Saturday, October 2, 2010 “Cool Websites and Tools [October 1st]” plus 8 more “Cool Websites and Tools [October 1st]” plus 8 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [October 1st]

Posted: 01 Oct 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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Gridulator – Are you having trouble creating a pixel grid? Then you should check out Gridulator. This web app allows you to generate nice pink pixel grids using just your browser. You can customize the overall width of the grids as well as the number of columns with this very easy to use pixel grid generator. Read more: Gridulator: Create Pixel Grid Easily


BBC Dimensions – Often while reading about historic events or natural disasters, you come across statistics that define the area these events spanned. But figures seldom do a good job of giving a clear idea as to how large the area was. To get an idea of how big a certain historic event really was, pay a visit to BBC Dimensions. Read more: BBC Dimensions: Get A Clear Idea Of How Big A Historic Event Was



Shuffler – With the help of the Internet, you can stream any music you want through various online stores and online radio stations. Music blogs are another great way to tune into music online. But usually a music blog features content that only one person likes – the blog owner. To mash up many music blogs together, try out Shuffler. Read more: Shuffler: Aggreagates & Streams Music From Music Blogs



Google Social Circle & Content – Considering how indispensable Google and its services have become for us, it is no surprise that Google knows more about our online connections than anyone else. To let you know how it identifies your connections for its social search results, it has a page with tabs called Social Circle and Social Content. Read more: Google Social Circle & Content: See What Google Knows About You & Your Social Circle



Pay As You Go SIM With Data Wiki – One of the best ways to ensure that you can make use of your cellphone when you travel abroad is to get a country-specific pre-paid SIM card. Pay As You Go Sim With Data Wiki is a user contributed and edited wiki site that has a list of best pay as you go mobile plan for a number of countries. Read more: Pay As You Go Sim With Data Wiki: Find The Best Pay As You Go Mobile Plans For Many Countries


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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 Best Questions From You [MakeUseOf Answers]

Posted: 01 Oct 2010 06:31 PM PDT

MakeUseOf Answers honors your contributions and rewards the Best Answer of the Week every Friday. This week our winner is Ed for his answer to this question: “Would my Windows PC run faster if I only installed portable apps?” Great suggestion Ed, thank you for sharing!

Ready to learn something new? Check out our best questions:

  1. What is a good and free tool to manage video files?
  2. How can I add more than one FBML tab to my Facebook page?
  3. What is a good collaboration platform for non-geeks?
  4. How can I best create a simple iPhone app?
  5. How can I be reminded of adding an intended attachment in Mail on Mac?

MakeUseOf Answers has the answers to many interesting 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.

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Tweak Program Settings & Activate Hidden Features With Tinkertool [Mac]

Posted: 01 Oct 2010 04:31 PM PDT

tinkertoollogo.pngSometimes Apple, with all its advanced wizardry, overlooks the little things in its operating system that make some of us Mac users scratch our heads and say, “what the heck are they thinking?!”  But rest assured, third party developers come along with awesome applications that help the rest of us tinker around with the system just enough to remain on the safe side of not crashing into a dead end wall.

Tinkertool is one such application that Mac power users have used for years to make little tweaks to Mac OS X.

In the words of the developers, Tinkertool

is an application that gives you access to additional preferences settings Apple has built into the Mac OS X. This allows you to activate hidden features in the operating system and in some of the applications delivered with the system.

On the Tinkertool's Details page, the developer provides over a hundred system features and settings that Tinkertool can modify, but their documentation for what Tinkertool can do doesn't illustrate well what many of those changes look like, especially for new and intermediate Mac users. So the purpose of this article is show you some of the changes that might appeal to general users of Tinkertool.

iTunes 10 Tweaks

Let's start off with the most obvious tweaks you might want Tinkertool to make. In the recent release of iTunes 10, Apple did a makeover of the media player's interface that some users, including myself, are not too happy about.

Point in case, Apple got rid of the title bar of iTunes and put the close/minimize/expand buttons into a vertical position.


If you want to bring back the design interface like it was in iTunes 9, all you need to do is check the "Use standard window with title bar and horizontal buttons" box in Tinkertool, log out and log back into your user account, and presto the buttons and title are back where they used to be.


Among the five other settings, another little iTunes Tinkertool tweak that some users might like is being able to add half-star ratings.


Finder Tweaks

In the area of Finder tweaks, Tinkertool allows you to show hidden system files, which is something only useful if you know what to do with those files. So otherwise, best leave them alone.


But there are some settings that you might find useful, such as the ability to have Quick Look show the insides of folders.


Also, if you want to remove some of the menu items in Finder, Tinkertool enables you to do that.


