Friday, November 12, 2010 “Latest Hilarious Picks [MakeUseOf Geeky Fun]” plus 11 more “Latest Hilarious Picks [MakeUseOf Geeky Fun]” plus 11 more

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Latest Hilarious Picks [MakeUseOf Geeky Fun]

Posted: 11 Nov 2010 07:30 PM PST


Check out the top picks from MakeUseOf Geeky Fun during the last week.

  1. iProtester (Video)
  2. A Life on Facebook (Video)
  3. E-TOMB: Get Tweets & Likes Even When You Are Dead (Pic)
  4. Best Text Message Typo Ever (Pic)
  5. Time Machine Tweet (Pic) (Pic)
  6. Starting Business Online (Pic)

If you would like to keep up with all latest Geeky Fun additions, please subscribe to the Geeky Fun feed here. You can also subscribe and get the latest additions via email.

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Cool Websites and Tools [November 11th]

Posted: 11 Nov 2010 07:01 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.

Add Your Website Here!


Typeface Project – is a unique piece of software that can create typefaces from your facial expressions. The tool can monitor your facial gestures and then accordingly create new fonts. It uses the webcam to do it. It captures how you move your face in front of the webcam and then adjusts the typefaces. Read more: TypefaceProject: Convert Facial Expressions Into Fonts


Typing Speed Monitor – We type hundreds or thousands of words each day. TypingSpeedMonitor is a tool that lets you monitor that daily typing and provide intelligent keyboard typing statistics that can not only tell you more about your typing but also help you improve on it. The most basic information this Chrome extension provides is your typing speed. Read more: TypingSpeedMonitor: Get Your Keyboard Typing Statistics (Chrome Addon)



Screenjacker – The problem with sites that help you watch or download movies is that most of them are either illegal or spam trying to tempt you to take a survey or download unwanted stuff. Hence a site like Screenjacker is helpful when it comes to searching for legitimate movie and video sites. Screenjacker is a video search engine that lists both free and paid sites, all neatly organized and accessible. The sites are screened using McAfee Site Advisor for spyware. Read more: Screenjacker: An Online Video & Movies Search Site



DownloadTube – Most of the tools that let you download videos from the internet are cluttered with banners and pop-ups. DownloadTube is a bit different since it has a clean interface in addition to a simple functionality. Just enter the URL of an FLV file and select the format you want to download video for. Options include Windows, Mac, Flash, Mobile, audio only and MP4. Read more: DownloadTube: Convert & Download Online Videos Direct to PC



SeeTheStats – If you are a website owner looking to attract advertisers then displaying your Google Analytics data would be a good move. You could always capture screenshots from your Analytics account and put them on your site, but that means you'll have to update them as the traffic changes. SeetheStats offers a better solution. Read more: SeeTheStats: Publicly Display Google Analytics Data On Your Site


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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Download Your Entire Facebook History With The New Data Downloader

Posted: 11 Nov 2010 05:31 PM PST

download facebook historySince everybody went a bit crazy about Facebook‘s iron grip on your personal data (myself included) the team have been hard at work improving their current system.

Now it is possible to download every single bit of information you have put on Facebook, including pictures, status updates, events and messages. This is undoubtedly the control many users have been looking for, and provides a nice “grab and go” option for those fed up with the service.

The feature should have rolled out to most accounts by now, but if it’s still not working for you then you’ll just have to be patient and wait your turn.

Why Do I Want All That Data?

Maybe you’re just fed up with Facebook. You’ve been using the service for years and have watched it transform from a useful tool for organising parties into a popularity contest for the under 15′s. You want to jump ship.

Well now you can do that, except before you jump you can pack up all your data and download your Facebook history. Once you’ve found a suitable alternative, like the developing Diaspora, you can simply upload the data you once shared on Facebook. It’s also useful if you’ve ever wanted to give your Facebook account a facelift and remove all the pictures you don’t want your boss/gran to see (without losing them forever, although you should have backed them up really).

I just enjoyed looking at old status updates to be honest.

Download Instructions

You’ll find instructions to download the data in your Account Settings page. Once you’ve logged into your Facebook account click Account and then choose Account Settings from the drop-down menu.

download facebook history

On the first page of settings (cleverly titled Settings) you should notice a new option beneath Account Security that says Download your information. Click on learn more to lodge your request.

