Friday, November 5, 2010 “Cool Websites and Tools [November 4th]” plus 10 more “Cool Websites and Tools [November 4th]” plus 10 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [November 4th]

Posted: 04 Nov 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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Endless Mural – is a very simple yet powerful project that you can be a part of. Just draw on a simple HTML5 based drawing board and whatever gestures you make with your drawing pen will then be rendered into a 3D-ish art piece. Once you save your piece, it will be added to the ongoing mural that contains work from hundreds of other users. Read more: EndlessMural: HTML5 Based Art Drawing Tool


TickNTalk – TickNTalk is a browser extension that lives in your sidebar and displays the top shared Twitter links. It displays the 5 top most links at any given time along with the number of times it has been shared on Twitter. To make your world easier, instead of displaying a cryptic short URL like, it displays the actual title of the page being shared. Read more: TickNTalk: View Top Twitter Links In Your Browser Sidebar



MySportsPlanner – Sports club owners and team captains know well about the problems associated with keeping players updated on the team's latest fixtures. With the availability of text messages, emails, and phone calls the notifications procedure can easily become complicated. With MySportsPlanner you get a web interface that acts as a notification board for all team members. Read more: MySportsPlanner: Organize Your Team Members & Keep Them Updated On Team News



Licorize – is different from most web apps due to the fact that it lets you do a lot of things without over-burdening yourself with extra effort. In essence, it is a to-do app combined with a bookmark manager. You can add tasks and sort them into different projects, invite other people to collaborate on them and tag them for easy searching. Read more: Licorize: A Collaborative & Intelligent Information Organizer Online



BurnBit – You find that awesome video on RapidShare but downloading a 300MB video with your unreliable internet connection is a pain. BurnBit is a tool that can help in such situations by creating a torrent file for the download so you can download it using your favorite torrent client at your pace. Read more: BurnBit: Create A Torrent For Large Downloads


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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Blender – A Powerful Free Cross-Platform 3D Content Creation Suite

Posted: 04 Nov 2010 06:31 PM PDT

blender tutorialsAs anyone who has ever dabbled in 3D modelling will tell you – it sure ain’t easy. Becoming proficient in any powerful software suite takes time, patience, trial and error – and yet more patience.

Then again if you’re passionate enough about something you want to achieve, there’s very little standing in your way.

That’s where Blender comes in. It’s free. Completely free, and a tool that has dozens of applications allowing you to try your hand at the challenging world of computer-generated artwork. Did I mention it’s free?

Why Should I Choose Blender?

Because you’re curious. Curious enough to try something new without dropping a couple of thousand dollars (pounds, Euros, whatever) on the latest and greatest commercial packages available.

Programs like 3D Studio Max (the industry-standard for most CGI ventures) and Cinema4D (most often used for fancy TV graphics) which often cost more than the PC you’re using right now. Blender packs a punch too, with the potential for some beautiful creations.

blender tutorials

You’re an average Joe who just wants a go. You can be running Windows, Mac OS or Linux. That’s why Blender is perfect for you.

Can My PC Handle It?

The minimum specifications for Blender are pretty achievable by today’s standards: 300MHz processor, 128MB of RAM, 20MB of free space and an OpenGL graphics card. You’re also going to need a 3-button mouse for manipulating the 3D workspace.

A machine of that calibre will do, but render times will be through the roof so the Blender foundation recommend the following for decent performance: 2GHz dual-core, 2GB of RAM and an OpenGL graphics card with 128MB of RAM.

For a production-standard machine you’ll want a 64bit quad-core processor, 8GB of RAM and a graphics card with 768MB of RAM. That’s a tall order, but thankfully not a necessity.

What Can I Do With It?

One heck of a lot, that’s what. Jessica recently produced an article showing off some great short 3D films and animations made with completely free software. The top-billed video was a production called Sintel which was created with Blender and also rendered using Linux – which is a double-dose of freeware right there.

You’re probably not going to be creating feature-length masterpieces right away, but everyone has to start somewhere. With enough time spent inside the program, reading tutorials and generally playing around you will eventually exceed your own expectations and make momma proud.

As well as 3D stills and animation (like Elephants Dream and Big Buck Bunny), Blender can also be used to create interactive 3D elements such as games (like Yo Frankie!).

Within the suite itself there are an exhastive list of technical features. 3D modelling, texturing, particle effects (like smoke) and water simulation, skinning, animating, compositing and non-linear editing (including a very capable video editor for 3D non-3D projects alike) are all on the cards.

