Wednesday, November 17, 2010 “The 10 Toughest Tech Questions [MakeUseOf Answers]” plus 10 more “The 10 Toughest Tech Questions [MakeUseOf Answers]” plus 10 more

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The 10 Toughest Tech Questions [MakeUseOf Answers]

Posted: 17 Nov 2010 06:00 AM PST

MakeUseOf Answers is a community project. And in case you didn’t know yet, you are the community. Welcome!

Challenge us with any tech-related questions and help answering other people’s issues for a chance to win the Best Answer of the Week contest.  A skilled winner is announced every Friday. Anyone’s great answer can win! The only condition is that you provide us with a way to relate the good news to you. Guest login with valid email address, Facebook, or Disqus account preferred.

Here are this week’s toughest questions and we hope you can help us solve them:

MakeUseOf Answers can be hours of fun. Browse the archives by Latest Questions, Most Popular Questions, or Unanswered Questions. For regular updates subscribe to the Answers RSS Feed.

Need help? Ask A Question at MakeUseOf Answers.

Which free video editor has more features than Windows Movie Maker?

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Cool Websites and Tools [November 16th]

Posted: 16 Nov 2010 07:31 PM PST

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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Kick Ass – Advertisements on websites can be bothersome. What if you could eliminate site ads and any other unwanted page elements one by one through a brilliant website destroyer game? If that appeals to you, then you are going to love Kick Ass, a time killer browser bookmarklet that you can quickly add to your bookmarks bar. Read more: Kick Ass: Browser Based Website Destroyer Game


Kitchen Timer – Let's face it, cooking isn't easy. Especially if you have to keep track of different activities while making a particular item. KitchenTimer is a tool that helps you with your cooking by letting you create multiple timers. To start, search for a recipe using the built-in Google search. Read more: KitchenTimer: Create & Manage Multiple Timers For Cooking



My Perfect Rent – With thousands of rental properties in any given state, it is not easy to find the one you want. And sometimes when you find that perfect apartment, the rent is too high. MyPerfectRent is an online rental community that brings tenants and landlords together to help them get the best deal. Read more: MyPerfectRent: Find Rental Properties & Track Rent Price Trends



Wordstash – We recently learned about Voxy, a cool tool that helps you learn English by using real-life events. Now, if you want to really sharpen your English vocabulary, then check out Wordstash. This useful resource helps you expand your vocabulary by providing word definitions and letting you "stash" words on your list manager for you to study. Read more: Wordstash: An Online Tool To Expand Your Vocabulary



Share Keyboard – The Android keyboard is usually pretty efficient but if you have to type a large chunk of text then it can be tiresome. ShareKeyboard is a free app that connects your computer keyboard to your Android device via Wi-Fi. Once the app is installed on your Android phone, you will receive a web path that you can type into your computer browser's address bar. Read more: ShareKeyboard: Connect Your PC Keyboard To Android via Wi-Fi


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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5+ Most Popular Facebook Games You Have To Check Out

Posted: 16 Nov 2010 05:31 PM PST

facebook gamesThe social gaming industry is booming right now, especially on Facebook. Companies have moved into the space and are taking advantage of Facebook’s massive user base, which currently stands at more than 500 million active users. These game developers, through their strategic game design and incorporation of virtual currency, have made a killing on the social network.

Zynga is by far the best example of this. Valued at $5.51 billion (with a “b”), they have built a very lucrative business by tapping into Facebook’s user base.  In this article, I’ll be covering the most popular Facebook. How many do you think Zynga owns?

1. FarmVille

Even if you’ve never played a game on Facebook you’ve probably heard of FarmVille. With over 55.4 million monthly active users it is by far the most popular game running.

facebook games

The object of FarmVille, if you don’t already know, is to create a farm on virtual land. There’s a lot of maintenance that goes into the game, like taking care of your crops and farm animals, which may not sound like much fun, but I assure you it’s very addictive. Literally 10 percent of my Facebook friends are playing this game.

