Sunday, October 17, 2010 “Cool Websites and Tools [October 16th]” plus 6 more “Cool Websites and Tools [October 16th]” plus 6 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [October 16th]

Posted: 16 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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Google Powermeter – is a software developed by Google that helps users to monitor home energy usage in almost real-time. It integrates with utility smart meters and some other electrical devices, and shows the complete electricity usage, predict costs, lets you set and track energy budgets – all of this in a comprehensive online dashboard. Read more: Google PowerMeter: Monitor Your Home Energy Usage Online


ChatPast – You can always access the chat logs of instant messaging clients like Skype and Windows Live in the application itself. But wouldn't it be better if there is a way to put them in a cloud storage so that you can easily retrieve them from any computer? ChatPast is a web app that lets you synchronize your chat history online. Read more: ChatPast: Sync & Store All Your IM Chat History In The Cloud



Greplin – Google has solutions both for searching the internet and your hard drive. However, these tools don't help when it comes to your online life that is scattered across various social networks, email accounts and media platforms. Greplin is a free personal search engine that solves this problem. Read more: Greplin: Free Personal Search Engine For All Your Web Services



Ecycler – Living green used to be a hard thing but with all the technological advances, anyone can change their lifestyle for the better. People often have a hard time figuring out what to do with their recyclable items since not all the neighborhoods provide resources to take care of your recyclables. Ecycler is a tool that can help you with that. Read more: Ecycler: Online Marketplace for Recyclable Stuff



Data Converter – It is not always easy to convert or integrate Excel data with a web server or code. DataConverter helps with that by converting Excel data into web-friendly formats including XML, JSON, ActionScript and Ruby. Simply paste the Excel data in a CSV or Tab delimited file into the tool and select the desired output format. Read more: DataConverter: Convert Excel Data Into XML & More


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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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Exploring Firefox Cache: A Bunch Of Really Cool Tips

Posted: 16 Oct 2010 06:31 PM PDT

firefox cacheThe browser cache temporarily stores images, scripts, and other parts of websites while you are browsing. This is normally a good thing because this enhances performance and load time.

The browser cache usually works behind the scene: you are unlikely to notice it even exists unless you feel like digging deeper.

But do you know that you can actually have quite a bit of fun viewing your browser cache? Do you know why and how you can clean it? Today’s tutorial is just about that: what you can do with your Firefox cache.

Viewing Your Firefox Cache

The cache statistics and directory location can be viewed in about:cache. Then:

  • about:cache?device=memory – Lists memory cache entries.
  • about:cache?device=disk – Lists disk cache entries.

It is really not easy to make sense of that interface but luckily we have an addon to make it easier.

CacheView is a GUI Front-end of “about:cache”. It allows searching and sorting memory and disk cache files. CacheView gives you a preview pane for any images, and makes it really easy to save MP3s and flash files from the sites you’ve visited.

After you have it installed, just go to Tools ->CacheView (or just use the shortcut Ctrl+Shift+C) and you will be presented with a nice table containing your cache files and a preview pane.

The table is sortable by column (key, size, MIME Type, storing device, Last Fetched date) and what’s more it has a search function which adds a lot of sense to your cache database:

firefox cache

You can also right-click on an entry and delete it. It won’t delete things if the page is still opened in one of your tabs.

firefox cache viewer

CacheSearch is another useful cache addon for FireFox which can search through the full-text of cache records:

firefox cache viewer

Clearing The Firefox Cache

There are a few reasons why you may want to clear the Firefox cache, including privacy concerns and technical problems. I usually do it when I have any issues with a website: problems on sign-up, incorrect interface loading, etc.

Clearing the Cache Manually

Official Guide:

  • Navigate: Tools -> Options -> Advanced panel -> Network tab
  • In the Offline Storage section, click Clear Now.

firefox cache viewer

FireFox Addons:

If you find yourself clearing the cache too often, you can find this little addon helpful (which we have previously mentioned in a post on optimizing Firefox): it adds a button to your browser toolbar – with it you can clear the cache with one click of a mouse.

firefox cache folder

Note: After installation, you will need to manually install the button to where you want it to be. For that, right-click on the sidebar and select “Customize“.

