Thursday, December 23, 2010 “Cool Websites and Tools [December 22nd]” plus 9 more “Cool Websites and Tools [December 22nd]” plus 9 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [December 22nd]

Posted: 22 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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Copytrans TuneSwift – iTunes restricts users to one configured account per computer and you either need to copy your files manually or use a third-party tool to transfer them without hitches. One great app that just works is Copytrans TuneSwift. This new desktop app from Copytrans suite allows you to transfer your iTunes library to a new computer in one click – be it Mac or Windows. Read more: Copytrans TuneSwift: Backup, Transfer, Restore iTunes Library in Seconds


Phile – Although Facebook is the largest social network on the internet, it is not the only game in town. Several social network sites exist because they appeal to a specific market or functionality. One cool mini-social network is Phile, a service that allows users to create a group website and share stuff the group cares about. Read more: Phile: Create A Group Website Around A Topic Your Group Cares About



UNData – A lot of people love looking at online trends and statistics. Not only are they great resources for your research paper, but it also leaves a great feeling to have all this data right at your fingertips, considering where we were 15 years ago when people had to go to libraries to get their material. One cool tool is UN Data, a website that bring statistical databases from various United Nations agencies. Read more: UNData: United Nations Statistics & Research Database



Simplebooklet – In a variety of ways booklets can be extremely useful. Whether you are marketing a product, explaining a set of instructions, or creating an invitation, a booklet will serve perfectly. Virtual booklets are the online form of booklets and can be found on numerous websites. Thanks to SimpleBooklet the average internet user can create, share and print booklets with ease. Read more: Simplebooklet: Easily Create, Share & Print Booklets Online



Fliptwits – If you are looking for a way to make your tweets more fun, then tweeting inverted text is definitely the right way to go. There are a number of sites that help you invert text upside down. But only FlipTwits lets you tweet the inverted text directly from the site. It lets you tweet text that is upside down. Read more: Fliptwits: Post Upside Down Tweets


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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PNotes – Fast, Lightweight, Open-Source Sticky Notes Program For Your Desktop/USB Flash Drive [Windows]

Posted: 22 Dec 2010 05:31 PM PST

Note-taking applications, such as Evernote, Simplenote, etc. abound, each with pros and cons, but most work tailored to a specific need. Want to add stickies to your documents? There’s GumNotes. Want to access your notes anywhere but don’t want them on your hard/flash drives? Here are some web-based sticky notes applications (my personal favorite is Jjot) or you can even try making your own with Notepad.

PNotes, short for either Pinned Notes or Portable Notes, is a feature-packed sticky notes program, but not just any. It’s a worthy addition to your collection of portable applications as it includes ways to protect your notes, reminder alerts, support for drag and drop of pictures, it’s been translated to many languages, etc. Here are some of the more interesting features of PNotes.

Password-Protect & Encrypt Your Notes

Once you grab the latest version of PNotes, 7.0.107, here, you’ll see a lot of options on system tray icon right-click.

This is perhaps one of the big features that held my attention at first: You can set a password to protect your notes in the Control Panel for PNotes.

Once you set it, you’ll be give the option to store your notes as encrypted files, and even hide the program icon from the system tray when it’s locked. Thus, this is probably THE notes program you should have on your flash drive so if your jump drive gets stolen, your precious tidbits of information will be locked away.

Create Notes With Rich-Text Formatting & Add Pictures

You have most options you’d want in rich-text formatting, including ability to insert bullets, change fonts, and even highlight text. What’s also neat is that you can create a new note from the text contents of your clipboard while retaining clickable links.

The feature reminded me of CintaNotes and QuotePad, applications which allow you to customize a hotkey to create a new note instantly from highlighted text, but of course, PNotes can do it also with just two or three more clicks, and it looks like it bundles a lot more features, like hierarchy of notes, grouping and ability to include images.

While it says in the Help section for the program that you can insert images by copying and pasting them, I couldn’t quite get the copy-paste of images to work (only text was copied).