FarmVille is classified on Facebook as a “Virtual World” game. This, as it turns out, is one of the most popular sections of games on the site. Games similar to FarmVille that could easily make this list are FrontierVille (28.3 million users), PetVille (9.5 million) and FishVille (6.1 million).

2. Mafia Wars

top facebook games

The other most popular genre of games on Facebook is in the “Role Playing” section. Mafia Wars (23.3 million users), which I’ve previously written about, is a game in which you control your own mafia. Your mafia is made up of your other friends playing the game, and you can wage war with other clans or build up your empire by doing jobs, fighting and robbing others to level up.

Some other great role playing games include City of Wonder (6.1 million), Ninja Saga (5.9 million) and Kingdoms of Camelot (5.7 million). Crime City (4.1 million) is good too, and it’s pretty similar to Mafia Wars in context.

3. Cafe World

Cafe World (18.2 million users), which I’ve also shown you how to cheat on, is a game where you’re in charge of your very own restaurant.

top facebook games

You can choose from dozens of different dishes and layouts for your kitchen, then you “slice, chop, saute and bake your way to the top of the culinary world”. It’s also a very addictive game, so if you aren’t into building farms or mafias, this is your hangout.

4. Millionaire City

top facebook games

Millionaire City (12.2 million users), aside from having an awesome name, also has a really good premise: build your dream city and become a millionaire! Created by Digital Chocolate, Millionaire City puts you in charge of your own town, and it is your duty to take it from meager to metropolis status.

Sound familiar? The concept is not unlike Sim City, one of the most popular games of all time.

5. Madden NFL Superstars

Madden is always one of the highest grossing video games to come out every year, which is why I decided to include EA’s Madden NFL Superstars on this list, despite it only having about 2.1 million monthly active users. This game has not been around very long at all but it is already gaining in popularity.

facebook games

This version of Madden is very different from the traditional console games. You can still create your own franchise, draft NFL players, build stadiums and attract fans, but everything is done within the virtual space. Compete against your friend’s teams for in-game prizes and bragging rights.

If you prefer the other type of football, check out EA Sports FIFA Superstars (3.7 million users).


As you can see, I didn’t simply go in order and list the 5 Facebook games with the most active users. While that is a good indicator of how “popular” these games really are, it’s not the only variable that factors into the popularity equation for me. I’m very enthusiastic about the Madden NFL Superstars game, for instance, because it is relatively new and garnering a lot of attention.

While I did my best to cover a wide variety of some of Facebook’s best games, there is a good possibility that I may have missed one of your favorites. Let us know in the comments what your favorite Facebook games are so we can discuss them.

Image Credit: Kiselev Andrey Valerevich

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Customize & Tweak Your Windows OS & Apps With FreshUI

Posted: 16 Nov 2010 03:31 PM PST

tweak windows 7For a lot of people, using a Windows computer isn’t exactly a experience that can be “customized”.  Most people work hard just to figure out how the operating system works. The extent of “customizing” involves things like changing the Windows desktop background or configuring the default email system.

Given, there are plenty of readers that could alter some of the most obscure regions of the Windows OS, but for the rest of you who don’t walk on water when it comes to computers – I’d like to introduce an app that can help.

Here at MUO we’ve previously covered a number of free utilities developed by Fresh Devices. Kyle previously wrote about FreshDiagnose, a useful utility that lets you analyze and bookmark Windows. I also covered Freshview, an app that helps you organize all of your multimedia files. Recently, I discovered that Fresh Devices also offers another utility called FreshUI that will help you quickly and easily tweak your Windows Operating System just like a pro.

