Monday, January 31, 2011 “Latest Hilarious Picks [MakeUseOf Geeky Fun]” plus 7 more “Latest Hilarious Picks [MakeUseOf Geeky Fun]” plus 7 more

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Latest Hilarious Picks [MakeUseOf Geeky Fun]

Posted: 30 Jan 2011 09:35 PM PST


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

  1. Helping others with their computers (Pic)
  2. Obvious Traps (Pic)
  3. PC or Mac – What To Buy? (Pic)
  4. I phone, you tube (Pic)
  5. The Truth About Facebook (Pic)
  6. How Games Get On The PC (Pic)
  7. Help The Nigerian Prince (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 [January 30th]

Posted: 30 Jan 2011 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!


Cortex – There are a large number of developers creating apps that help you share stuff online faster. This is always achieved by creating shortcuts for tasks. For Google Chrome users, Cortex does the shortcuts job perfectly. Cortex is a browser extension for Google Chrome. After you install the app you can access its options and connect your Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Instapaper accounts with it. Read more: Cortex: A Chrome App That Makes Sharing Super Fast


Embed Plus – Often while embedding YouTube videos on your website or blog, you may want to play only a specific portion of the video to your site's visitors. Your site visitors might also want to zoom in or slow down specific parts of the video while viewing it. All this is now possible if you embed videos with the help of EmbedPlus, a simple and free to use web service that lets you edit the embeddable code for YouTube videos. Read more: EmbedPlus: Adds Extra Controls & More To YouTube Embeds



Google Cloud Print – is a new service by Google that lets you connect your printer to the cloud and print from anywhere, any computer or smartphone which can connect to the Internet. To use it, you will need the developer version of Google Chrome, which has the Google Cloud Print connector that you can activate. Google Cloud Print uses your Google account to assign a server to store print jobs. Read more: Google Cloud Print: Connect Printer To The Cloud & Print From Anywhere



Days To Pay – When you see something you like in a store, you wonder how much extra you would have to work in order to buy it. While previously you had to rely on mental estimates, you can now accurately find out thanks to Days to Pay. a simple web tool that helps you find out the how much you would have to work in order to have a certain amount of money. Read more: DaysToPay: Find Out How Long You Would Have To Work To Buy Something You'd Like



Write Space – I have used numerous online note taking and text editing apps but I prefer something that is simple to use and stores notes locally. Therefore while browsing the web I use Notepad to take down notes. Now, thanks to Write Space, I do not have to leave the browser to take notes and save them locally. Write Space is a browser based text editor for Google Chrome. Read more: Write Space: Browser Based Text Editor With Distraction-Free Interface (Chrome)


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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Thank You To MakeUseOf Friends!

Posted: 30 Jan 2011 06:31 PM PST

It's time to say thanks to our friends who, once in a while, tip us great articles, help out on projects and in some cases offer their services at discounted prices. Thank you, guys!

    [1] ShrinkTheWeb – Website Screenshot Thumbnail Service

    Ever wanted to add website screenshots to your website? In my professional opinion ShrinkTheWeb is one of the best services for that, both in terms of performance and pricing. The free account gets you a whopping 250,000 impressions with nearly no delay. See it in action in our daily Cool Websites and Tools series.


    [2] LapDawg – Hands-free Laptop Stands

    Hands free laptop stand
    The dream gadget designed for Laptop & Book owners. LapDawg X4 Hands free laptop stand. Holds your laptop or books in any position you want with it’s unique 360 degree rotating joints. Perfect for holding them in bed while lying down or adjust for your living room couch at eye level. Made from anodized aluminum with a beautiful black matte finish.

    [3] Walyou – Cool Gadgets for Geeks

    new cool gadgets
    Walyou is a fun blog covering all sorts of new cool gadgets and other stuff every geek is likely to find entertaining. Everything from world’s largest Gunny Bears to E-hookah gadgets. Make sure to check them out.


    [4] rade | eccles – iPhone Application Development

    The perfect iPhone development team, rade | eccles managed to put our iPhone app together in record time yet exude professionalism and dedication every step of the way. Our collaboration wasn’t happenstance. We would make the same decision all over again. Our only recommendation for an iPhone developer – rade | eccles.


