Saturday, October 9, 2010 “Cool Websites and Tools [October 8th]” plus 9 more “Cool Websites and Tools [October 8th]” plus 9 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [October 8th]

Posted: 08 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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Spotli – When searching for products on online shopping stores, you often have to fight through a clutter of text to reach the desired item. But mostly you ignore the text and focus on the images to get to your product's page. Spotli is a visual product search engine that provides you with an image-only product searching method. Read more: Spotli: Visual Product Search for Popular Online Shopping Sites


TrackingNumber – Most popular courier services such as FedEx, UPS, and DHL provide you with a tracking number for your package. This number can be used to find exactly where your package currently is, thereby easing the wait of delivery. To visualize the exact location of the package, pay a visit to parcel tracking site Tracking Read more: TrackingNumber:All-in-One Parcel Tracking Site



AppHelp – It is not easy for a smartphone application's developer to get feedback from the app's users. Users too often face difficulties anytime they are facing an app-related problem. Both parties require a platform to interact with one another. That platform is exactly what "App Help" provides. Read more: AppHelp: Free Community-Powered Support Platform For Mobile App Users & Developers



The Fridge – Unless you are a master of Facebook's privacy controls your photos will be accessed by everyone in your Facebook friends list and perhaps even by people not in your friends list. This can be quite a problem considering that your family members, co-workers, and even employers are usually on Facebook. A better more private networking solution is presented by The Fridge. Read more: The Fridge: A Social Network For More Private Image/Video Sharing



I Can Stalk U – Most people unknowingly communicate their location through the pictures they upload onto Twitter. Pictures taken from modern cellphones and cameras automatically add location data to the pictures. When you upload these pictures, any tech-savvy person can access the picture's properties. Read more: ICanStalkU: Learn About Photo GeoTagging & Disable It On Your Phone


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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: 08 Oct 2010 06:31 PM PDT

MakeUseOf Answers Best Questions are made possible by great answers only. We honor your contributions in our Best Answer of the Week contest. Today the prize of $50 goes to Ryan for his excellent answer to this question: “How can I fix “there was a problem starting winfqd32.rom…” error?” Congratulations Ryan!

Are you eager to learn new things? Have a look at our best questions:

  1. How can I best resurrect an old computer?
  2. What is the best online service to build your free website?
  3. How can I best burn DVDs from VHS tapes?
  4. Where can I download free photo designing software?
  5. How can I set up a cheap photo studio at home?

Discover many more interesting questions onMakeUseOf Answers. Browse by Latest Questions, Unanswered Questions or Most Popular Questions. For regular updates subscribe to the Answers RSS Feed.

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How to Manage Your Podcasts In iTunes 10 [Mac]

Posted: 08 Oct 2010 04:31 PM PDT

how to manage podcasts in itunesIf you're an avid subscriber to a couple dozen or more of the 150,000 available podcasts in the Apple iTunes Store, you probably don't have the time or the inclination to manage, let alone listen to, all of your podcast downloads.  But you also know that there's a wealth of mostly free information and resources in podcasts that you don't want to get rid of either.

However, like other media files, podcast files can eat up a lot of memory space on your hard drive if you're not using the available features and tools to manage them.

So the following are some tips on how to better manage your podcasts in iTunes.

Downloading Podcasts

First off, if you don't know much about accessing and downloading podcasts, it's really simple to do so. You open up iTunes, click on the iTunes Store in the sidebar, and then select Podcasts in the iTunes Store menu bar.

how to manage podcasts in itunes

From there, you can browse and preview a very wide selection of podcasts in nearly every category of interest.

manage podcasts

I definitely encourage you to preview selected podcasts before you begin downloading files to your computer.

Podcast Settings

When you choose to subscribe to a podcast, clicking on the Settings button at the bottom of iTunes is one of the first ways to help manage your downloads.

manage podcasts

In settings, you can tell iTunes which episodes to download, how long to keep them, and which ones to keep. These settings work pretty accurately, but if you don't use them, your podcast files will pile up. The default settings will for example retain all the downloaded podcasts.

