Friday, November 19, 2010 “Cool Websites and Tools [November 18th]” plus 9 more “Cool Websites and Tools [November 18th]” plus 9 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [November 18th]

Posted: 18 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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dmYouTube – How do you download a YouTube video? Most probably you visit YouTube to search for it, then get its URL, then use an external program to download the video. If you want to transfer the video to your phone or portable media player, you then change the video's format. This entire process is made much easier by dmYouTube. Read more: dmYouTube: Search & Download YouTube Videos Directly To Mobile Phone


Tawkon – Does radiation from your cellphone worry you? Do you plan on buying the phone that emits the least amount of radiation? If yes, then how do you measure the emitted radiation levels? The answer comes in the form of a simple smartphone app titled Tawkon, a radiation measuring application for Android. Read more: Tawkon: Measures & Tracks Your Android Phone Radiation Levels



A.I Type – Normally people have to spend a lot of time with their computers before they can type text quickly and accurately. Even after spending hours typing, some people never get the speed and accuracy they desire. To help you type faster and more accurately, A.I.type uses a different approach than practice – the program completes your words for you after you have typed the first few letters. Read more: A.I.type: Desctop App For Typing Quickly & Accurately



LifeSta – Do you have a discount coupon you will not be able to use before its expiration? What if you could exchange the coupon with a deal that you could actually use? If you answered yes, then you should pay a visit to LifeSta right away. The site's basic function is buy deals you missed, look for interesting deals in your area, and sell any deal you bought and will not use. Read more: LifeSta: Buy, Sell & Exchange Coupons & Discount Deals



Drag2Up – If you love Gmail's recent drag and drop attachment upload feature which it introduced sometime ago, you'll love this Chrome extension too. Called Drag2Up, this extension enables drag and drop image and text upload from your desktop to a text field on a website. The image is automatically uploaded to Imgur. Read more: Drag2Up: Drag & Drop File Upload via Any Text Field (Chrome Extension)


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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The Top 5 Video Players For Your Linux OS

Posted: 18 Nov 2010 05:31 PM PST

linux video playerA good media player will save you literally minutes of frustration when you next go to watch a video on your PC. There’s also an abundance of add-ons and useful features bundled in with many of today’s media players, and here we’ve got a selection of the best Linux video players.

So if you download all the latest TV, love your HD content or simply need to replace your default player with something a little more… usable then feast your eyes over this lot.

Forget the rest – this is the definitive list of the top 5 video players for your Linux machine. As usual they’re all free, and MakeUseOf approved.


linux video player

Before I switched from Windows 7 to Ubuntu, VLC was the last word in video playback on a PC. It was the second program I installed on my fresh Linux partition after my web browser. It just works.

The playlist is a bit fiddly at times (it was worse on Windows though) but if you want a decent media player that will pretty much play everything from HD .MKVs to lossless .FLAC audio then VLC is a perfect lightweight solution.

No fancy bells or whistles (unless you fancy streaming your own video, of course) but a fantastic and tiny bit of software you’ll always be able to fall back on.


free video players

A souped-up front-end for the still-quite-popular MPlayer, SMPlayer provides an attractive interface and builds upon the robustness of MPlayer to deliver a powerful software package.

The playlist is considerably easier to deal with than VLC’s, and even docks properly to the player itself. SMPlayer saves all your personal settings on a per-file basis and also supports the resuming of partially finished files once they’ve been closed. There’s a wealth of compatible Linux Screenlets out there to enhance your desktop with visualizations, album art and controls for this excellent media player.


free video players

As well as playing all your usual audio and video formats, Banshee also allows you to connect your portable device to transfer files. This includes compatibility with Android devices, Apple’s iPod and others.

The whole thing is held together with a nice-looking UI, extra functionality like audio CD ripping and a smart, powerful playlist. This latest release is the collective work of 67 programmers and artists who have contributed to the project. There’s also support for internet radio, shared media, the Amazon music store, and a whole lot more. Nice.


free video players

Another all-in-one solution, Miro is a video player built from the ground up for HD content. There’s a cracking interface to boot, which makes organising all your media that little bit easier.