Luckily, drag- and dropping pictures worked really well. You can also right-click on each note, then selecting Insert > Insert picture to paste an image from your hard drive. PNotes also has an extensive collection of smilies, which could be useful for the Diary notes. You can set transparency, font, color and size (unless you use a custom skin) defaults for all or individual notes.

Honestly, there are so many customization options that you can spend more time exploring those than actually creating notes. I’d just start writing notes and then customizing things as I go because the defaults might work just fine.

Set Reminders For Any Items

You can set reminders or due dates for notes at very specific schedules. You can choose to remind yourself at repeated intervals as well, and whether PNotes should track the overdue items or not.

You can also toggle high priority status for individual notes, and sort notes by high priority, completed items, schedule, last saved times, and tags (which you need to define first in PNote’s Control Panel).

Diary Mode

If I can encrypt my notes and/or password-protect them, I’d definitely want to use this program for my journal entries. It’s highly convenient that PNotes also bundles a Diary mode or category, where each entry’s title is automatically populated with the date.

So if you’re wary of publishing your thoughts on Facebook, Twitter or even dedicated journal applications (like Penzu) that are still hosted on third-party servers, PNotes can be a good alternative as you can password-protect your note database and encrypt your notes.

Overall, this program has an unbelievable set of features. You can even set hotkeys for hiding and showing your desired group of notes. As someone who relies on keyboard shortcuts a lot, I would like the program even more if it had more keyboard shortcuts than the universal ones for copying, pasting, saving, printing, etc. but I shouldn’t ask too much as this powerful program is being offered for free, and it’s open-source so the developer probably isn’t making much money.

Do you use an offline note application or prefer web-based services, like Evernote? Share your experiences in the comments below!

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6 Thrifty Websites To Help You Make, Repair & Do-It-Yourself To Save Some Cash

Posted: 22 Dec 2010 03:31 PM PST

So the global recession has hit hard. At a time like this you may be tempted to turn to money-saving tips, techniques and resources to help yourself out if you’re feeling the squeeze.

What better way to save yourself money and stamp your own personal mark on a job by doing it yourself? There’s plenty of money to be saved by getting your hands dirty, regardless of sex and age – just exercise care and caution if you’re wielding sharp and potentially dangerous things.

Here’s a selection of websites to help inspire new projects and close the lid on those unfinished ones too.

Make It & Mend It

With the aim of inspiring more of us to re-use and recycle instead of simply throwing it away, Make it and Mend it is the brainchild of four passionate women who have seen the website’s popularity grow and grow.

Since launching in early 2009 the website has seen the growth of a community, a major redesign (which looks awesome) and the introduction of the email newsletter.

Navigation is easy via the simplistic and sleek design of the homepage, with instructions separated into six separate categories. There are also a few other sections to the site including People which focuses on guest bloggers and human interest, as well as Downloads and Videos.

Make it and Mend it provides some creative ideas for cookery, home design and fashion amongst others, with a focus on projects that benefit from that personal touch.

Make: Projects

Make: Projects puts more of an emphasis on technical projects than the previous website, but contains a good range of DIY tips, hacks, tweaks and uses for your old bits of tat.

Ever wanted to mod a snowboard into a splitboard? What about building your own aerial satellite? There’s no shortage of adventurous projects here, and you don’t need an engineering degree to play along.

The website is the "submit your own" section of Make Magazine, and many of the projects listed may have been featured on the shelf of your local newsagents in the past.


We’ve mentioned it before, in fact I’ve even mentioned it myself but I can’t help but drop it into another article. Instructables is probably the web’s most definitive collection of DIY projects for absolutely any occasion.

The website changes with the seasons, so if you’re after the best halloween costume or want to build your own summer barbecue then you’re bound to find detailed, informative instructions for just about anything.

The website also runs regular competitions to reward the community’s spirit and determination, so if you’re brave then why not enter your own creation for the chance to win some very apt prizes.


British-based diyfixit embraces the nation’s obsession with hammers, drills and other tools with guides to fixing general household issues.

There’s a plethora of information available from wallpapering to installing a kitchen sink – you’ll find it on diyfixit. There’s a couple of different sections to explore, though the How To section warrants a visit on its own.

