Saturday, December 18, 2010

MakeUseOf.com: “The 7 Best Questions From You [MakeUseOf Answers]” plus 11 more

MakeUseOf.com: “The 7 Best Questions From You [MakeUseOf Answers]” plus 11 more

Link to MakeUseOf.com

The 7 Best Questions From You [MakeUseOf Answers]

Posted: 18 Dec 2010 06:00 AM PST

MakeUseOf Answers has one last huge challenge this year! We want to break a big number: 10,000 answers. You can help us!

If you do, your contribution may be selected as Best Answer of the Week. This week’s skilled recipient of the $50 reward is Ammadey Naxyr for the answer given in response to this question: “How can I merge two Facebook accounts into one?“, which is also one of our best questions this week. Thank you for the creative solution Ammadey!

Care to see more great questions and out-of-the-box answers? Have a look:

MakeUseOf Answers is an excellent tool to shorten the time until Christmas Eve. Indulge in Latest Questions, Most Popular Questions, or Unanswered Questions. For regular updates subscribe to the Answers RSS Feed.

Need help? Ask A Question at MakeUseOf Answers.


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Cool Websites and Tools [December 17th]

Posted: 17 Dec 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!

 

Orbs – Lately there have been many online services that focus on quick and easy website creation for personal or temporary business use. Orbs is one such service that helps create a simple website even if you have no prior experience. You can use the site to quickly create a website and add pages to it. The site can be anything you want it to be: it can be something like a personal blog or a company events page. Read more: Orbs: Create A Simple Website & Get It Online Instantly

 

 

MapTo – URL shortening helps internet users on a number of websites, particularly social networks. If there is a link to a map you need shortened, then two steps are required: first you form the desired map on the map's website and then you copy the URL to paste it into the URL shortening website. MapTo combines both these steps into a single interface. Read more: MapTo: Get Shortened Google Map Links

 

 

Freepik – Graphics designers often search for free high quality vectors and regular images to use in their projects. Most online resources that let people search for such free art do not distinguish between vectors and only photos. If you want a free vector and image search site that lets you control what you are searching for, then head on over to Freepik. Read more: Freepik: Search For Free High Quality Vectors & Photos

 

 

Mint Data – Most of you might know about Mint.com, the premier online personal finance management service. Mint Data is a new service by the same site that shows real-time local spending data (US only) and helps consumers decide where they should spend their money.
The anonymous spending data is sourced from Mint's huge user base. Read more: Mint Data: Real-Time Spending Data

 

 

ImgOps – You will find numerous image editing web tools. Usually however you need the image stored on your computer for it to be edited through the web tool. Even if an editor supports adding images via URLs, you need to first copy the image URL, then visit the editor's site, and then paste in the URL. All of this is sped up remarkably with ImgOps. Read more: ImgOps: Meta Tool To Quickly Edit Online Images

 

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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Hot Tech Deals [Dec 17th]

Posted: 17 Dec 2010 03:52 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. Asus EEE PC 1015PEM-PU17 Intel Atom N550 Dual-Core 10.1in Netbook w/ 13hr Battery $349.99

  2. Patriot Xporter XT Boost 16GB USB Flash Drive $19.99AR, 32GB $49.99AR Free Shipping

  3. TODAY ONLY Philips PD7012/37 7in Dual Screens Portable DVD Player $89.99 Free Shipping

  4. EA Store: Holiday Bundles (Sims 3 Bundles $30; Medal Of Honor Bundles $60)

  5. Dell Latitude E5410 Intel Core i7-620M 2.66GHz 14.1in Business Laptop $647.28 via code 2P?WZ8K$J8LJWQ (Exp 12/29)

  6. Dell Inspiron M5030 AMD Athlon II P340 2.2GHz 15.6in Laptop (3GB/320GB/Win7) $399.99 Free Shipping

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set


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6 Tools That Allow You To Write Longer Twitter Tweets

Posted: 17 Dec 2010 03:31 PM PST

longer tweets on twitterI've always liked Twitter's 140 character limitation because it challenges my message to be more direct and succinct, but there are occasions when you simply need a paragraph or two to express what you really need to say. Try for example debating a controversial issue in 140 characters and you might well lose an argument.

So for those times when you want to stay within the Twitterverse without posting a dozen tweets, there are several options available to do just that.  Here are 6 possibilities you should check out, which allow you to write longer Tweets on Twitter.

TwitLonger

Topsy's TwitLonger.com is the site I use via the Twitter desktop client, Tweetie, when I need to get beyond 140 characters.

