Wednesday, December 15, 2010 “Cool Websites and Tools [December 14th]” plus 9 more “Cool Websites and Tools [December 14th]” plus 9 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [December 14th]

Posted: 14 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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MakeMeZombie – The internet can be very helpful whenever you are bored. There are countless fun sites that help you pass the time and let you have fun while you do it. One such website is MakeMeZombie and it lets you zombify your face. All you have to do is upload a clear frontal photograph of your face. Read more: MakeMeZombie: Zombify Your Face Online


Secret SMS Replicator – If you ever want to spy on text messages, this Android app will do wonders. Just install this app on any Android enabled phone and specify the phone number you wish to receive messages at. After that, any time the Android phone receives a text message it'll automatically be forwarded to you. Read more: SecretSMSReplicator: Spy On Text Messages (Android)



DIY Or Not – DIY or DoItYourself is a great way to save professional costs on projects that can be managed by one person with some extra effort. However, there are many projects where doing it yourself can be equally or more expensive then hiring a pro. DiyOrNot is a web app that helps you decide between the two. Read more: DiyOrNot: Helps You Decide If You Should Do It Yourself



Phone2Location – Keep getting missed calls from a strange number and you have no idea who it is? Phone2Location can help by disclosing their geographical location. Just head over to the site and enter the number you wish to resolve. Phone2Location will quickly display its geographical location. In most cases, the tool will also display the name of the phone provider. Read more: Phone2Location: Quick Geo-Location Of Any Phone Number



TurnSocial – Looking for a new way to connect with your site's visitors? If yes then a website toolbar with social networking buttons is exactly what you need. Thanks to TurnSocial, you will not need to go through extensive coding to create your own network-loaded website toolbar. TurnSocial is a very simple and easy web service that is free to use. Read more: TurnSocial: Connect With Your Site Visitors Through A Social Networking Toolbar


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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The 10 Toughest Tech Questions [MakeUseOf Answers]

Posted: 14 Dec 2010 05:31 PM PST

Since its launch in late January this year, MakeUseOf Answers has published over 2,000 questions. We would like to reach another milestone before the end of the year and that is publishing 10,000 answers. You can help us make our goal!

So why should you help us? Well, every answer you provide is an entry into our Best Answer of the Week contest. By helping us break 10,000 comments, you will increase your chances of winning $50 in our weekly contest.

For a start, please have a look at our Toughest Tech Questions:

MakeUseOf Answers is a fascinating resource for things you didn’t know and always wondered about. Browse by 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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Formspring – Hold Conversational Q&A With The People You Care About

Posted: 14 Dec 2010 03:31 PM PST

conversational questionsFormspring is a community of millions of people that all share one thing in common: curiosity. Through conversational Q&A, Formspring helps others express themselves and learn more about their social connections and the people they care about. The idea is simple, anyone can ask you anything and you choose which questions you would like to answer and be made part of your profile.

I’ve had Formspring on my radar for quite some time now, wondering if it would catch on, and it has. The curiosity that the site promotes drives engaging, authentic conversations between community members, and over one billion questions have already been answered.

What Is Formspring?

conversational questions

As I alluded to in the introduction, Formspring is a kind of social network. Once you claim a profile and add your connections, others can visit your profile and “ask [you] anything”. Questions can pertain to sports, music, movies, comedy, opinions, or really most anything you can think of asking.

Whether it’s a universal question like “Who was your favorite teacher?” or a specific question about starting a business, Formspring provides a new, personal way to connect with the people who you want to know better.

We originally covered this platform in our directory a while back, but it has gone through a complete redesign since then.

How Do I Start Using Formspring?

If I’ve made you curious, head on over to Formspring’s homepage and try it out. You can test answering questions to see what it’s like on the site or sign up for an account by clicking on Sign up and find friends. Or, if you prefer not to create a new account from scratch you can just sign in with your Facebook credentials.

conversational questions and answers

Once you get set up, you can locate your friends on the other social networks you belong to. Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace are all supported, as well as Gmail and Yahoo. Then start filling out your profile information and brand it to suit your needs. If you have a Twitter account, you’ll find Formspring’s profile settings to be pretty similar. You can fill out a Bio, Location, Website, etc.

conversational questions and answers

One setting I find interesting, is the “What do you want to be asked about?” section. By default, this reads “Ask me anything“, which is great if you want to be completely open to any and all inquiries. Making this more specific however, provides a good opportunity to brand yourself as an expert in a particular area as you welcome questions in your field of expertise.  What you decide to put here is completely dependent on what your goal of using the website is.