    [5] TrueKolor – Affordable Quality Logo and Banner Design

    If you’re looking for a cheap, original and quality logo or banner, check out TrueKolor. We often contact these guys when we need a logo or a banner made, some of the stuff they did for us listed on their portfolio page. Highly recommended.


    [6] Mobify – Making the Web a mobile place

    More and more users access websites and read blogs using their mobile phone. Mobify lets you mobilize your blog or website by creating lightweight version of it, which loads much faster and looks great on a mobile screen. MakeUseOf’s mobile site was created by Mobify, and we’re proud of it!


    [7] Sendible – The easiest way to market your brand online

    We’re strong believers of the service Sendible provides — we use it on a daily basis and it has never failed us! Sendible is an online marketing service to promote, grow and track brands through the use of social media, email and SMS messaging. It has the ability to post to multiple services at once, schedule social network updates and analyse their success. We love it!


    [8] Sourcebits – Android Developement

    Sourcebits did a bang up job of helping us put together our long-awaited Android app. For that, we are eternally grateful!


Thank you, guys!

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Books vs eBooks – What Have You Read Most Lately? [MakeUseOf Poll]

Posted: 30 Jan 2011 05:30 PM PST

Last week we asked you how much you have paid for smartphone apps. The results show that most MakeUseOf readers have spent less than US$25, the with many people preferring to use free apps only.

From 268 total votes, the divide is like this: 31% spent between US$0-25; 28% always get free apps; 14% have spent between US$25-$50 on apps; 8% paid for US$50-$100 worth of apps; 8% don’t have smartphones; 6% spent between US$100-$200; 4% readers have spent over US$200 on apps.

Full results and this week's poll after the jump.

This week's poll question is: Books vs eBooks – What Have You Read Most Lately?

We know most readers swear by hard-copy books, but times are changing and many people find their Kindle is just too handy to ignore. Think back over the last six months — did you read more hard-copy books or more eBooks?

So, what do you think your future reading habits will be? Books or eBooks? Why?



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3 Free Tools to Plan and Visualise Your Start-Up Business

Posted: 30 Jan 2011 02:30 PM PST

business plan templateIf you’ve decided to take the plunge, abandoning the 9-to-5 rat race to launch out on your own, the first step to getting your start-up off the ground is to create a business model. This can be a very daunting task, and rather than start with a completely blank canvas, there are several free online tools which can help guide you through the initial steps.

Whether you’re a seasoned entrepreneur or new to the world of business, these tools will come in handy. All you need to bring to the table is your concept to create a business plan, the first step in taking it from an idea to reality. These tools can be used independently of one another, or you can choose to combine and tailor them to suit your personal needs.

Business Model Canvas

One of the best known tools for creating a visual business model comes courtesy of Alexander Osterwalder. Accounting for all of the essential elements included in any business plan, he has provided an easy-to-use business plan template and a guide to the information to be included.

The canvas can be downloaded as a PDF from his website and an iPad application is currently in the works. He also provides a blog post on how to use the canvas in a working session.

business plan template

The business plan template is divided into 9 sections, each accompanied by a short series of questions making it easier to fill out the information. The sections include key partners, activities, cost structure and revenue streams, amongst others.


PlanCruncher is a free, no-registration-required service which is perfect for the budding entrepreneur who needs a step-by-step guide on how to put together a visual presentation.

small business plan

The first step in PlanCruncher is to introduce your start-up. Choose a name, and describe your pitch.

small business plan

Determine what kind of business idea you’re bringing to the table, and whether you want to use a non-disclosure agreement.

small business plan

The next step is to introduce your team and their capabilities.

writing a business plan

Next, describe the current state of your product, and determine the product’s intellectual proprietary status.

writing a business plan

Next, describe your revenue model.

writing a business plan

Then determine the kind of funding you need.


Select the kind of partnership you are seeking and the share you are willing to offer.


Finally, enter your contact information and any additional comments you feel are necessary to include in your plan. You can also choose to send a copy of your business plan to PlanCruncher where it will be shared with investors who could eventually contact you. They do include a disclaimer that you should not submit any information you consider confidential or proprietary, and they do not accept responsibility for protecting against misuse or disclosure of any confidential or proprietary information, which is a little unsettling when putting your business concept in their hands.


