Thursday, November 25, 2010

MakeUseOf.com: “Cool Websites and Tools [November 24th]” plus 10 more

MakeUseOf.com: “Cool Websites and Tools [November 24th]” plus 10 more

Link to MakeUseOf.com

Cool Websites and Tools [November 24th]

Posted: 24 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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2lingual – If you are searching for the latest trends on Twitter, you will most probably get results from a single language only. Either that or a mashup of all languages. What if you want Twitter results from two languages only? For that, 2lingual serves perfectly. Read more: 2lingual: Bilingual Twitter Search

 

Phras.in – People whose first language is not English often find themselves deciding between two different English phrases or sentences. Both phrases sound fine but which one is the right one to use? Phras.in helps you decide. Phras.in is a free to use website that helps you determine which one of two phrases or sentences is the right one to use. Read more: Phras.in: Check Which One Of Two Phrases Is Correct

 

 

Ultimate CSS Gradient Generator – For web developers, HTML5 introduced many exciting new features. The ability to specify gradients using pure CSS3 was one of these features. This property is what made gradient editors like Ultimate CSS Gradient Generator possible. Ultimate CSS Gradient Generator is a free online tool for web developers. Read more: Ultimate CSS Gradient Generator: Quickly Generate Great Looking Gradients

 

 

Kindergarten Worksheets – Whether you are the teacher or the parent of a kindergartener, you are always on the lookout for great educational resources for the children. These resources need to be tailored to suit the children's age and be helpful in learning new things. Kindergarten Worksheets is one such resource. Read more: KindergartenWorksheets: Free Print Out Worksheets For Kids

 

 

iTriage App – Are you feeling an unusual symptom? Do you need to find the closest hospital in your current location? Now you can easily do a quick diagnosis, learn more about various medical conditions and procedures, or find the nearest hospital or doctor in your area on your phone using iTriage mobile app. Read more: iTriageApp: Mobile Symptom Checker & Lookup

 

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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Teach An Elderly Person How To Email, Browse The Web & More With Eldy

Posted: 24 Nov 2010 05:31 PM PST

how to teach the elderly computersThere are more than 6 million people over the age of 60 who aren’t familiar with the Internet, which is understandable since most operating systems available out there just aren’t exactly geared towards the elderly. There are things that will take some time to get used to, things like file browsers that hint at lots of folders that you’ll never touch and sometimes even cryptic error messages that don’t help much in resolving a problem.

The Eldy Association is an Italian non-profit organization looking to make it easier for new computer users to learn about email, browsing the web and more. According to its website, the Association’s goal is to “reach out to the elderly and disabled community with a simple computer program that can encourage their staying active and social, thus reducing their isolation and loneliness”.

What Is Eldy?

The resulting computer program that the Eldy Association came up with is Eldy, a bundle of essential programs in a easy-to-understand interface for the elderly, with big text and simple, recognizable icons, that has been translated to 22 languages. Think of it as a blown-up mini-operating system that contains an email client, chat system, web browser and even access to a simplified version of Notepad, Eldy TV, and Skype.

Installing Eldy

Though it’s like an operating system, you can install (and uninstall) Eldy like any other program. I should mention that although Eldy is available for Windows and Linux, the version for Mac is actually in beta. After you install the version for your OS, it will ask you a few questions so you can set up your own email account and profile/username for the chat system.

how to teach the elderly computers

Here is where you get the chance to set up your own email account if you know the POP3 or IMAP settings in the “expert” route, but it can also set you up with a brand new @eldy.org email address in the “beginner” route.

computers for the elderly

What Eldy Lets You Do With Ease

Once you’re done answering those, you get The Square.

Here, you can clearly see what programs to use to perform a task. You can check your mail, browse the web, chat, and watch TV. You will have the Back button available anywhere you go for easy access to a page back or to the Square. On my Windows Vista machine, Eldy ran pretty smoothly and the experience was nice and snappy.

The email client provides simple instructions to do the basics, either read your mail, write an email or see your contacts.

computers for the elderly

I noticed that when you write an email though, a link to Eldy’s website gets appended, which may not be a bad thing as it could help your fellow senior friends learn about this easy-to-use tool.