The Process of Answering Questions

All that’s left after designing your profile is to ask and answer questions. Click on the Questions tab to be taken to your page. Anytime somebody asks you a question it will appear here.

conversational questions and answers

If you don’t have any questions to answer – which is not uncommon with a new profile – you can send out a link to your profile on your social networks like Twitter and Facebook. Just select which networks you would like the message to go out to and click Send Announcement.

conversational answer

Or if you like, you can answer some default questions to get things going. Just click the “Or we have some questions for you!” link and a few questions will appear. As I said, you can answer the ones you want and they will appear on your profile for all to see. You can dismiss questions by clicking Delete and, if you feel the need to, you can click Block to prevent a specific user from asking you questions.

conversational questions

Whenever you answer a question, you have the same option to send out your answer to your social networks. This helps draw people onto your profile page for engagement opportunities. You can choose to allow anonymous questions and even go as far as protecting your account and controlling who follows you if you like. Formspring also features integration with blogging platforms like Tumblr, WordPress, and Blogger.


And there you have it, Formspring in a nutshell. I find it very interesting how this social network has caught on and continues to reach impressive numbers. The best thing they could have done was integrate the service with Facebook and Twitter, as I’m sure that’s where the majority of users hear about the service. I do suggest you check it out, as it can be an interesting tool to add to your arsenal as we continue to mold our public images online.

What do you think of Formspring? Will you be giving it a go, and if not, why?

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Use Polyvore To Create Or Find A New Fashion Style For Yourself

Posted: 14 Dec 2010 01:31 PM PST

fashion stylesHere’s a little something for fashion lovers – a site which lets you create those cute little display pictures of a particular fashion style. You know those style pages in magazines where the stylists have decided on the look they want to create and they build the look by showing you great shoes, dresses, jeans, handbags, make-up and accessories? Well now you can easily do the same using your favourite fashion items.

Polyvore lets you quickly piece together a look from a great selection of fashion items, allowing you to show off your fashion taste and even enter competitions with your stylish creations. It’s a lot of fun and could be useful for anyone who wants to create or find a new look for themselves.

Get Started

Signing up is easy — especially if you want to use your Facebook login. You can be creating in seconds! Jump right in and make a set.

fashion styles

Creating a set is very straightforward. If you need a little help, there’s a handy video you can watch to show you a few tricks.

Also try creating a collection — these contain sets either made by yourself or other people. Just keep adding the looks you like!

style fashion clothes

Handy tip: Add the clipper bookmarklet to your browser so you can add to your favourites any items you see elsewhere on the web.


The Explore page is a great way to learn about fashion, enter competitions, see new sets that are up-and-coming, and to generally start your search for interesting fashion items.

It’s also where you can see slightly different creations, like the interior design sets. It seems everyone uses Polyvore in their own way, meaning many new things to explore!

style fashion clothes

You also may like to browse the site simply as a store for shopping.

Follow any lead you like and it will take you on a journey through the site. Follow a trend, brand, set, person – whatever – and you will find many more interlinked from each page. When you find a particular item you like, you can see the sets and collections it features in, similar products, more clothes by that designer and much more. It’s also very easy to save the product as a favourite or simply buy it. Favourites are a great way to keep track of things you frequently want to add to sets or things you’re keen to buy.

style fashion clothes


There are so many things to do on Polyvore. As well as simply creating your own sets and collections, you can join groups, ask for style advice, enter competitions for virtual trophies or real prizes and even create your own competitions. Along the way, you’ll probably meet some like-minded friends.

Want to come up with a great outfit for an upcoming event? Either ask the style gurus for advice or start a competition to get people brainstorming for you!


Everything you create on Polyvore can be shared via Facebook, Twitter, email, Tumblr, RSS or embedding on your blog. You can even create a mini-editor to embed on your blog so that your blog visitors can have a got at creating a set too!