There’s also support for compositing, so you can merge your creations in the third dimension with your own footage and get down and dirty with a green screen.

You’ve Convinced Me, How Do I Get It?

Head over to the official Blender download page and grab your version. As I’ve mentioned previously, the suite is compatible with all 3 major operating systems. I installed Blender on Ubuntu, and found that installing via the command line was the quickest and easiest way.

blender reviews

If you find yourself in this situation open up a Terminal window (Applications, Accessories then Terminal) and paste the following:

sudo apt-get install blender

Input your password and hit "y" then Enter. All done, now you can launch the program for the first time.

This Looks Hard – What’s Next?

First of all I recommend you familiarise yourself with the interface – have a play around. Next download BlenderGuru’s cheat-sheet and get acquainted with all the keyboard shortcuts and make your life that little bit easier. It’s a handy PDF that you can print out and stick to the wall.

blender tutorials

Then you’re going to want to take a look at some tutorials. Depending on what you want to build, you’ll find life a lot easier with a bit of help from this lot:

Wikibooks – Blender 3D: From Noob to Pro

The early chapters in this book will teach you the very basics of modelling, exactly what Blender does and how it all works together. An absolute essential if you’ve not done this before, and pretty useful even if you have.

BlenderGuru – Tutorials

Follow Andrew Price and his excellent walkthroughs to create some stunning scenes. Each tutorial is provided in video format and you can download completed project files for a more detailed look into his work.

Blender – Education and Help

The official repository for tutorials and guides to get you up and running with Blender. The wiki is full of links to walk you through the basics from the interface and navigation to using the game engine to create your own adventure.

Can You Make It Any Easier?

If you need a helping hand with a project then you can always download models and materials to use in your own work. Many authors have helped assemble collections solely to help the rest of the community. Here’s a few of the best:

The Official Blender Model Repository

A good couple of hundred models for use in your own scenes. You can do what you like with them, and they’re all completely free.

The Blender Open Model Repository

More than 600 models assembled into 24 categories. The model files for the aforementioned Big Buck Bunny film are also hosted here.

Blender Materials – The Open Material Repository

Materials for use in your scenes. From carbon fibre to peanut shells – there’s plenty to help you on your way.

Kator Legaz – 3D Models

Plenty of good quality 3D models to choose from.


Free high quality images for use as textures or simply reference images to be turned into beautiful 3D models.


A standalone utility for creating human models that can then be exported and used within Blender. Still early days for this one, but a project worth keeping in mind.


At the risk of repeating myself – it’s not easy. But thanks to the community it’s easier than going it alone. If you’ve always wanted to try it, Blender gives you the excuse. There’s plenty of reading involved, and even more experimentation but give it time and you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish with nothing but time, effort and Blender.

Have you tried your hand at Blender before? Created anything you want to share with the rest of us? Just starting out? Let us know in the comments.

Image Credit: Blender Logo, Blender Stratocaster

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The 5 Funniest Amateur Blogs On The Web

Posted: 04 Nov 2010 04:31 PM PDT

amateur blogsThe sunny days are becoming fewer as the cold and rain take over. Welcome to the dark side. Would you like some tea?

Seriously though, whether you’re entering winter on the Northern Hemisphere or looking forward to summer on the other side, we all need a good laugh now and then. And what’s easier to laugh at than people like you and me?

So if you’re in the mood for some amateurish entertainment, look no further.

Be sucked in by some of the funniest amateur blogs out there and don’t take this seriously. We may not mean the same ‘amateur’ you thought of. Remember, it’s all in your head.

1. Slightly Drunk

amateur blogs

These are the tales of a slightly obnoxious guy from Canada, who has a tendency to get himself into miserable situations. The plot usually involves his family, most of all his stubborn father of Scottish origin. SD publishes every Friday afternoon and his posts are quite addictive. Unfortunately, he often takes breaks of several months at a time and now is such a time.

However, this gives you a chance to catch up on his previous adventures, including how he lost the love of his life or his time spent working in the UK. Highly entertaining and definitely funny!

2. Ugly Outfits New York

amateur blogs

A photoblog dedicated to bad fashion spotted in New York. Almost makes you feel better with your own wardrobe choices, doesn’t it? On the other hand, you really don’t want to see some of these pictures. Really. What makes people choose these outfits and who are their friends?

3. Awkward Family Photos

funny blogs

Family photos are a very rich source of entertainment. Every family has at least one fake ‘we all love each other so much’ photo or worse, a shot where everyone looks miserable. If you no longer want to feel bad about your own family’s group shots gone bad, browse this collection of truly questionable pictures.

