Tuesday, December 28, 2010

MakeUseOf.com: “Cool Websites and Tools [December 27th]” plus 11 more

MakeUseOf.com: “Cool Websites and Tools [December 27th]” plus 11 more

Link to MakeUseOf.com

Cool Websites and Tools [December 27th]

Posted: 27 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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Convert To Cartoon – You might have fantasized yourself as the superhero in a cartoon series doing unimaginable things, but have you ever thought how you would look if your picture was converted into a cartoon? Well, here's a simple web based tool that could show you just that. Upload a picture from your computer, or directly from a URL, and click on Cartoonize. It'll convert the photo to give it a cartoonish look. Read more: ConvertToCartoon: Turn A Picture To A Cartoon in One Click


Mr.People – If you have a lot of data that contains names which are disarranged and not sorted in columns then this handy tool called Mr. People can help you clean them up. You just need to paste the names from your data into the big text box, and then select whether or not you want to allow couples, the case and the output format, and hit submit. Read more: Mr. People: Sort Out & Arrange Names In Your Data



ReZScore – When looking for a job, your resume is your window to make a great first impression to potential employers. However, since we create our own resumes, you probably need a better idea how your resume stacks up against the competition. One tool that can help you with this is ReZScore. This automatic resume grader app screens your resume and provide a breakdown on how your resume is rated. Read more: ReZScore: Free Resume Grader Online



YouTube Trailers – You can of course watch trailers of old as well as latest movies on YouTube but did you know that it has a special dedicated movie trailer archive? Well, it turns out that it does and it is pretty neat. On the left of the page, it has all the categories of movie trailers, which include the ones currently running in theaters, movies that are opening soon and the most popular trailers in recent times. Read more: YouTube Trailers: Movie Trailer Archive From YouTube



Wi-Fi Analyzer – After connecting your Android phone to your wireless router, if you experience slow internet speeds on your phone then the router's channel could be the issue. Wireless routers can transmit signals on different channels. Some of these channels do not deliver the best speeds because nearby signals interfere with them. Read more: WiFi Analyzer: Choose The Best Wifi Channel For Your Router (Android)


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 Comprehensive Guide to YouTube Player Keyboard Shortcuts

Posted: 27 Dec 2010 05:30 PM PST

youtube keyboard shortcutsIf you love online video, you should be often on YouTube browsing through recently popular video clips, embedding and sharing some of them on your website, commenting, etc. I have shared some fun YouTube tips and resources in the past including tools to enjoy a YouTube lean-back experience as well as YouTube “Instant” search engines.

This post is about making your Youtube video watching more productive: it shares the complete (I hope) guide to Youtube player keyboard shortcuts.

Have you been aware that you can take the full control over the YouTube player with only the keyboard? If not, you may find the following collection of tips useful. If you are familiar with some YouTube keyboard shortcuts, chances are you’ll discover new ones. Let’s see!

Tab key to select the needed section

The Tab key allows the user to jump from section to section in the following order:

  1. Play / pause button;
  2. Seek bar
  3. Volume;
  4. Resolution;
  5. Pop-up video;
  6. Expand

youtube keyboard shortcuts

Note: the Tab key will loop on the video player part, so if you normally use the key to switch between the page links, be prepared that once the video is focused, the key will only control the player. With embedded videos, you will need to focus the video to make the Tab key work as on the screenshot.

Once any of the player sections is highlighted, you can use other keys to control it. More often than not, that will be Enter or Escape to activate / disable the feature, for example:

  • Tab to “Expand” section, click Enter to toggle expanded view (not to be confused with full-screen mode) and Esc to shrink the player;
  • Tab to “play” a section and use Enter to play or pause the video, etc.


  • “Volume” section is controlled with up / down arrow keys;
  • “Resolution” section uses the up / down arrow keys to navigate to the selected resolution;
  • “Seek bar” section uses the variety of keys, all of which are described in the below section:

Youtube Player Seekbar Keyboard Shortcuts

Keyboard shortcutAction (the seekbar should be selected)
Left / Right arrowJump back / ahead 5 seconds in the current video
Home / EndSeek to the beginning / last seconds of the video
SpacebarPlay / Pause
Numbers 1 to 9Seek to the 10% to 90% of the video
Number 0Seek to the beginning of the video



  1. To make the above shortcuts work, make sure that the seek bar is highlighted. Or at least the seek bar should have focus: the video has to be the most recent thing you've clicked on.
  2. Only the number keys on the top row of your keyboard function (the numeric pad won’t work);
  3. Numbered shortcuts won’t work in full-screen mode (the rest of the shortcuts seem to work there just fine).