About Polyvore

Polyvore is all about creating stylish, user-generated, shareable content. With the great team at Polyvore and the big designers and celebrities backing Polyvore, such as Katy Perry, Kate Moss, Yves Saint Laurent and Nordstrom, there’s always great fashion to be found on this site. By using the clipper to add your finds to your favourites, you are expanding the possibilities even further.

This site is great fun for anyone with even a passing interest in fashion — teens especially will love it. Guys don’t have many clothes listed in Polyvore as the girls do, but if you get busy with the clipper tool guys can have just as much fun!

fashion styles

More Fashion Reading

If you love fashion and style, you’ll love reading these:

If you’ve just joined, show off your new Polyvore sets in the comments!

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Hot Tech Deals [Dec 14th]

Posted: 14 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. eVGA Geforce GTS250 1GB DDR3 HDCP PCI-E Video Card $69.99AR Free Shipping via code 24HRSALE1215F

  2. Nikon Coolpix S70 12MP 5X Digital Camera w/ 3.5in OLED Touchscreen (Refurb) $119.99 Free Shipping

  3. Shuttle SX58J3 Intel X58 LGA1366 Miniature Barebones Desktop w/ 500W 80PLUS Bronze PSU $379.99 Free Shipping via code EMCZNZR55

  4. Sapphire Radeon HD 6850 1GB 256-Bit DDR5 PCI-E Video Card $169.99 Free Shipping via code VGA1214A

  5. Magellan Roadmate 1470 Portable GPS Navigation (REFURB, 4.7in, Text-to-Speech, Lane Assist) $59.99

  6. WD TV Live Plus (Recertified) $54.99, WD Passport (Recertified) 500GB $49.99 Free Ship

  7. Epson Artisan 835 Color Inkjet All-in-One Printer (Wifi, Duplex) $169.99 Free Shipping

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set

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5 Quick & Simple Ways To Write Your Life Logs With These Minimalist Online Journals

Posted: 14 Dec 2010 11:31 AM PST

free online journalsIn the digital world, the difference between a journal, a diary, and a blog is fuzzy. A blog is meant to be shared with those around you. An online or offline journal is more personal. You can of course, remove the padlock and share it with the world but I guess most would like to keep it closer to the chest. My two penny opinion says that the difference mainly boils down to the degree of laziness. A blog needs more upkeep; an online personal journal can be used to record random and disjointed thoughts. But let's look at it this way, the web gives us so many ways to connect with others and also with ourselves.

Writing a journal is like having a conversation with one's own self. Treat a journal like a ‘digital wall’ to vent your feelings on or just use it as a ‘digital cupboard’ to store memories. In both cases, a journal is a priceless companion. Here are seven free online journals for your thoughts.


free online journals

OhLife makes journal keeping dead easy by not asking you to come to their site every day. It simply sends you an email every night at 8pm asking you about your day. From the comfort of your inbox, you can type in your thoughts and send it forth like a regular email. That's it! The easy-to-use and easy-to-keep philosophy tries to promote the habit of journal writing by dressing it up as an email activity.

You can choose to go to the site and read all your past entries when you feel like it. The posts get listed in chronological order and when it's time for nostalgia, you can read them out to yourself.

I really like the minimalism of this free online journal and the ease with which I can keep up the journaling habit by not forcing myself to visit one more site at the end of a tiring day.


online journal

Memiary will make you believe that if you have had five interesting experiences the whole day, it has been a day worth recording for keeps. Memiary calls itself the weightless pocket diary. It is really that as all you have to is sign up and put down five thoughts for each day. You can even do it on the go if you have an iPhone. The five points a day really add up and you can keep them organized with tags (just add a #before any word and it turns into a tag).

It takes just about ten seconds to jot down five thoughts and the tag organization should really help when you add up all the memories. (See Directory mention)


online journal

MotoDiary is another simple journaling tool without any frills. It uses some HTML5 features for storage so it's still not compatible with Firefox. It runs on Chrome, Safari, and IE. As you can see from the screenshot above, the interface is only about your words. MotoDiary is a highly secure application. The FAQ says that the encrypted key is stored locally and not sent to the server. The app auto-saves entries to the hard disk and uploads it to the server when online.

