Wednesday, September 29, 2010 “Cool Websites and Tools [September 28th]” plus 11 more “Cool Websites and Tools [September 28th]” plus 11 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [September 28th]

Posted: 28 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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CursorWiz – Windows customization can be done through many ways: you can change your background image, set custom icons, and create custom mouse cursors. While background images and custom icons are easy to achieve, it is not as easy to create custom mouse cursors. CursorWiz remedies that. Read more: CursorWiz: Create Your Own Mouse Cursors Online


GooReader – Google Books is one of the biggest libraries for digital books online. However, the reading experience while accessing Google Books with a browser is awful. GooReader is a desktop client that solves this problem by giving a nice user-friendly interface to read, search and download Google Books. Read more: GooReader: Desktop Client For Reading, Searching & Downloading Google Books



URL X-Ray – With so many URL shortening services coming up, the chances of malware and spam has increased tenfold. You never know whether a TinyURL you see on Twitter is safe to visit or leads to a malware infected or NSFW webpage. Well, URL X-Ray solves this problem. Read more: URL X-Ray: See The Original URL Behind A Shortened Link



Facebook Chat History Manager – At times keeping a track of your chat conversations can be very beneficial. Instant messaging clients often have this feature built in through which you can read past conversations. Facebook Chat, however, lacks this feature but you can use Facebook Chat History Manager to indirectly get the job done. Read more: Facebook Chat History Manager: Save Facebook Chat History The Easy Way



CitySourced – What do you do if you see potholes or broken street lights in your neighborhood? You find out who is the civic authority concerned and then email them, or maybe visit their office. CitySourced aims to speed up this process by helping you report civic problems in your neighborhood. Read more: CitySourced: Quickly Report Civic Problems In Your Neighborhood


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These are just half of the websites that we discovered in the last couple of days. If you want us to send you daily round-ups of all cool websites we come across, leave your email here. Or follow us via RSS feed.

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The 5 Toughest Tech Questions [MakeUseOf Answers]

Posted: 28 Sep 2010 07:31 PM PDT

MakeUseOf Answers has many awesome contributors among you! We do reward your efforts every single week. If you can provide a solution you automatically enter our weekly Best Answer of the Week contest. There is a chance to win $50!

Interested? Then check out our toughest questions this week and help solve them:

  1. What is the best alternative to "Reply to All" eMails in group discussions?
  2. How can I use my Macbook Pro iSight Camera with Omegle or Chat Roulette?
  3. Why does Android Nexus One consume 50 MB of internet data transfer per day?
  4. What are the best and coolest gadgets for a teenager?
  5. How can I change the group policy to turn on Windows firewall?

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.

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Capture Streaming Video From Any Website With These 5 Tools

Posted: 28 Sep 2010 06:31 PM PDT

capture streaming videoHow much online video content do you consume? Judging by YouTube’s popularity I’d say a lot, but YouTube isn’t the only site out there with streaming video content. More and more sites are featuring videos every day.

Every once in a while you come across a video you would like to save. Whether it be for educational purposes, work-related, or for entertainment, it would be nice to save these files to our hard drives so we can easily access them. Sometimes bookmarking just isn’t a viable solution. Sometimes we need to download.

There are a lot of different services and tools you can use to capture streaming video. In this article, I will show you some of the best ones, so you’ll be filling your hard drive with streaming content in no time.

A Little About Streaming Video

The vast majority of streaming video content on the Internet is in the Flash Video – or FLV – format. Flash Video allows for highly compressed streaming video, and many websites use it because it saves space, loads quickly, and displays nicely in web browsers.

FLV files are what we will be looking for with the tools I’m about to show you. If you aren’t privy to the FLV format it is fairly simple to convert files over to other formats, like the more popular AVI, but you don’t have to do this if you don’t want to. The FLV format is supported by many different video players, including the popular VLC Player, which is recommended.


capture streaming video

The first website that can be used to catch streaming video is KeepVid. KeepVid (directory post) has a very simple concept behind it. Just visit the site and enter in the URL of the video page you would like to download. Click Download and KeepVid will search the page for videos.

Then it will display links for you to download the video in 3GP, FLV, or MP4 format.

KeepVid also has a bookmarklet that you can drag up to your bookmarks bar. Just click the Keep It! button whenever you’re on a website with streaming video and you will be taken straight to the KeepVid download page for that video.

Flash Video Downloader

record streaming video

Flash Video Downloader is another website like KeepVid. In the event one method fails, however unlikely that may be, it is always good to have a backup solution.