Some shortcuts didn’t work for me. However, I’ve seen a lot of recent comments that they are working for many people. So I am listing them here in case they will work for you:

  • F key to switch to full-screen view;
  • CTRL + left arrow and CTRL + right arrow to seek backward / forward 10 seconds

Disable Keyboard Shortcuts for Embedded Videos

In case you don’t want your visitors to use the shortcuts when viewing the video you embed, you can disable the following ones:

  • Spacebar: Play / Pause
  • Arrow Left / Right: Jump back / ahead 10% in the current video
  • Arrow Up / Down: Volume up / down

by adding &disablekb=1 to your embed code:

youtube keyboard shortcuts

Note: this will still let them use the Tab key to click through the player sections.

Have I missed any Youtube keyboard shortcuts? Please share your tips in the comments!

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How To Use Google Calendar & The Event Flair Labs Feature To Track Your New Year’s Resolutions

Posted: 27 Dec 2010 03:30 PM PST

new year resolutionsNew Year is fast approaching and you might or might not be considering to make or revise your list of resolutions. I’ve been thinking about setting up something to better track my goals while still having everything digitized so I don’t have to deal with disorganized-looking, easily-lost lists with scratched items.

Joe’s Goals and Joe’s Logbook are two really great productivity apps that combine journaling and goal-tracking in a very easy-to-use interface, which inspired me to write this post. Of course, as dedicated logbooks, Joe’s free tools will outshine my simple method, and will definitely help you if you want systems that just work without much setup. If, however, you’re an avid Google Calendar user, check out the following guide to log your goals’ progress in your favorite calendar application.

Create A New Calendar & Name Them With Numbers To Arrange By Priority

Think about the five or three main goals that you want to accomplish in 2011. For each of those, you’ll have to create a new calendar by clicking Add in the main calendar box on the left.

new year resolutions

Remember to precede the name of the calendar with a number to see the calendars (and events) ordered by priority.

google resolution tool

If there are items tucked away in, say your “Someday” list, now you will have all the reason to follow through with them since they will be visible in your calendar. There are also other advantages to creating new calendars for each goal to track. First, you’ll get color-coded events for easier visualization since Google doesn’t offer customizable color options for individual events. Second, if you want to only look at the progress of one goal, you can easily only display that calendar and hide the others temporarily. And of course, you’ll get see these goals separately from your main calendar so you won’t see a mix of to-do’s and events. If you use an iPhone or iPod Touch, you can even see and sync the color-coded calendars as detailed by Lifehacker by checking the appropriate calendars in this page.

Add Items & Log Progress With Event Flair Or Unicode Symbols

If you don’t want to remember any Unicode numbers, the Event Flair feature will probably best work for you. Go up to Settings > Calendar settings and click on the Labs tab. Find Event Flair, enable this feature and press on Save.

google resolution tool

Click on today’s date on the calendar to add an event and just log what you did for a specific goal. If you want the item to be highlighted, you can leave it as an all-day event.

google resolution tool

Otherwise, you can simply choose a start and end time for the item, preferably in a time that you don’t ever schedule anything (like 11:59pm) so it won’t come in conflict with your actual events in the main calendar.

To make use of the Event Flair feature, select any calendar entry and the Event Flair gadget window on the right sidebar will display the name of the selected entry. Now, just pick an icon to represent whether the entry is a step forward or backward in your goal path.

google new year resolutions

After a few seconds, your entry should have the icon.

A disadvantage when using Event Flair is that the icon is only visible when you go to the website on your computer browser; if you sync your calendar to your iOS device, for example, the icons won’t show up. That’s why using Unicode symbols work. You might need to go to your Start Menu in Windows and type Character Map to find the desired symbols. You can also consult this list from Wikipedia. The ones I’m using are called “heavy check mark”  (✔ from U+2714) and “heavy ballot x” (✘ from U+2718), which are thicker than other symbols and are more visible. You can either copy and paste them, or remember the Unicode numbers. To invoke them in Ubuntu, check this handy guide.

google new year resolutions

As mentioned before, you can see the items with their respective symbols in an iOS device.

After you update your progress everyday on your monthly calendar view (or custom 2- or 3-week view), the fruits of your fun logging will look something like this (note that other calendars are hidden).

new year resolutions

What Doesn’t Work In This Setup

You basically will have a hard time adding items in your calendars via text message because you can only send items to your main calendar (not to specific calendars). If you’re using a smartphone app, like the built-in Calendar in iOS, you can input items but for the symbols, you’ll have to use copy and paste, which can be tedious if done on a regular basis.

There are also many more features in Joe’s Goals and Logbook, so you might actually not want to do my method here. Joe’s Logbook, for example, will let you create logbooks for separate things, so you don’t have to cramp everything in your calendar, if it’s already heavy.

There’s also no way to graph your progress for things you spent more time on. If you set starting and ending times for your entries, you might want to look into Youcalc’s Time and Activity Report app for GCal as it can produce some neat-looking charts.

Overall, this could be a fun way to log your progress with certain goals or New Year resolutions. Now, whether you want to give yourself three months or a whole year to accomplish your specific goals, that’s up to you, but at least, you can use a service that you’re already frequenting to keep track of them.