MotoDiary displays the potential of HTML5 in a utilitarian interface. (See Directory mention)


online journal

Some people consider Twitter to be the closest thing to an instant free online journal. Why not? Twitter has become the medium for channeling all your rants and raves. TweetPrivate takes your Twitter habit and turns it inside out. Log in with your Twitter account, log your thoughts in 140 characters or less, but instead of tweeting it out, store it here and keep it private. These tweets can include pictures too. Later, you might choose to release these tweets and post them to Twitter's public stream. By using TweetPrivate as your personal diary, you can archive your tweets and search them by date.

TweetPrivate is a cool application if you have fallen prey to Twitter (or SMS) and evolved into using only 140 characters or less.


free online journals

Penzu comes with a few decorative features like an interface which resembles a lined notebook. The free account is limited but it serves its purpose adequately if you are not too into customization and tools. The free account gives you basic encryption with a password, photo uploads, plus sharing options with email and link. You can set up a notification to remind you to write every day.

The Penzu Pro account with all its features is appealing, but the free account is a quick fire journal tool that keeps things simple. You might grow to like the notebook style pages (see Directory mention).

If you are looking for customization and editing options, then you will be disappointed with these apps. For that I will always recommend Live Journal. But I believe when it comes to journaling or keeping an online diary, it's best to start simple, keep it about the words and move on. For the making of a habit, these five online journal apps serve as a minimalist starting point. Your thoughts?

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Search For Text Inside Multiple PDF Files With Your PDF Viewer’s Advanced Search

Posted: 14 Dec 2010 10:31 AM PST

search text inside pdfOne of the biggest advantages of digitizing notes, if you’re a student, is that you can search for text within Word documents and find where you last saw a phrase that you now need to consolidate with your new lesson. We’ve seen how to use DocFetcher to search within PDF files, but if you already have PDF-XChange Viewer, Foxit or even Adobe Reader, did you know you can already search for text inside PDF documents without additional programs? I didn’t know this so I thought it might be something good to share.

This might be useful too, if you own a large collection of e-books in PDF. I know I have a few copies of the free manuals that MakeUseOf distributes, plus a lot of PDFs for each of my classes so knowing my preferred PDF viewer can do this is tremendously useful.

PDF-XChange Viewer [Windows]

Even with its free version, PDF-XChange Viewer has pretty mind-blowing features. I’ve been using it for quite some time and absolutely adore the fact that you can customize keyboard shortcuts for any function. However, I didn’t realize you could use it to search entire directories until after searching all over the web for a PDF document search tool. It turns out the Search feature in PDF-XChange is pretty powerful and fast. You can either go to the Edit menu > Search or go to the drop-down menu for the Find feature.

search text inside pdf

You’ll see a sidebar on the right of the open PDF file. What is really neat is that if you have several PDF documents open in tabs, you can search through all of those open files, or only the current PDF. You can also specify a directory. In the Options buttons, you can also choose to search bookmarks and comments.

In the search term box, you can also use the drop-down menu to navigate to the Advanced Search function, which you can use to exclude words, include exact phrases, etc. Once you’ve completed the search, any result you click on will open up the respective file with the search term highlighted.

search pdf files for text

Adobe Reader [Cross-Platform]

We have seen many alternatives to Adobe Reader, including a portable version, but if you’d rather stick with Adobe’s product, you can easily use the Full Reader Search (which you can invoke by pressing Ctrl + Shift + F) from the Find function’s drop-down menu or by heading to Edit > Search.

search pdf files for text

Like PDF-XChange, you will then able to search for text inside PDF documents in your specified locations.

search pdf files for text

After the search has returned results, clicking on any of them will open up the respective PDF file with the search term highlighted on the correct page.

text inside pdf

If you want to preview or open up the results from different PDF files though, Adobe Reader will open them in separate windows since it doesn’t support tabbed documents.

What’s very impressive though, even more so than my beloved PDF-XChange Viewer’s Advanced Search, which has plenty for very specific searches.

text inside pdf

Foxit Reader [Windows, Linux]

Foxit Reader is extremely popular! This lightweight viewer also has the Search function in the Find drop-down menu and under the Tools menu.

text inside pdf

Similar to PDF-XChange, you’ll also see a sidebar on the right of the open PDF file, you can specify whether to look in the current document or in a specific directory, and the functionality will be really fast.

search text inside pdf

Unlike PDF-XChange however, you aren’t offered the option to search in all currently open PDF files.

