Friday, October 22, 2010 “Cool Websites and Tools [October 21st]” plus 10 more “Cool Websites and Tools [October 21st]” plus 10 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [October 21st]

Posted: 21 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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DocDroid – My Microsoft Office 2003-using friends always complain that I email them files in the Office 2007 format. Many other people also face this documents format problem. When you have a document with a format unsupported by your computer, you seek solutions from web apps. A web app that competently handles this problem is DocDroid. Read more: DocDroid: Easy Document Sharing & Conversion


Tekiki – There are tools that tell you if a domain name is available or not and then there are tools that suggest what alternative domain names you should go for. Tekiki goes one step further by letting you brainstorm on intelligent domain name choices. Read more: Tekiki: Domain Name Brainstorming Made Easy



Ringio – If you are looking for an online PBX solution for your business, then you should check this out. Ringio is a small business phone exchange system that provides more than what a traditional PBX system can offer. In addition to basic services like call routing, and caller ID, Ringio extends your phone support capabilities by displaying client information as you are talking to the client. Read more: Ringio: Inbound Call Management Tool For Small Businesses – Do you need to find out your IP address? Or do you need to shorten a URL? Perhaps you want to paste something on a webpage to use it later. These and many other handy web services are offered on the impressive website, a free to use website that contains a collection of popularly used web tools. Read more: Quick Acess To A Set Of Handy Web Services



NoSwearing – Suppose you are running a radio or podcast show and you receive an angry letter that is full of 'bad words' yet it is important to read it out on the show. You need a way to replace those extremely bad words with words slightly less extreme. To do this, head on over to Read more: NoSwearing: Find Less Offensive Words To Replace Swear Words


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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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7 Websites To Help Inspire and Make The Best Halloween Costumes

Posted: 21 Oct 2010 06:30 PM PDT

make halloween costumesHalloween is nearly here, and that means pumpkins, excessive sugar consumption and the best costumes you’re likely to see all year. If you’re short on inspiration, money or simply recognise that the best costumes are the ones you make yourself, the Internet is home to some great ideas.

So whether you’re off to a party, still young enough to go trick’r treating or simply want to terrify the children in your neighbourhood, there’s bound to be something here that ticks the box.

Instructables Halloween

The web’s best make-it-yourself website launches a dedicated Halloween section every year to walk you through some of the most complex costumes, props and decorations. Instructables is free to use, allowing you to spend your money on materials to make your halloween costume creations.

make halloween costumes

Some of my favourites include this Lego man, an incredibly detailed Big Daddy from Bioshock and Ron Burgundy from Anchorman.

There are 7 categories of Halloween Instructables, with 65 prizes up for grabs for the best of the bunch. If you’ve come up with your own idea, it’s probably worth sharing it with everyone else for the chance to win top of the range tools, sewing machines and tech. You’ve got until the 7th of November if you want to enter.


Not strictly a Halloween costume website (but I bet their bandwidth usage spikes at this time of year) Costumzee has literally thousands of ideas to inspire you. The website has a Top 100 list of the most popular costumes right now, and this means you can either pick from the best or choose what to avoid so you don’t look like everyone else.

costumes you can make

There are a fair few adverts for costumes for sale, but there’s more than enough how-to articles to help you make an impressive halloween costume.

They’ve even got a Jersey Shore section, but you’re going to need buckets of fake-tan if you want to imitate your favourite guido or guidette. Be sure to check out the printable masks section too if you prefer the cheap and cheerful option.

Vintage Computing & Gaming’s Halloween Ideas

Who said Halloween has to be scary? There’s some hilarious costume ideas here, some of which are genuine and others just for laughs. Take the Peter Molyneux costume for example (he’s the genius behind Theme Park, Black and White and the Fable games) – leopard print underwear anyone?

costumes you can make

They update the list every year, so it’s probably worth checking out the archives too: 2008, 2007, 2006 video game edition and 2006 computer edition.

Robin’s FYI Homemade Halloween Costume Ideas

Ok, so the webdesign isn’t exactly cutting edge but the ideas are there! Somewhat of a wall-of-text, Robin’s FYI has a ton of tried-and-tested ideas, as well as a few you just might never think of.

make yourself costumes

What I really liked about this one were the ideas for disabled users who have to use a wheelchair. A king or queen on a throne and a jack in the box are ideas to experiment with.

There aren’t any pictures or detailed how-to articles, so you’re going to need a little foresight and some personal touches to get your costume finished.