Here are other services that might help you track your life in a fun way. What do you use to log your progress?

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4 Awesome Blogs With User-Submitted Content That Will Bring Out The Artist In You

Posted: 27 Dec 2010 02:31 PM PST

websites with user generated contentHave you ever just been in the mood to create something? It could be a drawing or painting, music or film, or even a blog or website. You know, art. If you’re like me then chances are you like to create things, especially when you were younger. I definitely drew a lot more pictures and painted a lot more paintings back then than I do now, which is the case for many of us.

But what do you do now when the creative mood strikes you? In this article, I’ll show you four awesome blogs that feature original content, so whether you’re feeling creative, seeking inspiration, or  just looking for something cool to check out, I’ve got you covered.

1. Defaced

websites with user generated content

Since I’ve moved to New York City, I’ve seen a lot of art, and I don’t just mean paintings in museums. Some of the most creative things throughout the city are illegal works and defacements, like graffiti and writing on signs or walls. Properly placed mustaches seem to be a theme around here, too.

Anyway, Defaced is a blog “all about rejoicing in spotting things that have been drawn on, torn apart, covered in stickers, or just plain sullied.” It’s a photo blog of “people ruining other people’s stuff cuz it’s funny”.

Photo blogs are often entertaining, and this one is no different. You can view the creative – and often hilarious – things that people have made throughout the cities of the world, and even add things to the blog that you’ve seen yourself.

See a great defacement when you’re on the go? They have an address on the site where you can email a photo of the piece, as well as a submission page where you can upload it yourself.

On the Submit page, you can choose a file to upload and add an optional caption and tags if you like. There are only two terms you have to agree to – that the work is something you have permission to submit and that the site is free to distribute the content.

2. EatSleepDraw

user generated blogs

To view more traditional art, check out EatSleepDraw. This blog is similar to Defaced in form and function but it differs in taste and subject matter. Essentially, it’s an online art community where content is submitted by contributors and fans of the site, and everything that’s posted is 100% original.

user generated blogs

They don’t post photography, but just about everything else is fair game. Submissions can be of a drawing, illustration, painting, collage, mixed media, or doodle, and if you ever have any doubts about whether or not they’ll accept your piece, just submit it anyway. They seem to be pretty lenient.

EatSleepDraw has a very active community of people who ‘like’ photos and reblog them (Tumblr features), so if you are looking for a place to gauge the popularity of your artwork you can use it for that too.

3. Film Fights

user generated blogs

Film Fights is another very interesting site with original creative content. The idea behind it was to create a site dedicated to short films, and form an online competition of sorts, that anyone could be a part of.

Whether you’re a professional who makes short movies in your off time, or someone who just makes films with your friends on the weekend, you can submit your video to Film Fights. They give out a title and a genre and filmmakers around the world create films based around them that go up for a public vote.

user generated content sites

OK, so Film Fights isn’t a blog in itself, but they do have a Tumblr blog setup where you can see all of the most recent “fights”, as well as their official blog on WordPress.

While current fights are listed on the site’s homepage, you can also check out future fights here. If you’re a fan of Film Fights, you might also like Indy Mogul.

4. Calndrs

user generated content sites

Calndrs is another creative community from the same guys behind EatSleepDraw and Film Fights. It’s for designers to rethink the typical calendar and create a better one for your desktop. If you’re looking for a specific way to get creative, this site’s for you.

Coincidentally, if you happen to be looking for a well-designed desktop calendar that’s visually pleasing, you’re in luck also!

user generated content sites

Just head over to the Submit page to read the guidelines for submission and submit your design. If yours is good enough it will be posted on the site for all to see and download, along with a link attributing the work to you.

websites with user generated content

How would you like your work to be featured as somebody’s Christmas desktop wallpaper?


By now your creative juices should be flowing. Communities like those featured here are so interesting to me because they promote coordinated collaboration and engagement through user-submitted content. In this case, artists get to submit their designs and have them seen by visitors of the site and, in return, visitors get great content to keep them entertained. Everybody wins.

Do you know of a blog that strictly posts user-submitted/original content?

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How To Extract ISO Files With Linux

Posted: 27 Dec 2010 01:30 PM PST

how to extract iso files with linuxYou’ve probably downloaded an image file before, and there’s a good chance it used the popular .ISO file extension. These (usually quite large) files are essentially digital optical media, and all files contained within that media are wrapped up into the .ISO archive.

Unlike Windows, Linux has built-in support for mounting and manipulating image files. This means you don’t necessarily need third party software in order to access .ISO archives and the files contained within.

There are in fact a couple of ways of going about this, so you can choose a method which suits you.


The image file format has been a popular way of distributing software online since broadband speeds allowed us to do so. Chances are you installed your Linux distribution using an .ISO file, possibly one you prepared in good old Windows.

