Saturday, December 11, 2010 “Cool Websites and Tools [December 10th]” plus 9 more “Cool Websites and Tools [December 10th]” plus 9 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [December 10th]

Posted: 10 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.

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ShiftEdit – If you are looking for a quick integrated development environment to work on the go, then you should check out ShiftEdit. Like any IDEs, ShiftEdit offers basic syntax highlighting and the web app interface allows you to edit your work and save it in the cloud. But the kicker with this tool is that it has built-in FTP/SFTP support. Read more: ShiftEdit: Web Based IDE For Programming In The Cloud


Plusrated – Self analysis and improvement can greatly help you in your professional as well as personal life. The best way for self-analysis is getting the opinion of others about certain attributes of yours. PlusRated is a tool that helps you do this online. PlusRated is a free online service that helps you find out what others think about your skills. Read more: Plusrated: Community Based Personal Skill Improvement & Rating



ThatsMyFace – Imagine yourself as an action figure being played with and collected by many. Or how about getting a mask of your face? If you are interested in these kinds of personal gifts, then you should check out ThatsMyFace. This web service creates a 3D human face from your own pictures which are then attached to action figures, 3D portraits and other products, making it a great personalized gift item for your friends. Read more: ThatsMyFace: Create Action Figures of Yourself



Special Characters To HTML – Dealing with special characters using HTML can be a pain, especially if you need to put a lot of them on your website. Even just editing special characters in your website can make your page look a lot different than what it is supposed to be. If you are having a problem with special characters then you can use Stanley Shilov's Special Characters to HTML converter. Read more: Special Characters To HTML Converter: Quickly Convert Characters To HTML Entities



Readmeo – Online articles are often cluttered with ads, pictures, and other objects that obstruct reading. This is why you often do not find the time to finish those interesting web articles. Readmeo helps you save those URLs to read later in a cleaner interface. Readmeo is a free online service that helps you save all the things you do not currently have the time to read. In addition to saving links, the articles are presented in a reader-friendly manner. Read more: Readmeo: Save Links To Read Later In A Friendlier Interface


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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Pulse Is Now Free: A Visual Display RSS News Reader [iPad]

Posted: 10 Dec 2010 03:31 PM PST

visual rss readerThere are over a dozen RSS feed readers for the iPad and other mobile devices, but the one I keep returning to is Alphonso Labs’s Pulse News Reader. I’ve used several readers in the past including NetNewsWire, Gruml, and even Google Reader. But for reading feeds on the iPad, Pulse makes browsing and reading nearly effortless.

What is most appealing about Pulse (iTunes Store link) is the magazine style interface. Instead of a hierarchy of folders, titles and summaries, Pulse opens with a visual display of news feeds. Feeds including lead images in their articles get the most graphic appeal in Pulse.

Pulse takes full advantage of the touch navigation of the iPad. To browse a feed, you slide rows of articles to the left and right to view titles and accompanying graphics. There’s no need to tap separate folders. You can easily view on the iPad screen four rows of feeds at a time. You scroll horizontally to browse more feed sources.

visual rss reader

Each time you launch Pulse, it updates your feeds, but you can also tap the Reload button to reload manually.

Tapping on an article either presents the headline and first paragraph of the article or the entire article itself, depending on which the source allows. You’ll be pleased to know that the full version of MakeUseOf’s articles are downloaded into Pulse, saving you another tap in order to read the article on the website (note: Pulse also includes a button option to view selected articles in the original web view.)

visual rss aggregator

In the full article presentation, Pulse removes annoying ads and other visual distractions, similar to what the Reader feature does in Safari.

After you open one article, you can scroll horizontally to browse other stories in a feed. This keeps you from having to return to a row of articles just to see what’s next.

visual rss aggregator

With the latest 2.1 update of Pulse, you can now view videos without leaving Pulse.

Pulse makes it very easy to share selected articles on your Facebook and Twitter account, and via email. You can also add selected articles to your Instapaper account.