Trendhunter’s Costume Ideas

Mostly pictures to impress and inspire, Trendhunter brings you 57 unique and impressive costumes. Each picture has a link to more pictures, and it’s really too easy to spend way too much time here (especially when you’re trying to write an article).

make yourself costumes

Again, inspiration is key and there aren’t any instructions but if you’re interested in dressing your baby up like a pumpkin or you’re wondering whether it’s possible to create a Boba Fett costume out of Lego then you’re in the right spot.

Some pictures are slightly NSFW (but nothing too steamy) so postpone your Halloween research till you leave the office.

Costume Idea Zone

This site pretty much has all the usual ideas covered, and offers a brief outline on how to create each outfit. The site itself is split into several sections, covering traditional costumes, ideas for couples and groups as well as unique dress-ups and quick last-minute ideas for anyone who’s feeling lazy.

make yourself costumes

There’s also a fair few tips on how to save money when creating your costume, so if you’re budget-conscious this year then you’ll probably want to check it out.

Anyone with their own ideas not already listed can submit, so if you’ve thought of something short but sweet this year then share it with the rest of the world!


Ok so this one’s not an ideas site at all, but it’s worth a mention anyway. There’s an endless amount of costumes available for sale on eBay, and you don’t necessarily need to buy them to benefit.

make halloween costumes

If you’ve got an idea in mind and wonder how to go about it, a quick search on eBay is bound to bring up something you can attempt to replicate yourself, for a fraction of the price. It doesn’t have to look perfect after all.


If you’re after some more do-it-yourself Halloween ideas then you might want to check out this article from last year. There’s also a special MakeUseOf Halloween podcast-from-the-past.

Happy Halloween from all of us here at MakeUseOf!

Image credit: Shutterstock

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Top 5 Most Common Windows 7 Problems and How to Fix Them

Posted: 21 Oct 2010 04:30 PM PDT

windows 7 problemsWindows 7 is a fairly cool operating system, but like most operating systems it’s not perfect. Some Windows 7 problems are bugs others happen to be features. Either way, they are annoying and all we care for is a quick fix.

Some of the most commonly reported problems with Windows 7 include compatibility with older programs, slow performance on low-end hardware, and trouble with the Aero theme and its features. In this article, I’ll show you how to fix these annoyances. For those that prefer an automatic fix, scroll down to the bottom for suggested software solutions.

1. Windows 7 Seems Slow

Windows 7 is hungry for resources. It features many visual effects that draw heavy on your graphics card and system memory. If your system was slow out of the box, chances are you can easily fix that by turning off superfluous effects.

Go to > Start and type ‘performance‘ in the search field. Select > ‘Adjust the appearance and performance of Windows‘ from the results. The > Performance Options window will open. Under > Visual Effects select > Adjust for best performance. If you would like to retain a nice interface, select > Custom and check > ‘Use visual styles on windows and buttons‘.

windows 7 problems

2. Windows Aero Not Working

I recently wrote an article on How To Enable & Troubleshoot Aero Effects In Windows 7.

In addition to this article, you should make sure that your graphics card supports Aero and that graphics driver is up to date. However, if your computer came with Windows 7 this should not be an issue.

Finally, Aero could be disabled in your registry. Before I proceed to explain how to check and edit your registry, I must warn you! Editing the registry can cause permanent damage to your Windows installation. Please backup your registry and know what you’re doing.

Go to > Start and type > ‘regedit‘ into the > search option. Launch regedit and browse to > KEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\DWM. The value of the entry > ‘EnableAeroPeek‘ should be set to 1, rather than 0.

windows 7 problems

3. Older Programs Not Compatible

Before upgrading to Windows 7, it is advisable to check which of your programs will be compatible. The Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor checks the most common programs. However, as I have outlined in my article How To Use Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor To Check PC Compatibility, you may have to do a manual check at the Windows 7 Compatibility Center for many other programs. Now, if you have already upgraded and if it turns out that a dear program of yours is not compatible, there is a way out: Windows 7 Compatibility Mode.

To install a program in Compatibility Mode, right-click its > installation file and select > Properties. In its > Properties windows switch to the > Compatibility tab, check > ‘Run this program in compatibility mode for:‘ and from the > pull-down menu choose the latest version of Windows of which you know that the program was running on.

problems with windows 7

You may have to repeat this step with the program itself once it is installed. Right-click the > program icon, select > Properties, switch to > Compatibility tab, check > ‘Run this program in compatibility mode for:‘, and choose the respective Windows operating system.