FVD supports a wide range of websites. It is constantly adapting to the ever-changing tactics that websites undergo in the way of preventing their video content from being easily downloaded. Just enter your URL, click Download, and you are taken to your download link page.


record streaming video

File2HD (directory post) is more of an all-in-one capture website, but it can be used for the same purposes as the 2 sites previously mentioned. To use it to catch streaming video, just select Movies as your filter, type in your URL, and click Get Files.

What’s great about File2HD is that it brings up multiple options for your videos. For instance, when I pasted in the URL of a YouTube video, it gave me the option to download the file in low quality, high, or standard, as well as convert it. Very simple.

Orbit Downloader

record streaming video

If you prefer a cross-browser desktop application, Orbit Downloader is one of the best out there. You can use this app to capture streaming video and download almost anything on the Internet, as detailed here.

To capture streaming video, run Orbit and enable its Grab++ feature. Once it’s running, refresh/reload the page you are on or open up a new browser window to start using it. Orbit will begin catching files from every page you visit, which you can then download from the application.

You can also click the yellow pin icon on Grab++ to keep it on top of other windows while you’re surfing the web, which is a nice feature.

Download Helper [Firefox]

capture streaming video

If you’re using Firefox, Download Helper is a simple extension for you to use. Once installed, it’s just a little icon that sits next to your home button in Firefox. When you’re on a website with streaming content, the little icon will light up. Click on it to download – and convert – your file.

A more detailed article on how to utilize Download Helper can be found here.


Like I stated before, it isn’t that difficult to find a way to save your streaming video content. If one method doesn’t work you can search for another and find a good application relatively easily. Be sure to exhaust all of your resources before giving up when attempting to download streaming content.

Do you download streaming content? What tools do you use? Leave your thoughts, ideas, and comments below!

Image Credit: Haywiremedia

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4 Awesome Free Tools to Visualize & Analyze Twitter

Posted: 28 Sep 2010 04:31 PM PDT

free twitter toolsEver since social networks became so widely adopted by such a large majority of the world, I’ve always wondered what Twitter networks look like.

The power of social networking analysis can not be understated. You can see how far your own influence stretches out, you can measure the scope of influence of some of the most famous people in Hollywood, and you can even identify potential business contacts within your particular niche. There are many possibilities when you start mapping out social networks.

There has been a huge influx of Twitter apps on the web. Here at MUO, we’ve covered many, such as Charnita’s list of apps that would help you grow your network, and Saikat’s list of cool apps that let you ask questions of the Twitter community. But what I’d like to cover are free Twitter tools I’ve come across that let you map or browse Twitter networks in a graphical way.

Twitter Friends Network Browser

The Twitter Network Browser is a pretty cool web app that lets you type in any Twitter user name as a starting point. From there, you can browse through their friends and travel through that social network one node at a time. Each node expands into a new set of friends.

free twitter tools

It doesn’t show all friends – I believe it’s the latest 15 or 16 friends, but once you open up a few networks, it lets you click and drag the entire network map around so that you can open up and browse even further. It’s a pretty fun way to pass the time and follow connections between people you know (and many you don’t).

Explore The Strength Of Twitter Networks

Another impressive Twitter network mapping tool is MentionMaps. Just like with the Network Browser app above, MentionMaps doesn’t require a user account and you don’t have to log in using your Twitter ID. Just type in a Twitter name and you can see all of the strongest relationships that user maintains in an awesome dynamic map.

twitter track tools

The nodes that show up are those with the largest number of mutual mentions. These are signified on the map by the thickness of the line connecting the nodes. It’s very cool to browse through your friends’ nodes and see who their top “mentioners” are as well. MentionMaps is very intuitive and fast to browse through, as the map moves smoothly any direction that you browse.

Build A Social Network Map On TwiAngulate

TwiAngulate is one of the coolest online tools that I’ve found, mostly because there isn’t just one analysis tool, there are actually six powerful tools you can use to trace through Twitter social networks. These include biggest followers, mutual followers, mutual friends, compare friends, obscure friends and keywords. Most of these are tools that let you compare the networks of two Twitter users, however the keyword tool is one that sifts through the entire Twitter network for the top Tweeters covering specific keywords.

To test the system, I compared Mark’s social network with mine to see how many mutual friends we have on Twitter – turns out we have five – MakeUseOf being one of them, of course!

twitter track tools

The “Biggest Followers” tool sounded interesting to me, because I’ve always been curious at the size of some of my friends’ networks and who their followers are. I admit, I don’t spend a lot of time expanding my Twitter network, but along the way people who read my articles will sign up as a follower, so I have a nice tidy network of followers that I’m proud of.

