Friday, January 7, 2011 “Cool Websites and Tools [January 6th]” plus 12 more “Cool Websites and Tools [January 6th]” plus 12 more

Link to

Cool Websites and Tools [January 6th]

Posted: 06 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!


Respelt – Most bloggers and content creators can be very obsessive with spelling. As writers, we do not want our articles to get nit-picked by the wrong spelling and ruin an awesome article. One tool that can manage your spell checks is Respelt. This web app lets you check the spelling of your articles and notify you so that you can correct them quickly. Read more: Respelt: Auto Spell Checks Your Website & Sends eMail Alerts


TwileShare – If you want to share a file on Twitter, you first need to upload a file to a file hosting service. Next you obtain the file's URL and shorten it. Finally you Tweet the shortened URL and share the file with your friends. This time consuming process has now been speeded up with cool online app "TwileShare." It is a free web service that uploads your files and lets you Tweet their shortened URL at the same time. Read more: TwileShare: Upload Files & Share On Twitter In A Single Step



Hotpot – People are increasingly relying on web apps to help them find great locations. Whether you want to discover a new restaurant or an important landmark on your vacation, you instantly refer to the Internet. Recognizing this, Google has now launched a wonderful search feature targeting location results – Hotpot. Read more: Hotpot: Find & Rate Locations Using Google Hotpot



Twibies – Are you a developer working on a Twitter-related product? If yes then you will surely appreciate Twitter-like icons and themes that you can incorporate into your product. For such free twitter icons and icons, pay a visit to Twibies, a great website that showcases the best and free Twitter icons and themes. Simply browse the thumbnail images available on the site's homepage until you find one you like. Read more: Twibies: Download & Use Free Twitter Icons & Themes



Online Wordsearch – The Internet is filled with websites dedicated to entertaining you whenever you are bored. Many of these websites are interactive and let you play games. Online Word Search is one such website. It offers free to play word games online. The games are the equivalent of the popular word searching puzzles usually found in newspapers. Read more: OnlineWordSearch: Solve Popular Word Puzzles 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.

Follow MakeUseOf on Twitter. Includes cool extras.



Similar MakeUseOf Articles

The Spring Project – An Open Source Strategy Game Engine With An Impressive Selection of Free Games

Posted: 06 Jan 2011 05:31 PM PST

strategy game engineSpawned off the back of popular real-time strategy (RTS) game Total Annihilation, Spring is an open source freeware strategy game engine designed to run on Windows and Linux, with a Mac version still under development.

Developers can take the engine and use it as they please, without having to pay the creators any money for the licence. This has helped the Spring engine build up a roster of games that will please even the most seasoned RTS fan.

There are also a selection of commercial projects, but it’s the free ones I’ll be focusing on in this article.

The Engine

Licensed under the GNU GPL, the engine is free to download, use and adapt upon. The development team comprises of community members who have surpassed the project’s initial aims of bringing Total Annihilation into 3D, with support for all the mods and third-party extras the original could handle.

Spring is a desirable platform for developers as it has evolved to support some fairly advanced features and is limited solely by the hardware you have available. Within one arena there is support for up to 30,000 units with 250 players taking part with deformable maps, realistic weapon trajectories and varied units, economy and maps.

strategy game engine

In order to play games that make use of the Spring RTS engine, you’ll need a minimum of: 1GHz single core CPU, 512MB of RAM and a graphics card with 64MB of VRAM. The minimum install is 200MB, and this depends on what else you’re after (be it extra maps, units or add-ons).

If you really want to get the most out of the engine then these requirements shoot up to a 2GHz processor, 1GB or more RAM and a 256MB GeForce 6600 or better. Your install directory can also reach several gigabytes if you’re determined to try the lot, so make sure you’ve got space.

Installing Games

For Windows the install process is fairly straightforward. You simply need to download the Spring installer executable, run it and you’ll be able to choose from a selection of games to install as optional components during the install procedure.

You are also able to download maps and mods from a link within the Spring client. This community-made video explains the ins and outs of getting to grips with the Windows setup procedure and the client in general:

For Linux users there is a setup guide to follow, and if you’re using Ubuntu or a package that uses Synaptic then you only need to punch a couple of lines into the console before you’ll be playing.

Note: Linux users will need to add the Spring repository and install (or update) from there to use the latest versions.

Ubuntu users can open Terminal and use:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:spring/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade

Some games have their own individual installers, but for most you’ll simply need to place the main game files in your Spring "mods" folder and maps into the "maps" folder.

Whilst many of the games are focused on pure multiplayer mayhem, some have single player campaigns and full support for bots so you can play on your own if you feel like it.

The Games

Here’s a selection of four of my favourite Spring derivatives. Some of these are stable and popular titles whereas others show promise and demonstrate what the Spring engine is really capable of. You can download more at SpringFiles, or check out the official Spring games page.

Balanced Annihilation

Currently the most popular game utilising the Spring strategy game engine, Balance Annihilation provides players with a very in-depth, tactical and competitive online battlefield. The game is home to many refugees from the original Total Annihilation and new players are encouraged to read this guide before jumping in.

spring strategy game

Regarded as a mature and well-developed game, updates now only include minor tweaks as opposed to big upgrades. Tactical options open to each player invariably shape the way each game is played out, with strategies focusing on map control, air superiority and aggression amongst others.

Spring: 1944

Still under development, the only World War II themed Spring game to date has a keen following thanks to the aspirations of the development team. Eventually the team would like to create four playable sides (Britain, the US, Germany and the USSR) with historically accurate units and attributes.

spring strategy game

At present you can play with German and British troops, which is good enough for a very tactical game of toy soldiers. Like many of the other Spring games, 1944 strives for realism so you might benefit from reading the documentation first.


