Friday, December 17, 2010 “Latest Hilarious Picks [MakeUseOf Geeky Fun]” plus 12 more “Latest Hilarious Picks [MakeUseOf Geeky Fun]” plus 12 more

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Latest Hilarious Picks [MakeUseOf Geeky Fun]

Posted: 17 Dec 2010 04:03 AM PST


Check out the top picks from MakeUseOf Geeky Fun during the last week.

  1. The Nativity Story Told Using Social Media (Hilarious Video)
  2. Facebook's Secrete Message (Pic)
  3. Photoshop Tutorial Rap (Video)
  4. I can't wait for my new phone… (Pic)
  5. Stuck Pixel on My LCD (Pic)
  6. Flat Screens Are Sexy (Pic)

If you would like to keep up with all latest Geeky Fun additions, please subscribe to the Geeky Fun feed here. You can also subscribe and get the latest additions via email.


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Cool Websites and Tools [December 16th]

Posted: 16 Dec 2010 07:31 PM PST

Check out some of the latest MakeUseOf discoveries. All listed websites are FREE or come with a decent free account option. You can make use of them without spending a dime. If you want to have similar cool websites round-ups delivered to your email daily email subscribe here.

Add Your Website Here!


Convert PDF to Word – While PDF files are a convenient way to transfer important documents, they present problems if you need to edit the document. In case you have to edit the PDF's text, you first need to convert it into some other editable format. lets you do that. As its name suggests, it is a free to use web service that will convert your PDF files to Word files with a .doc extension. Read more: Converting PDF to Doc Without Changing Layout


Piknik – Are you a web developer trying to find a fun new color for your website design? If yes, then there is an interesting web tool that might help you perfectly – it is called Piknik. Piknik is a one-page website that is free to use. All the webpage contains is a site title, a colored background, and color codes for the background's color. Read more: Piknik: Find Colors For Your Website Design



Thumbnail Zoom – Do you often find yourself squinting at the thumbnail images on a webpage? Do you want to enlarge the image without leaving the webpage? If yes, then Thumbnail Zoom is just the tool for you. Thumbnail Zoom is a wonderful tool that comes as a browser add-on for Mozilla Firefox, versions 3 until the latest beta. It displays the enlarged photo of a thumbnail in a floating window. Read more: Thumbnail Zoom: Enlarge Thumbnails In Firefox



Comment Blocker – On many websites the comments sections is filled with obscenities and other spam text you would prefer not to be visible – just ask any YouTube user. Thankfully there are developers out there creating tools to battle the unwanted comments section on websites. CommentBlocker is one such tool. Read more: CommentBlocker: Automatically Block Comments On Websites (Chrome Extension)



Bnter – Want to share a funny text conversation with the world? Sites like “Texts from Last Night” let you share single text messages. But some funny texts lose their hilarity when out of context. To share entire text conversations you should head on over to Bnter. Pronounced 'banter', "Bnter" is a simple and free to use website. Read more: Bnter: Share Funny Text Conversations Online


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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Show Support For Your Favourite Causes On Twitter & Facebook With Twibbon

Posted: 16 Dec 2010 05:31 PM PST

causes on facebookMany causes, campaigns and movements gain a considerable amount of momentum online. Social networking is a powerful outlet which, when used the right way, can help divert hordes of like-minded individuals to your own particular cause.

Maybe you feel particularly strongly about charity. Maybe you’re just bored with your display picture, and want to spruce it up. Twibbon is a service that makes it easier to join together and promote your cause in the simplest of ways.

If you’re a fan of armchair activism, then you’ll probably find Twibbon to be a great little tool.

Connect Your Accounts

The first thing you’ll need to do in order to use Twibbon is connect your social networks to the service. Simply click Login with Facebook or Login with Twitter in the top right hand side of the homepage.

causes on facebook

You’ll be asked to allow Twibbon access to either Twitter or Facebook, and once you’ve allowed one or both services you will see it listed in the top right.

Once you’ve added your desired account, you’re free to go looking for causes and you can even start your own for free!

Joining Existing Causes

You can browse what’s hot at the moment simply by returning to the homepage. You’ll find all trending causes currently listed, and at this point you’ll probably notice a lot of campaigns that have been set up just for fun.

You don’t need to be an outspoken political activist or have a soft spot for any particular charity, there’s plenty of campaigns you can join for a laugh.

causes on facebook

Once you’ve found something that takes your fancy, click Support This and you’ll be taken to a page where you can edit the position of your Twibbon. When you’re ready click Show my support now! and your Twitter or Facebook (depending on which account you’ve connected) profile image will update.

You may also be taken to a website related to the cause (if the user who created the campaign chose the paid option) and may also end up following that user and tweeting about it (once, e.g. “I joined this cause”) too. Some of you may not like this but it only takes a couple of seconds to undo.

If you feel particularly strongly about a campaign that is not listed then you can also create your own, so others can join in.

