Wednesday, October 6, 2010 “Cool Websites and Tools [October 5th]” plus 12 more “Cool Websites and Tools [October 5th]” plus 12 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [October 5th]

Posted: 05 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. You can make use of them without spending a dime. If you want to have similar cool websites round-ups delivered to your email daily email subscribe here.

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HTML5 Element Reference Table – Periodic Table of the Elements, a project by Josh Duck, aims to act as a quick HTML5 element reference online. It has got 104 elements and 2 proposed elements arranged in a periodic table format. Clicking on an item shows up a pop-up describing that tag. Read more: HTML5 Element Reference Table


CableMap – You might have heard of internet connectivity being down in certain parts of the world due to damaged underwater cables. Generally people do not know where exactly these cables are. If you are interested in knowing about the paths of theses cables, pay a visit to underwater internet cable map “Greg's Cable Map”. Read more: CableMap: Interactive Underwater Internet Cable Map



FareShare – Taxi fares can cost you a significant amount of money if the destination is far away. Often to ease the burden, people find others traveling in the same direction and split the cab fare. Now there is an online service to facilitate easy New York taxi sharing and it's called Fare Share. Read more: FareShare: Enables Easy New York Taxi Sharing With Other



DownloadSpy – A number of websites list freeware applications. But usually you have to try out a few apps from the clutter before you finally find a reliable and robust program. What is needed is a free program listing website that includes only great applications that competently get the job done. DownloadSpy is exactly that website. Read more: DownloadSpy: Huge archive of free and free-to-try software programs



SadSteve – You will find many websites that offer MP3 files for download. However most of these websites aim to make money while offering songs for free. Consequently they use online advertisements as revenue sources and create an annoying ad-clutter on their webpages. That is what differentiates Sad Steve from other free MP3 music websites. Read more: SadSteve: Stream MP3 Songs Online


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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: 05 Oct 2010 07:31 PM PDT

If you need help with a tough tech question MakeUseOf Answers is one of the best places to turn to. Try us!

We are happy to help, however, we don’t always know the best answer. This is where you come in again. Every Friday we reward the Best Answer of the Week in our contest. Simply answer to enter.

And these are the toughest questions we need help with this week:

  1. How can I make Windows XP recognize secondary hard drive after installing Ubuntu 10?
  2. Does the Sprint Samsung Epic Galaxy A have free GPS cell phone tracking?
  3. How can I watch flash videos in RSS feeds with Mozilla Thunderbird?
  4. What is the best antivirus program for a Symbian mobile phone?
  5. How can I run Google Chat in Thunderbird?

MakeUseOf Answers is a repository for 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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3 Websites To Help You Find Daily Deals In Your City

Posted: 05 Oct 2010 06:31 PM PDT

daily dealsI recently wrote an article entitled 3 Interesting Websites That Help You Explore Your City. It was meant to get you out exploring your town and hopefully discovering new and interesting places to hang out. Well, now that you’re more familiar with your surroundings, it’s time to capitalize on it.

I’m talking about daily deals. There are websites springing up all over the place that have a genius concept behind them – saving you money.

These websites work with local businesses to get them to host one-day deals in your area in exchange for promoting the deals with their popular services. The website gets a cut of the profits for that day, but the store walks away with dozens of new, loyal customers. It’s a win-win for everyone involved, including you!

In this article, I will point out a few of these services so you can start reaping the benefits immediately. I will also cite the features that make each of these services unique.


daily deals

Groupon’s Deal of the Day: One ridiculously huge coupon each day, on the best things to eat, see, do and buy in your city.

Groupon (directory app) is the most popular of these services, making it the driving force behind the daily deal concept. With Groupon, you can choose from dozens of cities. Just select the city and enter in your email address and you will begin receiving daily emails of deals in your area.

If you would prefer to receive deals another way, you can also check Facebook and Twitter feeds, as well as access Groupon on your phone. There are apps for iPhone and Android, allowing you to present your phone at the store instead of printing out your coupon.

To find out more about how Groupon works, check out this video.


best daily deals

LivingSocial is another website that has deals for tons of different cities. You can find deals for all major US cities on this site, as well as some for the UK and Canada.

Sign in with your Facebook account or create an account on LivingSocial to get started. You’ll begin receiving daily deals for your area. You can also check deals on your iPhone. If you see something you like, click through to receive a link for your voucher.

Here’s the kicker. After you buy the deal, you get a unique link to share with others. Get three people to get in on the deal and your deal becomes free. Talk about a discount.

Urban Spoils

daily deals

Urban Spoils is just like Groupon and LivingSocial in theory, but I really like how customizable it is. You can use Foursquare to find deals around you, as well as select your city from a drop-down list.

Also, customize deals according to your interests, like dining & nightlife, fitness, retail, activities & attractions, and more.