The web browser is also easy to use with a main portal (or homepage) where you can see bookmarks you’ve set. You can adjust the font size using a slider with magnifier icons.

computers for elderly

In the chat area, you can choose to join a public chatroom to meet new people or chat with friends on the Eldy network.

computers for elderly

If you need more features, like video chatting, you can use Skype, which is under Useful Tools in the Square.

computers for elderly

You can also edit your profile and detail what you are doing, which would be like tweeting or posting a status update.

computers for the elderly

You can watch Eldy TV which means you basically get access to Hulu, YouTube, Fancast and the like. Under Useful Tools, you get access to Notepad (since you probably won’t need a full office suite), Skype like I mentioned before, and a document browser, where you can select images and files to view and delete.

how to teach the elderly computers

There’s no program to help users practice their typing, which could be very useful. Overall though, Eldy is an excellent tool for seniors to learn how to use simple computer programs. Not only that, Eldy has even made things extremely easy for anyone that actually wants to show and teach a senior how to email, chat, etc.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are also programs geared for children. If you want to teach your kid, for example, a fun way to learn the alphabet, there are games just for that. Want to teach them how to type? Here are 3 excellent websites. Want to teach them computer languages? There is Scratch. There are many educational websites to keep kids happy.

Do you know of any other programs that facilitate tasks for new computer users?  Or have you been trying to teach an elderly person how to use the Internet? Share your thoughts and stories in the comments!


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How To Get Old DOS Computer Games To Run On Windows 7

Posted: 24 Nov 2010 03:31 PM PST

old computer dos gamesMicrosoft's antiquated and since-retired operating system MS-DOS (short for Microsoft Disk Operating System) was home to some fantastic games. Many of these old DOS computer games now sit dusty and unloved in attics across the world, next to old copies of Lotus Word Pro and your Windows 98 Second Edition CD.

So maybe it's time to drop the gamepad, leave the Wii-mote and shun Kinect. Get that box of floppies and badly scratched CDs out of the attic, brush up on your command line skills and enjoy some of the finest computer games ever developed.

If you're a Windows 7 user with a nostalgic craving for the classics, you're going to need a bit of help getting everything up and running. Enter DOSBox.

MS-DOS Emulation

In order to create an environment in which your ageing games will feel most comfortable, you're going to need to run a DOS emulator. There's a couple available, but my personal favourite (because it's easy and just works) is DOSBox.

old computer dos games

You can download DOSBox here, being a Windows user you'll want the top option. It's worth mentioning the large array of different versions to choose from – DOSBox will work just as well on Linux and Mac, as well as FreeBSD, Solaris and other more obscure platforms.

Once downloaded, double click the executable installer.

how to get dos games to work

You'll be prompted to accept the licence, create shortcuts and finally choose an install directory. Hit the Install button when you're ready, then Close.

Using DOSBox

Find the DOSBox folder in your Start menu or use the desktop shortcut you just created. You'll notice two windows open: the DOSBox status window and the main DOSBox window. You’ll want the main one.

how to get dos games to work

Before you can run any games you'll need to mount a directory as your virtual C:\ drive. This is what DOSBox will use as a local hard drive, any folders therein can then be accessed with the C: prefix (more on this in a bit).

To mount a folder of your choice, type:

mount c <folder>\

I made a directory called dosgames on my C:\ drive, so to mount it I would type:

mount c c:\dosgames\

how to get dos games to work

Now you can place any games you wish to run into the folder you mounted. You will need to mount a folder each time you run DOSBox in order to access the juicy games stored within.

It's probably worth brushing up on your command line skills too. Those of you who are veterans of the DOS era will probably encounter little trouble, but users who are new to the command line may struggle.

Navigation is done through the cd command, so to change directory from the default DOSBox Z:\> prompt you'd type:

C:\

To change to the C: drive you just created, then:

cd /doom/

This would take you to the doom directory, if you had one. There is help available within DOSBox, at any time type help /all for a complete list of supported commands.

The Games

So you've set up DOSBox, and you even know how to use it. With your virtual C:\ drive created it's time to fill that folder you mounted with classic games.

There's a couple of ways to get hold of old DOS computer games. The most obvious method is using your original CD or floppy disk. To do this, create a new folder within the mounted location (so for me, it's C:\dosgames\) and drag the contents of the CD/floppy into it.

