Sunday, January 9, 2011 “Cool Websites and Tools [January 8th]” plus 5 more “Cool Websites and Tools [January 8th]” plus 5 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [January 8th]

Posted: 08 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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Yahoo Clues – was recently launched by Yahoo to help users see the trends related to a search query and who the people are searching for it. You can enter a search term in the "Find Trends" sidebar on the left and it pulls up loads of data showing searches over time, demographic data like income levels of people searching for that phrase, their gender, age, location, and other similar search trends. Read more: Yahoo Clues: See Yahoo Search Trends, Demographic Data & More


What Can I Get With $20? – is an innovative site that lets people effortlessly locate items whose prices fall into their budget. The concept behind the site is simple. You enter your budget in the question (should be a whole number), and then select a product category from the drop down menu. Hit search and then you can see a list of items that are in your budget, all of which are sourced from Amazon. Read more: What Can I Get With $20?: Find Budget Items & Gifts Easily



MyµStats – By displaying the traffic and social networking of your blog or site to your visitors, you can help others learn how popular your site is. In turn, this can get you an increasing number of visitors and networking mentions. An easy way to display the ranking and networking stats for your site is MyµStats. The tool works from its website by providing you with a few lines of embeddable code. Read more: MyµStats: Display Website Traffic Stats & Ranks



HTML Form – Here is another easy-to-use form you can add to your website. HTMLForm is a cool web tool that lets you create powerful and beautiful forms that you can download, install and use from your web server. This free app can also embed created forms to your website's design. You do not need to sign up to use HTMLForm. Just click “Start Now” to open the form builder. Read more: HTMLForm: Easy-to-use HTML Form Designer Online – Our female readers who have tried purchasing a dress abroad are familiar with the all-too-common dress size problem. Being a size 8 in the US means something else in Japan and it means nothing in Russia. To determine what size you are according to those international standards, check out The site provides converters to convert dress and bra sizes between international size standards. Read more: Quick International Dress Size Conversion


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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2 Great Addons To Improve Firefox’s Search Bar

Posted: 08 Jan 2011 05:31 PM PST

firefox search bar addonFirefox’s search bar is by far my favorite Firefox feature – it is one of the main reasons why I am still sticking with Firefox. There are several reasons to love it: it’s very clutter-free (all it takes is a little field to enter your search terms and an icon to distinguish your current search engine).

While being a really quiet feature, it is still highly flexible and rich in options: you can create and add as many search engines as you feel like using (including those requiring search suggestion support). What’s more, the search bar is tied to the right-click context menu allowing you to search for the highlighted term using the currently active search engine.

All in all, one of the oldest browser features is also one of the best – especially if you get used to it. Plus if you also try using some of the plugins listed here, you are likely to love the feature even more!

1. Enjoy Even More Flexibility With SearchLoad Options

SearchLoad Options is the smart extension that perfectly fills the gap offering some essential but missing search bar options. Its best feature is that it allows you to open search results in a new foreground tab which makes the search experience free of any clutter at all (what’s more, you can set the exceptions and let it open results in a new tab unless your current tab is blank).

Other fun features added include:

  • The ability to clear the search bar after a set number of seconds (if you are a long-time search bar user, you might have noticed that your search term will hang there until you delete it and enter a new one – which is not really productive). This addon lets you clear the search box automatically.
  • The ability to reset the search to your favorite search engine. By default, there are no “favorite”or “default” search engines in the search bar: the current one will be used until you change it. If you are a heavy user of one particular search engine (think “Google”, for example), you may want your search bar to always switch to it after you use anything else. I for one use the Google toolbar to search Google and the search bar to search Flickr CC-licenced photos – therefore I have Flickr as the default search engine thanks to this addon.

firefox search bar addon

As you may have noticed from the screenshot, I have the “Clear the searchbar” option unchecked – this is not because I don’t find it essentially handy – that’s because I am using another Firefox addon that uses the search term currently present in the search bar.

2. Easily Find & Switch Between Any Word Occurrences On The Page

It often happens that you need to quickly jump to any word on the current page or highlight them all. Firefox’s default “Find” feature can be used for that but it requires a few actions to be activated: use the CTRL+F shortcut to trigger the search field, enter the term (or copy-paste it) in the Find field and click Enter.

With the SearchWP Firefox addon things may be much quicker: it lets you use the search bar terms to navigate the page:

  • Highlight each search term with a different color;
  • Click any of the words in the search bar to easily find it on the current page;
  • Use a word highlighter to highlight all the word occurrences on a current page:

firefox search addons

The tool works much like the tools listed in my post on highlighting Google search terms on the target page but it integrates the feature in the existing functionality without making you get used to any new interfaces.

The addon options let you set the minimum number of characters in a word for it to be highlighted and add the option to group the word tokens in a single menu:

firefox search addons

With the latter option checked, you will be able to jump from word to word using a handy menu which is only visible if you click on a circle:

firefox search bar addon

Do you love Firefox’s search bar as much as I do? Please share your favorite tips!

