Tuesday, November 16, 2010

MakeUseOf.com: “Vaja ivolution Top iPhone 4 Case Review and Giveaway” plus 17 more

MakeUseOf.com: “Vaja ivolution Top iPhone 4 Case Review and Giveaway” plus 17 more

Link to MakeUseOf.com

Vaja ivolution Top iPhone 4 Case Review and Giveaway

Posted: 16 Nov 2010 08:00 AM PST

Among all of the iPhone cases that I’ve reviewed recently, I have to admit that the most luxurious one, the one that exhilarated me the most when discovering the case was from Vaja.

And it didn’t come as a surprise. Vaja’s cases are in a price league of its own. But does the case offer as much as they charge for it?

This $80 case is simply known as the iVolution Top Black Series for iPhone 4 (in black and lime green). It’s an inverted flip-style case that isn’t really that common among current day iPhone users but Vaja managed to pull it off decently.

First impressions are important and Vaja knows this. The case comes in a rainbow-ish box that’s really stunning. Unwrapping it was part of the fun.

The box also serves as some protection during shipping and transit. Since you’ve paid $80 for the case, it should arrive in mint condition, am I right?

Although I’m not a “lime green” kind of guy, the colour wasn’t that bad, to be honest. This Black Series case follows the Vaja tradition of offering a selection of customisable colour schemes — black on the outside and choose from 30 colours for the interior. They are then stuck together using an adhesive. Customising takes a droning 35 days.

The leather used for the exterior is a grainy cowhide that’s wonderfully textured but I found it to be slightly thin. I was able to feel the construction of the frame beneath the leather. It also grips the iPhone very tightly as it slides down from the top to fit into the case. As you can clearly see, access to the volume controls and mute switch are completely unobstructed. The front cover flips downwards, revealing the dock connector. This may be a bit annoying because the case has to be left opened when charging the phone. It also won’t fit into a dock with the case on.

A small flap holds the front cover in place when closed, even allowing access to the headphone jack and sleep button. The upper right back panel has a section cut out for the iPhone’s camera, leaving it exposed. This may be a deal-breaker for some.

All in all, the Vaja iVolution Top Black Series iPhone 4 case is luxurious and offers better (more complete) protection than other cases on the market; and manages to be stylish while doing so. However, it may prove to be cumbersome when charging and docking.

The good: all-round protection, stylish, prevents iPhone’s screen from collecting dust.

The bad: iPhone’s camera left exposed, cannot be docked with the case on, front cover must be left open when charging.

Buy it from Vaja’s online store for $80 and if you’re not too picky, several colours are currently in stock for immediate shipping.

Oh and we’ve got one to give away. You guessed it, a black and lime green one. Interested?

How do I enter?

It’s simple, just follow the instructions.


Join our Facebook page by liking us. If you’re already following us, you may skip this step.

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


You’re almost done. Now, all that’s left to do is to LIKE the post. This step is optional but why not spread the love?

And that’s it! You’re done!

Giveaway eligibility
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Individuals who are over the age of 18. If you are under 18, get your parents to participate on your behalf;
Individuals who reside in a country embargoed by the United States; Belgium, Norway, Sweden, or India are not permitted to enter.

This giveaway begins now and ends after 300 submissions. The winner will be selected at random and announced via email.

Spread the word to your friends and have fun!

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The 4 Best Blu-Ray Players You Should Consider Buying

Posted: 16 Nov 2010 07:31 AM PST

best blu ray playerIt’s been some time since Blu-Ray won the high definition media war, and it’s starting to show. Blu-Ray discs are available at every major retailer and can be rented from many services including Netflix and RedBox. Once you’ve laid eyes on a Blu-Ray movie it’s easy to see what the hype is about.

Of course, you can’t play a Blu-Ray player on any old DVD equipment. Sure, the disc might fit, but you’ll receive nothing but errors if you try to play it. You’ll instead need to venture out and buy a new Blu-Ray player, but this can be confusing because there are numerous choices available across a board range of prices.

So which are the best Blu-Ray players?

Sony BDP-S570

best blu ray player

Sony has always been the driving force behind Blu-Ray, so it isn’t too surprising to discover that Sony offers an excellent mid-range Blu-Ray player that provides a buffet of features.

In terms of Blu-Ray playback, the BDP-S570 does what you’d expect – play the discs. It provides excellent image quality and full support for the handful of 3D Blu-Rays currently available. The user interface is slick, as well, and should be familiar to anyone who has recently used another Sony media player or a PlayStation 3.

A host of other functionality is included in the BDP-S570, as well. You can stream media over WiFi from a number of free and paid services such as Netflix, YouTube and Pandora. These features don’t have anything to do with playing Blu-Ray discs, but they’re still nice to have.

LG BD550

blu ray players

This slim LG player is an entry-level offering that doesn’t offer a lot of features but fulfills it’s primary function well. Blu-Ray discs play nearly as well on the LG BD550 as they do on the best Blu-Ray players that are several times more expensive. The interface is fairly intuitive and discs load quickly.

The LG BD550 also includes compatibility with some streaming services, like NetFlix and Pandora. However, there is no WiFi on this player, so you’ll need a wired Internet connection available in your home theater if you want to use these features.

Sony PlayStation 3

blu ray players

When Sony debuted the PlayStation 3 its inclusion of a Blu-Ray player was considered a major selling point. Blu-Ray players available a few years ago weren’t any less expensive than a PlayStation 3, and they all couldn’t play games. Why not just buy the PlayStation 3?

