Wednesday, January 12, 2011 “Cool Websites and Tools [January 11th]” plus 10 more “Cool Websites and Tools [January 11th]” plus 10 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [January 11th]

Posted: 11 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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Lichess – Many gaming websites allow you to play chess online but the hassle of going through their account registrations, plugin-in downloads and other formalities just kills all the fun. Lichess makes playing chess simple by eliminating all the hassle. Just go to and start online chess game against computer, a random opponent or a friend. While playing with a random opponent you can specify how many minutes each opponent would have for a single step. Read more: Lichess: Play Online Chess Game Against Computer Or Others


Tweetaways – Many companies and users place draws, lotteries, and other random-selection competitions on Twitter. If you plan on placing such a draw and are thinking about how to pick a winner at random, then you need not worry – Tweetaways is here to help. Tweetaways is a free tool that helps you select a random winner for any competition you have carried out on Twitter. Read more: Tweetaways: Pick a Winner at Random On Twitter Draws



Linkdoozer – With the popularity of social bookmarking websites and downfall of Delicious, there is always room for a similar type of services to thrive. Enter Linkdoozer, a cool website directory that makes it easy and fun to find and bookmark websites. This tool allows users to contribute to a dynamic web directory by adding using doozermarks (private bookmarks) or by adding a website manually. Read more: Linkdoozer: Quick & Easy Online Bookmarking Website



Mielophone – Free online sources for music are decreasing. Today there are fewer websites than before that let you stream music albums for free. If you find yourself looking for a free music source and are unable to find one, check out Mielophone before you give up on your search. Mielophone is a simple and free to use installable desktop application. Read more: Mielophone: Save & Stream Music Albums On Your Desktop



Electronic Music Guide – Electronic music comes in various genres: house, trance, downtempo, and others. What exactly is the difference between these genres? Where did it all begin from? How has the music evolved since the 70′s? To get the answers to these questions and to learn more about electronic music all you have to do is pay a visit to Ishkur's Guide to Electronic Music. Read more: Electronic Music Guide: A Complete Guide To Understanding Electronic Music


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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The 7 Toughest Tech Questions [MakeUseOf Answers]

Posted: 11 Jan 2011 05:31 PM PST

MakeUseOf Answers can help you get your tech issues solved. Try us!

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A Review of Windows Live Mail 2011

Posted: 11 Jan 2011 03:31 PM PST

windows live mailHow important is your email account to you? For many of us, email is our lifeline, which makes picking a proper client to use all the more important. Some email clients are better than others of course, but that’s all dependent on the features you’re looking for. For instance, some people prefer desktop clients over web applications, simply because you can still get to your emails in the event that your computer is offline.

Windows Live Mail 2011 is part of the Windows Live Essentials pack, which includes everything from Microsoft Silverlight on down to Windows Live Messenger. It helps you organize your mail, calendar, and contacts all in one place on your PC. In this article, I’m going to review the application and show you some of its newest features.


Microsoft’s latest release of Live Mail comes loaded with a lot of useful features. Since Hotmail is still one of the biggest email providers on the Internet (can you believe it? I couldn’t), the need to be able to access your email anywhere – even when offline – is very important to users.

Windows Live Mail 2011 gives you that ability. All the features you would normally have on Hotmail are present within the application, allowing you to view, manage, and send emails without having to re-learn anything.

windows live mail

The overall layout is very similar to Microsoft Outlook 2010, except there are a few different options and customizations. A list of your emails and folders are on the far left, your viewed messages are in the middle, and a calendar with all your important dates is on the right.

