Monday, January 3, 2011 “Cool Websites and Tools [January 2nd]” plus 6 more “Cool Websites and Tools [January 2nd]” plus 6 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [January 2nd]

Posted: 02 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.

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Labelert – Sometimes when you are in a hurry and on the go, you do not want to be bothered by unimportant emails on your phone. Unfortunately, there is no way to tell if the new email you have just received is essential or not so you have to open it first to find out. Labelert is an Android app that allows you to change the LED colors of your phone using the labels in your Gmail account. Read more: Labelert: An Email Notifier For Android That Changes The Color Of Your LED Screen


Bookmark Sentry – Bookmarks are a great way to save websites for visiting later. And now that they can be hidden away in folders, there is no telling how many of them point to old or deleted websites. If you are using Chrome however, Bookmark Sentry can clean up bookmarks for you. The extension scans all your bookmarks upon installation and identify the ones that point to a deleted website. You then have the option of manually deleting them from your browser with a single click. Read more: Bookmark Sentry: Clean Up Your Bookmarks (Chrome)



twtQpon – Is your company currently offering discount coupons? Are you looking for ways to market those coupons? If yes, then Twitter can be a great help. To market those special discount coupons on Twitter or other social networks, you can use twtQpon. twtQpon is a free to use web service that lets you create discount coupons and share them on Twitter. Using the site is very simple. Read more: twtQpon: Create Discount Coupons & Share On Online



Path – Some people consider online social networks a little too impersonal because many people have unimportant contacts in their Facebook/Twitter friends. But there is a personal social network out there that focuses on only those important people in your life by limiting the number of online friends you can keep. This network is Path, an online social network that currently works as an application compatible with the iPhone running iOS 4.0 or later. Read more: Path: A Personal Social Network For Real Friends Only



Conference Hound – Public conferences, meetings, and seminars cover a wide array of interesting topics. Just next week there might be a nearby conference about a topic you find interesting. Surely you would want to attend. To keep in touch with conferences related to your favorite subjects, head on over to conference locator ConferenceHound, a free and simple to use website that lists conferences. Read more: ConferenceHound: Nearby Conference Locator


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: 02 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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Hot Tech Deals [Jan 2nd]

Posted: 02 Jan 2011 05:32 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.

  1. HP G62x Intel Core i3-350M 2.26GHz 15.6in Laptop (4GB/500GB/Win7) $499.99
  2. Demon’s Souls Game (PS3) $14.99 Free Shipping
  3. TODAY ONLY Aluratek AIRMM01F Internet Radio Alarm Clock w/ Wifi $79.99 Free Shipping
  4. Tomtom XXL 540T Portable GPS Navigation (5in, Lane Guidance, Lifetime Traffic) $119.99 Free Shipping
  5. Sony Playstation 3 Slim 160GB w/ Uncharted 2 Game, Karate Kid Blu-Ray Movie $299.99 Free Shipping
  6. Compaq Presario AMD V140 Single-Core 2.3GHz 15.6in Laptop (2GB/250GB/Win7) $299.99
  7. Sony Dash HID-C10 Personal Internet Viewer 7in Touchscreen (Netflix, Pandora, MORE) $129.99 Free Shipping
  8. EVGA Geforce GTS450 1GB HDCP PCI-E Video Card (Overclocked, DX11) $89.99AR Free Shipping

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set

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Do You Live In The Cloud? [MakeUseOf Poll]

Posted: 02 Jan 2011 05:30 PM PST

Last week, we asked you all to tell us the best presents to buy a geek. It seems that most of you are pretty chuffed when someone buys you one of the latest tech gadgets.

We got 393 votes in total, with this breakdown: 17% want the latest tech gadgets; 13% want handy peripherals; 12% want something from their wishlist; 11% like gift vouchers; 8% want geek t-shirts; 7% want a geeky toy; 7% want computer games; 6% want books; 6% prefer tech magazine subscriptions; while things you’ve been researching, DVDs, snacks, board games and other excellent ideas all scored less than 4% each.

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

So, latest tech gadgets it is!

This week's poll question is: Do You Live In The Cloud?