You can also add "Quit" to the Finder menu, useful for when the Finder is acting ugly and you need to shut it down for a minute.


It's also pretty nice to add scroll arrows at both ends of Finder windows, or you can choose to just put them at the start or the end.


Dock Tweaks

The only tweak in this area that appealed to me is the ability to add a recent items stack to my dock.


Other features include the ability to use spring-loaded tiles, and to disable three-dimensional glass effect, replacing it with a black background – as in the screenshot below. Not very attractive, but it's an option if you're trying to do a fancy makeover of your desktop or something.


QuickTime Tweaks

If you're in the habit of using QuickTime Player for editing video, Tinkertool enables you to add an Option key setting for editing audio as well video.


You can also make changes to the QuickTime interface, getting rid of the title bar, and disabling the navigation controls even when the cursor re-enters the window.

Safari Tweaks

One of the best Tinkertool tweaks for Safari is the ability to disable the warning you get when closing a window that includes an unsubmitted form. For me it's just one less click that I have to make, thanks to Tinkertool.

Screen shot 2010-09-21 at 8.55.51 AM.png

Undos & Resetting

I have only highlighted about a third of the tweaks that Tinkertool can make. If you're using the program for the first time, you might feel a little apprehensive about making changes. But based on my tests, any changes you apply can be undone by either relaunching the application or logging out and back in, to apply changes. The instructions for applying and undoing settings are clearly present at the bottom of Tinkertool's window.

There's also a Reset button that puts everything back to default settings.


In its fourth version, Tinkertool seems to be a pretty stable tool that allows you to do some cool little makeovers in Mac OS X without monkeying around too deeply in hidden territory. In other words, it's a safe program that you might try just to see what it can do.

If you're an experienced user of Tinkertool, let us know how you have used the program. What tweaks do you find most useful?

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3 Interesting Websites That Help You Explore Your City

Posted: 01 Oct 2010 02:31 PM PDT

I recently moved to New York City. There’s no shortage of things to do here, that’s for sure, but when I first arrived I didn’t know where anything was. If I wanted to go on an adventure or go out and meet people I couldn’t, because I didn’t know where all the action was.

So I turned to the Internet, and in doing so I discovered some wonderful sites that helped me get out and explore the city.

In this article, I am going to share these sites with you, so you can explore the area you live in. I will cover the features that make these websites unique, as well as give you some ideas on how to use them, so even if you’ve been living in the same place all your life, you’ll always have something to do.


The first site I would like to talk about is Fwix. Fwix (directory app) is a site that allows you to find out what’s happening nearby. Just type in your whereabouts and click Search to get started. Based on your location, Fwix will bring up a list of events in your area.

Among the search results you will receive are News, Events, Reviews, Places, Photos, and Updates. News brings up a list of stories in your area. You can scroll through the headlines or even click on the links to be taken to the website the story is posted on.

Events shows you a list of upcoming events in your area from sites like StubHub, Zvents, and Eventbrite. Reviews and Places shows you restaurants and establishments nearby, along with user ratings for them (e.g. 5 out of 5).

Photos pulls in photographs tagged in Flickr and Updates shows you location-based tweets.

Not only can you use this site for exploring your city, it’s a great source for local news as well. Skimming through nearby areas allows you to follow the buzz and plan for upcoming events. You can get as specific as you want to with the search by typing in your neighborhood, zip code, or whatever works for you.


Next up is Goby. If you are looking to go on an adventure, Goby (directory app) is the perfect site for you. Whether you’re planning to travel across the country or stay near home, Goby can accommodate you. You can search over 350 categories, save your favorites, organize and share lists, and get recommendations.

Goby’s search features are very interactive. To explore your city, just select the type of activity you’re looking for, and click in the location field. A map of the U.S. will pop up, allowing you to select your state, then city, then local area. It’s a simple yet pretty cool feature.

Click search and you will be taken to a page with many options for you to pick from. Click on events to view their descriptions. Goby shows you where events are located on the map, how far you are from places, and gives a snapshot and link to the relevant website.

You can use Goby to find pretty much anything to do in your city. Create an account or connect with Facebook to begin making lists, getting recommendations, and sharing your adventures with others.

Similar sites to Goby include Ooh and Happenr (for European cities).


Lastly there’s Meetup. Meetup facilitates meetings between like-minded individuals. If you’re looking to meet new people and find interesting events to go to in your area, Meetup is the place to be. You can find a group based on topic or interest or create one of your own.

Just type in your topic or location to get started. You will be taken to a page where you can see trending meetups in your area. Click on an event to see all of the in-depth information centered around it.