4. The Hot Librarian

funny blogs

You don’t often come across a blogger who has been around more or less since 2003. And here we have a hot one, too. The hot librarian’s articles are amusing and witty. She rambles on about her life and the things she gets to observe, sometimes in her position as a librarian, but mostly as a rather naughty and merciless woman. Entertaining for sure!

5. The Peevery

funny blogs

Meet Michelle, the peeved one, and thank her for this blog. Read about other peoples’ pet peeves or submit your own and help make all of us smile (or hide in shame). This is for those of you who hate to read long articles and just need a quick fix of reality (read: Schadenfreude). Your own life feels so much better now, doesn’t it?

Don’t have enough, yet? If your belly doesn’t hurt by now, you should also have a look at these MakeUseOf articles:

Where do you get your smile fix from?

Image credits: Ayla87



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Storyful – Fancy News Site Based on Most BUZZing Stories on Twitter

Posted: 04 Nov 2010 02:31 PM PDT

twitter buzzSo, you’re a savvy internet user. You get all your news from online news sources and social media, yet you realise this approach is a little fragmented. Where’s the middle ground? Who is making sense of the news people really care about?

Well, Storyful is making sense of it. At Storyful, curators are busy linking Tweets, Flickr pictures, news stories and YouTube clips to make a coherent story out of the news people are talking about. Plus, anyone can become a curator or submit relevant news to a story – it’s news from the people for the people.

Add the fact that Storyful is relevant, informative, easy to follow and full of great visuals and this site will easily become a favourite in your search for daily news.

Storyful only recently moved to a beta testing stage, but this beta test has opened the doors for anyone to join as a reader and contributor. If you want to help create the news then jump right in – just remember to be kind and leave productive feedback for the creators of the site. Eventually, I hope there will be no need to sign up if you just want to read the news.

What Is Storyful?

At first glance, Storyful looks much like any visually-geared news site: It has bright pictures, well spaced articles and bold headlines to catch your attention. A closer glance made me realise that I actually cared about most of the headlines here. These stories are exactly what is being passed around by the humans on Twitter – only someone had collected all the best stories, pictures and clips and turned it into something that made sense.

If you look closely at the stories, you can see that it’s easy to follow how the story evolved. Storyful doesn’t remove old related news: it just stays in the thread as the backstory. This is great if you’ve just come across the story, since you can easily get a sense of how it got to this point.

Simply click on the headlines further down the page and it will show you a snapshot of the story as it stood when that update was released. For ongoing stories this can be a month or so ago, whereas for breaking news there are updates released every few hours.

twitter buzz

Contribute To News Stories

As a contributor, you can easily add information. Just look for the contribute link to the right or underneath any story. If you want credit for the tip, just make sure you let them know. Easy!

buzz on twitter

Reading Storyful News

The front page clearly lets you know the major stories of the day. The headlining story is much larger than any other. Breaking news stories are the next largest and easy to scroll through. After this is the discovery section, with all sorts of weird and wonderful news.

buzz on twitter

From the front page you can also easily click through to viral headlines. This gives you a great overview of what is making noise on Twitter and Facebook right now.

buzz on twitter

The Future Of Storyful

There’s still room for a little improvement at Storyful, but that’s what being in beta is all about. Personally, I’d love to see an RSS feed of headlining stories, plus the ability to sign up for an RSS feed or email updates of a story I wanted to follow. I would also like to see a Storyful Twitter feed for just the news headlines. A smartphone app wouldn’t hurt, either.

I personally can’t wait to see how Storyful stories evolve over time. For instance, coverage of warzone conflict or slow-moving political debates. It would be great to be able to click in to these stories and get a snapshot of what the picture was six months ago.

We believe every story starts with a single voice, not a conversation in a newsroom. There is no such thing as a scoop, just a story before its inflection point. Storyful's golden rule is there is ALWAYS someone closer to the story”. – Mark Little, Storyful

Basically, there’s professional journalists working at Storyful as well as many everyday people contributing news and updates. Soon they will open up curating to everyday people as well — this will add an entirely new dimension to the experience at Storyful. I’m sure that it will involve a lot more human editing to ensure the right stories get seen by the most eyes.

twitter buzz

Head over to Storyful and take a look for yourself — I’m sure the staff would love to get some sensible feedback from you all.

Need More News?

If you’re keen to find out more about cool ways to get your news online, check out these articles:

Let us know what you think of Storyful or tell us your favourite way to get the news.

