Tuesday, December 14, 2010

MakeUseOf.com: “The AWESOME Automation Guide For Mac Users [PDF]” plus 11 more

MakeUseOf.com: “The AWESOME Automation Guide For Mac Users [PDF]” plus 11 more

Link to MakeUseOf.com

The AWESOME Automation Guide For Mac Users [PDF]

Posted: 14 Dec 2010 05:34 AM PST

Work smart, not hard. That’s the idea behind Mac Automation, a technology built into Apple’s OS X but frequently underutilized.

Whether its sorting your email, searching your documents or building a playlist, you’d be amazed how many tasks can be done automatic instead of manually–if only you knew how to get started.

Lucky for you, MakeUseOf is offering a free ebook covering just that: The Awesome Automation Guide for Macs. This guide explains everything you need to stop clicking your mouse so often and start letting your computer do the boring stuff for you, no programming skills required. Take full advantage of the most powerful operating system on the planet and save yourself from time.

DOWNLOAD The Awesome Automation Guide for Macs


Read online now on Scribd

Every Mac user should read this guide, which is made up of easy-to-understand demonstrations and screenshots. Among other things you’ll learn how to:

  • Use smart folders to manage your files and folders
  • Using iTunes’ smart playlists to organize your music
  • Find the photo your looking for with iPhoto
  • Sort your email without any effort, using Mail.app’s smart filters and folders
  • Using Automator to script without any programming knowledge

Like all our manuals, this one is free. Please share this with all of your friends!

DOWNLOAD The Awesome Automation Guide for Macs


Read online now on Scribd


Enjoy and share!

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Cool Websites and Tools [December 13th]

Posted: 13 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!


Baby Name Wizard – Naming a baby can be a challenging responsibility for parents. Parents who are about to have a baby can be quite choosy when selecting a name; no parent in their right mind would just pick just a random name out of nowhere for their child. The Baby Name Wizard is a resource website that is dedicated for baby name ideas. Read more: BabyNameWizard: Baby Naming Tools & Help for Parents


Printable-Cards – If you are the type who gives Christmas cards for the holidays, you can save yourself the cash by printing beautiful cards from Printable-Cards. This tool lets you browse, save, download, and print customizable photo cards to give out to your friends. The quick print feature will let you produce unique cards from cool templates in seconds. Read more: Printable-Cards: Create & Customized Free Greeting Cards Online



RedPhone – Whether you are talking on the phone to your spouse, discussing an issue with your boss, on negotiating a deal with another company, you would obviously prefer to keep your phone calls as private as possible. RedPhone helps us ensure our conversations stay between us and the other caller. Read more: RedPhone: Encrypt Your Phone Calls



OnTheFly – If you are a frequent flyer, having airfare schedules right at your fingertips is a must. ITA Software's OnTheFly is a mobile application that allows you to search for flight schedules and airfare rates on the go using your iPhone, Android phone, or iPod Touch. OnTheFly features a customizable flight search tool. Read more: OnTheFly: Search Flight Schedules & Compare Rates (Mobile)



MapCrunch – After Chatroulette’s success, there are a number of websites adding that 'random' touch to their services. MapCrunch is one site that has mashed up randomness with Google's Street View feature. Its function is quite simple: it displays random Google Street View locations on the globe. If you want, you can specify the area by jumping around the view; you can also specify via continent and country. Read more: MapCrunch: Shows Random Google Street View Locations


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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How To Navigate Google Search Results Using Your Keyboard Only

Posted: 13 Dec 2010 05:30 PM PST

google search resultsMost of us search daily and some of us (like myself) even hourly. We rely on Google when doing research for school, looking for seasonal discounts and sales or just finding an answer to any question we keep wondering about.

Google is actively experimenting with different interfaces and features to let us try new search experiences. But what it has always missed is a set of good keyboard shortcuts that would make navigating through Google search results much easier.

This article attempts to collect and organize various ways to add and use keyboard shortcuts with Google search.