Once known as Complete Annihilation, Zero-K is another dynamic and action packed RTS that promises to provide hassle-free tactical gameplay. Perhaps the most impressive aspect are the hundreds of available units that shape your tactical choices, and the game’s eventual outcome.

spring strategy game

Whilst continuing to be a very in-depth game, aspects are simplified like the streamlined economy which requires careful monitoring of resources but little in the way of micromanagement. Zero-K makes for a very balanced and approachable game in an often over-complicated genre. As always, if it’s your first game you’ll probably benefit from reading the guide.

Star Wars: Imperial Winter

Completely free and unofficial, this non-Lucas Arts RTS is set in the politically unstable post-Return of the Jedi universe and should keep even the most dedicated Star Wars fans happy.

strategy game engine

With more than a hundred units available for either the Rebel Alliance or Galactic Empire, this free community-driven project attempts to provide more units than any game released under the Star Wars guise yet.

Currently in beta, this one’s worth keeping an eye on if you’re a strategy-obsessed fan of the Force.


Whilst many of the games on the Spring strategy game engine are still in need of time, developers and refinement – some are ready for you to play right now. If you are an avid RTS fan, longing for a decent multiplayer effort to latch onto then there’s bound to be something using this engine that ticks the box. Hopefully the Mac version will be stable enough for a proper release soon.

Do RTS games do it for you? Have you got any favourite Spring based games and maps? Let us know in the comments.

Follow MakeUseOf on Twitter. Includes cool extras.



Similar MakeUseOf Articles

Critique My Photo Please: How To Get Useful Feedback On Your Photography

Posted: 06 Jan 2011 04:31 PM PST

photography feedbackWith digital photography, it's easy to take photos, but it's harder to take and make great images. Photography is an art form, not just a set of mechanical skills you apply to get great results. The Internet provides a wealth of resources for learning the art and skills of good photography. Besides taking photography courses and reading books and how-to articles, getting constructive feedback on your photos is another useful way to see what you're doing well and what you could improve upon in shooting photos.

Many photo sharing sites include a way for viewers of your images to leave comments on your posts. If you post your photos on your blog you may also get useful feedback. But getting constructive critiques of your work requires some effort.

So the point of this article is to share a few useful groups and tips for getting constructive feedback on your images. These resources are limited to my experience and research on the photo sharing site,, so please share ones you have found useful. Groups

By far the best place to get constructive feedback that I know of are in groups. When you become a member of Flickr and post lots of photos on a regular basis, you eventually start to build a large friend's base that will typically provide positive feedback on images posted in your photostream. Typical comments include, "Nice shot," "lovely capture," "excellent," "very well done."

photography feedback

While these comments are great – I sure appreciate getting them – they're not constructive feedback. To have your photos critiqued on Flickr, you need to join and participate in several dedicated critical feedback groups. Here’s a few I know of:


The Flickr group, Critique, is one of the most popular and general critique groups I discovered. It has 7,000 members and over 8,000 discussion threads. After joining the group, you simply start a discussion thread with your selected photo and request feedback. Here's an example.

feedback on photography

The type of photos and topics posted in discussion threads are varied. Members give feedback on lighting techniques, photo composition, macro shots, depth of field, exposure techniques, etc.  While some photos receive as many as ten comments, others may only receive one or two, but all feedback seems generally supportive.

Truly Constructive Criticism

This group has a little over 1,100 members and about the same amount of discussion threads. It's open to both amateur and professional photographers.

feedback on photography

The rules for the group are simple: post one, critique one. When you provide good constructive feedback to members' photos, you will gradually build a stronger, trusting friends base that will likewise provide you with the feedback you're seeking.

feedback on photography

If you take a look at the photo pool of Truly Constructive Criticism you will see that members are not generally posting their best work. They’re posting photos for which they truly want real critiques, not images that have already received lots of variable feedback in their photostream.

Critique This!

This group has nearly 3,500 members, with 1,747 discussion threads. You don't have to be a photo expert to join this group. It's works like Truly Constructive, requiring you to provide as much critique as you receive.

image feedback

As with other groups, discussion threads typically start out like this: "I am a new member of Flickr and I’ve just started taking some portraits. What do you think of my shots? If you could give me advice or comments, it would help me a lot."

Sometimes however, it's useful to request specific feedback on a photo. You might ask members to critique the composition, lighting, or the post processing of photos. You should let them know what you were trying to achieve by taking the photo, and if they think you accomplished your goal.

The Portfolio Pro

Portfolio Pro Critique is a more advanced critique group with over 1,600 members and almost 800 discussion threads. The photos in this group typically are more advanced or professional than what exists in the other groups. However, the group is not limited to professional photographers.

image feedback

The posting and critiquing of photos is more structured for this group. When you post an image to the pool, members use a well designed Portfolio Pro Critique Template. The feedback on the template is converted to HTML code which can be pasted into the comment field of the photo being critiqued. The template itself helps generate very thoughtful critique.

Portfolio Pro also includes great weekly photo contests and challenges, and it's also in the process of producing a book based on selections from its membership. If you're serious about great photography, this group is well worth checking out.

Feedback Tips

  • When posting a photo for critique, it's a good idea to ask for specific feedback, instead of asking, "What do you think?" Instead, you might ask about the framing of the shot, the use of external lighting, the post processing, or how well the subject was captured.
  • Likewise when critiquing a photo, be as specific as possible in your feedback. Start off with something positive to say about the image, and then critique how the image could have been shot better. Always try to provide suggestions for improvements.

photography feedback

  • You might consider posting two or more versions of a photo and asking members which one is the best and why.
  • Provide more critiques than you receive. Members are more trusting of you if they see you are an active member of the group, rather than someone who only shows up when you want feedback.

Do you find getting constructive feedback on your photos is helpful to you as a photographer? What websites or other resources do you use to get your photos critiqued? If you want to learn more about digital photography, check out these MUO articles, and also download my MUO Guide to Digital Photography.

Image credit:

Do you like MakeUseOf articles? Don’t forget to share our articles with others! It’s really important to us.