Never in the cloud? Always in the cloud? Where do you stand?

The cloud/local debate will rage into eternity for all we know, but the most constructive thing we can all do is to give each other tips. What cloud storage do you use? Why? What will you never store in the cloud? Let us know in the comments!

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7 Useful Extensions For Chrome Users To Ditch Twitter Clients In Favour Of The New Website

Posted: 02 Jan 2011 02:31 PM PST

twitter chrome extensionWith Twitter pulling out all the stops to make their website as functional as possible, you might be inclined to ditch your third party client in favour of using the website instead. Some of the features include viewing images and videos directly on the website, hovering over shortened URLs reveal the full URL and conversations are much easier to follow.

There are definitely advantages to using the website – the most obvious of which is that it will use less resources on your computer.That said, you’ll find that there are quite a few features that Twitter has yet to implement on the website and they could easily be a deal breaker when it comes to making the switch. You’ll instantly lose notifications, integrated URL shortening and much more. Chrome users, however, have at their disposal a variety of extensions that will turn the Twitter website into the ultimate tweeting experience.


One of the first things you’ll miss if you decide to use the Twitter website as opposed to a client, is notifications. Want to be alerted when someone replies to your tweets, DMs you, or even when your feed is updated? Install the Twitter Chrome extension, Twitter Notifier and configure the extension, deciding which alerts you want to receive.

twitter chrome extension

Notifications appear at the top right hand corner of the screen, regardless of which website  or program you have open at the time.

Retweet Options

Retweeting seems to always be an issue when it comes to using the Twitter website. In the past, there was no way to quickly retweet, and you had to resort to the copy-and-paste method. Now, you can retweet, but only using Twitter’s updated version which only allows you to quote the entire tweet word for word. If you want to retweet the good old way, giving yourself a chance to edit, or add your own comment to the tweet, install the extension Retweet Old School. The extension adds a link to each tweet, next to Twitter’s native reply, retweet, and favourite buttons, that reads Retweet Old School.

twitter chrome plugin

Automatic Refresh

Another staple feature in most Twitter clients is that your feed automatically refreshes every so often so that you can instantly see the latest tweets from your friends. While the new Twitter website does let you know how many new tweets are waiting for you, rather than have to click a button, install Twitter Refresh and new tweets show up automatically.

Hide Recommendations

Twitter clients are blissfully devoid of follow recommendations, promoted Tweets, and everything else that Twitter has recently added to the sidebar. If you’d rather remove that content from Twitter, the Twitter Chrome extension Hide Twitter Guff will do the trick.

twitter chrome plugin

Anything promotional is automatically removed, but you can configure the extension to remove follow suggestions and Twitter trends.

twitter chrome addon Integration

If you’ve become accustomed to integration Twitter with your account, you’ll be happy to know that there is a quick and easy way to shorten URLs directly from the Twitter website, using PBTweet. If you have a account, entering your username and API key to the extension will ensure that you can also keep up on the stats for all the links you share.

twitter chrome plugin

After installing the extension, a new ‘Shorten URL’ link will appear under the status update box.


And that is just one of the extension’s features. In fact, it does offer some of the features that have already been covered, such as auto-refreshing your timeline, removing ads, old school retweeting, and growl notifications for mentions. Notifications are only useful however, if you happen to be on the Twitter website making Twitter Notifier a more useful extension as far as this feature is concerned. Additional features include translation options, and the resizing of fonts.

Filter Tweets

Want to remove a certain word from your timeline? Or possibly have a friend who’s live-tweeting a soccer match? You can temporarily remove certain words or users from your timeline with Tweet Filter. This extension really gives you a way to weed out tweets that aren’t of interest to you, and ensure that you don’t miss the tweets that count.


Upload Photos, Videos Or Files

TwitPlus gives you the capability to upload photos and videos directly from the Twitter website. The file sharing capability comes courtesy of YFrog.

twitter chrome extension

Other features include auto-refresh and integrated URL shortening. That said, as far as URL shortening is concerned, PBTweet seems like the better options because there is no authentication, and is not included on the list of shorteners available.