Features Of Windows Live Mail 2011

windows live mail desktop

Windows Live Mail 2011 helps you organize your mail, calendar, and contacts all in one place on your PC. You can use it to check multiple email accounts, like Windows Live Hotmail, Gmail, and Yahoo! Mail Plus, and even see all of your stuff (emails, calendars, contacts) when you don’t have an Internet connection.

windows live mail desktop

The app makes it easier to find what you’re looking for by allowing you to group conversations together. Upcoming events appear next to your inbox, and you can quickly add things to your calendar right from your inbox. Windows Live Mail also comes with a built-in search feature to help you find important messages by title, sender, or contents of a message.

windows live mail desktop

WLM 2011 has a ribbon interface, and by that I mean the top of it looks like Microsoft Office. The ribbon has a lot of options on it, probably more than you’ll even need. Basic functions like compose, forward, and move are all there, as well as options for layout, folder management and accounts.

windows live mail

WLM 2011 syncs with your Windows Live ID account, so setup is very easy. It also includes a handy picture viewer right inside your emails. The picture viewer can actually be synced with SkyDrive, which will allow you to send/receive up to 10GB (25MB per email) of high-quality photos. SkyDrive also interacts with attachments by launching a slideshow preview.

Lastly, the inbox supports threaded messages for better organization. This is available in a collapsible tree-view list that will work even if your email provider doesn’t support threaded emails. WLM 2011 will automatically merge all of your similar emails together for you.


If you missed it, you can download the email client here. It basically does everything Microsoft Outlook does, for free. Sure, it’s missing a few things that Outlook has, like tasks and a full-blown calendar, but it’s definitely worth the download. It’s a strange choice by Microsoft but perhaps this is the road they’re headed down with their mail client.

I’m curious to hear what you think about Windows Live Mail 2011. Will you be downloading and giving it a try?

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Get Your Foursquare Photos Automatically Transferred To Flickr Using FlickSquare

Posted: 11 Jan 2011 01:31 PM PST

flickr foursquareIt looks like there’s some developers out there who are starting to put two and two together. In this case, that’s Foursquare and Flickr. Users are starting to get a little check-in weary, sick of using one app for this update and another app for another sort of update. One recently complained about this particular combination, tweeting “can someone hack a Foursquare app that cc’s my checkin photos to Flickr?” which prompted the development of Flicksquare. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the developer got snowed in that day either.

It’s a great move for users, hopefully inspiring many other one-checkin-does-all application bridges. Foursquare has mentioned that things like this Flickr photo cross-poster might be in the works, but we can get the benefit of the idea now thanks to Flicksquare developer Benny Wong. And luckily for us, Flicksquare is really simple to set up too!

According to TechCrunch, here’s the tweet that started the whole FlickSquare thing.

flickr foursquare

Using FlickSquare

As per most web apps these days, using Flicksquare is simple as can be. Head over to the Flicksquare page and you’ll see exactly what I mean.

foursquare photos

Sign-up with FlickSquare involves:

  • Logging into your Foursquare account.
  • Adding FlickSquare as a friend.
  • Authenticating your Flickr account.

… and that’s it! Easy.

foursquare photos

There’s no extra log in to remember and no giving your passwords to another new web developer. It’s all done with authentication through FourSquare and Flickr and made as simple as possible.

photos on foursquare

Once you’re all signed up, FlickSquare shows whether you are actively sending photos or not. If you want to disable FlickSquare, you can turn it off at FlickSquare, de-authenticate via FlickSquare, Foursquare or Twitter or just remove FlickSquare as a friend on Foursquare.

Photo Sync

Once you’re set up with FlickSquare, any photos you add to a new Foursquare check-in will automatically go to Flickr. Adding photos to check-ins prior to your FlickSquare signup doesn’t count – I tried. This will only work for your future check-ins.

It works very quickly: You’ll be able to see the update in FlickSquare and Flickr in no time.

foursquare photos

In Flickr, you will get a brief description added saying where you were and linking back to your Foursquare check-in. The photo is automatically geo-tagged to show location data and you also get FourSquare’s machine tags (latitude, longitude and venue number) – It’s a pity it doesn’t tag your photo with the town, country and venue name though! Beware that all photos sent this way will be public in Flickr automatically. You might not imagine anyone would be worried about FourSquare photos being public elsewhere, but when public photos are geo-tagged you need to be sure of your safety.

flickr foursquare

Future of FlickSquare

While there’s no other alternative, FlickSquare will be mighty, but as soon as FourSquare implements their Flickr integration, most people will have no use for FlickSquare. That is, unless Foursquare do a messy job of it and FlickSquare is known to be the better way to send to Flickr. So, if FlickSquare can listen to users and add features and options quicker and better than Foursquare, they might stay in the game. In the meantime, we still don’t know how long we need to wait for the Foursquare-Flick in-house compatibility – FlickSquare could have a while to get well aquainted.