1. Google Instant Keyboard Shortcuts

While You Are Typing:

Tab / Right arrow — Auto-complete the search term using the top suggestion (to continue typing the next search term)

Up / Down keys — Navigate through search suggestions

google search results

Navigating Search Results:

Down arrow + Right arrow — Navigate to the result line you need and preview the page with Google Instant preview

Down arrow action pictured belowgoogle search tips

Right arrow action pictured belowgoogle search tips

General Google Search Shortcuts

By default, there is no keyboard support to navigate through Google search results. However there are a few ways to add that functionality:

1. Join the Experiment

Google has a number of experimental search features listed here – one of which is keyboard shortcut support. If you opt in, you’ll be able to use the following shortcuts:
J — Selects the next listing.
K — Selects the previous listing.
O / Enter — Opens the selected result.
/ — Puts the cursor in the search box (and selects the text already there).*
Esc — Removes the cursor from the search box.

Works in Google Instant? – Yes (but the experimental shortcuts disable Google Instant navigational shortcuts)

google search tips

2. Greasemonkey scripts

There are a few Greasemonkey scripts to help but there is always something missing from each. The two that still seem to be working are:

1. Keyboard Shortcuts for Google Search (script)

This one does have some good ideas and potential but it hasn’t been updated for a while I guess (some of the features are no more working including numbering of results).

The keyboard shortcuts it supports:
n — Go to the next page
p — Go to the previous page
e — Select the query to edit it
aAdd something to the search query

Works in Google Instant? – Partially (you can still navigate through pages using n and p keys but you can no longer edit the search query)

The good thing about these shortcuts are easy to remember.

The problem with these shortcuts is that there is no good way to remove the cursor from the search box. So, for example, when you use n to go to the next page, the search box will be automatically active and you will have to click away to make the shortcut work again (to go to the third page). Otherwise, you will be typing in the search box.

It does work if you also opt in to the experimental search I mentioned above and use Esc each time to leave the search box and then n to go to the next page.

2. Keyboard Shortcuts Enhancement for Google, etc

This another semi-working Greasemonkey script that does have one feature which is worth a mention.

The script offers a handier way to switch between search result pages:
Alt+PageDown — Go to the next page
Alt+PageUp — Go to the previous page

Works in Google Instant? – Yes!

This way you don’t need to mess around with Esc key to de-activate the search field each time you land on the next page and everything works much faster.

Putting Them Together

If the above article seems to contain too much information for you, here’s a handy cheat sheet summarizing it.

Combining different tools, you get almost 100% mouseless Google search result browsing!

ProcessKeyWhat it doesHow to enable
Control the search box/Puts the cursor in the search box (and selects the text already there).*Experimental search
<Esc>Removes the cursor from the search box.Experimental search
Tab / Right arrowAuto-completes the search query using the top suggestion (to continue typing the next search term)Google Instant enabled
Navigate through resultsJSelects the next result.Experimental search
KSelects the previous result.Experimental search
O / <Enter>Opens the selected result.Experimental search
Right arrowLets you preview the page with Google Instant previewGoogle Instant Preview enabled
Navigate through pagesalt+PageDownGoes to the next pageThis script
alt+PageUpGoes to the previous pageThis script


Do you think these keyboard shortcuts can enhance your searching experience? Please share your thoughts!

Image Credit: webaxes



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WordWeb Makes It Easy To Define Words In & Outside Your Web Browser

Posted: 13 Dec 2010 03:30 PM PST

synonyms dictionaryTrying to keep up with lots of blogs and useful articles on the web can certainly help you learn lots of technical lingo and expand your vocabulary. Thus, it makes sense to want to find a seamless way to define words instead of having to Google search on a new tab every single time.

There are a few programs that make the searching experience a whole lot easier. MakeUseOf has previously reviewed Lingoes, a portable program that brings up dictionary definitions and translations in a convenient in-line popup. If you’re on a Mac, you might have just to expand the built-in Dictionary app. For Windows, there’s a very neat and highly-rated dictionary tool, WordWeb, that might just be a very capable solution.

You can download it from CNET here, where it has been rated 4.5 stars by users and 5 stars by the CNET staff. If you just want to try this application, make sure to click on Advanced when you’re installing it and you’ll be offered an option to install it as a portable app.

synonyms dictionary

Just don’t forget to change the location where the application will live after that screen.