Podcast Smart Playlists

If you have several podcasts already downloaded to your computer, you should create a smart playlist that will capture all your most recent downloaded and unlistened/unwatched podcasts. Here are the rules I set for my playlist:

manage podcasts

Since I subscribe to more podcasts than I have time to listen to, this smart playlist is what I typically use to quickly access recent downloads.

organize podcasts

Another smart playlist I use is one that collects all podcast subscriptions added to my library more than six months ago. This is the list I use when I want to start cleaning up my library by deleting only podcasts.

Control Menu Items

It's quite easy to listen to podcasts and let them build up on your hard drive, but if you right- or control-click on a podcast heading or episode, you can choose from several options to help you manage podcast files.

organize podcasts

You can quickly mark a podcast as watched, get a description of an episode, and unsubscribe to podcasts that you're no longer interested in.

Updating Podcasts

If you use the podcast settings feature I that pointed out above, iTunes will clean up your library each time it automatically updates your podcasts. But this feature doesn't work well if you're not consistent in your settings. To deal with this issue, you can right- or Control-click on a podcast and choose Update Podcast so that the settings will take effect.

If however you want to manually update all podcasts, create this little AppleScript. Open the AppleScript editor, then copy and paste this script in the editor.

tell application “iTunes” to updateAllPodcasts

Save it in your iTunes > Library > Scripts folder where you can then access it via the iTunes menu bar in the Scripts icon. Running this script will update all your podcasts.

organize podcasts

Deleting Podcasts

If your podcast files have grown unwieldy, you can just go through the library and delete them. The beauty of getting rid of episodes is that you can typically re-download them again from the iTunes Store if need be.

When you select one or more episodes, you can choose whether to delete these files from your hard drive or you can select to keep the episodes on your disk but not have it show up in your iTunes library interface.

how to manage podcasts in itunes

You can right- or Control-click on a podcast or episode and choose Show in Finder to quickly see where those files are stored in your vast iTunes library.

If you want to know more about iTunes, check out the MUO guide about this program and service, and if you want to learn how to create your own podcasts, check out this article.

Let us know what you do to manage your podcasts. Are there special plug-ins or smart playlists that you could share?

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Run Your Own Personal Cloud With Tonido

Posted: 08 Oct 2010 02:31 PM PDT

personal cloud computingTonido allows you to run your own personal cloud, giving you access to all of your desktop files from anywhere through a web browser or your smartphone. You can access and share all of your files, including documents, photos, music and videos. There is no uploading, no storage limits, and the service is free.

Tonido has come a long way since we first covered it back in April of ‘09. They have made significant progress in their development efforts by streamlining the user interface, adding features like video streaming and adding documents via email, and making some other significant changes.

In this article, I’ll show you what’s new with Tonido. Your files will be floating around in your very own personal cloud in no time.

Personal Cloud Computing With Tonido

Before we get too in-depth with Tonido’s new features, lets take a refreshing look at everything you can do with Tonido. They’ve developed some very creative and interesting ways you can utilize their service, and – depending on what types of files you’ll be sharing – there is something unique for everyone.


If you’re into music (who isn’t?), you’ll love the JukeBox feature. JukeBox is an application for Tonido that gives you quick/easy access to your personal music collection.

personal cloud computing

You can stream music (MP3, WMA, FLAC, AAC, OGG, M4A) to anywhere as well as search and tag songs, share with guest users, organize your collection, and create custom playlists.


cloud computing

Photos is a Tonido app that allows the sending of photos directly (and privately) via Tonido’s P2P network to friends and family. There is no size limit, and you can set it up so that photos are automatically sent when new ones are added to your folder. Comments and ratings are also supported.


cloud computing

You can utilize the Thots application as your personal blog. Thots acts as a private blog or journal, which you can use to store notes, bookmarks, web clips, and other random pieces of information. It’s very similar to Wordpress, which makes it an attractive feature.

Anything Else?

Tonido has lots more functionality with the other apps it provides. Other apps include Torrent, Workspace, Money Manager, Webshare, OpenID, Screenshare, Search, and Explorer. These make for some interesting ideas, so be sure to check them out.