When you go over the character limit, a pop-up message asks if you want to post your “too long” tweet to TwitLonger.

longer tweets on twitter

You can also of course write a longer tweet directly on the TwitLonger site, signing in with your existing Twitter account.

The site points out that your Twitter privacy settings are not reflected in Twitlonger, but it does recommend that you not use its services for sending direct messages.

long tweet

There are several Twitter-related web and mobile applications that support TwitLonger, including TweetList, Twizzle (iPhone/iPod Touch), Twitepad (iPad), and Touiteur (Android).

JumboTweet

JumboTweet is an easy to use web client for longer Twitter messages. As with TwitLonger, you simply log into the site using your current Twitter credentials. You can write as much text as you like, and a link to your extended text will be included in your tweet.

long tweet

ezTweets

When 140 characters is not enough, eztweets is also a web client for longer tweets, but it has an added feature of allowing you to post your tweets to your Facebook account as well as to Twitter.

eztweets.png

ezTweets will take your longer tweets and split them into two parts.

TinyPaste

Okay, say you want to post a longer tweet that includes a list of technical instructions, or you want to highlight a long quote from a webpage.  You might consider using TinyPaste for this purpose.

longer tweets

With TinyPaste, you write your text, and format it the way you want. After you click the Submit button, you will get a URL link to your post that you can paste in your tweet. So essentially, TinyPaste is like writing longer text in your email or blog.

longer tweets

You can also password protect your linked post for say sending a direct private message to your Twitter contact. And on top of that, you can even have your extended post deleted after a specified amount of time.

TinyPaste also provides a bookmarklet and Firefox extension for quickly copying and pasting highlighted text on a webpage.

XLTweet

XLTweet is similar to TinyPaste but with less options. You can write longer posts in HTML format.

longer tweets

The service will tweet the first 120 characters in your Twitter timeline and add a bit.ly short URL to link to the rest of the post. Your XLTweets will be automatically marked as “favorites” so you can readily find them.

Tinychat

Now if you find that you want to turn your longer tweets into an extended conversation, you might consider using Tinychat. This site provides users with the choice of creating disposable or permanent video conference rooms.

longer tweets on twitter

If you want to have just a private two-way video call, use p2p.tinychat.com. This service requires no signup or application installation. Just direct message the specified URL to your contact and you can easily talk well beyond 140 characters.

The extended tweet services like the ones listed above are very useful if you're not maintaining a blog site for your extended messages, or if you don’t want to use email to send longer messages to contacts.

If you're looking for additional tricks and tips for using Twitter, check out the MUO Guide to Twitter. As always, let us know if there is a favorite service you use for extended tweets.

Image Credit: Shuttertock


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5 Best Apps With Awesome Christmas Wallpaper For Your iPhone [Mac]

Posted: 17 Dec 2010 01:31 PM PST

christmas iphone wallpaperHow far have you gone with your Christmas decorations this year? I don’t know about you, but where I live the whole neighborhood goes all out with the Christmas lights and decorations each and every December. It can be a lot of work, sure, but it’s also a lot of fun to see what everyone comes up with each year.

Taking this simple idea to the digital space is easy to do. Last time I gave you the 5 Best Websites With Awesome Christmas Wallpaper For Your Desktop. Well, if you are in the mood to deck out your computer screen with Christmas paraphernalia, why not do something cool on your iPhone? I’ve got you covered. In this article, I’ll show you the best apps available for the iPhone that offer a great selection of Christmas wallpaper.

1. Christmas Wallpapers HQ

christmas iphone wallpaper

If there really is a headquarters for Christmas wallpaper on the iPhone, that’s probably a good place for us to start. This app has a nice selection of high quality Christmas wallpapers and it’s very easy to navigate. Just swipe, zoom, and pinch the screen to get around and view fast-loading wallpapers.

Once you come across one you like, just select it and save it to your phone. You can also add wallpapers to contacts and share them. You can display wallpapers by popular, recent, and random too.

2. New Year & Christmas Wallpapers

free iphone wallpapers

The New Year & Christmas Wallpapers app offers up a unique collection of high definition wallpapers, all of which are created by modern artists exclusively for the app. All wallpapers are unique and drawn by hand (not photoshopped!), which should make for some interesting background art for your phone.

According to the app’s download page, all wallpapers are up to 1024×768 high quality JPG and support all iOS device: iPhone 4, iPad, iPhone 3G/3GS and iPod touch. No internet connection required.