When you have an article open, tapping the heart icon in the lower-right toolbar saves that article in what is called My Pulse, which consists of a custom feed of your favorite articles.

visual rss aggregator

Other Features

Feed Management

After the first release of Pulse, the developers responded well to complaints about the limited number of feeds you could add to Pulse. That's no longer a problem. It looks as though you can add as many feeds as you like, creating separate pages for each set of feeds.

visual rss feed

Tapping the + button in the Feed manager view presents five different ways to search and add feeds to Pulse. It includes featured feed sources, as well as browsing sources by categories—e.g., art & design, food, fashion, politics, music.

visual rss feed

You can also search for feeds by keywords, URL, username, etc. Type a search term and Pulse delivers up dozens of feeds for that topic.

If you use Google Reader, you can sync those feeds into Pulse, no problem. Since using Pulse on my iPad, I rarely read Google Reader on my computer. Reading articles on the iPad is so much easier.

Finally, you can also add articles using the Bump feature in Pulse. This means, you can share feeds by bumping your iPad or iPad with another similar device, and feeds will be added. Unfortunately, the Pulse application kept crashing on my iPhone after bumping and connecting with my iPad. You may get better success with this feature than I.

Home Button

With so many feeds and articles in one application, it's pretty easy to get lost in the navigation. Pulse makes it easy to get to your home listing of feeds and articles by simply tapping one single icon in the upper-left corner of the interface, or at the bottom-right in the toolbar.

visual rss feed

The way buttons are arranged, Pulse developers truly understand how to design an app's interface for how devices are handled by users.


In terms of user interface design, the layout of Pulse looks and acts the same in both the portrait and landscape view of the iPad. The interface is consistent in both orientations so you don't get lost or confused when switching from one view to another.

If you're not yet exhausted by all the features in Pulse, its most recent update now includes Facebook integration, enabling users pull up their wall posts, videos, shared links right within application.

visual rss reader

Overall, the magazine style look and feel of Pulse makes it in my view of the most elegant reader apps on the market. Now that it's available for free download, there's no reason not to give it a try.

Let's us know what you think Pulse, as well as what mobile reader you think is better. For other ways to read RSS feeds on your iPad, check out Jessica's article on this topic.

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The 4 Best Free Alternatives To Microsoft PowerPoint

Posted: 10 Dec 2010 01:31 PM PST

alternatives to powerpointDo you create a lot of presentations? If you do, you’re probably a master at PowerPoint, or Keynote if you own a Mac. Microsoft PowerPoint is the standard for slide presentation software and lays the blueprint from which all other applications are created. But what if you’re looking for something new or different?

In this article, I’m going to show you the 4 best, free alternatives to PowerPoint. If you’re looking for a new way to present your material without getting too far away from PowerPoint’s concept, you’ll find these apps useful. If you want to escape PowerPoint’s grasp once and for all, we can help you with that as well.

1. Google Docs Presentation

alternatives to powerpoint

My favorite alternative when it comes to replacing Microsoft applications is usually Google. You may already be familiar with Google Docs, but did you know you can create presentations with the web-based app? Just click on the Create new drop down menu and select Presentation to get started.

free powerpoint alternative

As you might imagine, this online application is very simple to use. You can change the theme and background of your presentation, insert text boxes, images, and videos, import slides, and all that good stuff. And since you’re using Google Docs, you can share your presentation with others and work on it collaboratively.

2. SlideRocket

like powerpoint but free

SlideRocket is a higher end model of a collaborative, web-based presentation application. While this is a premium app, they do offer a nice free option, which gives you 250 MB of storage (15 MB file size), up to 5 multi-seat accounts, shared folders, items, and libraries, and the ability to import from Powerpoint and export to PDF.

We covered SlideRocket in an article 2 years ago and it has only got better since then. It has a beautiful user interface and a lot of great features, including the ability to add themes, layouts, shapes, charts, tables, pictures, audio, video, and Flash animations. You can also integrate content from sites like Flickr and YouTube, as well as utilize plug-ins.

To get a glimpse of SlideRocket, check out this short video:

3. 280 Slides

like powerpoint but free

280 Slides is another very easy to use presentation creation app. Last covered back in March of ’09, 280 Slides offers a host of great features, like the ability to upload your existing PowerPoint presentations and import them into 280 Slides, preventing you from having to start over.

like powerpoint but free

Other great features include autosave and recovery, storing presentations online, downloading them in the PowerPoint 2007 format, adding photos and movies from Flickr and YouTube, posting to SlideShare and embedding, and running them straight from your browser.