Would you ditch your favourite client for the Twitter website? Let us know in the comments.



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10 Free MP3 Albums To Download – New Year’s Edition [Sound Sunday]

Posted: 02 Jan 2011 11:31 AM PST

where can I download free mp3sWelcome to the first Sound Sunday edition in 2011!

As we enter 2011, which is going to be an exciting year, just as every year, we can dare to take a look back at some of the best music from the previous year. This edition features Best of 2010 compilations and samplers.

As always, the comments are open for you to share your thoughts on this week’s edition or  suggestions for future articles. You can also eMail me [tina at  makeuseof dot com]. Happy New Year!

SPIN – Best of 2010

Genre: compilation, alternative, rock, pop

legal downloadEvery month SPIN Magazine releases a playlist with some of the best new artists out there. For January they have released a Best of 2010 compilation including bands like The Gaslight Anthem, Yeasayer, and MGMT.

You can download SPIN’s Best of 2010 sampler from iTunes using the download code 77TJ7MPJ36WK. The code expires on January 31st 2011!

SPIN Homepage.

INQ Mag – Best of 2010

Genre: compilation, indie, ambient, electronic

free mp3 downloadINQ is a non professional, independent netaudio resource, dedicated to showcase free audio releases from netlabels and other sources. It is their belief that it’s not music that is in crisis, but the industry. To celebrate the growing amount of good free music and netlables, they have compiled a Best of 2010 album.

Download INQ Mag’s Best of 2010 from the FreeMusicArchive.

INQ Mag Homepage and Facebook.

WFMU – Best of 2010: Life from 43 Monty

Genre: compilation, rock

mp3 album downloadWFMU is an independent freeform station in New York and the Hudson Valley. The radio station regularly records live sets in their studios at 43 Montgomery Street in Jersey City, New Jersey. This album is a best of those live recordings.

Download Best of 2010: Life from 43 Monty from the FreeMusicArchive.

WFMU Homepage.

AllSaints & Clash – Best of 2010

Genre: sampler

free musicClash has teamed up with AllSaints Spitalfields to sponsor a Best of 2010 sampler that features  songs from 14 different artists, including The Phantom Band, Walls, The Gaslight Anthem, Maps & Atlases, and LCD Soundsystem.

Download the Best of 2010 sampler from the Clash Homepage.

Clash Homepage.

Pretty Much Amazing – Best Songs of 2010

Genre: mixed

how to download music freePretty Much Amazing, aka PMA, a free music blog, posted its Best Songs of 2010 as early as October 2010. The list contains 50 tunes, some of which you can download for free, a song at a time. Also check out their list of Best Albums of 2010.

Download PMA’s Best Songs of 2010 from the Pretty Much Amazing blog.

Pretty Much Amazing Blog.

Young & Research – Tough Love Sampler 2010

Genre: sampler, indie, electronica, li-fi, new wave, post punk, shoe gaze

Tough Love Records released this sampler in late summer 2010. It features the music of friends, family, old flames, and future lovers. They have also put to gether two Best of 2010 samplers, which you can download one tune at a time from their homepage: Part I and Part II.

The Tough Love Sampler 2010 is a free download from Bandcamp.

Tough Love Records Homepage.

Star Slinger – Remixes 2010

Genre: alternative, electronic, soul, easy listening, hip hop

Created by Nottinghamsire born Darren Williams in April 2010, Star Slinger has put out three full albums in just about 8 months. His August release Remixes 2010 was so well received that Darren was approached for official remixes by bands like The Go! Team, The Morning Benders, and Broken Social Scene.

Since Bandcamp limits free downloads, Star Slinger made Remixes 2010 a free download from MediaFire.

Star Slinger MySpace and Homepage.

Good Luck – Demonstration 2010

Genre: punk, pop

Bloomington, Indiana pop punk band Good Luck wrote their first song in a basement in April 2007. They have since released two albums, one being Demonstration 2010.

Demonstration 2010 is a name your price download from Bandcamp.

Good Luck MySpace and Homepage.