It’s worth mentioning that if you don’t have any of these readers but you’re on a Windows computer, you can actually use Windows Desktop Search (the one you get from pressing Win key + F) to look for text within PDF files with the help of the Adobe PDF iFilter for 64-bit and 32-bit systems. If you do have the latest version of Adobe Reader, it will have bundled the iFilter add-in so you can use Windows Search to index PDF file contents without any problems. PDF-XChange enthusiasts also have the option to use the iFilter add-in.

If all you’re looking for is a small utility that’s fast and can search inside files, PDF or not, check out FileHound (here’s the portable version). I haven’t tried searching within scanned PDF files, but if anyone has, please share your experience in the comments.

What do you use to search for text inside PDF files?

Photo credit: Scott Copeland

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Myna – A Free & Powerful Digital Music Recording Studio In The Cloud

Posted: 14 Dec 2010 09:31 AM PST

online recording studioOne of my dreams is having my own recording studio. It doesn’t have to be too fancy, just enough to jam with my friends and record a few simple songs for my own collection. But even the simplest arrangement (small mixer, keyboard, guitars, drum set, tape recorder, sound isolated room) would cost me a fortune.

Then came along Garageband – the free digital online recording studio where amateur musicians can do almost everything that they can imagine. Still, there are limitations. Garageband and other music creation tools require powerful machines to run them well.

I never thought that there would be the day when people could access a free and powerful recording studio from any computer and do recording on the go.  But it’s already available today – in the cloud.

Patching The Pieces Together

The one that we are going to talk about is a Flash-based online audio editor called Myna. This tool comes from Aviary, the same people who bring us Roc and other cool online tools.

Myna is a fully featured digital recording studio. Maybe it’s the closest thing that we’ve got to Garageband, both in ease of use and price. Even the interface reminds us of Garageband. Myna is also accessible by anybody under any operating system, as long as he/she has an Internet connection and a Flash-capable browser.

online recording studio

I was blown away when I listened to the demo song created using Myna. It’s as if the tool was a standalone desktop application. So I quickly hit the “Start a new Myna creation” link to try creating my own.

recording studio

You start with ten blank tracks that you can fill with loops from the library or with your own recording. The first thing that you want to do is check the “Snap To Grid” option. Then you can rename the tracks by double clicking on the name fields. To navigate to any part of the song, use the map field.

recording studio

Similar to Garageband, Myna gives users the option to build the song using loops. You can find the loop on the library at the lower part of the interface. The loops are provided by Quantum Tracks.

recording studio

But before you can access them, you have to agree to the terms by clicking on the button.

cloud recording studios

The loops are arranged in the Explorer-like columns. Choosing one item on the left part will reveal the content next to it.

cloud recording studios

You can find the loops at the very right of the hierarchy. Click on the small “play” button to listen to the loop or drag the item to fill one of the tracks above.

cloud recording studios

To view the loop, you might need to play with the zoom tool inside the “View” menu.

05c Zoom In_Out.jpg

Aside from loops, you can also fill the tracks with items from Aviary’s public library, beats created using Roc, or sounds from the SoundCloud service.

06a Aviary Library.jpg

To record your own voice or live instrument and insert the recording to your project, click the “Record” button next to the volume slider.

07a Play Record.jpg

Before you begin, the Flash player will ask you to allow it to access your microphone as the input device. Then you can start the recording by clicking the “Start Recording” button. The microphone settings can be found on the left side.

07c Start Recording.jpg

After the recording process has finished, click the “Import to Project” button. The result is available on the right sidebar. Click on the “Imported” button next to the “Library” button. Drag your recording to the track that you want.

07d Import To Project.jpg

Repeat the import and record process for other tracks until your song is done.

To Save And To Share

Saving the project requires you to log into Aviary with your account. If you don’t have an account, you can register for free.

08b Register Login.jpg

Or if you already have an Aviary account, you can continue with the log in process. Aviary also lets its customer log in using other popular accounts.