On the next screen click Download and you will be notified that for your data to be collected, you’ll need to be patient and wait for Facebook’s servers to complete the request. If you’re a bit of a Facebook addict this will probably take longer, but the download should be ready within the hour.

backup facebook

Once you’ve done that it’s a case of sitting back and waiting for the email.

save facebook history

Ding! Data’s Done

Once your .ZIP file is piping hot and golden brown on the surface it’s ready. Facebook should have emailed you a link to download the data, I received mine within 15 minutes of making the request it and the file was a surprising 62MB (I expected it to be bigger).

save facebook history

With your .ZIP downloaded you’ll then want to extract it. You’ll notice that it’s separated into a few folders: html, pictures and videos as well as a index.html and readme file.

save facebook history

The index.html file provides a handy way to browse the data in offline mode, from the comfort of your browser. You’re also free to go nuts and dive right into each folder, especially handy if you’re after a specific picture.

Your wall has essentially been preserved as it is seen on Facebook’s website, give or take the odd bit of info. Everything has been collated into one massively long HTML file, which can take a while to process.

download facebook history

Images have been subjected to Facebook’s processing and if they were uploaded prior to their recent shake-up of photo standards then you’ll find them disappointingly small, but suitable for sharing on other sites. Videos I’d previously shared were all in .FLV format, and appeared to be their original resolution (although I’ve not uploaded any HD content).


If I’m honest it’s nice to be able to take a trip down memory lane and see what you were up to a few years ago without the problems Facebook’s website repeatedly experiences. The data downloader gives you fast access to anything you’ve ever put on Facebook, and if you’re planning on shutting your account any time soon, don’t leave without grabbing your archive first.

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5 Reasons To Chat On AnybodyOutThere

Posted: 11 Nov 2010 03:31 PM PST

anybodyoutthereAnybodyOutThere is a chat platform unlike any other. While other sites will throw you into a chatroom full with strangers or find you a random chat partner to pass the time with, AnybodyOutThere was created to find you a match for whatever you want to talk about. The idea is to foster real-time human interaction and find you a person with similar interests, someone who can help you solve a problem, or give advice.

There are many ways you can approach using AnybodyOutThere. You can ask fun questions, talk about serious stuff, or make friends. Here are a few reasons why to use AnyBodyOutThere and how to go about it.

1. You Don’t Need To Sign Up

You can use AnybodyOutThere without ever signing up. You will be able to post a topic you want to chat about, browse what other people want to talk about, and finally chat with someone. However, you won’t have access to some additional features, like searching for or adding friends.

If you do decide you want to sign up and use extra features, you can either create an account with AnybodyOutThere or you can use your existing Facebook account to sign in. That’s pretty convenient!

2. It’s Easy To Find People To Chat With

It’s easy to find someone interesting based on what they want to talk about. You can browse ‘What other people want to talk about‘ and find an inspiring topic or a question you can help with. If the most recent results are just not what you’re looking for, you can select tags or filter your results by age range, country, keywords, and username.


If you’re unsure someone is right, review their profile and see what type of questions they have asked before. Just click their chat name. This may give you an idea of whether or not they are a good fit for your question.

3. You Can Let Others Find You

If you are in need, rather than looking for people, you can post your own question or problem and let others get in touch with you. You are restricted to 110 characters.

anybody out there

Your question will be published on the talk page mentioned above. This way other people know what you want to talk about and can message you.

anybody out there

AnybodyOutThere will also analyze and tag your question and suggest a list of people to talk to. If you get the wrong types of responses or if the tags don’t seem right, you can edit your post to receive a better match.

anybody out there

4. Questions Can Receive Comments

You can chat with people one on one, however, what if no one who is online can help you? People can comment on your question! So even if no expert is available right now, they may spot your question later on and provide an answer.


Creative questions can also turn into outright discussions as the example above illustrates.

To be notified of comments after you leave the page, sign up. Notifications will land in your AnybodyOutThere inbox. This way you can keep track of any responses that were made to your questions.