I’m quickly finding out that living in the city can be expensive. It’s still nice to be able to go out and do things, so I’m glad there are businesses out there taking the initiative to work with companies on promotional deals for their customers.

Sites like those mentioned above can be very beneficial for word-of-mouth marketing for businesses and it gets people in your store. Everybody likes a good deal! If you really like the concept of a daily deals site, you should also check out Woot for daily deals online.

What do you think of daily deal websites? Will you be utilizing any of these resources while navigating your city? Leave your thoughts, ideas, and comments below!

Image Credit: -Albachiaraa-

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Create A Google Custom Search Engine Fueled By Your Research

Posted: 05 Oct 2010 04:31 PM PDT

google custom searchNo matter what topic you are interested in, Google can only go so far in providing you with the search results that you need. You have to remember that Google is searching through the entire Internet in order to offer you relevant results about your unique topic. The more unique or specialized the topic, the more difficult it is for Google to identify useful sites.

However, within every subject there are usually giant repositories of information – directories or portals where you can find volumes of valuable information about what you’re interested in. Just take a look at your own bookmarks, collected after a few years of exploring the web. Do relevant pages from your favorite sites always come up in Google?

The answer is no. Even if a website features thousands of pages of information related to a topic you’re interested in, if that site isn’t perfectly situated or optimized for Google to find it, then it may never even show up in your normal Google search results at all. However, for years Google has offered the ability for website owners to utilize a Google custom search engine on their own site.

That isn’t news – third party apps have been doing this all along, like Groovle or Search All Craigslist.  What is news is the fact that you can make use of the CSE tool to build your own topical search engine from the ground up. And, if you have friends who are also interested in the same subject, you can make the search engine a collaborative effort.

Create A Google Custom Search Engine In Three Steps

For years, bloggers and website owners have tossed Google’s custom search engine on their sites with the default “full web” enabled and simply used the on-site search field to produce revenue. However, this tool is so much more useful than that. You can completely transform the CSE into your own personal research tool. Even better – you can offer that research tool to your readers.

The three step process is fast – just make sure you have your own web page somewhere where you can embed your final search engine.

google custom search

The important part is “Sites to search.” This is where your specialized knowledge of the subject matter comes into play. Put all of those directories, websites and portals you’ve accumulated into this field. In my case, I’ve stockpiled Freedom Of Information Act reading room sites – and I’m loading up my specialized search engine with those directories.

google custom search engine

You can pretty much customize the search field and results to look however you like, right down to modifying link and text colors, the colors for search controls and everything else (even fonts!)

google custom search engine

That’s it for the basic setup. You now have the start of a specialized search engine that uses Google’s superior website search capabilities combined with your inside knowledge of the best websites for this topic area.

google custom search engine

You’ll notice at the bottom, there’s a whole lot more you can do with this customized search engine. I’ll get to a few of those features below. Here is what my customized search engine looks like on my site.

internet custom search

The results are returned right on the page. The free CSE requires Google ads at the top of results, but for a yearly fee you can remove those. As you can see from the results, the information gathered doesn’t include erroneous results. In my case, I wanted to only search official documents, and that’s exactly what Google has done – returning results that are crawled from those pages only. No garbage, spam sites or erroneous data.

internet custom search

The real power of this tool comes out when you start digging into the settings. You can go into the “Sites” section of the control panel and keep adding more resources – building the strength of your search engine as you discover and save new, relevant sites.

You can also enable the “Promotions” feature, which triggers stand-out listings at the top of the results when people type in certain keywords. So, if there’s a new section of your site about “sports cars” that you really want to promote – you can have your own page at the top for that keyword (or keywords).

internet custom search

The Synonyms feature is also an excellent way to strengthen your customized search engine even more by adding similar words that have the same meaning. In many industries or subjects, there is a certain terminology that Google can’t possibly know. By customizing the synonyms search, you’ll strengthen the power of your search engine even further.

Then of course, there’s the awesome collaboration section. Just enter in an email and a message to your friends how share your common interests, and invite them to join with you in strengthening your search engine with their own research and insight. You can have up to 100 collaborators building your engine with you.

google custom search

In time, your CSE will become known throughout your specific industry or online community as being a valuable resource that returns much better results than the standard Google search engine. A custom search engine is a really powerful and useful tool that you can offer to your visitors to make your website even more valuable.

Have you ever played around with the Google Custom Search Engine? Did you find that it’s effective? Share your insight in the comments section below.

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Miso – A New Way To Share What Movie Or TV Program You Are Watching

Posted: 05 Oct 2010 02:31 PM PDT

what you are watchingSometimes you just want to veg out in the comfort of your own home, kick back and enjoy some quality entertainment. And why not? After working all day, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to spend a little time chilling out in the house you’re working hard to pay for.