Creating Your Own Twibbons

To create a cause for others to support, click on Start A Campaign at the top of the page. You will need to fill in a few details before you upload your image and finalise your campaign.

Input your email, a title for your campaign, a short description (usually with a URL if it’s a recognised cause) and assign a category, sub-category and a maximum of 4 tags. Once everything’s completed, hit Save and Continue.

Next you’ll need to sort out some images. Image sizes for each service are as follows:

Twitter73x73 pixels, maximum filesize of 150KB.

Facebook200x200 pixels, maximum filesize of 150KB.

The image must be in .PNG format, and you’ll need to use transparency so that users can still see their existing profile pictures once the Twibbon is applied.

Depending on what you use to create your image (be it Photoshop, GIMP or something else) you’ll need to create a new square image with a transparent background, then scale it down to each image size. Save with full .PNG transparency and upload the image.

causes on twitter

When prompted, select your files and click Next to upload. On the next page you will be asked if you want to pay for advanced customization. It costs $99, so it isn’t exactly cheap but guarantees that anybody who supports your theme follows you, notifies others about the campaign and adds a few other useful options.

Click I just want a free campaign to move on and you will be taken to the Manage Campaigns page. Congratulations, you and the rest of the world can now join your cause and spread the word.

causes on twitter


Twibbon certainly won’t change the world, the way we protest and is a fairly lazy way of showing support. Regardless of this it does provide an easy way to connect with like-minded individuals, drive support for your favourite charities and events and even just have some fun.

I’m not sure whether the $99 is worth it for paid campaigns, but if you’re serious about spreading the love then you’ve got that option open to you as well. If you like charity and fundraising, don’t forget to check out this article about crowdfunding.

What Twibbon causes have you signed up to?

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The Top 5 Websites With The Best Christmas Dessert Recipes

Posted: 16 Dec 2010 03:31 PM PST

christmas dessert recipesChristmas is just around the corner. We do hope that by now you have completed all your Christmas planning and organizing and can enjoy the spirit of the season. Now if you don’t yet know what you’re going to eat over the holidays, it’s about time to figure it out and get your grocery shopping done before the rush.

For the main course you can go with the classics, which will vary depending on where you live. For the dessert, however, the choice is ever more complicated. For Christmas it should be something special and if you dare, you could try something new. To make your research a little easier, I complied the 5 best websites for Christmas dessert recipes. For each one I also picked one recipe, just in case you’re in a hurry and need a quick recommendation.


Each recipe on Epicurious is clearly structured, providing preparation time, ingredients, instructions, and a photo of the expected result. You can learn different cooking or decoration techniques from the plenitude of instructional videos. Matching videos are attached to each recipe. Epicurious gets a special thumbs up for its interactive features. When you sign up you can save recipes to your recipe box or shopping list and add notes to your favorite recipes.

Epicurious hosts a special page for Christmas recipes, which is their Christmas gift to you. The dessert sections holds Cake Recipes, Candy Recipes, Pie & Tart Recipes, and Pudding Recipes. You can browse a picture gallery for each category, then click the link at the bottom of the image to see the recipe.

My dessert choice from Epicurious is Sticky Toffee Pudding, a simple recipe that is quick to prepare. Be sure to check the reviews for some good advice that will make the result even more delicious!

christmas dessert recipes


AllRecipes is awesome because of its many details. Not only are the instructions straightforward, but the website also provides a kitchen and printer-friendly view, you can customize the recipe, you can add it to your recipe box or shopping list, and you can share it. All Recipes also offers a servings calculator that updates the ingredients and lets you switch between US and Metric measurements. This leaves me speechless.

From their Christmas Baking page I chose Mini Pumpkin Butterscotch Muffins as my favorite recipe.

christmas dessert ideas


Each Chow recipe comes with easy to follow step by step instructions and a picture of the anticipated dessert. Being a member, you can save and hack a recipe. Like most cooking websites, Chow features a special Christmas page.

The Holiday Desserts section takes you through a slideshow of delicious desserts. My pick is the Cranberry Pie. This is a healthy choice, if there is such a thing for desserts.

christmas dessert ideas

Cooking Light & MyRecipes

Some of us have to watch the waistline, even during the holidays. In Cooking Light’s Holiday Cookbook (see link above) you will find recipes for healthy appetizers, drinks, entrées, sides, as well as specials for breads, soups, salads, vegetarian recipes, and more. The video section features visual instructions for selected recipes, for example the Traditional Apple Pie.

The recipes are hosted by MyRecipes. Just in case the Sommelier is nowhere close, you can also view wine pairings for each result. Also, if you don’t have to be picky, give the full list of  Christmas Dessert Recipes on MyRecipes a glance.

From Cooking Light’s list of 31 Healthy Holiday Desserts I picked the Cardamom-Coconut Crème Caramel recipe.

christmas dessert ideas


Delish sports an easy to navigate interface, step by step directions, and the option to save recipes, add ingredients to your shopping list, and submit your own version of a recipe. You can switch between US and Metric measurements for the ingredients and a conversion chart is added as a bonus. However, there is no ingredient calculator.