If you’re the handy type who feels confident enough in undertaking the largest of hands-on projects then diyfixit is the perfect resource for your busy hands.

Another excellent resource for all your household needs, features an excellent How To section as well as videos to help you install, fix and choose the best bits of your house.

There’s also sections dedicated to design, car repair and general home improvement which add to the varied articles and videos that populate the website. The website also functions as a store for DIY products, and there’s a Find A Contractor area in case you’ve bitten off more than you can chew.

Another very capable archive of knowledge for those who like getting hands-on.


Before joining the team here at MakeUseOf, I used to write small guides for eHow on how to do just about anything. Whilst my time at MakeUseOf has been a lot more fulfilling and enjoyable, eHow taught me a lot about writing how-to guides for the web.

With no specific categories targeted, eHow simply tries to be the ultimate "how do I do that?" resource. Their article titles are drawn from search engine results, and span every conceivable topic.

For a quick guide that’s backed up with references and resources, eHow fits the bill.

Have you used any great DIY websites recently? Any successful projects you’ve finished thanks to the web? Let us know in the comments.

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4 Fun Party Games Using Networked Computers

Posted: 22 Dec 2010 01:31 PM PST

As family and friends gather for the holidays, there are some evenings where you may find everyone sitting around with nothing to do. One of the best ways to have fun with the whole family is by playing games together.

Usually, people bring along laptops with them when they travel. Since most homes are equipped with Wi-Fi, and since most people bring along their laptops wherever they go, there are a lot of ways you can use that network to host some excitement. What excitement, you ask? Well, if you’re trying to come up with fun party games this year, I encourage you to make use of that Wi-Fi network and host a few networked games amongst your guests with laptops.

If you need help setting up your Wi-Fi network for LAN gaming, make sure to check out Karl’s instructional guide.  I recently covered a cool LAN game you could play called WarZone 2100, but there are a few more games that especially lend themselves well to Wi-Fi LAN gaming with the family.


You’ve probably played the strategic board game called Risk, but you’ve never played it like the SourceForge project. So fire up your laptops and then download and install this desktop version of the RISK board game.

When you first launch the game, one person can launch the server and the additional players can attach to the game server.

Game play can get pretty grueling as each person takes turns situating their armies across the globe, and then attacking neighbors in order to conquer the entire world. The game automatically handles rolling the dice and calculating gained or lost armies.

The game can get pretty heated as you completely wipe out your opponents. The game is pretty addictive so if you’re going to try it out, plan to set aside a couple of hours at least.

Play Poker

If you prefer classic card games more than board games, you’ll love the multi-platform game PokerTH. When you play this game, it’s like sitting around a huge billiards table with your friends and playing round after round of Poker.

If you’re hosting the game, just select option three from the main menu and configure the game settings, including the number of players, how much cash each player starts with, and other details.

The graphics are pretty decent, especially considering the game is free. It’s a lot of fun to try your hand at bluffing to see if you can get the other players to fold.

When you’re networked together on the same Wi-Fi network with this game, there’s no need to worry about dealing with cards, chips, or keeping track of everything. The application does it all for you.


There’s no getting around it, Armagetron is one of the best Tron clones out there. This game is built upon the lightcycle sequence from the movie Tron, and I have to say that it definitely does the movie justice. The pace of this game really does get your heart pumping. Setting up a multiplayer game is a breeze.

Just configure network setup in a couple of quick steps and you’ve got your game server ready to roll. One very cool feature of this game is that you can split your screen into up to four views to see all four players.

Racing through these levels are wild. You’ll either crash into your opponents forcefield, or you’re going to crash into your own, but one thing is for certain – you’re going to crash.

The point is – who is going to hold out the longest? Do you have what it takes to stay alive as each of your opponents collides into a wall at full speed? Challenge your guests to a heart-pounding game of Armagatron.

Warsow – A Family Friendly First Person Shooter

The most popular type of LAN party game is definitely the first person shooter, but there aren’t many FPS games that are suitable for all ages. Warsow is unique in that way because the characters are more cartoonish than anything else, and when you shoot, you’re blasting electricity, not bullets.