Once you generate the business plan, right click the link that reads PDF business plan summary and click ‘Save link as…’ to save the document to your computer.


The final product will look a little something like this.


It’s worth mentioning that it includes a footer stating that the document was generated using PlanCruncher. If you would rather not include the footer or submit your idea to a third party site, you can download the icons and put together the presentation yourself.

Startup Toolkit

The Startup Toolkit is a free service that allows you to create a canvas visually describing your business model.


After signing up for an account, rather than provide step by step instructions, you are presented with a canvas to be filled in as you see fit.

In addition to creating a canvas describing your business model, you also have access to a ‘Risk Dashboard’, a to-do list for your business risks and leaps of faith.


There are three canvases to choose from. The Startup Canvas, which focuses on finding and resolving early startup risks.


The Lean Canvas, which focuses on the product and the customer equally.


And lastly, the Business Model Canvas seen earlier, developed by Osterwalder.


Each canvas provides you with a guideline and questions to answer for each section.


After you have entered all the information on your startup, you can save a snapshot to return to later, but the site does not provide any easy way to export it as a document, so it is better suited for internal or collaborative use only.

If you want to share the canvas with other members of your team, you can invite them via email either to view or edit the information.


The Risk Dashboard is where you can enter your leap of faith (what are the major beliefs and assumptions your business is built on?) and your hypothesis. After saving the information, you can then fill in the actual results of of your experiment to test the hypothesis, and your insight and course correction.

business plan template

Do you have any tips on how to get your business concept down on paper? Have you used any of these techniques? Let us know how they worked out for you in the comments.

Image credit: Shutterstock

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10 Free MP3 Albums To Download [Sound Sunday]

Posted: 30 Jan 2011 11:30 AM PST

This week’s edition of Sound Sunday is full of good stuff!

You will find several debut albums, a music video produced by Olan Rogers, an experimental soundtrack, the third Tangram album featured on Sound Sunday, some Hip Hop, but most of all great pop and rock.

If you have any suggestions, feel free to use the comments or drop me an eMail [tina at makeuseof dot com].

Awake! Awake! – We’ve Been Strangers

Genre: indie, new wave, rock

We’ve Been Strangers is the 2007 debut album of Awake! Awake!. Recorded independently at a college home in Tennessee, it granted the boys a more promising launch into the music industry than they had hoped for. Three years later their second album Bittersweet Horizon went live. A music video produced by Olan Rogers followed this month and received over 10,000 hits within 72 hours.

You can download their debut album We’ve Been Strangers free from Bandcamp.

Awake! Awake! MySpace and Facebook.

Tangram – Docosanoid

Genre: ambient, electronica, new wave, downtempo, minimal

Tangram has become one of my favorite ambient electronic projects. Hence I’m excited to share the latest album Docosanoid with you. Released on November 22nd it’s a seamless follow-up to Péter Fabók’s previous releases, including Tepidarium, Micropolis, and Flow, which were all featured on Sound Sunday.

Docosanoid is a name your price download from Bandcamp. Please donate generously.

Tangram MySpace and Homepage.

Spiral – Machine

Genre: progressive, space rock, experimental, electronic, soundtrack

Following the release of their 2010 album Citizen, an independent film company approached Spiral with the offer to produce a movie. The idea for the plot was to follow the story of Citizen, but from the Machine‘s perspective. The band eagerly started working on their very first soundtrack and enjoyed the freedom it gave them. Sadly, the movie never saw the light of day and the fascinating science fiction soundtrack is all that is left.

Download Machine free from Bandcamp.

Spiral MySpace and Facebook.

United Noise Records – Gestalt

Genre: electro, industrial, retro, synthpop

Despite the German album name (Gestalt means figure or form), United Noise Records are based in Glasgow / Paisley, UK. It’s a music project of techno, industrial, and electro junkies. They also maintain a weekly webcast and chat called Maschinefunk. I wonder where their fascination for German words stems from and whether they know that the ‘proper’ German word formation would be either Maschinenfunk or Funkmaschine. ;)

Gestalt is a free download from Bandcamp.

United Noise Records Facebook and Homepage.