From the Elegant Desserts provided by Food&Wine, I selected the Cinnamon-Spiced Mocha Foats.

christmas dessert recipes

Can you see any more recipe sites? Well, then have a look at the following ones:

For more recipe resources after Christmas and to lose all that weight, have a look at these MakeUseOf articles:

Now let’s forget about the guilt of eating for a moment. What is your favorite Christmas treat? Please share your recipe!

Image credits: Elena Schweitzer

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Online Tools To Help You With The Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions

Posted: 16 Dec 2010 01:31 PM PST

new year resolutionsSo it’s that time of year again. People all over the world are celebrating, spending too much, eating too much, reflecting on their accomplishments for the year and making resolutions to do better in the new year. What have you resolved to do?

For the most part, new year resolutions worldwide are fairly similar. We’re all keen to be a better person: to be healthy, have better habits, make something of ourselves and be kinder to the people around us. Thankfully, the Internet is full of useful free tools to help us stick to our goals — and MakeUseOf has covered most of them. So, now we’re far more likely to have some success with our resolutions – this time for sure!

General Goal-Tracking

Depending on your needs, you might prefer a simple goal-manager or a full-blown to-do list application. Here’s a few you should know about.

new year resolutions

The latter two have smartphone apps, so they’re great for keeping track of your goals on the go.

Goal #1 – Quit Smoking

Quitting smoking is one of the most common resolutions made yearly. If you’re keen to give it a go, here’s some articles and sites that will help you along the way, like SmokeFree.

common new year resolutions

Goal #2 – Drink Less Alcohol

Alongside quitting smoking, drinking less is a very popular resolution. You may want to quit entirely or you may just want to drink less generally. Whatever your needs, there’s something on the Internet to help you.

Start by checking out and some free alcoholism advice on YouTube. If you want to monitor your intake, check out all the following sites for weight loss and getting fit. You can easily monitor your alcohol intake with any calorie counting site. Plus most of those sites have sub-groups to act as mutual support for various vices. Once you’ve found the calorie-counting site you like best, find a sub-group where they’re all trying to cut down on alcohol and help each other on to success.

Goal #3 – Get Fit / Lose Weight

Not all people who want to get fit need to lose weight, but those who wish to lose weight often need to look at getting more exercise. Thankfully, there’s networks and applications for all manner of fitness and weight-watching activities, such as SparkPeople and Workoutz.

Goal #4 – Get A Better Job

If you’re one of the many people who wants a better job, don’t lose heart. There’s lots of tools out there to help you, such as Vault’s YouTube interview tips.

Goal #5 – Get A Better Education

Plenty of quality courses and student tools can be easily found online for free these days. It’s mostly just a matter of knowing where to look. Stanford’s iTunes Podcast and MITs collection of free lectures are a great place to start. Don’t forget to check the course reading list and search your local library’s website to see if they have the textbooks.

Goal #6 – Manage Debt / Save Money

There are a great number of helpful money tracking applications free to use online and with smartphones. There’s also plenty of free debt management advice to be found if you know where to look, like the Get Rich Slowly blog.

common new year resolutions

Goal #7 – Manage Stress

The curse of modern day life is that it is often stressful, despite all our fancy gadgets to save us time. However, there are great blogs out there giving advice on how to de-stress, slow down and change your pace of life. It might also be worth considering changing to a less stressful job and managing your finances so that you don’t need to earn as much money or simply trying to be happier when you can (see the relevant sections on how to manage that). In the meantime, you can always vent about your day on places like MegaGripe.

common new year resolutions

Goal #8 – Take A Trip

You may not have much luck financing your holiday with your online activities, but you can certainly get great free advice on where to go, what to see and how to get great deals on your travel and accommodation. You can even pass your idle moments with some free armchair travel at places like TripFilms as inspiration to keep saving.

common new year resolutions

Goal #9 – Volunteer To Help Others

These days, it’s very easy to do real volunteering online in the comfort of your own home. This is fantastic news for the charities and needy, since it makes it easier to focus talents in the right places. Why hand out leaflets for five hours when you could easily re-design their website instead?

new year resolutions

Goal #10 – Be Happy

Achieving any one of the above goals may well make you happy, but sometimes we need a little more to trigger that happiness. Check out blogs on happiness, such as The Happiness Project. Sometimes it’s the little things which make you smile the most.

Make Your New Year Resolutions!

Whatever your resolution, it helps if you actually tell someone about it, since they can help you stick to your goals. So, let us know what your big goals are for 2011 in the comments.