More Reading

Here’s some extra reading for all you fans of Foursquare and Flickr:

If you love mashups of web apps (especially Flickr and Foursquare related stuff) let us know your favourites in the comments!

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Hot Tech Deals [Jan 11th]

Posted: 11 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. HP 620 Intel Core 2 Duo T6670 2.2GHz 15.6in Laptop (2GB/250GB/Win7 Pro) $399.99
  2. Sony Vaio VPCF134FX/H Intel Core i7-740QM Quad-Core 16.4in Laptop w/ Blu-Ray $999
  3. Intel Core i5-2400 Sandy Bridge 3.1GHz Quad-Core Processor $175.99 Free Shipping via code CELEBRATE10 (Exp Soon)
  4. New 25% off Any Dell Desktop $199+ Coupon Code: Desk199&up25 (Exp 1/17)
  5. 15% off Dell Laptops between $250-$349 Coupon Code: Save15Lap$250-$349 (Exp 1/12)
  6. 25% off Dell Laptops $350+ Coupon Code: Save25Lap$350&up (Exp 1/12)
  7. LG 32LE5300 32in LED-Edgelit LCD HDTV (1080p, 120Hz) $469 Free Shipping via code EMCKJJJ75 (Discount shows up at Checkout, Exp 1/17)
  8. G.Skill Ripjaws 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3-1333MHz PC3-10666 Desktop Memory $79.99 Free Shipping via code EMCKJJJ84 (Exp 1/17)
  9. Dell Vostro 230 Slim Intel Core 2 Duo E7500 2.93GHz Desktop (3GB/320GB) w/ Dell Professional 23in LCD $459

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set

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10 Interactive Learning Websites For Some Fun & Games With Music

Posted: 11 Jan 2011 11:31 AM PST

interactive learning websitesMozart started his music when he was five. Even Lady Gaga learnt piano when she was four and wrote her first ballad at 13. Music has given birth to some prodigious talents. Maybe someone around us is not one yet, but still has an ear for music. Or maybe music is part of his or her education. 

Either way, learning music is often recommended for developing creative intelligence. The ability to sense and visualize the world comes naturally from a deep appreciation of the arts.

Playing interactive musical games on the web could be a stepping stone to find out if your child has an ability for music. If the enthusiasm to learn about music is there, deciding on a more specific musical education becomes easy. Leaving aside all these serious thoughts on musical education, let's also note that music is great fun. In tune or out of it, it is a way of self expression. Play on these ten interactive learning websites that feature fun and games with music.

Play Music

interactive learning websites is a fun and interactive musical website with loads of information on musical instruments and arrangements. The entry to the various points on the site is through a colorful graphic with clickable hotspots. Information is presented as graphics which you can click to learn more about instruments, orchestras, and composers. The site is a bit dated but is still useful for the basic knowledge it provides for a music learner.

Classics For Kids

interactive learning

Musical education for kids should ideally start with a base in the classics. This site could be a jumping point. If you are in the US, you can tune into the radio show or listen to them on the website. But I guess kids will have more fun with the musical games like Compose Your Own Music or Be a Rockin’ Rhythm Master! The site has four games in all along with lesson plans and teaching aids like a musical dictionary.

New York Philharmonic

interactive learning

The famed New York Philharmonic devotes an entire website to kids. The very attractive website is divided into sections that address areas of musical learning. But the coolest by far is the Game Room which is chock full of games as you can see in the screenshot. There's an interesting Flash musical game where you can design your own musical inECarnegie Hall Listening Adventures

interactive learning

We stay on in New York with Carnegie Hall. The famed concert venue for classical music gives kids an engaging online learning experience with the help of animated interactive guides. The audience for the fun show is meant to be kids of ages 6-12. But I don't think that will stop adults from checking out cool tours like The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra.