D.N.A. – The Evolution of the double Delix

Genre: hip hop, melodramatic

D.N.A., also known as Drac N Antalyst, are a duo from outer space. On Bandcamp they introduce themselves as “Drac & Antahlyzah form DNA..a Duo of Planetary Emcees Bearing Ancient Scrolls of Black Wisdom InterTwined With Lyrical Wizardry.

The Evolution of the double Helix is a name you price download from Bandcamp.

Derock MySpace. Antahlyzah MySpace.

The Age of Rockets – Hannah

Genre: indie, pop, rock, classical, orchestral, electronica

From their Facebook page: “The Age of Rockets is a band from Brooklyn New York. Currently recording our 3rd LP. We use orchestra musicians and lap tops and try to do the rest ourselves.

Hannah is available for free from Bandcamp.

The Age of Rockets MySpace and Homepage.

The Danvilles – The Danvilles LP

Genre: rock, pop

From their Facebook page: “Inspired by 1960s pop and surf guitars the Virginia based trio, The Danvilles, have taken their love for music of yesterday, combined it with rock 'n roll, and developed a sound all their own.

The Danvilles LP is a free download from Bandcamp.

The Danvilles MySpace and Homepage.

Ruby Coast – Whatever This Is

Genre: indie, rock, pop, soul

Whatever This Is is Ruby Coast’s debut album. The band from Toronto, Canada recorded the album at the legendary ‘Hotel2Tango’ in Montéal, Canada.

Whatever This Is is a free download from Bandcamp.

Ruby Coast Facebook and Twitter.

Creepers – Songs From the Green House

Genre: indie, rock, pop,

Recorded in the Green House in Gainesville, Florida, Songs From the Green House is the debut EP of Creepers. The four track album was released in mid January this year.

Songs From the Green House is a free download from Bandcamp.

Creepers Facebook.

Dispatch – Album Sampler

Genre: rock

free mp3In 2007 Dispatch from Boston, Massachusetts became the first independent band to sell out Madison Square Garden in NYC and they did so for three days in a row. The occasion was a Zimbabwe fundraising event. Dispatch recently gave away four free albums to promote their upcoming North America tour. Unfortunately, the opportunity has passed, however, their sampler is still available.

Get a taste of Dispatch’s music by downloading their Album Sampler. Just add /sampler to the Homepage link to launch the download of the Album Sampler .zip file.

Dispatch MySpace and Homepage.

Yes, this is the end of this week’s free music already! However, feel free to browse past editions of Sound Sunday. You can also get in touch with me [tina at makeuseof dot com] to share free material, suggestions, and feedback or simply add your comments below.

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How To Create A Truly Hidden Partition With TrueCrypt 7

Posted: 30 Jan 2011 09:30 AM PST

TrueCrypt is an open source encryption tool that does a fantastic job at encrypting your files. We’ve covered it many times before with easy tutorials on encrypting your USB drive, and encrypting a folder – but today I’d like to show you how to create a truly hidden encrypted drive, that could remain hidden even if you were forced to reveal the password.

How? read on.

Hidden Volume:

A “hidden” encrypted volume provides you with “plausible deniability” should the need ever arise. For example, if your drives were seized, and you were forced under order of court to reveal the password – then your hidden drive would provide an extra layer of security. How? We will first create an outer volume that is encrypted, and hide some fake files on there. Then within that encrypted outer volume, we will create a further encrypted volume. You end up with two password-protected volumes – and you can safely reveal the outer volume password – without revealing a secondary hidden volume. The TrueCrypt page has a more technical explanation of a Hidden Volume that you might want to read.

You will need

Since we’ve covered basic Truecrypt file and folder encryptions before, today I will be using an entire partition. This could be a USB hard drive or a second hard drive in your PC. This drive will be formatted entirely in the process, so make sure there is nothing important on it.

You will also need a copy of the latest TrueCrypt for your system, which you can download here. For this guide, I have used the Mac OSX version, but the interface is similar on Windows or Linux.

Create a Partition

Begin by plugging in your drive and creating a partition that we will encrypt. I showed you how to create a partition on Windows last week, but on my OS X installation I simply opened Disk Utility, find the drive in the left side, and click on the Partition tab on the right. I chose 1 partition, gave it a name, and clicked Apply.