4. Prezi

alternatives to powerpoint

Prezi, if you haven’t heard of it by now, is one of those really cool presentation applications that is very different from how PowerPoint and the rest function. What makes it significantly different is the fact that it doesn’t invoke the traditional slide-by-slide rules of a normal presentation. Rather, each presentation you create is a flowing, motion-based depiction filled with your creativity.

I’m not going to spend much time going over Prezi’s features because Simon did a fantastic job of that already in his article on Prezi back in February of this year. If you would like to view the official Prezi introduction video, however, have at it:


Are you over PowerPoint yet? I wasn’t lying when I said there were some good alternative apps out there. Explore these and you will find a bunch of great features and ways of presenting your material to others. The sharing abilities and integration with other services and file types give you a diverse set of options when deciding which tool would be best for the job.

Another cool app that might be worth investigating from our directory is Spresent.

What do you think of these presentation apps? What apps are you using?

Image Credit: archerix

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Hot Tech Deals [Dec 10th]

Posted: 10 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. LG 55LH85 55in LCD HDTV (120Hz, 1080p, Built-in WiFi) $1299.99 Free Shipping

  2. Toshiba Canvio 500GB Portable External Hard Drive $54.99 Free Shipping

  3. Dell Off Lease Coupon Codes 25% off Dell D531 Laptops

  4. 25% off Dell Latitude D531 Laptops Coupon Code: D531SecondChance

  5. 20% off Dell D620 or D820 Laptops Coupon Code: 20D620&D820

  6. 25% off Dell D630 or D830 Laptops Coupon Code: 25D630&D830

  7. 25% off on any Dell Desktop $199 and above Coupon Code: 25Desktop199&up

  8. Samsung ML-1665 Personal Monochrome Laser Printer $39.99 Free Shipping

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How To Get Paid Sponsorship For Your Blog

Posted: 10 Dec 2010 11:31 AM PST

how to get a blog sponsorAre you one of the many bloggers out there who wish they could get blog sponsorship but don’t know where to start? Are you looking to monetise your blog, but don’t want to fill your blog up with Google ads? Well, here’s some tips about blog sponsorship and a few leads to get you started.

Sponsorship is very different to affiliate adverts: Sponsors will pay bloggers simply to have their message on your blog, whereas affiliates will only pay for clicks or purchases. There are also a great variety of sponsorships available: monthly contracts; event contracts; sponsorship of regular posts; one-off sponsorships co-ordinated by a third party. What you choose is up to you.

Finding A Sponsor Quickly

There are ways to get blog sponsorship through websites which connect bloggers with companies wishing to gain exposure. When you sign up to these sites, you can often choose which products you are happy to write about. This way, you can write honest reviews of products you can stand behind. Most importantly, all of these sites will pay you a nominated fee for your endorsement rather than offering pay-per-click affiliate schemes. All of the following sites have their own guidelines regarding which blogs will be accepted.

Sponsored Reviews

Depending on the size of your readership, you could earn $5-$1,000 for writing a sponsored review on your blog. Sponsored Reviews connects you with an advertiser, then makes payments to your Paypal account after your review is approved. Sponsored Reviews lets you search for an advertiser or for them to search for you.

how to get a blog sponsor

Social Spark

Social Spark connects advertisers and bloggers, allowing bloggers to write short reviews for a fee or to host adverts as an affiliate. All payments are made by Paypal. See also PayPerPost which is run by the same people.

blog sponsorship

Review Me

Review Me lets bloggers write reviews of promoter products for $20-$200 per review. Bloggers are limited by their blog’s rating to only publish a certain number of reviews per month. Payments are by Paypal, American cheque or their own Mastercard.

blog sponsorship

Do You Want A Personal Sponsor?

Tip #1 – Keep It Real

Stay true to yourself and keep your readers’ best interests in mind. Don’t promote things you don’t wholly endorse. Maintain your integrity and be upfront about your sponsorship in an introductory blog post.

