Monday, November 1, 2010 “Cool Websites and Tools [October 31st]” plus 7 more “Cool Websites and Tools [October 31st]” plus 7 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [October 31st]

Posted: 31 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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Free Oldies – Computer games are made in greater numbers than you would think. Unfortunately a lot of these games are abandoned by their owners for a variety of reasons. These games then become “abandonware”. Free Oldies is a old game database that lets you search and download these abandoned computer games. Read more: FreeOldies: Extensive Old Game Database


Transmiti – If you have a document file in a foreign language stored on your computer, then to understand it you will need to translate it into your native language. Normally people use Google Translate for this but a much more convenient solution is presented by Transmiti. Read more: Transmiti: Desktop App That Lets You Translate Text Documents



AlertFox – This is web monitoring service that uses the iMacros technology to monitor web actions in browsers, which gives it a more reliable reading of your website. This web monitoring service can also provide in-depth monitoring for websites based on ActiveX, AJAX, Flash, Flex, complex HTML, and Silverlight technology. With AlertFox, you will know why your website failed instead of merely guessing. Read more: AlertFox: In Depth Monitoring For Your Websites



OPI iPhone App – OPI is a company that produces nail products for women. Realizing that women need to practically try out a nail polish shade before they decide on it, OPI has come up with a brilliant solution: their very own iPhone application. The app provides women with different nail polish colors. Read more: OPI iPhone App: Check What Different Nail Polish Colors Will Look Like



Pest & Disease Identifier – Gardeners and gardening enthusiasts who grows plants know there are many pests and diseases that trouble plants. If your plants seem to be damaged in any way and you want to determine the cause, head on over to BBC's “Pest and Disease Identifier” and you will be able to narrow down the culprit causing damage to your plants. Read more: Pest & Disease Identifier: Find Which Pest Or Disease Is Causing Damage To Your Plants


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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Thank You To MakeUseOf Friends!

Posted: 31 Oct 2010 07:31 PM PDT

It's time to say thanks to our friends who, once in a while, tip us great articles, help out on projects and in some cases offer their services at discounted prices. Thank you, guys!

    [1] ShrinkTheWeb – Website Screenshot Thumbnail Service

    Ever wanted to add website screenshots to your website? In my professional opinion ShrinkTheWeb is one of the best services for that, both in terms of performance and pricing. The free account gets you a whopping 250,000 impressions with nearly no delay. See it in action in our daily Cool Websites and Tools series.


    [2] LapDawg – Hands-free Laptop Stands

    Hands free laptop stand
    The dream gadget designed for Laptop & Book owners. LapDawg X4 Hands free laptop stand. Holds your laptop or books in any position you want with it’s unique 360 degree rotating joints. Perfect for holding them in bed while lying down or adjust for your living room couch at eye level. Made from anodized aluminum with a beautiful black matte finish.

    [3] Walyou – Cool Gadgets for Geeks

    new cool gadgets
    Walyou is a fun blog covering all sorts of new cool gadgets and other stuff every geek is likely to find entertaining. Everything from world’s largest Gunny Bears to E-hookah gadgets. Make sure to check them out.


    [4] rade | eccles – iPhone Application Development

    The perfect iPhone development team, rade | eccles managed to put our iPhone app together in record time yet exude professionalism and dedication every step of the way. Our collaboration wasn’t happenstance. We would make the same decision all over again. Our only recommendation for an iPhone developer – rade | eccles.


    [5] TrueKolor – Affordable Quality Logo and Banner Design

    If you’re looking for a cheap, original and quality logo or banner, check out TrueKolor. We often contact these guys when we need a logo or a banner made, some of the stuff they did for us listed on their portfolio page. Highly recommended.


    [6] Mobify – Making the Web a mobile place

    More and more users access websites and read blogs using their mobile phone. Mobify lets you mobilize your blog or website by creating lightweight version of it, which loads much faster and looks great on a mobile screen. MakeUseOf’s mobile site was created by Mobify, and we’re proud of it!


    [7] Sendible – The easiest way to market your brand online

    We’re strong believers of the service Sendible provides — we use it on a daily basis and it has never failed us! Sendible is an online marketing service to promote, grow and track brands through the use of social media, email and SMS messaging. It has the ability to post to multiple services at once, schedule social network updates and analyse their success. We love it!


    [8] Sourcebits – Android Developement

    Sourcebits did a bang up job of helping us put together our long-awaited Android app. For that, we are eternally grateful!


Thank you, guys!