But sometimes even in our laziest moments, we still feel that human urge to be sociable. To share what we’re doing with our friends and to connect with other people doing the same thing. This is where Miso comes in.

What Are You Watching?

At this stage, Miso can easily be summarised as “Foursquare for people who are watching TV”. When you’re busy with your pixellated entertainment, Miso lets you check into the TV show or movie and share that through your social networks to your friends.

what you are watching

The premise is very simple. All they ask is “What are you watching?“. It can be a TV show, online show, movie or anything at all. It doesn’t seem to apply to live events, but who’s to know where the future will take it. There’s room to expand.

The Future Of Miso

Miso is still in early days yet, with just a handful of entrepreneur geeks at the helm, but already it’s gaining a rapid following.

Hopefully, since Miso has an accessible API, people will soon write Miso hooks into things like Miro, LiveStation, Hulu, Joost, YouTube, Vimeo, set-top boxes and other cool ways of watching shows so that it’s all automatic. Even better would be to also link these to Glue, Facebook pages, Flixter and MyTVShows. Then things will get really fun!

television social network

Miso Right Now

For the moment, Miso is a great way to share your entertainment preferences with your friends. You can check into Miso using applications on the iPod, iPad, Android phone or by using the website.

television social network

When you check into movies, TV shows or specific episodes, you earn badges and points for your regularity, showing how much of a fan you are. Some TV shows even have special badges that let people specifically know you’re a fan of that show.

television social network

As well as showing off badges, you can also use your profile to show off your favourite shows. Miso are keen to remind you that watching sport counts!

tv social network

If your favourite show isn’t in their database it takes no time to add it. Then you can immediately follow the show, check in, add links about the show and comment on the show.

tv social network

You can comment or like other people’s updates. If you’re following friends on Miso, you can also send private messages to them. Miso make it easy to invite your friends to Miso, too.

tv social network

Most importantly for TV connoisseurs, you can see which shows are trending on Miso, so you’ll always know which shows are actually popular with other TV gurus.

When you look at any given show’s page, you can easily see recent check-ins, links and comments, plus quick links to IMDB, Wikipedia and the official site for the show.

Following a show means that you’ll see all the comments, links and buzz for that show on your home page.

The Miso Conversation

So, when you check into Miso, you’re joining the Miso conversation on the TV show, plus you are starting a conversation with your Twitter friends and Facebook friends. Because of all these different conversations, it means you can get started playing on Miso even if you don’t know anyone else using it. Talk to the TV gurus on Miso and chat to your friends elsewhere about the show after they see your Miso check-in. Easy!

what you are watching

So, if you’re keen to share your viewing habits, while chatting to like-minded fans and learning about the hottest shows showing now, this is the tool for the job. Miso is fun, fabulous and ready for you to have a go.

Let us know what you think about it.

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Hot Tech Deals [Oct 5th]

Posted: 05 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. LG 37LH30 37in LCD HDTV (1080p, Super IPS Panel) $449.99 Free Shipping

  2. Pogoplug POGOE02 Multimedia Sharing Device (NAS) $43.99 Free Shipping

  3. Acer Aspire AS5742Z-4685 Intel Pentium Dual-Core P6100 2GHz 15in Laptop (4GB/320GB) $399.99 Free Shipping

  4. TODAY ONLY Sharp HT-SB300 2.1ch Sound Bar Home Theater Speaker w/ Remote $134.99 Free Shipping

  5. TODAY ONLY Sharp AQUOS LC32D47U 32 inch LCD HDTV (720p) $319.99 Free Shipping

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

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

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5 Websites For Writers To Cure Writer’s Block With Freewriting Exercises

Posted: 05 Oct 2010 12:31 PM PDT

free writing exercisesWord paralysis for a writer comes in two forms. At times it is the dreaded writer's block, at other times it is the more villainous procrastination. So, how do you jump over the gap of wanting to be a writer and building up the courage to pen down words consistently each and every day?

One of the easiest ways is to just take a scrap of paper and jot down whatever comes to mind. This unpunctuated, unbridled, and hopefully unstoppable stream of words goes by the name of freewriting.  Although it may not work for everyone, freewriting exercises are one of the best ways to walk around the writer's block.

Freewriting also helps to develop the habit of writing. Sir Francis Bacon was probably talking about freewriting when he said – Write down the thoughts of the moment.  Those that come unsought for are commonly the most valuable.

Here are five freewriting websites to put his words…into words.

One Word

free writing exercises

Don't think, just write. The website's About page describes precisely what it is all about. Every aspiring writer has to kickstart his or her imagination. The site's single word exercises are about that. It displays a single word and you have to conjure up a complete sentence or more around it. And you have to do it in 60 seconds.

The idea is to put you in the flow of writing and get your spontaneous thoughts out. You can log into the site and take part in the little community. Your sentences are also put on display there. You might think how far can you take a single word?