08d Login With Existing Account.jpg

Then give descriptions to your project before hitting the “Save as a new creation” button.

08f Save.jpg

Then after the long cycles of processing-saving-mixing-uploading, your project will be available as a mp3 or wav download. You will also get several useful links pointing to the project.

09a Result mp3.jpg

You can choose to continue with the project or to publish and share your creation via popular social networks.

online recording studio

Behind The Stage

As a person who uses Garageband a lot, I can’t help but compare both applications. For a web tool, Myna is extremely cool. But I also noticed several limitations. For example, users are stuck with ten tracks without any option to add more. The same thing goes for the loop library. Another thing is that using Myna requires a fast Internet connection because there are many uploading and downloading processes along the way.

Looking at the history of Aviary’s online image editor, is it wrong for me to wish an HTML5 makeover for Myna in the future? The thought of composing songs on the go using an iPad is enough to make many geeky musicians shiver with excitement.

I hope the quick walkthrough of this online recording studio above gives you a general picture of what you can achieve with Myna. While I’d love to ramble more about this tool, I still believe that experience is the best teacher. So try building your own song and discover cool things along the way. Don’t forget to share your stories using the comments below.

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10 Entertaining Videos For The Holiday Season

Posted: 14 Dec 2010 08:45 AM PST

holiday videosChristmas is just around the corner. You’re probably sick of all the cookies, frantically searching for gifts, and merely the thought of Wham’s ‘Last Christmas’ or Chris Rea’s ‘Driving Home for Christmas’ can make you throw up. Well, sounds like it’s time to relax.

Now if you’re still enjoying the season and are looking forward to Christmas, you may as well open this article and watch some entertaining holiday videos. The celebrities that will help you pass the time include Coldplay, The Killers, and Bugs Bunny. Happy Holidays!

Christmas Commercial

Kissing under the mistletoe? Well, see for yourself.

The Killers – Boots

Just for Christmas, The Killers got back together in their hometown Las Vegas to record an inspiring holiday video for their song ‘Boots’.

This is their fifth annual holiday video. The proceeds from the song will be donated to (RED) to help fight AIDS in Africa. Also, Starbucks will donate five cents for each view of the video. You can download the song from iTunes.

Christmas Lights Display

In this video the Christmas lights display of a house and garden are arranged to visually support the modern version of Amazing Grace. As the song goes from classic to techno, the lights go crazy.

Mia Rose – What Would Christmas Be Like?

Mia Rose became famous through cover songs published on her YouTube channel, which she opened during her Christmas break from university in 2006. Meanwhile, the 22 year old has over 250,000 YouTube subscribers, a best selling download from iTunes, and was featured in Rolling Stone, among other popular media. This Christmas song was written by herself and released in 2009.

Carson Williams’ Christmas House

16,000 christmas lights controlled by 88 Light-O-Rama channels light up rhythmically to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s ‘Wizeards in Winter’. Epic! And if you were wondering, yes this is a US production based in Mason, Ohio.

Coldplay – Christmas Lights

Filmed in London on November 25th, this video is Coldplay’s contribution to this year’s holiday season. And if you thought that November 25th was a working day in the UK because “the British people don’t believe in Thanksgiving“, then you’re probably American and definitely wrong. Wikipedia should shed some light.

Bug Bunny’s ‘A Christmas Carol’

Charles Dickens novel ‘A Christmas Carol’ has inspired many films and even opera, ballet, and a Broadway musical. This is a short, child compatible version starring Bugs Bunny and his pals.

Becky Kelley – Where’s the Line to See Jesus

Ever heard of GodTube? It’s not a joke! The video below was plugged from God’s own video hub.

Indian Santa Clause

Mr. Everything Comes From India is a character from the BBC sketch comedy show ‘Goodness Gracious Me‘. In this piece he explains the true origins of Santa Clause to his increasingly upset daughter.

Chrappy Histmas

Based on the poem ‘The Night Before Christmas’, this video shows two guys adding a twist to the famous words. Mind boggling and confusing, but quite entertaining.

For many more entertaining Christmas videos, visit Fanpop, which features a list of the 101 Classic Christmas Videos.

Need more distractions? MakeUseOf won’t let you down!

What is your favorite video and which movies do you love to watch during the holiday season?