Things have changed a bit since then. The least expensive PlayStation 3 is $299, which is over twice as much as what you’d pay for the LG BD550. Still, the PS3 can’t be ignored. If you’ve never played a video game, and you don’t care to change that, then you should skip the PS3. Casual gamers, however, should remember that the PS3 has a lot of excellent games available. You can kill two birds with one stone.

Other advantages of the PlayStation 3 include its large hard drive and excellent WiFi connectivity. It is very easy to store media on your PlayStation 3, or stream media to it. This make’s the PS3 not only a Blu-Ray player but also a media center that can do many of the same things you’d expect of a home theater PC.

Home Theater PC – With Blu-Ray Upgrade

best blu ray player

If you already own a home theater computer, it may be best not buying an individual Blu-Ray player at all. OEM packaged Blu-Ray players are available as an upgrade for your home theater computer for as little as $49.99.

Yes, that’s right – for 50 bucks you can give your computer the ability to play Blu-Ray discs. You can pay more, of course, and if you do you’ll be able to purchase drives that can burn Blu-Ray discs. Blu-Ray drive upgrades are available as 5.25" internal drives (for mid-tower desktop PCs) or slim internal drives that can fit smaller PC cases and some laptops.

This is MakeUseOf, so I’d normally tell you about some free Blu-Ray software you can use to play your discs. Unfortunately, no such software is available yet. If you want to play your Blu-Ray discs you’ll have to shell out some cash for a program like WinDVD or PowerDVD.


There are many other Blu-Ray players available, and a lot of them are just fine, but the players listed here are the ones that most future Blu-Ray fans should consider first. If you have a Blu-Ray player that you love – or hate – let us know in the comments.

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Latest Hilarious Picks [MakeUseOf Geeky Fun]

Posted: 16 Nov 2010 04:23 AM PST


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

  1. Please Help!!! I can't see myself on Google Earth…(Screenshot)
  2. Relative Prices Of Different Liquids (Pic)
  3. Typo Maps (Pic)
  4. Yahoo – Fall of the Empire (Pic)
  5. Portable Urinal for Hard-core Gamers (Pic) (Pic)
  6. Geeky Waffle Maker (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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MakeUseOf Team Spotlight [November 15th 2010]

Posted: 15 Nov 2010 07:45 PM PST

MakeUseOf Team Spotlight is our occasional feature where we profile the work of our writers outside of MakeUseOf. We have some very talented employees who like to spread their talents all around the web and it’s only right that we should recognise and showcase those talents.

In this edition of Spotlight, we will be profiling the work of Ann, Angela and Jackson. We’ve got some very interesting posts including a giveaway this week so check it out!

How to embed Youtube video – advanced tips

Posted on Blueglass by Ann Smarty

Are you sure you know everything about making the most of the YouTube embed code? The post lists some advanced tips on what you can do with Youtube embed player: “classic” code parameters and options, “new” HTML-5-friendly player and its features, as well as some other tips: how to add a clickable link to your Youtube video, how to embed videos in presentations and forums, etc.

Location-Based Language Settings = Traveller Nightmare

Posted on Net Savoir by Angela Alcorn

Have you ever found yourself frustrated by a website which automatically made decisions about how you’d prefer to see it?

On behalf of all travellers and expats everywhere, Ange is making a clear case against websites which automatically update language settings based on your location, rather than asking.

If you’re a web designer, an expat or a traveller then you should read of this rant.

Image Credit: RockCohen

5 Free Online Image Editors That You Should Use

Posted on TheDailyBuggle by Jackson Chung

Aside from professionals, most of us (or at least a large majority) only use image editors for minor edits; say for cropping, resizing, adjusting colour balance, sharpening, etc. So why use a system hog like Photoshop? Why even bother searching for a crack and downloading over 1GB of data for simple image editing that can be done through your browser?

Jackson takes a quick look at 5 web-based image editors that you can use anywhere, anytime on your browser as long as you have an active internet connection. No downloads necessary. And they’re all free!

If you would like to follow the MUO staff yourself on Twitter, check out this Twitter list, which is updated on a regular basis, as staff are hired or fired. From there, you can click through to each writer’s Twitter profile where you can subscribe to them for all their latest updates.

Image Credit: Visualogist

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Cool Websites and Tools [November 15th]

Posted: 15 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.

Add Your Website Here!


Google Phone Gallery – If you have your heart set on an Android smartphone but do not really know what phone to buy, then you are mostly stuck. With so many options, Google Phone Gallery is a comparison tool for Google-approved phones that should help you decide the perfect handset for you. Read more: Google Phone Gallery: Android Phone Comparison Tool From Google


Hover Zoom – If you are tired of clicking on image thumbnails on sites to check what the image is all about, you will like this Chrome extension called Hover Zoom. As the name suggests, it lets you enlarge thumbnail on mouseover for better viewing. Images pop up in their full size right there on the same page. Read more: Hover Zoom: Chrome Addon To Enlarge Thumbnail Pics on Mouseover



Sleep Bot – Managing your sleeping routine can be very difficult especially during your most stressful days. If you have this trouble, then Sleep Bot is the best tool for you. Sleep Bot is an Android app and widget that records your sleep stats by clocking "in and out" of your sleep routine. Read more: Sleep Bot: Track & View Your Sleep Stats (Android)



TechLimeLight – We might not admit it, but most of us rely on social media sources for news. News from social media is very easy to access, targeted for you, and something that your friends care enough to share. One website that takes advantage of this trend is TechLimelight, a news portal for technology-related topics that leverage Twitter, Digg, Wikipedia, and other shared content to organize content for you. Read more: TechLimeLight: Aggregated tech news from social media sites



Voxy – Do you ever find learning English very difficult? If so, then you are probably studying it the wrong way. Voxy is a website that provides an innovative way for students to learn English by giving you real-life examples that you can relate to. With this approach, Voxy can solve any language learning difficulties students have. Read more: Voxy: Real Life English Learning


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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3 Fun Venn Diagram Generators To Help You Visualise Your Data

Posted: 15 Nov 2010 05:30 PM PST

interactive venn diagramsA venn diagram is a type of information graphics (infographics) which is built of two or more circles with some overlapping areas. A venn diagram visualizes relationships between the sets of data or ideas: overlapping circles show those features which are common to two or more concepts.