Create Encrypted Volume

Launch TrueCrypt and click on Create Volume. Choose the second option, which says “Create a volume within a partition / drive“.

Next, choose to create a Hidden TrueCrypt Volume.

Be careful when you select the device on the next screen. If you gave your partition a helpful name, you should have no problem. Go ahead and select the device.

Next are the encryption options. The defaults are those deemed secure enough for top secret government documents, so it’s probably good enough for us.

Next, you will need to choose a password for your outer volume. Remember, this will be a password you rarely ever use, but will be the one you give up if forced to. It is very important that this password be substantially different to the one you will encrypt your hidden drive with.

The next screen is a little difficult to explain, but suffice to say the more you move your mouse around, the more secure your drive will be. Just do it for about 30 seconds or so, then click Format.

For my 160 GB USB drive, it took about an hour and half just to encrypt the outer volume. This is a one-off thing though, when you actually use the drive you need only enter the password.

Next, you need to copy some fake files to the encrypted disk. These can be anything, but ideally they should be private looking files, maybe some home movies – something you wouldn’t mind someone seeing if you were forced to reveal passwords. Warning: You shouldn’t write to this outer volume later, or your actual hidden volume may become corrupted. It is a fake storage container only to act as a diversion. Click on the button labelled Open Outer Volume, and start copying files in. Bear in mind that if you have a 1 TB drive and someone investigating finds only 100 MB of “secret” files, it may look a bit suspicious.

When you’re done copying, go back and click next. TrueCrypt will automatically unmount the drive and figure out how much space you have left for your real hidden volume. You can make it as large as you like, but I like to leave a little room on the outer drive in case someone were to accidentally write to it.

Make the outer volume in the same way, but this time make your password long, and really good. Include capital letters, lowercase letters, numbers and punctuation. A good tactic if you don’t like random passwords is to create a sentence around it like: 20MILLIONsecretF1l3$. When asked if you’ll be storing large files, I suggest you choose ‘yes’ as the world of computing moves rapidly, and even today some movies are over 4 GB in size. Best to future-proof the drive now.

Wait again while the outer volume is encrypted. You can now mount your secure hidden volume via TrueCrypt, as it won’t be mounted by default once the hidden volume is created. Just click Mount All Devices, and type in the correct password. You don’t need to type both your outer volume password and your hidden one – just the hidden one is fine.

If you leave your computer on a lot of the time, don’t forget to unmount the drive. After a restart or shutdown the computer, the volume will be automatically dismounted.


If you read through this far, then obviously you have something worth hiding, and by utilising a hidden encrypted volume, you give yourself a way out should things go awry. Why bother encrypting a drive if the big-brother police state you are living in has the power to legally demand the decryption keys, or send you to jail? Don’t be a sucker, just give them the wrong keys!

Download TrueCrypt and try it out.

Image credit: ShutterStock

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Facebook Finally Offers Users The Encryption They Deserve [News]

Posted: 30 Jan 2011 08:30 AM PST

If you’re an avid Facebook user then there’s one new feature you’ll probably want to enable straight away – the option to login, browse and do all your social networking worry-free, using a secure HTTPS connection to the server.

Facebook previously used HTTPS to handle logins, but from then on the site reverted to a non-secure version. Using the new setting found in the Account Security area under Account Settings (look for Secure Browsing) the whole session will be encrypted and less vulnerable to hijacking.

Users considered to be most at risk are those who regularly login from public access computers and unsecured wireless hot spots. If you do regularly use Facebook from any public places then we’d recommend changing to the HTTPS option as soon as you can.

As a consequence of the secure connection, pages may take longer to load than usual. There are also a large number of applications that are not yet compatible with the HTTPS.

In a blog post, Facebook’s Alex Rice said: “Some Facebook features, including many third-party applications, are not currently supported in HTTPS.

“We’ll be working hard to resolve these remaining issues. We are rolling this out slowly over the next few weeks, but you will be able to turn this feature on in your Account Settings soon. We hope to offer HTTPS as a default whenever you are using Facebook sometime in the future.”

Too little too late? Already had enough of Facebook?

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