There’s integration with plenty of web services including a nifty in-built BitTorrent client, Miro’s own Miro Guide and Video RSS for automatic downloads. You can also resume files and feeds from the same place you left off.


linux video player

More of a media centre than a video player, Boxee still deserves a mention. If you’ve not played with it yet, you might want to check out our existing article as to why it’s so great. You don’t need to buy a Boxee Box to enjoy it, as it runs over the top of your existing Linux desktop.

You can then watch video from your own storage, the web and other shared computers through Boxee. The media centre is perfect for your Linux laptop as you can plug it straight in to a HDTV and enjoy YouTube, Flickr and even check Facebook on your TV.

It’s also worth mentioning that the developers have fixed the latest version to work with Ubuntu 10.10.


We’ve pretty much got it covered here in this list. If it’s a lightweight desktop player you want then VLC or SMPlayer should suffice, whereas if you like a bit more internet with your video then the final 3 are designed to just do that.

We’ve also got a definitive list of open source Linux audio players in case you need one of those, and if you’re really serious about your video you might want to check out our two-part guide about using Linux as a media server. Part 1 is here, and part 2 can be found here.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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How To Download A YouTube Video To Windows Media Player

Posted: 18 Nov 2010 03:31 PM PST

how to download youtube video to windows media playerThe digital age is a dream come true for hoarders and collectors. No matter how much digital data or information you amass, it won’t take up a lot of space. This means you don’t have to control your primal instinct to search and collect, you can give rein to it.

Sometimes, however, there are technical obstacles. If you’re looking for a way to download YouTube videos and view them in Windows Media Player, read on. This article will explain how to best extract YouTube videos and subsequently enjoy them on Windows Media Player.

How It Works

YouTube streams content using flash video technology. The respective file format is .flv. To download and view a YouTube video, you basically have three options:

  1. Download and playback the video in .flv file format.
  2. Download and playback in an alternative file format.
  3. Download the .flv file and convert it to another file format for playback.

This article is mainly concerned with how to view YouTube videos in Windows Media Player, regardless of how you obtained the files and what file format they are in. Hence, we can neglect the third option.

Best Download Options For YouTube Videos

To limit the confusion, I have selected only two tools. One is a website, the other a program. Both work flawlessly. You should go with the second one, VDownloader, if you want to download multiple videos in parallel.

Kiss YouTube

Kiss YouTube is a straight forward way to download YouTube videos because you do not need to install any software. In addition, Kiss YouTube can download YouTube videos in three different file formats: 3GP, FLV, and MP4. Paired with ease of use, that’s plenty of great features for an online service.

You can either copy and paste the URL of the YouTube video into the respective field on the Kiss YouTube homepage (see screenshot below); OR you can rename the YouTube URL, adding the word ‘kiss’ between ‘www.’ and ‘…’.

In both cases you will be directed to a page that lets you select your download format.

download youtube videos to computer

To proceed, click the download link of your preferred file format.


This is a software option, which is more convenient if you want to download multiple videos or wish to download from more sources than just YouTube. Attention! The installation comes with lots of extra software options and adware, all of which you can opt out of. Be sure to carefully screen all your options and go with a custom installation to opt out of the Ask toolbar and homepage.

Once you have completed the installation, VDownloader is a great tool. As soon as you copy a URL, it is pasted into the program’s > Video URL field. Next select your preferred > Output Format and hit the > Download button. While your first video is already downloading, you can proceed to add the next one.

youtube video download

The available output formats include .flv (no conversion), .avi, .mpeg, .mp3 (audio), and several more.

VDownloader was also reviewed by Karl in this article: VDownloader – Really Easy Video Downloader Software. Also check out Simon’s article on How To Easily Download YouTube High Definition Videos.

How To View Various Video File Formats In Windows Media Player

Now that you have downloaded your videos, here comes the tricky part. Per default, Windows Media Player only recognizes a limited amount of file formats, the standard video file format being .wmv. However, none of the options above download YouTube videos in that format. So what can you do?

You need to download and install codecs so that Windows Media Player can read all those file types. Don’t sweat, it’s a quick and easy three-step-program:

  1. Go to Codec Guide and download any of the K-Lite Codec Packs, the basic one is sufficient.
  2. Install the downloaded K-Lite Codec Pack.
  3. Enjoy downloaded videos in Windows Media Player.

how to play youtube videos in windows media player

That’s it.