You can then navigate there, using the cd command and run the game by typing:

run <executable>

Replace <executable> with the name of the game's executable file, and enjoy yourself.

old computer dos games

Maybe you've scratched your old CDs, no longer have a floppy drive or are just plain lazy – you can always download the games you own. This is not illegal provided you own the original media, though if you download any games you don't own then be aware that you're breaking the law.

I'm not going to name any websites from which to download said games, though you'll probably find what you're looking for using torrents and private trackers.

As usual, put any games you've downloaded within the folder you mounted. You'll then be able to access them through DOSBox.

Last but certainly not least there's abandonware. This software’s legality is still contested for a variety of reasons, but there’s a flurry of websites that are jam-packed with games – and we've got an article all about them.

Conclusion

DOSBox should be your ticket to old-school gaming on Microsoft's latest operating system. Sometimes it’s nice to take a break from the latest and greatest and enjoy the golden oldies. If you think this is awesome, then check out our other article on SCUMMVM for point-and-click goodness. You'll be playing classics like Cannon Fodder, Theme Park and Commander Keen for hours!

Have you played with DOSBox? Got any favourites from years gone by? Let us know in the comments.


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4 Steps To Make Sure You Have Secured Your Hosting & Domain Account

Posted: 24 Nov 2010 01:31 PM PST

secure web hostingStarting your own website or blog is not necessarily a complicated or difficult process. These days, registering a domain and hosting a site is fast, easy and relatively inexpensive. For a new website or blog, you can be up and running in a matter of a couple of days, assuming you’ve already designed and written your website.

For a new website, that’s great. You might have a few visitors trickling in at first. Maybe you went for the economical approach and opted for the cheapest hosting plan you could find. During those early days, you can withstand an occasional hour or two of downtime when other users consume all of the bandwidth – no one will scream at you.


However, once your traffic starts taking off and you establish a certain level of readership and a regular following – you’ll find that people depend on you for regular content. They depend on your uptime. You’ll also find that you’re more likely to get attacked by hackers looking to either sabotage your site or, even worse, hijack your domain – you need secure web hosting and to protect your domain.

If you haven’t seen Aibek’s interview on Foundora, check it out. He describes how the MUO domain was once hijacked and held hostage for $2000. Seriously. So here at MUO, we are now really big into security. You can check out Saikat’s list of browser security checks or Damien’s list of WordPress security plugins. However, what I want to touch on a bit today is your domain and hosting security.

Protecting Your Domain

At first, that domain name that you’ve registered seems ridiculously cheap considering that it represents what should eventually become your brand. The domain name is how people are going to learn about you, link to you, and recognize you. In time, it will represent everything that your website stands for. It’s going to serve on the front lines of your SEO battles. As your site grows, your domain name becomes the single most critical element of your business.

secure web hosting

Private domain registration is your first wall of defense against domain hijacking. The problem with the early days of domain registration is that you had your private contact information tied to the Whois record – meaning anyone that searched for the registration records of your URL could identify where you lived, your phone number and your email address. With your email address, hackers may start to send phishing emails with the hopes that you’re gullible enough to bite.

private domain registration

By now, you should know better than to click on such emails. Never, ever log into your domain account from a link within an email. Always go directly to the registrar’s website and log into your domain account directly. Even though it might double the yearly cost of your domain, private domain registration will also cut down on telemarketers. Before I started using private domains, I had SEO companies constantly calling to ask whether I wanted to use their services for my website. Avoid the hassle – hide your identity with private registration.

Protecting Your Website

There are a number of areas within your hosting account that you’ll need to double check to verify that you have a secure web hosting account. The most important is obviously the password that you use to log into the hosting account itself. Go into the account settings and change your password.  Most hosts now feature a gauge that tells you how strong your password is.

private domain registration

Choose a password that has capital and lower case numbers, letters, and even a special character or two thrown in for good measure. Try to follow the guidelines below for the best security.

  • Never use the same password for your host account as you used for your domain registration.
  • Never use the same password for domain registration as you use for your email account.
  • Use a unique, strong password on all three systems – just make sure they are all different.

By avoiding the same password on different accounts, you significantly reduce the risk that if one account is ever hacked, the hacker will not have access to your other systems.