The images saved through this app are stored in your Photos. To add a downloaded wallpaper as your background just open the Settings app and select “Wallpaper”, or use the Photos app.

3. Beautiful Christmas Wallpapers for iPhone 4 (Lite)

christmas iphone wallpaper free

Beautiful Christmas Wallpapers for iPhone is another app that offers a great arrangement of attractive Christmas wallpapers. This app also works on other iDevices like the iPod Touch and iPad and looks great with Retina Display. Images are fast-loading and self-contained, meaning they are always available for viewing.

Swipe through the collection of images to explore them easily and zoom in on ones you like. You can choose your favorites and save them and also add to contact.

4. Christmas Wallpapers Lite

christmas iphone wallpaper free

Christmas Wallpapers Lite is another great app for you to check out. While it offers a different selection of images from the apps above, it has all of the same great features, like self-contained, fast-loading photos, easy navigation and zooming, ability to save images and select favorites, arrangement by popular, recent, and random, and add to contact/sharing features.

5. Christmas Wallpapers & Backgrounds with Xmas Glow Effects

christmas iphone wallpaper free

I think you’ll really like this Christmas wallpaper app. It has over 1,500 of the best quality Retina HD backgrounds you can find, and it features over 450 glow effects, including “special Christmas glow effects”.

Backgrounds are in 10 categories, including Tree, Santa, Light, Decoration, Quotes, Snow, Winter, Festival, etc. Retina HD Christmas images are in 640×960 format and can be viewed via a full-screen slideshow. The user interface is easy to navigate as well, and you can even upload your own wallpapers to be seen by millions of users.

[Bonus] 50,000+ Christmas Wallpaper FREE

christmas iphone wallpaper

Since I’m in the giving mood (it is Christmas after all), here’s a bonus app for you. If for some reason you couldn’t find that shiny new wallpaper you were looking for with the other apps I’ve provided, you shouldn’t have a problem finding one amongst over 50,000 more wallpapers!

This wallpaper app provides high quality wallpapers with photo effect functionality. And there are lots of different categories for you to pick from.

Conclusion

There are actually a lot of Christmas wallpaper apps in the app store, but I assure you these are the best. Keep in mind that these apps also work on the iPod Touch (if you don’t have an iPhone) and a few of them work on the iPad, although there are apps tailored specifically for the iPad that I recommend you check out.

Which Christmas wallpaper app do you like the best?


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Easily Become A Podcaster With Your Phone Using Cinch

Posted: 17 Dec 2010 11:31 AM PST

podcast productionHave you thought about podcasting, but given up because it all seemed too hard? Maybe you couldn’t choose a good podcasting host, couldn’t get decent audio equipment together or perhaps you just couldn’t think of anything much to say. Well, Cinch is here to make it easy for you.

Basically, Cinch lives up to its name by making podcasting a cinch. Users can upload audio from a smartphone application, by dialling a number from their mobile phone or by uploading via the website using their computer. It just makes podcasting so easy!


Cinch is powered by BlogTalkRadio, which is yet another interesting web application you might like. It hosts podcasts created by facilitatating phone interviews.

podcast production

Why Use Cinch?

You might be wondering if you really need to record audio at all. However, many people feel that audio gives your post a personal touch. So if you want to build rapport with your followers, it might well be worth a try.

And why Cinch, exactly? Well, because it’s easy and there’s no pressure to create something polished and lengthy. Also, you’re posting almost in real time since only a few minutes pass between recording and publishing. Imagine yourself bumping into someone you’d love to interview at a conference — your interview could go live in no time!

Sign Up

Sign up by creating an account or using a Facebook or Twitter login. It’s really that simple.

Get Sociable

You can quickly use Facebook and Twitter to search for your friends on Cinch.

how to podcast

You may also follow anyone else you think looks interesting when you are browsing the website. If you want to reply to another user’s Cinch post, you can simply hit reply and respond with an audio or text message.

Make A Post

Cinch is available for iPhone [iTunes link] and Android, or you can record very easily via the website. You can even register your phone number and use a regular New York phone number to dial in updates if you wish.

how to podcast

The beauty of using Cinch on your phone is that if you’re out and about with your phone it’s far easier to record some audio than it is to type text on your phone. Plus, you can record phone conversations, such as interviews, very easily this way. Just make sure you get permission first, though!

Customising

Cinch lets you separate your audio into albums, so for example you could have a family album, a professional album and a candid update album. Cinch also lets you set public or private permissions for these albums, giving you control over your updates.