BBC – Learn About Music

interactive music websites

You can always trust the BBC for some high quality learning help. BBC Orchestras and Singers is an online guide for teaching your kids about what an orchestra is all about. The learning aids are multimedia files supported by descriptions. Then there's the superbly designed Maestro virtual orchestra game where your child can really get to know what it takes to be a part of an orchestra. Then the other game jumps you from the classics into creating a film score.

San Francisco Symphony for Kids

interactive music websites

The site greets you with a symphony. The site may look like it's for kids, but it is meant to be used by all ages. Straightaway, you might like to head to the Music Lab and explore the nine stages from the basics to composing your first tune.

Theta Music Trainer

interactive music websites

You can take Theta Music Trainer as a serious musical training tool because they just might help to train the ear to listen to elements like pitch, rhythm, intervals, chords, and melody. Each game is designed to teach a specific skill. Music is playing by the ear, so this website is highly recommended for beginners. You can also track your progress. The site also hosts a few competitions. We have covered Theta Music Trainer before.

Pattern Block Rock

This online musical game seems simple at first but is in fact quite challenging. You have to combine your knowledge of geometric shapes and match it to musical notes and rhythms. Pattern blocks are basically shapes which you have to place and add up to a total of eight to replay the tunes.

Music Games

You can play the online versions of the downloadable PC games here. The online versions are not full like the paid downloadable games but it is free and gives you sufficient gameplay to test your skills and understand the basics. Skills tested include instrument recognition, musical riddles, and musical jigsaw puzzles.

DSO Kids

interactive learning websites

The Dallas Symphony Orchestra is the sixth oldest orchestra in the United States. The site has four interactive musical games (Time Machine, Beethoven's Baseball, Music Match, and Picture Paint) along with other music teaching aids. The first two games are knowledge based which test what you know about the history of classical music.

Just like the above website, we have covered a few more cool musical fun apps. Here are three more –

JamLegend – Free Online Guitar Brilliance
5 Rhythmic Online Flash Music Games to Groove Up Your Day
Rock Out For Free With Frets on Fire

Let us know if you think that these interactive musical learning websites are playing the right notes.

Image Credit : Shutterstock

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Save Time In The Morning By Getting Automated Weather Forecast SMS Alerts

Posted: 11 Jan 2011 10:31 AM PST

sms weather updatesI have been skipping turning on my iPod Touch or my laptop in the morning just to check the weather because I’ve signed up with a service that sends you automated weather alerts every morning. However, I have noticed pretty much everyone I know that cares about the weather always has to check for the unpredictable New England weather manually in the morning, either on the computer, TV or WiFi-enabled devices.

Thus, I’ve decided to share this simple tip about setting apart a bit of time to sign up with a service that automates SMS weather updates every morning so that people unfamiliar with these services can save themselves some time and repeated legwork.

The following services send you weather alerts every morning for free but your mobile carrier might charge you for the text message service so just make sure you’ve got something like an unlimited messaging plan before you proceed. If you prefer, you can also opt to have the weather alerts sent to your email inbox using two of the three services below, but the idea here is to have you check the device you probably already check in the mornings for the time anyway and get the alert at the same time.

The Weather Channel

sms weather updates

Being a trusted source of latest weather information in the US, the Weather Channel offers on-demand weather information, as well as scheduled alerts via SMS text messaging. You have to follow the simple signup instructions on the official page, which involve texting “SUB FCST [your zip code here]” to either 42278 or 78676. You can also sign up on that page, which requires an email address, and customize the type of alert you want to receive.  You can basically get all sorts of goodies delivered to your SMS inbox every morning, information raging from daily forecast, current conditions, pollen information to snow and rain alerts. Just make sure you uncheck the box asking you whether or not you wish to receive affiliate offers from’s partners.