Once you’ve got your local server running, additional players can log in and look for your local server to join. Once they do, all of you will be in the virtual world where you can configure gameplay to be a free-for-all, deathmatch, duel, or anything else.

The environment and scenery is of a quality that you’d expect from some of the latest FPS shooting games – it’s only the character and weapons, as you can see in the image above, that are cartoonized.

There’s a lot to be said for a good old-fashioned sit-down with family and friends for a coffee and a chat. There’s a place and time at every family gathering for that. But, once the conversations have died down and people start looking for something interesting to pass the time, give these games a shot and transform your holiday gathering into an event that your guests are sure to remember.

Do you know of any other cool games that would be great at a party? Try these out at your next gathering and let us know how it went. Share your experiences in the comments section below.

Image credit: stokfoto

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Hot Tech Deals [Dec 22nd]

Posted: 22 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. Targus Eternity Black Polyester Backpack (fits up to 15in Laptop) $12 Free Shipping via cod eUSPC10D46560 (Exp 1/3)

  2. Super Talent Express Duo 16GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive $24 Free Shipping via code NAUGHTYORNICE (Exp 12/27)

  3. ClickFree C2N 500GB Portable External Hard Drive with Network Backup (User Friendly) $79.99 Free Shipping

  4. Corsair XMS3 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3-1333MHz PC10666 Dual-Channel Desktop Memory $84.99 Free Shipping via code EMCZNNZ59 (Exp 12/27)

  5. Dell Latitude E5410 Intel Core i7-620M 2.66GHz 14.1in Business Laptop (Higher Res 1440×900 Screen) $745.86 via code 2P?WZ8K$J8LJWQ (Exp 12/29)

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

  7. Nokia E71 Smart Phone (Unlocked, Quad-Band GSM) $149.99 Free Shipping via code 5N9BV649$40V06 (Exp 1/31)

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set

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10 Websites With Fun Art Games For Kids

Posted: 22 Dec 2010 11:31 AM PST

Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up. This is attributed to Pablo Picasso. It's true about most of us. Even before we start with the alphabet, we learn how to scrawl and draw. But most of us leave the drawing pencil or the crayon behind while growing up. Second to playing a musical instrument, it's perhaps learning how to wield a brush that's on most wishlists.

Maybe, our own won't come true but maybe we can inspire the younger ones in our families to pick up where we left off. Thanks to a variety of interactive art applications and art games on the web, we can reboot the appreciation of art.

Fun art games are a cool way of not only releasing our creative instincts, but they are educational too. Don't drop the palette and the brush, but do check out these ten interactive art websites for some art games and interactive fun.

Art Detective

Art Detective (The Case of The Mysterious Object) is an art puzzle for kids hosted on the website of Tate Britain. It is a family of four art galleries exhibiting the UK’s collection of British art from 1500 and of international modern art. The Tate Kids section of the site has a lineup of 13 cool art games that you can check out.

The section devoted to the Tate Young has an interesting art educational tool called Saturation which a budding artist can use to understand colors down the ages from 1950 to the present day.

Jackson Pollock

Jackson Pollock was an American artist, whose painting style combined the free flow of paint with flinging, dripping, pouring, and spattering on a horizontal canvas. You can follow his abstract example by doing your own splattering and spattering on the computer screen with a mouse. A click changes the color in this Flash game and you can wildly move the mouse around to create wonderful patterns. There's an Internet art app for the iPad and iPhone as well.


From one master to the next: Using this uncomplicated drawing app, you can create figures using elements of Pablo Picasso's painting style. To get an idea, take a look at a few ‘Picassoheads’ in the Gallery section. Simply use the mouse to drag, drop, and arrange the elements to create heads.


This art and educational website is part of the world’s wealthiest art institution – The J. Paul Getty Trust. If you are in Los Angeles, there's the J. Paul Getty Museum to visit. GettyGames gives you four art games and one activity to spend time on. Detail Detective teaches you to pay attention to details; Math Madness is about memory skills; Switch is about spotting the differences; and the Jigsaw Puzzles are what they suggest. All games are based on images taken from the world of art and architecture.