Podcast Promotion

With every Cinch audio post you make, you can push an update to Facebook, Twitter or use RSS to get it to a lifestream. Since you can get your Cinch posts to your friends easily, it really doesn’t matter if they use Cinch or not themselves.

Cinch offers customisable widgets and a number of neat badges so you can promote your Cinch podcast on your website.

how to podcast

You can also embed individual audio files into a regular blog post. All you do is click on the Cinch you want to use and it will offer an embed link.

podcast

CinchCast.com will promote your Cinch updates to the rest of the Cinch community for you.

podcast production

Limits

There isn’t a hard limit to the length or size of your podcasts, however they do encourage the short and sweet post. As Twitter and Facebook have shown, more people feel it’s worth updating if short posts are the norm. There’s no pressure to have a full-length show prepared — you can simply record a short segment.

More On Podcasting

If you’re mad keen on podcasts, here’s some more articles you’ll love.

If you’ve joined Cinch, tell us how you use it. Do you keep private albums? Is it all business? Let us know!


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5 Health Websites You Can Tap For Online Support On Depression & Bipolar Disorder

Posted: 17 Dec 2010 10:31 AM PST

depression support websitesIt seems out of place bringing up such a serious topic on depression and bipolar disorder when the festivities are just around the corner. But it is one of those attacks that's out there and doesn't appreciate seasons. In fact, the socially busy holiday season can act as a catalyst.

Though there are many different types of depressions, what is common is that they usually occur in all ages. Of all the types, major depression and bipolar disorder are the ones that are highlighted more. NIMH says that 5.7 million people are afflicted in the U.S alone. Wikipedia cites a research study that says bipolar disorder is possibly the most costly category of mental disorders in the United States.

The good news is that these classes of depression are treatable. The doctors form the first line of defense always. And if you are looking for extra information and education, the web forms the second. Always consult a medical practitioner, but look up these five websites for any information on depression and bipolar disorder.

National Institute of Mental Health

depression support websites

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is a government body overseen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The website is an authoritative resource on the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses. It also highlights the latest clinical research in the area of mental health. Mental health topics get specific pages like the one for depression or bipolar disorder. The well organized list of contents takes the reader through the stages from symptoms and treatment to how to find help.

You can also download detailed information booklets as free PDF files. The video and audios on the page talk about different areas of treatment and breakthroughs. NIMH also has a YouTube channel. If you are in the U.S, you can use NIMH's Outreach Program to connect with the organization and interact firsthand with health advisors.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

depression websites

The DBSA is an online support group for bipolar disorder and depression. Participation is limited to 12 per group and it is strictly on first come first served basis with a free sign-up to the online chat. DBSA also runs more than 1000 peer-run support groups around the U.S. The community based support groups also have professional caregivers for education and treatment advice.

There's also the online discussion board that you can actively take part in. If you are trying to search out psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health professionals in your area, the Find a Pro service is a more than useful search engine. Also check out the nicely laid out Facing Us Clubhouse and there's quite a nice list of free PDF eBooks and eBrochures on bipolar disorder.

Child & Adolescent Bipolar Foundation

depression websites

Bipolar disorder doesn't discriminate when it comes to age. It does rear its head in childhood and adolescence. It becomes vital for parents to recognize and seek remedies in time. This website tailored for the young age group addresses these facts. Parents can connect to the online support groups on the site.

Then there are the forums and chat rooms to connect to other guardians and caregivers. You can watch out for upcoming expert chats given by doctors and mental health experts. Uniquely, transcripts of old chats are also freely available. Flipswitch is the podcast section and though it seems to have ended, you can still catch the old ones.

McMan's Depression and Bipolar Web

depression websites

This is a well compiled resource by John McManamy, an award-winning mental health journalist and author of Living Well with Depression and Bipolar Disorder. His insights come from being a sufferer of bipolar disorder for the last 11 years. Apart from the website, his blog is also a worthwhile read.

As he explains in his blog, he started it all as a means of coping with his own disorder. Initially, it was meant to be a platform for his own self education as he plowed through medical and psychiatric literature that was available on the subject. Lately, it has moved beyond medical diagnosis into brain and behavioral science. A section on the famous people from history who suffered from this ailment makes a revealing browse.

Depression Alliance

depression support websites

We have been U.S centric so far, but let's check out this UK based charity that tries to tackle depression. If you are a first timer go over to their new section – What you should know about depression.