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Postbox 2 and Contigo Giveaway Winners

Posted: 08 Jan 2011 02:30 PM PST

What a great start to the new year. Today, we’ll be announcing the winners of both the Postbox 2 and Contigo giveaway winners. If you’re listed as one of them, please check your email inbox as the details of your prize will be included in the message.

Let’s find out who won.

Postbox 2

  1. Joe Russo
  2. Patrick Barden
  3. Dawid Loboda
  4. Marja Kuijsten
  5. Ilya Drugov
  6. Kevin Reid
  7. Scott Conder
  8. Chad Smith
  9. Jim Frederick
  10. Gustavo Ibarguengoytia
  11. Kathy Kim
  12. Eric Asmar
  13. Heinrich
  14. Eva
  15. Eliott Anderson
  16. Saulius Brazauskas
  17. James Poole
  18. Mark Fromowitz
  19. Jerome Pirkl
  20. David Simmons
  21. Barbara Meacham
  22. Kyrsten Henrie
  23. Eugenie Wu
  24. James
  25. Mihai Adamescu

Contigo West Loop

  1. Roberto Manca di Villahermosa
  2. Gary Nave

Contigo Elle Mugs

  1. Leslie
  2. Alan Koblin

Congratulations to the winners. An email with the appropriate licensing information and requests for shipping details has been sent to each and every one of you. Contigo winners, please reply within 24 hours.


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

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Hot Tech Deals [Jan 8th]

Posted: 08 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. XFX Radeon HD5850 1GB HDCP PCI-E Video Card w/ $10 Newegg Gift Card $158.99AR Free Shipping via code HARDOCP15B (Exp 1/12)
  2. HP EliteBook 2530P Intel Core 2 Duo SL9600 2.13GHz 12.1in Laptop (Refurb) w/ 128GB SSD $649.99
  3. Dell Ultrasharp U2211h 22in IPS LCD Monitor $199.99 Free Shipping
  4. Lexar Professional 32GB SDHC Flash Card (Class 10 w/ 20MB/s Min) $85.90 Free Ship
  5. HTC Touch Pro 2 Brown Unlocked GSM Smart Phone with Full QWERTY Keyboard $219.99
  6. Onkyo HT-S3300 5.1ch 110W/ch 3D-Ready Home Theater System $299.99 Free Shipping
  7. Dell Vostro 230 Mini Tower Intel Core 2 Duo E7500 2.93GHz Desktop w/ 20in LCD $409
  8. Dell Vostro 230 Mini Intel Dual-Core E5700 3GHz Desktop (2GB/320GB) w/ 17in LCD $339
  9. Sharp LC-52D78UN 52 inch LCD HDTV (1080p, 120Hz) $949.99 Free Shipping

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set



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Wunderground Road Trip Maps The Weather On Your Route [US Only]

Posted: 08 Jan 2011 11:31 AM PST

road trip weatherGet your directions, with information about the weather on your route. That’s Wunderground’s excellent Road Trip tool, which shows the temperature of the places you’re going at the times you’re going to be there, as well as any extreme weather you might want to be aware of. You can even print it all out!

If you’re about to take a road trip, you’re probably about to fire up Google Maps. That makes sense; the service is just about the best there is when it comes to quickly finding directions, no small part of the reason it’s the default map program on the iPhone.

But good as Google Maps is, it doesn’t do everything. Or, at least, it doesn’t do everything on its own. There are numerous awesome and useful Google Maps mashups out there that do just about anything you can imagine. So it should come as no surprise that the best weather site on the web offers a Maps mashup of it’s own. This is particularly useful in the winter months, when heavy snowfall can make driving dangerous or impede progress.

There’s only one catch: the application is currently US-only, which made it slightly less useful during my recent drive from Colorado to Ontario. Still, the idea is solid enough that it’s worth knowing about if you ever think you’ll be in the States.

Getting Started

Head over to the Wunderground’s roadtrip page to get started. You can enter the various co-ordinates in your trip, as well as the time and date you intend to leave.

road trip weather

Once you’ve entered your co-ordinates and times, you’ll see a map outlining your route. This isn’t that different from your standard Google Map, and even includes the standard turn-by-turn directions. The main difference is that the map also includes weather, showing the temperature and conditions along your route.

weather trip advisor

Other Features

There’s more to this, though. Checkboxes below the input dialogue allow you to display severe weather on your map, and even to highlight areas of heavy traffic. While the traffic is obviously a lot harder to predict than the weather, it’s a great tool to check how conditions are right now.

The severe weather display, on the other hand, is extremely useful if you plan on taking a long trip. Snow storms in Minnesota, for example, probably mean that stopping outside that state rather than driving all night is a good idea.

road trip weather

You can also print your entire route, in a manner similar to Google Maps but with road trip weather information. Nice.