5. You Can Make Friends

Finally, a great reason to use AnybodyOutThere is a to make chat friends. For this last one you have to create a profile or log in using your Facebook account.

When you’re having a conversation with a someone, you can vote for them. For example if you’re enjoying the chat, give them a thumbs up. Likewise, you can give a thumbs down if you’re not happy. You can also add people to your contact list and stay in touch with them.


AnybodyOutThere comes with several great features. However, to fully appreciate this service, you must understand that it focuses on matching people based on a certain topic, rather than just matching people based on vital stats or randomly. This is what makes it stand out above general chatrooms like Yahoo Chat or other one-on-one chat platforms like ChatRoulette.

Check out the articles below to learn about other online chats:

What’s your favorite way to chat and meet new people?

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How To Make A Blog Look Self-Hosted & Professional

Posted: 11 Nov 2010 01:31 PM PST

how to make your blog look professionalAre you a blogger trying to work out what sort of blog is right for you? Are you not yet in a position to throw a lot of money at a blog, but still want something that looks professional? Have you tried self-hosting and decided that it’s more trouble than it’s worth?

There are ways to make a hosted blog look professional and even to use your own domain name with your hosted blog. We’ll take a look at a few of these tricks to get your blog looking just as good as a self-hosted WordPress blog.

Why Use A Hosted Blog?

A hosted blog is one that is run by a blogging provider such as Blogger, WordPress or Tumblr on their own site.   A self-hosted blog is where you run it yourself on your own site. There are many reasons why someone would choose a hosted blog over a self-hosted blog. It could be that you lack the technical skills or time to make much-needed changes. It might be that you don’t trust any of the web hosts you can afford on a small budget. What happens if you get hacked? What if a post gets suddenly popular?

Why WordPress?

Deciding between the available blog hosts is another question entirely. The big names are Blogger and WordPress, the differences between them largely comes down to a few main points.

Why Would You Choose Blogger?

- If you’re technically-minded you can make CSS adjustments on a Blogger blog without paying a cent.
- Blogger allows you to use your own domain without paying extra.
- Blogger allows any sort of embedded objects and Javascript, meaning you can use all sorts of widgets.
- If you want to earn money with your blog, Blogger lets you add Adsense adverts easily and allows other forms of advertising.
- Google FriendConnect will easily let your fans follow you.

Why Would You Choose WordPress?

- Even a basic WordPress setup looks quite professional.
- The “related posts” or “freshly pressed” features could bring you new readers.
- By not allowing Javascript, WordPress is making it safer for everyone.
- When viewers see your site on a mobile, automatically optimises it for them.
- If you want to move to a self-hosted option in the future, migrating from to a self-hosted WordPress is as easy as it gets.

how to make your blog look professional is certainly the more difficult and expensive option (if you want to do certain things), but as you can see there are compelling reasons to choose it. Since it’s the more difficult option, we’ll look at how to go about making your blog look even more professional.

Use Your Own Domain

This step costs a little bit. You need to pay for the domain (either through or your own registrar), plus you need to pay WordPress yearly for the ability to use your own domain. All this will put you out around US$20, but it’s an essential step towards making your hosted blog look more professional.

From your dashboard, head to the upgrades section. If you get your domain through them too it’s painless and easy to set up.

make your blog look like website

What’s also great about this step is you can easily skip it for now and do it later when you’re ready.

Use A Great Theme

Most of the free themes are quite professional-looking, but it’s worth spending a bit of time browsing to find one just right for your blog. Design a professional header for the theme you’ve chosen and personalise it somewhat.

If you’re not satisfied with the available themes or you are desperate to customise your CSS, it’s possible to upgrade to be allowed to do so. However, I think most bloggers can find what they need by using a great theme and some handy widgets.

make your blog look like website

Embedding Interesting Media

For a long time, users couldn’t embed any media in posts because WordPress didn’t want to leave users open to exploits. Nowadays, there’s a growing list of websites which supports using their own embedding code. However, if you’re not a regular reader of the forums, you might not even know just how much is supported by shortcode.

make your blog look like website

With most services, you can use a really simple code snippet to add media, eg. Vimeo:


You can even specify height and width if you like:

[vimeo w=500&h=400]

Try also YouTube, Google Video, Flickr Video, TED, Slideshare,, Soundcloud, PollDaddy Polls and more.