Another security concern to review on your site is folder permissions. Check folders within your public_html folder to ensure that they are either 755 or 644 for www readability. You should not find any folders that are set with 777 for permissions.

private domain registration

Also, take some time to review the security tools that your web host offers. Sometimes there are some pretty cool utilities that you can use to further lock down your hosting account and private directories or files from prying eyes. For example, I’ve discovered that my hosting account offers a useful password protection feature on any select web directory that I choose.

Finally, go into your admin panel for your MySQL databases and double check all of the passwords there too. They shouldn’t match any of your other passwords, and they should be ultra-strong passwords, just like all of your others.

secure web hosting

In the end, the ultimate security in protecting your domain from being hijacked comes from the private domain registration service. For a small additional fee, you’ll have tremendous peace of mind knowing that scammers, spammers and other criminals can’t see or even hope to access your personal information. Beyond that tool, make sure to lock down your hosting and email accounts as well, and you’ll enjoy years of trouble-free website ownership.

What other tips do you have for protecting your domain from hijackers or hackers? Has your domain ever been hijacked? Share your advice and experiences in the comments section below.

Image credit: IngerM


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Hot Tech Deals [Nov 24th]

Posted: 24 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. TODAY ONLY Asus Intel G41 Intel Dual-Core E6500 2.93GHz Barebones Kit $244.99AR Free Shipping

  2. Corsair CMPSU-650TX 650W ATX Power Supply (80PLUS, Active PFC) $54.99AR Free Shipping

  3. LG 37LH55 37 inch LCD HDTV (1080p, 240Hz) $599.77 Free Shipping

  4. Sapphire Radeon HD5870 1GB DDR5 HDCP PCI-E Video Card (Eyefinity, DX11) $234.99AR Free Shipping via code VGA112235

  5. Epson Stylus NX420 Color Inkjet All-In-One Printer w/ Wireless Networking $49.99 Free Shipping

  6. AOC F19S 19in Widescreen LCD Monitor $74.99

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set


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10 Websites That Help You Recycle Or Reuse Old Stuff & Protect Our Environment

Posted: 24 Nov 2010 11:31 AM PST

protect our environmentAs a website we run off a server probably kept in a large databank somewhere. Servers do have a hefty carbon footprint, so it's a bit strange for us to be preaching about eco-consciousness. But hey, we have to get the word out.

And the word is that although the web is contributing something to global warming, it's also the loudest bugle playing in support of it. Even Greenpeace has a website after all. But this post is not about demerits of technology, but the meritorious ways it can be put to use for the environment. One way is to promote recycling or reusing stuff like electronic gizmos instead of making them fodder for landfills or a rag pickers livelihood.

If your eco-conscience starts to prick, then head out to any of these ten web resources. They can lend a green hand to help you recycle or reuse old stuff and protect our environment.

Story of Stuff

protect our environment

Let's start by puncturing our consumerist grandstanding by some scenes for thought. For instance, The Story of Electronics is a voice against the electronics industry's 'design for the dump' mentality and advocates product take backs to spur companies to make less toxic, more easily recyclable and longer lasting products. The educational clip asks the community to petition companies for responsible recycling.

eCycler

If you give away stuff, then this site can be of help because it connects you with others who may be willing to take them. So, you can extend any stuff's appointed date with the landfill by listing all your items and giving them away to others in your local area. You can also participate by picking up stuff and selling them to recycling plants for cash. Going green takes on a different meaning! (See our directory mention).

Freecycle

Freecycle is a large mailing list with 7,603,875 members around the world. The not-for-profit group aims to connect givers with receivers via local groups. You can join one in your area and see the items that are being given away. You can mail across your own stuff.

Recycle Bank

ways to protect the environment

Recycle Bank follows the principle of 3 R's – Recycle, Redeem, and Reward. It rewards households for recycling stuff by gifting RecycleBank Points that can be used to shop at over 1,500 local and national businesses. Points are earned according to the material that gets recycled. Recycle Bank collaborates with the local municipalities on one hand and retailers on the other. According to Wikipedia, Recycle Bank is in 125,000 households in the United States in over 35 municipalities (the UK has a separate login site).