After you create an account, you’ll be able to modify the time you want the alerts to be sent. Alerts are initially set to be sent to both your email inbox as well as your SMS inbox, which could be unnecessary, but you can easily uncheck either one to avoid flooding it when you are logged into your account.

ChaCha ThmbSavrs

sms weather alerts

ChaCha is actually a search engine that you can text with a question, which will be answered by human guides in a few seconds. In addition to providing answers, ChaCha also offers a variety of on-demand information, such as jokes, quotes, funny questions asked at ChaCha, horoscopes, and you guessed it, weather forecasts. You basically text the same number that you use to ask ChaCha questions, but you use a special abbreviation known as a thumbsaver (or thmbsavr) for the information you want, which will be recognized by ChaCha. You can see all thumb-saving codes here.

You can set up favorites for weather alerts, or any thumbsaver information that you want on a daily basis. Just text “fav 7:00am W 02459″ if you want your weather alerts for area with zip code 02459 at 7am every morning. Note that this service is ad-supported so if you do sign up with setting up favs with ChaCha, you’ll get short ads (sometimes with tempting offers or sweepstakes) at the end of the forecast text message. This is the service that I’ve been using for several months, and I must say, the ads aren’t really that obtrusive, plus the service can be a lot of fun and helpful at times, especially when you have a quick question and you have no access to Google.

Umbrella Today?

sms weather updates

Umbrella Today’s website is a minimalistic and ad-free web app designed to deliver rain information fast. It doubles up as a alert service that provides SMS and email notices when your city’s forecast shows possible showers. Unlike The Weather Channel that asks you to sign up, Umbrella Today offers you to pick from several delivery choices. All you have to do is choose a service, either email or SMS, for which you’d need to confirm by checking your inbox and providing the secret word back at the website. For iPhone users, there’s also an iPhone app for $1.99 that lets you get push alerts.

You can find the site’s easy of use and no-frills feel in similar sites, GoingToRain, which detects your browser’s location and displays you a simple yes or no for rain, and DoINeedAnUmbrella, which asks you for the zip code before quickly showing you a yes or no, again for whether or not you should bother taking your umbrella with you.

Remember you can opt out from any of these services by either sending STOP to the service’s special number or by visiting the website.

How do you check the weather every morning?

Image credit: Manuel Holgado

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How To Build & Use Your Own Network Attached Storage Using A Ubuntu Netbook

Posted: 11 Jan 2011 09:31 AM PST

network attached storageIf you live in a multiple computer environment, you will know of the advantages of using NAS (Network-Attached Storage). Instead of storing common files inside a personal computer and synchronizing all those computers on a regular basis, it would be easier to store the files inside NAS and have all the computers within the network access the files there. NAS is perfect for collaboration in a small computer network, or for storing and sharing files.

But getting a NAS means spending more money on hardware. If you are within a personal network, have a computer with Ubuntu and some storage space to spare (either an internal or external drive(s)), you could build your own NAS using all the ingredients you already have.

Installing Samba In Ubuntu

The first thing you need to do before anything else is make sure that your computer is connected to a local network.  A wireless network is OK, but a wired network is highly recommended as it will give you a more stable connection.

network attached storage

The second thing to confirm is that you have a computer with Ubuntu installed. I used a netbook and Ubuntu Netbook Edition for my experiment. If you don’t want to install Ubuntu on your computer, you can install the OS on a USB drive instead.

To be able to share storage within a local network, you need to add Samba to your Ubuntu. Samba is the most commonly used file server system. It is the open-source implementation of Microsoft’s network protocol which means that it will work with all Windows, OS X and Linux machines on your LAN.

  • Start by opening “Applications” from the side menu and search for “Synaptic Package Manager“. This is the utility to add and remove packages (applications) within Ubuntu.

network storage

  • Open Synaptic Package Manager and search for “samba“.

network storage

  • From the search results, right click on “samba” and choose “Mark for Installation“.

network storage

  • Then click the “Apply” button to install it.

benefits of network attached storage

  • A confirmation window will appear. Click “Apply” to continue.

benefits of network attached storage

  • Ubuntu will download and install the package. The process might take a while depending on the speed of your internet connection.

benefits of network attached storage

  • Another confirmation window will appear after the installation is complete.