Similar MakeUseOf Articles

5 Tools To Escape The 140 Character Limit Anywhere

Posted: 06 Jan 2011 03:31 PM PST

140 character limit Did you ever wonder why text messages on your mobile phone are limited to 160 characters?

The first text message was sent in 1992 and texting soon became a mass phenomenon. Subsequently, the magic number of 160 characters was adopted for other forms of communication and today we see similar character limits on micro blogging platforms like Twitter or Plurk. Twitter for example, reserves 20 characters for user names, hence bringing the limit down to 140 characters.

In the age of information overflow and short attention spans, the limit is a blessing because it forces brevity. On the other hand, a lot of information is lost. Fortunately, there are ways to escape the character limit. Below I will introduce 5 services that let you share text, images, videos, code, or formulas anywhere using a short URL. You don’t even have to sign up.


By far the most popular service is TinyPaste. You can share text, images, videos, or code snippets using a short URL. Each paste can be protected with a password and you can set it to self-delete after 30 minutes to 3 months. If you would like to manage your pastes, i.e. edit or delete them after posting, you have to sign up.

140 character limit

Standard Features:

  • WYSIWYG text editor.
  • insert images, videos, and code snippets.
  • no character limit.
  • set password.
  • set paste to prune / self-delete after 30 minutes to 3 months.
  • receive short URL to share paste.

Login Features:

  • manage pastes.



With shortText you can share up to 30,000 characters, link images and videos, and set a key for private access. The service provides no login option, making it perfectly simplistic. However, it has one key feature that distinguishes it from TinyPaste: you can enable comments.

twitter 140 character limit


  • BB Code tag / rich text support.
  • link images or videos.
  • 30,000 character limit.
  • allow comments.
  • set key to make text private.
  • receive short URL to share text.


If you find shortText too simplistic, but like the idea of comments, try CopyTaste. In addition to making your snippets interactive, you can also embed videos and upload photos from your hard drive to create a gallery. Before you can ‘TasteIt’, i.e. submit your post, you are asked to specify whether your snippet is safe for work and select a language. You may also set tags. To manage your posts, you can sign up or log in with your Google, Yahoo, MySpace, Windows Live, Twitter, Facebook, and several other accounts.

twitter 140 character limit

Standard Features:

  • WYSIWYG text editor.
  • add URLs.
  • upload photos.
  • share video URL or embed code.
  • allow comments.
  • set password.
  • tag posts.
  • receive short URL to share data.

Login Features:

  • login using Google, Facebook, Twitter, OpenID, or other existing accounts.
  • manage posts.
  • profile page.
  • blog page.
  • inbox.


  • Internet Explorer and Firefox Toolbar.


With the united features of the above services we should have covered just about anything,  right? Wrong! There is a geeky reason why JustPaste.It made this list: you can enter mathematical formulas using LaTeX. Moreover, you can upload photos, embed videos, import text files from your computer, and export the result to PDF.  Best of all, while you edit your post, it is saved every 3 minutes, so you don’t have to worry about losing anything.

twitter 140 character limit


  • WYSIWYG editor.
  • HTML editor.
  • automatic backup every 3 minutes while editing.
  • upload photos.
  • embed videos.
  • import .doc, .rtf, and .odt files.
  • insert mathematical formulas with LaTeX.
  • export to PDF.
  • create custom page name.
  • receive short URL to share what you pasted.

Finally, here is a highly simplistic tool for occasions when you just want to share a text snippet from a single webpage.

What you do is enter the URL of the page that contains the piece of text you want to share. In the next step loads the page and you highlight the respective paragraph. You can also browse through available images to add a thumbnail. To comment your selection you can log in using Twitter or Facebook or email your snip. As with all these services, you receive a short URL. Your snip appears in the foreground of the source page. Closing the snip reveals the underlying page and the snip can be loaded again through the toolbar.

140 character limit


  • share text from any website.
  • receive a short URL to share snips.

Login Features:

  • log in using Facebook or Twitter.
  • add personal comment.
  • view recent snips.
  • RSS feed for your snips.


If you do not suffer from a short attention span, you’re probably still wondering why your text messages are limited to 160 characters. The limit was set in the 1980s, when a team of European engineers invented the short message service (SMS) and defined its standards. Back in the days, bandwidth was very limited, so they had to determine a manageable yet reasonable amount of characters. One fine day in 1985, Friedhelm Hillebrand experimented with random short sentences and questions on his typewriter. Most of his messages turned out to count just under 160 characters – the magic number [Source: Los Angeles Times].

A selection of Twitter-specific services are summarized in Bakari’s article 6 Tools That Allow You To Write Longer Twitter Tweets.

How do you manage to compress your life experiences into 140 – 160 characters?

Image credits: ARENA Creative

Got Questions? Ask Them Now FREE on MakeUseOf Answers!



Similar MakeUseOf Articles

How To Downgrade Your iPad From iOS 4.2 to 3.2.2 & Jailbreak It

Posted: 06 Jan 2011 02:30 PM PST

Did you upgrade your iPad to iOS 4.2 and are now regretting it? Are you tired of waiting for a decent jailbreak to come out for 4.2?

Well, I was; so last week I decided to downgrade back to 3.2.2. Read on if you’d like to do the same.

Will I miss all the incredible new features that 4.2 brought with it? Not really – let’s recap what exactly they were.

  • Air Printing: Was canceled anyway, and support is limited to a few new HP printer models.
  • Folders: Sure, I’ll miss that. But not in a life-changing way.
  • Mute button: Absolutely not – give me a physical screen lock button any day!
  • “Multi-tasking”: Quick switching between Safari and other apps was about all this was good for, otherwise the majority of the apps I use already save their state when they are closed. Also, collecting apps in the never ending multitasking screen really annoys me. Frankly, I never wanted them to multitask in the first place – having to close them manually? No, thank you.
  • Incompatibilities: Perhaps the best feature of 4.2 are those critical apps you have that now crash!