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How Long Have You Been A MakeUseOf Reader? [Poll]

Posted: 31 Oct 2010 06:31 PM PDT

Our MakeUseOf poll last week was to determine the best browser is. It turns out that MakeUseOf readers highly favour Firefox and Chrome above all other browsers. Opera got a notable number of votes, but was still outnumbered.

With a total of 1285 votes, this poll divided browsers as follows: Firefox had the most votes with 42%; Chrome came a very close second at 41%; A massive jump down to Opera on 10% votes; Internet Explorer and Safari both sat at the very bottom with less than 4% of the votes each.

Full results and this week's poll after the jump.

This week's poll question is: How Long Have You Been A MakeUseOf Reader?

We know some of you have been here forever while others are still quite new. What about you?

Feel free to let us know what you love about MakeUseOf in the comments!

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5 Awesome & Easy “Pimp My Laptop” Ideas

Posted: 31 Oct 2010 03:30 PM PDT

pimp my laptopFrom laptop skins to etchings to USB accessories, there is no limit to the ways you can pimp your laptop to make it look and feel just the way you want it to. From removable to permanent changes, there are all sorts of ways you can change your laptop’s appearance, and geek out to your heart’s content.

Adding a personal touch to your laptop can be the best way to add a little bit of edge to your gear, and we’ve rounded up some of the best places to go to do just that.

1. Skins and Decals

For a temporary change, laptop skins and decals that are easily removable are great way to change up your laptop, without making any permanent changes. When purchasing, just make sure that they are easily removable, otherwise you’ll be stuck with that sticker for as long as you have the laptop.


Skyn offers a huge variety of stylish skins to give your laptop a bit of pizzaz. Most of their skins are probably geared more towards women, although the simpler designs will appeal to just about anyone. And for those looking for a bit of bling, you can even get personalised skins with Swarovski crystals.

pimp my laptop


Gelaskins has such a huge variety of laptop skins for Mac and PC laptops, there’s something there for everyone. From Tim Burton artwork to elaborate digital art, to photography, their selection is endless. You can even use your own art or photography to create a skin. Gelaskins are also available for your mobile phones, MP3 players, tablets, ereaders and gaming consoles.

decorate laptop lid

Skin Styler

Mac users can also get trackpad skins to liven up more than just the exterior of your laptops with Skin Styler.

decorate laptop lid

Other places you can find great laptop skins and decals are Etsy, Schtickers and SkinIt.

2. Sleeves and Hard Cases

If you’re priority is to keep your laptop protected, you can do it in style with funky sleeves and hardshell cases.

Speck Products

Speck Products have a wide selection of sleeves and hard cases specifically designed for MacBooks. It’s no secret that we’re huge fans of Speck. Let us know if a particular design catches your eye, we could possibly give it away!

decorate laptop lid


Better known for their sturdy luggage, Titan also have a neoprene laptop sleeve on offer. It might not be the flashiest way to pimp your laptop, but the fact that you can keep it on the laptop while you work on it earns it a spot on this list.

laptop accessories

3. Engravings and Airbrushing

For the more adventurous, getting your laptop airbrushed or engraved is another option for jazzing up your laptop.

Smooth Creations

If you’re looking to buy a new laptop, you can order one from Smooth Creations airbrushed and ready to go.

laptop accessories

Laser It All & Etchamac

With Laser It All you can have any design of your choice engraved on your laptop. Mac users can also create their own design to have engraved on their laptops at ETCHamac.

laptop accessories

4. Keyboard and Mouse Accessories

Another less permanent way to pimp your laptop is to accessorise your keyboard and mouse.


If you prefer to use a mouse with your laptop, there’s no limit to the cool mousepads you can find. ThinkGeek’s Noteable Mousepad lets you make notes on its etch-a-sketch like surface. The Perpetual Kid has a collection of unique mousepads from a retro TV mousepad to a daily mood tracker mousepad.


Anyone can get in on the fun with glowing keyboard stickers from Think Geek, making your keyboard look as though it’s backlit.


5. USB Accessories

USB Accessories are another easy way to get all those little extras you might need to have around you while you’re working on your laptop.

Cool yourself down in the summer with a USB fan that you can keep next to your laptop.

Alternatively, you can keep a chilled drink in a USB LED beverage cooler.

If you’re in a festive mood, USB LED Christmas lights will add a bit of cheer to your surroundings.

For the more practical readers, USB Geek’s radar pen holder monitors your CPU and RAM usage, while also giving you a place to keep your pens handy.

pimp my laptop

What have you done to pimp your laptop? Let us know in the comments.