Well, take a look at the responses from other writers and you will see that everyone has their own take on what a word means to them.

Write for Ten

brainstorming techniques is a writing sketchbook. The exercise is simple: write on anything for ten minutes. It can be anything, structured or unstructured, rambling or planned. The idea again is to spark your spontaneous creativity without letting fear of failure bog you down. You have to register for free to use the simple blog style interface of the site.

As soon as you are ready, a text box opens up and the clock starts ticking. At the end of 10 minutes, the timer stops and you can submit the off the cuff post marked as public or private. All public posts get their unique URL for display.

If you keep at it for ten minutes each day, you will be well on the way to becoming a writer by habit.

Pen 10 Scribes

brainstorming techniques

This freewriting website is actually a social network of writers. The 'Playground Rules' say that you can write ten sentences or less and a maximum of three every day (or less). If you are interested in Flash fiction or micro-fiction, or poetry in ten words or less, this website is definitely for you.

With a vibrant forum, blog posts, videos, and an involved community of writers, this is a cool social network for working on your writing skills.

750 Words

brainstorming techniques

Here, you have to spend more than ten minutes and use more than one word. The well designed extends the freewriting exercise to 750 words or more. That's about three pages of text. The writing is all online and you also get motivational points for your efforts. Extra points are awarded if you stay on track every day.

You can sign in with a Facebook, Google, Yahoo, or OpenID account. You can set up email reminders for writing on the site each day. The interface resembles a blank white page with your track record on display at the top. Posts are auto-saved every ten seconds, so your writing is left unhindered. Posts are kept private. You can look up stats to see who's doing what. Each writer has a chance to earn 'badges' for consistency.

What I am looking forward to are the One Month Challenges. Perform writing feats and see your name on the Wall of Awesomeness, or lose out on the Wall of Shame.

Language Is a Virus

free writing exercises

This website is not actually a dedicated freewriting website. But it has a lineup of useful tools that can help you fill up a few pages with letters and words. The site has lots of writing prompts and exercises. Especially, if your motivation to write is flagging, check out the creative writing tools like the Cut up Machine, Text Collage, and Random Line Generator. You can also use the single click Writing Prompts tool to start off your writing.

Maybe Sir Francis's words will come true. Give these freewriting tools a try at least once. The least they can do is relieve you of the stress of writing. Once that's dealt with, you can really get down to turning your writing into a habit. What do you think of freewriting websites and tools like these?

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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How To Jailbreak Your PlayStation 3 With PSGroove

Posted: 05 Oct 2010 11:31 AM PDT

jailbreak playstation 3Sony traditionally only allows the PlayStation 3 to run signed software. Much like the iTunes App Store, this means all software has to be specifically approved by Sony. But in the case of the PlayStation 3, nearly all software comes from Sony, and the closest an amateur developer can come to running his own software is to publish a Sony-approved (mini) game in the PlayStation store. That’s an awful lot of  Sony’s, and bitter little freedom.

Just recently, the indestructible phantom we call the PlayStation 3 was finally hacked by the homebrew scene. In short succession, costly third-party hardware solution were replaced by virtually free, open-source DIY alternatives. Now everyone with a computer and some rudimentary technical skills (or this tutorial) can hack their PlayStation 3 and run unsigned software with it.

What does it mean for you? Homebrew (amateur) applications can be run from the PlayStation, with virtually no restrictions. We’re talking about GBA emulators, FTP servers, video players with support for more codecs and, sadly, also piracy. That leads us to this disclaimer.

DISCLAIMER – Jailbreaking your PlayStation 3, even if you don’t use it for piracy, might be illegal in your country. Sony definitely doesn’t like it, and might ban you from the PlayStation Network account if you aren’t careful. Jailbreaking is done by choice and your actions are your own responsibility, as are any repercussions.

In truth, if you want to jailbreak a PlayStation 3, it’s a lot less risky than it was to put custom firmware on your PSP. There’s currently no real risk for your PlayStation 3 (save for the applications you download), and now that the U.S. Supreme Court considers iPhone jailbreaking ‘fair use’, legal consequences are not very likely. However, piracy is always a crime. Play it safe and disconnect your PlayStation 3 from the internet while using PSGroove to squelch the chances of getting banned.

1. A Short Recap Of PS3 Jailbreak History

The people who cracked the PlayStation 3’s defenses decided to get rich and released it as a particularly pricey USB-stick. With the stick inserted, your PlayStation can be jailbroken upon boot. The company behind the PSJailbreak got sued and shipping was stopped in its tracks, but a few samples had already been given out. One of those samples ended up in the hands of a programmer with a USB sniffer, a device that’s stuck in between the USB device and USB port, and takes note of the conversation.

jailbreak playstation 3

In virtually no time, PSJailbreak was reverse engineered and an open source clone was released online. This open source version, called PSGroove, could be downloaded and programmed on a USB device for virtually no money, and worked the same as PSJailbreak, albeit with back-ups disabled in an effort to prevent piracy. Being open source, it didn’t take long for the back-up functionality to return.