Furthermore, you can change the settings for the respective program and you should explore these, depending on the issue you’re facing.

problems with windows 7

Finally, if you went with Windows 7 Professional or up, you can use Windows 7′s XP Mode. It runs Windows XP as a virtual machine and you can install all programs that worked on Windows XP in this environment. Ars Technica has a very decent article on Windows 7′s XP Mode.

4. DVD Drive Not Found

Windows 7 can not find your optical drive? This is another issue that involves editing the registry. The warning from point 2 applies!

Click > Start, search for > ‘regedit‘ and launch it from the > results. Navigate to > ‘HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Class‘. In the > right-hand panel delete > ‘UpperFilters‘ and > ‘LowerFilters‘, restart Windows and see if the problem was resolved.

If not, click > Start, type > Disk Management, and select > ‘Create and format hard disk partitions‘. In the > Disk Management window right-click on the > optical drive icon and select ‘Change Drive Letter and Paths‘. In the > Change Drive Letter and Paths window click the > Change… button and choose a new drive letter. Restart Windows and hope the issue was fixed.

5. New Themes Change Custom Icons

So you switched themes and found that some of your custom icons where changed? That’s quite annoying, but it’s easy to prevent. Right-click > desktop, select > Personalize, in the control panel windows that opens switch to > Change Desktop Icons, and in the > Desktop Icon Settings window uncheck > ‘Allow themes to change desktop icons‘.

problems with windows 7

Another common issue, which only seems to occur in older laptops, is that Windows 7 falsely reports an empty battery and subsequently shuts down. ITExpertVoice provides a workaround, preventing Windows 7 from shutting down when it thinks the battery is empty. Unfortunately, this may leave you with a sudden laptop death when the battery really runs out.

Finally, many Windows 7 problems can be fixed in an instant using handy tools. MakeUseOf has reviewed FixWin in the article How To Fix Common Windows Problems In A Snap With FixWin. Another option is QuickFix, which contains 21 common Windows 7 fixes. Since it is a portable app, it could one day help you out of a virus attack or restore default Windows 7 behavior.

Which other issues did you run into on Windows 7 and how did you fix them?



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How to Get a Classroom of Kids Blogging in Under 5 Minutes!

Posted: 21 Oct 2010 02:30 PM PDT

kids online bloggingDon’t you just love it when someone thinks logically about a problem and comes up with a simple solution to solve it which everyone can enjoy? Well, this time it’s teachers who are on the receiving end of a well-thought-out plan. is a service designed by teachers for teachers. They have made the process of creating and monitoring a class blog safe and efficient. Sign-ups are fast and simple, making it easy to co-ordinate a whole class of new students. At the same time, the blog’s privacy and security is protected by default. This makes life incredibly easy for the teacher, allowing you to get straight in to the fun bit of blogging!

The primary differences between Kidblog and any other free blogging platform is the default class-only privacy level and the superbly easy way of bulk-adding user accounts for students without requiring email addresses and confirmation of invites. Anyone who has ever tried to set up a group-run blog can attest that it’s sometimes a little tricky to ensure the technophobes verify their invites. Imagine doing that with a class-full of kids! The Kidblog system means you skip all of that fuss and move on to the blogging straight away. If you have your .csv file ready, you could sign up and have your kids blogging in less than five minutes!

kids online blogging

Setting up a teacher account

The teacher account is a straightforward sign-up: choose a password, add a few details and you’re in.

Create a New Class

The blog creation is controlled by “classes”. The theory is that you’ll want the class to collaborate on a blog together, with all members as users of that blog.

blogs for kids

The class name is the blog name, which becomes part of the URL for the class blog too. You’ll want to set up initially as one class, even if there’s smaller group projects within the class, since the default privacy level is for students to be able to see other classmate’s work. If they’re not in the same class, they won’t be able to see it (or you’ll need to change the privacy).

blogs for kids

You’re limited to 200 kids per class, but it’s suggested that if you need more usernames you simply start a new class, add the new users to that and then invite them to the original class. You can easily keep adding classes every school year and importing the users from older classes. This gives the kids a little continuity, too.

Privacy and Security

Permissions for viewing posts are set by default to “Class members only”, so only the people you’ve added to this class will be able to see posts. It’s also possible to add more teachers to administrate and to add parent accounts as guests if you want to enable parents to see the classwork. Comments are set to be moderated by default, so teachers will be able to block any of the nasty comments made by certain kids. If you do choose to make the blog public, you can continue to filter unsolicited comments.

blogs for kids

Add Users

Adding users can be done individually or as a bulk upload, which is recommended.

kids blog

The bulk upload involves creating a .csv file with just name and password. You can do this easily by using a spreadsheet with a column for name and a column for passwords, then exporting it as a .csv file.

kids blog

Once the users are added, they can log in and start writing straight away. Don’t worry about the usernames – your kids won’t need to memorise those!