03f Apply Changes.jpg

  • Now you are ready to share some storage space within your network.

Create And Share Folder(s)

The next step is configuring the folder(s) to be shared to other users on your network. If you want to use an external drive as the Network Attached Storage, you can attach it to your system. If you don’t want other users to mess up your existing folders, just create new folder(s) to share inside this storage space by right clicking on an empty space and choosing “Create Folder“.

04a Create New Folder.jpg

  • Right-click on any folder that you want to share to access the “Sharing Options“.

04b Sharing Options.jpg

  • Since we are going to use this storage inside a personal network, check all the boxes and fill in the required fields. Please consult the network administrator (or friends who understand networking) if you plan to use your Network Attached Storage inside a public network.

04c Folder Sharing.jpg

  • You need to give permission to your machine before you can share the folder.

04e Add Permission.jpg

After that, your shared folder(s) will appear in the network and everybody within the network can use the folder(s) to store their files. Repeat the process to other folders that you want to share on the network.

Accessing The Shared Folders

To access the shared folders from any computer within the network, point the computer’s file manager to:


  • In Mac, you can do this by going to the “Go – Connect To Server” menu (or by using “Command + K“).

05a Go - Connect Menu.jpg

  • You can write down the address manually and click “Connect“, or you can use the “Browse” button to find the location of the shared folder(s).

05b SMB Ubuntu.jpg

  • The available folder(s) will appear on the list. Click “OK” to mount it.

05bb Mount.jpg

  • After the folder is mounted, you can use it as if it’s a folder inside the local hard drive.

network attached storage

I can’t give an example of accessing the shared folder on NAS from a Windows machine because my Windows is installed on the same machine where I installed Ubuntu. But the process should be similar. You should find the “Connect To Server” menu from “Control Panel – Network“.

I also used a rather unstable wireless network, so my results of building my own NAS are a bit disappointing. If you are able to try this on a stable network and/or also able to try accessing the shared folder(s) from a Windows machine, please share your results in the comments below.

Image credit: animaster

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10 Neat Movies On YouTube With Cool Visual & Special Effects

Posted: 11 Jan 2011 08:31 AM PST

neat moviesHardly any movie today does without visual or special effects. In fact, most movies are so far removed from reality, that almost the only thing that remains real and not tampered with are the actors – and you cannot even be sure about that.

You should note that special and visual effects are not the same. Special effects are old school on-set mechanical and in-camera optical effects, while visual effects refer to anything added or edited in digital post-production. The latter tend to be the most exciting effects, as demonstrated in recent movies like Inception or Tron Legacy.

The following neat movies give you an insight into the art of movie effects. You are bound to be amazed.

Visual Effects: 100 Years Of Inspiration

This video provides an overview of over 100 years of movie making. From the 1900 silent movie The Enchanted Drawing to the 2008 movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, the collection of clips shows some (not all) important milestones in the history of movie making, backed up by footage that reveals how the effects came to life.

Also check out this 2010 remake of the video.

Tron: Legacy – Visual Effects Concept Test

This scene is a visual effects concept test that doesn’t actually appear in the full movie.


Play takes you into a world in the not-too-distant future where it has become almost impossible to distinguish between reality and video games. One game melts into the next and the player is left with endless confusion.

A Brief History Of Pretty Much Everything

This was the final assignment for an art course. It applies the old school technique of creating an animated movie from still pictures a.k.a. stop-motion animation. The flipbook streches across 2,100 pages and took about three weeks to make.

Lego – The Force Unleashed

The film was made in response to an animation challenge on Bricks In Motion, an online filmmaking community. The lightsaber and blaster effects were all done in Photoshop.

Oren Lavie – Her Morning Elegance

This music video is another great example for stop-motion animation.