Tip #2 – Write A Professional Sponsorship Document

Write a little bit about yourself and your blog, including all your contact details. Tell the reader why they might want to work with you — why is your exposure good for the sponsor? Determine your niche market, readership demographics, the keywords your blog is ranked highly for and how frequently you post. Decide exactly what you can offer any given sponsor and how much you expect to receive for your efforts — Do you want monthly sponsorship, giveaways or do you want sponsorship for a conference? Always make sure you can follow through or over-deliver on your promises. Ensure your terms are clear and stipulate that you will not write more than is declared in the sponsorship agreement. Make this document professional and ready to send to any prospective sponsor, but remember to tailor it somewhat to each company you approach.

An example sponsorship tier system:

  • Gold Sponsorship $300: 7 Dofollow links from multiple domains (for six months). Logo Exposure. Blog post recommending sponsor.
  • Silver Sponsorship $150: 3 Dofollow links from multiple domains (for six months).
  • Bronze Sponsorship Products/Services: 1 Dofollow link (for six months).

how to get a blog sponsor

Tip #3 – Promote Your Search For Sponsorship

Marketers looking to sponsor bloggers are time poor. You can bet that they will occasionally search for bloggers who want sponsorship in their niche area. If you don’t have a page or post on your site declaring that you want sponsorship then they’ll never find you. Add as much or as little of your sponsorship rates as you wish — just make sure that you add enough information to get found by them when they’re looking!

Tweeting a message about your drive for sponsors might work, but it’s an unfocused effort. You will find better results in researching good sponsorship matches yourself and approaching them directly. Also, consider asking local businesses for sponsorship — you never know who will be interested. Sponsorships are all about relationships, so it often does come down to who you know and deal with already.

More Ways To Make Money With Your Blog

You’re obviously keen to make a little money online, so here’s a few more articles you might like:

Good luck with your sponsorship efforts. If you have had some success gaining sponsorship for your blog, let us know how you did it in the comments!

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10 Nutritional & Health Websites For Kids To Help Improve Their Health

Posted: 10 Dec 2010 10:31 AM PST

health websitesConcerns are already being voiced in my own country (India) about the rapid rise in obesity among children. Thanks to the wide sweep of junk food, I guess the health graph in other countries isn't a healthy one either.

For instance, a recent Wall Street Journal article talks about the importance of developing a healthy heart from childhood. 'Heartbreaks' of other kinds as one grows up hardly seems news at all. Even as child mortality falls around the world, invisible dangers like passive smoking for instance, or even consuming packaged products make the alert list endless.

So where does the battle begin?

As in all things it should begin with awareness, and at home. Schools play a large part, but why leave it to them when parents and guardians can teach kids a lot?  Or leave them be to educate themselves first and ask questions later?  How about these ten nutritional and health websites for a dose of information?

Kids Health

health websites

This health website is not only for kids but has sections for parents and teens too. The site is one of the most frequented ones for health information that's easy to grasp. The site covers physical, emotional, and behavioral issues that affect children and teens. A lot of the features are interlinked between the three sections but customized for each audience.

The parents section for instance, talks more directly about medical issues of young ones and the importance of parenting. The children's section takes a fun but serious look with the help of quizzes, games, and simple Q&As.

BAM! Body And Mind

kids health websites

A health website designed as a comic strip! This has got to be cool. It is, with sound effects and beautiful comic styled graphics. There's also a Game Room with a lineup of nine games. Kids left on their own won't have too much difficulty understanding the stuff because it really feels like reading a comic book. An example: check out the virtual locker room which gives a tour of places where bacteria and fungi may be hiding.

The Yuckiest Site On The Internet

kids health websites

This is one site which matches the previous one on the fun scale. The Discovery Kids site takes the kids on a roach hunt without the squeals. But then there's Wendell the friendly worm who can teach you all about the human body and other nice things like poop, belches, and barfs. If you don't get any of the facts, just Ask Wendell a question.