The process is surprisingly simple, and will work on both Windows or Mac.

NOTE: Downgrading will mean you cannot restore from your current iPad backup, so you will have to start from scratch without your most recent settings – unless you have a restore saved from before the 4.2 upgrade, as I do.

Disclaimer: Jailbreaking is never a 100% safe process, but we will only ever relate to you what has worked for us. However, I can tell you as a veteran iPhone and iPad jailbreaker, there were numerous occasions when I thought that I bricked my device but there has always been a solution. As a general rule though, if you cannot afford to buy another one should the worst happen, you should stay away from hacking any kind of hardware.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s start the actual tutorial.

Step 1: Restore to iOS 3.2.2

Download the 3.2.2 firmware (official Apple link) and save it somewhere.

Edit your hosts file to include the following line – this will redirect attempts by Apple to verify your restore.

For Windows users

Open Notepad with Administrator privileges by right-clicking on the notepad icon in your start menu and clicking “Run As Administrator”. From within notepad, open the HOSTS file located at C:/WINDOWS/system32/drivers/etc

Add the following line at the end of the file, then save.

Done, move on to step 3.

For Mac users

Open up a Finder window and from the “Go” menu, choose “Go to Folder”. Type in the following, and enter when the dialog appears:


From there, find and open the “hosts” file with TextEditor. Add this line at the end of the file. You will get a warning about the file being read only, just edit anyway.

Save the file to your desktop, then drag the one you saved into the /etc folder to overwrite the read-only one. You will need to authenticate as an Admin user to do this.

Turn your iPad off, then hold down the power and home keys simultaneously for 10 seconds. After 10 seconds, keep holding the Home button, but release the Power button. Your iPad will enter what is known as DFU mode, and iTunes will ask you to restore the firmware from somewhere. Do not let iTunes download and install the latest firmware for you.

Option-click on restore (Mac) or Shift-click on Restore (Win) to bring up the choose a firmware file dialog. Choose the 3.2.2 firmware file you downloaded and saved to your desktop earlier.

This worked fine for me first time, but others have reported getting an error along the lines of “The iPad could not be restored. An unknown error occurred (1004)” or “iTunes has detected an iPad in recovery mode. You must restore this iPad before it can be used with iTunes“. In this case, download TinyUmbrella from here, run it, and click on the “Kick Device Out Of Recovery” button.

Step 2: Jailbreak 3.2.2

Now that you’re back on 3.2.2, don’t bother restoring from your backup yet if you’d like to jailbreak that thing too. We’ve covered jailbreaking via methods before, but I’m going to add these instructions here because they worked for me, specifically on the iPad.

  1. Download limera1n from this page, run the app, and click “make it rain”.
  2. After a while, the button will change to “hold power and home button”. Do so, and be ready for the next step.
  3. After about ten seconds, the app will tell you to “release the power button, but keep holding home”. Do so, and your iPad will enter recovery mode, Limera1n will install its happiness onto your iPad, and all will be good with the world once again. When everything has finished, your iPad will be off.

  4. Turn it on, and connect the iPad to your Wi-fi network as your settings would have been deleted.
  5. Once connected, launch the Limerain app (the app will be installed onto your second home screen, not first, don’t panic! Also, the icon may be blank).
  6. Select Cydia, then hit the Install button.

  7. You should now have Cydia. Congratulations, your iPad is jailbroken. Just to be on the safe side, perform a reboot before running Cydia for the first time. You can restore from a backup if you have one.

Download links

Hope that this tutorial was useful to some of you who upgraded and regretted it. We will, of course, show you how to jailbreak your iPad on iOS 4.2 once a suitably-tested and established method has been released, but sadly that day has not yet come at the time of writing and downgrading was simply the only option for me.

Please post in the comments if you’re having problems within the scope of this article, and I’ll try to help as best I can. If you’re question is more a general jailbreak question, or related to other firmware version, search the site or ask away in MakeUseOf Answers.

Do you like MakeUseOf articles? Don’t forget to share our articles with others! It’s really important to us.



Similar MakeUseOf Articles

Memolane: Set Up Your Own Online Time Machine (250 Beta Invites Available!)

Posted: 06 Jan 2011 01:31 PM PST

online time machineHave you ever wanted to browse through all of your online activities by date? Do you think a calendar-style lifestream would be awesome? Well, that’s what we’ve got for you today.

Memolane is the newest incarnation of a lifestream, which displays your online life in a most promising way. It basically takes all of your online data and arranges it by date so that you or your friends can browse through it at leisure — and it looks great!

Online Time Machine Memolane

Take a nostalgic look at your tweets, the YouTube videos you liked or uploaded and your Flickr pictures all mixed in with your blog posts and other updates. Want to know what you were laughing about in September? Well, just scroll back there. It’s easy! Check out the Memolane video below to see how it works.

Join The Memolane Beta

Memolane is still in private beta, but we’ve managed to get hold of 250 invites for MakeUseOf readers. Just quote the invite code makeuseof to get involved.

Beta Warning!

If you choose to join Memolane, please remember what it means to still be in the beta stage. This means some things aren’t quite working right and not all problems are completely ironed out.

For example, one big problem I noticed which they’re working on right now is that sometimes privacy settings from your authenticated services aren’t recognised. This means you may see private Facebook events or Flickr pictures showing in your Memolane.

For now, there are a few wise privacy tips to ensure you don’t accidentally share too much:

  • Keep your Memolane profile private.
  • Don’t authenticate services which have private information stored.

Setting Up Memolane

It’s really easy to add services using verified authentication or RSS feeds. In a matter of seconds, you’ve got a beautiful profile set up — it’s quite simple to do! I don’t think it needs spelling out — just give it a go.

online time machine

It’s also very easy to search for your friends by name or email address.