There are several features that make this program a keeper (at least for me):

  • You can use this offline.
  • You can actually select the hotkey to bring up the dictionary (most other programs don’t provide you with a choice): Right after you install it, you’ll want to go right-click on the system tray icon for the program and head to Change Hotkey to set up the hotkey.

    list of synonyms antonyms

    Alternatively, you can open up the program main window and go into Options > Hotkey. I did change the default hotkey of Ctrl + right-click to Alt + (regular) left-click as I thought that would be more seamless. I also changed the hotkey to bring up the dictionary while a word is highlighted to AltF since my fingers are usually above those keys by default.

  • You’ll see synonyms and closely-related words.

If you just want the program to display the definition and synonyms, I found that going into Preferences would not be entirely necessary as the default options will work.

The dictionary worked really well and extremely fast when I was browsing in Chrome and in any other program with easily-copyable text.


I did, however, have mixed results getting the dictionary to detect the highlighted word in a PDF document, but pressing either of the hotkeys will bring up the window in a flash, where you can always type in your word.


Another cool feature is the option to hear the pronunciation for your selected word. WordWeb has a Pro version where you can hear the pronunciation with its own library, but you also have the option to hear pronunciations by the Windows text-to-speech system, which worked well in my tests.

Finally, if you head to the Web References tab in the main window, you can choose to download additional libraries, which enables you to find Wikipedia and Wiktionary entries.


For simpler words, you can also find antonyms and similar words, which I don’t honestly really know how are different from synonyms.

synonyms dictionary

Overall, this program will prove very useful if you’re interested in building your vocabulary or just want an easy and seamless way to look up words, their synonyms, pronunciations, etc.

If you’re a Chrome user, there are two separate extensions that do some what this single program does (but sort of conflict if you use them together):

For Firefox users, there’s the QuickWiki extension.

Would you use this program and prefer to search manually? If you know of alternatives, let us know in the comments!

Photo credit: Jack Cai



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Introducing Jumo – The Social Network for Social Good

Posted: 13 Dec 2010 01:30 PM PST

social networks for a good causeJumo is a social network that uses your Facebook login to connect with thousands of good causes and keep up to date with those you feel most passionate about. The service was recently launched by Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, who previously worked on the online side of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.

The site promises to "connect individuals and organizations working to change the world" but is Jumo a passionate attempt to support charities, projects and good causes, or simply another facet of internet slacktivism?

Getting Started

Jumo requires Facebook Connect to work – meaning you’ll be needing a Facebook account to use the service. Thankfully, registration is a fairly quick affair.

social networks for a good cause

On the homepage simply click Sign Up and Jumo will request permission to access your Facebook data. Click Allow and you’ll be taken to a page where you’ll need to fill in a short form with the usual registration data. Once you’re done click Create my Account to finalise the process.

Next you’ll be required to choose which issues you are most interested in before Jumo suggests who and what to follow. There’s 7 topics to rate, and for each you can choose Not Interested, Interested or Very Interested.

social networks charity

After you’ve rated, click Next to see what Jumo has suggested. On this screen there will be a plethora of projects, issues and other causes that need your support, funding and activism. You can follow any cause simply by clicking on it.

social networks charities

Once you’ve made your choices (and there’s no need to go mad, you’ll be able to add more later) simply click Done to get started.

Using Jumo

The homepage itself loosely resembles Facebook, with the content split across 4 columns. On the left is your Faceboook display picture as well as any projects and issues you happen to be following.

social networks charities

The Top News panel features updates from the causes you are following, which is slightly different to the Talk section which aggregates short messages sent and received by your causes. Finally there is a suggestions panel on the far right, based on what you are currently following.

If you’re used to the way Facebook works then you’ll need seconds to get used to Jumo. Each project has a profile, much like a Facebook fan page where you can peruse the updates and chatter and get more information about the cause.

social networks charities

On each profile page you will also find suggestions for similar projects, meaning you can populate your news feed pretty quickly.