In terms of visually-appealing elements and details, the venn diagram is the weakest example but this doesn’t mean it is the least informative. In fact, I find venn diagrams the most thought-provoking and discussion-encouraging form of data visualization.

There are plenty of cool venn diagrams online but did you know that you could easily generate one of your own and that would take you no more than a couple of seconds? Here are the three tools that can help you do that!

1. Google Suggest Venn Diagram

I have already listed some fun ways to visualize Google Suggest results and this one should have definitely made the list. Google Suggest Venn Diagram Generator is a simply genius tool which works as follows:

  • Give it a question or a phrase;
  • Use X as the placeholder for your terms;
  • Give it three terms (preferably in one vertical);
  • Let the tool generate three sets of Google Suggest results (based on your settings above);
  • If any results overlap, you’ll see it in a venn diagram.

Example 1:

Why are X so… (to replace X I typed: Russians, French people and Irish people – with no particular reason behind the choice; these were the first that came to mind):


Google Suggest Venn Diagram

Example 2:

Why is X so… (to replace X I typed: FireFox, Google Chrome and Safari):


Google Suggest Venn Diagram

Hacker News has even more examples…

Note: Here’s another Google-Suggest-powered venn diagram that can be fun to play with.

2. Twitter Venn

Twitter Venn is an interactive Venn Diagram generator that uses Twitter Search data. Ryan has already mentioned the tool in his post titled “4 Awesome Free Tools to Visualize & Analyze Twitter

It works as follows:

  • Give it three search terms
  • The tool goes to Twitter to search for each of them
  • The tool generates a venn diagram where each dot represents a tweet
  • Tweets that contain two or more search terms will be placed within the corresponding intersections
  • Hover the mouse over any dot to read the corresponding tweet message.

Twitter venn

The tool may thus turn particularly useful for:

  • Researching the relationships between the terms and trends;
  • Finding Twitter conversations relating to two or three topics.

3. 3D Photo Venn Diagram

Make Sweet is a fun free online tool that allows you to quickly create a venn diagram using photos. The resulting venn diagram has an appealing 3D effect.

Unlike the above two, this one:

  • Has only two overlapping circles;
  • Allows you to control what are in the circles and what lies between;
  • Supports pictures (as well as words).

All in all, the tool may help you in brainstorming. Besides, it should be cool to use to create neat viral images to visualize your point or decorate your blog post:

Make sweet venn diagram

Of course, if you are not bad at Photoshop, you are more likely to be able to create something similar on your own, but this one would be much quicker and easier.

Are you aware of any other cool Venn diagram tools? Please share them in the comments!

Image via buzzfeed



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FluffyApp, A Painless Drag-&-Drop File Uploader [Windows]

Posted: 15 Nov 2010 03:31 PM PST

free file uploaderFor serial uploaders that constantly find themselves sharing images and other types of files, drag-&-drop support can be a godsend. It’s way more convenient and faster than sending an email with the file in question or having to browse for a file. In a lot of cases, having the URL of the uploaded file copied to the clipboard can also be a handy time-saver.

Thankfully, more developers nowadays feel for serial uploaders across the globe and so, amazing applications with the sole intent of making your file-sharing experience smoother than ever are on the rise.

One of these programs is FluffyApp, which doesn’t just make sharing files effortless, but also makes tasks easier for anyone wanting to share screenshots and more.

free file uploader

FluffyApp has been quickly reviewed on the MakeUseOf Directory for being very intuitive among countless ways to upload files. It allows you to drag and drop any file (or a number of them) of 25MB or less to an icon in the system tray and copies the URL to your clipboard as soon as it has finished uploading the file.

FluffyApp is actually a Windows version of CloudApp, a Mac-only application for sharing files by drag-&-drop, so it uploads files to CloudApp’s servers, which means you get the benefits of CloudApp, namely, file view count, copyable embed code for images, extensions and a library of your uploaded files by type.

upload files

That also means you’ll need an account, which only requires an email, password and for you to click on the email verification link. Free accounts can upload up to 10 files per day.

What’s also unique about FluffyApp is that it can take screenshots of a region with a keyboard shortcut. FluffyApp doesn’t come with an installer, which may a good thing for anyone that just wants to run the application without having to modify their registries. FluffyApp displays a history of uploaded files when you right-click on the system tray icon, and puts multiple files uploaded at once in a zip folder automatically.

upload files

In summary, what makes FluffyApp a lifesaver is that you can:

  • Enable URL-copying to the clipboard.
  • See how many times your file has been viewed.
  • Take a screenshot of a region with a keyboard shortcut.
  • See your file history.
  • Copy the embed code (on the web interface only so this one is a CloudApp feature and not exactly FluffyApp’s but it’s good to have the option).
  • upload files

  • Copy direct link (“Copy content URL“).
  • file uploader

  • Make a file public.
  • free file uploader

Some cons are that:

  • You need an account to upload to CloudApp.
  • There is no installer (but this may be seen as a pro by users not looking to install more programs!)
  • You can upload up to 10 files (25MB or smaller) per day (which is a limitation for free CloudApp accounts).
  • URLs aren’t shortened (this is also tied to how you set your items by default in your CloudApp account settings).