Location, date and time, number attending, reviews, ratings, specific details, and conversation are what you’re likely to find on most event pages. Create an account or connect with Facebook to RSVP for an event and share your plans with your friends.

Meetup is a great place to find something to do in your city.


As you can see, I’ve found plenty to do here in New York. Thanks to the above mentioned tools it is very easy to find something to do in the city and even fill up your calendar if you like. I wanted to share these websites specifically because of the variety they bring to the table. Whether you’re looking to discover local news, find interesting spots, or locate group interests we’ve got you covered.

What are you using to explore your city? Leave your thoughts, ideas, and comments below!

Image Credit: Tom Wang

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Hot Tech Deals [Oct 1st]

Posted: 01 Oct 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 Sharp LC-60E88UN 60 inch LCD HDTV (1080p, 240Hz) $1549.99 Free Shipping

  2. TODAY ONLY Samsung 2494LW 24in Widescreen LCD Monitor (1920×1080) $159.99 Free Shipping

  3. Dell Small Business Coupon Code 38% off Latitude 5410/5510 Laptops $1099+ via code QQJV31R0FW$$DT

  4. OtterBox Cases Exclusive Coupon – 10% off + Free Shipping (iPhone 4 Defender Case $44.95) via code tb1010y

  5. Lenovo IdeaCentre A300 Intel Dual-Core T4400 All-in-One Desktop (4GB/500GB/Wifi/TV Tuner) w/ 22in LCD $599 via code USPA1N930

  6. Lenovo IdeaPad U450p Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300 ULV 14in Laptop (4GB/320GB) $599 via code USPU2G930

  7. Lenovo IdeaPad U160 Intel Core i5-470UM ULV 11.6in Laptop (only 3.1lbs) $749 via code USPU15L928

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How To Make Your Own Podcast For Free

Posted: 01 Oct 2010 12:31 PM PDT

Have you ever thought about making a podcast, but didn’t really know where to start? Don’t stress – you’re not alone. There’s a lot of people out there who aren’t quite sure what a podcast is, let alone where to begin.

Then, when it comes to actually creating a podcast, the options are a little daunting. How do you decide how much space and bandwidth you need? Is there a free option without ads? Do I need a professional set-up just to make it half-decent? It’s a world of confusion. Today we’re going to try to clear up all that confusion for you.

What Is A Podcast?

Podcasts are essentially a series of video or audio media files which can be subscribed to using a syndicated feed such as RSS or Atom. The name “podcast” came about by blending the terms “iPod” and “broadcasting”. In fact, iPods have never been essential to subscribing to a podcast, but the term has nevertheless stuck.

How Are Podcasts Made?

There are plenty of ways to make a podcast. Essentially, you just need to get the two essential ingredients working together: video or audio media and an RSS/Atom feed.

It’s possible to find a hosting solution for the individual files (free or paid) and then feature each file in a blog post using any blogging platform you like. So, your podcasting options could include:

  • A self-hosted Wordpress blog with sufficient file space for audio/video media.
  • YouTube (provides video hosting and an RSS feed for free).
  • Blip.TV (provides video hosting and RSS feed for free).
  • Free file storage like DropBox and a free Blogger blog.
  • A dedicated podcast hosting service.

What Amount Of Storage & Bandwidth Do You Need?

With audio files, space consumption does vary a lot depending on the audio compression. A generous estimation for MP3 is that you will need about 1MB space per minute of audio. So, if you record a few sessions of half an hour long (30mins = approx 30MB) to start with and intend to make a half-hour segment per week, you’ll need to start with storage space of about 100MB which increases by at least 150MB per month. Plug in your own proposed segment lengths and frequency to get your personal estimate.

Bandwidth requirements for podcasts will entirely depend on your audience. Let’s say you had 100 listeners (quite a lot for a new podcast) which means each person automatically downloads each of your 30MB weekly installments. Essentially, you’re going to need 100 times more bandwidth allocation per month than your monthly storage needs. In this case, you’ll need at least 15GB bandwidth to get you through the month.

With video files, it varies wildly depending on the compression you use. For instance, an MPEG-4 can average about 15MB per minute of video, while an AVI file can average 60MB per minute. That’s a huge difference! But, lets say you’re using MPEG-4 to make a 30 minute video. That could be 450MB! If you start with three videos that size and want to do one a week, you’d need a start-up space of about 1.5GB and an increase of 2.5GB per month.

Bandwidth needs for video podcasting? Let’s just leave it at LOTS.

Where Can You Easily Host A Podcast For Free?