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Hot Tech Deals [Dec 16th]

Posted: 16 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. TODAY ONLY AMD Athlon II X2 260 Regor 3.2GHz AMD 780L AM3 Barebones Combo $224.99 Free Shipping

  2. Seagate FreeAgent Go 250GB Portable External Hard Drive $29.99

  3. Dell Vostro 230s Slim Intel Dual-Core E5500 2.8GHz Desktop (3GB/320GB/Win7) w/ Samsung 24in LCD $469

  4. Dell Vostro 230s Slim Intel Dual-Core E5500 2.8GHz Desktop (2GB/250GB/Win7) w/ 22in LCD $389

  5. LG WH10LS30K 10X Internal SATA Blu-Ray Writer $79.99 Free Shipping

  6. G.Skill Ripjaws 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3-1333MHz PC3-10666 Desktop Memory $99.99AR Free Shipping via code EMCZNZT38

  7. TODAY ONLY Sharp LC-52D78UN 52 inch LCD HDTV (1080p, 120Hz) $949.99 Free Shipping

  8. HP Envy 14 Intel Core i5-460M 2.53GHz 14.5in Laptop (4GB/640GB/Radeon HD5650/14-Cell Battery!) $999 via code NB1269

  9. HP tm2t Intel Core i5 ULV 12in Touchscreen Laptop (4GB/500GB/Radeon HD5450/2 Batteries) $749 via code NB3548

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set

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PeaZip – A Fantastic Free Alternative To WinRAR Or WinZip

Posted: 16 Dec 2010 11:31 AM PST

alternative to winzipOpen almost any archive file, quickly, from a familiar interface. That’s the promise of PeaZip, an open source file extraction program for Windows and Linux, and it delivers.

You might think there’s no free extraction program out there that can match 7zip, a great program for unzipping uncommon archive formats. PeaZip does. It supports extraction from 126 different archive types, includes drag-and-drop extraction and can convert one type of archive to another. Heck, it can even open Apple’s .DMG files in Windows or Linux.

PeaZip does all this with an interface users of commercial products like WinRAR or WinZIP will find completely familiar.

Basic Usage

Fire up PeaZip and you’ll see what looks like a file browser. It’s when you open a file that things become interesting. Here’s me taking a look at an ISO:

alternative to winzip

Nothing too exciting, of course, but if I start dragging a file I get this helpful popup:

free alternative to winzip

This is fantastic if you want to very quickly extract a certain file. If you want to extract everything from a given file that’s easy too: just press the big “extract” button.

PeaZip supports an insane number of archive types, which is nice. What I like is that Mac’s .DMG archive is supported, giving Linux and Windows users a way to open these files. Here’s me looking at the contents of the iLife ’09 DVD:

free alternative to winzip

This just might come in handy for you, if you’re the sort of person who works on multiple platforms.

Sometimes you don’t want to simply extract information; you want to convert one sort of archive file (RAR) to one your less tech-savvy friends are more likely to be able to open (ZIP). Not a problem. Just click the “Convert” button after highlighting a given archive:

alternative to winzip

You’ll only be able to convert files to formats PeaZip supports creating, of course, so keep reading for that list. But this feature is a very useful way to make any archive cross-platform and easy to share.

Supported File Types

126 formats is a big claim, but PeaZip backs this claim up on their website. Of course, many of these formats can only be opened by PeaZip; a few can be created by the program as well. Here is, from the PeaZip website, a rundown of what formats the application can work with:

Creation: 7z, FreeArc’s arc/wrc, sfx (7z and arc), bz2, gz, paq/lpaq/zpaq, pea, quad/balz, split, tar, upx, zip

Opening: 7z, bz, bz2, bzip2, tbz2, tbz, gz, gzip, tgz, tpz, tar, zip, z01, smzip, arj, cab, chm, chi, chq, chw, hxs, hxi, hxr, hxq, hxw, lit, cpio, deb, lzh, lha, rar, r01, 00, rpm, z, taz, tz, iso, jar, ear, war, lha, pet, pup, pak, pk3, pk4, slp, xpi, wim, u3p, lzma86, lzma, udf, xar, dmg, hfs, part1, split, swm, tpz, kmz, xz, txz, vhd, mslz, apm, mbr, fat, ntfs, exe, dll, sys, msi, msp, ods, ots, odm, oth, oxt, odb, odf, odg, otg, odp, otp, odt, ott, gnm, doc, dot, xls, xlt, ppt, pps, pot, docx, dotx, xlsx, xltx, swf, flv, quad, balz, zpaq, paq8f, paq8jd, paq8l, paq8o, lpaq1, lpaq5, lpaq8, ace, arc, wrc, 001, pea, cbz, cbr, cba, cb7, cbt and more.

Be sure to check out PeaZip’s technical specifications if you want to learn more about the program and how it works.


Ready to start using PeaZip? Awesome. Just head over to PeaZip’s website to find installation instructions for Windows and Linux. You’ll even find a portable version of PeaZip for both Windows and Linux, meaning you can take file extraction with you just about everywhere.

PeaZip is, unusually, not in the Ubuntu repositories, so check the above link even if you’re used to using the repo for everything. Weird, I know, but you’ll find a nice .deb file for easy installation.

Like this program? Tell us why below. Also feel free to tell us what extraction program you like best, and why.