While Dropbox users can drag and drop files to the Public folder and copy the public link, not everyone has Dropbox, (which is great for anything from image hosting to even writing) for whatever reason. Thus, FluffyApp could be an unbelievably easy-to-use alternative to share files in a few seconds.

There’s no need to head to a file hosting website, such as MegaUpload, which generally impose ads and waiting times (although you can get plugins to bypass these times) on whomever you’re sharing your file with.

CloudApp and FluffyApp aren’t the only tools for fast file sharing. There’s also Droplr for Mac (which was featured in a “battle” with CloudApp) and its Windows counterpart, windroplr, as well as the open-source Zscreen for Windows (here‘s a quick review). However, if you are just looking for a dedicated screenshot program that puts the link in your clipboard in a flash, there are also options such as SPGrabGyazo,Lightshot and Jing.

What are your favorite ways to share files in a flash?

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Caring For Your Xbox 360 & Tips On Fixing A Dead Console

Posted: 15 Nov 2010 01:30 PM PST

how to fix a xbox 360Microsoft’s current generation of games console is a wonderful thing, but it sure suffers from a few drawbacks. Poorly designed cooling, a dodgy optical drive and a less-than-favourable mortality rate means that there’s just as many broken consoles on eBay as there are functioning ones.

The 360 is a fairly demanding console, with some pretty strict guidelines on positioning, use and care. This makes for a world of difference compared to older consoles, which sat anywhere you wanted and worked happily for years (mine still do).

So if you’ve got a 360 and don’t want it to give up the ghost, there’s a few precautions to take note of. If your 360 is dead and you’re feeling handy, then all might not be lost!

Console Care

One of the most important things you can do to prolong the life of your console is choosing a good place to leave it. Heat is the number one killer of Xbox 360 consoles worldwide, so to protect yours you want to have plenty of space for it to breathe.

Cramped TV stands and stereo cabinets might provide a fairly practical and attractive solution but if the storage lacks airflow then you’re cooking your console.

how to fix a xbox 360

Vertical placement of your console is an option, and provided you’re not using a wired controller (you don’t want to knock it over, after all) it might save you some space.

Wherever you end up putting your console just make sure it’s open to good airflow, not a soft surface (cloth isn’t good, nor is carpet) and isn’t going to fall over or get knocked over. You’ll also want to avoid putting it near any air conditioning vents, as the contrast of hot and cold air will cause condensation within the machine. Not good.

You should never move your console, change orientation or generally unsettle it whilst it is in use. The 360 doesn’t lock game discs in place, so you might end up scratching the game or doing serious damage to the drive.

xbox 360 fix

One thing you’ll definitely want to avoid is placing the console on top of any existing AV equipment, such as a satellite receiver, amplifier or other console. Heat doesn’t like company, and your 360 doesn’t need friends.

Regularly checking the air vents and using a damp, soft cloth to remove any dust build-up is also a good idea. You’ll be surprised how much crap it sucks up.

xbox 360 fix

The Red Rings of Death

They can strike at any time, with warning (regular crashes, high operating temperature) or just out of the blue but the infamous red rings of death spell doom for your Xbox 360.

The rings are actually used to signify an error code in a bid to isolate the problem. The community has painstakingly attempted to document each of these codes, in order to help those who have run out of warranty and are interested in home repairs.

how to fix a xbox 360

If you want to fix your Xbox 360 yourself it’s not going to be easy. It can even cost you money if you use one of the many kits that have sprung up for this exact purpose, though many get away with using household products and not spending a fortune.

It’s worth mentioning that I’ve noticed a lot of sellers on eBay who buy broken Xbox 360s, repair them (it should take you around 2 hours of work, depending on your level of skill) and re-sell them as functioning repaired systems – these repairs can and do work, but perhaps not every time.

The following is a list of resources to help salvaging an ex-Xbox:

Note: If your console is banned from Xbox Live for whatever reason none of these will fix it. There is currently no known "fix" to whitelist a console, but you could always try X-Link Kai. Opening your console will also invalidate your warranty, so if you’ve got a problem and still have warranty it’s best to leave Microsoft to fix it.

Xbox-Scene: 360 Error Codes Explained

A full run-down of the known Xbox 360 error codes, how to read them and information on what to do once you’ve isolated the problem. If a potential solution to your problem exists, you should be able to find it here.

Team Hybrid’s Ultimate X-Clamp Fix

For fixing a number of error codes, the X-Clamp fix is a tried and tested technique which requires a steady hand and a fair bit of concentration, though many have succeeded.

RBJTech’s Xbox 360 Guides

Information pertaining to mods, fixes and delivering that dose of CPR your console needs. A bit old now, but still valid as you’re likely to be repairing older consoles anyway.


Hopefully you won’t encounter any rings of death, non-responsive DVD drives or other Xbox failings. You could always buy an additional cooling unit to strap to the back of your 360, a good idea if you use it a lot (but noisy).

Eventually though your console might die, and if the warranty isn’t on your side then a home-made fix is your only option. What have you got to lose, right? Let’s just hope the next generation of games consoles are more reliable than the last.