Similar Services

There are other services like this out there, of course. The Weather Channel offers the interstate forecast, which focuses on America’s main routes. WeatherBonk also offers a route weather tool, though I personally find it a great deal less useful than Wunderground’s offering.  I’ve yet to find a tool like this that works outside of the United States, but am very open to suggestions.

Please let me know about any and all similar services in the comments below, because sharing is awesome and so are you.



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Shazam vs. SoundHound: Looking For The Perfect Song Identifier

Posted: 08 Jan 2011 09:31 AM PST

song identifierIf you weren’t one of the lucky few who snagged Shazam back when it allowed free and unlimited tagging, you’ll be happy to know that SoundHound have updated the free version of their app to allow for just that. While the two apps do exactly the same thing – record a small snippet of music to identify the name of the song – the way they do it is very different.

Each song identifier has its own way of delivering results, and they also differ as far as what you can do with those results. We decided to put the two apps to the test, using the iPad versions to see which one comes out on top.

Tag Limits vs. Advertising

The first distinct difference between the two free apps is that Shazam [iTunes link] is ad-free whereas SoundHound [iTunes link] is not. Of course, the Shazam iPad app is relatively new and if it’s to follow in the footsteps of its iPhone counterpart, it’s only a matter of time before they will impose a 5 song per month limit on new users. So for the time being, Shazam wins on this point, and only with its iPad version. The fact that SoundHound has no intention of imposing a limit with its free version, makes it the winner in the long run.

Tag Results

Shazam displays the song title and artist, album cover, genre and tag date, and on a separate page, displays the artist’s bio. You can download the song on iTunes, look up similar tracks, the artist’s discography, and share the song on Facebook, Twitter or via Email.

song identifier

SoundHound shows the song title and artist, album cover and album release date. On SoundHound, you have far more options, with the ability to download the song on iTunes, look up similar artists, look up other songs on the album, or the artist’s entire discography, lyrics, videos on YouTube, tour dates, song album appearances, and share the song on Facebook or Twitter, and via email and SMS. Another big plus for Pandora users is the ability to launch a Pandora station directly from the tagged tracks.

song identifier app

SoundHound takes full advantage of the iPad’s large screen, as opposed to Shazam’s sparse layout. With more options, SoundHound clearly wins this point.

Tag Charts

Both apps have charts, with Shazam displaying the Top 10 most tagged tracks.

song identifier app

SoundHound displays the Top 25 most tagged tracks, showing you which songs are getting hotter, and which are cooling down. In addition, they display the Top 25 most tagged tracks that aren’t getting much radio play. SoundHound is also the clear winner on this point.

song name identifier

Recently Tagged Tracks

Both apps display the tracks that have recently been tagged by other users. Shazam, for a change, makes use of the iPad’s large screen.

song identifier app

SoundHound uses a small running ticker at the bottom of the screen, beneath the charts.

song name identifier

Shazam’s method is a little bit more visually appealing, making it the winner as far as this point is concerned.

Tag History

Both apps allow you to browse your tagging history. In Shazam, all tagged tracks are displayed in the sidebar on the left.

song name identifier

In SoundHound, you can access your history from the menu in the sidebar on the left. In addition, if you would prefer to clear your history, SoundHound allows you to bookmark the tagged tracks that you’d like to hang on to.

song identifier

Once again, SoundHound has gone the extra mile, keeping it ahead of Shazam on this point.


It would seem as though SoundHound is clearly the better app between the two, but when it came down to the most important test of all, tagging music, Shazam was more accurate. Playing a remix of Elvis Presley’s Blue Suede Shoes, Shazam identified the correct track, but SoundHound identified it as the original song. With a live recording, Shazam identified it correctly, whereas SoundHound identified it as the recorded version. Several tries with different live songs yielded the same results. Of course as far as recorded songs are concerned, both apps yielded accurate results, and in most cases, SoundHound identified them with a much shorter recording than Shazam.

With Shazam, humming or singing the song won’t cut it. You have to play the original recorded music in order to have it tagged. With SoundHound you can actually hum or sing the song – but the results are hit and miss. Testing it out, we got the right track about one out of five times. But for full disclosure, I’m pretty much a terrible singer.

When it comes to accuracy, Shazam is the clear winner.


So how do you choose which song identifier is right for you? Shazam is the simpler app, perfect for people who simply want to tag a track and move on. SoundHound is better suited to music aficionados who want to get all the information related to the song, and possibly even discover some new music along the way. The app can also serve as a replacement to the native iPod app, giving you a way to access and play the music on your iPad.

The free, but limited, version of Shazam is available to iPhone, Android, Nokia and Blackberry users, and as a free unlimited app for iPad users. The free SoundHound app is available to iPhone, iPad and Android users, and as a paid app for Nokia users.

Which app do you prefer – Shazam or SoundHound? Let us know in the comments.

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