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Hot Tech Deals [Oct 31st]

Posted: 31 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. PowerColor Radeon PCS+ AX5770 1GB Video Card (Overclocked) $109.99AR Free Shipping via code YEGKFH53

  2. Gigabyte ATI Radeon HD5850 1GB HDCP PCI-E Video Card (DirectX11, Eyefinity) $209.99ARvia code VGAGIGCYP

  3. Dell Off Lease Coupon Codes 31% off Any Item via code Save31Halloween

  4. Polk Audio Monitor Floorstanding Loudspeaker, Center Channel & Sub-Woofer Discounts

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set



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10 Free MP3 Albums To Download [Sound Sunday]

Posted: 31 Oct 2010 12:30 PM PDT

Today, Sound Sunday celebrates its six months existence. When I started, I had my doubts whether there would be enough quality material to supply a weekly feature for so long. However, the sheer flood of legal free albums has been mind-blowing and there is no end in sight.

If any of you have seen the Ron Sexsmith Documentary Love Shines, you got an idea of how the most talented artists of our time get screwed over, just because they are not aggressive enough. Maybe a culture of online publishing can become a lever and restore a much needed balance between corporate interests and fantastic music / the arts. People like you and me are the only ones who can make this happen.

Please support independent music wherever you can. Donate to artists you enjoy, buy their records, and go see their live shows. And if you find something you like, share it with your friends and family.

Reform the Resistance – selftitled

Genre: rock

free albumReform the Resistance is a rock trio from Nashville, Tennessee. If you have been longing for a pure rock album and enjoy music from bands like Three Doors Down or Sevendust, give this one a spin. Great stuff!

Reform the Resistance is available through the band’s Homepage.

Reform the Resistance MySpace and Homepage.

Mike Jones – Chicago Trio 2010

Genre: jazz, piano, instrumental

free mp3 downloadMike Jones is a Jazz pianist from Las Vegas, Nevada. This free album was recorded at the Green Mill Jazz Club in Chicago, where Jones played a set with fellow musicians Larry Kohut (bass) and Eric Montzka (drums).

You can download the album from Mike’s Homepage.

Mike Jones MySpace and Homepage.

Engineers in Your Ear – Til The Clouds Run Dry

Genre: alternative, hip hop

mp3 album downloadTil The Clouds Run Dry is a minimalistic and very melodic Hip Hop album. Carefully composed beats and classic instruments underline the raps from Paul B. aka Playback and Kyle Steven Richardson aka Kylo Rich.

This is a name your price download from Bandcamp.

Engineers in your Ear MySpace and Homepage.

Sean Fournier – Oh My

Genre: pop, folk, acoustic

free musicSean Fournier is bliss. Rhythms that make you go along, a calm sexy voice, and great melodies. On his homepage Sean writes “This album was made to be copied, given, and spread. Copy it. Give it. Rinse & Repeat.” I can only second that. Please spread this excellent album!

Download the album from Sean’s Homepage.

Sean Fournier MySpace and Homepage.

So Elated – selftitled

Genre: indie, acoustic, folk rock

how to download music freeThe band writes: “Inspired by a song and the images it evoked for singer-songwriter, Ben Thomas, So Elated was created in early 2008. Joined by fellow musicians in the Chicago area, So Elated released their self-titled album in January of 2009.

You can download the album through their Homepage.

So Elated MySpace and Homepage.

Kotchy – Baggy Spandex

Genre: experimental, electronic, pop, hip hop

music downloadsKotchy’s music is beat-driven and inspired, underlined by electronic sounds and creative lyrics. Baggy Spandex is a collection of mashups based on a bag of random records Kotchy found on the street. Why that name? Kotchy: “While listening to some of [the records], I saw someone running down the street wearing baggy spandex shorts.

Baggy Spandex can be downloaded from Kotchy’s Homepage.

Kotchy MySpace and Homepage.

Ghostly Machines – In Nature, We Find You

Genre: ambient, electronic, natural

legal downloadThe man behind Ghostly Machines is Jono Renton, an ambient music producer from Nottingham, UK. In Nature, We Find You is a flow of calming and relaxing music. Great soundtrack to take the stress out of your day.

Get the free album from Ghostly Machine’s Homepage.

Ghostly Machines MySpace and Homepage.

Ki:Theory – Arms For Legs

Genre: alternative, rock, electronic

cool free musicKi:Theory [key theory] is the project of Joel Burleson, a recording artist and producer of Richmond, Virginia. Joel describes his Ki:Theory compositions as “glitchy cut-n-paste songs” that he sings along to.

Download the album from Ki:Theory’s Homepage. The download is a bit of a process, but it’s really free.

Ki:Theory MySpace and Homepage.