Your own (and any other individual) profile page looks a bit bleak and very Facebook, but you probably won’t be spending much time there anyway (that’s what Facebook is for).

There is also a personal settings area, where you can change the way Jumo notifies you of updates, and fill in your own personal contact information.

social networks for a good cause

The site itself is very simple, packed with information and reminiscent of a stripped down Facebook, with less self-importance and more good-will.

The Verdict

Does it work? Well I can’t exactly answer that. The success of Jumo depends on how the projects and causes engage the audience. The formula is there – Like buttons, status updates, the direct ability to post your charitable actions and personal causes to Facebook – users should feel right at home.

It also depends on how Jumo itself develops over the coming years. A dedicated Donate button would probably increase Jumo’s viability as a tool for charity awareness and fundraising, though such system would undoubtedly be open to abuse.

As a service designed to raise awareness and help individuals choose causes that are right for them, Jumo works. It immerses the user in nothing but issues and projects that demand attention, and for good reason.

The onus is then placed fully on the individual to take further action, of course. Jumo could be seen as a bit of a waste of time if you don’t end up getting involved, but it certainly makes it easier and more enticing to pay greater attention to issues that concern you the most.

What do you think of Jumo? Have you discovered any worthwhile causes to follow, or do you feel differently about Facebook-style charity?

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Hot Tech Deals [Dec 13th]

Posted: 13 Dec 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 MK550 Wireless Wave Keyboard/Mouse $44.99AR Free Shipping

  2. Pogoplug Pro File NAS Dock w/ WiFi & Print Server (FTP/Mobile Access) $74.99 Free Shipping

  3. ASUS ML228H 21.5in LED-Backlit LCD Monitor (2ms, HDMI) $134.99AR Free Shipping

  4. Samsung SCX-4623F Monochrome Laser All-in-One Printer w/ Fax $129.99 Free Shipping

  5. Microsoft LifeCam Cinema High Definition Webcam (720p, Microphone) $39.99 Free Shipping

  6. Mass Effect 2 Game (Xbox 360) $10.96

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set

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Access Your Computer From Anywhere Using Your iPad

Posted: 13 Dec 2010 11:30 AM PST

remote access computerAccessing your computer from anywhere using your iPad is relatively easy to achieve, whether you’re using a Mac, PC, and even in some cases, a Linux machine. You can gain remote access to your own computer when you’re away from home or the office, help a friend out with their computer remotely, or even give a presentation from your computer to someone else’s iPad, all with the use of apps available for download for free from the iTune’s store.

In addition, if you would rather access specific folders or files (of any kind) that has also been made possible for Mac and PC users.

VNC and Screen Sharing

TeamViewer HD

TeamViewer is one of the easiest ways to get full access to your computer from your iPad [iTunes link]. While Teamviewer is also compatible with the iPhone/iPod Touch and Android phones, using it on the iPad is of course much easier because of the larger screen that gives you easier control over the various features.

To get started with TeamViewer HD, install the application on your Mac, PC or Linux machine, and launch it. It will instantly give you a username and password that you can share with anyone with whom you want to give remote access, or use with the iPad app.

remote access computer

No need to mess around with hostnames and ports – it’s all done for you. The great thing about TeamViewer is not only its ease of use, but also the flexibility with which you can use due to the fact that it supports so many platforms.

If you would prefer to use an easy-to-remember password on a consistent basis, you can select it under your preferences, otherwise the password will change each time you close the application.

remote computer access software

From your mobile device, you can type with an onscreen keyboard and control the mouse by dragging the cursor around the screen, giving you full access to all features on your computer.

remote computer access software

TeamViewer HD is free for non-commercial use only, and is offered on good faith that users won’t abuse their policies. The application is ideal for giving tech support to family and friends, controlling your own computer from wherever you are, or even can be used to give realtime demonstrations from your PC to someone else’s iPad.

Connect My Mac

Connect My Mac [iTunes link] is another easy way for Mac users to gain access to your computer using an iPad or iPhone. Rather than have to install anything on your computer, the connection can be achieved using your Mac’s inbuilt sharing settings.