When you first install and launch FreshUI, you’ll see that the application is laid out in a way that makes it very easy to learn. All of the areas of Windows that you can customize are laid out clearly along the left pane, and organized in a simple tree view with only six major categories.

tweak windows 7

Using FreshUI, you can quickly customize all areas of Windows, including standard Windows apps, how hardware behaves and even specific privacy settings that matter most to you. The beauty of this application is that you don’t have to dig through the Windows OS to find them.

tweak ui windows 7

Apps that you can tweak include standard Windows programs like Hearts or Notepad, but also some of the deeper apps like the Registry Editor. Now, keep in mind that this app isn’t for changing the options in these applications or modifying typical app settings. It’s actually for customizing the apps by enabling or disabling certain features about them.

For example, within the Internet Explorer section you can tweak each of the available options in the menu of IE.

tweak ui windows 7

This allows you to customize the app for all users by doing things like disabling the ability to modify proxy settings or even disabling the ability to close IE itself. These are all settings that you’d have to dig through registry settings or the control panel in order to enable or disable. With FreshUI, some of the most advanced “hacks” are right there at your fingertips.

tweak ui windows 7

Beyond applications, you can also customize the behavior for your computer hardware. For example, optimizing your CPU cache, enabling or disabling your CD Player’s autoplay feature, tweaking some of your motherboard memory settings and much more. Obviously, you should only make these changes if you really know what you’re doing – otherwise you could actually do some damage. Side note – always click on File -> Save Windows Settings before you get started so you can always restore the default settings.

Beyond applications and software, you can also tweak some of Windows standard components, like Windows Explorer itself. For example, blocking access to specific drives, modifying the “free space” warning if it’s getting really annoying, or disabling the ability for users to map new network drives. All of these somewhat advanced Windows “hacks” are brought down to Earth when you use FreshUI.

tweak ui windows 7

If you’ve always wanted to tweak things like the display or behavior of your task bar or start menu, then you’ll be very pleased when you click on the “Windows Interface” category. There are lots of cool things you can customize here that you probably never even realized were configurable.

windows 7 tweak program

Of course, what most people would like to do is tweak the heart of the operating system itself – things like startup and shutdown features or security settings. If you click on the “Windows System” option in the left pane, you’ll see that FreshUI basically opens up the hood and hands you the wrench.

windows 7 tweak program

Another very useful area of FreshUI that I plan to recommend to all of my friends who constantly complain about their bogged down computer with a slow Internet connection, is the “Covering Your Track” section of this application.

windows 7 tweak program

Here, you can wipe out logs, histories and junk files associated with all of your Internet and Windows usage. You can set up the system so it doesn’t track recent documents or last user, and even the option to clear network history each time you log onto the network.

tweak windows 7

Whenever you’re finished setting up all of your Windows customizations to exactly what you want, don’t forget to click on File and “Save Windows settings“. The last thing you want to do is lose all of the customizing options you set. If things go wrong, you can just restore the settings that you saved before you made any customizations at all.

Do you see a place for FreshUI in your customizing arsenal of tools? Do you know of any other similar free utilities that do it better? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.



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7 Blogs For Your Daily Dose Of Trends & Gadgets

Posted: 16 Nov 2010 01:31 PM PST

gadget blogsAre you hungry for new cool things? Do you get a little excited telling people about the cool new toy you saw blogged about today? Are you continually fascinated by new habits, artistic innovations and trends that pop up throughout the world? Well, here’s some great blogs to add to your RSS reader.

If you even have a vague interest in upcoming trends and gadgets, you’ve probably already heard of Boing Boing, Gizmodo and Engadget — if not, add those too! We’re now going to add another 10 great trend-watching blogs you will love to your daily reading list.


PSFK is a blog about business trends and innovations, so it regularly gets into gadgets and other interesting trends. For some idea of the variety, recent articles involved 3D holograms, urban farming and bird-house roof tiles as well as industry speakers discussing trends in creativity and crowdsourcing. There’s something for everyone here!

technology trends


Springwise is mainly written with entrepreneurs in mind. Now, don’t just subscribe to this feed — bookmark it and regularly take a browse! This site is divided into twenty different categories of ideas. On the one page, they are each highlighted beautifully, meaning you can browse the most recent titles of all categories and delve into your favourites easily.