Freakah – Free Album No. 1

Genre: drum and bass, electronic, dub, dubstep

best free mp3The following quote from MySpace should give you a proper introduction to this artist: “The thing Freakah really does well is slap you around the face with a deadly, almost illegal BASS.” Gotta love the beat!

Get the album for free from Bandcamp.

Freakah MySpace and Facebook.

Spin Mixtape – Germs of Perfection: A Tribute to Bad Religion

Genre: mixed, punk, rock

sound sundayTo celebrate 30 years of the iconic label Epitaph Records, the digital music magazine Spin has released a free mixtape of top acts that cover Bad Religion. The label was founded by Brett Gurewitz, who also plays guitar for Bad Religion.

Download the album from Spin. You will find another free mixtape on Spin: The Best of CMJ 2010.

Spin Facebook and Homepage. Bad Religion MySpace and Homepage.

Review past editions of Sound Sunday here. Feel free to get in touch with me [] if you have free material to share or suggestions you don’t want to post in the comments below.

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The 4 Best Free Linux Anti-Virus Programs

Posted: 31 Oct 2010 11:31 AM PDT

linux antivirusDoes a Linux user need antivirus software? Not really: infecting a Linux machine is pretty hard to do. That doesn’t mean there aren’t good reasons to have scanning software around, though.

If you insert your thumb drive regularly into Windows computers, for example, it might be infected, meaning you’re spreading malware with it and not even knowing it (see: Stuxnet).  Antivirus software for Linux gives you a quick way to check your drives without any risk of infecting yet another Windows machine.

It’s also a great tool to have around if you regularly help your Windows-bound friends and family recover from viruses. Remove their hard drive and plug it into your computer, or just use your Linux machine to clean their external drives.

Most Linux antivirus software focuses on removing Windows viruses, and function as one-time-scan tools rather than the Windows-style, sit-in-your-tray-and-protect-you products that’s common in Windowsland. Such software is not essential for Linux users, but is pretty handy.

Oh, by the way: if you’re looking for Windows anti-virus software, you will want to read the ten best free antivirus programs that we previously published.


linux antivirus

Avast, the anti-virus program I previously decided has the coolest name for an anti-virus program, also sports a pretty great Linux GUI. As you can see it looks right at home on my Ubuntu desktop. This makes it easy to update defintions and scan the folders of your choice.

It’s also really easy to install Avast for Linux. Just download your package of choice (rpm, deb and tar.gz), then register for a free year of Avast usage. If you don’t register, you won’t be able to use the program:

antivirus for linux

Happily, registering gives you one year of free non-commercial usage, so you won’t need to do this frequently. And you’ll have access to a sleak GUI and all of the definitions Avast has to offer.


antivirus for linux

This is one of my favorites. BitDefender frequently finds, for me, viruses that other scanners miss. Being able to use it from Linux is a big plus.

Finding it for Linux isn’t straightforward, though. You need to head over to the BitDefender for Unices page, then click the “evaluation version” button. You’ll be given a form to fill in, and when you’re done you’ll get a license valid for one month and a link to downloads.

The downloads look like this:

antivirus for linux

Find your platform and package of choice (ignoring, for now, the “.run” file extension) and download it (right-click and click “save as“, or your browser might try to open the entire file as a text document.) Change the permissions of the file to allow it to be executed. If you don’t know how to do this, the simplest way is to right-click it, click “Properties,” open the permissions tab, then click “allow executing.”

Finally, open your command line. Browse to the folder with the file, then type “sudo ./[filename]“, where [filename] is the name of the BitDefender version you downloaded. You’ll need to read an EULA before BitDefender will finally install (mercifully, using the package manager of your choice).

Why you need to go through all of that I don’t know, but it’s worth it. You now have access to a complete version of BitDefender. You can scan any file, update with the click of a button and much more. The graphical interface is identical to that of the BitDefender Live CD.

The free license lasts for only 30 days, but you can apply for another one if you need to.


Completely open source, ClamAV is probably the most famous Linux anti-virus. Using it requires some command line knowledge, but there is a basic GUI for running scans:

antivirus for linux

Installing ClamAV is simple; it’s in the repositories of most Linux distributions. Install the “clamtk” package and you’ll get the above GUI and you’ll have everything you need; or, if you’re an Ubuntu user, simply click here to download ClamAV.

Once you’ve installed ClamAV, fire up your terminal and run “sudo freshclam“.  This will update ClamAV’s virus definitions for you.