If your favourite video format isn’t one of the many supported, go to VodPod and add the videos (either by RSS import or manually), then use a VodPod shortcode to add it to WordPress.

Use Great Widgets users have a pre-made set of widgets available for them to use, including RSS links, Twitter, Facebook Badges, Meebo Chat, Delicious, category cloud, top posts, blank HTML, VodPod videos and more.

With a quick set-up on Vodpod to import your YouTube videos (or other videos), you can automatically display your latest videos in your sidebar. With a bit of thought put into using the RSS and blank HTML widgets and animated GIFs, you can achieve most effects you might be looking for.

how to make your blog look professional

So, Give It A Go!

Signing up with is free and quick to do. You can easily get started with your blog and try out these these embedding and widget tricks to see if you can do all you need to. Once you’ve mapped your own domain, the only giveaway that you’re using is a small link at the bottom of the page — and even that would be gone if you upgraded to edit your own CSS. Neat!

Need More To Read?

If you need more reading material, try these:

6 Essential Websites To Help You Get Your Blog Noticed
How To Set Up A Self-Hosted WordPress Blog For Free

Let us know your best tricks in the comments!

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Hot Tech Deals [Nov 11th]

Posted: 11 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. Logitech G700 Black USB RF Wireless Gaming Mouse $53.09AR via code BFKYMS

  2. EXPIRING Seagate FreeAgent Plus 1080p High Definition Media Player $59.99 Free Shipping

  3. Mirage MX 5.1ch Home Theater System + Onkyo TX-SR508 7.1ch AV Receiver $799.99 Free Shipping via code FREEGFT1110

  4. Antec TruePower New TP-750 750W ATX Power Supply (Modular, 80PLUS, ActivePFC) $66.99AR via code PSU119A

  5. Seagate Momentus 7200.4 500GB 7200RPM 2.5in Internal SATA Laptop Hard Drive $54.99 Free Shipping via code HARDOCP111XA

  6. MSI 890GXM-G65 AMD 890GX AM3 MicroATX Motherboard (SATA 6Gb/s, USB 3.0) $99.99 Free Shipping via code HARDOCP111XB

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set

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PlayOnLinux Brings Windows Games & Programs To Linux

Posted: 11 Nov 2010 11:31 AM PST

run windows programs on linuxTaking much of the pain out of using Wine, PlayOnLinux is a must-have application for any Linux gamer. Providing automated installation scripts for dozens of games – and a wide variety of other software including Google Sketchup, Photoshop and AutoCAD – this program is worth checking out if you’re dependent on Windows software but prefer Linux overall.

Installing Windows software with Wine never seems quite as simple as it sounds. Try getting your favorite software working and you’ll quickly discover that certain software works with certain Wine releases but not with others, and that a lot of software requires you first install Internet Explorer or manually find and install various DLLs.

PlayOnLinux avoids this hassle by automatically doing everything necessary for you to run particular Windows programs on Linux.

Get Play On Linux

Want to install PlayOnLinux on your machine? It’s probably best to bypass your distro’s package manager altogether, as this program needs to be up to date in order to function. Head over to the PlayOnLinux download page and you’ll find instructions for just about every distro out there. Follow those instructions and you’ll be ready to start. You’ll find PlayOnLinux in your menu under “Games“.

The Interface

Fire up this program for the first time and it will seem quite barren; don’t worry, that will change soon. Click the “Install” button on the toolbar and you can browse the supported software:

run windows programs on linux

As mentioned earlier, the focus here is very much games. Titles supported include Spore, most of the Sam and Max series and CounterStrike. Browse the PlayOnLinux repository to see if your favorites are supported.

Find the program you need to install and double-click it. This will begin the process, although what the process is depends on the program. Sometimes you’ll need to point PlayOnLinux to your CD drive, sometimes it will automatically download the program in question:

One thing is for sure: you will not need to configure the software to install it. Everything a given program needs in order to work in Linux is automatically handled by PlayOnLinux. Whether it’s an alternative version of Wine, a collection of obscure DLLs or Internet Explorer, PlayOnLinux will take care of it.