Albright-Knox Art Games

This cool online art game opens in a pop-up in your browser, so have your pop-ups enabled. Artie's House has games galore from a canvas on which you can splatter paint to quiz style games based on paintings. For instance, a painting is displayed and you have to guess the game the figures are playing in the painting. The colorful and interactive website is suitable for kids aged 4-12 and is in English and Spanish.

99Rooms is less of a game but more of a visually stimulating online exhibition of wall paintings, photography, and animation combined with sound (and backend programming). You have to switch on lights and gradually advance through each room. A sister project is Ana Somnia; both are examples of how many disciplines can come together and extend the boundaries of art.

The Art Zone

Let a kid loose in this kiddie art website and there's a good chance that he or she will stay there for the whole day. A National Gallery of Art website for art education for kids, the site boasts of a lineup of games for kids of all ages. My personal favorite is the Photo Op which teaches even an adult like me something about digital photography.

Create Your Own Artwork

The coolness factor of this art website is that you can create your own artwork, write a message, and send it to someone. From finger painting to paint tools like confetti and Jell-O, let your imagination run wild. Sounds like a unique way to send an animated 'painted' card for New Year (though the form was hanging on me).


iSketch is a multiplayer online sketching game where one player draws a sketch and others have to guess the word which explains it. There are several rooms each having a theme of its own and arranged according to the difficulty of the words. There's a sketch studio too where you can draw your own sketches and sent to other users.

iSketch is not an 'art' game in its strictest sense, but it involves drawing skills and is whole lot of fun. (See Directory mention).

Architect Studio 3D

Architecture is the most massive expression of art you can think of. In this online app you get to design a house from the ground up with the famed architect – Frank Lloyd Wright. He is regarded as the greatest American architect of all time. This web tool is a great learning aid for designing a house according to the principles laid down by Wright. Here you can design a house, walk through it in 3D, and then share it with the world.

Have you tried online art games before? Do you think that it's a great way to explore your (or your child's) artistic side?

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Montage: A Cool Social Online Visual Digital Scrapbook From Microsoft

Posted: 22 Dec 2010 10:31 AM PST

digital scrapbooksModern technology really changes the way people search and gather information. Most of us have replaced our frequent trips to the library with search engines. Also as search engines become faster and more relevant, we leave the manual paper page turning activities further and further.

But one thing still stays the same in the researching business – we still have to compile search results manually, whether it’s in the form of stacks of photocopies or bytes of information. Montage from Microsoft tries to change that – in style – by giving us access to an online visual digital scrapbook.

More Acquainted With Montage

Some might say that Montage is a nice looking web magazine where you can consume information comfortably. The difference with other ordinary web magazines is that the content curator is you. Others may also say that Montage is a kind of search engine where the results are compiled and displayed in a beautiful magazine-like layout.

The website gives a brief description of itself:

Montage is a flexible web-based service that makes it fun and easy to create and share a visual album of the web on the topics you care about. You can design your Montage around any topic you can imagine by adding content that pulls information from a variety of sources, including RSS feeds, Twitter, Bing News, and YouTube. Montage is an expression of you.

digital scrapbooks

Montage is also editable and social. You can tinker with the content of your results, for example adding Twitter trends and news articles to the page. The look of your search results can also be customized, saved, shared via Facebook and Twitter, and published to a unique webpage.

The basic use of Montage is as simple as writing down the search string and hitting enter. For more customization options, read on.

01b Give a topic.jpg

Managing Montage

Even though anybody can use the basic features of Montage, more advanced features – like sharing, saving, and publishing – will only available after you log in. Montage allows users to use their MSN, Facebook, or Twitter account to sign in.

02b Sign In Using.jpg

After writing down the search string(s) and clicking the “Create” button, the result will be displayed with the option to modify the layout. Click the “Prev” or “Next” link to switch between available layouts, or click “Keep this one” to choose the one you want and move on to view the result.