Also check out the following YouTube-related articles on MakeUseOf:


If you’re now wondering, why you would want to use Windows Media Player in the first place, I congratulate you. The answer is, I don’t know. Fact is, it’s much easier to download a media player that naturally supports all these file formats. Obviously, you will save yourself the hassle of installing codecs and trying to make it work with WMP. If you can live without WMP and would prefer an easy option, I highly recommend VLC Media Player.

Here are some more MakeUseOf recommendations:

This is the time to fess up! Do you download YouTube videos to your computer and in case you do, what is your reason? Do you mind sharing how many gigabytes the YouTube videos take up on your hard drive?

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8 Of The Best Twitter Lists You Should Be Following

Posted: 18 Nov 2010 01:31 PM PST

twitter listsDo you love Twitter but hate that niggling feeling that everyone else has found better people to follow than you? Do you want to follow great Twitter lists, but don’t have the time to create them? Don’t even have the time to find them? Sounds like most people, really – so you will surely be able to make use of this list of great Twitter lists.

This is a collection of some of the most popular Twitter lists. You may or may not know the person who built the list, but the people listed are usually worthy of your attention. We’ve collected a variety of lists for you to choose from, too: tech, travel, celebrities, social networking, news, funny and world leaders. There should be something for everyone.

Breaking News

This breaking news list has most of the big Twitter news accounts, including Reuters, BostonUpdate, TelegraphNews, TheEconomist, GuardianNews, NYTimes, WashingtonPost, BreakingNews, CNNBrk, WSJ, Time and numerous others. It’s a very easy way to stay on top of news updates.

twitter lists

Funny Top 50

If you’re looking for a bit of humour, this Funny Top 50 list follows comedians and people who tend to be humourous on Twitter – Conan O’Brien is one of the featured accounts. It’s good for a quick chuckle.

best of twitter


Mashable’s Pete Cashmore has compiled a great Twitter list of celebrities, featuring all sorts of verified celebrities — musicians, actors, authors and the like. You will have no need for magazines after reading this list for a while!

best of twitter


There’s a great travel list made by Gary Arndt of @EverywhereTrip. This list follows just under 500 of the best travel tweeters, giving you ideas for destinations, travel tips and all sorts of useful advice.

best of twitter

World Leaders

The world leaders list is a simple, yet effective list built by Twitter’s verified accounts. Whenever the President, Prime Minister or Monarch of a country verifies an account to be a world leader, they get added to this list. It’s a fabulous way to stay somewhat informed of the personalities of the people leading our world. Not only do you know it’s really the leaders’ verified accounts, you usually can rely on changes of government being reflected in the list fairly quickly. Too easy!

list of twitter lists

Most Influential In Tech

Scobleizer is well known for being a tech guru, well connected and a hardcore Twitter lister. So, when it comes to his most influential in tech list, you can be sure he has listed some pretty amazing techy people.

list of twitter lists

Technorati Top 100

This Technorati Top 100 list wasn’t made by someone high-profile, nor is it currently a popular list. It is, however, an excellent idea for a list and I feel it deserves a little more credit. This guy has listed the Twitter accounts of all the top 100 blogs on Technorati (minus a few which don’t have Twitter accounts). This means when you follow it, you’re basically keeping up with the best news from all of the top 100 blogs at once — unbeatable!

list of twitter lists

MakeUseOf Staff List

The MakeUseOf staff Twitter list is the best way to follow the fun, friendly, geeky people of MakeUseOf and the official @MakeUseOf Twitter account. We’re a pretty diverse bunch, so it makes for some interesting reading!

twitter lists

More Things To Know About Twitter Lists & Celebrities

Please feel free to share your favourite Twitter lists in the comments!

