services is right for you? Let us know in the comments.

Image credit: Lichtmeister

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5 Quick & Easy Mac Automator Hacks for Digital Photos

Posted: 27 Sep 2010 11:30 AM PDT

mac automatorAutomator is probably the most underused but most powerful application in Mac OS X. Many Mac users may shy away from the program because it looks geeky and difficult to use, though it requires no knowledge of programming code or additional data input. Some users also simply don’t know what they're supposed to do with the program.

So in my constant pursuit to help bring Mac automation to the masses, I present five Automator hacks—really simple workflows or actions—that you can put together in under five minutes and start using with photos in your Finder.

For those of you who don't want to get your hands dirty with Automator or just want to first get an idea of what it can do, I posted (Dropbox link) four of the Automator actions described below so that you can download and run them as applications. They are set up and ready go. Read below for descriptions for each one.

Do-It-Yourself Guide

If you're new to Automator, I'm going to simplify its use so that you can start using it in the next few minutes. For each of the automation I describe, you need to open Automator (in your Applications folder) and select the Application template from the drop-down window.

mac automator

In the search field, type the names of the actions in the screen shots, and drag the designated actions into the workflow area.

mac automator tutorial

Save the workflow as an application.

mac automator tutorial

Put the saved application in your dock. When you're ready to use it, drag your image files onto the application icon and let it run. Each application should make a copy of your original photos and apply the actions to those copies. However, it might a good idea at first to test out the applications with a duplicate of your original photos, just be on the safe side.

Media Library Action

Let's start with an easy and very useful Action. If you have ever used one of Apple’s major iLife applications, like iMovie, you know you can access your iPhoto library within one these applications without launching iPhoto. But you can't do that if you want to access photos from the Finder. This little Automator Action does precisely that. Open Automator, select the Applications template and search for "Ask for Photos." Drop the Action into the workflow area and save it as an application.

mac automator tutorial

When you save activate the application, it will present all the photos in your iPhoto library.

mac automation

You can drag copies of your photos from this mini media library to your desktop or to another application. It saves you the trouble of opening the much larger iPhoto Library.

Photo Resizer

This workflow application will re-size images when they are dropped onto the application. When the application is ran, you will get the opportunity to change the default dimensions before the images are scaled down.

mac automation

Your scaled images will be copied to your desktop and your originals will remain intact.

QuickTime Slideshow Maker

This application will create a quick QuickTime slideshow based on the images you drop onto it. The photos will be resized to 480 pixels, and the originals will be retained. You will be able to change the name, slide duration, and other settings before the slideshow is created.

mac automation

You can upload the resulting movie to your server or email it to someone.

Photo Processor

When you don't want to open iPhoto or some other larger image processing application, you can use this mini Automator application to do some quick down and dirty image processing.

When you drop one or more photos onto the application, you will get several options for how you want to process them, such as converting to quick monochrome, or apply one of several image distortions.

iPad Web App

This application turns a set of photos into web application that you can run on your iPad. You’ll need a hosting provider to get this set up. Here's an example. This application workflow is not a part of my download pack, but you can download it, along with the instructions,  from Padilicious.com.

mac automator

While the workflow itself looks daunting, it's really simple. Like the other Automator applications described above, you simply drop a set of photos onto it, apply the settings you want it to include, and it will do everything else for you. It's free, so there's no reason not try it.

Let us know how these Automations work out for you.

If you're interested in other Automator hacks, check out our other Automator how-to articles. And be on the look out for our MakeUseOf Mac Automation Guide that will posted in the month or so.

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5 Online Tools to Help Calibrate Your Monitor

Posted: 27 Sep 2010 10:30 AM PDT

calibrate monitorYour computer is kitted out and just waiting for that nudge of the mouse. Wait! Have you forgotten something? Calibrating our monitors is one of the basic steps most computer users forget or ignore. Pixel perfect monitor calibration is almost a holy rule for photographers and graphic artists. If you are either of those, you know all about calibrating your monitors.

If you aren't, taking the pains to carefully (and intermittently) calibrating your monitor is just as important. The colors on screen may not be the exact match of what they actually are. Just imagine that you took a beautiful panoramic snap and downloaded it to your computer. But the blue of the sky or the green of the grass doesn't resemble the one you saw through the viewfinder.

Today, it's a lot about watching online movies, snapping digital photos and sharing image files. Color calibrating monitors is important to get as close to the real thing as possible. Graphic professionals will pick up serious apps for the job, but we laymen can rely on our eyes, our judgment, and some online help from these simple monitor calibration websites.

Photo Friday

calibrate monitor

Photo Friday's monitor calibration tool is a webpage which help you adjust the brightness and contrast of your screen. The idea is to tweak the monitor settings (or buttons), so that you can clearly distinguish the transition of tones from true black to true white. The instructions start off by telling you to dim the lights and hit F11 for viewing the grayscale chart in full screen mode.


calibrate my monitor online

Screencheck is a simple webpage that helps you to see if your screen is set to the correct brightness and color. The top bar checks the tone with a white to black band. The bottom bar displays a smooth RGB spectrum to check for color breaks.