Call 2 Recycle

ways to protect the environment

Cell phones and batteries get dumped by the dozen every day. They not only consume landfills but the compounds used in their manufacture are a long term source of toxicity. Call2Recycle tries to lessen the impact as the only free rechargeable battery and cell phone collection program in North America. The program is run by a non-profit. The program covers 30,000 collection sites in the U.S. and Canada where you can drop off any cell phone with or without batteries.

Recycle Now

ways to protect the environment

This is a UK based website that seeks to promote recycling through information and promotion. You can educate yourself by watching videos on how some household stuff is recycled. Find out if certain products can be recycled easily; and where. Then a small section promotes learning about recycling at school.

Gigoit

protect the environment

The name stands for 'Garbage In, Garbage Out'. The site covers the US, Canada, and UK in its reuse and recycling efforts. There's a small search box which is locates reusable stuff people may be willing to give away. You can specify the distance and the search for the stuff. Similarly you can list your own stuff and save it from reaching the landfills. Gigoit distributes all sorts of reusable items.

Selling Bin

protect the environment

You can tap into a network of recyclers and sell your old stuff via a buyback offer by these retailers. Electronics to things like books, movies, and even jewelry are covered. The idea is simple – instead of one recycler, you have many who email you a buyback offer after you send in an email with the product details. The reply lets you know the offer and shipping information.

Take My Mac

protect the environment

An Apple gizmo is a lifestyle device and it's safe to say that when the latest version comes out, you wouldn't be caught with one that's a couple of generations old. Takemymac.com takes back your old Apple device in any condition and even pays you for it. If it is of no use, then the service recycles it for you for free. They even offer to wipe the data securely from your device. The site also has a rewards program if you refer others. This service is for the US only.

Greener One

protect our environment

The product information web service helps out by providing a green index for lots of products on its roster. As a user you can also contribute to the knowledge bank. The green index looks at factors like – are the materials used harmful to the environment? What kind and how much waste is created in making the product? Can the product be recycled? Does the manufacturer have a recycling program? Is the product bio-degradable?, etc. Consumers can make informed decisions and decide on reuse or recycling or not even buy an environmentally sensitive product in the first place.

The sheer numbers of web resources that talk about recycling, reusing, and environmental safety prove that the green movement is well and truly on. Eco apps like these and many more that you will find in our directory are setting the pace. We have to give it just a push more. Would you agree on the virtues of recycling to protect our environment?

Image: Shutterstock


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How To Automate Files & Folders Management Using Belvedere [Windows]

Posted: 24 Nov 2010 10:31 AM PST

file management systemHow many times have you moved document files from the Desktop to a specific document folder, or imported music files from a music folder to the iTunes library, or converted downloaded movies to a format playable by your multimedia players? Have you ever thought that today’s extremely smart computer should be able to automate these routines instead of making you do them manually?

Yet, doing these routines manually is exactly what many people do; it’s totally the opposite of the “computer is made to make our life easier” philosophy. Luckily, there are several applications that could help us automate those mundane tasks and give us more time to do our real job. One of those tools is Belvedere.

Distributing The Downloads

Belvedere is a files and folders manager created by the folks at Lifehacker. It’s inspired by a similar tool for Mac called Hazel. We’ve mentioned Belvedere several times before, but never got around to giving it a more thorough look. To give you a clearer picture of what Belvedere can do, let’s take a look at how I use the tool to manage my downloads.

As a download freak who has just found a better internet provider, I fetch (almost) everything that interests me off the net (even though most of it will just be deleted later). So it’s only logical that my download folder is cluttered with all kinds of files and folders. What I did to resolve the problem was set some rules to distribute those files to their respective folders.

I opened the application and clicked the “plus (+)” button under the “Folders” pane to add a folder to monitor. In this case, I added my download folder to the list.

file management system

Then while selecting the Downloads folder on the left pane, I clicked the “plus (+)” button on the “Rules” pane on the right to add a rule.

I was going to create a rule to move all downloaded PDF files out of  the Downloads folder to a folder especially assigned for PDFs, so in the “Create a rule” window, under the “conditions to follow” I specified that the file extension should be PDF; and under “what actions should be done if the specified conditions are met” I told Belvedere to move the file to a folder called PDFs in drive D:\.

file management software

Then, to activate the rule, I checked the “Enabled” box at the top right corner of the window.