Gizeh Records – Winter 2010

Genre: ambient, experimental, neo-classical, post rock

Gizeh Records is an independent label based in Leeds, England. This free record label sampler features a selection of artists from the Gizeh roster, including some older songs and some from forthcoming releases.

The Winter 2010 sampler from Gizeh Records is a name your price download from Bandcamp.

Gizeh Records Homepage.

Forfolkssake – The Best of the FFS New Bands Panel 2010

Genre: folk

This old music website focuses on the folk scene in London, UK and beyond. With bands like Alessi’s Ark, Noah and the Whale, and Mumford & Sons folk music has made a return to the limelight. In their New Bands Panel, FFS introduces artists new to the scene.

The Best of the FFS New Bands Panel 2010 is a free download from Bandcamp. Unfortunately, you have to download the album one song at a time.

Forfolkssake MySpace and Homepage.

Enjoyed the selection and looking forward to more? In the meantime you should 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 that you don't want to post in the comments below.

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5 Microsoft Xbox Kinect Hacks That’ll Blow Your Mind

Posted: 02 Jan 2011 09:31 AM PST

kinect hackingThe Microsoft Xbox Kinect is undoubtedly a special bit of kit, and something we haven’t yet covered here on MakeUseOf (although Tim did recommend it in the 2010 MakeUseOf Holiday Gift Guide, and the Xbox 360 gets its fair share of coverage). Perhaps someone on the team will get one for Christmas, but until then I’m left with trailers and YouTube videos to get me excited!

What is it about the Kinect that’s so special? Isn’t it just like the waning Wii, or the more recent but somewhat flailing Playstation Move? Well, no actually – while the software and games Microsoft builds around it may as well be the same, the Kinect is especially interesting because of the incredible hardware inside of it.

Inside that little black… thing is a video camera, a scanning infra-red laser, an infra-red camera, a motorized tilt mechanism, and a noise canceling microphone! Phew! The infrared laser parts are perhaps the most groundbreaking, as they enable it to literally build a 3D layout of its surroundings, and you. Combined with a little processing power of the Xbox, it can recognise a human body shape, and use the movement of your body to control the game.

Since the Kinect plugs in the Xbox through USB, it was obvious to many that it could potentially be used by standard computers, and the race to hack it was on. Microsoft is also rumored to be toying with the idea of integrating the Kinect officially into Windows 8.

I thought now would be a good time to show you some of the amazing things that people have already managed to do with the Kinect, in a roughly chronological / order-of-awesomeness from a simple 3D live camera to an automated attack drone.

3D Video Camera

The first impressive hack to make use of the quickly knocked together open-source drivers, was Oliver Kreylos. He managed to take the video stream, and the 3D data, and combine it into a crazy 3D video stream. Just watch the video – though it may initially look a bit janky, you may very well be blown away when he begins to manipulate the camera angle.

Of course, when someone suggested 2 cameras to take care of the black “blind-spots”, he tried that too.

Optical Camouflage

Obviously, the next step after having established a 3D video stream is to then paint the person out of the video stream, effectively providing them with optical camouflage! Not quite sure what the use of this one would be, but a cool hack none the less.

Lightsaber Boy & Puppet Girl

Man, geeks are so predicatable sometimes. Give ‘em a camera, and soon enough they’ll want to pretend like they have a lightsaber. With the Kinect though – there’s no need for fancy post-production!

On the other end of the geek spectrum – by which I mean, the girls – there is an inherent desire to create something *cute*. The Kinect-powered shadow-puppet is a great first step.

The Quadrotor Autonomous Flight with Obstacle Avoidance

Perhaps one of the most incredible hacks yet is putting the thing a-top a quadrotor (a helicopter with 4 blades), and giving it a Linux brain = Autonomous flying death machine.

Messing With Your Mind

Finally, I’d thought I’d include this one for a bit of fun, even though it’s basically completely useless. Matt Bell took 2 3D video streams of the same physical space and combined them. Though it doesn’t sound so great, the video is incredibly well done, and the mutant objects created are quite fun. Enjoy!

Let us know if you got a Kinect for Christmas and what games you’re genuinely enjoying. My wife has promised we can get one for my birthday in February, and after watching all these I can’t wait!!

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