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Hot Tech Deals [Nov 18th]

Posted: 18 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. HP LaserJet P1102W Monochrome Laser Printer w/ Wireless Networking $99 Free Shipping

  2. Sony CyberShot TX1 10MP 4X Digital Camera w/ Backlit CMOS Sensor + Optical IS $199.99 Free Shipping

  3. Western Digital Caviar Green 1.5TB Internal SATA Hard Drive $69.99

  4. Logitech Pure-Fi Anywhere 2 Portable Speakers for Apple iPod iPhone (REFURB) $59.99 via code logi_pfa2_111710

  5. Western Digital My Book World Edition NAS 1.5TB External Networked Hard Drive $119.99 Free Shipping

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set

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7 Amazing, Yet Overlooked, Wikimedia Projects You Should Check Out

Posted: 18 Nov 2010 11:31 AM PST

wikimedia commonsIf you’ve used the Internet, you’ve used Wikipedia. Its articles are highly ranked for pretty much every Google search term in the universe, and there’s a reason for that: useful, accurate information that’s always up to date.

But Wikipedia’s not the only project brought to us by Wikimedia. A number of ongoing experiments are offered by the not-for-profit, all aimed at making it easier for human beings to share information. There’s a database of free media, a collection of public domain books and the ultimate quote book, to name a few.

All of these projects represent the Internet at its best: people from all over the world getting together to build something useful for mankind. If you’re not familiar with these tools you’re missing out on a great deal of the web’s inherent awesomeness, so let’s take a look.

Wikimedia Commons: Amazing Collection Of Free Media

I love this one. Mentioned in my post about Image Licenses You Need To Be Familiar With Before Using Someone's Photos, the Wikimedia Commons is a great place to find royalty-free images, charts, videos and audio recordings of just about anything.

wikimedia commons

The Commons is more than a great resource for mankind. It’s also the media backend for the entire Wikimedia project, including Wikipedia. It’s the database of pictures that end up in all of Wikimedia’s other projects.

Wikiquotes: Largest Quote Book Ever

You’re pretty sure Stephen Colbert said something clever about the subject of your blog post, but you’re not sure of the exact wording. Check WikiQuotes.

wikimedia projects

This massive database of quotes cover everyone from Churchhill to Plato to Sun Tzu. Whether you’re looking for a particular anecdote, or just want to read the words of a certain person, WikiQuotes is a great place to check out.

Wikispecies: A Pokedex For Real Things

Every species on earth, indexed. That’s the goal of the wiki species, which acts as a biological counterpart to Wikipedia. You’ll find information about the classification of millions of species, and in most cases a photo. With around 300,000 species indexed there’s certainly a lot of work here to do yet, so if you’re a biologist join in and provide some information!

wikimedia projects

Wikisource: Massive Library Of Free Books

wikimedia projects

The slow march of time brings thousands of works into the public domain, and numerous books with open licenses are in production right now. WikiSource serves as a repository for this free information, and a really complete one at that. Similar in a way to Project Gutenburg, WikiSource is a great place to look for some classic literature or for public domain texts.

Wikibooks: User-Generated Textbooks

Free textbooks. That’s the goal of Wikibooks, and it delivers. Featuring over 30,000 English textbooks on subjects ranging from literature to atomic physics, Wikibooks is a huge resource for educators and the self-educated alike. Browse it to brush up on a particular subject, or contribute what you know to help others.


Alternatively, if you’d prefer a collection of Wikipedia articles on a certain subject, check out the Wikipedia community books project for PDF downloads of entire categories.

Wikiversity: Cheaper Than College

Making use of the free textbooks created by the Wikibooks project, Wikiversity aims to create entire courses. This includes everything from homework assignments to lessons to textbooks to supplemental material. This could be a great way to teach yourself about a given subject, but is also a pretty fantastic resource for educators looking for ideas or even an entire curriculum. Courses range from elementary school to university, so just about anyone could benefit.


Wikinews: Journalism, Wiki-style

Why not? Wikinews is a shocking experiment in how quickly a volunteer-only team can keep up a newspaper online. You’ll find up-to-the-minute summaries of the day’s big news stories, and even the occasional exclusive interview. Sure, the language is occasionally clunky, but Wikinews is a remarkably useful way to keep up with current events worldwide.

wikimedia commons

Is there a service I missed? Highlight it below. Also feel free to share how these projects have benefited you recently.