The available conditions that you could choose are: Name, Extension, Size, and Date.

file management software

While the available actions are: Move, Rename, Send to Recycle Bin, Delete, Copy and Open the file(s).

file management software

Other than the PDF rule, I also created several other rules for my download folder, such as to move music files to the iTunes Library, movie files to the Movie folder, comic files to folders according to their titles, etc. You can add as many folders as you want to watch and as many rules to follow as you need.

Belvedere is also capable of helping you to keep your Recycle Bin clean by routinely emptying it in a time duration that you specified.

file management system

Other Possible Usages

As far as I know, Belvedere is the best alternative among other similar applications on Windows. Using the combination of conditions and actions, anybody could easily create rules to manage his/her files and folders. There are many possible usages of Belvedere that you could come up with. Here are several ideas that I personally use:

  • Automatically move movie files to a folder where they will be converted to iPod friendly format with the help of DropFolders. Then the results will be moved to another folder to be picked up by iTunes.
  • Move a specifically tagged folder to another location. Since I always put all materials related to a project inside a folder under the “Currently Working On” folder, I could tag a finished project folder with “~Done” and that folder with everything inside will be moved to the “Finished Projects” folder.
  • Create a backup copy of every work-related file inside my Dropbox folder. So every file that I put inside the Dropbox folder at my office will be copied to another folder on my home computer. Even if that file is deleted from the Dropbox folder, I will always have a backup copy at home.

Can you think of other creative uses for this file and folders management system? Share your ideas using the comments below. And don’t forget to check out our other similar articles.

Image credit: Lifehacker

 

 

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Getting The Jump On Black Friday Deals With These Sites & Mobile Apps

Posted: 24 Nov 2010 09:31 AM PST

black friday dealsFor those of you who take advantage of Black Friday deals (the following Friday after Thanksgiving day in the US), several websites and iPhone apps exist to help you locate coupons, compare prices, and look for the best stores, on and offline.

The following sites are limited to the ones I found most accessible and easy to navigate. If you know of others I overlooked, please share them in the comment section.

Black Friday App

For all of us iPhone users, there are a handful of apps featuring links to coupons and adverts from various retail businesses. One of the two I like is called, well, Black Friday (iTunes Store link). It lists products by category and store, and allows you to save those items to your shopping list without having to register for an account. 

When you use the search feature for a product, the app delivers coupons from different merchandisers.

black friday deals

You can also of course share your search results to your Facebook, Twitter account, and email. Black Friday has a clean visual interface and is not cluttered with long alphabetical lists of products.

TheFind

TheFind (iTunes Store link) begins with a search engine in which the developers say their app is “guaranteed to show you the most matching products & find the BEST PRICES compared to another shopping app”.  To use this app, you manually type keywords or use the “Red Laser” barcode scanner for an existing product.

Search results include a comparison of prices and the stores where the product will be on sale. The Nearby feature is very useful for finding deals locally offline.

black friday online deals

I searched for an 8GB iPod Nano and discovered a refurbished one available locally for $50 less than a similar model Nano, found using the Black Friday app.

Black Friday @ GottaDeal.com

In terms of web resources, a couple of sites make claim to the “Official Black Friday Deals Site”.  Black Friday @ GottaDeal.com contains what you might expect, including links to online ads, coupons, and other deals.

black friday online deals

The left side of the homepage lists links to the major stores, well as icon links to the “most popular sale ads”.

black friday online deals

If you register an account, you can get notified when new Black Friday ads are posted, as well as participate in the forum which consists of hundreds of discussions for finding deals on particular products, even before Black Friday. You also need to be registered in order to establish a shopping list. This site is the most well designed and visually oriented of other sites I viewed.

TheBlackFriday.com

The other official Black Friday 2010 website is TheBlackFriday.com. This site looks to be totally link-based to thousands of deals, coupons, and ads from all the popular stores.

best black friday deals

Categories exist for popular Black Friday ads and Hot Deals by a handful of categories, including deals for laptops, cameras, MP3 players, cell phone deals, and toys.

Store links on the site are not as helpful, in my view, because they consist of simple alphabetical lists of items. Searching by categories and doing specific product searches seems to be the best way to use this site.