Navigate to your System Preferences and open the Sharing window. Make sure that Screen Sharing is checked, and make a note of the VNC address that is displayed on the screen.

remote computer access software

Don’t forget to add a password, found under computer settings, to limit access to your computer.

remote access ipad app

Launching Connect My Mac, enter the address as your hostname, enter your password, and connect.

remote access ipad app

The advantage to using Connect My Mac over TeamViewer is the fact that you don’t have to install any extra software on your computer, and that you also have access to the Cmd+Opt+Esc function in the event that any of your applications freeze.

remote access ipad app

iRemoteDeskTop Free [iTunes link] from the same developers as Connect My Mac gives Windows users similar access to their Windows desktops. Unlike Connect My Mac, however, it will require the installation of a small program on your Windows machine to gain access.

Media and Files

If you would rather access specific media and files on your iPad, or even download them to your iPad, your best bet is ZumoCast [iTunes link]. The app which is, amazingly enough, free gives you access to all kinds of files, including your music and video files, and pretty much any folder you choose. All you have to do is install the ZumoCast app on your Mac or Windows machine, and you’ll have easy and secure access to your files from your iPad or iPhone.

remote access computer

What method do you use to access your computer from your iPad? Let us know in the comments.

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From Diary Writing to PDF Forms: 5 Awesome Free iPad Apps You Should Get

Posted: 13 Dec 2010 10:30 AM PST

free ipad appsWith hundreds of thousands of apps in Apple App Store, it can a little difficult to find free awesome applications that both work as described and are not laden with advertising.

Over the last week or so, I've downloaded a handful of practical apps fully optimized for the iPad. This is not a definitive list by a long shot, but if you're an iPad owner, you will no doubt want to add one or more of these free iPad apps to your collection.

My Secret Diary

There's no shortage of word processing applications for iPad, and rightly so. The size and orientation of the device invites users to type and write on it almost as if they were writing on a notebook pad. If you would like to maintain a diary or journal on your iPad, My Secret Diary [iTunes Store link] is very well designed app with some great features for keeping your private thoughts.

Just as with a traditional paper diary, a date is automatically stamped on each entry, but you also have the option of changing it with the built-in calendar. The above left side of the journal contains a nice set of menu features, enabling you to add yellow sticky notes, smiley stickers, photos and various types of bookmark icons.

free ipad apps

If you like listening to music while you write, you can even access your iPad's iTunes library right from within the application.

Finally, My Secret Diary includes a three-digital lock code for keeping your personal thoughts private, but unfortunately this feature doesn't work in the version I downloaded. I'm sure it will be fixed in the next update.


One of the best reasons for owning an iPad is that it enables you to do paperless reading and writing. There are several apps for reading PDFs and other types of documents on the device, but an app called LifeForms [iTunes Store link] is one of the few which allows you to fill in digital forms on the iPad.

ipad apps free best

That's right, you can import PDF forms into the application and use the text, date, signature, and notes features to fill in the text fields. It works like layers in Photoshop, which means you set data and then move the layered text onto the appropriate space on the form. There's also a feature that enables you to hand write your signature, save it, and add it to forms.

When you're finished filling out the form, you can export it via email, iTunes, or print it directly on a supported wireless printer.


If you're a dedicated iPad user, you probably find the default Safari browser limited in some areas. There are some really great alternative browsers in the App Store, but the best free one of the bunch seems to be one called, Terra [iTunes Store link].

ipad apps free best

I've used this browser for about a week, and I have found it to be a clean and feature rich application that includes full-screen browsing, unlimited tabs, passcode protection for securing browsing activity, and the ability to save images from a web page, as well as save and archive pages for offline reading.

Because many of these features are missing from Safari, you might very well put Terra in the home dock or the home page of your iPad for regular use.


If you're an avid Amazon customer, you might want to check out its new application for the iPad called Windowshop [iTunes Store link]. In Windowshop, you can now shop for both paper and Kindle books, as well as other products, in one application, instead of the two in the previous versions.

ipad apps free best

There are so many categories of merchandise in this online store—including books, electronics, movies and TV—that you can only view and read it in landscape mode.