If you would like to learn more about Tonido-supported applications, you can find more information here.

Now that you’re interested, let’s check out what else Tonido is capable of.

Mobile Applications

Tonido now has mobile applications for you. You can find apps for Blackberry, iPhone and Android devices, which are available in their respective app stores.

cloud computing

Using the mobile apps, users can now browse their PCs (as well as Mac and Linux computers), stream music, open popular file formats (Word, PowerPoint, Excel), create a share and much more.

Video Streaming

personal cloud computing

With Tonido, you can now stream your videos from home. Using Tonido Explorer, you can open a web-based file browser application to manage and download your files. This allows you to view video files straight through your browser, just in case you want to watch something without having to copy the file over.

Upload Documents Via Email

Tonido is pretty adamant about the fact that you do not need to upload anything on your own to use their service, but if you need to save an important document you can do so via email. Just add your document as an attachment and email it to your account and it will appear in your folder. Once it’s there, you can access it the same way you would any other files.


As you can see, Tonido is potentially a very useful application. Being able to access your files across multiple computers is a great idea in and of itself, because it eliminates the need for copying files between machines.

If you have more than one computer, it’s difficult to keep your files in sync. Some file types are easier to manage than others, but for the most part it’s a losing battle. When you try to keep everything up-to-date between your different machines, things tend to get pretty messy in a hurry.

Tonido has many uses, but what will you be using it for? Leave your thoughts, ideas, and comments below!

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Hot Tech Deals [Oct 8th]

Posted: 08 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 Dell Signature Backpack (Fits Laptops w/ Screen Size up to 16in) $13.99 Free Shipping

  2. TODAY ONLY Sharp LC-60E88UN 60 inch LCD HDTV (1080p, 240Hz) $1499.99 Free Shipping

  3. TODAY ONLY Rosewill RSV-R4000 Steel 4U Rackmount Server Chassis $59.99 Free Shipping

  4. Dell PowerEdge T110 Server Desktop Intel Xeon Quad-Core 2.4GHz $399 Free Shipping

  5. Logitech M305 1000dpi Wireless Optical Mouse w/ Nano Receiver $10.99AR

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

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set

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10 Awesome Free Tools To Make Infographics

Posted: 08 Oct 2010 12:31 PM PDT

infographicsInformation graphics, visual representations of data known as infographics, keep the web going these days. Web users, with their diminishing attention spans, are inexorably drawn to these shiny, brightly coloured messages with small, relevant, clearly-displayed nuggets of information. They’re straight to the point, usually factually interesting and often give you a wake-up call as to what those statistics really mean.

Who can resist a colourful, thoughtful venn diagram anyway? In terms of blogging success, infographics are far more likely to be shared than your average blog post. This means more eyeballs on your important information, more people rallying for your cause, more backlinks and more visits to your blog. In short, a quality infographic done well could be what your blog needs right now.

Designing An Infographic

Some great tips for designing infographics:

  • Keep it simple! Don’t try to do too much in one picture.
  • Decide on a colour scheme.
  • Research some great facts and statistics.
  • Think of it as a visual essay: ensure your arguments hold and are relevant.
  • Remember that it’s all about quickly conveying the meaning behind complex data.
  • Draw conclusions.
  • Reference your facts in the infographic.
  • Include your URL so people can be sure who made it.


Ideas for infographic formats include:

  • Timelines;
  • Flow charts;
  • Annotated maps;
  • Graphs;
  • Venn diagrams;
  • Size comparisons;
  • Showing familiar objects or similar size or value.

Here are some great tutorials on infographic creation:

Creating Your Infographic

  • Plan and research.
  • If required, use free software to create simple graphs and visualisations of data.
  • Use vector graphic software to bring these visualisations into the one graphic.

Ultimately, if you have a little design skill, the very best approach is to create all the simple graphs and illustrations yourself using vector graphic software. Your end result will be more visually attractive and you will have more freedom to be creative with it.