Navigating Memolane

There’s a left/right arrow for browsing your timeline, which is very easy to understand. When you reach a day with lots of posts, you can scroll up and down to see the rest of them. It’s very intuitive and quick.

time machine web archive


Memolane allows you to segregate parts of your timeline into stories. Look in the top right to start creating your stories. Choose a name, then start adding memos to your story from your timeline. This tells Memolane which of your updates belong to that story, then Memolane can create a timeline just for that story.

time machine web archive

If you know other Memolane users you can work together to make stories. For instance, if you went on a holiday together and were both uploading photos and Tweeting about fun things you did, this would make a great story.

online time machine

Similar Services

There are many other lifestreaming services out there, like FriendFeed and Soup, but Memolane is the first I’ve seen to create the lifestream in a format so perfect for memorabilia. Competitors may arise, but for now Memolane are in a league of their own. Even if you’re just looking for a convenient way to back up your tweets and browse them easily, this is a great tool.

More Reading

If you’re into lifestreams, you might like these articles:

Use one of the beta invites to sign up for Memolane and then let us know in the comments what you think of it.

Do you like MakeUseOf articles? Don’t forget to share our articles with others! It’s really important to us.



Similar MakeUseOf Articles

Hot Tech Deals [Jan 6th]

Posted: 06 Jan 2011 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.

  1. Western Digital Caviar Green 2TB Internal SATA Hard Drive $69.99AR Free Shipping
  2. TODAY ONLY Intel Pentium E6600 Wolfdale 3.06GHz CPU + Gigabyte P43 Motherboard + MORE $294.99AR
  3. TODAY ONLY Dell IN1920 19 inch Widescreen LCD Monitor $89.99 Free Shipping
  4. Seagate FreeAgent Theater Plus 1080p High Definition Media Player w/ Netflix Streaming $44.99 Free Ship via code EMCKJKD37 (Exp Soon)
  5. Newegg Memory Sale (10% Off Most HDDs and Notebook Memory) via code EMCKJKD38 (Exp 1/6)
  6. Sharp AQUOS LC-55LE620UT 55in LED-Edgelit LCD HDTV (1080p, 120Hz) $1179.99 Free Shipping
  7. Dell Vostro 3300 Intel Core i3-370M 2.4GHz 13.3in Laptop (Aluminum, 2GB/250GB) $599
  8. Dell Vostro 3500 Intel Core i3 2.4GHz 15.6in Laptop (Aluminum, 2GB/250GB/Win7) $529 Free Overnight Shipping

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set

Hey Facebookers, make sure to check out MakeUseOf page on Facebook. Over 24,000 fans already!



Similar MakeUseOf Articles

Make Your Windows PC More Mac-Like With maComfort

Posted: 06 Jan 2011 11:31 AM PST

windows mac likeTry as they may, Mac users can’t always completely avoid Windows. Happily, there’s a single program capable of bringing Mac’s keyboard shortcuts, corner activation, quick previewing and virtual desktops to Microsoft’s operating system. It’s called maComfort, and it’s designed to make using Windows less painful for Mac users.

Sorry: you’re still going to need anti-virus software.

Whether you have to use a Windows computer for work or need to dual-boot OS X and Windows to run certain software, constantly having to switch between two sets of keyboard shortcuts and settings can be a little tiring. This program won’t turn your Windows computer into a Mac, but it will make using Windows that much easier for you. Heck, even if you’ve never used a Mac some of these features are nice to have. Check them out!


Mac users know that, when using Finder, they can press “Space” to quickly preview any file. With maComfort, you can have this in Explorer:

windows mac like

For me it only worked for pictures, but even if you can’t open a given file with it, consider it a really quick way to see information about a file.

In my recent article about Gloobus, a Quick Look Tool for Linux I was asked whether anything like this existed for Windows. As it turns out, it does; just install maComfort and you’re covered.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Mac systems feature different keyboard shortcuts than Windows, which gets really confusing for people constantly switching between the two systems. Since Mac shortcuts mostly revolve around the “open Apple” key, and because the “Windows” key in Windows is largely unused, it’s easy for a given program to make the Mac shortcuts work without disabling the default Windows ones.

windows mac like menu

This is exactly how maComfort works with keyboard shortcuts. If you enable this function your Windows button will function largely as the open Apple button. You can even change the shortcuts, if you want.


Move your mouse to a given corner; something happens. Many Mac users expect this functionality, but Windows doesn’t provide it. With maComfort, however, you have it.

windows mac like menu

Any of these corners can trigger applications, shut down the computer, show the desktop, or open a given folder. Not too useful in my opinion, but many Mac users seem to like it.


With OS X 10.5 Mac users got what Linux users have had for long over a decade: multiple desktops. Thanks to maComfort, Windows users can have this too (for some reason there’s still no such functionality built into Windows). Configuration is easy:

windows mac like

You can set up as many desktops as you want, and customize your keyboard shortcut; just like on the Mac.


None of these features are the best part of OS X, but they are ones Mac users come to expect. Happily it’s now possible to have them all in a Windows environment.

Go ahead and download maComfort. You’ll notice a free version and a paid version. The free version includes everything described above; the paid version includes skins and some other features.

Is this useful to you? Tell us why. Alternatively you can call me an Apple fanboy for ever thinking this is useful. That’s a very useful way to spend your time.

Do you like MakeUseOf articles? Don’t forget to share our articles with others! It’s really important to us.



Similar MakeUseOf Articles

5 Reasons You May Want To Keep & Use MSN Gaming Zone

Posted: 06 Jan 2011 10:31 AM PST

msn gaming zoneSo you purchased a new Windows computer and it came installed with a link on the desktop or in the Accessories & Games folder. This tends to irritate a lot of users that really don’t appreciate unwanted software or weblinks getting pre-installed on their computer.