Image: Three Red Rings by AndrewBurgess

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Hot Tech Deals [Nov 15th]

Posted: 15 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 M305 1000dpi Wireless Optical Mouse w/ Nano Receiver $14.99AR Free Shipping

  2. Pogoplug Pro File NAS Dock with Built-in WiFi & Print Server (FTP/Mobile Access) $86.99 Free Shipping

  3. Kingston HyperX 2GB) DDR3-1600MHz PC3-12800 Desktop Memory $24.95AR Free Shipping

  4. Kingston SSDNow V100 64GB 2.5in Solid State Drive (TRIM) $99.95AR Free Shipping

  5. Toshiba Satellite L675D-S7040 AMD Dual-Core P340 2.2GHz 17.3in Laptop (4GB/320GB) $499.99

  6. Patriot LX 16GB SDHC Card (Class 10) $18.09AR Free Shipping via code BFFSHCD

  7. TODAY ONLY Dell IN1920 19 inch Widescreen LCD Monitor $99.99 Free Shipping

  8. D-Link DIR-601 802.11n Wireless N 150 Home Router $29 Free Shipping

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set

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Protect Your Mac With Sophos Anti-Virus For Free

Posted: 15 Nov 2010 11:30 AM PST

sophos anti virusThere was a time when Mac users did not have to worry about any sorts of threats, whether it was viruses, Trojans or worms. While Windows machines continue to be more susceptible, that isn’t to say that Mac computers aren’t.

Apple doesn’t provide a free anti-virus program to combat these threats fully, but Sophos has stepped up to the plate and recently released a free program that aims to do just that, with Sophos Anti-Virus for Mac Home Edition.

Why do you need an anti-virus program on your Mac computer?

In the past, Mac users really could boast the fact that their computers don’t get infected. Unfortunately, that simply isn’t the truth anymore. In fact, viruses that affect Macs are becoming more common. The reason is simple, Mac computers are becoming more common. Anyone who takes the time to create a virus is going to want to affect the biggest group of people possible and in the past, there weren’t enough Mac users to make it worth their while. Now there are, and Sophos has detected over 1,000 specific threats that target Mac users, from Trojan horses to Spyware. That is why it is essential to protect your computer with an up-to-date anti-virus program.

Why choose Sophos Anti-Virus?

The first, and most obvious reason to choose Sophos Anti-Virus is that it’s completely free. Apple has integrated certain features that aim to protect your computer, alerting you before opening an application that was downloaded from the internet, and providing software and security updates. But the fact of the matter is that more should be done, and all third party anti-virus programs come with a price tag of no less than $40, often only for a year’s worth of protection.

Sophos Anti-Virus is a lightweight program that runs quietly in the background without slowing down your computer. While you want your computer to be protected, you don’t want it to come at the cost of a slower computer.

How does Sophos Anti-Virus Work?

After installing Sophos on your computer, the first thing you’ll want to do is run a scan. How long it takes will depend on the number of files on your computer.

sophos anti virus

Once the scan is complete, if any threats are detected, they will appear in the Quarantine Manager. With one click, you can delete the file from your computer. If you’re not sure that you want to delete it immediately, you can leave it in the Quarantine Manager until you decide what you want to do.

What other features does Sophos Anti-Virus offer?

You can create custom scans, to scan specific files and folders at the click of a button, as well as scan specific files through the right-click menu.

sophos antivirus

You can choose how Sophos will deal with threats when they are found – choosing to log it only, to clean up, move or delete the threat.

sophos anti virus

What Sophos Anti-Virus doesn’t do is allow you to schedule scans. Instead, Sophos works in realtime detecting threats as they appear. This means no annoying popup windows reminding you to do a full scan, and Sophos is so lightweight it doesn’t affect the speed of your computer at all.

Want to see some Mac threats in action? Check out SophosLab’s video that should convince you, if nothing else does.

How do you protect your Mac from viruses? Let us know in the comments.

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Nero Multimedia Suite Platinum HD Giveaway Winners

Posted: 15 Nov 2010 11:00 AM PST

This is surely going to make 25 MakeUseOf readers pretty chuffed. Each of them will receive a full copy of Nero’s newest Multimedia Suite Platinum HD.

License information will be sent via email so please check your inbox and spam folder.

Congratulations and I hope you enjoy your spanking new app!

  1. Hugh Leshley
  2. Greg Howells
  3. Liam
  4. Albert Wang
  5. Goran
  6. Norman Noordin
  7. IQ
  8. Guy in Victoria
  9. Yap Bing Hau
  10. Scott Conder
  11. David Rainbolt
  12. Andrew Lee
  13. Joel Patterson
  14. Mark Weaver
  15. Sam Jones
  16. Steven Hildebrand
  17. Peh Ting Yong
  18. Tracey Roberts
  19. David Banas
  20. Jonathan Ginsberg
  21. Doran Roggio
  22. Isaac
  23. Dinesh Kumar
  24. Lynn Summers
  25. Pedro

Congrats again!

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

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5 Great Ways To Donate Your Old Computer

Posted: 15 Nov 2010 10:30 AM PST

donate old computersI must admit, I have an old iMac G3 computer that has been sitting unused in my son's bedroom for about five years. Though he's tinkered with it a few times, I have not once considered finding a new home for it. 

What would you do with old computers? Tina wrote about some cool uses for old computers and laptops. Tim Lenahan showed you 3 things you can do with old monitors.

If you're like me and you have an old desktop or laptop computer in your garage, or one that is taking up space like an antique clock in your office, you should consider donating that old computer to one of the recycling programs describe below.