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Better Than Batch – A Windows Scripting Host Tutorial

Posted: 16 Dec 2010 10:31 AM PST

windows scripting host tutorialIf you’ve been working in the computer world for a while then you’re probably pretty familiar with batch jobs. IT professionals around the world utilized them to run all sorts of automated computer processing jobs and personal tasks. In fact Paul recently covered how to write such a file.

The problem with batch jobs is that they were very limited. The command set was somewhat short and didn’t allow for very much functionality when it came to structured logic using if-then, for, next and while loops. Later, Windows Scripting Host came along. The MS Windows Scripting Host is a multi-language script utility that Microsoft started installing as standard on all PCs from Windows 98 onward. By the second generation of the tool, it was renamed to Microsoft Script Host (MSH).

A Microsoft Scripting Host Tutorial

Here at MUO, we love computer automation. For example, Varun covered Sikuli, a tool to write automation scripts, and Guy showed you how to use AutoIt to automate tasks. The cool thing about MSH is that if you have any post-Win 98 PC, you can write a “batch” script in a variety of languages.

Available languages include JScript, VBA, and VBscript. It’s also possible to write scripts in Perl, Python, PHP, Ruby or even Basic if you have the right implementation with the right scripting engine. Personally, I know Visual Basic well, so I usually opt for VBScript. The beauty here is that you don’t need any special programming software or compiler. Just open up Notepad and write your script, just like how you wrote your batch jobs.

Without installing anything, you can write scripts in VB. The simplest script is printing text to a pop-up window, like this:

windows scripting host tutorial

Save the file as a .vbs and Windows will recognize and run it. This is what happens when you double click on the file above:

windows scripting

You can write more advanced scripts utilizing the languages you’re accustomed to. For the most flexibility, place <job> and <script language=”VBScript”> (or whatever language you choose) around each segment of code in your file, and save it as a .wsf file. This way, so long as you enclose the code in the defined script language tags, you can use multiple languages in the same file.

To show you how cool this can be, I decided to write a script that would reach out to the NIST atomic clock to check the current time. If morning, it automatically opens my Thunderbird email client. If noon, it would open my browser to This conditional script gives you the ability to make your computer much more intelligent. If you run this script when your PC starts up, you can make it automatically launch whatever you like depending what time of day it is.

windows scripting

The first part of the script goes out to the time server “” and gets the current time. After formatting it correctly, it sets the computer time. Credit where credit is due, this script was adapted from TomRiddle’s excellent script over at To save time, always find the example code you need online, and then tweak it to your needs.

Here’s what the script does with just the code above implemented so far.

windows scripting

Now that the script is working and will sync my PC every time it’s launched, it’s time to have it determine what to automatically launch depending on the time of day. In Windows Scripting Host, this task is as easy as an If-Then statement checking the hour of the day in the “Now” function, and then launching the appropriate software.

windows scripting host

When launched between 8 to 10 in the morning, this script will start up my Thunderbird email client. When run between 11am to 1pm, it’ll launch in a browser. As you can see, just by being creating and adding a little bit of intelligence to a script file, you can do some pretty cool computer automation.

By the way, it’s a very good idea to have a reference of scripting commands handy when you write these scripts. If you’re into VBScript like me, a great resources is, which lists all VBScript commands alphabetically on one page.

windows scripting host

Writing scripts alone isn’t going to automate anything, because you’ll still have to manually launch them. So to complete your automation using the Windows Script Host, go into the Task Scheduler in the control panel (administrator area) and select to create a task.

windows scripting host

The scheduler lets you launch your script upon a whole assortment of events, such as time of day or on a specific schedule, when a system event takes place, or when the computer is first booted or logged into. Here, I’m creating a scheduled task to launch my script above every time the PC starts.

windows scripting host tutorial

This is only a very brief Windows Scripting Host tutorial. Considering the number of commands and functions available in any of these scripting languages, the possibilities to automate all sorts of cool tasks on your PC are pretty much only limited by your imagination.

Some of the best sites to find pre-written scripts that you can use or customize include the following:

  • Microsoft Script Center – Straight from microsoft, and includes categories like Office, desktop, databases and active directory
  • Computer Performance – This UK site offers the best selection of VBScripts that I’ve seen online.
  • Computer Education – You’ll find a small collection of scripts here, but they’re very useful and they all work.
  • Lab Mice – An awesome collection of batch programming resources like an assortment of logon scripts.

Have you ever used the Windows Script Host? Do you have any cool tips or examples to share? Offer your insight and share your experiences in the comments section below.

Image credit: jaylopez

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Replace Your Mobile Text Messaging Plan With These 3 Useful Apps

Posted: 16 Dec 2010 09:31 AM PST

free text messagingText messaging is one of those technologies that people love to hate. Or hate to love. Although text messages are ‘trivial’ in terms of data to send, providers in the United States and elsewhere charge an arm and a leg for text messaging plans (by some calculations they cost approximately $1,310 per megabyte). On the flip side the thing that is great about text messages is that they are a fast and reliable way to get a short message to a person.