I decided to compare my network to MUO’s own Steve Campbell, a social networking guru. I have to say there is nothing quite as humbling as seeing the size of our networks compared graphically in the form of two spheres. Mine is like a little moon next to Steve’s planet Jupiter – nice work Steve!

twitter track tools

Of all of the Twitter tools, I’d have to say that I found TwiAngulate’s more useful by far. I’ve bookmarked the tool and plan to visit it often as I grow my Twitter network.

Target Your Network Based On TwitterVenn Keyword Analysis

The last visual tool that I’d like to cover isn’t so much a graphical representation of Twitter relationships, but instead keyword relationships. Twitter Venn is an app that provides you with a Venn diagram of how three search terms are used on Twitter. This particular Venn Diagram provides all relationships between each set of keywords that you input (up to three). For example, here I’ve entered seo, blogs and google.

free twitter tools

The diagram shows that the majority of Tweets are about Google (not surprisingly), secondly about blogs and last about SEO. However, the more important part of the diagram is the center. Most relationship Tweets are about SEO and Google by far. A few are about Google and blogs, a little less are about SEO and blogs, and hardly any cover all three.

All of these free Twitter tools are useful for directing your own Tweets and your efforts in expanding your network into the most productive directions. Have you ever tried any of these Twitter visualizaton tools? Do you know of any more? Share your insight in the comments section below.

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How To Publish Your Video To Miro & Why You Should

Posted: 28 Sep 2010 02:31 PM PDT

miro videoThe world of video content is changing. We used to sit in front of a TV box with just a handful of channels. Then there were more channels and more ways of getting privatised TV, like cable and satellite. Eventually, the Internet also became a prominent provider of video content.

Viewers began to change. They realised they no longer wanted ads and that they could avoid them by getting video content online. They began to expect video content to be ready when they wanted it. They experimented with viewing more amateur content in an effort to avoid adverts.

Most importantly, publishers have changed. These days, a video publisher is anyone who can film something worth watching and put it online. You could be a video publisher. What’s more, you probably are.

As a video publisher, it’s important to keep ahead of the crowd and ensure your content is getting to the eyeballs of viewers.

  • Where are they watching the content?
  • How do they find new things to watch?
  • How can I get my videos noticed there?

Why Miro Video?

There are quite a few big players in the online video media playing world. However, the choice boils down to just a few.

One of the best of these is Miro – and I have a feeling it will continue to gain in popularity. Why? Because it’s open-source, multi-platform, easy to use, near-perfect already and there’s a bunch of coders happy to listen to suggestions and improve the product.

miro video

Miro also has several benefits which lend themselves to expansion in the future:

  • Video by RSS means you can catch any video podcast that’s being created. That’s a lot of video!
  • Fantastic media directory including popular TV content, movies, documentaries, RSS feeds, and torrents.
  • The ability to natively torrent files means that you can keep track of your favourite torrents easily. It even starts you off by pointing you in the direction of the Legal Torrents directory.
  • Miro plays just about every major video and audio format, making it ideal for podcasts, too.
  • Miro remembers where you got to and lets you start there later.
  • Channel and playlist grouping – easy to manage content.
  • Viewers can easily decide whether to auto-download new stuff, auto-discard old stuff or limit the drive-space used by Miro.
  • Can add content from elsewhere on your computer (and easily relocate Miro content).
  • Keyboard shortcuts, allowing for easy remote control use.

Basically, Miro is designed by geeks who just want something to easily find and manage all their video so that they can get on with the fun bit – watching it.

How To Add Your Video To Miro

Luckily for you, it’s really easy to add your quality video RSS feed to the Miro mix. And before you viewers start getting worried, there are real humans who approve each feed before it goes live. Quality will be maintained.

If you’ve been uploading video to YouTube or (or similar) you already have a video RSS feed. Head to your profile and copy the RSS feed (for YouTube, click on the RSS icon in the URL bar).

miro review

You’ll need a Miro account, which is a simple set up. Then, simply add your video RSS feed with your details (can be done from within Miro too). Make sure you choose a great icon picture, since this will be your primary promotional tool. Once approved, this will mean your feed will be available in the Miro directory.

In the meantime, you can promote your feed on your own site using the one-click Miro button. Again, this process is about as simple as they could make it: choose type; add RSS feed; choose button; get code. Voila!

miro review

I even checked this with a feed which contained other things (like pictures) and Miro just ignored the pictures and showed the video content. Easy!

miro video

As an added bonus, the folks at Miro have written an awesome guide on producing, publishing and promoting great video content. Check out their great tips!

So, for all you artists, journalists, DIY heroes – now you know just how easy it is to get your content in front of the people who want to watch it.