Creature Comforts

In this Oscar winning animation short film from 1989,  Wallace & Gromit creator Nick Park puts the words of people interviewed in public into the mouths of animals. Hilarious piece!

Embedding has been disabled for this movie, therefore you have to go directly to YouTube to view it.


An animated short film about a man and his alien friend fishing for rockfish in a distant future.

The Known Universe

This documentary style film was created by the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH). The journey starts in the Himalayas and seamlessly takes viewers through Earth’s atmosphere into space. The data for the stars, planets, and quasars shown in this film are provided by the Digital Universe Atlas, a four-dimensional map of the universe that is maintained and updated by astrophysicists of the AMNH.

More information about the Digital Universe Atlas is available on its website.


This 1927 masterpiece of German director Fritz Lang continues to fascinate and impress people until this day and age. It was the most expensive still film ever created and a milestone in movie history. The restored version of the movie is available on YouTube in 12 small chunks of 10 minutes each. Below is the first part.

Did you get curious about movie effects? If you’re interested in learning how to create effects yourself, check out Film Riot’s YouTube Channel. Also HowStuffWorks has some very enlightening special effects articles. To see more compelling special effects from popular movies, review the Top 50 Movie Special Effects Shots on Den of Geek.

If you enjoyed the above videos, also check out these MakeUseOf articles:

What are your favorite special effects in movies? Do you think directors today go overboard with effects?

Image Credits: Texelart



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Your PC Hardware: From A to Z [Download or Read Online]

Posted: 11 Jan 2011 07:57 AM PST

Even the best free software is useless without hardware, yet how many of us actually know how their computer works? Teach yourself by reading the latest free guide form MakeUseOf: “Your PC, Inside and Out.”

This amazing free guide covers the computer’s chassis, power supply and motherboard, and is only the first half of a two-part volume.

In this guide Lachlan Roy breaks the computer down into its different components. For each component he describes its function, explains the different specifications to look out for and provides a bit of history, too. You will learn to identify the various parts in your computer, and possibly even how to upgrade it yourself.

DOWNLOAD Your PC: Inside and Out Part 1


Read online on Scribd

Expect to learn:

  • The difference sizes of chassis on the market
  • How cooling works, including the varying models of airflow
  • What to look for in a power supply
  • Why to avoid cheap power supplies
  • What a motherboard does
  • The components of a motherboard

As with all our manuals, “Your PC: Inside and Out Part 1″ is free, so enjoy!

Also, stay tuned for “Your PC: Inside and Out Part 2″, which will cover storage media, memory, CPUs, graphics cards and more!

DOWNLOAD Your PC: Inside and Out Part 1

As always, make sure to share the guide with friends on Facebook and Twitter.

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The 5 New Emerging Technologies & Gadgets At CES 2011

Posted: 11 Jan 2011 07:31 AM PST

new emerging technologiesThe Consumer Electronics Show, is one of the largest electronics conventions in the world. Thousands of companies from across the globe, including major companies like Samsung, Intel and Microsoft, hold press conferences there.

The show is also well known for containing an enchanting array of gadgets because of its consumer focus, and there was no shortage of awesome new electronics at this year's CES.  Here’s 5 cool ones that I liked.

ASUS Eee Slate  EP121

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There was a definite atmosphere of deju-vu at CES 2011. A year after the 2010 show, which was buzzing with hype over new tablets, history has repeated itself. Unfortunately, I think many of the tablets shown remain blah, or at least don't provide many benefits compared to the iPad.

The ASUS Eee Slate EP 121 is a different story. This massive tablet has a 12.1″ display and runs Windows 7. It is powered by an Intel Core i5 processor and carries 32GB or 64GB of solid-state storage. The connectivity includes mini-HDMI, USB and Bluetooth.

Given the hardware, the ASUS Eee Slate EP 121 will likely prove as quick as many desktop computers. That’s impressive for any tablet, and it clearly gives the Eee Slate an appeal that is different from that of the iPad. The Eee Slate even ships with a Bluetooth keyboard, which means this tablet is ready to be used as a normal PC or a tablet straight out of the box.