Now you simply need to run clamtk. Fire it up from the command line, or find the program called “Virus Scanner” in the “Accessories” section of the menu. Use the GUI to scan any folder, or your entire system. Or, if you prefer, use “clamscan” from the command line. Either way you’ve got some quality, free anti-virus protection.


antivirus for linux

Those familiar with AVG’s Windows interface will be disappointed: AVG for Linux has no GUI. This command line scanner does offer the same virus definitions of AVG’s famous Windows program, though.

You can easily download AVG for Linux. You’ll find packages for every major distro, including .deb and .rpm files.

Using the program is straightforward. First you need to start the AVG daemon: run “sudo avgctl –start“. Then you can use “sudo avgupdate” to update the software, and “avgscan” to scan a given file.

linux antivirus

There’s not a whole lot else to say about this one, although I hope AVG releases a Linux GUI again soon (previous versions offered one).


These four programs all offer Linux users a way to scan for Windows viruses, and the occasional Linux one as well. If you regularly help your friends and family out with IT stuff I recommend you install at least one such program, to keep it on hand.

Can you think of any other Linux anti-virus programs? What do you think of the ones outlined? Let me know in the comments below, along with any questions you might have about the above products.

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How to Create a WordPress-Powered Webcomic with ComicPress

Posted: 31 Oct 2010 10:30 AM PDT

how to start a webcomicThere are two major steps on how to start a webcomic; creating the website and drawing comics. Of course, this is a bit simplified, but many people are terrified by the idea of having to create a good online platform for their drawings.

They shouldn’t be. Similar to photo portfolios and webshops, other web designers have created a simple webcomic template that’s friendly to use and easy to maintain. You guessed it, we’re talking about WordPress adaption.


ComicPress brands itself as The WordPress Comic Publishing Theme; and a good one it is. It’s used by many popular webcomic publications, including FoxTrot, Player VS. Player (shown below), Dr. McNinja, Nuklear Power, Extra Life, Starslip and Octupus Pie. Check out these websites (and more featured on the ComicPress website) to get a clear idea of what’s possible using this theme and a couple of add-ons. Truly, ComicPress shows itself as not simply an amateur interpretation of a good comic publishing platform, but simply the latter in its true form.

how to make webcomics

There are two display modes for ComicPress, the comic view and the blog. By default, the blog is shown below the latest comic, much like in the screenshot above, but you can also display solely the blog or the comic and save the other for a separate part of the site.

Installing ComicPress for WordPress

In this tutorial, we’ll assume you’ve got a valid WordPress installation – that is, hosted by you and not by WordPress is a so-called content management system, used as the main ingredient by a large amount of blogs (including this one), company websites, webshops, and soon your very own webcomic. Best of all, it’s entirely free. If you need help setting one up, check out our Easy Guide to Build Your Own WordPress Site.

Download the latest version of ComicPress from the website, upload and unzip it into wp-content/themes/comicpress. If your server host’s file manager doesn’t support the extraction of archives, you’ll need to unzip it on your computer and upload each file separately. It’s crucial to follow this folder structure to the letter; your theme files need to be in a ‘comicpress’ folder, all lowercase, or it won’t work.

how to start a webcomic

Next, go to Plugins -> Add New in the WordPress sidebar and install both the ComicPress Manager and the Theme Companion plugins, as shown below. Make sure to activate them as well. You are prompted to after every installation, or can do this later on by going to Plugins -> Plugins.

how to make webcomics

Select Appearance -> Themes in the sidebar and activate the ComicPress theme shown at the lower half of the page, under Available Themes.

how to make webcomics

In Posts -> Categories, add two new categories; ‘Comic’ and ‘Blog’. You only need to name them, so you can leave the other text fields blank. If everything went right, you now have three categories; Comic, Blog and Uncategorized.

where can i start a webcomic

Go to the Posts -> ComicPress -> Manager Config, scroll to the bottom of the page and click the First Run button. This will create the necessary folder structures for managing your comics and publishing an RSS feed. Also go to Posts -> ComicPress -> ComicPress Config, and make sure the installation has detected the ‘Blog’ and ‘Comic’ categories you created later on.

You can configure the general ComicPress set-up in Appearance -> ComicPress Options. The options are many, but self-explanatory. Most interesting for a basic installation is the option to disable either blog or comment on your landing page.

how to start a webcomic

That’s all the configuration needed. You can publish your first comic by going to Posts -> Comicpress and uploading a doodle. The image needs to use the following nomenclature: YYYY-MM-DD-Name-of-the-comic.ext, with ext being your file format (e.g. jpg or png), and the name of your comic never containing only one number. Uploading your image this way adds the appropriate title, date, and makes it appear on the site right when you upload.

Do you have any other great webcomic ideas? Let us know in the comments below!

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