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Hot Tech Deals [Nov 4th]

Posted: 04 Nov 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. Garmin nuvi 295W GPS Navigation (3.5in) w/ 3MP Camera & HTML Browser $107.77 Free Shipping

  2. Sennheiser HD280 Pro Circumaural Closed-Back Headphones + Current Apple iPod Touch 8GB w/ Camera $254.95 via code HEADPHNESEN2

  3. Dell SP2309W 23in LCD Monitor (2048×1152) w/ Built-In Webcam + 3yr Warranty $199.99 Free Shipping via code QQWPWR0HJVQLW7

  4. Newegg Coupon Code 30% off Sony & Sennheiser Headphones

  5. Dell Professional P2311H 23 inch LED-Backlit Widescreen LCD Monitor $229 Free Shipping via code HZZNNT1NZCWT96

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set

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SeaMonkey: The Overlooked All-In-One Mozilla Web Suite

Posted: 04 Nov 2010 12:31 PM PDT

seamonkey browserCombining a browser, an email client, one of the best free HTML editors out there and even an IRC chat client, SeaMonkey is a program that aims to do a little bit of everything. It may not be a household name like Firefox or Google Chrome, but if you’re looking to combine more for your Internet life into a single application consider this often-overlooked part of the Mozilla family.

Based on code from projects including Firefox, Thunderbird, Chatzilla and more, SeaMonkey is inspired by the all-in-one internet application suites popular early last decade. Think Opera, but open source and compatible with Firefox plugins.

These sorts of applications certainly aren’t for everyone, particularly as more and more people depend on web-based services like Gmail for their email needs. But if the idea of a single, go-to place with a consistent interface to turn to for all things web-related sounds good to you, you should check out SeaMonkey. It works on Linux, Mac and Windows.

The Seamonkey Browser

seamonkey browser

Start up Seamonkey and the first thing you’ll notice is the browser. Used Firefox before? You’ll feel right at home with this browser, then. Based on the world-famous Mozilla engine, the SeaMonkey browser is reliable and decently quick. You can even use most of the Firefox plugins with this browser; keep reading for more information on that.

Email Client

seamonkey web browser

Again, if you’re familiar with Thunderbird you’ll feel at home with SeaMonkey’s email client. I had to manually configure my Gmail in order for my mail to work, but once I did SeaMonkey provided me with a nice IMAP client. A series of buttons along the bottom of the browser gives me quick access to this and all of SeaMonkey's additional features.

The email interface is, for the most part, comparable to older versions of Mozilla Thunderbird. You have access to POP and IMAP email accounts along with the usual features: email signatures, formatting and more.

HTML Editor

seamonkey web browser

Also included is a great WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) HTML editor, perfect for making quick changes to HTML files. The tabbed interface gives you access to a preview mode, as well as to the raw HTML code that makes up any given page. If you’re looking for a quick way to tweak an existing page I highly recommend this tool, although I must admit I'm not sure I'd make use of it to build a website from scratch. If you disagree, though, I'd love to hear from you.

seamonkey browser

And More!

If you're an IRC addict, you should know that SeaMonkey has this capability built in as well. IRC is probably in decline in our age of social networking gone mad, but it still has a number of core fans so this is a notable feature.

If all of this isn't enough for you, don't worry: like any Mozilla-based project there are a lot of plugins to be found. Mozilla hosts an official collection of SeaMonkey plugins which you can find here. Be sure to point out any particularly good ones in the comments below.

Get SeaMonkey

You’ll find your Mac and Windows downloads over at Seamonkey Project. Linux users are best served by checking out their package managers, and Ubuntu users can click here to install Seamonkey.

Do you like this suite of software, or do you prefer to keep your various applications separate? Let us know in the comments below, and also feel free to share your favorite SeaMonkey tips and tricks.

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A Guide To Facebook Symbols & What They All Mean

Posted: 04 Nov 2010 11:31 AM PDT

facebook symbolsHave you ever noticed how many little Facebook symbols are scattered throughout the Facebook landscape? There has to be a Facebook team in some back cubicle at headquarters just thinking up what little image Facebook could offer next.

Whatever the reason for so many little images, the one thing it can do is cause a bit of confusion for newcomers. While many of the tiny icons are self-explanatory, for many people that are not only new to Facebook, but new to computers overall – some of these images are a real mystery.

In the past, here at MUO, we’ve helped new users navigate through Facebook. Steve offered a nuts-and-bolts explanation of Facebook, and I described how you could customize your account with MyStuff, or add Facebook widgets to your own website. But today, I’m going to put together a quick reference guide that you can use when one of those little Facebook icons really has you stumped.