Free Online Tools For Creating Infographics

Stat Planet

Stat Planet allows you to create some amazing interactive visualisations, which you can then use as is or create a static image. It can be used within your browser or downloaded for free. Stat Planet gives you access to some great world data and lets you customise that in your visualisations. It also has some great map-based visualisations to try.

information graphics


Hohli is an intuitive, simple online chart maker. It’s incredibly easy to pick your chart type, add some data, vary the sizes and colours and see the finished chart. The finished charts are also very well designed and look great!

information graphics


Creately lets you make easy-to-make diagrams and flow charts (easy to collaborate too). When you start, you can choose from a number of purpose-designed diagram types and quickly add your data to make your own chart. The end result looks very professional.

information graphics

New York Times

New York Times’ Visualization Lab lets you use statistics from recent NYTimes articles to create visualisations in various formats. You can also see other people’s visualisations and see how other people choose to display the same data.

data graphics

Many Eyes

Many Eyes lets you upload your own data or use data already stored on the site. The visualisations themselves are well-designed and very professional-looking. This is definitely the easiest way to use your own data for online visualisations.

data graphics

Google Public Data

Google Public Data lets you easily take public data and transform it into an infographic of your choice. These beautiful, colourful graphics simplify and communicate the data perfectly.

data graphics


Wordle lets you create word visualisations using text you enter. There are plenty of interesting designs to choose from. Enter whole books, short passages or see what other people have used. In this example, we can see the US constitution visualised.

Free Software For Creating Infographics


Tableau is a free Windows-only software for creating visualisations. As you can see, these impressive graphs are colourful and quite unique.


GapMinder is a free Adobe Air (cross-platform by nature) application to ensure you have current data on major world issues and can create visualisations for your purposes. Data is updated yearly and released with new versions of the application. The visuals are also quite impressive!


Inkscape is a free vector graphic software available for many platforms. This is the ideal free option for the creation of your overall infographic. Simple and intuitive, you should have no problems importing your visualisations and combining them with other visuals to create your masterpiece.


Love Infographics?

If you’re a fan of infographics, these tools will probably become part of your everyday blogging tools. Feel free to let us know of more great tools in the comments!

Also, check out some of MakeUseOf’s favourite infographics:

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EMDB – Eric’s Movie Database For All Your Video Organizing Needs (Windows)

Posted: 08 Oct 2010 11:31 AM PDT

eric databaseEric's quite a friendly name. And he is the guy who is going to help you organize all your videos and DVDs properly with the right information. He isn't so pretty as far as looks go but he is pretty functional. A touch here and there and you can find the catalogued information on any movie in your movie collection.

Say hello to Eric's Movie Database; EMDB for short. A free software and a movie collection manager for Windows.

Eric's Movie Database (ver.1.18) is a 1MB sized free software for Windows that helps you to manage your entire movie collection whether it is in the form of DVDs or downloaded movies from the web. If you have an over spilling collection of movie titles, this utility, like all collection organizers, is a must have for keeping track of your large movie collection.

To cite my example, I have quite a large stash of movies, most of them still left to be seen. It is a pain to decide to which ones to watch next when you can't recollect where it is stored and what the genre and the storyline is. EMDB comes to the rescue by giving me all the details at the click of a mouse.

The name, EMDB is probably ‘ripped’ from IMDB because EMDB uses IMDB's vast movie database to fill in the details about each movie. When you open up EMDB for the first time, you will get the blank wooden bookshelves. The toolbar of Eric's Movie Database with its 12 functions is pretty easy to grasp. If you don't, then there's the online help page with all the instructions contained on a single webpage.

This is how it all looks from the front:

eric database

But we are going in reverse. So, let's get into the free movie software and check out how we can get all our DVDs, ripped, or downloaded movies to look so neatly organized.