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Hot Tech Deals [Sep 28th]

Posted: 28 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 Pharos Drive 250US Portable GPS Navigator (4.3in, Text-to-Speech) $59.99AR Free Shipping
  2. TODAY ONLY Sharp AQUOS LC32D47U 32 inch LCD HDTV (720p) $329.99 Free Shipping
  3. TODAY ONLY Kingston SSDNow V Series 30GB 2.5in Internal SATA Solid State Hard Drive (TRIM) $59.99 Free Shipping
  4. Dell PowerEdge T110 Intel Core i3-430 2.93GHz Server Desktop $325 Free Shipping
  5. Shop4Tech Coupon Code 18% off Storewide via code PC18
  6. Asus RT-N16 Gigabit 802.11n Wireless N Router w/ USB Storage, Printer & Media Server (DD-WRT) $77 Free Shipping via code EMCYXNP58


  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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8 Websites To Get The Inside Scoop On Comic Book Movies

Posted: 28 Sep 2010 12:31 PM PDT

comic book moviesMovie producers know a good thing when they see one. There's nothing that fires up a fanboy's interest more than to see his (or her) favorite superhero come alive as a comic book movie on the big screen. Put an A-List celebrity in a spandex suit and you have a sure fire hit on your hands.

Okay, it's not that simple. There have been terrific duds like Watchmen and Hulk (the 2003 one). And I am not putting spoofs like 'Superhero Movie' on the Golden Raspberry worthy list.

Whatever the final outcome, films based on superheroes are eagerly anticipated. Whole fan sites come up around sneak peeks and inside scoops. Just check out the rave that's around the next Batman or Spiderman movie.

Where should a superhero fan go to check out the next big thing in a cape and hope to see it fly out of the screen? Maybe these eight websites can help him or her get the scoop on comic book movies.

Superhero Hype

comic book movies

Captain America is in Liverpool. He is going to be in an upcoming movie on the Marvel Universe. Catch the set and costume photos here on this site along with a lot of other news around superheroes and comic books. The site can be browsed according to the superheroes you are a fan of. You can jump into the forum and a sub-forum talking about your kind of crusader and chitchat with likeminded fans or gawk at the photos in the gallery.

Comic Book Movie

comic book superhero movies

Captain America is the talk of the town. That's what I learned from The site comes up with breaking news on mainstream movies starring your favorite superhero. The site also covers sci-fi, fantasy, video games, animation, anime and horror genres. The site has an active discussion board, but if you are a true blue fan, you should set up your own fansite. The site has a huge lineup of user created fansites. To get after your interest, the site also holds occasional fun contests and sweepstakes.

Comic Book Resources

comic book superhero movies

This site covers all angles and lives up to its name of being a great resource for fans of comic books and superhero movie adaptations. Features are the blogs that look into the niches of comic books and also movies/TV shows based on them.

For instance, the Spinoff Online blog has thoughts on What Is the Best Superhero Movie Ever with a poll. The Comics Should Be Good blog is on history, trivia and contests. Also check out the CBR Events Calendar for upcoming comic book events.


comic book superhero movies is all about giving comic book, anime, movie fans with news and feature stories. Features like Behind the Scenes, Profiles & Interviews, A View from the Aisles, are for the fan who loves to go deep. I for one loved the articles 6 Superheroes Who Completely Lost Their Shit sourced from in the Weekly Cracked List archive.

Splash Page (MTV)

This is a MTV blog that talks about 'comic inspired flicks'. You can get a lot of inside scoop here on the next big thing that's around the corner. News items sourced from other sources get bytes. Fans will love the exclusive tidbits and star interviews done in the usual MTV style.


The more than a decade old site is all about comic books. With film adaptations coming in thick and fast, it's also now a lot about the silver screen and the idiot box. Catch the latest headlines via the news features or the community discussions. The site also has a video channel that you can check out for trailers, teasers, and talks.

eFavata's Comic Book Movies

The movie and film blog is worth a look for the way it covers nothing but comic book movies. Of course, it sources some of the breaking news from the sites we have covered earlier, but it is interesting in the way it distills the news from the other websites. Catch the list of upcoming comic book movies on the left column. The image galleries are worth a dekko too.


comic book movies

The Marvel universe is huge with a great lineup of super heroes and villains. There are a lot of movies planned on them too. So why not get the straight dope from the horse's mouth? There's an entire section on movies and TV. Each released, upcoming, or released movie gets a page of its own with news, photos, and other tiny details like comic book links. Don't overlook the tiny grey arrows to expand the selections and sideswipe the view.

Movies based on comic book superheroes have made comics cool again. Importantly, it has given the adult the chance to relive his mind dramas on the large screen.