BlackFriday.info

BlackFriday.info claims also to be an official site. It's mainly a directory of links to ads and merchants. Providing your email address on the site will get you daily email updates of coupons and other deals posted on the site. I would suggest providing a temporary email address just in case it’s shared with other marketing lists.

best black friday deals

You can also create a shopping list on this site by registering. Product links are organized by categories for each listed store.

Black Friday on Twitter

No doubt there will be dozens of Twitter accounts for Black Friday ads. As of this writing, blackfriday_fm seems to have the most followers so far.

black friday deals

Blackfriday_fm also of course links to its own site directory of links as well as iPhone (iTunes Store link) and Android app. In addition, it includes Black Friday News of updates about early bird specials, store hours for major merchandisers, and hot deals on highlighted products.

The above list is not definitive by a long shot. For additional recommendations check out our Black Friday list from last year. Individual merchants will also be marketing products on their respective Facebook and Twitter accounts.

If you know of other useful resources, please let us know about them.

Image Source: Shutterstock.com

 

 

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xPUD: A Quick Booting, Easy To Use 64 MB Linux Distro [Linux]

Posted: 24 Nov 2010 08:31 AM PST

easy linux installBooting in under 10 seconds and centering around web browsing and media, xPUD is nothing if not a lightweight operating system. Start it up and you’ll see a clean interface, allowing you to quickly find what you’re looking for and get to work. It might not be the ideal operating system for general use, but if you want something that boots quickly and barely uses any resources it’s a keeper.

Not enough? The system is expandable, both with official plugins and ones you can roll yourself. In theory any Linux application could be bundled with xPUD, meaning this distribution could turn into your ultimate lightweight toolkit, if you’re willing to put in some work.

Simple

Whether you’re booting from a USB key or CD, the first thing you’ll notice is that this distribution starts quickly. When it does, you’re greeted with a simple startup screen:

easy linux install

Here you can connect to the wireless network of your choice, and turn off the system. You’ll also find a clock and your current battery life; neither have a place on a taskbar in xPUD because there is no taskbar.

To the left are four options: “Home”, which represents the main screen above; “Menu”, which lets you pick an application to launch; “File”, which shows you the file browser; and “Setting”, which is self-explanatory.

Click “Menu” and you’ll see what programs you can launch:

easy linux

By default there’s not much, though that can be changed (keep reading). Launch a program and it will be neatly integrated into the interface:

easy linux

This kind of integration is pretty slick in my opinion, though those wanting to use up more of their screen real estate need only to move their mouse to the top-right corner. The usual buttons will pop up there, allowing you to maximize the current program.

The “File” menu gives you a quick way to browse the file system, also integrated into the interface. This is very useful if you’re using xPUD as a recovery system.

Finally, there is the “Setting” menu, which allows you to configure the system:

easy linux

If you need to change your language or network settings this is the place. There’s also a button for installing additional applications, but that didn’t work for me. Don’t worry; it is possible to get more applications working than Firefox!

Expansion Packs

Like xPUD, but need a bit more software? Don’t worry: there’s an online collection out there already:

easy linux install

As you can see the packages include Dropbox and Open Office, as well as additional drivers for the system. These packages can be integrated with your xPUD system; simply slip them into the “/opt” folder of whatever disk you’re using to boot xPUD from. Note that only 6 such packages can start at boot, though.

You’ll find that these add-ons an quickly make your 64 MB system take up 300 MB or more; Open Office alone is 121 MB. But if you need additional functionality it’s good to know these packages are around. You’ll find the official xPUD extensions and a collection of “testing” extensions.

Can’t find what you’re looking for? If you’re handy with Linux you might consider rolling your own packages; find instructions on the xPUD forums.

Get xPUD

Ready to give xPUD a spin? Download xPUD here. You’ll also find instructions on getting it running from a burnt CD, in Virtualbox, or from a USB disk using a custom version of Unetbootin, the easiest way to boot Linux from a USB key.

Overall xPUD is a great example of Linux at its best: lean, lightweight and out of your way. I’m having a lot of fun imagining the possibilities of this distribution and hope you have fun with it too. Let me know of any successful experiments in the comments below.


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2 Great Sites That Help You Track & Review All The Things You Love

Posted: 24 Nov 2010 07:31 AM PST

find your friends onlineAs we move more and more of our daily activities online, we are generating a lot of data about ourselves. The things we watch, listen to, play, rent, and buy all say something about us, and if you were to gather all that information into one place it could be pretty useful.