This blog is brimming with eco-ideas, education, lifehacks, tourism trends, entertainment, fashion, food and many more interesting things.

gadget blogs

Josh Spear

Josh Spear is all about cool gadgets and trends. There’s a huge range of items covered — from pretty new bags, books and artwork right across to tech gear and limited edition screen-printed posters made with oil from the Gulf of New Mexico. You never know what’s up next!

technology trends


Trendspotting has three main sections: Design, Lifestyle and Eco. Basically, they’re covering technology, furniture, and gadgets — even offbeat innovations like jello cups! Always a fascinating read here.

gadget trends


Coolhunting is a little bit of everything, served with a smile. Gadgets, design, pretty things, sunglasses and chocolate — if it’s cool then these guys will probably find it! The site is full of bright, colourful photos to get you inspired and feeling creative yourself.

gadget trends

Trend Central

Trend Central covers things people are doing around the world which are really at the forefront of a great idea. For instance, ballet performed to The Shins and savoury cupcakes. Wait? Bacon cupcakes! Why didn’t the internet think of that before?

gadget trends

Trend Hunter

Trend Hunter is more focused on fashion, style and art. But that doesn’t mean that you could in any way predict what’s coming next! Take a browse around the awesome thumbnail gallery and you’ll see that it’s full of weird, quirky and amazing things.

gadget blogs

Need more to read?

If you’re keen for some more great website lists, here’s some that might interest you:

If you know of more great trend-following websites, let us know in the comments!



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Hot Tech Deals [Nov 16th]

Posted: 16 Nov 2010 12:15 PM PST

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. Gamestop Coupon Code 15% off Any In-Stock Game $25+ via code 15GAME

  2. Klipsch SUB10 10in 200W Powered Subwoofer $199.88 Free Shipping

  3. Creative T12 2.0ch Wireless Bluetooth 2.0ch Multimedia Speakers $76.49 Free Shipping

  4. Hand Held Items Coupon Code 20% off iPod Touch 4G Cases + Extra 70% off via code itouch4gcases20

  5. Lenovo IdeaCentre A300 Intel Dual-Core T4400 22in 1920×1080 All-in-One Desktop $594.15 Free Shipping via code USPLENOVOAIO1124

  6. Canon Coupon Code 10% off Refurbished PowerShot Cameras (PowerShot S90 $251.99) via code CAMSAVE11

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set

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10 Online Synonym Dictionaries That Help You Find A Similar Word

Posted: 16 Nov 2010 11:31 AM PST

synonyms dictionarySynonyms are words you use when you can't spell the first one. Okay, that's just a joke…or a quip…or a wisecrack…or a jest, jive, or jape. But I think you get my point.

Synonyms allow us never to be at a loss for words. If you know your synonyms, you are not only richer for it, but it also gives you the odds when it comes to word games like crosswords and Scrabble. We writers get to embellish our work with different words with the same meaning, because using a single word throughout sounds flat.

When it comes to the vocabulary, we all hit a wall sometimes. Thanks to the web and online synonym dictionaries we don't need to pick up that hardbound heavy thesaurus anymore. Fill in the little field and these free thesauruses (synonym finders) spill out words by the dozen. Which are the better synonyms dictionary resources out there? We have covered a few of these word apps before, but here's a consolidated list.

synonyms dictionary

This site is personally one of my favorites and one of the top ones which give the highest number of results for a word. The site is the other face of Along with the synonyms on display, you can explore the sidebar for more hints and filters. You can also explore the word or its related words on Visual Thesaurus.

list of synonyms antonyms

This word app lists synonyms, antonyms, and their definitions. The site is simple but with an occasional pop-up ad. The number of words listed is lesser than the previous app mentioned. The synonyms are arranged around the 'meaning' they are meant to convey.

list of synonyms antonyms

This word site does a much better job of searching out synonyms and presenting a lot of related information around the results. The synonyms themselves are again hyperlinked. You have an audio help for the pronunciation; a dropdown to translate the word into another language; a word image; a Q&A box if you have a question about the word; a citation aid; and alternative search options which give you things like quotes ad abbreviations on the main word. You can also search for song lyrics which have the particular word.