When you’re done installing a program, you’ll be asked whether you want to add a shortcut to your menu or desktop. If you’d rather load PlayOnLinux before launching a game, ignore this option; if you want a shortcut directly in your menu, select that option. You can now use your favorite software in Linux.

If you decide you want to remove a program, don’t worry: uninstallation is simple and very fast:

run windows programs on linux

But What About…?

There’s a good chance a game or piece of software you want to install isn’t supported by PlayOnLinux. This doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t work; it just means you might have to put in some manual work with Wine. This certainly isn’t for everyone, but if you want to jump in headfirst I highly recommend getting started by finding your software on the WineHQ database and seeing what you find.

Does PlayOnLinux make it easy to install any of your favorites? Let us know below. Also feel free to share any wine-related tips you might have.

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Investigate Or Troubleshoot Computer Systems With OSForensics [Windows]

Posted: 11 Nov 2010 10:31 AM PST

computer forensics softwareWhether it’s the FBI digging into a computer owned by a hacker, a company doing an internal computer audit, or a network administrator trying to figure out why a virus originated from a particular PC – the bottom line is that a thorough PC forensics analysis requires software that can dig deeply and do the job right.

In my own experiences, it’s rare that you can find free software that does a good job with this. Most police agencies across the world purchase expensive software for their computer forensics unit.

However, there are free computer troubleshoot and repair tools out there, such as the data recovery apps Guy covered and Net Tools 2008, an admin tool that Karl covered. One more free tool that is just as powerful and capable as many paid computer forensics software packages is known as OSForensics.

Conducting A Forensics Analysis

The best way to go about analyzing and troubleshooting a computer system from top to bottom is in a slow and methodical way.  The great thing about OSForensics is that it’s like a virtual briefcase where you can store all of the work you’re doing. If you have several computers that you’re working on, you can set this software up on your work PC and then map the hard drive of the remote PC for analysis. The software will let you store a “case” for each computer you’re working on.

computer forensics software

As you can see from the picture above, all of the tools are lined down the left menu bar. All you have to do is work your way down them if you’re not really sure where to start. If you have a more focused goal in mind, then skip ahead to the area of the PC you want to investigate more closely. One of the best tools for any support staff looking to identify a virus or trojan file are “hash sets.”

This area lets you analyze specific applications that you define, not only files. Each application has a set of files that you can review when you double click on the app. The Hash Set Viewer displays all have calculations for each file.

The next available tool is the ability to create a “signature.” This is useful for a long-term study, when it’s suspected that certain activities are taking place at a specific location on the computer.

advanced computer forensics

You can create a signature which will take a snapshot of files and directories. Then you can use the “compare signature” tool to check whether changes were made a few weeks or a month down the road. The software also comes with a file search utility, where you can filter results by images, office documents or compressed files.

advanced computer forensics

Even better, you can use the unique and very useful “Mismatch File Search” tool to sift through suspect directories and identify any files that the PC owner might have renamed simply to cover-up the true identify of the file. For example, renaming an image file with a “txt” extension, or a classified document with a “.jpg” extension.

Getting back to using the hash approach for file analysis, the “Verify/Create Hash” utility lets you compare a known hash value for a file (what the has value should be), and the calculated hash value for the file on this computer.

advanced computer forensics

Another area where this software really excels in forensic analysis is the ability to sift through thousands of files very quickly in order to identify specific text keywords. The first step to speed up the process is to create an index for any directory on the computer. When it’s done, it will report the number of unique words found within all of the files.

computer forensics

When it’s done, just use the “Search Index” tool to dig through files, images and emails to track down whatever specific occurrence or content that you’re looking for.