03a Try another layout.jpg

You will notice that your name is displayed as the curator under the search string(s).

free digital scrapbook

And this is what the result would look like.

02a Search result.jpg

If you hover your mouse above a panel, it would display the options to “Edit or Add Content“, along with the “Delete” and “Horizontal/Vertical Split” button.

free digital scrapbook

Clicking the “Edit or Add Content” button will open up a window where you can find and add new materials and/or change the visual style of the box.

free digital scrapbook

This is also the place to change the content type of the panel. Click the “Change” link and choose the type of content that you want to use. The options range from images, to RSS feeds, to Twitter trends.

digital scrapbook

You can also change the size of any panel and the space between panels simply by hovering the mouse pointer over them and dragging the edges. You will notice that there are buttons on the top area of the page.

05 Menu.jpg

Clicking the “Settings” button will allow you to change the background image.

digital scrapbook

While the “Save” and “Save & Close” buttons are self-explanatory, the “Publish” button will allow you to add tags to your Montage,

06 Save - Tag.jpg

Then share it with your friends via Facebook and/or Twitter.

digital scrapbook

Finally, your Montage will be saved as a page and listed under “My Montage” menu. After the page is saved, you are ready to create another Montage.

digital scrapbooks

Montage is a great way to collect, compile, and share information about things that you like or simply just need to know about a particular topic, political news, sport events, celebrities stories, or anything else that you can think of. I’ve just tried this web app for a short time and already like it a lot.

What about you? Have you tried Montage? Do you know other web tools which also allow you to get information in a unique way? Share your thoughts using the comments below.

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How To Secure & Encrypt Your Information If Your Laptop Gets Stolen [Mac]

Posted: 22 Dec 2010 09:31 AM PST

how to secure laptopThe FBI reports that 97% of stolen laptops are never recovered or returned to their owners. In this regard, MakeUseOf has published several articles about anti-theft tracking software, such as Adeona and Prey. But to deal with the likelihood you may never recover your stolen or lost laptop, you will want to have a plan to secure sensitive information on the laptop.

Taking a few steps to pass lock, encrypt, hide, and most importantly back up the most important content on your laptop only takes a few minutes, and it can save you the agony of having sensitive information fall into the wrong hands. While the tools below are geared towards Mac users, similar tools are available for other users as well.

So let’s take a look at some of the things you can do right now to make an insurance policy against laptop theft.

Password Lock Your Laptop

For Mac laptop users, Apple includes a secure way to access your computer’s content.

how to secure laptop

Apple’s OS X security features can be found in System Preferences. The general password feature requires your account password in order for the computer to be used. You can set up this feature to automatically log out of your computer after a specified amount of time or after the screensaver or sleep begins before a password is required.

You will need to click the padlock icon at the bottom left in order to enable the settings and save them.

The FileVault feature encrypts all the information in your Home folder, and your login password is required in order to access your content.

how to secure laptop from theft

Inputting a password each time you want to access your computer may seem like a hassle, but if your laptop is constantly vulnerable to theft, then these built-in features can be one of the first steps to securing your information when your laptop is stolen.

Encrypt Folder/Files

For very sensitive data in your laptop, you should consider further encrypting important data. For PC users, read Jim’s article on How to Make Encrypted Folder Using Truecrypt 7.

For Mac users, you can create an encrypted disk image (DMG) (sort of like a folder) in which you can store sensitive data. Here’s how:

  • Launch Disk Utility (Applications folder > Utilities folder) on Mac.
  • Click on New > Blank Disk Image
  • how to secure laptop from theft

  • Enter the name for the disk image/folder in the Save As text field and save the DMG where you want.
  • how to secure laptop from theft

  • Select a size for the image file from the Volume Size pop-up menu. If you will be encrypting simple document files, you may only need 500 MB. If you’re going to be adding audio and video files, you may need 2-8 GB.
  • Choose a volume format if you don’t want to use the default Mac OS X Extended (Journaled)
  • Choose 128-bit AES (and/or 256-bit AES in Mac OS X 10.5 or later) from the Encryption pop-up menu to encrypt the image’s contents with a password. If you don’t choose an encryption, your new image won’t be encrypted.
  • Choose an image format. You can use “sparse disk image” for a disk image that only uses as much space as it needs, rather than a set amount of space. If you’re not sure, use the “read/write disk image” choice.
  • Click the Create button.
  • Enter and verify a good password in the dialog window that appears. This password will be saved in your keychain by default, or you can deselect “Remember password (add to keychain)” if you don’t want that. You can store the password in the keychain both for convenience and for reducing risk of password loss.
  • Click OK.