The .ISO file format simply archives the contents of an optical media disc using the ISO 9660 file system. It is also possible for these images to use the UDF (Universal Disc Format) file system in some cases. The data within the archive is uncompressed, and an .ISO image can be made from any optical media –- CD, DVD, HD-DVD (remember those?), BluRay and so on.

It is not possible to use the .ISO file format to create an image of an audio CD as these do not use a computer filesystem. In these cases .BIN/.CUE image combinations are often preferred.

If you want to gain access to the files within an .ISO archive, first you’re going to need to mount it. You can either opt for the command-line method or you can use a program with a graphical interface if you’re not fond of text-based commands.

how to extract iso files with linux

Some distributions may have provided software so you can extract via the right click menu. Before starting out, find your .ISO image, right click and look for the Extract Here option. You might just be pleasantly surprised!

Extracting an .ISO Using the Command Line

This isn’t as hard as it sounds, it’s just a matter of getting the syntax right in the command. First you’ll need to create a folder in which to mount the image, open your command line editor and enter:

sudo mkdir /mnt/iso

Enter you password when asked, and your directory will be created. Now we can mount the file by typing:

sudo mount -o loop <image>.iso /mnt/iso

Replace <image> with the location of your .ISO file, for example I mounted a file in my Downloads folder using

sudo mount -o loop /home/tim/Downloads/image1.iso /mnt/iso

how to open iso files

Now you can navigate to the folder you created and access the files within the .ISO. If you want to grab the whole lot via the command line, you can copy the contents of the folder by typing:

sudo cp -r /mnt/iso /home/tim/Documents

This command would copy the whole lot to a separate "iso" folder in my Documents folder. The -r option instructs the operation to copy recursively, which includes folder contents.

how to open iso files

You don’t necessarily need to do this of course, as once you have mounted it you can use your file manager to pick and choose the bits you want.

Note: If the command used here to mount your .ISO fails, you might want to also try:

mount -o loop -t iso9660 <image>.iso /mnt/iso

Extracting an .ISO Using Software

If the command line isn’t for you, there’s a couple of applications that mount and allow you to extract image files. They’re all free, as is the case with most Linux software.


how to open iso files

A simple graphical interface for the GTK+ environment that allows you to mount .ISO files in a directory of your choice. Input the path to your .ISO in the Image File field and the folder in which you’d like to display the contents in the Mount Point field.

Then simply click Mount and the contents of your image will appear in the directory that you specified.

Ubuntu and other distributions that use Synaptic can install via the command-line:

sudo apt-get install gmountiso


how to extract iso files with linux

With support for a variety of image formats including .ISO, .BIN, .MDF and .NRG AcetoneISO is another powerful graphical interface for mounting and extracting.

AcetoneISO allows you to specify a folder in which your image files are located, or you can just choose Mount and point AcetoneISO to the right file.

Ubuntu and other distributions that use Synaptic can install via the command-line:

sudo apt-get install acetoneiso

Do you have any favourite image mounting programs? Do you use the command line method or a GUI? Let us know in the comments!

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Hot Tech Deals [Dec 27th]

Posted: 27 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. Canon imageCLASS MF3240 Monochrome Laser All-in-One Printer $95.99 Free Shipping

  2. Polk Audio R300 Two-Way Floor-Standing Loudspeaker $49.99 Free Shipping via code EMCZNNT78 (exp soon)

  3. Panasonic P54S2 54in Plasma HDTV (2nd Generation, 1080p) $895.93 Free Shipping

  4. TODAY ONLY Dell ST2310 23in Full HD Widescreen Monitor (1920×1080) $159.99 Free Shipping

  5. Sharp AQUOS LC-55LE620UT 55in LED-Edgelit LCD HDTV (1080p, 120Hz) $1199.99 Free Shipping

  6. Samsung UN40C6300 40in LED-Backlit LCD HDTV (1080p, 120Hz) $764.99AR Free Shipping

  7. Samsung UN46C6300 46in LED-Backlit LCD HDTV (1080p, 120Hz) $899.99 Free Shipping

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set

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6 Year-Long Projects to Start in 2011

Posted: 27 Dec 2010 11:30 AM PST

year long projectsWith 2011 just around the corner, this is a great time to think about all the different things you could commit to doing for the next 365 days. We’re probably all working on our New Year’s resolutions but how about committing to something that will last the entire year?

There’s no limit to the kinds of things you could commit to doing on a daily basis throughout the year – and possibly beyond that. To get you started, here’s a list of 6 year long project ideas that you might want to try – from creative projects to good deeds. Get started with these guidelines, ideas and places where you can keep your project going for 365 days.

Write a Novel

If you’ve been itching to finish your novel, giving yourself a specific time frame may be the trick to finally getting it done. Set aside a certain amount of time per day and write a set number of pages. Getting organised could be a good way to motivate yourself – setting goals and achieving them can often lead to great momentum.

Louise Doughty, a writer and journalist put together a guide on The Daily Telegraph with tips and exercises for getting through the year. They’re no longer listed on the website, but are still available in the archives, and are conveniently listed on the blog, Learn to Write Fiction.