Another computer forensics tool that most Windows users will recognize is the “Recent Activity” tool. While it looks similar to the “Recent Documents” tool, this utility actually digs quite a bit deeper, searching MRU records, USB records, cookies, downloads and more. The owner might have tried cleaning up the PC already, but many people don’t understand all of the places that activity is logged – so this tool can find any remaining trace of that activity.

computer forensics

Another very cool feature is the “Deleted File Search” tool that lets you sift through the records for any indication of questionable recently deleted files. I noticed that this particular feature isn’t fool-proof. It’ll try to identify trace elements of any deleted files, but it isn’t always successful.

computer forensics

Finally, when you’re really desperate to find some remaining shred of evidence for a crime, you may need to take the “memory viewer” for a ride. This computer forensics app displays all of the hard memory addresses and how much information is stored. You can dump the contents of memory to a CSV file so you can poke around for any clues or a smoking gun.

computer forensics software

As you can see, OSForensics is pretty powerful software for anyone that has the sometimes unfortunate task of having to investigate the computer system of someone who is accused of doing something wrong. Sometimes, a proper, thorough forensics investigation of the computer can turn up compelling evidence that can make or break a case.

Have you ever used OSForensics? What do you think? Do you know of any other similar apps that are just as good or better? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Image credit: Peter Hostermann

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iVoted – Not Just An Opinion Poll But An Audience Response System

Posted: 11 Nov 2010 09:31 AM PST

opinion pollsPolls are everywhere around the internet. We here at MakeUseOf use PollDaddy for our reader polls and it works great for us. But what if we want to expand our surveys beyond the Internet?

iVoted bills itself as an “Audience Response System“. It differs itself from other polling software by allowing users to respond to a question via a number of digital venues:

  • Web poll.
  • Twitter mention via @ivoted.
  • A text message to 41411.
  • An email message to

Creating an opinion poll is easy, you simply type in your question and answers:

opinion polls

After you type in the answer, a unique “keyword” is generated for the responses. In the above example the keywords are P0EIXE and P1WOOZ. In the free version of the software these keywords are generated at random for you and there is also a limitation of 30 responses. When you upgrade to the paid plans, the number of people who are allowed to respond are increased (depending on the plan) and you can also customize keywords. For example, I might have chosen MUOYES and MUONO as my keywords.

After your results start rolling in, you will see results instantly (no need to refresh the site!)

online poll

Using iVoted is a good way to get a multi-platform response system in place with almost no hassle at all. The main differentiator between iVoted and other systems I am familiar with, is that you are able to submit votes via SMS, Twitter and email in addition to the standard web poll.

To submit a vote via Twitter, you message your keyword and mention @ivoted. To send it in via email, put the keyword in the subject line and mail it to The web link is sadly just a link, you cannot embed the poll into a webpage as far as I could tell. This would seem to be a major feature that people would want from a polling website and I would hope they add to their service soon.

opinion polls

I did run into a couple of problems, which are indicative of the ‘beta’ nature of this service.

The first was that one of my keywords was not working via SMS. Via the web it seemed to work fine, but this could really skew results if you are depending on SMS results. Also of note the SMS functionality only works in the US – it does not work with international carriers.

The second was that when I went back to edit my poll, it truncated my text after a single quote (‘). This is a problem with the code, because in the process of making the code safe from SQL injection they are mangling the actual string.

All that being said, iVoted is a decent free option for small surveys where you need multiple responses coming in from non-web sources. An alternative to iVoted is Polleverywhere which has pretty much the same functionality and prices.

I would say the main differentiator between the two is that iVotes is a “dead simple” setup while Polleverywhere has more features and other options which you can tweak based on your needs. Which website would be best for you depends on the features you need for your opinion poll.

You can participate in the poll I created for this post!

What do you think of iVoted?

  • Vote P0EIXE for I like it a lot.
  • Vote P1WOOZ for It doesn’t do anything for me.

- Mobile Text Message: Text the keyword that matches your choice to 41411
- Twitter: type the keyword that matches your choice followed by @ivoted
- Web: Go to
- Email: Email, with the keyword that matches your choice on the Subject Line.

Like (or dislike) iVoted? Do you have an alternative you swear by? Let us know in the comments!

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Create Your Own Virtual Learning Environment Using SymbalooEDU

Posted: 11 Nov 2010 08:31 AM PST

virtual learning environmentsThe Internet is dubbed as the largest library in the world. And just like any other traditional library, it’s a great place to find information and to learn about anything that interests you. Everything is just a few clicks – and a search engine – away, provided that you know how to find it. But the problem with the Internet is not about finding information. It’s about managing those mountains of data that you find.