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5 Cool Data Apps & Mashups Provided By The US Government

Posted: 18 Nov 2010 10:31 AM PST

us government appsWhenever you think of interesting data analysis tools or mashups, the U.S. Government probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. There are a lot of cool programmers out there doing a lot of amazing things to morph data, trends and information into awesome applications. Adam touched on this a bit with 20 apps that provide you with real estate information, Saikat touched on 7 useful map-based apps that aggregate news, and David hit on a few cool apps that mash up Craigslist data with other information, as a few good examples.

Believe it or not, the U.S. Government is now taking on the role of building interesting tools and data mashups. The datasets available within these apps are pretty impressive, and allow researchers to dig up statistics and correlate information in ways that were never before possible without a lot of very hard work. I’m going to introduce the five best tools and show you some of the cool things they can do.

Introducing The Data.Gov Apps Showcase

If you liked the app we previously mentioned called DataMasher, you’ll love what the Apps Showcase at Data.Gov now has to offer. The site now offers hundreds of datasets and mashups that you can use to visually and mathematically correlate information. The Apps Showcase is the page where you can find the best of those apps.

us government apps

If you want to see everything the site has to offer, click on the “Tools” tab at the top and you’ll find yourself in a search engine featuring over 600 tools. The majority of these apps are simply RSS feeds for the latest alerts or trends, such as weather advisories, health estimates, and much more.

us data

The 5 Best Data Mashups

All five of the best tools that I want to highlight are featured on the Apps Showcase, so if you like any of them, you can find them there. The first app is the National Obesity Comparison Tool, which you can use to examine information about obesity levels by state. Just type in the state and you’ll see comparisons between that state and national averages.

us data

If you travel a lot and you’re sick of getting held up at the airport, then this next app is just for you. It’s called, and it lets you check recent statistics for airports or airlines that you’re planning to travel through. These statistics can really help you streamline your trip.

us data

Airline data shows you how that airline has performed historically, as well as which airports where delays most commonly occur. For example, if you’re planning to fly Delta out of Boston, the odds are pretty good that the flight will be on time.

government statistic

If you select Airport Security information and type in the airport where you’re planning to travel from or to, you’ll get another set of historic flight data for that airport. This data includes real-time information (within the last 30 minutes) of the full last seven days worth of “wait time” at security lines for that airport. Plan ahead and you’ll find short lines through security. Isn’t it nice to have the ability to predict the future?

government statistic

If you’re unemployed and looking to move to a better part of the country where there’s more chance of work, then you’ll want to check out the Employment Market Explorer app. This is a very useful Google Maps mashup with unemployment trends displayed underneath. To check and compare local differences from one town to the next, just click on the map marker and the data below automatically updates.

government statistic

Of course, I can’t list the five best apps without mentioning DataMasher. DataMasher is easily the best of all of these apps, because it gives you the flexibility to select from a long list of datasets covering a really wide range of national information. It lets you perform mathematically calculations on those datasets, and then displays them in a graphical format.

government statistical data

For example, here I’m creating a mashup of states with the highest combined elderly population and driving accidents. The datasets that you have to choose from are between 100 to 200 items covering a wide range of topics.

government statistical data

The resulting maps are color coded, and if you click on the “table” tab, you can actually see the real data broken down by each variable by state.

Finally, the last app that I’d like to share is the Health Data Visualizer. This is a lot like DataMasher, except that it’s focused on Health data, and the entry form isn’t quite as visually appealing. You have to type in a text command, formatted correctly and listing the variables that you’d like to see.

us government apps

The resulting graph can be either sortable tables, scatter plots or blot maps depending which you choose. The available variables are listed at the bottom of the page, and number at least three dozen topics. The information you can gather and visualize using these tools is pretty impressive, and could be an invaluable research tool for any academic or student researcher.

Have you ever used any of these tools? Do you know of any other countries that have similar tools as well? Share your own resources and insight in the comments section below.

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7 Sites That Can Help You Deal With Information Overload

Posted: 18 Nov 2010 09:31 AM PST

information overloadThe problem that most people, including myself, run into while browsing the internet is complete information overload. Finding data is a problem that Google mainly solved years ago – now the challenge the typical user faces is how to find relevant information.

In the past, this was done by keywords. There is a problem using keywords to categorize content on the broader scope of the internet – the first is that many items cannot be put into neat categories. What one person might think fits in a certain category doesn’t match what another person things is relevant. Also spammers have learned to capitalize on simple keyword matching so this further dilutes the quality of content you can find via keywords.