Behind The Scenes

movie database

To begin the cataloging process, click on Add. You can add in the name of the movie if it's on a DVD. If you have a large downloaded/ripped collection, click on Browse HDD and go to the directory where all the movies are stored. The Add New Movie dialog window also shows you the information fields that will be filled up from IMDB.

movie database

As soon as EMDB taps into IMDB and starts auto-importing the movie details, a list of possible matches is returned. You get a list of popular titles, exact matches, and approximate matches. Then there are the optional alternative titles that get released in other countries. This slows down the process especially if you have a large list of movies. But it ensures greater accuracy of the catalog. Add and continue to the next movie.

movie database

You can set down information in the fields provided in the dialog box. For instance, you can dropdown and choose the Medium (DVD, VHS Tape, Blu-Ray, Hard Disk etc), Source (TV, Cam, Internet etc), give the location of the movie file on your HDD, or add comments. You can also your own give star ratings to the movies in your collection.

online movie databases

You can also tag the movies according to Seen, Wish List, and Own. Wish Lists can be created with detailed info on the movies you want to see. You can then use the filters in the main view.

Back To the Bookshelf

If you like a more descriptive view, you can toggle it to the List Mode.

online movie databases

You can use the filters to sift through your collection.

online movie databases

And if you are searching for a needle in the haystack of your movie collection, check out the range of options to fine-tune the search.

organize movies

EMDB allows you to export your movie data as HTML, text, and CSV files.

organize movies

For movies that are located on the HDD, clicking on Play will open them up in the default media player.
EMDB also accommodates larger sized thumbnails from many sites that keep a stock of them. You can use them instead of the default smaller ones from IMDB.

Check Out The Loan System

When you start using EMDB, you might wonder where the loan system is located. Well, EMDB has another neat view which we haven't seen yet. Select a movie title and click the little arrow at bottom center of the main window. See that?

eric database

Just fill in the name of the guy whom you have loaned it to. When your friend returns it, you can click on Return. The loan records for a movie can be viewed with History.

The End Credits

EMDB's Options panel also has a full range of tweaks. The one thing you should always do is to keep your carefully compiled records backed up. EMDB has both manual and auto backups.

EMDB earns a few credits for being a small efficient piece of software. You can harp on its lack of looks, but I found it to be quite adequate. You can also copy the installed folder directly to your pen drive and use it as portable software. Read the portability notes on the online help page.

As far as managing your movie library goes, EMDB takes a few stars. But that's me speaking. Does EMDB do the job for you?

Eric's Movie Database is supported on Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7. It is also is available in several languages.

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3 Alternatives To The Official Gmail Notifier [Mac]

Posted: 08 Oct 2010 10:31 AM PDT

gmail notifierGmail users are often enthusiastic email users, not just as a slightly useful technology, but as a link to the rest of the world and an extension of themselves. Or maybe it’s just me.

Notification applications can help you to continually keep track of your inbox by creating an icon in your menu bar. Especially on Mac OS X computers, the official Google Notifier, which we already talked about on MakeUseOf is used to exclusivity.

To most people it seems the only realistic software solution. Luckily, it is not.

Other more advanced applications allow you more complete control over both internal and visual aspects of your mail notifications.


Google+Growl is the application closest to the original Google Notifier. To be honest, it’s largely the same, and mostly the visual aspects are getting a workout. The application connects the Google Notifier to Growl notifications and offers a decidedly more advanced settings pane.

gmail notifier

Here you can, among other things, change the notification title and body, load a snapshot from Apple’s Address Book, and specify what will happen when you click the email notification. Notification graphics should be changed in the Growl preference pane, which is a separate application, but can also be accessed by clicking the lowermost button.


If anything, GmailStatus looks even more plain than the official Google Notifier. A simple notification is displayed when you’ve got new emails, but no more than that. The notification does not show email snippets, or even the number of unread mails. After all, you already know that from the menu bar icon.

gmail alternative

There are two major additions to GmailStatus. First and foremost, a more advanced settings pane, allowing you to open your inbox with a hotkey, and specify how often your inbox should be checked. Especially the latter one is a great improvement to the official Google Notifier, which can sometimes take ages to update your inbox count automatically. As can be seen on the above screenshot, GmailStatus also allows you to check the unread counts from your individual labels.