Girls Health

kids health websites

Girls have their own unique health issues and this is the site which gets all informative on them. The site is for age group of 10-16 and along with healthy information it also tries to motivate them to choose healthy behaviors by using positive, supportive, and non-threatening messages. So, you will find valuable tips filed under Drugs, Alcohol, & Smoking, Relationships, and Bullying etc. You will also find Helpline numbers and real life stories on people who are cool and addiction free.

American Heart Association

health related websites

The organization's page has a section for imparting healthy lifestyle education to kids and young adults. As the introduction says one of three American kids and teens are overweight or obese, nearly triple the rate in 1963. Browse through the reading material and jumpstart the activities like Jump Rope for Heart, Hoops for Heart, or get to know how to defeat the fats in Meet the Fats.

Nourish Interactive

health related websites

A site which has a recipe for making your child realize why cabbage and beans are betters than burgers and pizzas. It has fun nutrition games for kids, and lots of interactive nutrition tools like the Food Pyramid Adventure (and a host of other games) which help to teach elementary school kids about the value of the right food. Enter with a free sign-up. The game has levels with a few tests thrown in, so in the end the child gets the right portions of edutainment. Plus, there are resources for educators and parents.

Small Step Kids

health related websites

Started by the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, the website is a small step towards teaching kids on eating right. All content is arranged around fun activities like games and quizzes like Daffy Duck or NFL Play60.

Food Champs

Choose a screen name, choose a 'food champion' and let him or her guide you through a fun activity. The activities are arranged according to age on this Flash website. For kids in the ages 2-8, you have downloadable food coloring pages, artwork, and recipes too.

Scrub Club

Join the Scrub Club and its cast of characters to learn about keeping hands clean with hand washing tips. The site is a cute interactive look at personal hygiene for kids. Along with the heroes, you will also meet the villains (salmonella, flu, bacteria etc) and learn how to have a showdown with them.

Coping Club

health websites

This is a wonderful little health website from Kosair Children's Hospital. The site features video narrations ('stories') by kids and parents who are coping with a personal illness or in the family. The site is also organized around Boy or Girl, Age, and Condition. There are also some firsthand accounts on dealing with Stress/Anxiety and Divorce. I think the site's idea is spot on when it says that kids find it easier to learn from other kids. At, you can also submit your own experience as a video.

Watch efforts like A Wake Up Story that's asks parents and educators to be awake to the hope of a healthier environment.

A lot of people around the world are doing their bit for a healthier world. The stake is huge – an entire generation and a healthier tomorrow. Let us know how useful do you find these web resources.

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How To Build A Basic Web Crawler To Pull Information From A Website (Part 1)

Posted: 10 Dec 2010 09:31 AM PST

web crawlerWeb Crawlers, sometimes called scrapers, automatically scan the Internet attempting to glean context and meaning of the content they find. The web wouldn’t function without them. Crawlers are the backbone of search engines which, combined with clever algorithms, work out the relevance of your page to a given keyword set.

The Google web crawler will enter your domain and scan every page of your website, extracting page titles, descriptions, keywords, and links  – then report back to Google HQ and add the information to their huge database.

Today, I’d like to teach you how to make your own basic crawler – not one that scans the whole Internet, though, but one that is able to extract all the links from a given webpage.

Generally, you should make sure you have permission before scraping random websites, as most people consider it to be a very grey legal area. Still, as I say, the web wouldn’t function without these kind of crawlers, so it’s important you understand how they work and how easy they are to make.

To make a simple crawler, we’ll be using the most common programming language of the internet – PHP. Don’t worry if you’ve never programmed in PHP – I’ll be taking you through each step and explaining what each part does. I am going to assume an absolute basic knowledge of HTML though, enough that you understand how a link or image is added to an HTML document.

Before we start, you will need a server to run PHP. You have a number of options here:

Getting Started

We’ll be using a helper class called Simple HTML DOM. Download this zip file, unzip it, and upload the simple_html_dom.php file contained within to your website first (in the same directory you’ll be running your programs from). It contains functions we will be using to traverse the elements of a webpage more easily. That zip file also contains today’s example code.