Simple Facebook Symbols

I’ve separated all of these Facebook Symbols into two groups – the common icons most people recognize, and then the obscure ones. Most of you should recognize the first one, especially if you’re a fan on MUO’s Facebook fan page.

facebook symbols and meaningsFast becoming one of the most recognizable images both inside and outside of Facebook – this is the famous “like” icon. Like a status update, quote, link, image or anything else? Click this image and let everyone know.
symbols on facebookAt the top of your Facebook home page, you’ll notice three dark icons. The image of earth represents your notification list of all of the latest updates related to your Facebook activity.
symbols on facebookClick on this little conversation bubble icon, and you’ll see a dropdown box displaying the latest Facebook messages you’ve received.
symbols on facebookFinally, the last image at the top of the home page is the “Friend Request” icon. Click on this, and if you have any new friend requests, they’ll show up in a drop-down box.

The following icons are well known by most Facebook users, so I won’t waste much time on them. Basically, from left to right you’ve got photos, videos, events and links.

Click on any one of these icons to add that type of content to your wall.

The last of the common Facebook images is the “edit” icon. Any time you see this image at the upper right of a block of text or a column, that means that you can edit that particular area.

Obscure Facebook Symbols

The next batch of Facebook symbols are well known to regular Facebook users, but may not be quite as recognizable to brand new users. How many of these do you recognize?

The “lock” icon is a relatively new one. It basically allows you to customize the privacy of specific Facebook content on a case by case basis.

All you do is select the lock before you post an update, and identify what group of friends (or everyone) may have permission to see the update. I offered more details on how to use this feature on an MUO Facebook privacy article.

Next up is this little box with a green plus sign. This one isn’t entirely obvious, but it’s actually the link to create your own Facebook group.
Looking for that elusive app that you heard about from a friend? Click on the applications icon, and you’ll see current app requests, your apps, and applications that your friends have installed.
This one should be fairly obvious – it’s how you get to Facebook game requests, a list of your installed games, and a list of your friends’ installed games.

The chatbox at the lower right corner of your screen is a useful way to communicate with Facebook friends when you’re both online. The status images at the left are usually displayed next to your friend’s name.

The icon tells you whether your friend is logged into Facebook and active, whether they’ve gone idle or whether they’re logged out. The green bar is displayed next to friend “groups.”

If you see the little “gear” icon next to any app, column or area of Facebook, then it means that you can configure the settings for that feature by clicking on it.
This icon will take you to the polls page, where you can answer a poll question and have the results posted to your wall.
This icon will take you to your “groups” page that displays all of the groups you’re a member of.
facebook symbols and meaningsThis animated image, appearing either black or blue, slides back and forth like the lights on the front of the car named “Kitt” in the hit 80′s show “Night Rider”. Except, in this case all it means is that Facebook is processing your request.
facebook symbols and meaningsThis icon is the “Causes” link to your page of causes. As I previously described here at MUO, Facebook causes lets you support things you believe in right from Facebook.
facebook symbolsFinally, this little purple marker on a map is the image for Facebook Places, which Tim previously covered. Facebook Places is a cool new feature where you can make Facebook more location-based.

Did this guide help you identify any new Facebook icons that you never knew about? Do you know of any other strange or obscure icons that aren’t on this list? Share your insight in the comments section below.

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How To Build A Linux Web Server With An Old Computer [Part 1]

Posted: 04 Nov 2010 10:30 AM PDT

linux web server softwareInterested in learning about Linux or running a home web server? Installing Linux on a spare old computer is a pretty easy thing to do these days with many consumer friendly distributions such as Ubuntu and Mint Linux. After getting up and running you will have a platform for hosting your website in-house either for development or to self-host a website.

This how-to article is broken down into 4 major steps: 1. Acquire an old computer, 2. Install Operating system, 3. Set up the application web server software (Apache, PHP, MySQL), and 4. Reaching the computer from the internet.

Acquire an Old Computer

Linux is a versatile operating system in that it can be run on the slowest of PCs, at least in command line mode. For simplicity’s sake, we are going to be running Ubuntu 10.10 “Maverick Meercat” which was just released and reviewed by Justin.

System Requirements

The Ubuntu 10.10 lists 256MB of RAM as the minimum amount it will work on. The installation itself takes up 3.3GB and then you want to leave space for the additional software and any files you need to work with, so I would peg that minimum at 10GB.

Ubuntu supports a wide variety of video cards, hard drives and other hardware; if you want to check before downloading the install disk, look at the Linux hardware compatibility list for both complete systems and individual components in your system to see if it will work. Before getting too caught up in this though, it is pretty quick and simple to test things out with a Live CD to make sure everything will work on your system.