If you’re stuck for inspiration, check out our guide to finding ideas, and getting organised at the same time.

While most writers probably prefer a distraction free word processor, you could check out Fast Pencil a website not only dedicated to helping you finish that novel, but also offers self publishing options if that’s the route you want to take.

year long projects

Take One Photo A Day

Possibly one of the most popular year-long projects, and most identified with the term ‘Project 365′, you can commit to taking one photo a day. There are all sorts of different ways you can share your photography, whether it’s on a website designed specifically for this purpose, or through a Flickr group, or even on your own personal blog.

year long project ideas

The key to keeping up with this project is not to expect to produce a masterpiece on a daily basis. Life will get in the way, and sometimes you’ll have to get creative to keep up. Be sure to take your camera with you everywhere, and on days when that isn’t possible, use your mobile phone.

If you need some inspiration check out the following links:

Take a Photo of Yourself

A twist on the Project 365 challenge is to take one photo of yourself a day. Take the photo in the same place everyday, in the same position, and see what changes you go through throughout the year. Or get creative with the project and come up with interesting self-portraits. If you’re not sure where to start, check out these suggestions from the Flickr forums.

year long project ideas

You can share the photos on Flickr, Facebook, your own blog, or on Dailybooth.

Write One Poem/Haiku a Day

Another creative project you can commit to for 365 days is writing one poem or haiku a day.

Post your poems on your blog. We’d recommend Tumblr for a project like this – keeping the method simple probably helps in keeping up with a year long commitment. Another option would be to use Twitter.

year long project ideas

If you’re not the creative kind, you could always reverse this and read one poem or short story a day, or even involve your children in the commitment.

Keep a Journal

Whether it’s to document your day as it happens, or just random thoughts and musings, keeping a journal has been said to make for a healthier lifestyle.

There are many reasons to keep a journal. You could write one down something you’re thankful for on a daily basis, or document your day using Bit.ly Bundles. Online services for keeping a journal are endless – whether public or private. For a few private options, check out these 5 simple sites. If you don’t want to sign up for yet another service, you could just settle on using Google Documents, or even Google Calendar.

year long projects

Alternatively, you could do a podcast a day. Check out Angela’s article on how to put together your own free podcast here, or even do it on the go using your mobile phone.

Do One Good Deed a Day

Most of the 365 day projects are personal or creative. For a different twist, how about committing to doing one random act of kindness a day. Ideally, this is the kind of project that you’d want to keep going beyond the one year limit as well.

If you’re pressed for ideas, check out this list to get you started.

What project are you going to commit to in 2011? Let us know in the comments.

Image credit: Shutterstock

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How to Return Merchandise Without a Receipt

Posted: 27 Dec 2010 10:30 AM PST

return merchandise without receiptNo doubt in this season of giving and receiving, you buy or receive a few items for which you want to return for refund but you may not have a receipt.

Checking the refund policies of major U.S. stores, I discovered policies vary from store to store. Some provide full refunds within a certain number of days, while a few others can be a Christmas Scrooge and absolutely not accept product returns without a receipt. So the following is a breakdown of seven chain stores along with their return and refund policies. I also included some tips for returning items when you can't find the original receipt.

Preparing for Refund

When you want to return an item, don't put off doing so. You will get better results by returning items within a week or two of purchase. Your chances for refund will be much better if the product is unused and all the associated items are included, e.g., original package, instructions, and accessories.

If a store requires a receipt and you don't have it, you will be able to return it if you have a credit or debit card receipt, or gift receipt. If don’t have one of these receipts, you can contact your credit or debit card company or bank about getting a statement of your purchases and see if they can provide you copy of your specified receipt. Often times, stores themselves can track receipts if you provide a credit or debit information.

Lastly, if your item was a gift, you still may be able to return it without the receipt if the gift tag is included with the item. All chain stores will allow you the return an item to any of its local stores even if the item was not purchased locally.

So let's check the general refund policies of seven major stores. Each store includes a link to their official refund policies so that you can get more details.


Walmart accepts returns for up to 90 days within purchase, with a receipt. Some exceptions include electronic items like computers and camcorders. These items must be returned within 15-45 days. Prerecorded music, movies, and software products must be returned unopened.

return merchandise without receipt

Walmart also allows you to return merchandise without a receipt. You get the option of a cash refund (if the purchase was under $25), a shopping card for the amount of the purchase (if it was $25) or even an exchange for another product.

Walmart keeps track of customers returning more than three items without a receipt within a 45-day period. After that third item, the cash register system will automatically flag the transaction and you will have to speak to the store manager to approve your return.


Target also accepts returns and exchanges within 90 days of purchase. Products must be unused and contain all the original packaging and accessories. Items that have been opened, such as music, movies, video games, software and collectibles can only be exchanged for the same or similar item.

no receipt return

Target says if you don't have a receipt, its stores “can verify purchases made on a credit or debit card, check or GiftCard using our Refund Look-up system.” Target also has a similar system for gifts you receive as part of a gift registry. Check Target's return policy for more details.