What's your rating on the fan meter? Do you like movies that have been churned out on superheroes or did you prefer them in the comics? Also, let us know if you know of any other cinematic website that's based on the guys 'n gals with the special powers and higher purposes.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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Tips & Tricks To Create The Coolest Photoshop Icons

Posted: 28 Sep 2010 11:31 AM PDT

create your own iconsThere are a vast number of free icon sets online, but if you want to roam beyond pure particular use, there are also a score of problems connected to them. Licensing and the lack of branding are just two of them.

Even if you’re not a software developer, learning to create your own icons is a tremendously useful skill. You can give your computer a unique skin or provide your services to the community and the corporate world.

This is by no means a complete icon design tutorial. We’re just getting you started on the rudimentary basics – technicalities, a design checklist, and an icon design toolset.

1. Icon Technicalities

Below are some specifications you should know concerning the icon format, most importantly image resolutions and file formats.


The importance of size is further discussed below. For now, we’ll stick to the technical aspects.

Icons are always square. This means that a rectangular icon will either be stretched out or sized down to respectively fill the entire canvas or fit in it. Either way, highly rectangular icons stand out in a bad way. The following icon sizes are the most common in use:

  • 16 x 16 px *  **
  • 24 x 24 px
  • 32 x 32 px *  **
  • 48 x 48 px *  **
  • 64 x 64 px
  • 96 x 96 px
  • 128 x 128 px **
  • 256 x 256 px **
  • 512 x 512 px **

Windows XP advises the use of 16 x 16, 32 x 32, or 48 x 48 resolutions*. If none are available , it’ll resize the the icon that’s closest in resolution, up to 256 x 256. With desktop resolutions rising ever higher, it’s advised to always include larger resolutions. The Apple ICNS format supports sizes 16 x 16, 32 x 32, 48 x 48, 128 x 128, 256 x 256 and even 512 x 512 **.

File Format

For Windows, the most commonly used file format for icon distribution is ICO. The Mac counterpart is ICNS (Apple Icon Image Format).

2. The Icon Design Checklist

There is not one tutorial to design the perfect icon, time and time again. Different themes and designs require different approaches, and the ‘current trend’ is in a state of constant flux. Below are three major pillars of icon creation that have proven true time and time again. If you’re new at designing icons, make sure to keep the icon checklist in mind at all time.


create your own iconsAbove all else, icons need to be unmistakable. The relation to your application must be obvious to all, across time, culture and age differences. Fight the temptation to create flashy icons that bear no relevance, and stick with a simple, solid and obvious design.

Don’t see this as an obstacle for your creativity; icons can be beautiful and thought-provoking, but shouldn’t be open for interpretation (read: guesswork at the user’s end).


create own iconsIf you’re designing an icon set, keep the design uniform.

Make sure you’ve got a common thread that interconnects these icons and shows the synergy to the users; the whole needs to be bigger than the sum of the parts.


create own iconsIcons are always created in multiple sizes. This affects the design in more ways than one.

For starters, icons must look good and recognizable regardless of the size. Take down the contrast around the sides to avoid jagged edges and make important details stand out enough to retain focus in the smallest implementation of the icon.

On a technical level, icons are best designed using vectors, images composed of endlessly scalable shapes, rather than a set composition of pixels. Nevertheless, if your resolution is high enough, bitmaps will do just as well.

3. The Icon Design Toolset

Photoshop is a great application to design icons. You’ve got (nearly) all the tools you need to create vector graphics or manipulate bitmaps, and apply complex effects and shading. Most importantly will be these three tools:

Pen Tool

The Pen tool allows you to create scalable vector graphics. You can draw a shape by creating nodes and drag to adjust the curve of the line. It’s harder to use than it looks, but probably the best tool of choice. We wrote about the pen tool in the past, read Photoshop Pathing: How To Use Photoshop Pen Tool.

create your own icons

ICO File Format Plug-In

This Photoshop plug-in adds the ICO file format to your export settings. The installation method is dependent on your OS and Photoshop version, so be sure to check the website.

Apple Icon Composer

Sadly, there is no such tool for Apple’s ICNS file format. This free tool takes care of the problem instead. It comes with the Apple Xcode package, which you can download after a (tedious) sign-up process. Or you can Google for the download.

Hongkiat: 40+ Hand-Picked Icon Design Photoshop Tutorials

Design blog has compiled a list of over 40 different Photoshop icon design tutorials. This list covers all kinds of icons, and several degrees of difficulty. Browse the list for inspiration, and extrapolate the techniques used to realize your own designs.

Layer Styles

Photoshop’s built-in layer styles are a great way to put the final touch to your icons. Open the layer style pane by double-clicking a layer, or right-clicking it in the layer overview. Use a 1px grey stroke with 40-50% opacity for your icon’s borders, and put your shadows at 110° for the best results. Try not to use shadows around the icon, though, as most operating systems already do this.