It is especially irritating to new computer users. You can delete the folder in Program Files, or delete the desktop shortcuts, but no matter what, it will always come back. Many people assume you can’t uninstall the MSN Gaming Zone links and just decide to leave well enough alone.

In Windows 7, as you did in Windows XP, you still get the games folder and a link to MSN Gaming Zone, but these days more people know how to remove those if you really want to. If you don’t know, I’ll show you how. However, beyond removing the games, I’m actually going to go over some of the useful features of MSN Gaming Zone and try to change your mind about removing those links.

How MSN Games Are Installed On Your Computer

All of the games pre-installed within the “Games” folder are MSN Games and each provide some link to Microsoft’s online Games. Some of these only provide links to MSN Gaming Zone within the Help menu, but the Internet Games directly connect to the Zone. Of course there’s also a direct link entitled “More Games from Microsoft” buried between the games.

msn gaming zone

If you are dead set against having these Microsoft Games on your computer, it is possible to get rid of them even though they don’t show up under “Uninstall Programs” in the Control Panel.  For older operating systems, look under “Add/Remove Windows Components“, or in Windows 7 you can just click on “Turn Windows features on or off“.

gaming zone msn

As you can see, Games is right at the top of the list. Just deselect that box and those Games will disappear. However, before you do that, just hear me out. I know everyone is supposed to hate the big and nasty Microsoft beast, but I’m going to show you a few cool things about the MSN Gaming Zone that may make you change your mind and actually start playing around with some of these games.

6 Cool Features Of The MSN Gaming Zone

Within your Games folder go ahead and click on that “More Games” link. It’s okay, I won’t tell anyone – it’ll be our little secret. Once you connect to the MSN Game Zone, click on “More Free Games“.

gaming zone msn

Now you’re inside the new and improved MSN Gaming Zone. The appearance of the site has changed significantly from the old classic version, but everything is still here. Let me show you around.

Win Cash & Prizes

It’s true, you can enter the Sweepstakes every day and earn some real world prizes. I’m not saying it’s easy to win, but it is possible and some of the prizes are pretty cool.

This area is known as the “Prize Corner,” where Microsoft gives away about $10,000 a month in total cash and prizes to winners. You don’t really have to do a whole lot to win, just remember to log in and spin the wheel to enter daily.

gaming zone msn

Winning here means that you won an entry. The more often you enter, the greater your chances are to win a prize, it’s as simple as that.

Compete In MSN Messenger

With some games, you can even integrate them with your Messenger chat and play games with friends while you’re chatting. This is actually a lot of fun, especially with things like card games or puzzles. If you can’t visit someone in person to play games and chat, this really is the next best thing. Just start at the listing page and choose the game.

msn game zone

Click Start Game and you can play the game with one of your Live Messenger contacts.

Other Cool Features

Aside from playing the thousands of free games that you’ll find throughout the MSN Gaming Zone, there are also a few other features that will get you addicted to this game site in no time. Click on the Trophy icon, and you’ll see the Leaderboards.

msn game zone

While it’ll take a bit of work (or play) to get to the top of the overall MSN leaderboard, once you have a few friends playing the same games, you’ll be able to see their scores and try to beat them! If you connect to the Gaming Zone through your Facebook account, the Zone displays your friend’s status updates right on the main page.

msn game zone

If you scroll about halfway down the main page, you’ll see some quick-links to the major categories of games. One of the best links if you always like access to the latest, recently released online games is “The Latest.” Here, you’ll discover the newest games available that you can play right away and share with your friends.

msn gaming zone

Now, I’m not saying that the MSN Gaming Zone is better than any other online game site, but I am saying that it really doesn’t get its due. The new site is well integrated with Facebook and Live Messenger, and you’ll find real cash prizes and some of the coolest free games – this site really deserves a second look.

Do you play the MSN Gaming Zone, or do you have other online game sites that you like better? Share your opinion in the comments section below.

Got Questions? Ask Them Now FREE on MakeUseOf Answers!



Similar MakeUseOf Articles

The Best Linux Web Server Software (& Apache Alternatives)

Posted: 06 Jan 2011 09:31 AM PST

linux web server softwareSince the protocol that runs the world wide web – the HTTP protocol – is open and viewable to the entire world, anyone with the programming knowledge is able to write their own web server. In fact Wikipedia lists over 60 web servers and those are only the ones released to the public. So which is the best one that you should run on your Linux server?

To be able to determine the ‘best’ one we need to look at several factors. Ultimately it depends on what your end goal is since some web servers are geared towards a kind of client, others for speed and others for security. The main factors we are going to look at are reliability, speed, security and ease of use.

A lot of web servers will make claims to being the “king” of one or more of these factors. However I believe the proof is in the pudding and if you look at actual web server usage across the internet you get a better idea of the wisdom of the crowds. Netcraft has been keeping track of web server types, hostnames and other data since 1995 and is a great way to see what the current trends are in web server usage.

Here is their web server usage survey up until December 2010:

linux web server software

Of the top web servers in current use, Microsoft’s web server IIS is the only pure-Windows one. Apache by and large is the most widely used web server software based on the number of users. It is also good to note that it is cross-platform and will run on both Windows and Linux systems.

Rounding out the top of the list we have Other (all other web server software), Google (who uses their own private custom server software), nginx and lighttpd. The three I will detail as the best Linux web server software are lighttpd, nginx and Apache.


web server softwareLighttpd (pronounced “Lighty”) was born out of a desire to create a fast, secure and reliable web server with a small memory footprint. From a functional standpoint it works much the same as Apache, the most widely used web server, but with less memory used on busy servers and also greater throughput when pushed to its limit. It currently powers several extremely high traffic websites such as Wikipedia and YouTube.

Configuration is done very similar to Apache (which most people are used to) however the syntax is very different. Their documentation is very thorough and will guide you though any setup tasks you need. There are also many how-tos available online which can help you through the setup of the server depending on your OS or you can check Google for specific details.