The website brings an online discussion forum, a nationwide network of self help groups, a quarterly magazine, and a matched pen friend confidential service. There's also a small section where you can showcase any creative work (a story, a poem, an artwork etc).

When it comes to these ailments, there's so much more to talk about. The positive thing is that the web is a great enabler when it comes to support and advice. Though it cannot replace a face to face conversation with a qualified doctor, it can prove to be a valuable tool for information and education. Do you agree? Point us to any other resources you know of.

Image Credit : Shutterstock


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How To Build A Basic Web Crawler To Pull Information From A Website (Part 2)

Posted: 17 Dec 2010 09:31 AM PST

build a webcrawlerThis is part 2 in a series I started last time about how to build a web crawler in PHP. Previously I introduced the Simple HTML DOM helper file, as well as showing you how incredibly simple it was to grab all the links from a webpage, a common task for search engines like Google.

If you read part 1 and followed along, you’ll know I set some homework to adjust the script to grab images instead of links.


I dropped some pretty big hints, but if you didn’t get it or if you couldn’t get your code to run right, then here is the solution. I added an additional line to output the actual images themselves as well, rather than just the source address of the image.

<?php
include_once('simple_html_dom.php');
$target_url = "http://www.tokyobit.com";
$html = new simple_html_dom();
$html->load_file($target_url);
foreach($html->find('img') as $img)
{
echo $img->src."<br />";
echo $img."<br/>";
}
?>

This should output something like this:

build a webcrawler

Of course, the results are far from elegant, but it does work. Notice that the script is only capable of grabbing images that are on the content of the page in the form of <img> tags – a lot of the page design elements are hard-coded into the CSS, so our script can’t grab those. Again, you can run this through my server and if you wish at this URL, but to enter your own target site you’ll have to edit the code and run on your own server as I explained in part 1. At this point, you should bear in mind that downloading images from a website is significantly more stress on the server than simply grabbing text links, so do only try the script on your own blog or mine and try not to refresh lots of times.

Let’s move on and be a little more adventurous. We’re going to build upon our original file, and instead of just grabbing all the links randomly, we’re going to make it do something more useful by getting the post content instead. We can do this quite easily because standard WordPress wraps the post content within a <div class=”post”> tag, so all we need to do is grab any “div” with that class type, and output them – effectively stripping everything except the main content out of the original site. Here is our initial code:

<?php
include_once('simple_html_dom.php');
$target_url = "http://www.tokyobit.com";

$html = new simple_html_dom();

$html->load_file($target_url);
foreach($html->find(‘div[class=post]‘) as $post)
{
echo $post.”<br />”;
}

?>

You can see the output by running the script from here (forgive the slowness, my site is hosted at GoDaddy and they don’t scale very well at all), but it doesn’t contain any of the original design – it is literally just the content.

Let me show you another cool feature now – the ability to delete elements of the page that we don’t like. For instance, I find the meta data quite annoying – like the date and author name – so I’ve added some more code that finds those bits (identified by various classes of div such as post-date, post-info, and meta). I’ve also added a simple CSS style-sheet to format the output a little. Daniel covered a number of great places to learn CSS online if you’re not familiar with it.

As I mentioned in part 1, even though the file contains PHP code, we can still add standard HTML or CSS to the page and the browser will understand it just fine – the PHP code is run on the server, then everything is sent to the browser, to you, as standard HTML. Anyway, here’s the whole final code:

<head>
<style type=”text/css”>
div.post{background-color: gray;border-radius: 10px;-moz-border-radius: 10px;padding:20px;}
img{float:left;border:0px;padding-right: 10px;padding-bottom: 10px;}
body{width:60%;font-family: verdana,tahamo,sans-serif;margin-left:20%;}
a{text-decoration:none;color:lime;}
</style>
</head>

<?php
include_once(‘simple_html_dom.php’);

$target_url = “http://www.tokyobit.com”;

$html = new simple_html_dom();

$html->load_file($target_url);
foreach($html->find(‘div[class=post]‘) as $post)
{
$post->find(‘div[class=post-date]‘,0)->outertext = ”;
$post->find(‘div[class=post-info]‘,0)->outertext = ”;
$post->find(‘div[class=meta]‘,0)->outertext = ”;
echo $post.”<br />”;
}

?>

You can check out the results here. Pretty impressive, huh? We’ve taken the content of the original page, got rid of a few bits we didn’t want, and completely reformatted it in the style we like! And more than that, the process is now automated, so if new content were to be published, it would automatically display on our script.

build a webcrawler

That’s only a fraction of the power available to you though, you can read the full manual online here if you’d like to explore it a little more of the PHP Simple DOM helper and how it greatly aids and simplifies the web crawling process. It’s a great way to take your knowledge of basic HTML and take it up to the next dynamic level.