Best Buy

Perhaps the most accessible place for recycling your computer is through Best Buy's e-cycle program. Best Buy accepts all old/unwanted consumer electronics, including desktop and laptop computers, for free. However, it does charge $10 for computers with a monitor of 32" and under. Best Buy says that consumers will "instantly receive a $10 Best Buy gift card in exchange for the recycling fee."

donate old computers

Best Buy delivers the recycled items to one of its third-party logistics, which in turn determines if donated items can be re-purposed or recycled.

Before you take your computer the store, the contents (all files and personal data) of the hard drive must be erased. You can pay a Best Buy Geek Squad agent to do this for you, or you can do it yourself. Check out this Geek Squad tutorial video about disposing of your hard drive, and also this MUO article on "How to Completely & Securely Erase Your Hard Drive [Windows]"

Best Buy also partners with other recycling programs for other e-waste and electronic equipment, including TVs, CDs/DVDs, appliances, inkjet cartridges, and rechargeable batteries.

National Cristina Foundation

If you want to make sure that the computer(s) you denote finds a new home for reuse, check out the non-profit National Cristina Foundation, which "directs donations of used computer equipment to registered non-profit organizations, schools, and public agencies throughout the United States," for purposes of job training, at risk students, people with disabilities, and economically disadvantaged people.

donate computers

This Foundation does not charge for accepting donations, but it does have some specific requirements for what it will accept. It particularly wants Penitum III and Higher CPUs, and complete hardware systems for PCs and Mac Desktops. Specific requirements are listed here.

Silicon Valley Recycling Used Technology

The Silicon Valley Recycling Used Technology program accepts desktop and laptop computers, monitors, keyboards, mice, printers, hardware components and other related items, which it repairs and in turn provides to K-16 schools for use and learning purposes.

donate computers

You can drop off your computer at their center or make arrangements by calling 510-979-7479.

Dell Reconnect

Dell Reconnect "accepts any brand of computer equipment in any condition from consumers and recycles it for free." More information about what it accepts can be found here.

Similar to Best Buy, Dell Reconnect has over 2,000 donation locations in the U.S. for which you can drop off your equipment. Dell Reconnect insures that donated, environmentally sensitive material is not hauled off to landfills. It works with Goodwill, which provides reusable computer equipment to its "job training, employment placement services and other community-basd programs for people who have disabilities, lack education or job experience, or face employment challenges."

World Computer Exchange

If you, your company, university, library, or organization has a significant amount of computer equipment to donate, World Computer Exchange works to get such equipment to "570 of Partner organizations in 71 developing countries."

donate old computers

How you can help, and the specific computers World Computer Exchange is looking for are listed here. It currently has 25 chapters throughout the U.S, which can be contacted to accept your donations.

The above programs and organizations are making it easy for us to not simply haul off our unused, idle computers to landfills or even to our basements or closets. If you know of other programs that accept donations of computers and related equipment, let us know about it.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

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10 Websites To Help You Kick Your Smoking Addiction (and Improve Your Health)

Posted: 15 Nov 2010 09:30 AM PST

how to stop smoking'Kick the Butt' is a banner one of my friends has stuck up on his wall. The banner has yellowed but the pile of butts in the ashtray hasn't got any less. Welcome to the smoker's eternal dilemma. If a survey were to be carried out (and I am sure there's one somewhere), the quandary of wanting to quit but losing out to the urge of smoking would be true of most smokers.

Not surprising, when you consider that's the stumbling block for many an addiction… smoking included. The benefits of quitting smoking are too many – from increasing your energy to lessening your medical bills. And of course, making life just a bit easier for the passive smokers.

Perhaps I am compiling this list of the 10 websites that can help someone kick the smoking habit in vain. The defenses of an addicted smoker are unassailable if not insurmountable. Still, let me try to blow a bit of the smoke away.


how to stop smoking

QuitNet says it's one of the largest communities of smokers and ex-smokers with more than 60,000 members from across the globe. It is definitely one of the oldest out there. The site offers a host of services from personal counseling to personal medical advice. These services aren't free, but the support from the active community of smokers and non-smokers is.  With the free services on the site, you can use tools like the Quit Date Wizard and the Quitting Guide. The Medication Guide is also a good read. If you want to some offline support, you can use the Smoking Cessation Programs finder to locate one near your area (U.S only).


stop smoking tips

U.S residents can use the free anti-smoking aids like the online step-by-step cessation guide or the telephone hotlines and the LiveHelp chat service (courtesy National Cancer Institute). From quizzes to interactive maps and 'how to quit smoking' downloads, this website is a rich source. Women smokers can also go straight to the gender specific sister site which addresses their unique issues. This website is a must if you are serious about quitting smoking.

Stop Smoking Center

stop smoking tips

The site says that you have four times the chance of quitting compared to going at it alone. Whether it's true or not, can only be found out with a free sign-up to the Evolution Health Program. The online quit smoking program has a full fledged support group and lots of tools and interactive exercises. A downloadable quit meter and a craving's diary with withdrawal symptom tracker are some a quitter can always us. The site gives out a limited number of memberships daily.