EXTRA: Another simple Google Notifier alternative is Glee, actually a feed notifier, which uses your inbox’ Atom feeds to provide much of the same functionality, with added Growl support.


Notify has been covered in-depth on MakeUseOf before, but definitely deserves a place in this list. Read Notify – An Elegant Gmail New Email Notifier by Jackson for more information.

The application can be downloaded for free, but will miss most of the more advanced feature. As (simple) a mail notifier though, it works wonders. The first you’ll notice about Notify are its aesthetics. The design is both practical and pleasant for the eye. Although it offers a number of additional options within reach, it works just the same via a dropdown menu bar item.

gmail notifier

Multiple mail accounts are represented by different tabs. When the dropdown menu is out, you can immediately see the separate unread counts and switch to and fro. The Mark, Delete, Move and Instant Reply features are sadly restricted to the full version. Alternatively, Notify can be used with Google Apps, Gmail IMAP, other IMAP mail services, RackSpace and MobileMe.

Do you use desktop mail notifications? Why or why not? Lets us know your take in the comments section below!

Image credit: Shutterstock

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How To Automatically Post Webcam Snapshots As New Blog Posts

Posted: 08 Oct 2010 09:31 AM PDT

webcam snapshotsIf you have a website or a blog and you’re constantly struggling for new topics to write about, or you’re just getting bored and looking for something new, then it’s time to start automating some of your posts.

Depending on what topic your blog covers, there is a lot of potential when it comes to autoblogging. When I refer to autoblogging, I don’t mean just adding external RSS feeds to your blog. I’m talking about cool stuff – like having your mobile phone automatically update your blog periodically with your GPS coordinates, or having your computer automatically update your blog with the most recent 24 hours of your computer activity. Or how about having a webcam snapshots automatically posting to your blog whenever something new happens?

It’s that last autoblogging feature that I’d like to describe how you can accomplish in this article. To accomplish the task, you’re going to make use of two applications that I’ve reviewed before here at MakeUseOf.

The first is the Active Webcam app that I used in developing a home security system. The second is the Wordpress Postie plugin that lets you send email posts to your blog. By tying the two together, you’re going to build your own automatic webcam blogging system.

Setting Up Active Webcam

The first step of getting your webcam snapshots to post on your blog automatically is to download and install Active Webcam. The software will need to be installed on any computers that are connected to the webcam, unless you’re using a network IP webcam where it’s shared out to the whole network. Once you open Active Webcam, just click File -> New Camera, and select the type of webcam you want to set up.

webcam snapshots

For this example, I’m using a public webcam that’s streaming from a California engineering school. You could easily incorporate public webcams into your automatic blog updates if you like – be creative and use content from wherever you can find it, whether it’s your own webcam or streams from public ones.

take pictures with a webcam

Here’s the active webcam. You can add as many as you like and name them however you want them to show up in your blog entries. Once you’re done adding webcams, you’re ready to configure the software to issue blog entries by sending out email updates. You do this by configuring the Motion Detection area in Settings -> Motion Detection.

take pictures with a webcam

You aren’t actually going to use motion detection, you’re going to configure the schedule to capture camera updates at regular intervals. But first, click on “Send Email” and then click the “Email Settings” button. This is where you will actually create the post entry that will get sent to your blog.

take pictures with a webcam

There are a few important things to note here. Whatever email address you choose to use as the “sender”, make note of it because you’ll need it later. For “Recipient” make sure that it’s a unique email address that you aren’t using for anything else except this. If you need to, create a new, free email account. Set up the SMTP server settings with your correct settings.

The “Subject” that you type in will be the title of your post and the “Message” will be your blog entry. There are certain variables you can insert, like {Camera} for the camera number, or the current date and time. This is nice because it lets you create a dynamic blog entry. Also, make sure your blog entry starts with “:start” and ends with “:end”. This will ensure that the Postie plugin posts the entry correctly.

webcam pictures

Finally, go into Tools -> Scheduler, and click “Enable Scheduler.”  You can set up the software to “check in” to the webcam at certain times, and if there’s any motion, it’ll go ahead and send the email that you’ve configured. Your automated blogging webcam is now set up!