What could you use this for though? Well, let’s say you own lots of websites and wanted to gather all the contents onto a single site. You could copy and paste the contents every time you update each site, or you could just do it all automatically with this script. Personally, even though I may never use it, I found the script to be a useful exercise in understanding the underlying structure of modern internet documents. It also exposes how simple it is to re-use content when everything is published on a similar system using the same semantics.

What do you think? Again, do let me know in the comments if you’d like to learn some more basic web programming, as I feel like I’ve started you off on level 5 and skipped the first 4! Did you follow along and try yourself, or did you find it a little too confusing? Would you like to learn more about some of the other technologies behind the modern internet browsing experience?

If you’d prefer learning to program on the desktop side of things, Bakari covered some great beginner resources for learning Cocoa Mac OSX desktop programming at the start of the year, and our featured directory app CodeFetch is useful for any programming language. Remember, skills you develop programming in any language can be used across the board.


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Save The World From Droids In The FreeDroid RPG Adventure

Posted: 17 Dec 2010 08:31 AM PST

freedroidI don’t know what it is about post-apocalyptic games, but I love them. The idea of exploring a world torn and destroyed by some violent or cataclysmic event is interesting to imagine. These are the type of games I always loved playing, like the 1997 Interplay game Fallout.

The open source game called FreeDroid is an RPG adventure based on a post-apocalyptic world where the global adoption of one computer system known as “Megasys” led to a global war, when the Droids running the OS had some sort of horrible bug that turned them all on humans. As the hero, a penguin-like species called “Linerian”, your job is to explore this terrible world and right all of the things that went wrong.


It’s rare that the worlds of Linux and Windows collide. There are cases like the 8 games mentioned by Tim which are available for multiple platforms, but in this game it goes far beyond that – the game itself has a message to tell about operating systems. This game has somewhat better graphics than the 2D ones like Justin reviewed, but it does remind me of the Linux games you’ll find at apps like PenguSpy.

Playing FreeDroid RPG

A few years ago, many reviewers were saying that FreeDroid was clearly not ready for prime time, although most agreed it was a fun game even in that early stage. The game has come a long way. I usually don’t review any free game unless the graphics are decent enough to pass for a commercially available game. That’s definitely the case with FreeDroid.

freedroid

The download for Windows is a pretty good sized file, so be patient. It’s also included in most Linux distributions. It’s pretty cool that Windows users can also enjoy it, although anyone who’s a major fan of Microsoft may not want to unless you have a good sense of humor!

freedroid review

The controls, graphics and dialog really remind me of games like Fallout. Exploring this world is a lot of fun, and like other commercial RPG adventure games, you’re pretty much free to go wherever you want, and to accept and complete the missions that you would like. If you really want to work through the storyline, then make a point to talk to the characters and thoroughly question them about everything. That’s the only way to pick up clues and learn what you need to do next to move the plot along.

freedroid review

Thankfully, upon waking from your cryogenic slumber, the gear you had when you initially went to sleep is returned to you. This gear includes protective gear and a huge steel wrench, which you use as your first weapon to clobber Droids. At the start of the game, there are droids that come near you and zap you, and others that shoot from afar. Navigating through the treacherous world isn’t overly simple – you’re definitely going to have to fight a few droids and avoid the shooting droids to make it to your first safe town.

freedroid review

As you meet and talk to new characters (like those at the safe town), you’ll not only get clues about how you can put things right, but you’ll also come across side missions that you can complete to gain favor with certain people or groups within this world. Fighting droids and completing quests will improve your stats and help you complete the next levels of the game – so don’t be afraid to strike out and face the dangers head on.

free rpg games

Your character is known throughout this world as a computer hacking hero, and they are counting on you to help put an end to the tragic problems created by the monster corporation known as Megasys. Throughout the game, you’ll find computers  and terminals – playing around with these systems will give you a peek into the global system and you’ll discover opportunities to “hack” it along the way.

free rpg games

At towns you find different services (like doctors that can heal you) and shops where you can pick up better protective gear or weapons. As the game progresses, you’ll need better gear. Keep an eye on your health and make sure to take care of yourself so all levels stay high.

free rpg games

The game makers state that the game, in its current state, provides about ten hours of solid game play. Additionally, when you’ve finished playing the game, the fun continues in the “Level Editor” section where you can completely edit existing game levels, or create your own levels to play. A whole library of objects are available for you to use – the possibilities are pretty much endless.

freedroid

FreeDroid RPG is one of those rare free games that really is fun and interesting to play. The storyline is pretty decent, and the little jabs at “MegaSys” will really give you a chuckle every now and then throughout the game. The hardly-veiled message of the game is pretty clear within five minutes of playing. Whether you agree with the message of the game, it’s still a total blast to play.