To whom, you ask? Our trusted friends and family, for starters. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather get a book recommendation from a close friend than from a system, regardless of how accurate the system’s algorithm is. The data we create is perfect for this.

In this article, I’ll show you two great websites that connect to your existing accounts and allow you to take the things you’ve consumed, review them, and share that information with others.

Blippy

find your friends online

Blippy is a popular website – or specialized social network - that lets you share your purchases and see what your friends are buying online and in real life. You can communicate about and share your reviewed purchases with friends by syncing your e-commerce accounts on sites like iTunes, Netflix, Woot, eBay, etc.

find your friends online

To start utilizing Blippy, just log in with your Facebook account. You’ll be prompted to enter your email address and pick a username to create your account. Then you’ll be set to start linking some accounts. If you’re worried about security, Blippy states that their page is “secure and protected with bank-level data security”.

Just so you know, Blippy will confirm with you which purchases you want everybody to see. Once it finds your purchases, you can begin writing reviews that will help your friends/family find things they may be interested in, but never knew about.

Why would you want to share your purchases with friends? Rather than trying to answer that with some random example or creative metaphor, I’ll let Blippy do the explaining:

Blippr

find your online identity

While Blippr may look and sound a lot like Blippy, I assure you it’s a completely different animal. Blippr revolves around media, like movies, books, and music. It's a way to find media that you will like fast.

How many times have you asked a friend for a book recommendation, or for what she thought of the movie she saw last weekend? How about the last time you found a great new band through a colleague? We do it, all the time. So, we thought, how can we make it better?

Blippr learns about your tastes, both as you use it and through the people you connect to. We covered the site back in July of ’09 originally, but the information is a bit dated, so let me fresh your memory.

find your online identity

Finding apps, books, games, movies, and music you'll love can be a lot easier if you didn’t have to sift through those long reviews written by people you don’t even know. Blippr allows you to connect your existing accounts with Netflix, Last.fm, Steam, and more. They’ll automatically collect the media you consume and place it in an easy-to-manage library where you can keep track of it.

You can begin by connecting through your Twitter and Facebook accounts. Share your opinions through reviews of your content and get your friends’ opinions in return. Then, you’ll start getting personalized recommendations based on all of your likes.

If you’re looking for a similar site/community, I also recommend you check out GetGlue.

Conclusion

See what I mean? Now you can take all of that data you’ve created online and put it to good use. Let it work for you and make it easier to find things you’ll love, as well as help those you care about find the things they love. By all means, this isn’t homework. Don’t think you have to write lots of in-depth reviews to get your point across. Treat them like tweets, 140 characters or less.

What do you think of these services? Will you be making use of the data you create?

Image Credit: Brailescu Cristian


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Adobe Reader X Adds Protected Mode for Windows Users, Android Gets New Features [News]

Posted: 24 Nov 2010 06:31 AM PST

Adobe has been busy improving their flagship PDF reader with enhanced security features to mark the release of Adobe Reader X.

The new version includes Protected Mode which provides a secure sandbox area within which scripts are able to run, but not affect the general working of the program or the user’s PC.

The company has been working closely with other developers who have employed similar technology, including the Microsoft Office team and the guys behind Google Chrome. The security sandbox was introduced in an attempt to reduce the risk of malware and other nasties taking advantage of your PC.


Android and Mac users however will notice a distinct lack of Protected Mode in their version (which is shares the same Adobe Reader X name), though whether heightened security is required yet for these devices remains to be seen.

Kyle Randolff, an Adobe engineer said: “A sandbox is distinguished by the restrictions it places on a piece of running code. Software, on the other hand, is evaluated based on its usefulness. Balancing these competing goods – preventing bad software from doing bad things, while allowing good software to be useful – is the impossible challenge the sandbox engineer faces.”

Android users will be treated to a few new (and previously requested) features including support for tablets, Go To Page, a search feature, the opening of Portfolios, password-protection and the ability to share PDFs via email.

Adobe has issued 7 updates this year in order to repair security holes within its Reader application, so hopes are high that Protected Mode will take some of the strain off those over-worked software engineers.

Let us know what you think of the new Adobe Reader in the comments below.


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