Quit Smoking Counter

stop smoking tips

The site is a blog that explores ways you can quit smoking. Apart from smoking cessation news and tips, the site also offers a commercial iPhone app which serves as an online counter that measures smoking cessation and the length of time the person has stopped smoking along with other data like money saved and life gained.


free stop smoking

You can lean on the support of the social web when it comes to giving up smoking. WeQuit takes the help of Twitter and Facebook. The site is the handiwork of No Smoking Day, the charity behind the leading health campaign for smokers who want to stop. There's a video channel with first person accounts and success stories. You can also put in a pledge that you will kick the habit; and there's a Facebook app for that too. If you succeed, you can even walk away with a prize and towards a healthier life. But visit the Forum and check out feedbacks that have been arranged by time since quitting.


free stop smoking

This online tool is a free, anonymous and customized quit-smoking program that helps you quit the habit in 21 days. With your smoking data, the site designs a personalized course. You also need to give regular feedback to your account as to the success or failure towards the goal. The site also has a community forum for social support, Quitblogs, and personalized text messages that help you stay away from tobacco dependency. The one drawback – the program is only available for Colorado (U.S) residents. (See Directory mention)

About.com (Smoking Cessation)

free stop smoking

The hub is a nice resource for must reads on the how's and why's of smoking cessation. It is arranged around four main sections – Smoking cessation, Health Risks, How to Quit, and After Quitting.


help to stop smoking

Quitmeter is a one-page simple non-smoking calculator that counts the days to the minute and the second since you quit smoking. It also calculates the numbers you haven't lighted up and the dollars saved.


help to stop smoking

A Facebook community of ex-smokers and smokers who want to quit smoking. You can join up and use it as a support group and also share your success stories if you manage it make it beyond the cravings. A statistics page displays a 'leaderboard' to show where you stand among other fellow quitters.

NHS Quit Smoking

how to stop smoking

Okay, here we aren't going to talk about the website but the free iPhone app. Though the health site itself is a fountain of information, the iPhone app is handy to carry around. It has useful features like real time counters which track daily cigarette consumption and cost. You have daily messages that encourage your struggles and also a direct line to the NHS Smoking Helpline.

More important than these ten websites is your own will power. These sites only serve as pillars on which you can lean on when self-restraint starts to waver. But do devour the information on why smoking is such an injurious habit. Let us know your success story.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Apple Teases Us With Exciting News About iTunes Coming Tomorrow [News]

Posted: 15 Nov 2010 09:07 AM PST

Have you been to the Apple homepage today? The entire page has been replaced with one image hinting at a big announcement coming tomorrow.


All we know is that it’s iTunes related and that they will put an end to our guessing by tomorrow morning, US time. Apple fans on the other side of the continent will have to get through most of their day before finding out what’s going on.

The rumours are flying about, from subscription based purchasing on iTunes to a web-based version of iTunes. The mysterious announcement isn’t all that’s expected from Apple, with iOS 4.2 slated to be available to iPhone and iPad users any day now, with some sources reporting as soon as tomorrow.

What do you think it’s going to be? Let us know in the comments.

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ioSafe SoloPRO Giveaway Winner

Posted: 15 Nov 2010 09:00 AM PST

There can only be one winner. Everybody wants to own one of these bad boys. Who wouldn’t want to brag that their external hard disk is waterproof, fireproof and shockproof (maybe even bulletproof)?

But sadly, we can only choose one winner.

Is it you?

Congratulations to…

Pete Haughie

An email has been sent to you. Please reply within 24 hours. Failure to respond forfeits your prize and in that event, we’ll choose a new winner.

For those who didn’t win, please don’t give up trying. We’ll have more of these giveaways in the future. In the meantime, why don’t you take advantage of the deal Costco is having right now — get a 2TB ioSafe Solo for $249.99, which is $150 off the recommended retail price.

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

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Square – Mobile Credit Card Processing For The Masses

Posted: 15 Nov 2010 08:30 AM PST

credit card processingSquare is a growing mobile credit card provider that makes it “easy” to accept credit card payments from anywhere you have a phone (iPhone or Android) and an internet connection. Who might use a service like Square? Any time you might want to accept payment for a product or service – maybe you sell crafts at a craft fair, want to have a garage sale or offer a service for which it would be helpful to offer credit card processing. Square can be used in many of these situations where only cash or check have been viable options previously.

Currently limited to the United States, Square requires a U.S. bank account, social security (or tax ID number if you are a business) and a U.S. address to sign up for an account.

Anyone, even individuals not associated with a business, can sign up. If approved, you do not need any hardware to begin taking credit cards. If you do not have the Square reader, you will have to type the credit card number into the app – and you also pay a higher transaction rate. The reason the rate is higher is because these are considered ‘card not present’ transactions since you do not have the information on the magnetic stripe to prove you actually had the card.

credit card processingThe drawbacks to traditional wireless credit card machines, pictured at the right, are:

  • Big, bulky
  • Expensive, a few hundred dollars to purchase
  • Monthly Wireless Maintenance Fees

Square aims to eliminate all of these drawbacks while also adding a very slick interface. Let’s run through a sample transaction through the Square interface.

The Square reader plugs into the headphone jack of an iPhone, iPad or Android device. These are the only three devices that support the Square platform at the present time.

You have 3 options for payment. The first is to take a cash transaction, in this case Square acts as the “receipt” and will list in your control panel as well as optionally email a receipt to the payee. Square does not charge for this service. The second two are both credit card transactions. The difference is whether you swipe the card via the square reader (provided by square for free) or if you type it in manually.

Once you plug in the square reader you simply swipe the card, type in the amount and optionally a description of what the transaction is for, and press ‘Charge.’ It will then approve or decline the transaction and move to the next screen where your payer will sign their signature with their finger.

Finally on the next screen, you have the option to have a receipt emailed to the payee. This email receipt includes the details of the transaction as well as the merchant’s (your) address.

Compared to traditional mobile credit card processing machines, the process from the perspective of both a merchant and a client is a true breath of fresh air. Square makes the process easy and is extremely transparent with their fees, which is also a break from my experiences with traditional credit card merchant accounts.