Set Up Postie to Publish the Webcam Blog Update

The final step is to configure the Postie plugin to accept your webcam’s blog entry and publish it. Once you download the Postie Wordpress plugin, follow the instructions in the Postie article to set it up for posting to the blog.

It’s pretty straightforward, but the important part is that the “sender” email you configured in Active Webcam needs to be an approved sender in your Postie settings. Additionally, the Recipient should be the Postie email address.

webcam pictures

Here is the Postie plugin processing an incoming post from one of the webcam updates.

webcam pictures

And here is what the automated webcam blog update looks like after getting published to the blog.

webcam snapshots

You can play around a little bit with the variables. This is an awesome way to update your readers with real-time information from any location in the world. Show them haunted locations, famous landmarks – any public webcam that you discover, or any that you set up, you can use to post status updates with image snapshots to your blog – and you don’t have a lift a single finger to do it.

Can you think of any cool uses for your own webcam-powered blog entries? Share your creativity in the comments section below.

Image credit: Quentin Houyoux



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How To Extract Images From Video Files With ImageGrab

Posted: 08 Oct 2010 08:31 AM PDT

images from videoIf you’re like me, you usually try to grab images from video files by simply hitting the pause button and then using the ALT-Printscreen shortcut to copy-and-paste the image to my image editor. That works fine, but it isn’t exactly a precise science.

People who are talking or moving in a video clip look fine as long as the action is rolling, but as soon as the video is paused the people on screen tend to look really, really odd. Mouths caught moving in mid-sentence cause even the most handsome actors and most beautiful actresses pull some pretty funny faces.

So how do you defeat this problem?

One solution is the use of ImageGrab. As I’ll show you, ImageGrab makes it possible to snap multiple images from a video clip at one go. This lets you sort through them and find the one that is most flattering.

Funny Faces

To demonstrate the problem I ripped my copy of The Big Lebowski to my computer and picked a popular scene – Walter pulling the gun at the bowling alley (be warned: the movie is rated R).

images from video

What’s going on here? Is Walter really angry? Or did someone just step on his toe? If you’ve watched the movie you’ll know that the character has a pretty serious face throughout this scene, but trying to capture Walter’s expression by pausing, fast-forwarding and rewinding through the video is tedious.

A Better Way

That’s where ImageGrab comes in. This program makes it possible to proceed forward or backward through a movie frame-by-frame or capture multiple frames in a row. The program’s functionality isn’t difficult to learn.

First you need to open the video file you’d like to capture an image or images of. The file opens in the ImageGrab main window with a progress bar below the movie pane. You can use this bar to move to any point in the video you’d like. In my case I’m going to move the bar until I’ve found the same funny face as before.

images videos

Now that I’m in the ballpark, I can move backwards or forwards through the video using the rewind and fast-forward buttons to the left and right of the Play button. You can move frame-by-frame, in increments of one second or increments of one minute. In this instance I only had to rewind by three frames in order to find the image that I wanted.

images videos

There! Walter now looks much more intimidating. Now that I have the frame I want, I can save it by clicking the Extract Image button, which is located on the toolbar at the top of the program. It is the fifth button from the left. Alternatively, you can just hit the shortcut key (F5). By default the image will save as a .bmp to your Pictures folder, but you can change it by opening the image extraction options (ALT-F).

Capturing Multiple Images

Capturing a movie frame-by-frame is fine if you just want a screenshot, but what if you want to capture multiple images from video at once?

That’s easy. Play the movie in ImageGrab and then, when you reach the scene you’d like to capture, simply hold down your F5 key. If you receive a prompt asking if you’d like to copy over a previous file click the Yes to All option.

images from video

A frame-by-frame output of the video you’re viewing will be captured for as long as you hold down the F5 key. This is a useful way to generate images that can later be turned into an animated .GIF file.


ImageGrab isn’t the only way to capture an image from a movie, but it is one of the easier methods I’ve used. If you have a favorite program for this task, please let us know about it in the comments.

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