With free dedicated podcast hosting you generally have peace of mind, knowing that you will not be charged more than you can afford for hosting and that a reputable company is backing up your data for you. Plus, many of these hosts will help to promote your feed wherever possible to people with similar interests.

Because of the size of video podcasting, it’s usually recommended that you use a free dedicated service rather than hosting your own. YouTube and are both good options.

YouTube limits each file upload to 15 minutes and 2GB at a time. There’s no limit to the number of videos you can upload. doesn’t seem to have a size limit or a limit on the number of videos you can upload. To submit to podcast directories though, you may need to do a little hacking.

With audio podcasting, the free podcast hosts generally come with size and bandwidth limitations. Plus, they may place adverts in your audio or on the web page your feed is promoted on. Another serious limitation is that they often require you to download their own software to upload your audio.

Due to these limitations and the much smaller size of audio files, it’s recommended that hobby audio podcasters either use a dedicated free service or a free file storage service with a free blog. Meanwhile, professional audio podcasters are recommended to use their own hosting and blog.

If you choose to host your own podcast, don’t forget that many file storage services and personal web hosts have bandwidth limitations or possible extra charges. Make sure you read all the fine print and work out your real costs.

Many of you just want a simple, free one-site-does-everything audio podcast solution, like the video hosts previously mentioned. I have seen several options and, due to the various limitations, would only be comfortable recommending Podomatic. The other options simply have too many limitations on free accounts. Also, if you ever need to upgrade to a paid pro account, Podomatic has some great options that won’t require you to relocate your podcast.

Using Podomatic

Podomatic is really easy to use. Sign up only takes a minute and you can be uploading audio or video in no time at all. Although, if you keep in mind the size of video, you’ll realise the free account is best suited to audio podcasts.

There are many uploading options, including recording the podcast using the website, uploading a file through the web interface or uploading via FTP. This means you are free to make your podcast using your favourite tools on your computer, like GarageBand. Each episode gets an individual photo for promotion purposes and the Podomatic podcast directory will help you promote your feed to people who want to hear it. What more could you want?

The above should get you well and truly on your way to starting your podcast.  If you have any questions or problems, let us know in the comments below and we’ll see if we can help.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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5 Free Online Encyclopedias Suitable For Kids

Posted: 01 Oct 2010 11:31 AM PDT

The entire World Wide Web can be seen as an informational ad reference source. But when it comes to kids, the nature of content presents a challenge of comprehension. You cannot tell a kid to go to Wikipedia and find out about “plastics” for instance. Well, he or she can, but a phrase like “semi-synthetic organic amorphous solids” would be beyond the grade level of many kids.

To revise the information to the level of a child's knowledge requires effort on the part of the teacher or the parent. So, right here, let's introduce ourselves to five free online information sources which have simplified explanations of deeper topics.

The five online encyclopedias also help the parent or the teacher to free the kids to do their own browsing and research. Wouldn't it be great if your kids could complete their homework without your handholding?

Simple English Wikipedia

Simple English Wikipedia defines 'plastics' in much simpler words. The explanation is of course, not as detailed as its full blown version, but it is more basic for a child to grasp.

The online reference source is running around 64,555 articles right now in alphabetized categories. Simple English Wikipedia uses simple English words, grammar, and shorter sentences. Just like its big brother it also is available in many languages and you can note the number of articles available under each on the landing page itself.

Use the search bar or drill down the Knowledge Groups to search for topics. Similarly, other tools that come under Print/Export are also available.

Yahoo Kids

A Yahoo search taps into the 52,000 entries and 84,000 cross linked references brought together by Columbia University Press. Yahoo Kids is a good enough homework help site with tools like a World Factbook, dictionary, a Q& A service, and small sections on science and animals etc.

The most direct way to access the encyclopedia is to use the search bar. The information contains further links which can take you deeper into related areas. The language according to the target audience is pretty basic.

Fact Monster

The child pleasing interface of Fact Monster includes an almanac, a dictionary, a thesaurus, and an encyclopedia, along with other homework aids. This child friendly site is a part of, the reference portal. Fact Monster also uses the database of the Columbia Encyclopedia.

You can use the search bar or browse by subject. Each subject covers a range of sub-topics. The information is brief and to the point.  You can also tap into the Almanac which gives a lot of space to topics on science, math, and world facts.

Kids.Net is actually an Australian ‘not for profit’ kids safe portal run by a team of volunteers. The seven year old site has an encyclopedia among other informational tools. With one million articles on a variety of topics, the site is a good place to visit if you want child-safe and easy to understand information.