First, let’s write a simple program that will check if PHP is working or not. We’ll also import the helper file we’ll be using later. Make a new file in your web directory, and call it example1.php – the actual name isn’t important, but the .php ending is. Copy and paste this code into it:


Access the file through your internet browser. If you don’t have a server set up, you can still run the program from my server if you want. If everything has gone right, you should see a big page of random debug and server information printed out like below – all from the little line of code! It’s not really what we’re after, but at least we know everything is working.

web crawler

The first and last lines simply tell the server we are going to be using PHP code. This is important because we can actually include standard HTML on the page too, and it will render just fine. The second line pulls in the Simple HTML DOM helper we will be using. The phpinfo(); line is the one that printed out all that debug info, but you can go ahead and delete that now. Notice that in PHP, any commands we have must be finished with a colon (;). The most common mistake of any PHP beginner is to forget that little bit of punctuation.

One typical task that Google performs is to pull all the links from a page and see which sites they are endorsing. Try the following code next, in a new file if you like.


$target_url = “”;
$html = new simple_html_dom();
foreach($html->find(‘a’) as $link){
echo $link->href.”<br />”;

Again, you can run that from my server too if you don’t have your own set up. You should get a page full of URLs! Wonderful. Most of them will be internal links, of course. In a real world situation, Google would ignore internal links and simply look at what other websites you’re linking to, but that’s outside the scope of this tutorial.

If you’re running on your own server, go ahead and change the target_URL variable to your own webpage or any other website you’d like to examine.

That code was quite a jump from the last example, so let’s go through in pseudo-code to make sure you understand what’s going on.

Include once the simple HTML DOM helper file.

Set the target URL as

Create a new simple HTML DOM object to store the target page

Load our target URL into that object

For each link <a> that we find on the target page

- Print out the HREF attribute

That’s it for today, but if you’d like a bit of challenge – try to modify to the second example so that instead of searching for links (<a> elements), it grabs images instead (<img>). Remember, the src attribute of an image specifies the URL for that image, not HREF.

Would you like learn more? Let me know in the comments if you’re interested in reading a part 2 (complete with homework solution!), or even if you’d like a back-basics PHP tutorial – and I’ll rustle one up next time for you. I warn you though – once you get started with programming in PHP, you’ll start making plans to create the next Facebook, and all those latent desires for world domination will soon consume you. Programming is fun.

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Radio Scanner – A Live Police Scanner App For The Android Phone

Posted: 10 Dec 2010 08:31 AM PST

live police scannerAre you always the last person to hear about the latest news? Many people buy police and emergency scanner radios just so that they can be the first ones to hear about an accident, a fire, a fight or any other event in their city or town. In certain areas of the world, the radio traffic on police and emergency scanners can be more entertaining than prime time television.

I’ve always wanted a scanner at home, but I never got around to actually buying one. So, you can imagine my excitement when I learned that the Android Market has a very popular live police scanner application offered for free called Scanner Radio by Gordon Edwards.

People use a lot of tools to find out what’s happening locally, whether it’s local news sites, local newspaper resources as Saikat described, or sites for discovering local events like Steven mentioned.  But if you really want to be in the loop and on top of breaking local news events, Scanner Radio provides live streaming audio from police, emergency and weather base stations all around the world.

You can search by the most popular scanners, or locate the ones nearest you. The streaming audio for each area is provided by gracious volunteers that stream their scanner audio via computer to, or Any feeds uploaded to those sites will show up in the thousands of Scanner Radio listings.

Looking For Interesting Live Police Scanners

I have to warn you, this is one of the most addictive apps on the Android market. The cool thing about this app is that no matter where in the world you live, you can listen to local scanner radio traffic of any region where a kind volunteer is streaming the audio to the Internet. If you own a scanner in your part of the world, consider contributing to the cause!

Once you install the app, the main page lets you look for interesting scanners by region, “genre” (rail, marine, weather), or focused on one of the source websites listed above.

live police scanner

The other nice feature is that you can add an alert for any scanner you find. An alert is a setting where once the listener count reaches a certain limit, your phone will alert you. Usually when there’s a significant event going on, the listener count for that scanner spikes.

If you just want to listen, click on one of the scanners you find and the player will open up in its own window. Even if you close the app at this point, the player will still run in the background, so you’ll hear radio updates out of your phone speaker whenever they occur.