New technologies have been popping up all over the web to help mediate this ‘information overload’ problem. Below I mention a handful of these tools which will help you to ‘do more with less’.

For Text


information overload

Summarity is a web application with an available bookmarklet that will automatically take text, either pasted in or from the referring webpage, and summarize it in as few lines as possible.

There is a great article over at their blog about how great summaries disambiguate topics. That means that when a word is mentioned it uses context to determine what the actual sentence is about.


information overload and internet is a URL-shortening service that also allows you to include snippets, or summaries, of the article you are linking too. We have covered previously and it continues to be a great service for those looking to save other people’s time by summarizing an article. It would be great to see the auto-summarizing of Summarity and the URL shortening of working together.

For News


information overload and internet

Geneio is a service that installs on your computer and analyzes your current web history to determine content that interests you. A few minutes after installing, it determines your preferences and generates a homepage which is tailored to your interests.

The thing I like about Geneio is that you do not need to spend any time ‘training’ it. Once you install it, it uses your past web history to determine the types of articles and topics that you are already interested in, and I’ve found it to be fairly accurate.

Google News

surviving information overload

Google News is a straight up aggregator of news items. It determines what is popular based on the volume of articles from different news sites; making sure that you don’t read any ‘fluff’ content and stick to the main articles at any moment in time.


surviving information overload

TechMeme or “Tech Memorandum” is a website which uses both algorithmic and human based content filtering to give you the top stories. Its blended approach gives readers a great overview of the goings on at any time in the tech world (and I am assuming you are interested in this as well since you read MakeUseOf!). TechMeme is the first site I visit in the morning while catching up on the latest news of the day.



surviving information overload

My6Sense is a startup with a horrible name but one which has really saved me a lot of time. Their software only works on the iPhone and Android platform, but once you start using it you will understand why it is such a great product. Once you import your RSS feeds from Google Reader, and your Twitter and Facebook accounts, My6Sense begins analyzing how your read items and will start to give you personalized relevant results.

Rather than go based on what you think you are interested in, My6Sense actually looks at what you click on – they have found that sometimes the two don’t exactly match up. In this way they can determine what you are really interested in rather than what you think you are interested in.

Google Reader “Sort by Magic”

information overload

Google Reader’s “Sort by Magic” option can actually help you sort through the unending number of items you may have in your feed reader. This option sorts your RSS folder based on the popularity of the post and how you interact with and share news items. This can cut through the posts which are not so important and bring the more interesting ones to the top, saving you time.

These tips are just a start to cutting through information overload. Sometimes you just need to decide when you need to cut out adding new information into your brain and take a breather. The amount of information available at your fingertips at any point in time, even while mobile, is astounding. When you are feeling overloaded, its just plain good advice to power down and go for a walk!

Do you have any tricks or tips that you use to help reduce information overload? Please share in the comments below!

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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Add An Attention Grabbing Bar To Your Website With Hello Bar [100 Invites]

Posted: 18 Nov 2010 08:31 AM PST

website barsEach and every second, we are bombarded by lots of information from all different kinds of media around us. It’s so easy to get lost among the noise that our best way to survive is by learning how to ignore almost everything.

This is bad news for information publishers. Attention is now an expensive commodity. Today, a blog post has to compete for a reader’s attention not only with posts from other blogs but also with posts from within the same blog.

While fighting other websites and blogs requires ammunition of a different kind, stealing attention on your own site is much easier. One tool that enables you to do that is “The Hello Bar“.

Say Hello To The Bar

The Hello Bar is a web tool that will help you create a simple “attention grabbing” bar at the top of your site. It’s just a bar with one line of text and a link. But since normal humans have the tendency to read from the top to the bottom, the bar will be the first thing that they see.

You can write anything on the bar and make it as eye catching as possible (or not) with the use of color. If your line is interesting enough, you can be sure that your visitor will click on the link to follow through. It’s a simple but smart concept.