2. How To Use PSGroove


  • PlayStation 3 with firmware version 3.41.
  • A PSGroove-compatible device.

As mentioned before, PSGroove works by programming a USB device and plugging it into PlayStation 3 with firmware version 3.41. Programming is not the same as copying files on it, so you’ll need a PSGroove-compatible device. Note that this method currently requires PlayStation 3 firmware version 3.41. If you’re below that, you’ll have to update manually. Otherwise, you’d best stop where you are and hope the homebrew scene catches up.

A hard reset and short succession of the power button and eject button will boot your PlayStation 3 in jailbroken mode, with the ability to install homebrew software. PSGroove actually uses a heap overflow attack which ultimately allows unsigned software to run. A more elaborate explanation can be found on the PS3Wiki.

how to jailbreak playstation 3

The beauty is that a simple reboot will return your PlayStation 3 to its natural state. Only this specific start-up sequence will give you a temporally jailbroken PlayStation 3. The downside is of course that you’ll need to plug in the PSGroove USB device every time again. Although PSGroove can be programmed on the Android, iPhone and even the PSP, this is highly unpractical, not advised, and will not be covered in this tutorial.

how to jailbreak playstation 3

Your best option is to buy a PSGroove-compatible USB board, as shown below. These cost roughly $20 and can be left plugged into the back of the PlayStation 3.

Recommended USB Boards

These boards can all be used with all operating systems and are by far the easiest to use. Alternative USB boards can be found on the PS3News forums.

3. Programming The USB Boards

All links in the article use Hermes’ branch of the PSGroove code, as it’s currently the most recent version. This branch supports booting backups without having a Blu-Ray disk inserted, but you still have to use the Backup Manager application to free backup functonality. As this article dates, it’s advised to Google, check the PS3 News forums, or PS3 for new, more recent branches. The steps detailed below remain the same.

There are two ways of programming the USB board. The first and most conventional method is to adjust the PSGroove (Hermes) source code to fit it to your board. If you’ve got one of the boards specified above, these alternative MAKE settings can be easily found on the internet.

A more convenient way is to find the (already compiled) board-specific hex files. In a matter of minutes, these can be written to your USB board. No matter your operating system, hex application or USB board, the steps are the same. Connect your USB board, use the hex application to navigate to the corresponding hex file, and write it to your device.

Download the PSGroove (Hermes) HEX Codes (alternative mirror)

This download only includes the HEX codes for the boards mentioned above. A Google search will yield the HEX codes for most other boards, though.

3.1 – Teensy Loader

The Teensy boards mentioned above use a different application, Teensy Loader. It’s available for all major operating systems and incredibly simple to use.

how to jailbreak playstation 3

playstation 3 jailbreak

Connect your USB board to your computer, press the small black button at the end of the board, and open the Teensy Loader application. Consequently select File -> Open HEX File and Operations -> Program. That’s it!

3.2 – FLIP Tool or DFU Programmer

The AT90USBKEY board needs a different application, called FLIP tool, only available for Windows and Linux. Mac users can use DFU Programmer instead.

jailbreak playstation 3

With Atmel Flip, press and hold the RST button, then press the HWD button. Release the RST button first, and then the HWD button. If Windows asks for a driver, point it to the USB folder inside your Flip application folder (e.g. C:\Program Files\Flip\USB ). Launch the Flip application, and select your device. Click the USB icon and select USB.  Now select File -> Open and locate your HEX file, and subsequently click on Erase, Program, Verify and Run. You’re all set.

That’s it. Have you jailbroken your PlayStation 3 yet? Let us know about your experiences below.

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How To Find & Direct Download Any Torrent Files Using Torrific

Posted: 05 Oct 2010 10:31 AM PDT

download torrent filesDespite the fact that Torrent is one of the most popular download methods available today, there are many everyday computer users who still don’t “get it”. So, explaining where and how to get the latest episodes of your favorite TV shows from torrents to your next door neighbor could be a challenging and time consuming task. Most people are more familiar with – and more comfortable using – direct download methods rather than torrents.

But there’s always help if you are willing to look for it. Meet Torrific, a web service that will help you find and turn any torrent file into a direct download.

Torrific is the much improved version of BTaccel – a web torrent client which used to be invitation only. And if you’ve read our previous article about Burnbit, you’d see that the two are doing exactly the same thing, but in the opposite direction: Burnbit changes a direct download into a torrent, while Torrific converts a torrent into a direct download.