Unfortunately, some Target items, including camcorders, digital cameras, portable DVD players and portable electronics, are subject to a 15% restocking fee.

Toys "R" Us

All Toys”R”Us products can be returned within 90 days of purchase, except for video games, software and most electronic items. These items must be returned within 45 days of purchase. All returned items must be new or like-new, unused, and include original packaging, paper manuals and instructions, and packing slip if you look to get full credit return.

no receipt return

Toys”R”Us appears to have a hardline policy of not accepting returns without a receipt, gift receipt, or online packing slip.

Toys”R”Us says it will not accept some items purchased from its “pool, water slide, and large items” categories. You will contact the manufacturers of these items about returns and refunds.


Macy's provides up to 180 days within time of purchase for returned items. It provides full refund for in-store and online purchases. However, it does have special guidelines for jewelry, floor rugs, mattresses, gourmet food, and furniture. You will need to call 1-800-BUY-MACY, for more details on these items.

no receipt return

Macy's will accept items for return without receipt, if the product contains the sticker or gift card receipt, but you will only get in-store credit or exchange for the same or similar item, not a full refund. A credit or debit card receipt will also be accepted. Items purchased at any Macy's store can be returned to any of its store locations, not just the original location.

Bed Bath & Beyond

Bed Bath & Beyond says it will accept returns and exchanges at any of their stores nationwide. You must “bring the original packing invoice and the credit card used for the purchase. Without the original packing invoice and your credit card, you may receive an exchange or merchandise credit.”

no receipt return policy

Best Buy

If you’re returning items to a Best Buy store, you have less time to do so compared to other stores. You only have 14 days to return computers, monitors, projector, camcorders, digital cameras, iPads, tablets and radar detectors. You only have 30 days for all other products; and 45 days for all products purchased by Reward Zone Program Premier Silver members.

Unless you're a Premier Silver member, Best Buy also has a restocking fee of 25% for items for appliances and defective items.

no receipt return policy

Best Buy also has a list of items that are not returnable. These items include: pre-paid cards such as music, photo, video or phone cards; consumable items such as food, drink, and batteries; and items that are missing accessories, such as remote controls, cords, and cables.

Best Buy has no stated policy about returning items without a receipt. In my online research, I found that individual stores will accept returns without a receipt if the items are unused, like-new, include all the original packaging and instructions, and has the original price tag. You will probably only get in-store credit or exchange.

If you purchase a product by credit or debit card, Best Buy can locate the receipt using your card number and name.

I will also add that whenever you purchase electronic items from Best Buy, be sure to keep the receipts for needed repairs by their Geek Squad. If you don't have a receipt, you be charged for the repair or consultation to see what is wrong with the product.

Home Depot

As with most other stores, Home Depot accepts unused, like-new 100% saleable condition items for up to 90 days from purchase. Damaged products must be returned within 30 days. Items can be returned to any of its nation-wide stores.

return merchandise without receipt

Home Depot requires a "copy of the packing slip or the customer receipt must accompany all returns."

You can return Home Depot items without receipt, as long as you provide your date of birth, driver's and license number. As with Walmart, your name will be entered into Home Depot's database which means that if you returning too many items within a certain period of time, you will have to speak with the store manager.

Items returned without a receipt will only get you in-store credit or exchange of similar or same item.

I have provided information about seven nation-wide stores. Let us know about your experiences in returning items to these and other stores.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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5 Ways To Play a Scrabble Game Online

Posted: 27 Dec 2010 09:30 AM PST

play scrabble onlineWhen a board game is found in one out of three American households, it's a sure bestseller. SCRABBLE is probably found in the same numbers around the world as it is played in 121 countries. If you never owned a Scrabble board, then you must have been an outdoors type while growing up or on Mars.

Mattel's official SCRABBLE site has a interesting history behind the game. Before you start getting confused who the game belongs too, here's the data – Hasbro controls the copyright for North America, while the copyright for the rest of the world belongs to Mattel.

Online SCRABBLE is not rampant as other games. There are actually very few places on the web where you can play SCRABBLE online for free. Here's a small list of five, with some on the list offering versions that are similar to SCRABBLE. Pick your tiles and let the fun begin.

SCRABBLE on Facebook

play scrabble online

Next to buying the game from the official torchbearers of the game for North America (Hasbro), the 'official' free way is to use the Facebook application. But again, SCRABBLE can only be played on the Facebook app if you are in the U.S or Canada. As I am not, I can only direct you there; not play out a round with you. With 411,000+ SCRABBLE buffs on the Like list, the online game has got good things going for it.

The application info page says:

This new version of the original board game includes built-in chat and dictionary, multiple word lists, dynamic animations, and multiple speed settings for public games. An easy-to-use interface lets you play with anyone who loves the game!