All the other traditional features—wish lists, shopping cart, product details—are included in this latest version as well.

Mad Math Lite

If you're an iPad user and you have kids, you absolutely know you need to keep a folder of games and educational apps as part of your collection.

free ipad apps

I downloaded Mad Math Lite [iTunes Store link] for my son, and he has found it to be an easy to use flash card application for reviewing math problems.

Mad Math can be set up for various types of equations, plus it includes a timer and report card for goal settings.

The large colorful, interactive buttons, and font styles make it very easy for kids to read and use.

Your Suggested Free Apps?

Though the apps describe above are free, they won't be collecting digital dust in my iPad. I'm also sure you have a handful of freebies that you recommend; so let us know about them. And if you're looking for more recommendations, check my first list of 10 free iPad apps posted back in April.

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10 Coolest Online Christmas Games to Play during Your Vacation

Posted: 13 Dec 2010 09:30 AM PST

online christmas gamesWith Christmas just a few days away, I don't think anybody's in the spirit for a serious read. Holiday season is in the air and it's all going to be fun and games from here on. There is no dearth of activities that can be cooked up to keep the family busy during Christmas. Thinking up gift ideas is just one part of the Christmas story. Shopping is of course another. More importantly, Christmas is also a great time to reconnect and bond with the entire family.

And families usually revolve around kids. We can give you some ideas on thinking up gift ideas for them. But you alone can give them the greatest gifts of all – time and love. It's quite easy actually to have some togetherness when parents and kids love the world of computers. Free online Christmas games are just one starting point.

So, in the name of Yuletide, let's hunt out some cool online Christmas games that you can play for free.

Elf Clubhouse

online christmas games

The Elf Clubhouse is where the elves come to rest and play. You can also join them. Northpole.com is a child friendly site designed on the theme of Santa's village. Games are just one part of the fun story. The Elf's Game Chest is full of cool Christmas online games you can play for free. It's a nice mix 'n match of educational games and puzzles. You can play the relatively easy ones like Trim the Tree or Counting Money. But if you really want to keep your child engaged, give him the Rubik's Cube.

Christmas Cannon

christmas games

The Flash cannon game is just one of the cool and easy online Christmas games you can play on this site. All you have to do is to use your space bar to fire a canon that delivers presents around the town. The Chimney Challenge is another Christmas game you can try and hit back at the tax accountants. But do miss Santa as he also pops out from the chimneys.


christmas games

The BBC site for pre-school kids has a special Christmas section full of fun activities. Choose from the lineup of 15 games. You can start with a simple deck up of the Christmas Tree or the more musical The Big Coconut Adventure. If collecting coconuts doesn't quite reflect the Xmas theme, check out Christmas Higgledy House.

Santa Snowball Shoot

christmas games

We stay British on the British Council site. Here you have to help the little elf shootout the fake Santa with snowballs. The only thing to be careful of is that you don’t hit Rudolph the reindeer when he too runs in front of the fake Santa. The idea is to gain points and uncover the merry word at the top. Christmas Presents is a language game where you have to read clues and discover ten hidden words in the grid. All games on this site are arranged around the task of teaching a child the basics of the English language.

The Nightmare Before Christmas

free online christmas games

The game is a bit dated, but it's the fun that matters. The game is based on the movie, The Nightmare Before Christmas. It's pretty faced paced so you have to be quick with your mouse click as Jack 'The Pumpkin King' Skellington has to drop gifts for Christmas. Can you help him do it?


free online christmas games

Overtime is a flash game I found that asks you to be a bit more 'involved'. The game displays an ad while the game loads but that's it. The basic idea of the game is to save Christmas by picking up an order for Santa, get it packaged and catch Santa before he traipses off.

The Nutcracker

free online christmas games

This online Christmas game is just one of the online games hosted on this site. Freeaddictinggames.com has a large collection of Christmas games collected from different corners of the web. You have to perform a rescue act as the Nutcracker by fighting other game characters.