Have you ever played FreeDroid on Windows or Linux? What do you think of the game? Share your opinions about this game in the comments section below.


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Turbocharge Your PC With The OCZ RevoDrive PCIe SSD [Giveaway]

Posted: 17 Dec 2010 08:00 AM PST

Solid state drives are fast, cutting edge hardware, but most of them are very similar and provide fairly similar performance. The typical 128GB SSD fits into a 2.5″ format, connects via SATA, and is able to provide read performance of up to 200 MB/s and write performance of up to 150 MB/s. That’s very quick, which is the reason why SSDs are becoming popular in spite of the costs. Yet the fact that these drives are similar doesn’t mean it’s the only way these products can be – as the OCZ RevoDrive proves.

We’ve got one 120GB OCZ RevoDrive to give away to a very lucky MakeUseOf reader. Find out how you can be the one.

Why PCI?

Unlike most SSDs, the OCZ RevoDrive is mounted on a PCIe board and connects via a PCIe 4x slot. This change is not merely aesthetic, either, nor is it meant simply for people who’ve already filled all of their SATA ports. The choice to go with PCIe is instead driven by bandwidth. OCZ quotes read speeds of up to 540 MB/s and write speeds of up to 480 MB/s. These speeds are two to three times what you’d normally expect from a solid state drive, and PCIe 4x provides the bandwidth needed to transfer such large volumes of data.

Benchmarks

Does the RevoDrive manage to obtain the quoted speeds? Check out the benchmark results below.

The OCZ RevoDrive generally stomps the competition. The SSD was able to meet is promised speeds in the ATTO benchmark, and was able to come close in the SiSoft Sandra benchmarks. More importantly, it proved itself capable of dominating the typical SATA drive.

This performance gap is courtesy of the RevoDrive’s two Sandforce controllers, which run in a RAID 0 configuration. Most solid state drives are capable of this level of performance if they are placed into a RAID 0 configuration and given adequate bandwidth, but the RevoDrive has the RAID controller on-board. This simplifies the setup dramatically from user’s perspective. Ease of use is aided by the fact that the RevoDrive is bootable, a trait that some earlier PCIe drives couldn’t claim. OCZ also covers the drive with a 3 year warranty.

The Practical Details

On the downside, the RevoDrive’s unique configuration makes traditional TRIM support impossible. TRIM is an important garbage-collection tool that helps keeps solid state drives running like new. Without it, the performance of a SSD will degrade over time. This performance degradation will gradually reduce the read and write speeds of the drive. However, the SandForce controller that is used with this product is known to handle performance degradation more gracefully than most. The average enthusiast is unlikely to notice the difference – this issue is most relevant to the drive’s usage in specific computers such as web servers, which have to deal with read/write requests 24 hours a day.

The 120GB version of the OCZ RevoDrive typically retails for $299.99. For comparison, the popular 120GB Intel X25-M will set you back $229.99. The slight increase in price compared to  your typical SATA drive of similar capacity is more than justified by the drive’s incredible performance.

Of course, you may not have to worry about price, because Makeuseof will be giving away one of these lightening-quicker SSDs. If you’re looking for a way to make your fellow geeks jealous this holiday season, the OCZ RevoDrive is for you!

How do I win it?

It’s simple, just follow the instructions.


STEP 1
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.

STEP 2
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.


STEP 3
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, December 31st at 2100hrs PST. The winners will be selected at random and announced via email.

Spread the word to your friends and have fun!

MakeUseOf would like to thank OCZ Technology 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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Benchmark & Explore Your PC With SiSoft Sandra 2011 Lite

Posted: 17 Dec 2010 07:31 AM PST

pc benchmarkSiSoft Sandra has long been considered one of the best PC benchmark programs available. It is frequently used in computer hardware reviews to judge the speed of components such as processors, hard drives, and video cards. It is also capable of benchmarking more obscure things, such as memory bandwidth.