You can connect to a free online site for SCRABBLE via Hasbro.com. From there, if you are in the U.S or Canada, you can play a round of free online SCRABBLE at Pogo.com.

SCRABBLE Cubes (WorldWinner)

play scrabble online for free

Go 3D in this online version of SCRABBLE. The game is free to join and on WorldWinner.com you can enter competitions for the thrill of winning cash and prizes. SCRABBLE Cubes is just one of the 35 games you can play. To play this game, you have to install a tiny game player file. SCRABBLE Cubes is like Rubik's Cube for words. You have to connect adjacent letters by rearranging some with a right click. The value of the letters is the same as the traditional game. The game is really challenging, because you have to think in three dimensions.

Internet Scrabble Club

play scrabble online for free

This is the online meeting ground for SCRABBLE devotes. The free site attracts some of the best names in this board game. Playing here involves installation of a desktop client (Wordbiz) that connects to the ISC server. The free client is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. There is also a limited access Java application. Gameplay is about seeking out an online opponent and challenging them. One unique aspect of ISC is that you can also observe other games. ISC is completely free but paying voluntary subscriptions opens up a few benefits like a place at the head of the queue when playing against a computer opponent. There are 35 bots that you can play with. For certain functions, you can use a command line. Inspite of registering, I couldn't log-in. Perhaps from your part of the world, you will have better luck.


play scrabble online for free

Okay, Lexulous ain't SCRABBLE. In fact, it tried to be and it even outstripped the official game in the popularity stakes before a legal choke forced them to shut shop. Reborn as Lexulous, it takes a lot from the rules and ways of SCRABBLE with minor alterations. In its present avatar, you can play Lexulous in real time with others around the world in game rooms; there's the turn based Email Lexulous for friends in different time zones; and apps for Nokia, Blackberry, and iPhone. There's the Facebook app too which started the frenzy. There's also LEX the robot who can take you through the paces. You can change themes, pick a layout, and even chat with your fellow players.

There are lots of variations you can try (like the Lexulous Blitz) if you feel that you have conquered all. Lexulous is not an official SCRABBLE game but it deserves a mention for its sheer fan following. It's probably the best free online SCRABBLE like game presently.


play scrabble online

WordSquared is a massively multiplayer online SCRABBLE inspired game. The game is beautifully constructed thanks to HTML5. The game board is large with lots of players playing on it in real time. The goal is to build as large a chain of words as possible before others start occupying the squares next to you. Unlike SCRABBLE, you have to use your own words to build your chain and garner points.

My hunt for places to play Scrabble online for free proved that Hasbro and Mattel have a tight grip on their trademark. There are lots of variants in the form of word games, but pure free forms of SCRABBLE are sorely lacking. Do you know of any that can be added to the list? Let us know.

Image credit: Shutterstock

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Roll Your Own Self-Hosted Mixtape With Opentape

Posted: 27 Dec 2010 08:30 AM PST

opentape mixtapeThe mixtape has had a rocky relationship with the internet. Crowd favorites such as Muxtape and Mixwit have both been covered here but are also no longer in existence due to copyright concerns and lawsuits from the recording industries.

There is currently a slew of hosted sites available for creating your own playlist or mixtape. But what if you don’t trust uploading your music to a 3rd party service of questionable legality? I wanted to introduce a self-hosted version which allows you to upload your music to your own private space eliminating this concern. The software we can use to do this is called Opentape.

You can install Opentape into web hosting space you have purchased or even onto a self-built web server in your house. As long as the web server has PHP running on it, you are good to go. Let’s go over Opentape and how to get up and running.

Upload Opentape Files

Download Opentape and unzip the files. Copy to them to your web space in a directory such as http://yourwebsite.com/opentape/ or whatever you choose. Permissions must be set so that the web server can write into the /songs/ and the /settings/ directory, or you will see an error message like the one below:

opentape mixtape

You can either do this by changing the ownership of the files to the web server’s user, or changing permissions to “777″ to allow anyone to write to that folder (chmod 777 on the command line, or use your FTP client to set the permissions). Once permissions are set correctly, Opentape will have you enter an admin password that will let you manage your mixtape.

opentape server

Add Music and Edit Description

Then you can name your mixtape and add a description; you can also allow the ability to link directly to the MP3 for download. You have 2 options for adding music. You can uploaded it individually directly in the admin interface. The second and faster option is to upload the songs directly to the server. Once the songs are uploaded, you can use the administrator interface to rearrange their order.

opentape server

To send songs to your friends, you have 2 main options. The first is to simply send them a link to the site. The second is to embed a player in any other webpage.

Opentape is a very simple way to share your music online with friends. I’ve created this sample playlist using the creative-commons licensed Wired CD and includes such artists as Beastie Boys, Cee Lo and Le Tigre. This would also be a great way for bands to share their music.

