Monday, January 17, 2011 “Cool Websites and Tools [January 16th]” plus 7 more “Cool Websites and Tools [January 16th]” plus 7 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [January 16th]

Posted: 16 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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SE Desktop Constructor – When working on your computer the first thing you notice is the desktop wallpaper. There are many customization applications that let you personalize the wallpaper in ways that are productive. But no application does this as effectively as SE-DesktopConstructor. a free to use installable application for Windows operating systems. With the application installed you can choose to timely change the wallpaper image from an images folder. Read more: SE-DesktopConstructor: Builds Great Looking & Functional Desktop Wallpapers


Mapnificent – A great number of apps and tools have surfaced in the past few years to provide more timely and accurate information related to public transport. Mapnificent is also one such tool that tells you how far you can go in each direction in a certain amount of time. To start, just place the pointer anywhere in your desired city and the area you can travel to in 15 minutes will be highlighted. Read more: Mapnificent: See How Far Public Transport Can Take You In A Given Time



Food Pickle – If you are looking for quick answers whenever you are stuck at cooking, then you should check out Foodpickle by Food52. This tool provides a crowdsourced Q&A for your cooking questions, which is very handy if you are planning special meals by yourself and are not exactly sure what to do. You can ask questions directly on the website, or tweet @foodpickle. Read more: FoodPickle: Get Cooking Questions Answered Quickly



Flash Village – Even though HTML5 is labeled the 'future of the Web', Flash is still dominant on most websites. Flash ads, designs, and banners are found on most places on the Internet. If you are a Flash developer looking for resources for your design check out Flash Village. After you create an account on Flash Village, you will get access to many Flash and vector templates. Read more: FlashVillage: Get Free Flash Templates, Effects & Tutorials



Meetzi – Most meetings are not as effective as they are intended to be. Due to poor preparation or other factors, meetings usually do not fully achieve their purpose. One online tool, called Meetzi, lets you organize meetings in a better way to make them more productive. It forces meeting attendees to really think the meeting through, from the goals to the agenda to the amount of time each thing should take. Read more: Meetzi: Organize & Make Meetings More Productive


These are just half of the websites that we discovered in the last couple of days. If you want us to send you daily round-ups of all cool websites we come across, leave your email here. Or follow us via RSS feed.

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Thank You To MakeUseOf Friends!

Posted: 16 Jan 2011 06:31 PM PST

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

    [1] ShrinkTheWeb – Website Screenshot Thumbnail Service

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


    [2] Walyou – Cool Gadgets for Geeks

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

    [3] rade | eccles – iPhone Application Development

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


    [4] TrueKolor – Affordable Quality Logo and Banner Design

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


    [5] Mobify – Making the Web a mobile place

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


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

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


    [7] Sourcebits – Android Developement

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


Thank you, guys!

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How Many YouTube Videos Have You Downloaded? [MakeUseOf Poll]

Posted: 16 Jan 2011 05:30 PM PST

Last week we asked where you go to find what’s hot online today. And guess what? Most of you head straight for your RSS reader, where you’ve got all your favourite feeds ready and waiting for you.

We collected 298 votes which were broken up like this: 29% head to their RSS reader; 11% go to somewhere not on the list (a few of those people mentioned where they go in the comments if you want some good ideas); 10% get cool links from Twitter (from one of the many ways to do so); 8% head to Facebook; 8% expect to find the best stuff in their email; 7% find great things on YouTube; 7% find great news on Reddit; 5% people go to DIGG; 4% use Delicious; 4% find hot stuff on StumbleUpon; 3% use PopURLs to find the top news; Flickr and Slashdot both scored 2% of the votes.

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

Unsurprisingly, it looks like we find our own RSS readers have a better selection of content than any one site on the web.

This week's poll question is: How many YouTube videos have you downloaded?