When the DMG is being created, you will be asked to enter a secure password. After doing so, do not check “Remember password in my keychain,” because your password will be automatically entered when the DMG is opened.

how to secure laptop data

Now to secure your files, open the DMG. It will appear in the side bar of a Finder window under Devices.

how to secure laptop

Drag into the DMG folder any files you want to secure and then eject the folder like you would any external hard drive.

To further secure your information in terms of files and folders, check out these how-to articles about hiding specified data and folders.

Let us know what other methods or free tools you have found useful for securing information on your laptop.



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5 Weird & Wonderful Uses For Wolfram Alpha

Posted: 22 Dec 2010 08:31 AM PST

wolfram alpha search engineWe’ve all heard of Wolfram Alpha, the website that makes your computer like the ones in Star Trek. Ask it any question involving numbers, from the comparative net worth of Apple and Microsoft to the digits of pi, and you’ll get an answer. These sorts of calculations are useful, the kinds of thing Kirk might ask his computer.

I, if given the chance, would ask Kirk’s computer really stupid/awesome things. Like whether I’m drunk, whether I’m fat or how common my name is compared to my friend’s. Luckily, Wolfram Alpha can answer stupid/awesome questions! Let’s take a look at some weird and wonderful uses for the Wolfram Alpha search engine.

Am I Drunk?

Wondering if you’re too drunk to drive? Wolfram Alpha has you covered. Just type “am I drunk” into the knowledge engine and you’ll be presented with a nifty little questionnaire:

wolfram alpha search engine

You need to remember how many drinks you’ve had, how long you’ve been drinking, how much you weigh and what your gender is (note: if you can’t remember any of these points you are too drunk to drive. Sleep on the floor or call a cab).

Fill all of this in and you’ll see your current blood alcohol content, the legal limit for driving in your country and how many hours you need to wait until you’ll be under the legal limit for driving. Don’t believe me? Try it out yourself by running the search, or by clicking here.

How Old Am I?

Okay, I’m sure you’re probably well aware of your age (depending, of course, on the results of the above test). But if you hate trying to figure out how old someone else is based on their birthday consider this a really quick way to figure it out. Type “how old am I” into Wolfram Alpha and you’ll see something that looks like this:

wolfram alpha

Fill in the information, get an answer. You’ll even get a handy chart comparing the resulting age with the national average of your country. Neat.

Run the search yourself, or simply click here.

How Common Is Your Name?

Wonder if your name is more common than your friend’s? Simple. Type your name and his name, separated by a comma, into Wolfram Alpha. You’ll get a nifty chart for comparison:

wolfram alpha

As you can see, Justin is a younger name than Mark, though both names are very common. Interesting.

Try typing your own name into Wolfram Alpha to play with this trick, which I discovered via the Freakonomics blog. Their recent movie includes an entire section on the numbers of names, if that is interesting to you.

Body Mass Index

I kind of wish this one would come up if I typed “am I fat?“, but sadly it doesn’t. Typing “body mass index” is the next best thing to that, though.

wolfram alpha

Enter your information; get an answer. You’ll even get a chart showing you how healthy that body mass is, as well as a comparison to the national average. Click here if you’re too lazy to do the search yourself.


Everyone I know eats, so this is probably relevant to anyone’s interest. Type any food into Wolfram Alpha, such as taco, to pull up its nutrition information. This in and of itself is useful, but it can also work for comparisons. For example, you could compare a Coke with a beer:

wolfram alpha search engine

The beer has more calories, but the Coke has more sugar. Choose wisely! Try this out on many different foods and you just might make informed choices. Maybe.