If you’ve got several groups of kids in the one class all working on different group projects, you’ll want to set up appropriate “Groups” each with relevant names.

kids blog

Once the groups are set up, kids viewing the blog can look at posts just by one person or filter to show just relevant groups.

For Kids

Tell your students to go to the blog URL (you find your blog URL by clicking on the “Go to Class Blog” link at the top of your dashboard). Kids can click on the “Log In” link and they are given a drop-down list of names to choose from. So, they only need to remember a password!

Once logged in, they can browse their friend’s posts or filter for groups using the drop-down menu. They can write posts which must then be moderated by the teacher before publishing.


Kidblog is based on WordPress, but has been customised with a teacher’s needs in mind. It’s free, uncluttered, ad-free, easy to set up and private by default. No information is collected from students and the teacher remains in control of all activity. My only request to Kidblog would be to add a few more default themes so that there can be a little more variety!

kids online blogging

I strongly encourage all teachers and other facilitators of kids activities to have a go at using Kidblog. The possibilites are endless: writing groups; book clubs; assignments; group work; uploading photos of artwork; team spirit and post-game analysis; practise blogging in a second language; or getting kids to simply list off the most interesting things they learned that day. What will you use Kidblog for?

If you want more to read, here’s some articles you’ll love:

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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Hot Tech Deals [Oct 21st]

Posted: 21 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. EXPIRING Polk Audio RM8 High Performance Satellite Speaker (Pair) $129.99 Free Shipping via code EMCZYZS22

  2. iomega Prestige 1TB Portable External Hard Drive $89.99 Free Shipping via code EMCZYNZ73

  3. AT&T 3G PCMCIA Ultra Unlocked GSM Data/Air Card $14.99 Free Shipping

  4. TODAY ONLY Samsung 470 Series MZ-5PA064/US 2.5in 64GB SATA II Internal Solid State Drive $114.99 Free Shipping

  5. TODAY ONLY Acoustic Research AW880 Indoor Wireless Speakers (Pair) $59.99 Free Ship

  6. Hitachi Travelstar 500GB 2.5in 7200RPM Internal SATA Laptop Hard Drive $43.99AR Free Shipping via code EMCZYNZ73

  7. Lenovo G560 Intel Dual-Core P6100 2GHz 15.6in Laptop (4GB/320GB/Win7) $429.99

  8. Patriot G Sector 5 4GB (2x2GB) DDR3-1600MHz PC3-12800 Desktop Memory $54.99AR via code EMCZYNZ69

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set

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Ubuntu’s Netbook Edition: Now With More “Unity”!

Posted: 21 Oct 2010 12:30 PM PDT

ubuntu netbookUbuntu’s new netbook edition is radically different than the 10.04 release. The new Unity interface, which we previewed in July, completely replaced Ubuntu’s old netbook interface for Ubuntu 10.10.

Not all the reviews have been positive, and Ubuntu laptop sellers System 76 won’t be selling Unity netbooks quite yet. Why? Because “Unity's rough edges remain apparent.”

Ouch. So how is the new interface? Pretty friggin’ cool, in my opinion, though I can see why a company selling laptops wouldn’t want to provide it to customers quite yet. But don’t take my word for it; let’s take a look!


Start up this new Ubuntu Netbook Edition and you’ll immediately notice some differences. To start, you’ll see this dock on the left side of the screen:

ubuntu netbook

The dock behaves in manner similar to OS X — that is, your favorite programs live there alongside any programs you currently have open. You can add a permanent shortcut by right-clicking an open application’s icon and clicking the “Add” button.

Another major interface change is the new menu, which takes up the entire screen but only comes up when you click the Ubuntu logo in the top-left corner. This highly stylized menu takes a while to load, and is centered around search functionality:

ubuntu for netbooks

You can browse the old-fashioned menu hierarchy here, or you can start typing the name of the program /document you’re looking for and have it pop up. Everything is indexed (though on my machine the menu seemed really slow.) Still, it’s an attractive menu done well and I look forward to seeing it sped up for Ubuntu 11.04.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the Unity interface tries to fit as much content as possible into the top bar on the screen. Where previously vertical space was used for the top bar of a given window as well as the File/Edit/View menu, Unity combines both these elements into the system bar. For example:

ubuntu netbook

Anti-Mac types will be quick to call this simply a copy of a much hated system, but there’s more to it than that. By integrating both the menu and the close buttons into one row, Unity saves a lot of vertical space. This is perhaps my favorite thing about the new interface, and is making it hard for me to switch back to Ubuntu’s old user interface.