Synonym Finder

list of synonyms antonyms

When it comes to word apps, I think this is one of the neater ones. The Synonym Finder gives you hyperlinked words along with its definition and usage. You can also use the search box to get to the antonyms of a word and definitions too (also see the Directory mention).


synonym dictionary

Thsrs is a 'shorter' thesaurus. As the play on the name suggests, the synonym finder gives you synonyms shorter than the word you're looking up. Why? Blame it on Twitter where you have to fit everything into 140 characters or less without using any ugly abbreviations. The site also gives you a browser plug-in (see the Directory mention).

Big Huge Thesaurus

synonym dictionary

The BHT is one of the databases that Thsrs pings. The word index is again based on Princeton University's WordNet database, the Carnegie Mellon Pronouncing Dictionary and suggestions from the user community. The word tool returns quite a large hyperlinked list which can be explored further. Right below you will get a dropdown which you can use to search out antonyms, rhymes, a related word, and synonyms.

The iThesaurus is a third party free iPhone app you can use to get to the BHT database from your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad.

The Free Dictionary

synonym dictionary

The Free Dictionary is a word tool that's broader in scope than simple synonym finders. It includes many other word reference tools. The 'Starts with' and 'Ends with' options help to get complete lists of words if you the actual word slips past your memory.  The Free Dictionary returns meanings, synonyms, antonyms, and related words supported with a host of other references that demonstrate usage.

Define It Fast aims to be the fastest dictionary in the Wild West of dictionary apps. Does it win the shootout? I ducked under the bar, but yes, the search is pretty fast. With the definitions, the results also give you synonyms, related words, and more specific words. All of these are hyperlinked again and allow you to look them up again. This app also uses Princeton University's WordNet database.

Snappy Words is probably the trendsetter but it only allows a limited number of free searches. Enter Snappy Words. Words and their definitions and synonyms are displayed in a color coded graph where each color depicts a relation. Give the color codes a glance and you can easily make out the relationships between the visually displayed words. You can see the meanings and the synonyms also with a mouseover on the words (see the Directory mention).

What's Another Word For..?

synonyms dictionary

This is a simple iGoogle gadget you can use on your personalized Google page. The synonym finder gives you access to more than 100,000 words.

Talking of Google, the Google search box itself is a quick synonym finder. As Ann explained in her post on 3 Google Tricks When You Don't Know What to Search For, the Google ~ operator gives you related words and synonyms when you type it in the search box like this: ~word. Strangely, the word 'synonym' itself doesn't have many similar words to describe it.

Which is your go to app when it comes to hunting down synonyms? Let us know.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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What SSH Is & How It’s Different From FTP [Technology Explained]

Posted: 16 Nov 2010 10:31 AM PST

what is sshFTP and SSH are both network protocols that run on top of the TCP/IP layer, just like HTTP. In plain English, it’s a certain way for devices to communicate with each other over a network.

Different ways of communication are used in different circumstances. There are different uses and different strengths. But exactly how SSH and FTP relate is unclear to most.

This installment in the Technology Explained series aims to shed some light on the two protocols and their differences.

Shell & Shell Accounts

Let’s get some basic terminology out of the way. To understand the purpose of SSH, you need to be familiar with some of the underlying elements.