Do you have any other rudimentary tips on icon design? Let us know what you think in the comments section below!

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How To Turn Any Direct Download Into A Torrent Using Burnbit

Posted: 28 Sep 2010 10:31 AM PDT

how to create a torrentAmong the many file download methods available today, “direct download from HTTP server” and “Torrent” might be two of the most popular methods. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

The direct download method guarantees the availability of the file(s) as long as the provider doesn’t take the file down and also stable speed. On the other hand, the Torrent method can give you top notch speeds on popular files but it depends heavily on the availability of seeds. Older files tend to have less seeders and slower speeds to the point that the files that we want are no longer available for download.

It would be very great if we can combine the best of both worlds: the download speed and the availability of the files. The best way to do that is to combine the direct download with a Torrent. But do you know how to create a Torrent?

The answer is a web service called Burnbit.

Before The Fire

Burnbit has a motto: “If a file exists, there is a torrent of it. If not, it will be burned.” The motto clearly suggests that this web service will help users to create a torrent file out of (almost) every existing downloadable file.

All you’ve got to do is visit their website, type the URL of the file in the field provided, then click burn.

how to create a torrent

There are limitations though. First, Burnbit can only help you with HTTP direct downloads. So if the file that you want is not from that category, you’re out of luck. Secondly, the download URL should be alive and won’t “die out soon”. Third, you must not submit copyrighted files without explicit permission from the author. And last, pornographic materials are strictly prohibited.

create a torrent

Just for the sake of experiment, I tried submitting a download link which forwards users to the real temporary personal download link and I got this error message. I was hoping that I could use this service to download files from those annoying file sharing services, but I guess my expectations were too much.

create a torrent

It is also advisable to search for available torrents prior to burning your own torrent. If the file that you want is popular enough, someone else might’ve already burned it as a torrent and saved you the effort.

create a torrent

Burn Baby, Burn

After pasting the link and clicking the burn button, Burnbit will start to process your file.

create a torrent file

The service will begin burning the file. This process could take a while depending on the speed of the server where the file is stored. There’s the display of estimated time to help you predict how long should you wait. Normally it would take just a few minutes. There is also other additional information about the file.

create a torrent file

After the burning process is finished, you can click on the “Download Torrent” button, and then later open the torrent file using the torrent client of your choice.

create a torrent file

After The Fire

So who can benefit from this service? Why would anyone choose this method over direct downloads? Regular downloaders can get additional speed if there are a lot of people who are downloading the same file. Even the worst scenario is still acceptable: there will never be less than one seeder, and the speed will never drop below the file’s server speed.

But the one who will benefit the most are the file providers. They can deliver their files to their audience faster without having to put a lot of strain on their server because the bandwidth burden is shared among the downloaders.

All they have to do is burn their file(s) and share the torrent file(s) with their audience instead of the direct download link.


I curiously tried to burn a file in my Dropbox “Public” folder by pasting the “Public Link” in Burnbit’s URL field and it worked like a charm. You can actually host your torrent file in your Dropbox storage.

08 Dropbox public link-1.jpg

If you want to share large files to a group of people, this method could be a killer solution and with less effort than creating your own torrent. Moreover, Burnbit provides file sharers with a nice tracking device. Go to the “Get live download buttons” pane of your burned file page and click the “Generate button” button.

06 Burnbit - Live Download.jpg

You will get a line of code that you can copy and paste in your website/blog (or if you are a Wordpress user, you can utilize the widget), and you will get a live status of your file downloads (the number of seeders and leechers).

how to create a torrent

Have you tried Burnbit? Would you prefer to download/share files using this method? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

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Does Spicebird Really Blow Thunderbird Out Of The Water?

Posted: 28 Sep 2010 09:31 AM PDT

spicebirdSpicebird is an open source ‘collaboration application’ for Windows and Linux. It is based on Mozilla’s Thunderbird, but integrates additional key functions like calendar, tasks, and chat. The Home tab, which shows your agenda, feeds, and unread mail at a glance, currently is the most interesting feature of Spicebird.

Varun recently introduced you to this versatile program and provided a rough overview of its main features. I have put Spicebird under further scrutiny to reveal some of its less obvious features, as well as some of its bugs and possible fixes. In my summary I tie it all together and provide an outlook of what to expect from future releases.

Home Tab: Adding Google Gadgets

Home, sweet home. This is where all the threads are pulled together. At first this tab is empty and you are free to customize it, much like your iGoogle page. However, there are some pitfalls.