You can listen to my demo Opentape site here.

opentape mixtape

As I had mentioned previously, there are other options if you do not have your own space to host the files or do not want to have to mess with personal web hosting. Grooveshark and Maestro.fm are two options in that space and have been recommended by MakeUseOf before. Due to the varying laws on the books depending on which country you are from – there are still open questions as to the legality of uploading your own private copyrighted music to a website where that music may, or may not, be available to others for listening to. I think that is where Opentape comes into play – if you want to maintain control over your collection it is better to be sure that your upload is actually private instead of leaving it in the hands of others.

If you have the need for a limited playlist, or if you are in a band, Opentape is a great solution for sharing music with your friends or even a broader audience. There are some more customized solutions which allow you to tightly integrate a playlist with a website, but I haven’t found an “easier” way to share music than Opentape. Let us know how you find it or if you have alternatives you would recommend to our readers!

Image credit: Shutterstock



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Sorted: Incredibly Easy to Use To-Do App for iPhone & iPad [Giveaway]

Posted: 27 Dec 2010 07:30 AM PST

For most of us iPad and iPhone users, our mobile devices become personal and business management tools for setting calendar dates, checking news and weather, storing and reading documents, browsing the web, etc. For organizing and managing daily tasks and goals, a useful task management program is nearly essential. There are many management apps to choose from, but one that stands out is the recently updated 2.0 version of Sorted, a mobile iPad and iPhone application.

Sorted [iTunes Store Link] by Savage Interactive is an elegant, well designed, and easy to use task management application for the iPhone and iPad that allows you to organize several to-do lists and prioritize items how you see fit. Let's check out the interface and features.

This week, we’ve got 25 promo codes for Sorted 2 to give away. Grab one for yourself after the jump.


The interface is very clean — as it should be. Using and navigating a cluttered task manager can become more work than it needs to be.

On first launch, the application opens with a simple manual list of instructions for how to create tasks and set reminders. The three-part menu items at the bottom of the application allows you to create a new list, email and duplicate tasks, or delete them.

Creating To-Dos

To create tasks, simply tap the + button in the upper-left part of the application and type a short description of your task in the text field.

Click on the small blue arrow to set a due date and reminder, and to set a priority level. Setting reminders is much like you would do in iCal or similar applications.

To edit a task, double-tap on it. To mark as complete, slide your finger across the row and it will be moved to the Completed lists.

To delete a task, tap the blue button and then tap the Clear button in the pop-up window.

You can also create additional to-do lists, say one for personal tasks and another for job-related responsibilities.

Customizing Features

No doubt you will want to customize the features of Sorted to fit your particular needs. After you have created your first list, tap the My Lists button in the upper-left of the screen, and then tap the gear button.

You can easily customize the Priorities labels and the Alerts and Sounds effects.

The beauty of Sorted is that it's not complicated to use and it's not cluttered with so many features that you dread opening it up. All of these features are also available on the iPhone version.

We’re giving away 25 promo codes for this app. It’s a great opportunity to try out one of the best to-do applications available on the App Store and get organised!

How do I win a copy?

It’s simple, just follow the instructions.

Join our Facebook page by clicking the Like button or you can follow us on Twitter, if you prefer. If you’re already following us, you may skip this step.

If you can’t see the fanbox, click on this link.

Here’s our giveaway form. Please fill it in accurately. Be sure to enter your real name and email address so that we can get in touch if you are chosen as a winner. Click here if you can’t view the form.

You’re almost done. Now, all that’s left to do is to share the post. There are 2 options to choose from or you can do both!

Like it on Facebook

Or share it on Twitter

And that’s it! You’re done!
Giveaway eligibility
You must be a fan of our Facebook page to enter;
Individuals who are over the age of 18. If you are under 18, get your parents to participate on your behalf;
Individuals who reside in a country embargoed by the United States; Belgium, Norway, Sweden, or India are not permitted to enter.

This giveaway begins now and ends Friday, December 31st at 2100hrs PST. The winners will be selected at random and announced via email.

Spread the word to your friends and have fun!

MakeUseOf would like to thank Savage Interactive for their generosity while participating in this giveaway. Interesting in sponsoring? We’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with us via email.



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Maggie Executive Laptop Bag Giveaway Winners

Posted: 27 Dec 2010 06:30 AM PST

And here we go again, the Maggie Executive Laptop Bag giveaway is now over. We’ve randomly selected 5 winners who will each receive a free bag sent directly to their doorsteps.

Each winner will be sent an email in order to obtain the appropriate shipping information. This email must be replied within 24 hours. Failure to do so will forfeit the prize and we will then have to select a new winner.

Find out who the lucky winners are after the jump.

  1. Sheryl Sawyer
  2. Elizabeth Walker
  3. Louise Currie
  4. Lisa
  5. Jessica Buckley

Congratulations! Don’t forget to reply within 24 hours.

MakeUseOf would like to thank Maggie Bags for their generosity while participating in this giveaway. Interesting in sponsoring? We’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with us via email.

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