Display Calibration

calibrate my monitor online

DisplayCalibration.com is not a great looking site but it is more than a useful one. The site is not updated but you can use the online screen calibration tools placed in three pages – Brightness and Contrast, Color Depth, and Screen Resolution.

The Lagom LCD Monitor Test Pages

calibrate my monitor online

The site includes a series of test images that start from checking contrast to checking for response times of your monitor. It is recommended to go through the tests in the order they are placed. The developer also states that you can put the images on a Flash drive and try them in the computer store when shopping for a LCD monitor. A 120KB ZIP file download is included.

Online Monitor Test

calibrate monitor

This website has a range of interactive tests to fix your screen colors. You can start off with a test that's similar to the one we covered first. Next, the Color Range test checks if your monitor can smoothly produce color gradients. From the menu you can pick different color charts.

Look for 'ghost images' or image trails in the Trailing test. Move the box across the screen and check if any trails are produced. The controls and options to change the color and shape of the box are placed at the bottom.

The Homogenuity test helps to pinpoint damaged pixels and faulty monitors with backlight bleeding. 1:1 Pixel mapping and testing for blurring of Text are the last two tests on the lineup. While the former is not so much an issue with LCD monitors, the latter is worth a tryout if you feel that screen text is not crisp enough. There's another test for dual monitors that can be used to test input lag on two monitors.

Before you start off with calibrating your monitor, you can dive into Windows Display Properties and finalize some of the settings. Set the optimal screen resolution and refresh rates for your model of the monitor. All monitors these days have a high color quality of 32 bits. With the basics in place, you can set about fine-tuning your monitor settings with monitor calibration apps.

You monitor also might have a calibration software. Windows 7 comes with a Display Color Calibration tool. You can access it from Start – Control Panel -Appearance and Personalization – Display. For older OS like Windows Vista and XP, online apps or third party software like Calibrize could be handy. Setting the right color and brightness of your monitor is not difficult. All you need is a good eye. Do you regularly calibrate your monitor? Which is your favored method?

Image credit: Shutterstock

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Unplug and Get Fit: 10 Sites To Help You Find Walking, Running and Hiking Trails Online

Posted: 27 Sep 2010 09:30 AM PDT

hiking trailsIf you are anything like me, you spend the majority of your time during the day at a computer. Although a desk job has its perks, one of them is certainly not a benefit to your cardiovascular system. Every once in a while, you simply need to unplug, get away from all electronic devices, and get out in nature. Even a few short minutes away a day on a hiking trail will do wonders for both your physical and mental conditioning.

Anywhere in the globe (just about) there are plenty of walking, hiking, running and backpacking trails available – long and short, difficult and easy. You just have to know where to find them.


hiking trails

AllTrails is probably the most comprehensive of the sites I’ve used. They let you search by location, and then there are tons of options to narrow down your search by trail length, distance, skill level and more.

walking trails

Once you’ve picked your set of options, you can select which location interests you. Each trail has a profile and rating, with reviews and comments on the hiking trail. After you are done with your hike, you can create an account and leave a review of the trail to help others in their search.

United States, Canada and Puerto Rico only.


walking trails

Trails.com and AllTrails actually look like their base trail databases come from the same source. So as far as completeness of trails, they will be about the same. As with AllTrails, Trails.com allows you leave reviews for trails but also is set apart by two notable features.

The first is that you can view and print topographical maps of the area. They are vanilla, not having the trail path labelled, but are good to have if you are unfamiliar with the terrain.

The second neat option is the ability to upload GPS coordinates from your hike. These plot out the hike on a map, and is a neat way to track where you’ve been. There are many tracking apps available for smartphones, and you can also export them from dedicated GPS devices.


walking trails

EveryTrail bills itself as a “GPS Travel Community”. Unlike the prior sites which first built out their databases using pre-existing sources, Everytrail has been built from scratch using GPS imports from actual hiking trail experiences.

The good part to this is that each trail is ‘real’ and someone else has done it. Many trails also have photos and more information about it. On the down side, this site is less comprehensive than the above sites especially with regard to smaller local trails.

Another feature that sets EveryTrail apart is its mobile applications which let you track your trail and save it to the site, with pictures and video. EveryTrail has apps for iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile and Blackberry.

Everytrail is International and includes hikes from all over the world.


trail walking

TrailLink is a project of the Rails-to-Trails conservancy, which means it mainly consists of railroad tracks and grades that have been converted to trails. These trails are great for walks, biking and general ‘commuting’ since they connect locations together.

TrailLink is US only at this time.


trail walking

Localhikes is another US-only site which has guides for many trails. This site has less trails in number, but each hiking trail has a nice writeup for it and also has many comments which may have valuable hints for the trail.

Google Earth Layers

trail walking

Google Earth has partnered with many organizations to provide trail map and information in its program. Once you have installed Google Earth, there are several Layers which provide trail information. Look for:

  • Everytrail
  • Trimble Outdoors Trips
  • Wikiloc

In addition to these built in layers, many of the sites listed in this article have Google Earth integration via a .kml file. Look on each site for links to “View in Google Earth” to load them and launch the viewer.