Click > Add Applets to start filling the Home tab. You can add multiple Mail Folder Views and set them to show unread mails or items of a recent time period. Likewise, you can add all or specific calendars.


One thing that caused me trouble was adding Google Gadgets (listed as Google Applet). Some gadgets are not compatible; others will install, but are useless because the template doesn’t load; yet others are not usable because they load webpages within the applet window, rather than launching your default browser. It is trial and error to find out which ones will work.

Fortunately, there are some great compatible gadgets, like calculators or converters. Finally, you might have to restart Spicebird to see the gadgets working.

Now let’s look at the tabs that will feed your Home tab.

Mail Tab: Importing Mail Accounts

The Mail tab is a reminder that Spicebird is based on Mozilla Thunderbird. It essentially is the same.

best email client

You can import existing mail accounts, address books, settings, and/or filters from Thunderbird, Outlook, Communicator 4.x, and Eudora. I had some trouble importing mail from Thunderbird. Now, since Spicebird and Thunderbird are so similar, you can manually copy the mail folders from one profile to the other. This simple fix worked very well for me.

However, please don’t try this with extensions. Although Spicebird does support them, sadly many extensions don’t seem to be compatible. It’s another case of trial and error.

Contacts Tab: Setting Up Chat Clients

The Contacts management is solid and works just like the Address Book you know from Thunderbird.

best email client

However, not all features of Spicebird are perfectly intuitive. The chat is one of them. Rather than living in its own tab, it is hidden in the Contacts tab, which is logical – but not obvious.

To set up your chat accounts, switch to the Contacts tab, then click > File > New > Chat Account… In the window that opens, > Select Protocol from the drop-down menu, enter your > Account name, and click > OK.

And this is where it gets really confusing. You only set up the protocol and your account name. Now you have to enable the new chat account and actually log in. In the Contacts sidebar find the menu below your Address Books. Click > Accounts, pick one of your accounts you just added, and click > Enable Account. You might have to restart Spicebird at this point to see your friends list. Your online status can be edited in the status bar in the bottom left.

best email client

With the chat I also encountered a major bug. I had some (spam) friendship requests waiting for me in my Yahoo! chat account. I denied them. And when I rebooted, they were back again. Every time. For some reason Yahoo! and Spicebird do not communicate well.

Calendar & Tasks Tabs: Missing Features

One thing that might be confusing at first is that the menu bar is different in each tab. It carries buttons and options useful only for the respective tab. This is smart behavior, but may leave you irritated for a moment if you are used to Thunderbird.

Per default, the calendar supports iCalendar, CalDAV and WCAP network calendars. I set up Google Calendar using ICS. Viewing the calendar is possible, however, it is ‘read only’. Unfortunately, the extension that enables syncing with Google Calendar in Thunderbird is not compatible with Spicebird.


The Tasks tab is pretty self-explanatory. Unfortunately, it seems that tasks that you mark as completed disappear instantly. This is rather annoying. In Thunderbird, the respective task remains in the list, but is crossed out.

There are indeed a few bugs to be ironed out. Here is a list of the major complaints I have:

  • Importing multiple inboxes from Thunderbird is unreliable.
  • Often, simple changes only become visible after a restart.
  • Many Google Gadgets are not compatible / working.
  • It’s unclear which Thunderbird extensions are supported.
  • Chat is complicated and not intuitive to set up.
  • Communication between chat clients and Spicebird is faulty.
  • Google Calendar sync is not supported.
  • Tasks disappear instantly when marked as completed.

Overall I fail to see where Spicebird comes in as a true collaboration tool. However, the Roadmap has features covered that will significantly improve this aspect. Future releases are envisioned to provide a more meaningful address book, multiple backends for tasks management, more views for calendar and tasks, integration with a CMS (Drupal), document management, and most importantly a Microsoft Exchange connector. That’s a mouthful and I hope they won’t forget to fix the bugs.

To wrap it up, I find that the current release of Spicebird has introduced some very useful features, most notably the Home tab. It is only a few bug fixes short of drawing level with an extended Thunderbird, although not yet good enough to replace it. Nevertheless, I’m excited to see the promised features, which will really make Spicebird a useful replacement for Outlook and a lot more.

What do you think? Could you imagine switching to Spicebird now or in the new future?

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Photojojo’s Cloak Camera Bag [Mini Giveaway]

Posted: 28 Sep 2010 09:21 AM PDT

Aaaaaand this is our final item to be given away during our first (but definitely not last) “photography month” on MakeUseOf.

Do you love spontaneous photography? Ever missed a great photo opportunity because your camera was stuck in the bag? It seems some boffins have come up with a genius solution — the Cloak camera bag (retails at $49)! This is the world’s first shoot-through camera bag — actually, it’s not really a bag, it’s more like a super long strap with a hood that surrounds your camera.