Three Torrific Ways To Download Torrent Files

Prior to using the service, you are required to sign up and then log into the service. Click the small “sign up” link at the top right of the page to start the registration process.

download torrent files

After filling in the email address and chosen password, checking the “terms of use” box, and clicking on the “Sign Up” button, you will be brought to your own personal Torrific home page.

bit torrent download

This home page is the place where you can monitor the status of your converted torrents. You can remove the downloaded items here.

bit torrent download

Now let’s move on to the usage. There are three ways to utilize the service.

The First Method

The first method is to input a torrent file URL into the “Get” field. This would be perfect if you have access to a private torrent tracker and can acquire your torrent file there. Or, if you’ve already done your homework, have the torrent link handy, and are ready to download.

bit torrent download

All you have to do is just copy and paste the URL into the field and click the “Get” button. Torrific will download the torrent and add it to the processing queue. You’ll get the time estimation and the option to be notified by email when the processed file is ready.

torrent download software

But I suggest you don’t rely so much on this estimation because my experiments have told me that the process usually takes (so much) longer. I think it depends on the number of queues that Torrific has to process, the size of the file, and the condition of the torrent itself. The less seeders means the longer you have to wait.

The Second Way

The second way is to type in the URL of a torrent website and do your search there. This method is preferred if you still not sure of the torrent that you want to download and you want to look around for a specific file. After writing down the web URL and clicking the “Get” button, Torrific will open the page in a web frame and you can navigate your way into the torrent file from there.

torrent download software

The Third Way

The third way is to type search strings into the “Get” field. Torrific will direct your search query to Google within the web frame.

download torrent files

Advantages & Disadvantages

As with everything in the world, there are always two sides to every coin. Torrific is no different, there’s the pluses and the minuses.

I can think of at least three advantages to using this service:

  • First is the flexibility of the download. You can process torrent files on one computer and download the results in another. This ability is really useful if you work on several computers in different locations. You can even send the download link to trigger an automatic download on another computer remotely.
  • The second is the convenience in downloading a torrent with a small number of seeders. You can let Torrific process the file and then forget about it. You will be notified when the file is ready.
  • The third is the ability to download torrent files in places where using Torrent is not possible.

As for the disadvantages, I think the major one is the waiting time. I don’t know about everybody else, but waiting for the download link of the processed file takes a little bit too long for me. And there’s also the seeding problem. I can’t confirm whether or not Torrific will seed the file for us. Those who rely on their seed ratio to download torrents might not want to take the risk.

So, have you tried Torrific? Can you confirm whether this service will seed the file for us? Do you know other alternatives to such services? Share your thoughts and opinions using the comments below.

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How To Pimp Windows With AutoHotkey Scripts Using ac’tivAid

Posted: 05 Oct 2010 09:31 AM PDT

autohotkey scriptsac’tivAid provides a collection of autohotkey scripts that enhances Windows with useful functions, some of which you may recognize from other operating systems. The tool itself works like a platform with a graphical user interface (GUI), to which you can add a custom selection of scripts.

Currently, ac’tivAid contains over 60 extensions, for example an auto shutdown shortcut, a Mac-like volume control, and a minimize window to tray script.

The program is a goldmine, and even though it’s totally free, there is a minor draw.

ac’tivAid was developed by the German magazine c’t, hence the strange punctuation. Although a complete English GUI is available, including a detailed Help section, all further documentation (FAQ, homepage, forum) is German only. However, if you are brave enough to let me guide you through the super simple installation process, I promise you will be able to handle it on your own once the English GUI is activated.

So you’re still with me, huh? OK, the program is available for Windows 2000 through Windows 7. I installed and used it on Windows 7 English without problems and I will guide you through this installation process.

Download ac’tivAid_v131.exe, which includes AutoHotkey, from the Heise website. You can download the .zip file if you are already running AutoHotkey or prefer to install it manually.

autohotkey scripts

Run the .exe and click > Annehmen to agree to the license agreement. Briefly, the license states that you may modify and redistribute ac’tivAid, but you may not remove the Heise publishing copyright notice. You may also not exploit ac’tivAid commercially. Trust my word, do not trust Google Translate in this case!

In the next window, click > Durchsuchen… to change the directory in which ac’tivAid will be installed. Click > Installieren to install.

autohotkey commands

Following installation, there will be a couple of pop ups regarding hotkey combinations and asking you to exit administrator mode asap. In my case the pop ups were in English and the program launched with the English GUI.

Should the language autodetection fail, you can easily change the GUI. Click on > activAid in the sidebar and from the > Sprache wählen / select language: drop-down menu in the top right pick > English. Then click the > Übernehmen (apply) button at the bottom.

autohotkey commands

Now that wasn’t hard, was it? As promised, from here it’s as easy as pie!