If you really want to listen to some major drama, more exciting than just about any reality show you’ll find on TV, check out the “Top 50 Scanners” option from the main menu. This list displays the scanners with the highest volume of listeners, which typically means the highest radio traffic as well.

When I clicked on the NYPD scanner, I was completely mesmerized for over an hour as police pulled over a drunk driver, broke up a serious gang fight, and investigated a domestic assault incident.

When I switched to the Chicago PD scanner, it was even more enthralling – gang fights, explosions and assorted criminals getting arrested. You can’t find this level of action anywhere else, and it’s all live!

If you click on the “Details” button at the bottom of a scanner, if the volunteer included any information on the scanner, you’ll find it there. For example, the NYPD details included the precincts covered by the scanner and a few of the most popular police 10 codes you’ll hear over the radio.

Download Radio Scanner with this code:

Supplement Your Scanner With Signals

Now that you’ve transformed your Android into a personal live police scanner, you’re going to start hearing a whole lot of conversations littered with strange codes. If you want to make it a lot easier to understand what’s going on, make sure to download Signals.

Signals is an insanely comprehensive list of symbols, signals and codes for things like marine, police, sign language, braille and even computer symbols! The police codes are pretty detailed – and the section that will help the most when you’re listening to your scanner is the Police Penal Codes page.

Beyond radio communications codes, Signals even helps you out with understanding electronic communications, like Text Messaging shorthand. If you think you know all of them, you won’t believe the crazy shorthand acronyms listed in this section.

Another entertaining reference is the Emoticons page – which features every emoticon under the sun.

So now, when you hear about an amazing breaking news event on your Android radio scanner, you can quickly fire off an appropriately brisk text message to a friend letting them know about the news, finished off with an intrigued emoticon.

You can download Signals here:

live police scanner

Are you a radio scanner listener? Do you listen to local radio traffic, or do you prefer live police scanners for other parts of the world? What resources do you use to listen to live police scanners on the web? Share your insight in the comments section below.

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Antibacterial iPhone 4 Case ecoskin Review and Giveaway

Posted: 10 Dec 2010 08:00 AM PST

How many things do you touch in a day? The door to your office building? Money from buying your morning cup of coffee? The fuel nozzle at a petrol station? The door to a public washroom? And what about your phone?

These are a few of the most common items that a person touches in an average day. Among everything listed above, your phone is the only item that belongs to you. And so, that’s the only thing that you can keep clean.

I know some people who are constantly obsessed with keeping their hands clean. Well, now you’re able to keep your phone relatively clean as well. UK phone accessories company Anokimobi has come up with a very unique product called ecoskin. It’s made recycled material and houses an antibacterial ability. More info as we dive along.

We’ll also be giving 5 ecoskin iPhone 4 cases. Find out how you can win one for yourself.

Completely made in the UK, the £19.95 ecoskin utilises recycled material, specifically plastic, cotton and bamboo; to produce an environmentally-friendly iPhone 4 case. Even its packaging is made from recycled material. However, it’s not the case’s “green” factor that we’re interested in — it’s the “clean” factor. It’s interesting to note that these cases have been impregnated with an antibacterial substance that will keep the number of germs down to a minimum.

The said antibacterial, Biomaster, is based on a naturally occurring metal that’s been known to harbour antimicrobial property for thousands of years and is still in common use today — argentum. Or more commonly known as silver.

In its ionic form, silver ions exhibits a very toxic effect on bacteria, virus and fungi; yet is relatively harmless to humans. Because of this antibacterial property, many medical equipment are made out of silver. And I’d be willing to bet that you’ll be able to find silver doing its antibacterial work in your home as well — in the commonplace water filter.

So let’s recap. The ecoskin is made out of high-grade recycled materials and the entire case has antibacterial property. It doesn’t mean that the case will always be free of bacterial. Actually, in my opinion, it basically means that the case will retard the growth of bacteria — controlling its population.

Why would you need this? Well, why do you need to wash your clothes? Why do you shower? To maintain cleanliness. And I’d be willing to wager that you hardly bother to give your iPhone a shower or wipe down. Am I right?