Santa Racers

Surprisingly, I found this flash Christmas game incredibly difficult to play as I just couldn't turn the sleigh around. The game is a racing game where you have to race against the computer and help Santa get fit for the festive season. The game developers have another Santa based game – Sloshed Santa which is also a bit tricky with the arrow keys.

Santa Games

This is a virtual Santa Claus workshop for kids and parents who have lots of activities to choose from and that include lots of free Christmas games. So enter. Use the advent calendar to countdown the days to Xmas and play a random game a day. There are lots to choose from like the always reliable and fun Brick Game and the Tetris Game.  But I went for the Gifts and Spiders game.

Xtreme Xmas Shopping

online christmas games

During the festive season, shopping turns into a contact sport. You have to go on a shopping sprint and try to buy all the goodies before somebody grabs them all before you. The game is played across three levels and could be popular with the gender that loves shopping.

The better known Flash game hosting sites like Miniclip and Kongregate also have online Christmas games which you can try out if you run out of games to play. I don't think you will, because as Christmas comes near, the web too becomes a bag of goodies. Tell us if you know any cool online Christmas game you like to play with your family.

Image credit: Shutterstock

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Android Market To Receive A Lick Of Paint & A Few Tweaks [News]

Posted: 13 Dec 2010 09:07 AM PST

Google’s Android Market will undergo some changes in the coming weeks according to Android Group Manager, Eric Chu.

All devices running version 1.6 or higher of Google’s mobile operating system will receive the new version, which is reportedly already going live. Cosmetic updates include a new Cover Flow-style carousel for featured applications, no more tabs on application pages and new categories for Live Wallpapers and Widgets.

Other changes to the marketplace include reducing the refund time available after purchasing an app from the current 24 hours to just 15 minutes. Google claims that the change was based on analytics, and that most refunds occur within the first few minutes of downloading an app.

Eric Chu commented in a blog post: “This change will be largely transparent to buyers, but will help developers manage their businesses more effectively.”

Google is also doubling the maximum application size of its Market from 25MB to 50MB “to better support richer games”, although this is still a long way off the reported 2GB limit for iOS devices that use Apple’s App Store.

On the Android Developers blog Eric reveals: “With this release, we aimed to deliver features that are most requested by users and developers. However, we're not done yet.”

Expect plenty more from the Android Market camp in the coming years, as the OS continues to gain popularity.

Have you received the new update yet? What do you think? How about the slashing of the refund window? Let us know in the comments.

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6 Online Payment Alternatives If You Hate PayPal

Posted: 13 Dec 2010 08:30 AM PST

online payment servicesPaypal is the top dog when it comes to online payment services. It is generally easy to use and a relatively secure way to send money while buying products & services online (whether eBay or other online merchants), but it does have its downsides. The web is filled with folks who have had their Paypal account frozen with no explanation and it can severely impact a business (or person) if it affects you for a length of time.

Addressing the some of the downsides of Paypal, other businesses have ‘stepped up’ to provide their own payment services. They range from smaller startups to well established players throwing their hat in the online payment arena. Mostly the service that would work best for you depends most upon what you actually use online money transfers for. With Paypal, many people only use a certain aspect of it while never touching others. Let’s go over a few of these online payment services and check out the differences and why you might use one over another.

1. Venmo

online payment services

Venmo is a Philadelphia-based startup in the mobile payment arena. Starting as a cell-phone based payment system, you can also send payment or a bill to a friend whom you have already connected with or to any cell phone, email address or twitter handle.

Much like Paypal, you carry a balance and your payments or charges credit and debit that balance. You add more funds by linking a credit card or bank account and Venmo uses bank-grade security throughout the transaction process.

Venmo started as a “Friend” payment service but you can also sign up as a business as long as you have a cell phone to coordinate payments. For Friend-to-Friend transfers there is no fee. Staff writer Steve is already a great fan of Venmo and I have seen its use expanding to more and more people.

Venmo is still invite-only but they were kind enough to set up a special invite code for MakeUseOf readers. Use ‘makeuseof‘ while signing up to gain access instantly.

2. Amazon WebPay

accept payments online

Amazon released their payments service back in 2008. Originally meant for merchants, they have also added a “personal” aspect to it named WebPay where you can send or receive money online or via cell phone. The Amazon Payments/Personal website has more details on the requirements for signing up.