Click on > Extensions in the sidebar to view a list of available scripts. When you click on an extension, a short description of what it does is displayed at the bottom. Click the question mark next to it for a more thorough description. Pay attention to the short description because it may list conditions for the script to work.

script description

To save system resources, ac’tivAid only loads installed extensions. Select the extensions you like, click the little arrow between the lists to move them to your list of installed extensions, and click > Apply to activate new scripts. The extensions will then appear in the sidebar.

autohotkey commands

Click an extension in the sidebar to view or edit its properties. You can for example change its hotkeys. By the way, you can load a list of all your available hotkeys via > Help > Show overview of all hotkeys.

autohotkey scripts

What do you think? How many of the included extensions do you find useful and which one is your favorite?

This program was brought to my attention by Daniel H. from Berlin. Thanks mate!

Image Credit : Heise Zeitschriften Verlag, Hanover, Germany

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Skype Now Available For Android 2.1 & Up [News]

Posted: 05 Oct 2010 09:28 AM PDT

Skype, the communication platform loved by users all over the world, is finally available for Android devices. Skype announced this morning that a version for Android is available by visiting or by visiting the App Store and searching for ‘Skype’.

You will need to have at least version 2.1 of Android, which you can find by having a quick glance at Settings > About. Skype has tested the software on HTC and Motorola devices but should work on a wide variety of platforms. They have reported some issues with the Samsung Galaxy S (which they are looking into).

Once Skype is launched it works much like any other Skype for mobile clients. Your contact list and call history is synchronized with your Skype login giving you the same contacts as on your Desktop. Calls may be made over Wifi and 3G, except in the United States where calls are wifi only.

Video calling does not work on the Skype for Android app.

Skype calling is free to other Skype users. If you have Skype credit you may dial out to any number at regular Skype rates, and if you have a SkypeIn number calls will ring to your device. This is a great way to offset your mobile minutes which can be an order of magnitude more expensive than SkypeOut minutes, especially for international calling.

Skype has a video which shows how their mobile app works.

Try it out today and let us know how you find it!

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How To Benchmark Your Laptop’s Battery Life With Battery Eater

Posted: 05 Oct 2010 08:31 AM PDT

laptop battery lifeThe battery life of a laptop is an obviously important part of the laptop’s overall performance. If you run out of battery life you can’t do anything – so try not to run out, right?

While that rule seems simple enough, it isn’t always easy to follow. Laptop manufacturers have a tendency to overstate laptop battery life, and sometimes by no small margin. A manufacturer who claims ten hours of battery life rarely confesses that the stated battery life can only be achieved if you leave the laptop running at idle with the display a minimum brightness and WiFi off.

The only way to know what your laptop is really capable of is to benchmark it, and no program is better suited for this task than Battery Eater, one of only two free battery benchmark programs currently available and updated.

The Maximum Load (Default) Test

Once you’ve installed Battery Eater you’ll find it is very easy to use. Opening the program will display a main menu that shows your current battery status. Hopefully the battery will show that it is fully charged and AC adapter is currently plugged in – after all, testing a half charged battery won’t provide very good results!

Click the “Begin test when disconnecting AC” checkbox and then unplug your laptop whenever you’re ready.

laptop battery life

Battery Eater will swing into action as soon as you’ve unplugged the AC adapter. The default benchmark is a simple 3D rendering of a battery that moves around your laptop’s display. This will task both your laptop’s CPU and GPU. As the Battery Eater test states, this benchmark is designed to give an indication of the minimum battery life that you can expect. If your laptop achieves three hours, for example, you’ll know that your laptop will last at least three hours no matter what kind of crazy task you throw at it.

battery life

The Reader’s Test

If you’re interested in how your laptop battery might hold up during less intense use,  however, you can use the included Reader’s Test benchmark. This can be accessed by clicking on the Options button and then changing the Benchmark Mode to Reader’s Test.

Once that’s done, click on the Load Text button at the bottom of the window and select a text file. The Reader’s Test, once activated, will open the text file and automatically scroll through the file time and time again until your laptop’s battery gives out.

battery life

You can also test your laptop’s maximum battery life by using the Idle test, which is again accessed through the Options menu. The Idle test is exactly what you’d think – it just keeps tabs on your laptop battery life while the laptop remains at idle.

Viewing Results

Testing your laptop’s battery will, of course, cause it to run out of juice. When the battery does finally kick the bucket everything on your computer will be shut down and the laptop will automatically go into hibernation.

Battery Eater is one step ahead of your laptop, however. The program automatically generates a report once your computer’s laptop battery can endure no more.. This report is filed in your Battery Eater installation folder and is labeled with the date that you ran the benchmark.

laptop battery life

When you open the folder you will be greeted with a .beg file called discharge and a log. The Discharge file has the information you need, but you won’t be able to view it with Excel or any other program. To generate a readable version of the report you must  drag and drop the .beg file onto the Battery Eater executable file (called BEPro.exe.) The report will open automatically in your default web browser.