Here’s an alternative addon that can be used for that: Cache Status which will both monitor your cache statistics for both memory and disk devices and allow to clear it any time:

firefox cache folder

Clear The Cache Automatically:

  • Navigate: Tools -> Options -> Privacy panel
  • In the drop-down select “Use custom settings for history. “
  • Select the check box for Clear history when Firefox closes and in the Settings next to this check box select Cache:

FireFox cache

More Tips On The Firefox Cache:

Do you have anything else to add? Please share your Firefox cache tips in the comments below!

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Hot Tech Deals [Oct 16th]

Posted: 16 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. Lian-Li PC-7FN Aluminum ATX Mid Tower Computer Case BLACK $69.99 via code EMCYTZT190

  2. Dell Vostro 3500 Intel Core i3-350M 2.26GHz 15.6in Laptop (Aluminum, 2GB/250GB) $539 Free Overnight Shipping

  3. Dell Vostro 3400 Intel Core i3-350M 2.26GHz 14in Laptop (Aluminum, 2GB/250GB) $539

  4. Dell Vostro 3300 Intel Core i3-350M 2.26GHz 13.3in Laptop (Aluminum, 2GB/250GB) $599

  5. TODAY ONLY 5dot Curve Backpack (fits laptops up to 16in) $13.99 Free Shipping

  6. Dell Inspiron 17 Intel Core i3 17.3in Laptop (4GB/500GB/Radeon HD4330/3yr Warranty) $677.99 via code ?$QNC1?HSKNR9F

  7. Plantronics Discovery 925 Bluetooth Headset (Techbargains Recommended) $29.99 Free Shipping

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set

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FocusWriter – Minimalist, Distraction-Free & Beautiful Text Editor

Posted: 16 Oct 2010 12:31 PM PDT

writing softwareLooking for a simple, beautiful place to do your writing, but can’t find a program that does the job? Focus Writer is fast, works on every platform and can look pretty much however you like.

Microsoft Word somehow became people’s default writing tool, but in many ways it’s not right for the job. Its functionality is based around everything but actual writing: publishing, inserting pictures, laying things out and other periphery concerns. If you want a no-nonsense place to simply write, without any distractions, you need another program entirely.

This is particularly true if you’re writing for the web, because none of Word’s formatting translates to HTML very cleanly when it comes time to post.

To this end we taught you about OmmWriter, a zen distraction-free writing app for Mac, highlighted minimalist text editors for Linux and even hosted a battle of the minimalistic text editors. But we’ve never featured FocusWriter, a brilliant program for Linux, Mac and Windows that can make writing not just distraction free but also beautiful.

Best of all, this program features support for Rich Text and smart quotes, uncommon things in the world of such software.


writing software

Perhaps the main thing that makes FocusWriter different from other minimalistic text editors is the presence of a hidden toolbar and file menu. Move your mouse to the top of the screen and you’ll see it:

free writing software

Here you can do all of the standard menu-kinds of things, such as saving, searching opening files or changing your preferences. There’s even a timer tool, perfect if you want to ensure you spend so many hours a day writing.

There’s another toolbar at the bottom of the screen:

free writing software

Here you’ll see a live count of your words, as well as tabs for all the various documents you have open. I personally use this to stay on top of all the articles I’m currently writing for MakeUseOf.


free writing software

It’s also worth noting that FocusWriter allows you to make it look pretty much however you want. You can save your themes, and even export them in order to share them with friends. Pick a wallpaper or background colour, set the margins for your text and change the font; there’s a lot of possibility here. Save as many themes as you like, but don’t waste too much time: you’re supposed to be writing.


Having said that, the real reason you’re reading this is to set up a writing program that looks like Strong Bad’s famous Lappy. This, of course, will make you awesome.

Setting up Focus Writer to look like the most email-checking computer around is easy; you need only to download this font and combine it with this picture. Create a new theme, and play with the settings to make it look like this:

writing software

Now any boring thing you’re writing is super great. Congratulations!