Hello Bar is currently in closed beta stage and only accepts invitation-based signups. But if you’d like to try it, we have good news for you. You can visit the site and use invitation code: “makeusof” (sans quote, case sensitive, and there’s no “e” before the “of”) to sign up. The code is limited to 100 signups so you’d better hurry.

website bars

You can enter the beta key after signing up.

website bars

Each new user gets 5 invites to share, so maybe those who are able to grab one of the limited 100 seats can share their invitation codes to the less fortunate using the comments section below.

website bar graphics

Let’s Get Started

To start building your bar, click the “Create New” button.

website bar graphics

The first thing you should do is give a name to your bar. You could use your website name as the bar name or short description of its usage. Since you are allowed to create several bars, the names should be able to give you a hint which one is which.

website bar graphics

The next step is to choose whether you want to use your own sentence in the bar (Manual) or put an RSS Feed in it (Feed).

hello bar

If you choose the Manual way, you can edit your line in the “Message” field, write down the “Link Text” and the “Link URL” that you want to use.

hello bar

Even though it’s possible to write more than one sentence, it’s advisable to keep your sentences short and effective – something like a Twitter‘s tweet. In fact, you could also use your tweets to update the content of your bar by checking the “Allow Twitter Updates” box.

Next, choose the color combination that you want to use: the Bar, Text, and Link color. You can also choose the Font Style that you prefer to use: Serif or Sans Serif.

hello bar

The result of your bar can be seen in real time in the “Preview” box. And if you choose “Feed“, all you have to do is to put the Feed URL of the RSS feed that you want to use (but you still can edit the “Appearance” box to your liking).

03g Create - The Hello Bar - Feed And Save.jpg

There are a few other things that you can adjust under the “Settings” button, such as the “Wiggle Effect“, “Positioning” and “Tab Display“.

05 The Hello Bar - Settings.jpeg

Don’t forget to click the “Save” button after you are done tinkering with the bar.

The Hello Bar will give you the code to embed in your site with the instruction to place the code after the “<body>” tag. When you hover your mouse over the code window, a “Copy” button will appear. Just click the button to copy the whole code.

04a The Hello Bar - Script.jpg

You can manage all the bars that you’ve created from the “Manage” tab in the main page. This includes the ability to turn an individual bar on and off, acquire the code again, and delete an unwanted bar.

06 Hello Bars - Manage.jpg

There’s also the “Stats” tab where you can check the “success rate” of your bar(s).

11 Stats - The Hello Bar-1.jpg

A Site With A Bar

The process of adding the bar to your site should be pretty straightforward. If you are capable enough to build a website, you should know how to insert code after the “<body>” tag. WordPress users can use the “Editor” on the sidebar menu under the “Appearance” tab.

07a WP Editor.jpg

But novice WordPress bloggers might be a little intimidated by the thought of editing HTML code. Moreover, different themes have different ways of organizing their elements. You have to look for the specific item where the “<body>” tag resides, and changing the theme means re-editing the code.

An easier and friendlier method to do this is by using a plugin called “Insert Codes“. You can search and install the plugin right from your WordPress Plugins menu. After installation, open the “Insert Codes” settings and paste the Hello Bar code into the “Blog Footer” field.

09 Insert Codes - WP Plugins.jpg

Even though the name is “Blog Footer“, the code will be inserted before the closing “</body>” tag, just like the doctor’s order.

And this is how the bar looks in my WordPress blog.

09c Hello Bar Result.jpg

If you set your bar to be auto-hidden in the “Settings” menu, it will turn into a small arrow lid on one corner of the page.

10 Hiding the bar.jpg

There are many possibilities of using the bar to get your visitors’ attention. It could serve as a simple announcement, featured post, or even as a marketing tool.

What do you think about this tool? Would you use it on your website? Do you know any other alternatives? Share your thoughts using the comments below.

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Taking A Closer Look At Windows Resource Monitor

Posted: 18 Nov 2010 07:31 AM PST

windows resource monitorWhat is your computer doing in there? On the exterior it is a mass of plastics and metals, roughly pressed together to provide your PC with a protective case. But is it protecting your PC from the outside, or is it protecting you from the strange and arcane things happening inside your PC?