Battery Eater can be a sobering program to use. Laptops that are supposed to be capable of more than six hours of battery life often achieve less than four hours during the default Battery Eater test. I highly suggest that you run the default benchmark, Reader’s Test benchmark and Idle benchmark.

Yes, this will likely take a while – but remember, Battery Eater makes a report automatically when the laptop battery life gives out. You can turn Battery Eater on before hitting the sack and read the results the next morning. Just remember to modify your laptop’s settings so that it does not automatically sleep or turn off the display, as either function can skew or ruin your test results!

If you know of another way to benchmark your laptop, do let us know about it in the comments.

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9 Cool Uses For Google Suggest That You Probably Didn’t Think Of

Posted: 04 Oct 2010 06:30 PM PDT

google suggestAs the world’s largest search engine, Google knows an awful lot about the ways people look for information and what kind of results most users want to see. They have made several strides in improving the tools we have for searching online, one of which was through the integration of Google Suggest into their search bar.

Suggest works by providing options within Google’s search field that relate to the words the user is currently typing in. With Google Instant introduction, Google Suggest has got even more attention because it influences the user’s behavior even more now. Various people may question the tool usefulness; this post shares some cases when the tool does prove to be huge help.

Note: Google Suggest works a bit differently when accessed from web interface or from official Google Toolbar. Besides, it works differently with Google Instant enabled (with Google Instant, search results are changing while the user is typing the search term, hence Google Suggest functionality is somewhat limited). Therefore this post will list notes for each use outlining when each case works.

1. Navigate the Web Faster

(Works both from the web interface and from Google toolbar. Works only with Google Instant disabled)

Without a doubt one of the best things about Google Suggest is that it makes surfing around the web so much easier. If you know the site you are looking for, just start typing in the name – if it’s a fairly big web site, it should come up automatically as an option in the suggestion window (before you finish typing) and you can just click on it to be taken there straight away.

google suggest

2. Find Popular Models or Products from a Manufacturer

(Works both from the web interface and from Google toolbar. Works both with Google Instant enabled and disabled)

The predictive function of Google Suggest isn’t just handy for finding the correct name (and address) of the website you’re trying to visit. It’s also a great way to see what related searches are currently popular among web surfers looking for one and the same thing.

By entering a search term related to a manufacturer (such as Nokia for example), the suggestion tool will actually display the most frequent search queries that relate to the company in question. This can then be used to provide valuable insight into the way a particular manufacturer’s products are being received.

take a look at google suggest

3. Discover Alternatives to Tools and Apps

(Works both from the web interface and from Google toolbar. Works both with Google Instant enabled and disabled)

Google Suggest can also be an excellent way to find alternatives to tools or apps you are considering. Use the following words along with the product or service name you want to look into:

  • versus
  • vs
  • or
  • compare

And the suggest tool will bring up results that could well be worth your time exploring in full before you buy anything.

take a look at google suggest

4. Find Popular Lyrics of an Artist or Movies Featuring Actors

(Works both from the web interface and from Google toolbar. Works both with Google Instant enabled and disabled)

Just as the predictive suggestions can be used to find out product types and alternatives, it can also be used to quickly find out information about a specific movie, writer, singer or actor. For example, you can easily find out what popular songs a musician has released or what movies a famous actor has starred in.

take a look at google suggest

5. Find out the Correct Way to Spell a Word

(Works both from the web interface and from Google toolbar. Works both with Google Instant enabled and disabled)

Another great use for the suggestion tool is a general spell checker and dictionary. Typing in a word will automatically prompt Google to suggest the correct spelling, something which can be extremely handy especially given Google’s ability to work amazingly fast.

google suggest filter

6. Quickly Find the Meaning of the Word

(Works only from the web interface, doesn’t work from Google toolbar. Works only with Google Instant disabled)

Google Suggest can be used to find the definition of words you are unfamiliar with. All you need to do is to add the word “define” to the search and the first result displayed will give you a basic summary of the word.

google suggest filter

7. Learn the Current Weather

(Works only from the web interface, doesn’t work from Google toolbar. Works only with Google Instant disabled)

This one and the following couple of uses are the result of Google shortcuts brought into Google Suggest. They allow to see the answer of your question while you are still typing the search query. They are all available only from the web interface (not toolbar) and can only be seen if you disable Google Instant.

Just start typing the region and see the weather instantly without having to ever click away to the search results:

google suggest filter

8. Find the Local Time in the Area You Need

The screenshot speaks for itself.

9. Quickly Convert

You can also use Google Suggest as an instant unit converter.

google suggest

Are there any other useful Google Suggest uses I have missed? Please share them in the comments!

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