If you plan on running the server 24/7, make sure it is in a well-ventilated area. It is better to place it in an air-conditioned room during the summer as heat will be your system’s main enemy.

Install Ubuntu

linux web server software

Installing Ubuntu is a cinch with the latest 10.10 installer. My favorite feature of the installer is that while you are still making choices about the installation, it is working to format and copy files over to your hard drive.

Head on over to the Ubuntu Desktop CD Download site to get the ISO file. These disk images have the latest versions of software so you should only have to do a minimum of upgrading after the install. Use the 64-bit version if your computer supports it or the 32-bit version otherwise. Burn the ISO to a CD or DVD, plug it into the drive of the computer and boot up.

If you need to change the BIOS settings to boot off of a CD then do so, or sometimes you need to press a key to select an alternative boot media. Boot off of the CD drive and select the “Install Ubuntu.” Generally speaking, we will be installing the least amount of software as possible for two reasons: the first is that the more software you install and services you run in the background, the slower your system will be. The second is that it also opens your system up to more potential security holes in the future.

Select “Download updates while installing” and “Install 3rd Party Software” and then “Erase and Use The Entire Disk”. Note that this will erase any other operating systems you have on this computer. Follow through the other options per your desired settings. I do not recommend encrypting your home folder. Reboot after the installation is complete.

linux server

Upon reboot, your install is essentially complete! The first thing you need to do after an install, similar to a Windows machine, is to apply any updates. Go to System->Administration->Update Manager and “Install Updates”. You may need to reboot after installing any updates it has found.

You now have a fully-functional Ubuntu install.

Set Up Application Services

You have a number of options here, but since most websites run on a combination of Apache, MySQL and PHP, we are going to install those. This is similar to what we recommended installing on Windows.

These applications are installed via the Ubuntu Software Center. Launch the software center via System->Administration->Synaptic Package Manager. This is where we install the software we need.

Search for and install the following package names, each of which will include a number of prerequisites: apache2, php5, php5-mysql, and mysql-server. Apply the changes to install the packages.

linux server

The packages will download and install shortly. The installer will prompt you for the MySQL “root” password. No reboot is necessary.

Test Your Web Server!

You can test your web server by opening the Firefox web browser on your server and heading to the URL

linux web server software

You should see an “It works!” message meaning that your web server is running! Both Apache and MySQL will be running in the background and will start on bootup. Your web server is now essentially working and you can edit the files in /var/www and see the changes live on your website.

Part two of this series, to be published shortly, will go over how to upload files to your Linux web server; and how to access your web server both over your local network and via the internet. Check back to see how to complete your setup. The setup is pretty straight forward but there are always hiccups along the way.

Questions from new system administrators? Ask away in the comments and I’ll be sure to get back to you!

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How To Trim The Bloat Out Of Your iTunes Installation [Windows]

Posted: 04 Nov 2010 09:31 AM PDT

itunes installationSome people, especially those on the Windows side, have some kind of love-hate relationship with iTunes. They love it and need it to manage their iDevices, but they hate the bloat that comes along with it. And there’s nothing much they can do about it as everything comes in one (big) package.

Those with limited system resources on their computer will appreciate all the additional resource power and storage space that they can get, and customizing the iTunes installation is one of the ways to achieve that.

While the application itself can’t be altered, users can dispose of some fat to reduce the bloat. Here are some tricks that you can use to trim your iTunes installation on your Windows system.

Some Background Information

Before we start, let’s look at some background information. The iTunes installation file actually contains several smaller application installers inside it. Not many people knows that you can break it down and install only the items that you need.

You will need an archive utility to disassemble the big chunk into smaller pieces. A good and free alternative like 7-Zip will work just fine. All you have to do is just right click on the installer and open/extract the content.

itunes installation

You will then get several “.msi” (Windows Installer Package) files. Here’s the list of the gang members and some background information to help you decide whether you’ll need them or not:

  • iTunes: Our main character for today, the all-in-one media player & manager and store, application manager, iDevices activator, and music social network client (and whatever else Apple will add in the future).
  • QuickTime: Apple's multimedia framework designed to help you play back digital media files in most popular formats. QuickTime is required for your iTunes to work.
  • AppleApplicationSupport: This is the framework for managing applications on the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. If you use iTunes to manage your iDevices, you’ll obviously need this one.
  • AppleMobileDeviceSupport: This is the synchronization framework for Apple mobile devices like iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. If you only need iTunes to manage other members of the iPod family like the Classic, Mini, Nano and/or Shuffle, you can skip this one.
  • AppleSoftwareUpdate: This app will help you keep all your Apple software updated – the ones that you choose and install, and sometimes also the others that you don’t. So I’ll leave it up to you whether you want to install this one or not. I personally prefer to do manual updates from iTunes and QuickTime.
  • Bonjour: Is a network application to connect your computer to other devices – like printer, Airport, Apple TV, Airplay Speakerts, etc, over a network. But if you don’t need/use that kind of connectivity, some experts advise you not to install it.

itunes installation

Uninstall Or Re-Install & Tweaking The System

You can just use a software uninstaller such as our beloved Revo Uninstaller or the alternative Iobit Uninstaller to get rid of the components that you don’t need. But it’s better for you to uninstall everything and re-install the ones that you need. Use the list above for your reference.

If you want the installation process to go faster, you can do a “silent” install where the process works without the need for you to intervene.  Just open “Run” (Windows + R), empty the field, drag and drop the file that you want to install, add a space and type “/passive” (sans quote).

itunes installation

Click “OK” or hit “Enter” and the process will go from start to finish without the “Next” buttons routine.

itunes installation

After you have finished installing the components that you need, you can disable “iTunesHelper.exe “and “QTTask.exe” from your StartUp list. You can edit the registry in the System Configuration Utility (by typing MSConfig in the Run window), or go the easier way by using a free utility like AutoRuns or WinPatrol.  This step is not obligatory but will shed several seconds from your computer startup time and free up some processing power.

If you need iTunes but don’t want to have all the extras, you can use the tricks above to slim down your iTunes installation. I’ve tried it on my system without any problem, but it’s better for you to apply it yourself and tell us the result in the comments below.

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Nero’s Latest All-In-One Multimedia Suite [Giveaway]

Posted: 04 Nov 2010 09:00 AM PDT

Hot off the virtual shelf, Nero’s all-in-one Multimedia Suite Platinum HD powerhouse allows you to take complete control of your high definition life in style. Many of us now own devices that can capture stunning 720p and 1080p video, but what to do with it all once you get home?

Thanks to Nero’s latest solution, editing all those memories together, burning them onto a shiny new BluRay disc and transferring them to your portable devices just got easier – and you won’t need to buy three separate products either. We’re giving away 25 copies of Nero Multimedia Suite Platinum HD worth a staggering $2750 in total, read on to find out how to be in with the chance.


The Platinum suite offers everything you’d find in Nero’s standard Multimedia Suite 10 as well as some very attractive extras. First, let’s take a look at what you get in the standard package.

Video editing is covered thanks to Nero’s Vision Xtra package, which provides a sleek and intuitive interface to get your work done. The multitrack display is commonplace in pretty much any video editor, and comes coupled with a powerful search engine which makes constructing a sequence a fairly straightforward process.

There are plenty of effects and transitions available to you as well as advanced features like picture-in-picture, complete keyframe control and a master effect track. Nero’s SmartEncoding also provides a quicker way to get your videos onto BluRay disc in true 24p cinematic style.

Nero’s classic Burning ROM is also included in the package, which features an easy-to-use drag and drop interface, the splitting of large files over multiple discs and you can even encrypt or password-protect your media.

If you find backing up a drag then the one-click approach taken in Nero’s Backitup & Burn package will bring a smile to your face. The program is compatible with the usual optical media (CD/DVD/BluRay) as well as hard drives, FTP, removable storage and web-based services. You can even backup to multiple destinations (the more the merrier) at the same time.

Recovering the data you’ve backed up is also covered with RescueAgent, provided as part of the backup suite.

Both Burning ROM and Backitup & Burn use SecurDisc technology to improve the readability of your discs over time, regardless of scratches or detereoration.

The Platinum package contains three extra features which make it that little bit more enticing for media monkeys everywhere.

There’s a BluRay player for watching your favourite HD flicks on your PC (or maybe you’d prefer to hook your machine up to your TV, or even projector if you’re lucky) – something that’s not included with a vanilla Windows install.

The ‘Move it’ plug-in will save you time transferring between devices, including support for shifting your pictures, music and video between multiple devices. The plug-in supports Apple’s iPod and iPhone (so no iTunes required!) as well as Android devices to name but a few.

This makes showing off all that video you edited with Xtra Vision that little bit easier, and all within the same suite.

Finally, Nero has thrown in an extra 50 picture-in-picture templates (with 30 high res backgrounds), 50 additional pro transitions for use with Xtra Vision, 25 movie themes and 25 menu templates. That’s enough to keep you busy for a while.