3. Google Checkout

accept payments online

Google Checkout is definitely aimed at merchants more than anyone else. It takes the payment portion out of the transaction so that you simply send a buyer of your products to a checkout page which is powered by Google Checkout. When on that page, a buyer will enter their payment information – and then be sent back to your site with a confirmation of purchase.

4. Skrill / Moneybookers

accept payments online

Moneybookers is widely known as a replacement to PayPal which is also more international-friendly than some of the other providers. Moneybooks is beginning a transformation to Skrill – a rebranding and refocusing of their payment platforms. Their rates are usually cheaper than PayPal, but then again less people use it so that is the tradeoff you have. I’ve heard of a lot of folks turning to Moneybookers when PayPal has crossed them and they are mostly happy with their move.

5. 2Checkout

paypal alternatives

2Checkout is a payment processor which acts as a “middleman” between you (as a seller of items or services) and the payer. 2Checkout can accept credit cards, checks, and even PayPal itself as a form of payment but ads a management layer as well handling the whole checkout process. I’ve seen many merchants using 2Checkout as a payment provider on eBay stores as an alternative to PayPal. There is a $49 signup fee; so this is mainly meant for those with some higher volume sales and not casual transactions.

6. Traditional Merchant Accounts

online payment services

Finally on the ‘merchant’ end again, you can do what other businesses have been doing for decades and apply for a real merchant account. Having a merchant account gives you, with the use of a payment processor such as Authorize.Net, the ability to accept credit cards directly. There are some downsides to this. There is often a monthly fee that the other providers above to not charge, and you must be PCI compliant which is a whole other issue. However if you perform a lot of transactions and need to integrate a payment solution into your own shopping cart or system, then this is the only way to go.

Ask your local bank about merchant accounts, alternatively there are a ton of options available online (check Google) but frankly there are so many options it is hard to tell from the web which will work for you. Ask your friends for recommendations and do your homework to make sure you are going with a reputably provider (I’ve used BluePay, and they have been good but fee-expensive).

Which One Is For Me?

The answer to this question depends a lot on how you use the online payment service. If you simply transfer money between friends – as a sort of IOU – then Venmo would definitely be my recommendation. If you are selling items to ‘strangers’ they might be put-off by Venmo simply because they are not well known, and in this case going with a bigger name such as Google or Amazon may work best. Finally if you are a high volume merchant or just do a lot of business, it would be wise to evaluate the other options to see what works best with you.

Do you have any other recommendations for PayPal alternatives or experiences with the ones above? Let us know in the comments below!

Image credit: Shutterstock

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10 x AnyBizSoft PDF Converter for Mac [MakeUseOf Giveaway]

Posted: 13 Dec 2010 07:30 AM PST

Converting PDFs to editable documents is no easy feat. You’ll be hard pressed to find an application that does it, and does it well. More often than not, if there are images or formatting in a PDF, the formatting goes out of the window once you convert it to an editable file and you’re left with a garbled document. With AnyBizSoft PDF Converter for Mac you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that isn’t the case.

This week, we’re giving away 10 copies of PDF Converter for Mac worth $699.50! Read on to find out how to get your hands on one.

The application couldn’t be easier to use with its drag and drop interface.

AnyBizSoft PDF Converter allows you to queue up as many files as you like to be converted in one go – and the conversion is lightning fast. With a touch of a button you can convert them to a variety of formats. Supported formats are .doc, .html, .txt, .ePub, .xls, and .pptx. PDF tables are converted into editable spreadsheets, hyperlinks are preserved in HTML conversion, and layout and formatting of Powerpoint Presentations aren’t lost.

You can determine the exact folder where the output files are saved – either in the source folder or any folder of your choosing.

Other preferences include retaining the formatting in Excel, converting text and images or entire pages as images to HTML or ePub.

And that’s it. AnyBizSoft PDF Converter for Mac is that simple to use. We’re giving 10 free copies away to MakeUseOf readers this week!

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

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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 17th 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 AnyBizSoft 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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