The shell of a computer is a piece of software that allows users to directly communicate with the kernel, the very core of an operating system. The shell can have either a graphical or command-line interface (read: text input), or both.

what is ssh

A shell account, on the other hand, is a personal account that gives the user access to a shell on a different computer. They used to be commonplace and supplied by the Internet Service Providers, used to work with file storage, email accounts, newsgroups and more. The common denominator is that a shell account is used to enter commands on a remote computer.

Secure Shell Protocol (SSH)

Just like a web browser uses the HTTP protocol to talk with websites, a shell account needs a certain protocol to enable data exchange (read: communication) between the two networked devices. Meet SSH - Secure Shell Protocol.

SSH uses a public key encryption and was developed to replace Telnet and other insecure shell protocols. The two major versions, SSH-1 and SSH-2, are now the dominating protocols to access shell accounts.

ssh client

These days, SSH is used to log into and execute code on remote hosts, browse the web using encrypted proxy clients, and transfer files – even setting up a Virtual Private Network.

SSH clients are available for all major operating systems. Unix-based systems, including Linux and Mac OS X, can use OpenSSH. Also check the OpenSSH website for Mac OS and Windows alternatives. PuTTY is one of the most prominent Windows clients.

Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) versus FTP

File transfer and VPN applications don’t run on SSH by default, but make use of SFTP – the SSH File Transfer Protocol. Mind you, SFTP is not the FTP protocol running over SSH, but a different file transfer protocol developed as an extension for SSH-2. SFTP is always used to transfer files over SSH, but it’s actually designed so it can be used in compliance with other protocols. That’s not for this article, though.

what is ssh

Although not in the letter, for the end-user, SFTP can be seen as a secure relative of FTP. The latter transmits all data in plain-text. Packet intercepts can thus reveal crucial and private data, including your user name and password! SFTP, being an SSH-2 extension, uses public key security. This means the data is encrypted when it is being transmitted and potential intercepts are relatively useless.

SFTP as such is included in most popular FTP suites, albeit often without other SSH functionality.

I hope you’ve learned something from this article. If you’ve got any questions or suggestions, head to the comments section below!

Image credit: Shutterstock

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Blumind – A Beautiful, Lightweight & Portable Mindmap Application [Windows]

Posted: 16 Nov 2010 09:31 AM PST

mindmap creatorDo you use mindmaps? This method of organizing information is popular among academia because it can help them make sense of information clutters. But the use of mindmaps are not limited to educational environments only.

Anybody can use mindmaps for various uses including, for example, to remember school subjects faster, to expand a topic to write about, to organize ideas, to break down a complicated project, and many more.

While the traditional pen and paper method is still used today, you can also use your computer to generate your mindmaps. There are many mindmap creators out there that you can choose and use. One of the free alternatives to create and manage your mindmaps is Blumind.

Since the site is in Chinese, you might need a little help from Google Translate.

Beautiful, Lightweight & Portable

The first thing that you will notice about this app is how small it is. In the era of gigabytes and terabytes, the size of 250KB is almost non-existent. That’s how small the compressed installer is (even after you extract it, the application is only around 650KB).

mindmap creator

It’s also portable, so you can just put it on your thumb drive and bring it with you. But please note that you need to bring the “DocTypeReg” along. It would be easier to put the whole folder on the drive. The app also needs “.net 2.0 runtime” environment – or better. So make sure that you open the app on the machine under Windows 2000 or above and have the runtime installed.

Another thing that you will notice is the interface. I personally think it’s beautiful and user friendly. A bit different than most third party Windows applications.


The basic usage of the app is simple: you click on the center topic box, add/edit the text, then expand it using the “Add Topic” button or hit the Enter key. You can also add “Sub Topic” by clicking the button next to the “Add Topic” or by pressing the Tab/Insert key. To show the relation between two (sub) topics, you can use the line tool.


The relationship between topics and sub topics will also be displayed in the “Objects” pane in the form of a hierarchical outline.


Put Some Colors On It

Aside from drawing interconnected boxes of topics and sub topics, building a mindmap is also about assigning different colors to different classes of items. The colors help us to quickly differentiate items and remember them faster.