These are by no means the only awesome/stupid uses for the Wolfram Alpha search engine. You could ask it for the meaning of life or whether you’re happy, for example.

Have any other fun uses? Share them below!  Also check out Simon’s introduction to Wolfram last year and Saikat’s 10 other Wolfram Alpha search suggestions.

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Quora – Share Your Knowledge & Find The Best Answers To Your Toughest Questions

Posted: 22 Dec 2010 07:31 AM PST

answer questionsQuora is an online knowledge market. It was founded in 2009 by Charlie Cheever and Adam D’Angelo and went live to the public in June 2010. Interesting fact: one of its co-founders – Adam – is the former CTO of Facebook.

A lot of really important people in the tech world have been using Quora to share ideas and information. The site aggregates questions and answers created, edited, and organized by everyone who uses it, and they are continually improved upon by experts in the community.

In this article, I’ll explain more about what Quora is and how you can get started using the service.

What Is Quora?

answer questions

As I stated above, Quora aggregates questions and answers to many topics and allows users to collaborate on them. The goal of the service is to have each question page become the best possible resource for someone looking for the answer to that particular question.

One way you can think of it is as a cache for the research that people do looking things up on the web and asking other people.

Eventually, when you see a link to a question page on Quora, your feeling should be: “Oh, great! That’s going to have all the information I want about that.” It’s also a place where new stuff – that no one has written about yet – can get pulled onto the web.

Starting Out With Quora

To begin using Quora, head over their homepage and connect with your Facebook or Twitter account. If you don’t have an account at either of those sites you can sign up with your email credentials.

find answers to questions

Once you’re in you can follow your friends and connections who are already on Quora, as well as invite others to join.

You have a basic profile/about page where you can list your headline (e.g. web designer, programmer, etc.), add a photo, detailed description, and links to your websites and profiles so users of the site may ask you questions directly.

If you’re an expert in something, this is a good place to show it.

find answers to questions

You can also begin following topics that interest you. There are topics for just about everything you – or better yet I – can think of. You can search or choose from a list of topics and once you’ve got started you will be suggested topics related to your interests.

find answers to questions

Another interesting feature is the ability to post messages right on your profile page. “Share your knowledge” it says. This is where you can begin sharing your thoughts and expertise on any number of subjects. Your followers will be able to read everything you post here.

Posting Questions & Answers

Onto the Q&A! With Quora, each question page is a reusable resource, and answers on question pages don’t depend on any context about the asker except for what is specified in the question text and details. There is only one version of each distinct question on the site, so everyone who is interested in or knows about that material is focused on that one place.

answer questions online

Almost any public space on Quora can be edited by anyone who knows how to improve it. This includes the text of questions and the details around them, what topics are attached to which questions, and the summaries of answers. It’s kind of like Wikipedia in that Quora relies on the good faith of everyone using it to make it a high quality resource.

You can write your own answers to questions any time you think a question page could become a better resource with more information added to it. Answers are rated so that the best ones can rise to the top of the page and make it better. And you can comment on others’ answers as well.

Each question has a set of topics (like the ones we discussed earlier) attached to it which makes it easier to find questions already on the site. Topics are also used to identify related questions and sometimes give context to a question.

answer questions

The topics you’re following allow the system to show you questions you might be interested in. You can also follow individual questions to be notified of new answers.

One interesting thing to note is that everything you do on Quora is tied back to you. Each question and answer has a revision history associated with it, and each change in the log is associated with the person who made it. And because people use their real names and pictures on Quora and have a short bio describing who they are, this helps give readers the proper perspective.


I think Quora is a really interesting platform and, like I said, there are a lot of high profile people in the tech world actively participating there. If you have a question about Facebook, for instance, who are you more likely to believe: Mark Zuckerberg (yes, he’s on the site) or someone with unproven expertise? That’s where the value lies with this community.

If you’re looking for answers to tech-specific questions, however, you should also check out our community, MakeUseOf Answers!

What do you think of Quora? Will you be looking for answers to your toughest questions there?

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