Still, I’m not completely happy in this new system. Everything feels slow to start, particularly the menu (though perhaps the new hard drive I have coming in he mail will fix that.) Additionally, and this is the worst thing about this for me, the classic Linux “Alt + F2″ keyboard shortcut no longer works; forcing me to launch programs with my mouse. Ouch.

Another common complaint is that hiding the dock is seemingly impossible. Considering how limited screen space on a netbook is this seems quite odd. I can’t browse any website without having that cursed horizontal scroll bar at the bottom of my screen, which annoys me quite a bit. So clearly this release isn’t quite for everyone yet (just ask System 72).

Is It Cool?

In many ways, though, this release is pretty cool. The visual effects are pretty cool, but not so over-the-top that they distract. Click the desktop icon; see all your desktops.

There are a lot of cool things to this interface; more than I can mention. I love using it, even though I dislike certain things about it. It’s certainly a better interface than Jolicloud’s monstrous HTML5 experiment. I’m not sure whether I’m going to switch back to Ubuntu’s desktop mode anytime soon, but I’ll be sure to let you all know of any quality changes.

The Ubuntu team is trying out a lot of new things here, and a lot of it works really well. Some of it is pretty slow, which may frustrate those of us with lower-grade netbooks, but overall the design shows a lot of promise. I’m going to use this as long as I can, and am very excited to see how the interface progresses. If you’re interested, head over to and download the Netbook version. You might like it.

If you do, leave your comments below. Also feel free to leave complaints, or lies about me.

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Track Google Analytics From Your Desktop With Polaris

Posted: 21 Oct 2010 11:30 AM PDT

desktop google analyticsThose of you that have followed along with MakeUseOf for a while know that we often cover various methods of making use of Google Analytics information. Google Analytics is easy to focus on because it’s one of the few free webmaster tools available on the Internet that is not only fully functional with a free account, but it also provides APIs so that other applications can “plug into” your data.

I previously covered one desktop app called Trakkboard that lets you view Analytics data from a variety of accounts, which is really nice. Mark also previously covered an Adobe AIR Analytics reporting tool as well. Tim also covered probably one of the coolest Analytics plugins for WordPress that I’ve ever seen.

Using Trakkboard for a while, I found that the lack of English on a few of the settings, and the malfunctioning charts for certain selections was a little annoying, so I went out in search of any other good desktop Google Analytics tools out there. I finally came across an awesome Adobe AIR app called Polaris.

Setting Up Polaris With Google Analytics

Just like any other Google Analytics app out there, you do have to provide your login and password to the app in order to connect to your Analytics account. Once you do log in, within just seconds you’ll have instant access to all of your Analytics data through this app, only in a much cleaner and aesthetically pleasing interface.

desktop google analytics

If you have multiple profiles under your account, it’s not a problem at all. Just click the dropdown box and choose the profile that you’d like to work with. In the middle of dealing with any screen, you can always immediately change profiles on-the-fly by clicking on the green profile folder in the menu bar.

google analytics apps

Graphs and Charts

Within Polaris, you have access to those important charts that you’re constantly logging into Google Analytics to check. Now you can just let this app run on your desktop and you’ll never need to log in again. The dashboard itself displays six graphs in one convenient display – visits, pageviews, pages per visit, bounce rate, avg. time on site and the percentage of new visitors arriving at your site.

google analytics apps

If you want to see a more detailed view of your Analytics data, click on the “Dashboard” button and a dropdown box lets you select all of the following windows that I’m going to walk you through below. The first is a more detailed view of your daily visitor trend.

google analytics apps

The next view is called the “Map Overlay”. This is an awesome layered map view where Polaris extracts location details about your visitors and overlays that data onto a map of the world. The cool part of this view is that the concentration of hits are color coded from a faint green for a few hits to a deep red color for a strong concentration of visitors.

desktop analytics

The next view is also a chart that most Google Analytics users are very familiar with – the breakdown of your traffic sources by visits, pageviews or how much time visitors spend on the site. This information can really help you target your content in a way that increases pageviews or encourages visitors to stay on your site just a little bit longer.

desktop analytics

Other Information and Data

Beyond the visual graphs and visitor numbers, you can also use Polaris to access more specific information about your traffic such as your top referring sites, as shown here. This view really helps to show how well you’re optimizing your site, and what websites you really should frequent to draw in even more visitors to your sit

desktop analytics

Additionally, you can access your top content. This is always important to check constantly, so that you know what your visitors are most interested in. This can change constantly, so if you make sure Polaris launches when you first start your computer every day, you can be certain that you’ll always be aware of the latest trends for your website.