First the bad news – in some instances, for example if you do not have a smartphone, you won’t be able to do away with text messaging through free Internet text messaging solutions. These solutions are only for devices that have data plans with push capability – namely iPhone, Android or Blackberry. Also, if you frequently communicate with text messages with people that do not have a smartphone or are unwilling to try some new applications, it will be hard to convert them to the text-free lifestyle.

Now we have that disclaimer out of the way, let’s go over some solutions for getting rid of, or at least reducing, your text messages!

Kik Messenger

free text messaging

Kik is the “free real-time texting for all” service that supports iPhone, Android and Blackberry. The feel and style of Kik is the closest thing to texting that I’ve found on any of the apps I tested. It is missing MMS (photo and video texting) but with email and other technologies augmenting your experience this isn’t too much of a loss. Also of note is that Blackberry support is looking grim at the moment and they recently sued Kik for patent infringement. They say new groundbreaking technology is disruptive; and Blackberry has the most to lose from this platform since they provide the very profitable Blackberry Messenger (BBM).

After testing Kik daily for a few weeks with my wife, who also has an iPhone, I am really impressed by the experience. Messages are instantaneous and secure; a delivery and read receipt is also included. If you find that most of your text messages are sent and received from one user (such as a spouse) this will cut down on your text message numbers a lot.


free sms text messaging

I continue to be impressed by the Boxcar app. It is available only for iOS devices at the moment, however they are reportedly working on an Android version.

Boxcar is great at replacing all sorts of notifications – Google Voice, Twitter, Facebook and more. Many web services that have some kind of text message notification will work with Boxcar, and even if they don’t, Boxcar has an easy to use API which allows you to send any email messages right to your device. Bottom line – if an app supports email notification it will work with Boxcar.

Alternatives: Prowl (iOS) or Notifo (available for iOS, coming soon to Android and Blackberry). I couldn’t find a similar currently available Android app which has the same functionality, please let us know in the comments below if you know of any!

Google Voice

free sms text messaging

Google Voice is a perennial favorite around here for its voice services, its voice to text capabilities and of course its cost (free!) One of the other features that you don’t hear as much about is its free text messaging capability. Text messages are free both for sending and receiving but also you have a lot of options when it comes to notifications.

free sms text messaging

Since text messages can be sent to your email account, you can also set up a filter to forward those messages to an app of your choice. As a fall back, since text messages also go to your email, you will find them there as well. Since text messaging is more of an ‘instant’ communication and since personally I do not check my email all of the time, I use Boxcar to “push” them to my phone instantly. Google Voice’s native app also will push text messages to your device (iOS or Android).

free text messaging

Alternatives: Skype (low cost SMS, available outside the US)

IM Applications

Other IM applications such as BeeJive and Palringo are also alternatives to traditional text messaging. Since each one depends on the chat networks you use and whether the person you want to communicate with is actually on that network, this only works in my mind as a fallback to the other solutions above. It works, but sometimes there are issues where you will be logged out without notice and will stop receiving messages and also delay problems. These are not a true solution to text messaging so really I would recommend them as a last resort.

In Summary

The terminology of the technology we are using to replace text messaging is called “Push”. In general, this lets a remote device receive instantaneous notification of an event; whether that be a call, text message or other piece of data. The solutions above work extremely well to replace text messages but each has their own pitfalls. The “best” option in my mind is Kik, however you need to convince others to use it as well so it does not have widespread adoption. Going with Google Voice and some other push notification has the broadest appeal since even people who do not use it can send you text messages. A blend of uses yields the best result as far as backward compatibility with other text messaging users.

Do you have a secret method for replacing text messaging on your phone? Please let us know in the comments below!

Image credit: Sebastian Dario

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2 Free Tools To Prepare Images For The Web [Mac]

Posted: 16 Dec 2010 08:31 AM PST

web imagesOne way to spice up your words is by adding related images to the text. The more and better images that you use, the spicier your stories will be. But in terms of webpages and blogs, more images also equal bigger page sizes and longer loading times – something that every web owner should avoid. If eliminating the images is not an option, the only thing left to do is optimize them for the web.

Unfortunately, optimizing images for web use is not always a walk in the park, especially if you have to deal with lots of them regularly. If you are a Mac user, there are several free tools that can help you minimize the trouble of preparing web images.

Acquiring The Images

I won’t go too far here since the topic has been discussed several times already. There are many ways you can acquire images for the web, from taking your own pictures using a digital camera, using Creative Commons licensed images, to screen capturing images on your desktop.

Talking about screen capture, there are several free Mac tools that you can use for this purpose. I personally use either Jing or Skitch.

web images

Resize & Rename Using ResizeMe

Most of the time, you won’t get the size of the images right the first time – either the image size (pixels) or the file size (bytes).

The limitation for the image size usually comes from the design point of view. You shouldn’t put a 600 pixel-wide image on a 500 pixel-wide blog column. It will go out of the border and make the appearance ugly.

To solve the pixel problem, you can either crop or resize the oversized images. I found a great tool called ResizeMe that can help you do those tasks – and a lot more – in bulk.