Blumind allows you to play with colors using the “Themes” tool. There’s a list of “Windows Color Schemes” that you can use under the Themes button.


There’s also the “General” list for those who want to apply a quick set of colors.

mindmap freeware

To edit individual items, use the “Property” pane, or open the “Options” window via the File menu.


If you like the color combination that you created, you can save it as a theme by opening the “Themes Manage” window.

mindmap freeware

Other Tiny Details

You can discard unwanted items by going through them one by one and hitting the “Delete” key. But if the items that you want to erase belong to the same root, you can quickly delete them by clicking on the “minus” button next to their parent box.

mindmap freeware

Add Topics and Sub Topics (and other standard editing tools) can also be accessed quickly from the right click menu. This is a quick alternative for the mouse fans out there.

free mindmap software

If you like to work with less distractions, you can try the “Full Screen” mode. Everything will be hidden, except the mindmap area and the tool button.

free mindmap software

As a bonus, Blumind also supports tabs. This feature will allow you to work on several different maps simultaneously without cluttering the workspace.

free mindmap software

After you have finished working with your mindmaps, you can “export” them as text or image files (there are several supported formats that you can use). You can also print the maps and put them on your bedroom wall if you want to.

mindmap creator

Armed with the lightweight Blumind inside your thumb drive (or maybe inside your Dropbox folder), you are ready to quickly create your good looking mindmaps anytime and anywhere.

Have you tried the apps? Or do you know other alternatives? Share your thoughts using the comments below.

Image Credit: cosmorochester

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How To Start In Windows Safe Mode & Its Uses

Posted: 16 Nov 2010 08:31 AM PST

how to start in safe modeThe Windows operating system is a complex structure that hosts a lot of processes. As you add and remove hardware and software, problems or conflicts can occur, and in some cases it can become very tedious to pinpoint the source. However, Windows provides a basic tool that simplifies the search for the culprit.

Windows Safe Mode is a boot option to start your computer in a limited state. Only basic files and drivers absolutely necessary to run the operating system are loaded. Graphic drivers are among the dispensable ones and do not load, hence Safe Mode looks rather bleak. Generally, Safe Mode is a boot option used to troubleshoot issues in Windows.

This article explains how to start in safe mode with Windows and why you would want to. Note that you will need an Administrator account in order to log into Safe Mode.

How To Start Windows In Safe Mode

F8 key [Windows 95 Through Windows 7]

The standard method to start Windows in Safe Mode is by pressing the F8 key during Windows boot.

  1. Restart or turn on the computer.
  2. As the computer starts listing installed hardware, start to repeatedly (and gently) tab the F8 key.
  3. If you missed the right time point, start over.
  4. You will know that it worked when you are redirected to Advanced Boot Options.
  5. Use the arrow keys on your keyboard to select Safe Mode from the options.
  6. Press Enter on your keyboard to boot into Safe Mode.

how to start in safe mode

System Configuration Utility [Windows 98 Through Windows 7]

If you seem to miss the right moment to hit the F8 key, you can use the System Configuration Utility to initiate a boot into Safe Mode before you restart your computer.

  1. Go to > Start.
  2. In Windows 98 through XP open the > Run dialogue. In Windows Vista and 7 type into the search field.
  3. Type ‘msconfig‘ into the respective field and hit enter.
  4. The System Configuration Utility will launch. Switch to the > Boot tab.
  5. Under > Boot options, check the > /SAFEBOOT or > Safe boot option and select > Minimal or > Network.

windows safe mode

Warning: Do not use the System Configuration Utility if you suspect your machine is infected with malware! The malware could corrupt registry keys required to boot into Safe Mode and this in turn could cause your computer to be stuck in a deadly circle. The /SAFEBOOT value added to the boot.ini would cause your computer to continuously boot into Safe Mode, but due to corrupted registry keys it would not be able to, leading to a reboot into Safe Mode and no way out.