All this plus Multimedia Tools to streamline the whole experience, as well as more features than I could fit into this review. Phew, they have been busy. And you can win it all!

How do I win a copy?

It’s simple, just follow the instructions.

Join our Facebook page by clicking the Like button or you can follow us on Twitter, if you prefer. If you’re already following us, you may skip this step.

If you can’t see the fanbox, click on this link.

Here’s our giveaway form. Please fill it in accurately. Be sure to enter your real name and email address so that we can get in touch if you are chosen as a winner. Click here if you can’t view the form.

You’re almost done. Now, all that’s left to do is to share the post. There are 2 options to choose from or you can do both!

Like it on Facebook

Or share it on Twitter

And that’s it! You’re done!
Giveaway eligibility
You must be a fan of our Facebook page to enter;
Individuals who are over the age of 18. If you are under 18, get your parents to participate on your behalf;
Individuals who reside in a country embargoed by the United States; Belgium, Norway, Sweden, or India are not permitted to enter.

This giveaway begins now and ends Friday, November 12th at 2100hrs PST. The winners will be selected at random and announced via email. Stay in the loop and get Nero’s news updates via their Twitter and Facebook feeds.

Spread the word to your friends and have fun!

MakeUseOf would like to thank Nero AG for their generosity while participating in this giveaway. Interesting in sponsoring? We’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with us via email.

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Read Free Books From Google On Your PC With Blio eBook Reader

Posted: 04 Nov 2010 08:31 AM PDT

blio ebook reader softwareSitting back in an armchair with a book in your hand feels wonderful. It offers a sense of calm and concentration that few other activities can mimic. But let's face it – books are heavy, big items, and also often expensive. A large shelf of books can represent hundreds if not thousands of dollars – and heaven help you if you ever want to move.

These disadvantages are the reason why eBooks have enjoyed a relatively quick rise to popularity. One of the most recent eBook readers to come about is the Blio eReader, an underdog rising to challenge the Kindle Store, iBooks and others. Does Blio have anything interesting to offer?

Kind Of Like iBooks – For Your PC?

blio ebook reader software

If you've used iBooks before, or even glanced at it, you'll probably find some interface elements of Blio familiar. Opening the program dumps you into the My Library section, which arranges all of the books you own on shelves with their covers out.

If you'd like, however, you can arrange the books as a simple list. Books can be arranged alphabetically by title, by author or by the date they were last read. A search function is also included, and this is by far the easiest way to find a book in a large library.

Free Books! – Oh & A Few Books for Sale

Blio includes a store from which Blio will gladly sell you a wide variety of titles for prices that are often not particularly attractive compared to what you'll pay for the real, physical book. The Blio store is also noticeably thin on titles.

That's fine however, because the paid store isn't the cool part of Blio. What is cool is the Free Books section, which is tied to Google Books. Using Blio you can search through the huge number of publicly available works listed on Google. This includes many classic titles in various genres of literature, science and philosophy.

blio ebook reader software

Do you need to read Shakespeare for a class? You can download any number of his plays from Google Books via Blio. You could do this independently by doing a Google Books search, but you'd be giving up this eBook reader's slick interface.

The Reading Experience

As nice as the ability to download free eBooks from Google is, it'd be pointless if the reading experience of Blio was no good. Fortunately, Blio has executed this critical element well.

Double-clicking on a book in your library will open it, revealing the front cover or, in the case of most free eBooks, a title page. If you'd like to turn the page the old fashioned way you can click on, and then drag the bottom right hand corner of the eBook. This results in a very slick page-turning animation. You also have the option of clicking the arrow buttons, which will send you to the next page as well.

blio ebook reader software

The books rendered by Blio are large and clear, and the experience seems to move along at lightspeed compared to a PDF file. The default Blio view shows you two pages at a time, side-by-side. There are other options that display single pages, thumbnails, etc.

The eBook reader also includes an expandable note section on the left side of the interface that lets you add comments about the book. You can even highlight specific parts of the text and make notes referring to them directly. This is handy if you're reading a book for research or critical analysis.


There isn't much to dislike about the Blio eBook reader. Is this a replacement for the Kindle Store? Uh, no. There aren't enough books and there isn't much reason to buy books through Blio, since there is no specific reader device associated with this store.

The ability to download free books from Google is the main reason to download and use this software. It's a super cool feature that, when combined with Blio's smooth operation, is hard to resist. Why buy older books when you can download them for free and read them on your laptop using Blio?

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