A new version of SiSoft Sandra is released yearly, and the 2011 build was made available recently. As usual, the full SiSoft Sandra software is a paid program – but a free Lite version, which doesn’t seem very lite at all, is also available. Let’s take a look at what the latest version has to offer.

PC Benchmarks Galore

pc benchmark

Computer benchmarks are often used by hardware reviewers as a standardized way of determining performance. However, benchmarks can be handy for everyone. They give you a way to determine how your computer’s performance measures up to others. This can point out areas where you need to upgrade, or can give you definitive proof that a certain component is not working right.

SiSoft Sandra 2011 Lite has thrown in a number of new PC benchmarks including GPGPU Cryptology, Media Transcoding, and Blu-Ray. The later two are arguably the most interesting for most users, and media transcoding in particular is a great benchmark to have. It’s common to convert videos from one format to another, usually in order to port them over to a smartphone, but sometimes for other purposes.

pc benchmark software

The new version of the software makes continued improvements to SiSoft Sandra’s excellent hardware comparison results. Most benchmark software will only give you one result – the result from your own computer. This is useful, but you have to find and compare the result to others manually. SiSoft Sandra, however, provides a huge library of hardware benchmarks. This information will provide you with an instant comparison between the hardware you have and other comparable components. The continued refinement of this feature in SiSoft Sandra 2011 makes choosing a hardware upgrade easier than ever before.

Computer Information Station

pc benchmark software

Another function that SiSoft Sandra 2011 Lite continues to serve is that of gathering information about your computer. This is a problem that usually evident until you actually try to find out certain information exclusively through Windows. What chipset does your motherboard use? What is the clock speed of your RAM? What builds of Microsoft .NET Framework do you have installed?

SiSoft Sandra 2011 Lite lays out this information in the Hardware and Software sections. There doesn’t seem to be anything of great importance that escapes the grasp of SiSoft Sandra 2011, and the information provided rivals my personal favorite PC information software, PC Wizard 2010. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if some users prefer SiSoft Sandra 2011 for this purpose. It is generally a more intuitive program thanks to large, clearly labeled icons.

pc benchmark

Another useful section of the program is Tools. In this part of SiSoft Sandra 2011 Lite you’ll find a few broad utilities including a burn-in test that can be used to see how your hardware manages under heavy usage. The report tool is also handy. This lets you create a text log of a computer’s current specifications, which can be reviewed at a later date. Logging this sort of information is handy if you’re trying to resolve issues on a computer that you don’t always have access to.

Conclusion

I think that SiSoft Sandra 2011 Lite is a must-have download for computer enthusiasts. It can handle a wide variety of benchmarking and PC information needs, and the comparison tools are incredibly helpful if you’re looking to upgrade your computer’s hardware.


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Gmail Launches New Features: Contacts Restore & Email Delegation [News]

Posted: 17 Dec 2010 06:31 AM PST

The Gmail team has clearly been hard at work with two new features released within hours of each other this week. When you thought the already feature-rich Gmail couldn’t get any better, they’ve added two new services, each aiming to make life just a little bit easier for you. The latest additions are the ability to restore deleted contacts for up to 30 days and the ability to grant other users access to your account without having to share your password, giving them total access to your account.

Email delegation has been available to Google Apps users but you can only grant access to users in the same domain. Gmail users can now grant access to their account to other Gmail users.


The uses for granting access are endless. You can give your assistants or colleagues access to your email account, allowing them to check and send emails on your behalf. If you have more than one Gmail account, you can now access your accounts in a secure and convenient manner without having to constantly log in and out of each account or keep two browsers open. Of course the only Google service you will be able to access is Gmail – all other services such as Google Reader, Calendar and Docs will not be available.

In order to activate this service, go to Settings > Accounts and Import > Grant access to your account.

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From there you can add any email accounts you wish to gain access to your account.

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An email will be sent to the other account with a confirmation link. After refreshing, you should be able to access both email accounts by clicking on a small arrow next to the email address shown at the top right hand corner of the screen. Any emails sent from the delegated account will be distinguished, by appearing as having been sent on behalf of the original account.

The second new feature is the ability to revert your contact list to its original state, for up to 30 days after any changes have been made. Inadvertently deleted a contact, or worse yet, an entire group? Something went wrong when you were syncing your mobile device with your Gmail contacts? By going to Contacts > More Actions > Restore Contacts, you can revert your contact list to its original state anywhere from 10 minutes to 30 days in the past.

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What do you think of Gmail’s new features? Let us know in the comments.


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