I’m sure you don’t really want to read my banter. Just head on over to Photojojo and take a look for yourself. Want to win one? In fact, we’re giving two Cloak bags away! Read on to find out how to score one.

How do I enter?

It’s simple, just follow the instructions.


Join our Facebook page by liking us. 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 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 LIKE the post. This step is optional but why not spread the love?

And that’s it! You’re done!

Giveaway eligibility
You must be a fan of our Facebook page 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 after 300 submissions. The winners will be selected at random and announced via email.

Spread the word to your friends and have fun!

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Exploring The New Internet Explorer 9 Beta

Posted: 28 Sep 2010 08:31 AM PDT

new internet explorerGeeks and Internet Explorer have rarely been on friendly terms. In the early days of Windows however, users of Windows computers didn’t have a great deal of choice as the only major competitor, Netscape, was struggling.

Internet Explorer’s popularity seems to have peaked in 2003 at a stunning market share of 95 percent, but fierce new web browsers like Firefox and Chrome have now reduced IE’s share to between 50 and 60 percent (depending on who you ask).

Microsoft, in classic form, has vowed to go back on the offensive with the latest iteration of IE, Internet Explorer 9. This new web browser is now available in beta form. Let’s take a look at IE9 and see what new features Microsoft is using to compete.

Hey! You Got Some Chrome In My Internet Explorer!

Loading Internet Explorer is rather jarring if you haven’t recently used Google Chrome. All of the recent Internet Explorer versions, including IE8, relied on a similar interface that made use of multiple toolbars located at the top of the browser window. This is how web browsers were made for years, and Microsoft seemed content with the interface they’ve developed.

Apparently Chrome made the IE team rethink their plans. This new version of Internet Explorer 9 stuffs your screen full of, uh, nothing. In fact, Internet Explorer’s default settings devote less pixels to toolbars than Google Chrome  - and not by just a little bit, either. Don’t believe me? Check out this screenshot below comparing the two side-by-side.

new internet explorer

If you told me six months ago that IE9 would rely on a more minimalist interface than Google Chrome I would have slapped you with a bass. But there you have it.

This minimalism leaks over to other areas of the interface as well. Notifications now pop up at the bottom of the browser page when they’re required and immediately go away after you’ve interacted with them. The favorites sidebar has been changed as well, so it only takes up a limited portion of the web browser instead of eating up hoards of pixel space even when you only have a handful of favorites listed.

new version of internet explorer

Internet Explorer 9 also rips off – er, is inspired by – the tab window found when you open a new tab in Chrome or Safari. Just as in those browsers, opening a new tab now presents you with a summary of your ten most popular sites. You can also reopen closed tabs, reopen your last session, or start a private browsing session from this menu.

Integration With Windows 7

Windows 7 is a really solid operating system. All reports so far seem to indication that Microsoft is having a far easier time selling Windows 7 than Vista, so it isn’t unreasonable to expect a majority of computers to be running Windows 7 within the next year or two. Internet Explorer 9 provides further reason to upgrade by taking advantage of the new features in Windows 7.

new version of internet explorer

This integration revolves around Windows 7 jumplists. For example, let’s say you decide to pin Twitter to your taskbar. Right-clicking on the Twitter icon will bring up a jumplist that lets you immediately write a new tweet or send a message. This  feature is brilliant because websites like Facebook and Twitter already behave more like applications than traditional webpages.

Changes Under The Hood

Chrome’s humorous speed test videos highlighted a very simple fact – Chrome is frickin fast! Internet Explorer, on the other hand, has never been known for its speed. Shaving off a few seconds here and there when loading a webpage may not seem important, but it makes a big difference in the subjective feel of how fast a program is.

Internet Explorer 9, I’m somewhat surprised to report, is extremely quick. As quick as Chrome? Maybe. I’m not equipped to fully benchmark a browser, and IE9 is still in beta besides, but I can tell you that IE9 beta feels as quick as Chrome. And I typically use Chrome as my primary browser.

new internet explorer

There are reasons for this. Internet Explorer 9 makes improvements to JScript and CSS rendering and also includes robust HTML5 support. These improvements also have increased IE9’s score in the Acid 3 web standards test. The latest build of IE9 scored 95/100, up from a score of 20/100 in IE8.


I’m really impressed by the beta build of Internet Explorer 9. It is a browser that I’d seriously consider using instead of Chrome, my regular browser. It felt equally quick and the integration with Windows 7 jumplists is awesome.

Do you agree, or do you think Microsoft still has a lot of catch up to do? Let us know in the comments.

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