A super thorough Windows Safe Mode Tutorial can be found at Bleeping Computer. It features detailed instructions and screenshots for different Windows versions, from Windows 95 through Windows 7. It also describes a fix for the above described ‘deadly boot circle’.

When & Why To Use Safe Mode

Safe Mode can be used to find out whether problems are caused by installed software or drivers, or whether essential components of your operating system are damaged.

If the problems you experienced previously disappear as soon as you boot into Safe Mode, it’s safe to assume that a piece of software or a driver installed on your computer is causing the issues. It could still be anything from a driver or software conflict to malware. But at least you know nothing essential is broken, for example your computer hardware.

Most malware can only be removed in Safe Mode. The reason is that the sneaky piece of software will thwart every attempt you make to remove it. In Safe Mode, however, malware typically is not loaded and hence cannot prevent you from getting rid of it.

When Windows won’t boot normally at all, you are forced to use Safe Mode. In this case, it’s your last resort to fixing your operating system.

How To Use Safe Mode

Do the problems occur while Windows is booting? Possibly a software or service launches at startup and causes trouble. Boot into Safe Mode with network support or download Autoruns for Windows utility on another computer, copy the .exe file to your computer, launch it in Safe Mode, and examine the list. Disable suspicious programs. Alternatively, you can use > Start > Run > MSCONFIG and examine the list of programs in the > Startup tab.

Do you experience crashes and BSOD? Did the issues occur after you installed hardware drivers? Go to > Control Panel > Device Manager and remove the recently installed hardware.

Reversing your most recent changes didn’t solve the problems? If available, try to use a system restore point. It automatically rolls back your system to a functional state. You can access the System Restore Utility from Safe Mode. This article on Windows 7 News & Tips explains how to use the Windows 7 System Restore. This Microsoft Support article covers the Windows XP System Restore.

Do you suspect malware? Consult with for a list of tools to remove malware. Run these tools in Safe Mode or as instructed.

how to start in safe mode

A very useful and detailed guide explaining the Windows XP Safe Mode and how to use it for troubleshooting can be found on PCStats.


Windows Safe Mode is a simple but effective troubleshooting tool that allows you to access a mildly or severely corrupted operating system in a very basic state. When booting into Safe Mode, you avoid hardware or software conflicts because most components are not loaded. You also circumvent issues caused by programs that have planted themselves into autorun, for example adware or malware.

Yet you have full access to the Control Panel, so you can remove drivers, uninstall software, and stop programs and services from launching at startup. Safe Mode should be your first stop when you suddenly run into typical Windows problems, like a slow or freezing system, random crashes, or dramatic boot issues.

What is your success rate in troubleshooting and fixing issues using Safe Mode? Has it ever helped you out of a bad mess?

Image credits: miqueias, Ilin Sergey

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Google Launches Instant Preview To Make Searching Easier [News]

Posted: 16 Nov 2010 08:01 AM PST

It’s only been about two months since Google launched their latest search engine feature, Google Instant, making it faster and easier than ever to get the results you’re looking for.

A few days ago, they launched yet another small but handy feature that will make it easy to filter through those results and determine which one is right for you, using Instant Previews.


On your search results page, each item is accompanied by a little magnifying glass. Clicking on the icon will activate the Instant Preview feature, and you will need to activate the feature for each search instance.


A small screenshot of the website will be displayed on the Google search page, displaying the general layout of the page, simply by hovering over each search result.


Anywhere the search word or phrase is displayed on the page will be highlighted in the preview.


In an attempt to make things as easy as possible for you, Google has implemented keyboard shortcuts for accessing Instant Preview. Use the up and down arrow keys to navigate between search results, and the right arrow key to display the preview.

To see Google Instant Previews in action, check out the video below.

Are you using Google Instant Preview? Let us know what you think of it in the comments.

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