Lighttpd is a good web server for those looking to set up a machine with not a lot of memory available or who hope to scale their traffic easier using higher powered software.


web server softwareNginx is bit of a different beast. While it does work as normal it is mainly utilized across higher trafficked websites as a web proxy; in other words when a user visits the nginx server with their browser it will send the request to other servers on its own private network depending on the type of content requested.

The documentation available is not clear for beginners, but once you get to know the ins and outs of nginx you will see how powerful it is especially when running larger sites. The best how-tos are available over at Howtoforge and you may need to do some Googling to find specific instructions for your situation.

Apache HTTP Server

linux web server softwareThe Apache HTTP Server is by and large the most popular web server on the Internet running on almost 60% of all web servers and also the one we now compare all others to. Apache’s security, stability and flexibility is why most web server administrators choose it and Apache has proven itself over the long run.

Configuration is well documented and innumerable how-tos and walk-throughs are available for someone just getting started with it. If you are new to web servers Apache is definitely the place to begin.

Apache is available in the default packages on many Linux systems and is actually installed by default on most and ‘httpd’ is synonymous with the Apache web server. As with the other software above the Apache HTTP software is open source and anyone can contribute to it or modify it to their needs.

Which One Is Right For You?

The answer to this question totally depends on your usage. If you are just getting started I would recommend beginning with Apache. If you are looking for a challenge or want to get to know alternatives to Apache, check out lighttpd which uses a low memory footprint. Finally if you need a web proxy for a bank of servers – check out nginx which works very well in this situation.

Do you have any other favorite Linux web servers? Be sure to tell us below!

Got Questions? Ask Them Now FREE on MakeUseOf Answers!



Similar MakeUseOf Articles

Apple’s Mac App Store Goes Live [News]

Posted: 06 Jan 2011 08:46 AM PST

Today marks the launch of Apple’s latest PC-based venture – the Mac App Store. Announced in October, Apple aims to streamline and simplify the delivery of applications with a service that hopes to mimic the success of the iPhone’s App Store.

Mac owners will receive the new marketplace when they download the Mac OS X 10.6.6 update for the Snow Leopard operating system that was also released today. It is then possible to peruse the App Store’s offerings, with several categories to choose from containing both free and paid applications.

Each downloadable item can be reviewed, rated and previewed via the screenshots provided. Apple have strived to make the Mac App Store as easy as possible to operate with their simplified install process.

Users simply choose an application they like, input their iTunes password and the app is downloaded and added to the dock. All updates and new versions of installed applications will then be automatically updated by the Mac App Store. Apple have also promised that once you’ve bought an application then subsequent re-downloads (say if you bought a new Mac) are included.

App stores are the hot thing right now, with Google’s cloud-embracing Chrome Web Store being launched just before Christmas and the Android Market getting a lick of paint shortly afterwards. Only time will tell what developers and (more importantly) Mac users will make of Apple’s latest outlet.

Have you tried the Mac App Store yet? What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

Hey Facebookers, make sure to check out MakeUseOf page on Facebook. Over 24,000 fans already!



Similar MakeUseOf Articles

2 Ways to Add Facebook to Your WordPress Website

Posted: 06 Jan 2011 08:30 AM PST

Facebook is the biggest online social network today. It’s already become an inseparable part of millions of people’s social lives, and it becomes even more inseparable because Facebook integrates with lots of other online services. This achievement has put Facebook in the realm of the Internet giants.

One of the other online giants which has also influenced the lives of millions is WordPress. It’s fair to say that WordPress is the most popular blogging platform today. I’m sure that there are many who wonder whether these two services could be integrated.

If you are one of the millions of WordPress users who wants to add Facebook to your WordPress website(s), you’re in luck. There are two ways to do just that.

Syndicate Your Status

The first and easiest way to add Facebook to WordPress is to subscribe to the syndication. There are many elements of Facebook, most come with their own RSS subscription. The problem is, it takes a little effort to locate the RSS button.

For example, to integrate Facebook’s “Links” to WordPress, you need to dig a little deeper on the side menu under your Home panel. Click “More” to reveal more links.

add facebook to my website

Then click the “Links” to go to the Links page.

add facebook to my website

At the sidebar on the Links page, you will find the RSS button. Right click on it to copy the RSS URL. You could subscribe to two kinds of links: “My Links” and “My Friends’ Links“.

add facebook to wordpress

By default, Facebook will bring you to “My Friends’ Links” page. So if you want to subscribe to your own links, click “My Links” link and right click on the RSS button on your links page and copy the address. This address will be used later on your WordPress blog.

add facebook to wordpress

Another RSS feed that you can subscribe to is your Facebook notifications. Click on the “Notifications” icon on the top of the page next to the search field and choose “See All Notifications“. Then on “Your Notifications” page, right click at the “Via RSS” link to copy the subscription address.

add facebook to wordpress

Please note that I did the walkthrough using Facebook’s new profile. If you are still using the old profile, you could upgrade to the new one by visiting the “Introducing the New Profile” page and click the “Get the New Profile” button.

facebook wordpress integration

To add the RSS to your blog, go to the Widget area by clicking the link under the “Appearance” sidebar menu in your WordPress admin area.

facebook wordpress integration

Locate the RSS widget and drag it to the Widget area on the right and fill in all the necessary data, including the RSS feed URL that you’ve just copied.

facebook wordpress integration

After clicking on the “Save” button you will see the content appear in the widget area of your blog.

01l WordPress Widgets.jpg

This method is applicable to all elements of your Facebook account. You can use it even if you are using the service and not a self-hosted WordPress blog.

Use Plugins

As Facebook becomes more and more popular, you can expect to find more and more WordPress plugins related to Facebook. If you do the search, you’ll find tons of them inside the plugins repository. One of the recommended plugins is “Facebook Social Plugins“. You can easily search and install the plugin from within your WordPress plugins area.

02a Search n Install.jpg

After installation, activate the plugin.