Image credits: Louis D. Wyono

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4 Tips For Printing Better Digital Photos From Your PC

Posted: 14 Dec 2010 08:00 AM PST

printing digital photosDigital photography has essentially replaced traditional film for the average person. The advantages of digital cameras for most users are enormous. Digital cameras are easier to use and the photos are easier to share. A photo can be sent to your family and friends with just a few keystrokes.

One common issue, however, is the creation of physical copies of your photos. Attempting to quickly print a few digital photos usually results in grainy images on paper soggy with ink. This can be avoided by making a few adjustments to your photos and printing process.  Here’s 4 things you should be watching out for when printing out your snaps.

Adjust The Pixels Per Inch

printing digital photos

Resolution is important for photos that you’d like to print out. The number of pixels that are packed into each inch of an image will determine how crisp the image looks. Unfortunately, computer monitors do not provide a good idea of how an image will look when it is printed. The resolution which a monitor can display is actually quite small compared to the resolution a printer can handle.

Most low-resolution photographs obtained online will pack in under 100 pixels per inch (PPI). A sample of photos I downloaded at random from Facebook, for example, had between 70 and 95 PPI. You’ll want around 300 PPI on any photo that you’d like to print out and frame. You can adjust the pixels per inch in the print options (the example image above is from GIMP), but be warned that doing so will shrink the physical size of an image.

For example, a 640×480 image at 72 PPI will be about 8.9 inches wide and 6.7 inches tall. At 300 PPI, however, the image will be 2.1 inches wide and 1.6 inches tall. Which, of course, isn’t very useful – and brings up to our next tip.

Use High-Resolution Source Images

digital photos printing

Since PPI is important, and it has an impact on the physical size of an image, you’ll need to use high-resolution images if you want to be able to print a clear picture of usable size. Let’s take a standard 8×10 photo as an example. At 300 PPI you’d want a resolution of 2400×3000. That’s nothing to sneeze at, and because images are usually shot in a 4:3 or 16:9 format, you’d actually need a source image with an even larger resolution which could then be cropped down.

Fortunately, most digital cameras on the market can provide an original source image with a resolution more than adequate for most home users. Finding a camera that’s up to the task becomes more difficult when printing very large photos, but most home users won’t have a printer suited to anything larger than an 11×14, so this a worry that is usually limited to photography professionals.

Buy Glossy Photo Paper

digital photos printing

Paper is perhaps the largest hurdle when attempting to translate an image from a digital format into a physical photograph. A digital photo is always displayed on a monitor or other device that has its own light with which to display images. Photos don’t – they rely on ambient light – and as a result digital photos look dull when printed. Standard paper often can’t handle the motherload of ink required to print a nice photo, either.

You’ll want to find a nice, high-gloss paper for most photographs. The gloss finish helps ensure that photos have a vibrant appearance, and such paper is non-porous, which means it doesn’t absorb ink and become warped. Given the wide variety of papers available, the easiest path is usually to find a type of paper recommended by the manufacturer of your printer.  You don’t have to, however, and there is fine paper to be had from other brands. Be sure to check the maximum paper thickness your printer can handle, however, because high-gloss photo papers are too thick for use by some printers.

Adjust Your Printer’s Settings

printing digital photos

All printers have various settings that determine how they behave. Most home printers have default settings that maximize speed when printing black-and-white documents, as this is the most common usage. Ideally, the default settings will improve the speed at which your printer can operate and should reduce ink usage.

These settings are often not the best for printing photos, however. By going to the Devices and Printers section of your Windows Control Panel you can find your printer. Right-click on it and then navigate to Printer Preferences. In the Printing Shortcuts section you will find a number of pre-sets that can improve photo quality. The options available depend on your printer.

These may not be the only settings you can adjust, however. You may have installed additional software when you bought your printer that will offer more options and pre-sets. The printer itself may also have settings – most modern printers come with a tiny LCD display, through which you can access a number of options.


These simple tips may leap your printing know-how into the company of professionals, but it will significantly improve the quality of photos you print. Without making these adjustments it is likely that your print photos will look dull, lifeless and blurry. Once you’ve used these tips, however, you should be able to print out photos that are will look great once placed on your mantle or in your wallet.

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