Of course, the top keywords that draw in your visitors is critical information as well, and also available from Polaris.

Unlike other free Google Analytics apps, you aren’t limited to a certain time range with Polaris. Simply click on the date in the center menu item at the top, and move the bottom slider to the date that you want, and the side sliders to adjust the range.

desktop google analytics

As you can see, Polaris is a fully-functional window into your Google Analytics data, and definitely gives the competitors a run for their money. Since it runs on Adobe AIR, it will run on most operating systems that run AIR. So take Polaris for a spin and enjoy having access to your Analytics data without even opening a web browser.

Do you like Polaris? Are there other Google Analytics apps that you like better? Share your own opinions in the comments section below.

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10 Baby Websites To Help Expecting Parents

Posted: 21 Oct 2010 10:30 AM PDT

baby websitesHaving a baby can be a trying experience. On the women’s side: nausea, discomfort and anxiety. On the man’s side: nausea, discomfort and anxiety. Any way you look at it growing a new human is a difficult yet ultimately rewarding experience for both parties. If you are anything like me, you have tons of questions while going through the process.

Since we have recently had a new girl, I wanted to share sites which were helpful to us, to you. After consulting with my wife, we came up with the following list of baby websites that are a great help to the expecting or soon-to-be expecting mom or dad.

General Pregnancy Sites

I consider all of these sites to be “General pregnancy” sites because they are a wide ranging resource for all things related to being pregnant. Many have articles on various aspects of pregnancy and forums with other parents (but mainly moms) looking for others for help on any number of topics. Each site has its own ‘vibe’ so I would pick which one you like the most and stick with it throughout pregnancy rather reading every article. Reading too much about potential problems is a great way to add unnecessary anxiety to your life.

the bump

baby websites

The Bump is a spinoff of The Knot and The Nest message boards and publications. These sites are mainly female oriented.


free baby websites

Babycenter is a site focused not only the pregnancy part but also after your child is born.


free baby websites

Parenting is a companion website to the magazine of the same name. They are one of the more well known players in the baby website game because of how established they are in the magazine world.

What To Expect

free baby websites

This is another companion baby website, but this time it goes along with the book “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” Back when I had my first baby, this book was the go-to resource for many of our questions and was invaluable in helping us along during a confusing time. The website seems to keep this tradition alive with a wide variety of content

How To Name Your Baby

Once of the biggest decisions while pregnant is what to name your baby. You can go with a family name or poll your friends and family, but there are some great resources online if you are looking for (more) original names.

Top Baby Names from Social Security

virtual baby websites

The United States Social Security service has been keeping statistics on baby names going back to 1879. They are listed in their entirety on this website. It is a great way to look through tons of names quickly.


virtual baby websites

Nymbler is a good site and among my favorites for finding baby names. What you do is put in a few of your favorite names and it will start to recommend other names that are similar based on root and origin of the name. You can use it to recommend boys’ or girls’ names.

Name Voyager

virtual baby websites

The Name Voyager from Baby Name Wizard is probably one of the coolest visualizations of the bunch and it really appealed to a nerd like me. As you type in a name, the wizard creates a graph of any name starting with those letters plotting popularity over time. While not good for discovering names, it does give you a good idea of how popular a name is over time and whether is a waxing or waning in popularity.

During Labor

I can’t say there is much you can really do online during labor & delivery. My wife did use the baby website below to get a better idea of how far away her contractions were. If you are in labor, you typically should not be online.

Contraction Master

Contraction master has a free app on its website which allows you to time contractions. It is simple and no frills, but lets you time the length and frequency of the contractions which is one of the first things a doctor will ask you about when deciding whether or not to send you to the hospital.

Congratulations! You Have A Baby!

Baby Connect

We’ve covered Baby Connect before but it is definitely worth including in this list. It is one of the premier sites to help track all kinds of things about your baby. Nap times, feeding times, diaper happenings and more. It has both a free website to track this information and also iPhone and iPad apps (which are paid) that will synchronize with your online account.

It is a slick way to keep all of this information together and is useful for troubleshooting any kind of feeding or other problems with the baby. Basically it takes the place of having a paper log of this information.


baby websites

Keeping a baby journal is a time honored tradition. KidMondo extends this onto the internet in an easy to use fashion and lets you type in milestones and data about your kid over time. After you are ready, you can print out the journal in a book format which is a great keepsake going into the future.