02b Installed.jpg

The plugin will add its own setting link under the “Settings” sidebar menu.

02d FB Social Plugins Settings.jpg

Among the settings, you can customize many aspect of the plugin. But the first thing that you should do before customizing anything is to get a “Facebook Application ID“. Click the “here” link.

02j App ID.jpg

Then you can customize each aspect of the plugin, such as: the “Layout” and “Color Scheme“.

02k Like Button.jpg

Don’t forget to click on the “Save” button after making changes to the settings.

02m Save.jpg

As for getting the application ID from Facebook, clicking the “here” link will bring you to the “Create an App” page on “Facebook Developers” site.

02n FB create an app.jpg

All you have to do is to verify your account by providing your mobile phone number or credit card number. After that you will have your “App ID“. Insert the set of numbers on the “Facebook Application ID” field on the “Facebook Social Plugins” setting.

02s App ID.jpg

After activating the plugin and doing all the necessary customization, you will have the additional “Like” button (or “Recommend” button according to your setting) on the locations of your blog that you’ve specified.

02t Like Button.jpg

And you will also get several additional Facebook related widgets that you can put on the widget area.

add facebook to my website

There are other ways that you can use to integrate Facebook to WordPress blog, but these two are the easiest method that I could find. If you know other methods, please share them using the comment below.



Similar MakeUseOf Articles

The 3 Best Laptops That Support Nvidia 3D Vision

Posted: 06 Jan 2011 07:31 AM PST

nvidia 3d visionWe’ve been seeing a 3D revolution as of late – stereoscopic 3D, that is. This technology is now being used in movie theaters and in home theaters, and it can create some impressive visual effects. The depth added from the use of 3D in a movie can be jaw-dropping when it’s properly employed. The same goes for PC games, as many titles now support a proprietary stereoscopic 3D product called Nvidia 3D Vision.

If you’ve seen 3D in action lately, it was probably coming at you through a HDTV or possibly a computer monitor, but laptops haven’t been left out in the cold. A limited number of laptops offer full Nvidia 3D Vision support, making it possible to watch 3D movies and play 3D Games even when you’re away from home.


nvidia 3d vision

The beastly ASUS G53 is the cousin to the award-winning ASUS G73 gaming laptop, and it shares the same stealth-fighter inspired design. This results in a blocky, beefy exterior that is undoubtedly cool but also doesn’t look tacky, a problem that plagues laptops with glowing lights and crazy paint jobs.

Of course, the real news is the hardware. Inside this monster you’ll find a Core i7 quad-core processor, Nvidia GeForce GTX 460M graphics, and 8GB of RAM. A Blu-Ray player is standard as is an embedded Nvidia 3D Vision emitter, which means you won’t have to plug in an extra device via USB to use the 3D Vision technology. The high-end hardware in this gaming laptop makes it possible to play modern games at reasonable detail settings even with the 3D support turned on.

Not everything about this laptop is roses. This G53 weighs over seven pounds, is more than an inch and a half thick at the rear, and barely fits into a standard backpack. You’ll be lucky to receive more than two hours of battery life, as well. And then you have to deal with the price – it’s over $1,700. Still, that’s actually a low price for a gaming laptop of this caliber, as my next pick will reveal.

Origin EON15

nvidia 3d vision support

The Origin EON15, like the ASUS G53JW-3DE, is a purebred gaming laptop. It’s different, however, because it is made by a boutique gaming laptop company rather than mass-produced by a large vendor. You can’t customize a ASUS G53, but with the Origin EON15, the sky is the limit.

The standard Origin EON15 is about $1,550, but it doesn’t support Nvidia 3D Vision. To gain that feature you’ll have to choose the special 3D panel and the Nvidia Quadro graphics option, which raises the price to over $2,300. That’s with 2GB of RAM and a Core i5 processor, as well, so the ASUS G53 clearly is the better value.

On the other hand, you can go crazy with the EON15 if you have a lot of money to burn. Intel Extreme Edition processors are available, as are solid state drives, a built-in TV tuner, and a custom paint job.// over $4,000 on this laptop, which more than I’d ever dream of, but some buyers are obviously willing to spend the extra dough on a fully customized laptop.

Toshiba Satellite A665-3DV8

nvidia 3d vision

Both the ASUS G53JW-3DE and Origin EON15 are great laptops, but they’re gaming laptops. They’re big, bulky bruisers with short battery lives and shorter tempers. You don’t want to take them to meet your family! They’ll likely cause your parents to worry you’ve transformed into a hopeless nerd.

Enter the Toshiba Satellite A665-3DV. This 15.6″ laptop fully supports Nvidia 3D Vision, has a Blu-Ray player as standard, and is powered by a Core i7 quad-core processor combined with Nvidia GTS 350M graphics. It is, in other words, one quick laptop. However, it looks like a fairly normal, although particularly well attired, Toshiba Satellite. It’s not a light laptop, nor does it obtain the very best battery life (we’re still talking about 3 to 4 hours) but it is at least portable enough to take to your local coffee house on a regular basis.

Granted, you sacrifice some performance compared to the full-on gaming laptops, but this Toshiba Satellite is still capable of playing most games without a hitch. It’s also significantly less expensive thanks to a starting price of $1,399. If you’re interested in 3D movies and games, but you’re not interested being identified as a hardcore gamer, the Satellite is your best option.


I would have liked to have included some laptops with 3D support that not so expensive and beefy, but that’s simply not possible right now. Enabling Nvidia 3D Vision makes a movie or game demand more from your laptop’s hardware than it would otherwise, which means that the only laptops up to snuff are big and expensive. You’ll have to deal with these monsters for now, but if you don’t mind their size, you’ll love the impressive visuals they offer.

Do you like MakeUseOf articles? Don’t forget to share our articles with others! It’s really important to us.



Similar MakeUseOf Articles

No comments:

Post a Comment