The Library of Congress

The Library of Congress as a reference site for children sounds a bit odd. But the world's largest library has to be a great melting pot of knowledge. And the child won't get lost as it has a separate online section for kids and families. If you want to know about American history for instance, this is a great starting point. Click on America’s Library and you get to read America's Story and learn about the people and events that forged the nation. The America's Library sub-site is filled with interesting facts, and to get an overview of all that, read the Welcome page.

While compiling this small list, I did not find many free encyclopedias for children with blanket coverage on a variety of topics. These five though stand up to the task adequately enough. But you might have to go back to the search engines for more in-depth information or you can also try out these tips on researching for homework.

Can you add your favorite online encyclopedia to the list if it's not among the ones mentioned here?

Image: Shutterstock

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Introducing Fennec Alpha, The New Firefox Mobile For Android

Posted: 01 Oct 2010 10:31 AM PDT

Mobile web browsers have always been noticeably inferior to their feature-rich desktop counterparts. Most of them were nothing more than a slow webpage rendering application, and gave the user a rather one-sided web experience. The message seemed obvious; mobile devices should only be used for a “dumbed down” version of the web.

Luckily, we've already been making a lot of progress in this area. Mobile browsers are, albeit still inferior, looking nicer and working more powerful each day; the mentality has changed and the gap is decreasing slowly but steadily. With the Fennec alpha release, Mozilla looks to be bridging that gap even faster.

Fennec (Alpha)

Mozilla, the guys who've been bringing you Firefox, have always been missing out on the mobile action. Although Opera, Internet Explorer and Safari all have mobile counterparts, Firefox stuck to the desktop. That's where Fennec comes in. Fennec is Mozilla's answer to the mobile browser; a mobile Firefox, so to speak. Sadly, it’s currently only available for Android 2.0 and higher. Older platforms should become available as development continues.

An early build has been floating around the web since earlier this year, but it was a mostly buggy experience. Last month, Mozilla officially released the Fennec Alpha version, which is not yet fully finished (hence the alpha tag), but nevertheless it still gives you a good idea about where the project's heading.


Before we install Fennec, let's make sure your phone is set up right. Verify that your user agent is set to Android, not Desktop, in the settings pane of your current mobile browser. Now you can point your mobile browser to the Fennec download page and install your shiny new Mozilla browser. If you’re not using Android 2.0 or higher, you also cannot install this release.

One thing I've noticed using Fennec is that it can be rightfully be called a memory hog. While running, it takes up over 30 MB of internal memory and may serve you a 'low storage' warning message. This can be solved by moving the application to SD, in Settings -> Applications -> Manage Applications -> Fennec. Doing so will rid you of the low storage warning and significantly improve your Fennec browsing speed.

Mobile Browsing On Steroids

Even in this Alpha release, Fennec shows itself to be an impressive browser candidate. Fennec offers a simple, non-cluttered interface. The menus are initially hidden, but the bookmarks and tabs overview can be dragged in from the side of the screen. Website content is easily shared across social networks and email by long-pressing an object, and with offline browsing in mind, the user can even save the entire page as a PDF to the SD card.

Like its desktop counterpart, Fennec supports browser add-ons, although they're not cross-compatible. There are currently a good hundred mobile add-ons available in the Fennec gallery. Firefox Sync, a built-in feature, will also allow you to keep passwords, form data, history and open tabs synchronized between multiple Firefox installations and Fennec.

For this Fennec release, Mozilla keeps interface and rendering memory resources strictly divided. Loading a tricky website, or rather failing to load it, will no longer freeze the entire application. Despite a relatively fresh experience, this alpha can still contain bugs, so everyday use might not be recommended.

What browser do you use on your Android phone, and what do you think about Mozilla Fennec? Let us know in the comments section below!

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Google URL Shortener Launches Website [News]

Posted: 01 Oct 2010 08:31 AM PDT

Google URL Shortener, aptly named, has been available for use for almost a year, and it finally has its own website. In the past, you could only use it through the Google Toolbar, or through specific Google products such as Feedburner, News, Blogger and Picasa. Now you can get all your Google URL shortening needs done on their recently launched webpage.

Google went about things in a somewhat back-to-front fashion, launching the service itself before the website. Now, with the new website, you can get access to statistics on all URLs you've shortened using, provided you're logged into your account. These stats include traffic, referrers and visitor profiles.

As far as features are concerned, that’s pretty much all you're going to get. Google have chosen to focus instead on stability, security and speed. According to their blog, their priorities are uptime and spam detection. They've also managed to double the speed of the service since its launch, and want to keep it that way.

There are a few unofficial browser add-ons already available to use with, like Chrome's URL Shortener and Firefox's lite, and Google will be releasing the API in the future, making it easy to incorporate their URL shortener in other third party applications.

Via Lifehacker

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