Installing FocusWriter

Want to get started? Find downloads for Mac and Windows on Focus Writer’s website, as well packages for Arch, Gentoo and Ubuntu Linux.

Be sure to let us know what you think about the program, and perhaps even share any nifty themes you develop!

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The Four Best Digital Camera Review Sites

Posted: 16 Oct 2010 11:30 AM PDT

camera review sitesDigital cameras are among the most consumer electronics devices used. Even relatively inexpensive digital cameras usually include a handful of scene selection modes that, to a beginner, are bewildering and create confusing results. More advanced digital cameras are a buffet of complexity. They’re one of the few devices that still routinely comes with a thick manual in the box – because you’re going to need it!

This complexity can make digital cameras difficult to shop for. If you’re thinking of buying a camera you need to hear advice from people who understand concepts like macro photography, aperture settings and the important of sensor size. Luckily, there are some great camera review sites that can help.

Digital Photography Camera Review Sites

camera review sites

Founded in 1998, Digital Photography Review has consistently been one of the best sources for in-depth camera reviews, particularly for professionals and amateur photographers looking to buy their first “serious” camera. With that said, however, the site also pays some attention to the point-and-shoot market. Earlier this year they published two amazing review round-ups, one of compact super-zoom cameras and the other of travel-zoom cameras. These round-ups are the most definitive reviews of these types of cameras I’ve ever read.

Most of the reviews on Digital Photography Review are very long. This, however, provides space for a lot of in-depth information. All of the site’s reviews include numerous test photographs and most recent reviews have a “compare to” section. This part of the review lets you compare photo quality directly between cameras.

There are currently over sixty cameras that can be compared.

Digital Camera Resource

digital camera reviews

A general-coverage digital camera review site, Digital Camera Resource offers a large number of reviews that cover all segments of the camera market. The reviews on Digital Camera Resource are not the most in-depth, but they do provide a lot of detail and are easier to read than the reviews from some of the more complicated websites. This site also, like Digital Photography Review, posts some very handy round-up articles that directly compare a number of similar digital cameras.

Those who aren’t sure where to start should check out the Buying Guide and Hall of Fame sections for quick recommendations. No other site can direct you to a camera in your price range as quickly or as clearly.


digital camera reviews

Most websites that focus on a wide variety of electronics and gadgets – such as InfoSync – don’t do a very good job of providing in-depth reviews about any particular subject they cover. InfoSync, however, seems to be an exception. The site has a wonderful photography section that, while unreasonably hard to navigate, provides excellent in-depth reviews.

The video reviews made available in the InfoSync photography section are perhaps the best part of the entire site. All of the recent camera reviews include a five to nine minute long video review that lets you become acquainted with the camera being reviewed in a way that a standard text review can’t manage. Subscribing to the InfoSync Youtube channel wouldn’t be a bad idea.

CNET Digital Camera Reviews

camera review sites

CNET doesn’t really need an introduction, but it is easy to forget that CNET offers a wide variety of information about more niche products including all digital cameras. Like Infosync, CNET’s reviews are bolstered by video review segments that provides a good overview of any particular camera. The site also provides the widest selection of recommendations you could imagine. It doesn’t matter what type of camera you want – they’ve already considered it and can provide you with five top picks.

It is important to note, as well, that CNET is a notoriously tough critic. They do not give out awards lightly and do not give a camera more than 3 1/2 stars on the company’s five-star scale unless it proves really impressive. If CNET thinks a camera is awesome it means that camera is really awesome.


Buying a digital camera can certainly be confusing, but these review websites will help clear things up. Do you have a favorite camera review site that we missed? Let us know!

Also, if you need to learn how to use a digital camera be sure to check out our article on digital photography tutorial sites or our PDF manual by Bakari.

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Never Forget To Reply To An Email Again Using Scheduled Reminders

Posted: 16 Oct 2010 10:31 AM PDT

email remindersOwning a smartphone that allows you to check your email no matter where you are can sometimes be counterproductive. One of the biggest mistakes I make is to check my email when I know that I don't have the time to reply to the emails I read. If I don't reply to them on the spot, I tend to forget that they exist.