Perhaps it is time to find out exactly what your computer is up to – particularly if your computer is behaving badly. There are many third-party tools that can clean, scrub, and protect your PC, but none of those will help you better understand what’s going on. A program that can help you understand what is going on ships with every Windows PC. It’s called Windows Resource Monitor. Let’s take a look at what it can tell us.

Opening Windows Resource Monitor

windows resource monitor

Of course, we need to open Windows Resource Monitor before we can do anything. Windows Resource Monitor is a feature that was added in Vista and carries over to Windows 7. As far as I can gather, the only way to open it is through the Windows Task Manager - so press CTRL-ALT-DEL and open it.

Once Task Manager is open, go to the Performance tab. In the lower right hand corner is a button labeled Resource Monitor. Click it, and you’re ready to go!

The Basics

Windows Resource Monitor will, by default, open up to the Overview tab. This provides general, but useful, information about your computer. The best way to start becoming acquainted with Windows Resource Monitor is probably the graphs on the right side of the Overview tab. There are graphs here for your processor, hard disk, network and memory. These graphs will tell you how much of each is being used.

resource monitor windows 7

A computer at idle should display each graph as nearly flat. There may be minor spikes in usage, typically due to background processes, but these spikes should be few and they shouldn’t significantly consume system resources.

Other usage scenarios will result in distinct patterns.  For example, it is normal to see high disk activity and high network usage when you are downloading a file. It is also normal to see high disk activity while your virus scanning software is operating.

Sudden (or not-so-sudden), unexplained spikes are not normal. They may be the result of bloatware (unwanted programs that come pre-installed in your system), an inefficent antivirus program, a program that did not close correctly or even malware.

A Deeper Look At CPU Usage

Open the CPU tab of Windows Resource Monitor. When you do so, the graphs on the right will change. You’ll now be shown a graph for each core Windows detects (or two graphs for each core if you have an Intel processor with Hyper-Threading enabled). The total CPU usage graph remains, as well.

But the most important informaton here is not the graphs. What you’ll need to take a closer look at is the text information under the labels of Processes and Services. A process is an active application, while a service is a background application that conforms to special rules (it can run automatically on boot, it can run when no user is logged on, etc).

resource monitor windows 7

When it comes to checking out processor usage, however, you’ll organize both using the same tactic. Simply organize the processes or services by the average CPU value. Tada! You now know what programs are taking up your processor’s power. Please note that common processes and services can sometimes appear under odd names in Windows Resource Monitor. Be sure to Google an unknown program and identify it before you close it.

Analyzing Memory Usage

The way your computer uses its short-term memory (RAM) is important to overall performance. If you’re running low on available memory you’ll find that your computer’s performance becomes sluggish.

RAM usage can be found under the Memory tab. A new, useful line graph appears at the bottom of Windows Resource Monitor. This graph shows you how much memory is in use, how much is on stand-by (containing active data, but not actively in use) and how much is completely free.

resource monitor windows 7

Ideally you’ll want to see some free memory on this graph. The real problem, however, comes when your in-use memory fills up most of the graph. This means you simply don’t have any RAM left to use! You can free up memory by organzing processes by their Working memory share and shutting down memory hogs. If your system has limited memory, however, you may simply need to add more memory to your PC.

Hard Disk & Network Usage

Most users underestimate the effect their hard drive can have on overall system performance. The speed with which you can download files, install programs, transfer information, and open programs can all be affected by your hard drive’s performance. Sometimes a program, such an anti-virus scanner, will bombard your hard disk with requests for information.

windows resource monitor

Opening up the Disk tab will show you the Processes with Disk Activity display. This shows you all the active processes that are consuming your hard disk’s time. You’ll usually see a few common Windows processors, like System and svchost.exe, listed here. But you may also see other programs. This may clue you in as to why programs are loading slowly.

Finally, take a look at the Network tab. You will again see a Processes with Network Activity display, which is very useful for tracking down programs that are making unwanted network connections (although nasty malware is often programmed to dodge Windows Resource Monitor or disguise itself as a more innocent process). You can also analyze your active network connections using the TCP connections display.


Familiarzing yourself with Windows Resource Monitor is a great idea. It is a very effective program that can tell you a lot about why your computer is behaving well or poorly. You can track down runaway programs and close them, and you can also see if a hardware upgrade is necessary to use the programs you prefer.

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