Google Earth works for trails worldwide.


WikiWalki is probably the hidden gem of the group. The interface allows you to map any trails or walks, and it is primarily ‘map focused’. However, the trail database is lacking in completeness, making this site hard to use for people in most areas. Hopefully more and more trails will be uploaded, and it would be great to see this as a primary site for finding walkable paths.

WikiWalki is for international trails.


Wikiloc is the website component to the Google Earth layer mentioned above. Their site, much like WikiWalki, allows you to upload your trails and then view profile information and map them in Google Earth.

In my opinion, Wikiloc’s interface isn’t as visually appealing at WikiWalki but they do seem to have more data which is a definite plus. Their search function didn’t appear to work correctly for me, but using the map to narrow down to my area did help find trails relatively close.

Wikiloc works for trails worldwide.


Traildino bills itself as the largest hiking trail database. Traildino is a bit different in that it does not track the trails itself, but works as a sort of directory to links of the website of many trails. Traildino is international, so you can find trails all over the world.

I’ve found that Traildino does have many of the more famous trails, but do not expect to see smaller local trails listed here.


hiking trails

The final site is more of a ’social fitness’ site which connects together groups of individuals looking to attain a physical fitness goal. As with some of the other sites, MapMyHike has a free iPhone app named iMapMyHike [iTunes link], which is a personal fitness app which can help you track your physical fitness. They also have separate apps that can map your hikes, bikes, walks and more – and upload them to the site.

They are currently developing a new version of their site (included in screenshot above) and looks to be an up and coming website.

When All Else Fails

What happens if the sites above don’t have a trail listed near your location? Well here is the good news, you actually don’t even need a website to tell you where to walk. You can simply turn off your computer and walk out your door and you have unlimited miles to walk for free. I never thought it made much sense to drive to find some place to walk, but in many urban areas this is simply the case.

Let us know if you have any other favorite places to track down interesting walks, hikes and more!

Image credit: Shutterstock



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MakeUseOf Linux Pack 2010: All-In-One Easy Installer

Posted: 27 Sep 2010 09:00 AM PDT

Including MakeUseOf favorites such as Dropbox, Google Chrome, Skype, and VLC, the new MakeUseOf Linux Pack is the easy way to set up a new Linux computer. Quickly and easily install all your favorite software in just a few clicks, without having to manually add a variety of software sources.

Back in July we, along with our good friends at Ninite, unveiled our MakeUseOf Pack of Windows software. That was great, but we couldn’t leave our Linux friends out of the fun!

While this pack is built primarily around Ubuntu, users of many Debian-based distributions should be able to make use of it. Simply check the programs you want, download a single .deb package and install it; Ninite will take care of the rest for you.

The programs you can select from include:

  • Chrome
  • Skype
  • Pidgin
  • Thunderbird
  • Transmission
  • Banshee
  • VLC
  • Open Office
  • Gnome Do
  • The GIMP
  • Dropbox
  • Wine
  • Restricted Extras (codecs, Java, Flash and more)

Find the pack over at Ninite.com. Enjoy, and stay tuned for our Mac Pack.

Like the pack? Let us know below. Having troubles, or want to see more software included? Also let us know below.

Do you like MakeUseOf articles? Don’t forget to share our articles with others! It’s really important to us.



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Win 12 Months of Hosting and 2 Domain Names for Life [Giveaway]

Posted: 27 Sep 2010 08:30 AM PDT

Sometime back in April, we organised a contest to redesign our PDF manuals page. In return, we were offering free web hosting but at the time, the interest generated was dismal (to say the least).

So we thought that we’d try again but without the contest. Instead, we’d like to offer MakeUseOf readers a chance to win 12 months of free unlimited hosting from Awardspace for doing absolutely nothing! Along with this package, you will be getting 2 domain names free for life! All in all, we’ll be giving away over $800 worth of hosting. Find out how you can win a subscription for yourself.

What we’re actually giving away are ten 12-month subscriptions for Awardspace’s Max Pack Plus. Take a look at what the package has to offer. In a nutshell, you’ll win unlimited hosting, unlimited data transfer, unlimited domains and subdomains, easy one-click installers, the whole shebang.

On top of that, Awardspace has decided to throw in the 2 free domain names for life. After the 12-month period is over, you can choose to extend your subscription or switch over to another provider but you’ll retain ownership of the domain names. No strings attached.

How do I win?

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!
Like it on Facebook

Or share it on Twitter

And that’s it! You’re done!

Giveaway eligibility
You must be a fan of our Facebook page or Twitter follower to enter;
Individuals who are over the age of 18. If you are under 18, get your parents to participate on your behalf;
Individuals who reside in a country embargoed by the United States, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, or India are not permitted to enter.

This giveaway begins now and ends Friday, October 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 David from Awardspace for his generosity and sponsoring this contest. Interesting in sponsoring? We’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with us via email.

Follow MakeUseOf on Twitter. Includes cool extras.



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