As you can see on the online receipt below, Square breaks down each transaction and clearly states how much money will be deposited to your account, and how much in fees were deducted from your transaction. Their fees, as of this article’s publishing date, are 2.75% + 15¢ for card-present transactions (swiped via the Square reader), and 3.5% + 15¢ for typed in transactions (see their features page for current rates).

credit card processing

As you can tell from my experiences so far, I am very impressed by Square. But who would benefit from using Square? Essentially, it opens up the world of credit card acceptance to ‘normal people’ and not just businesses, although businesses who already accept credit cards can also benefit from their low rates and minimums.

If you are an individual, you can now offer credit card processing to anyone whom you would typically only take cash or a check from. Of course, you are paying a percentage of the transaction to Square, but in some cases it is worth the fee to get ‘immediate’ payment rather than a future promise of payment.

For businesses, it gives you an easy portable solution for accepting credit cards. However it does lack a few features that many normal merchants have. An API to accept payments via a website is notably lacking. Also, I suspect if you are a heavy volume credit card processor, the long term reliability of the reader + headphone jack solution may be less than optimal.

That all being said, Square has the possibility of absolutely revolutionizing the credit card processing industry. The ease of use and transparency of fees are something that is refreshing in the sea of other credit card merchants.

Let us know if you have used Square and what you think of their services. Everything seems to be positive from my testing but please share your experiences with our other readers!



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Facebook Integrates Deals Into Their Mobile Places Platform [News]

Posted: 15 Nov 2010 08:00 AM PST

Facebook Places has been around for a little while now and has served as one of the top geolocation alternatives to Foursquare. That was until recently, when Facebook announced the addition of Deals to their Places platform. Now it would appear that Facebook is in the driver’s seat when it comes to the geolocation market.

With Facebook Deals, you can locate daily deals at your favorite spots around town, as well as cash in on specials and giveaways featured by businesses. A lot of people see this as a revolutionary step in the adoption of “check-in” services and geolocation apps, and I’m inclined to agree with them.

What’s The Deal With Facebook Deals?

Here’s a picture-perfect example from Facebook’s blog:

Everyone likes getting a good deal, but it’s not always easy to find the right one at the moment you could use one. Imagine that while you’re looking for a new place to try for lunch, you could see offers from restaurants nearby on your phone. On the other hand, I already love Zachary’s Pizza, so imagine if I were rewarded for coming back there every week with my friends.

Facebook Deals allows local businesses to offer you deals when you check-in to their “place” on your phone’s Facebook app (iTunes link). When you are browsing places nearby, you will see a yellow icon next to the places that are currently running deals. You can also share those deals with your friends.

When you check-in to claim a deal, just show your phone to the cashier to get your gift or discount. There are different types of deals:

  • Individual Deals – Discounts, free merchandise, etc. just for you.
  • Friend Deals – You and your friends (who must be present) claim a deal together.
  • Loyalty Deals – For being a frequent visitor to a place.
  • Charity Deals – Where businesses pledge to donate to a cause when you check-in.

To see how this works, watch this short video by Facebook:

And If I Own A Business?

If you are a local business owner who wants to begin offering deals to your customers, it’s just as easy. Just watch this video and you’ll be well on your way:

What do you think of Facebook Deals? Are you going to be checking in?

Source: Facebook Blog

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Simple Home Video Editing with Video Converter Pro [Giveaway]

Posted: 15 Nov 2010 07:30 AM PST

Daniusoft Video Converter Pro is a bundle of video encoding and editing tools that you would normally need separate applications for, in one single program with an uncluttered and easy-to-follow interface. 

You can use Converter Pro as a DVD decrypter, which removes DVD copy protection so you can convert the DVD files to a format your portable device can read. You can also use Converter Pro to convert any video files to other formats, including audio file types, and encode them to formats for your mobile devices. Additionally, Converter Pro also lets you perform simple video-editing tasks, such as trimming parts of your video, adding a watermark, adding subtitles, etc.

This week, we’re giving away 20 copies of this video file converter worth almost $1000 in total!

Converter Pro supports drag-and-drop so you can painlessly import your videos. You can also browse to add your DVD and even ISO files. Once you import them, you have the options to edit out any segments or make simple video edits. To trim parts out, clicking on the scissors icon will lead you to another dialog where you can set the beginning and end of the portion to exclude from the entire clip.

To edit the video, click on the pencil icon to choose the type of editing task you want to complete. You can crop the video image (effectively changing the video resolution). In the Effects tab, you can change the brightness, saturation and contrast, as well as apply an old film or emboss effect to your video, and choose deinterlacing options. You can also apply a watermark image on your video, and embed subtitles in .srt, .ssa, .ass formats.

Once you are satisfied with how you edited the video, you can choose to convert your video or DVD to a large selection of different formats. You can find your specific device, or choose a video/audio format or even the website you want to upload your video to! Converter Pro can optimize your video conversion to a sheer number of devices and formats, which you’ll see listed as Profiles. If you don’t want any of the presets, hit the Advanced button to customize the settings. Otherwise, click on Start!

If you are looking to convert your video files for use on your favorite portable devices, decrypt and rip your DVDs or even make simple edits to your videos, this video file converter can help you do all of those without making you load several different programs.

How do I win a copy?

It’s simple, just follow the instructions.

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

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

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

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

Like it on Facebook

Or share it on Twitter

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

This giveaway begins now and ends Friday, November 19th at 2100hrs PST. The winners will be selected at random and announced via email.

If this enough for you, check out Daniusoft’s Video Converter Ultimate. It’s not free but if there’s enough interest, we’ll probably give it away in the future!

Spread the word to your friends and have fun!

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

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