There are many methods that you can use to manage the results of your quest for information. One of them is by creating your own “Virtual Learning Environment” using the help of SymbalooEdu. This is the educational version of a similar service called Symbaloo, which will help you to discover, manage and share your favorites sites from one elegant place.

Let’s Make It Personal

From the academic point of view, SymbalooEdu is a perfect place to organize classroom resources and also to show off teachers’ and students’ works/projects by sharing their Symbaloo pages with classmates and friends – either within a small closed community or a larger scale group. This Edu version also lets users easily embed academic-related materials like TeacherTube, Slideshare, and Google Docs.

Anybody can register to the service for free, and the company claims that there are already 50,000 SymbalooEDU-user teachers on their list.

After the quick and easy registration process, you’ll get instant access to SymbalooEdu.

virtual learning environments

Then you’ll land in a place called “Webmix” (more or less similar to the first page that you see every time you open a new tab on any modern browser – but on steroids). This is where you can arrange all of your learning materials for easy access. Your first Webmixes (EDU Teachers and EDU Tools) come with several default tiles that you can use right away. Clicking one of the tiles will open the related website in a new tab (or window).

learning environment

If you think two are not enough, you can create other Webmixes to group and collect materials from different genres. For example, you can use one Webmix for all materials related to learning classical guitar and another one to collect your regularly visited websites.

learning environment

There are two options that you can choose when adding a new Webmix. To create your own collections, choose “Add an empty webmix“. Another possibility is searching and adding ready-made Webmixes that you can find in the Symbaloo Gallery.

learning environment

Adding tiles within one Webmix is also easy. You can use the search function to find tiles related to the topic that you are currently building.

main features and tools of virtual learning environments

SymbalooEDU will present you with several results (or none). Browse and choose one from the results, or do another search.

main features and tools of virtual learning environments

After you find what you are looking for, you can drag and drop the result tile to one of the empty slots on one Webmix.

main features and tools of virtual learning environments

You can also create new tiles for websites that you can’t find. This is a great way to add your own (or your friends’) websites to your Webmix. Teachers can utilize this feature to create a Webmix which consists of the result of their students assignments and projects.

03a Create a new tile for your webmix.jpg

I suggest you play with Webmixes and discover for yourself how fun the building process is. You could get some creative ideas to use them, either for your classroom or for your own personal life.

Let’s Make It Social

Now is the time to show your tile collections off to the world (or just to friends, classmates, and/or colleagues). There’s the share button on the top right part of the interface.

04a Symbaloo - Share.jpg

The share page is quite self-explanatory. It lets you choose whether you want to add your Webmix to the Symbaloo gallery or to share it directly to your friends.

04b Symbaloo - Share With.jpg

If you choose the latter, you can choose what method you want to use to contact your friends.

virtual learning environments

To summarize, SymbalooEDU gives you the ability to create Webmixes, put and organize useful tiles within them, then lets you share Webmixes to your friends and the world while discovering new collections from other Symbaloo users. I myself discovered many useful tools that I’ve never known before from the default collections that come with SymbalooEDU.

I think this tool could be very useful, not only to enhance the teaching and learning process, but also to organize our Internet life. To optimize the use of this tool, Symbaloo’s developer suggests that users use their personalized Symbaloo page as their default browser home page.

I have barely scratched the surface here. You should try this tool yourself, and then share your thoughts and opinions using the comments below.

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6 Blogs That Will Help You Understand Economics

Posted: 11 Nov 2010 07:31 AM PST

understand economicsOne of the most common questions of the last few years has been “how did we get into this mess?” Understanding why the global economic problems occurred, and what issues are currently relevant, isn’t easy. TV pundits and politicians have their opinions, but they’re often contradictory, resulting in further confusion.

But worry not, layman economists! Although economics is complex, it doesn’t necessarily need to be out of your grasp. There are numerous blogs across the Internet that provide interesting, timely information and argument about the economy of both today and tomorrow. More importantly, the econ blogs out there are written in a language you can actually understand.

Calculated Risk

understand economics

If you’re looking for the latest information about current economic conditions in the United States and, to a lesser extent, the world, Calculated Risk is the place to be. This blog can be a little bit daunting at first because of the volume of information that it delivers and the initially obscure nature of the graphs and post titles.