Using ResizeMe is as easy as dragging and dropping images that you want to modify into the file list.

how to resize images

Pick the action(s) that you want to apply to those images. In the image below I set the action to scale down any image wider than 580 pixels without modifying the height. I also set the action not to modify any image with a width smaller than the maximum width.

how to resize images

The app also allows users to crop images to their desired size. Cropping very large images into several smaller ones is favorable than resizing, because most of the times resizing will degrade the quality of the image and make the picture unclear.

If you use several images for every blog article that you write, it would be better if you organize the set by adding similar key words to their names. For example, images for an article about screenshot tools could be renamed into “scrnsht – image1“, “scrnsht – image2“, and so on.

You could use the help of Automator to batch rename images on your Mac, or for a more flexible renaming system you could try a utility like NameChanger. If you don’t want to use other applications, ResizeMe also comes with a file renaming ability. Just choose a function from the list, check the “Rename” button, and write down the instances that you want to be renamed.

how to resize images

Another Resize Using ImageOptim

Another size factor that we have to deal with is the file size. We need smaller image sizes while maintaining the picture quality. Most giant image manipulators come with the ability to make images web ready. But if all you need is to compress the size, you could use ImageOptim.

Similar to ResizeMe, using ImageOptim is also drag and drop simple. All the images that you drop into the app will automatically be optimized to the smallest size possible without sacrificing the quality. It does the magic by finding the best compression parameters and by removing unnecessary comments and color profiles.

resize images

The percent column will tell you how much bloat the app can eliminate from the images. The perfectionist can use the “Again” button to help them squeeze a few more percent out of the image size. You can push the button several times until the percentage column shows 0%.

By comparing the results, we can see that ImageOptim does its job well. Sometimes it can eliminate more than 50% of the image weight.

This is before using ImageOptim.

resize images

And this is after.

resize images

Although the figure equals to only a few kilobytes loss of image size each, when you add everything up, those tiny kilobytes could mean something to the overall site size and bandwidth.

What I like about this app is that it comes with a workflow. If you open the workflow with Automator and save it, it will be transformed into a Mac service. Since you can assign shortcuts to services, you can use the app faster simply by selecting images to optimize and hit the shortcut combination.

web images

From my own personal experience, I can say that the combination of ResizeMe and ImageOptim has helped me save much of my time in preparing images for web use. But don’t take my word for it, try them yourself and share what you think in the comments below. And if you have your own favorites, fell free to share them also.

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Maggie Executive Laptop Bag Review and Giveaway

Posted: 16 Dec 2010 08:00 AM PST

The Executive Laptop Bag by Maggie Bags is an incredibly stylish way to protect and transport your laptop when you are out and about.

And this week, we have a special treat for all female MakeUseOf readers — reading a tech blog finally pays off! We’re giving away 5 Maggie Executive Laptop Bags worth over $600 in total. Find out how you can be in the running to win one for yourself. And if you’re a guy, no worries — just go ahead and join in anyway. You can always present it to your girlfriend, wife or daughter.

The front of this large, two-tone grey tote bag that retails for $135 features the Maggie Bags logo at the bottom right hand side. There are two handles if you prefer to carry it like a briefcase, as well as adjustable straps with nickel rings to turn this tote into a messenger bag or wear it across your body.

There are also four nickel-plated feet at the bottom to ensure your bag stays propped up.

On the satin-lined inside of the bag, there’s a padded laptop slip, as well as pocket compartments for your mobile devices, pens and keys.

The bag is 12” x 18” x 6” and meant to fit up to 17” laptops so it’s pretty large.

Even the laptop pocket is pretty spacious for a 13” laptop as you can see here.

I was also able to fit my other 15” laptop in the slip, though it was very close to the zipper, which isn’t a real problem as I can still zip the bag closed.

The bag itself feels really nice and sturdy, but it’s not too hard and unbendable like other laptop bags for ladies. And it’s not just for your laptop as there is ample space for your other belongings, like books. What’s neat is that this bag is made from recycled materials, specifically seat belts, so you’re looking good carrying a stylish bag and you’re being eco-friendly.

We’re giving 5 away to you lucky ladies. Remember, each Executive Laptop Bag is worth $135 so it’s a pretty good deal!

How do I win one?

It’s simple, just follow the instructions.

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

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

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

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

Like it on Facebook

Or share it on Twitter

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

This giveaway begins now and ends Friday, December 24th at 2100hrs PST. The winners will be selected at random and announced via email.

Spread the word to your friends and have fun!

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6 Must-Have Apps For Computer Repair Technicians

Posted: 16 Dec 2010 07:31 AM PST

computer repair technician Computers are complex pieces of electronics and, unfortunately, they tend to go astray quite often. Knowledgeable geeks can fix these problems quickly, but to the average user, a Blue Screen of Death is as useful as receiving a pie to the face. This, of course, is why people hire computer repair technicians. It’s also why your grandparents think that you are one because you know how to change the homepage in Internet Explorer.