I was impressed with the depth of the site – it encompasses almost everything you could think of to put in a journal. From photos to height and weight measurements, it has it all. Because a laptop is not always at hand, the one thing I do wish it has is an iPhone app.

So that is a quick and dirty rundown of websites that should help you out when you are expecting. Let us know if you have any other web sites you think should have made the list in the comments below!

Image credit: Shutterstock

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Add Beautiful Slideshows To WordPress Posts Using SlideDeck

Posted: 21 Oct 2010 09:30 AM PDT

create slideshowsThere are literary millions of blogs out there. If you own one and you don’t want yours to be just another face in the crowd, you need to make an extra effort to let it stand out. While content might be the king, appearance is definitely the queen.

One of the ways to beautify the way you present information on your blog is to create slideshows. And if you want to build a quick and easy, but beautiful and functional slideshow for your blog, you should check out SlideDeck

It’s Just A Plugin Away

SlideDeck is available as a jQuery for any websites, and a plugin for self-hosted WordPress blogs. Both are available in free Lite and paid Pro versions. In this article, we are going to discuss the free WP plugin.

We’ll start at the search and install routine. I just love how the latest version of WordPress has eliminated all the fuss of installing new plugins and integrated the whole process inside the admin area. Click “Add New” sidebar menu under Plugins.

create slideshows

Perform a search for “SlideDeck” and click on the “Install Now” link from the result.

make my own slideshow

After the installation process is done, click the “Activate Plugin” link.

make my own slideshow

And now you are ready for the fun part.

Let Them Slide, Baby

To create a slideshow, scroll down to the lower part of the sidebar menu and expand the “SlideDeck” section. Then click on “Add New“.

make my own slideshow

The “Add New SlideDeck” page will open. The first thing that you have to do is to give the new SlideDeck a name.

Then you can start creating slides – one slide at a time. The process is similar to writing a blog post: add a title, write the post and insert image(s) and other multimedia objects. When you are finished with one slide, move on to the next one.

slideshow makerg

During my experiment with the plugin, I found that inserting images does not work as well as it should be. I could upload the images, but they wouldn’t show up at the post. So, my trick is to use the image code from one of the regular blog posts in the HTML mode and change the image URL with the image that I want.

On the right side, you will find the SlideDeck Options. There are few tweaks here, but the most important one would be choosing a skin. From all of the available skins, my personal favorite is the default one.

slideshow maker

You can easily re-order the slides by dragging and dropping them. You could also add more slides if you wanted to.

slideshow maker

Slides can be inserted into posts or pages easily, but if you want to insert it as part of your theme, copy the code snippet and insert it using theme editor.

03d Code Snippets.jpg

After clicking the “Save” button, a notification bar will appear. If you want to directly insert the code into your post, use the shortcut link on the bar.

03e New SlideDeck Created.jpg

Inserting The Slide

To insert the slide into a post or a page, create a new post (or page) and write the content. Next, point the cursor to the place where you want the slide to appear and click the “Insert SlideDeck” button from the “SlideDeck“menu in the right sidebar.

04a Insert SlideDeck.jpg

Alternatively, you could also use the “SlideDeck” button in the toolbar. But please note that this button only appears when you are editing in the “Visual” mode.

04b Embed SlideDeck.jpg

You will be asked to choose which slide that you want to insert and the dimensions of the slide.

When you are done with your editing, click the “Publish” button.

04c Publish Post.jpg

And this is what the slide looks like with the standard skin. Visitors can click on the numbers and the content will “slide” open. It’s also possible to navigate using the left and right arrows on the keyboard.

03g Slide Result.jpg

A Smart Way To Slide

There’s another type of slides that you can build. This slide will be dynamic in terms of the content and will always be updated according to the categories that you choose.

05a Add Smart SlideDeck.jpg

After naming the new SlideDeck and choosing how many slides in the sites, choose what kind of post you want to show. The available options are: “Recent Posts“, “Featured Post” and “Popular Posts.

05b Add Smart SlideDeck 2.jpg

The last step would be to choose the “Navigation Type“.

05c Add Smart SlideDeck 3 - Nav.jpg

After saving the SlideDeck, you can apply it to your theme using the “Theme Code Snippet“.

05d New Smart SlideDeck.jpg

To see how the SlideDeck would look like, use the “Preview” button.

create slideshows

By far, SlideDeck is one of the coolest WordPress plugins that I’ve ever encountered. You can use it for almost any purpose, ranging from a simple photo slideshow, tutorial, to a multi-dimensional slideshows for product presentation.