Dive into the posts themselves, however, and you’ll find that Calculated Risk does a pretty good job of summarizing what’s important and leaving out what isn’t. The blog also does regular round-ups that point out the most important news of the last week and the most important upcoming announcements.

Calculated Risk doesn’t delve much into economic history or theory, but it’s an amazing blog for people who want to learn about what’s happening right now. They also have really awesome graphs!

Carpe Diem

what is economics

Staffed by Mark Perry, a professor of economics at the University of Michigan, Carpe Diem is a centrist current economics blog that tends to skew towards covering “weird” or “unique” topics – one series of posts argues that increasing voter turnout would not have any major effect on the outcomes of elections, for example. Whatever the topic, however, Mark does a good job of providing clear posts that don’t fall into using too much economic mumble-jumbo.

Carpe Diem is also one of the few blogs that has been posting positive economic news on a fairly regular basis. If you’re a glass-half-full kind of person you’ll probably enjoy this blog.

China Financial Markets

economic systems

There is no question that China is an important part of the global economy, but the economics of the country in which a sixth of the world’s population resides isn’t usually explored by western media outlets. China Financial Markets fills that gap.

While published in a blog format, China Financial Markets is more like a single-article online magazine. New posts occur only about once a week, but they’re incredibly long and very detailed – I’d say the average post is between 1,000 and 2,000 words. This is probably the hardest blog listed here to understand, and at least part of that difficulty is due to the fact that the posts may touch on people, objects and locations you’ve never heard of before. It’s an incredibly insightful blog, however, and well worth your time.


economic systems

This pop-econ blog is, like the book of the same name, focused on strange and unusual economic outcomes that occur throughout the world. The blog features posts from the authors of Freaknomics, but includes occasional posts from other contributors as well.

You won’t find much serious economic talk on this blog, but what you will find are engaging posts about economics that are easy to read and easy to understand. If you’re very new to reading about economics, and you’re not ready to jump into the heavier stuff just yet, reading Freakonomics for awhile can get you into the right state of mind – and the fact that this blog isn’t serious business doesn’t mean you won’t learn anything.

The Big Picture

economic systems

If you take Calculated Risk’s tendency to post cool graphs, add a dash of political opinion, and smother the whole thing with some in-depth economic analysis, what do you get? The Big Picture.

Created by Barry Ritholz (the author of Bailout Nation), a financial journalist and money manager, The Big Picture provides timely posts about current economic events and laces them with engaging, well written commentary. Although the author of this blog has Wall Street ties, this is not a blog built to sell the author’s services or trumpet Wall Street’s successes while neglecting its failures. Instead, The Big Picture acts as a watchdog – many of the blog’s posts are about how poor behavior on the part of Wall Street is having negative economic consequences.

The Conscience of a Liberal

understand economics

There are few economists who are controversial as Paul Krugman, the Noble Prize winning professor who, as the title of his blog suggests, stands defiantly on the political left. What really makes Krugman’s blog stand out from the crowd, however, is the ease with which he makes his economic arguments accessible. Although he occasionally falls into deeply academic talk, his posts are for the most part laid out in layman’s terms. They address specific points, as well, which makes it easier for economic newbies to follow what’s being discussed.

The Conscience of a Liberal is a bit of a pessimistic blog (at least at the moment) so be warned that you may come away deeply afraid that you and everyone you know will lose their jobs and never be able to find another one, ever. There is a reason why the New Yorker once ran a comic depicting Krugman as a street preacher foretelling the end of days.


Reading these blogs won’t necessarily turn you into an economics professor overnight. These blogs will, however, give you a much better perspective on current events. So what are you waiting for? Start learning, real good!

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Paragon Virtualization Manager 2010 Professional Giveaway Winners

Posted: 11 Nov 2010 07:00 AM PST

Switching your laptop and maintaining (migrating) the data structure will never be a problem again — especially for the 50 winners of the Paragon Virtualization Manager 2010 Professional giveaway winners!

Every one of these winners will receive a free full license for Paragon Virtualization Manager 2010 Professional worth $69.95!

Are you one of them? Let’s find out.

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Congratulations! Your license will be send via email. Please allow up to 5 days for processing.

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