If you are ever faced with the task of repairing computers – either professionals or as an amateur – it’s important to have the right tools. This includes software that can help you pinpoint and solve system errors. Let’s have a look at six programs that can save you a lot of time.

PC Wizard

pc computer repair

Properly diagnosing and repairing a computer requires knowledge about what is inside it. Some information, like the processor that a computer has and the amount of RAM installed, is extremely easy to come across. But other information, like the exact model of motherboard or hard drive, can be more difficult to determine. This is particularly true in pre-built systems from companies like Dell, as they often do not include technical information about their PCs.

PC Wizard is the easy solution to this issue. This software scans a PC and returns detailed information about the components inside. This includes everything from the audio controller to the motherboard chipset. You’ll also be able to see the temperature of the processor, video card, and hard drive (provided the system has those sensors installed).

OCCT and Furmark

computer repair technician

Many computer problems are caused by stress placed on components as they reach maximum load. It is not hard for a processor to run well when it is only using 25% of it’s potential, but when maxed to 100% it begins to generate significantly more heat and draw far more power. This can expose problems with a computer’s cooling solution or power supply that are otherwise not an issue.

Controlled stress tests reveal these issues. My two favorite programs are OCCT (for the CPU) and Furmark (for the GPU). Each program can put a load on a processor or video card that will replicate what happens when a program demands everything these components have to give.

MalwareBytes Anti-Malware

pc computer repair

Malware is one of the most common causes of computer problems. Unsuspecting folks download the wrong file, and now suddenly their processor seems to be running at 80% or higher usage no matter what they’re doing, or their homepage has been changed to

This is where a free malware program like MalwareBytes is handy. You can install it free of charge on as many computers as you’d like and use it to try and find and remove the malware that is causing innocent folks so much trouble. Cleaning up malware on an already-infected computer is tricky, so don’t expect this (or any other) anti-malware software to perform magic, but this program will give you one more tool for tackling the problem.

Revo Uninstaller

pc computer repair

One problem that often confronts computer repair technicians is a program that won’t uninstall properly. The program may be consuming disk space, or interfering with other programs, and you’d like to remove it. Yet the built-in uninstaller fails every time.

Revo Uninstaller is a program tailored to defeat such problems. It can track down the different components and registry entries of a program and kill them. In my experience it can remove about 80% of the programs that have previously failed to uninstall through conventional methods, and you may want to simply use Revo Uninstaller by default, as it cleans up after programs more throughly than the default uninstallers usually do.

SiSoft Sandra 2011 Lite

computer repair technician

You can learn a lot about a computer by benchmarking it. Hardware is hardware – it is made to precise specifications, and there is very little variation between various examples of a similar product. This creates a good baseline to compare the performance of a computer to, which in turn makes it easier to find where problems might be occurring. Benchmarks can also be handy because, in some cases, a problem assumed to be a hardware defect isn’t one at all. Instead, the problem is that the hardware just isn’t up to handling what the user is demanding from it.

There are a lot of useful free benchmarks, but SiSoft Sandra remains one of the most full-featured and robust examples.  The benchmarks included can be used to gauge the performance of hard drives, processors, video cards, memory and more. In addition, SiSoft Sandra offers some comparative examples of benchmarks run using similar hardware. This can help you determine if a computer is behaving normally.

While I find SiSoft Sandra’s benchmarks to be the most compelling feature, the program offers a number of other tools and hardware information utilities. I find other options to be better in these areas, but the extra tools are handy to have, and some users may prefer them.


The 5 must-have apps listed here are ones that I’ve used in the past. They’re great programs – but given the expansive universe of programs available, they’re surely not the only ones around. If you know of a program that would be useful for computer repair technicians feel free to throw some love on it in the comments.

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YouTube Launches Trends Dashboard Showcasing Popular Videos [News]

Posted: 16 Dec 2010 06:31 AM PST

YTT.png Zoofs, and other third party apps, have always been one step ahead of YouTube, when it comes to letting users know which videos are the most popular on the video sharing website. While Zoofs was able to show you which YouTube videos were the most popular on Twitter, YouTube has finally caught up, and one-upped them, showing users what is trending right now on YouTube.

With the recently launched Trends Dashboard, you can see the most shared or most viewed videos. And they have added an interesting dimension, showing you a little bit more about the viewers’ demographics.


YouTube Trends allows you to create up to three comparison lists of the most popular videos based on location, age and gender. Specific locations are limited to major US cities and a list of 24 countries including South Africa, Taiwan, India and the United Kingdom amongst others.


Trends seem to be the catchphrase of the year, with each major social website from Facebook to Twitter releasing data on which topics have been most popular with their users throughout the year, so it’s no surprise that YouTube is getting in on the game as well. On their trends blog it’s interesting to see what topics are trending on YouTube at any given time.


The blog also features posts with the four most buzzed about videos of the day.


What do you think of YouTube’s Trends Dashboard? Let us know in the comments.

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