If you're anything like me, both Laytr and Deferred Sender are great services that are an ideal way to combat this problem. Rather than stop yourself from checking your email whenever your want, or disabling push notifications on your smartphone, use either service to remind you of the emails that could fall between the cracks.


email reminders

What Laytr does is it allows you to re-send emails to yourself after any given period of time, whether it's one hour later, or one year later. It's up to you how long you want to delay the email being re-sent. Of course Laytr can be used for more than just reminding yourself of emails that you have received. It can be used, in general, as a reminder of just about anything.

You can either sign up for a free account, or if you're a Facebook user, you can simply connect Laytr to your Facebook account.

Once you're signed up, you can start sending email reminders to yourself using the easy to follow keyword system that they have set up. So for example, if you want to receive the reminder the next morning, you would send it to If you wanted to receive it after a month, you would send it to You can also specify an exact date and time to receive the reminder, by sending it to, for example.

email reminder service

A full list of the keywords available can be found here, which is also available in Norwegian.

While Laytr has both paid and free accounts, the only difference is branding. There is no limitation on the number of reminders you can receive, which makes Laytr an invaluable, free service.

Deferred Sender

email reminder service

Another similar service that allows you send reminders to yourself right from your inbox is Deferred Sender.

Signing up for a free account allows you to not only send yourself reminders or forward emails to yourself at the time of your choice, but it can also delay your emails, allowing you to choose when your replies are sent to your colleagues or clients.

Simply send your email to, and enter all the details of the email in the body.

Start the message with the email address you wish to send it to, followed by the time. You can also add email addresses to the CC and BCC lines. For example, if I want to receive a reminder the next day at 9am, the body of the email would look like this:

email reminder service

Check out Deferred Sender's Help page to see more methods on how to delay your messages by a few hours or to send it at a specific date and time. You can also log in to your Deferred Sender account to keep track of the emails you have scheduled.

email reminders

If you're going to use services like Laytr or Deferred to stay on top of your correspondence, be sure to schedule the reminders at times that you have set aside specifically for replying to emails.

One other possibility is Boomerang which Mark recently profiled, here on MakeUseOf.  This however is a browser extension / plugin and only works for Gmail accounts.

What methods do you use to stay on top of your emails? Let us know in the comments.

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Skype Releases Facebook Integration & Multi-Party Video Chat [News]

Posted: 16 Oct 2010 09:30 AM PDT

Skype, one of the most popular audio & video chat clients worldwide, has released version 5.0 out of beta and is now available for download. The release is Windows-only for now and they are working on bringing this release’s features out to other operating systems.

The new Skype release brings 2 major new features to the platform.

Facebook Integration

Skype brings this into their app in 2 major ways — the Facebook timeline now appears in your main Skype window. This is the basic timeline that shows up on your facebook page:

skype facebook integration

It also brings your Facebook contact list into Skype, giving you access to everyone (who has allowed it) from Facebook.

skype facebook integration

Group video beta

Skype video chat used to be one-on-one only with no way to bring other participants in. With 5.0, Skype increases this to 5 maximum video chat users. I could really see this being popular with family groups for keeping in touch over long distances. I’ve known many grandparents who just go crazy about Skype after learning it can connect them with their children and grandchildren scattered all over the world.

skype facebook integration

The group video feature is free while in beta although Skype has hinted that this might be a pay function in the future. It uses the H.264 video codec, licensed from SPIRIT, which might be why they may charge for its use when it leaves beta.

Skype has also released some other features along with version 5.0. For the full list, read here. A summary:

  • Skype Home Dashboard
  • Contact List Integration with Facebook
  • Offline instant messaging
  • New contact search and improved contact adding
  • Enhanced call quality experience
  • User interface refresh

Skype will now automatically reconnect if a call is dropped due to connectivity or network slowness. This should help users have ‘seamless’ conversations with each other. The offline messaging is also a nice feature to have. It will leave a message for your contacts who may not be online. Once they log back in, the message is displayed to them.

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