Don’t get me wrong – this isn’t going to unseat the iPad by any stretch of the imagination. It is, however, a powerful and unique alternative that stands out from the hoard of very similar Android tablets at the show.

Lenovo ReadyDrive

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ReadyDrive is a fast-boot technology that works alongside solid-state memory in select Lenovo computers. You may have heard this story before, but Lenovo ReadyDrive is unique because it actually works. The company had a variety of different Lenovo computers equipped with ReadyDrive available to test, and by my watch all but one booted into Windows 7 in under 10 seconds. The only exception, a Lenovo ThinkPad Edge, booted in 10.32 seconds.

Boot times this quick are unprecedented on Windows computers, and greatly enhances the Windows experience. The instantaneous response of our mobile devices has spoiled us; waiting forty seconds for Windows to boot feels like an hour. Hopefully, this technology will light a fire under Lenovo’s competitors, forcing them to include similar quick-boot technologies (which work as advertised) as well.

Ultra-Thin Displays

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Five years ago, LCD displays were just becoming a popular choice for HDTVs. A decade ago, they were just beginning to replace CRTs as the computer monitor of choice. Those early models seemed impossibly thin, but the new products at CES have taken thin displays to another level.

LG, Samsung, Sony and others showed a variety of LCD HDTVs and/or monitors that seemed straight out of a sci-fi movie. LG's new line of computer monitors, which are just .28″ thin, were among the most impressive new displays. But the HDTVs were no less entrancing, and Samsung's models seemed particularly impressive, thanks to bezels no thicker than the width of a pencil.

These are still traditional LCD displays with LED backlighting, as well. More exotic technologies, such as OLED, were not used to achieve these razor-thin results. Paper-thin displays no longer feel like speculation, but rather an inevitability that will surely arrive within the next five years.

Samsung Series 9 Ultraportable

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The MacBook Air is cool, but it runs OS X, which is a blessing or a curse depending on who you ask. Those in the “curse” portion of the audience will be happy to know that Samsung has just the thing for you.

Samsung's Series 9 is a new ultraportable that weighs under three pounds and is just .64″ thin. This makes the Series 9 one of the thinnest and lightest laptops around, and it gives the laptop a portability edge over the 13" MacBook Air. This is made possible through the use of a material called Duralumin. If you're into Star Trek-esqe techno-babble, you'll love bragging about your new 9 series.

This baby isn't lacking in power, either. The 1.4 GHz Core i5 processor is mated with a 128GB solid state drive, which means overall performance will be similar to Air. Battery life remains the only variable. Samsung claims 6.5 hours, but if this laptop behaves like most others, real-world usage will likely be restricted to around 5 hours away from a socket.

Intel & AMD APUs

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Processors don’t receive the lion’s share of the attention at trade shows today. That’s likely because they’ve been around for some time, and they’re difficult to explain. A new tablet is easy to understand. The press can hold it, turn it every which way, and photograph it. You might be able to hold a new Intel or AMD processor before it is officially released, but doing so won’t tell you much about the technology.

Even so, both Intel and AMD displayed one of the coolest tech innovations of CES – the accelerated processing unit, or APU. Intel’s new line of Core i3, i5 and i7 processors, along with AMD’s new line of Fusion processors (which will start as laptop processors but extend to desktop offerings later this year) have new processor architectures that integrate traditional CPU functions with an on-board GPU. This can result in stunning performance enhancements. Intel’s new processors, for example, can transcode video more quickly than a Nvidia GTX 580 video card.

It’s a shame this awesome new technology has been under-reported in the face of yet more tablet news, because between the two it is the APU that will be of more importance – at least over the next few years.


There were plenty of other cool new gadgets to talk about, but I ultimately had to reduce my selection to just five, and these are the ones that forced themselves front and center. If you have a favorite new piece of tech from CES 2011 that isn't listed here, let us know in the comments.

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