So let’s take a look at the ecoskin. It comes in 4 colour variations: black, white, pink and clear. On the surface it’s pretty prosaic and sports a rubbery finish. On the inside, it’s smooth. But it’s the property that you can’t see that the ecoskin trumps quite a number of cases in the market.


The case has a very low profile. When fitted, the iPhone isn’t any larger or harder to hold. On the front surface, the case bevels over the iPhone’s screen — allowing the phone to be placed front side down without scratching.


And because of its low profile, the sync dock and headphones jack are both very accessible. You could easily dock the iPhone with the case on without any problems.

The volume and sleep buttons are covered but they respond well even through the case. The camera and its flash are both unobstructed. Fitting the case onto the iPhone is pretty simple and it does fit quite well. Getting it off is not as easy.


If I were being picky, I’d say that the case could be better if the inner surface had a rubbery finish. In addition to that, it could do with some shock absorption. Otherwise, for a clean and green iPhone case, it’s holding up pretty well.

The good: low profile, antibacterial.

The bad: inner surface could be better.

We’re giving 5 ecoskins away to MakeUseOf readers.

How do I win one?

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, Dec 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 Tom Tranter for his 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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Two Free Alternatives To OS X Spotlight [Mac]

Posted: 10 Dec 2010 07:31 AM PST

alternative to spotlightThere are several features that I like about OS X, but Spotlight is not one of them.  Spotlight is a desktop search feature for Mac OS X and when it was released in 2005, it was very nifty and useful. It felt cutting edge, even quick. However, it doesn’t seem to have aged very well. Spotlight only finds what I’m looking for about 80% of the time, which is not a good success rate for a search program. Apple’s love of simplicity gets in the way, as well – there just aren’t many options available for refining a search.

Fortunately, there are some alternatives to Spotlight available. Let’s take a look at three free alternatives to Spotlight that Mac users may find more functional.

Find Any File

alternative to spotlight

At first glance, Find Any File couldn’t be more basic. Once you open the program you are greeted by a single line of options and a search field into which you type whatever you’re searching for. The program did not even ask for installation – it just went, and suddenly I was greeted with the option to search for files with a name containing, equal to, beginning with or ending with the term I entered.

However, Find Any File becomes extremely robust once you begin clicking the More Choices button. You can refine your search by modification date, creation date, file size, location (in a folder or not in a folder), file type and creator. This list of search options should make finding any file extremely easy – although you’ll have to know a lot of precise information about the file that you’re searching for.


alternative to spotlight mac

As the name of NotLight implies, this program was born out of the frustration of its creator, Matt Neuburg. He was “sick and tired of Tiger’s lousy Spotlight interface” and so he wrote an alternative search program that he (and others) could use instead. While some of the frustrations Matt Neuburg listed at the time of NotLight’s release have been addressed, many haven’t, and NotLight remains a useful Spotlight alternative.

The interface of NotLight is just slightly more complex than that of Find Any File, but it makes up for that by providing a paragraph of text with each type of search supported by NotLight that explains how the search works. This information isn’t helpful because the search functions are not always intuitive and because this helps you avoid errors in your searches that return poor results. NotLight also supports searching individual folders, which is enabled by dragging a folder into the program.


alternative to spotlight

By far the most user-friendly program here, EasyFind is a robust SearchLight alternative created by a company called Devon Technologies. Functionality, EasyFind isn’t that different from Find Any File or NotLight. It finds files in the same was (simple hard disk search) and it includes a number of similar search options, such as the ability to search file contents, all or any words in a file name, etc. EasyFind does not include the ability to search by file size or document extension, however.

This is made up for by EasyFind’s much better interface. Find Any File and NotLight are great programs, but they’re completely functional, consisting of a few simple buttons and drop-down lists. EasyFind places all the relevant options on the main program window, giving users no need to dig into menus or waste extra mouse clicks in order to find more functionality. For most users, EasyFind will be the easiest Spotlight alternative to use.


The three programs above should cover all of your search needs in OS X. While Spotlight can do the job in some situations, these freeware alternatives provide search options that Spotlight doesn’t. Do you have a favorite Spotlight alternative that isn’t covered here? Let us know in the comments.

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