And since it’s difficult to really “get” the concept unless you’ve tried it first hand, I suggest you to do just that. Then after that, share your thoughts about the SlideDeck applications using the comment section below.

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Laze Around At Home Wearing Your MakeUseOf T-Shirt

Posted: 21 Oct 2010 09:01 AM PDT

The summer may be over and the weather getting colder, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wear T-shirts anymore. They’re good for lazing around the house too. Especially if that T-shirt happens to be a MakeUseOf one.   Then you can laze around and look cool.

Wear a T-shirt showing the brain of a geek. Or tell your friends that you’ve only come to visit them because of their free wi-fi. Whatever your tastes and humour, there’s bound to be something for you in the store. And all for the low price of $16.95 and shipping.

Our MUO model this week is Dave. Check him out lazing around at home wearing his Tux Pad T-shirt.

David Drager

Check out the MakeUseOf T-shirt store today!

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Reduce Distractions and Achieve Writing Goals with FocusWriter

Posted: 21 Oct 2010 08:30 AM PDT

writing distractionsComputers are incredible tools for writers. The ability to simultaneously research, organize and write an article is an immense boon that makes life much easier for anyone who routinely puts the proverbial pen to the proverbial paper (this being the digital age, after all).

However, computers can also be a huge distraction. Sure, your research might be just a click away – but so is Facebook. If you’re having trouble with distractions while trying to crank out some copy you might be interested in FocusWriter, a barebones word processor aimed at reducing distractions.

All Words, All The Time

writing distractions

As the name of FocusWriter suggests, this little applications is all about getting you to FOCUS!

Once launched, FocusWriter takes over your entire screen. You can, of course, minimize or exit FocusWriter at any time, but the program otherwise will stay on top of your desktop and will not give you any room to open additional windows. Most modern computers are paired with displays that offer far more room than you need to write, but that’s the point of FocusWriter. By eating up your desktop space you won’t be able to keep Word open on the left side of your display while you watch Youtube videos on the right.

reduce distraction

The default settings of FocusWriter are very dull – pure gray on gray. However, you can spice things up a bit by adding your own backgrounds, which is accomplished by accessing the Theme menu. Once there, you’ll find three tabs; background, foreground and text. Background lets you change the color of the background or use an image. Foreground will let you change the width of the usable text editing space and also change the positioning, margin size and padding. Text makes it possible to select different fonts and font colors.

reduce distraction

Setting Your Daily Goal

Setting a daily goal is very important if you’re finding that you have trouble writing consistently. FocusWriter helps you with this the ability to define your goals in the program. You can define your goal either by time or by word count. For example, let’s say you choose the default word count of 1000 words per day. If you move your cursor to the bottom of FocusWriter a toolbar will pop up, and to the right of that toolbar you’ll see how far you’ve progressed towards you daily goal. The goal counter can exceed 100%, as well, so you can take pride when your fingers are on fire and you blow past your daily goal!

reduce distraction when writing

This same toolbar has other useful information that may be related to what you’re writing such as total word count, page count, paragraph count and character count. Although these feature are simple, the ease with which they can be accessed makes it very easy to keep tabs on what you’re working on without the chance for distraction.

Another related feature is the ability to set a timer, which is done by going navigating to Tools -> Timers. Focusing on your writing is great, but it shouldn’t make you late for an important meeting. A timer can remind you when it is time to stop.

Sessions and Other Features

writing distractions

FocusWriter supports a feature called sessions, which is similar to the tab feature found on a web browser. This is FocusWriter’s way of dealing with the fact that the minimal interface doesn’t include any way to easily switch between windows, and thus documents – as that would be defeating the point.

New sessions can be accessed by going to File -> Sessions. Current sessions can also be managed from the same menu. Each session is simply a separate document. FocusWriter remembers the sessions you have open even after you close the program and will automatically make the sessions available when you next launch the program.


FocusWriter isn’t the best word processor for writing research papers, but it is excellent for creative writing. The elimination of distractions helps keep your mind on your writing instead of your friend’s Twitter feed. If you’re a writer and you have any tips that can help fellow word-smiths deal with distraction, feel free to share them in the comments!

FocusWriter is an open source program. It is available for Mac OS X, Windows and several versions of Linux. Jackson has also looked at several other distraction busters in the past – 6 Apps To Help You Focus & Be Productive [Mac] and Get Over Writer's Block With OmmWriter, A Zen Distraction-Free Writing App [Mac].

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