We know there’s a number of ways to download video from YouTube. But Tina Sieber was wondering how many people actually do it? And if so, how much do they download? And no, we don’t mean streaming it normally (even though technically that’s downloading) — we mean saving a copy to your hard drive.

Did you copy something from YouTube just so you could watch it all the way through without interruption? Do you like to put YouTube clips on your iPod? Do you even know whether it’s legal to download video from YouTube or not? Should YouTube offer an easy-download option itself? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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MakeUseOf Team Spotlight [January 16th 2011]

Posted: 16 Jan 2011 04:00 PM PST

MakeUseOf Team Spotlight is our occasional feature where we profile the work of our writers outside of MakeUseOf. We have some very talented employees who like to spread their talents all around the web and it’s only right that we should recognise and showcase those talents.

In this edition of Spotlight, we will be profiling the inspiring work of Ryan, Steve, Angela and Bohed. We will also be sharing these posts individually on Facebook and Twitter, so join us there as well!

A List of Filipino Writers

Posted on FreeWritingCenter by Ryan Dube

Writers from around the world continue to make amazing additions to the treasure of literature that readers from around the world love to enjoy.

Many times European and American writers get all of the limelight, so in this article Ryan celebrated a few of the most impressive Filipino writers that have contributed some of the best literature throughout the ages.

Posted by Steve Campbell

This is Steve’s personal Tumblr. Feel free to follow him here as he posts funny videos, links to cool websites, and content associated with tech, sports, music, pop culture, beer, and most anything else he finds interesting.

One thing is for sure, you will be entertained.

Jobs For Expats

Posted on Vegemite Croissant by Angela Alcorn

If you’ve ever tried moving countries, you’ll know that it can sometimes be hard to find work you enjoy when you get there. This is made even more difficult if you haven’t yet mastered the local language.

This post explores a few good options for people working in new countries, including work you can do from anywhere online.

20 Best Logos With Hidden Meaning

Posted on TruKolor by Azamat “Bohed” E

There are thousands of logos, some of them are great, some really great and some of those have a "hidden" meaning in them that you might have missed. Bohed ran through lots of logos and chose the best ones with hidden details. Those artists are THE designers for they’ve been so creative and talented to come up with such awesome results.

If you would like to follow the MUO staff yourself on Twitter, check out this Twitter list, which is updated on a regular basis, as staff are hired or fired. From there, you can click through to each writer’s Twitter profile where you can subscribe to them for all their latest updates.

Image Credit: Visualogist

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3+ Ways to Customise Your Facebook Profile Picture

Posted: 16 Jan 2011 02:30 PM PST

customise facebook profile pictureWith the new Facebook profiles, a few creative members have taken full advantage of the layout. Said to have started with Alexandre Oudin, a French artist, many have followed suit. Any Photoshop fiends will find it easy to put this look together, transforming their Facebook profile into an interesting collage of images.

That said, there are several apps popping up that have taken the hard work out of it. The only difficulty you’ll find yourself faced with is trying to choose the profile picture you’re going to use. From branded Facebook apps that take care of the entire method step by step, to separate webapps that create the images for you to later upload to Facebook, there are a variety of ways that you can recreate the effect on your own profile.

Schweppes App

Schweppes were quick to stick their brand name on a Facebook app that allows you to upload, tag and share your profile photo directly within the social network.

customise facebook profile picture

Upload the photo of your choice to the Schweppes app and resize, rotate and move the image until the final layout is to your liking.

customise facebook profile

From the app, you can then automatically upload the images to Facebook.

customise facebook profile

This will create a new album, from which you can then set the first image as your profile picture, and tag yourself in the rest of the photos.

customise facebook profile


PicScatter takes a similar approach to the Schweppes app, allowing you to upload, scale and move the image, but you can’t rotate it.

customize pictures for facebook

Once you’ve uploaded and scaled the image, you can then automatically publish it to Facebook, and like the Schweppes app, an album will automatically be created including all of the images.

customize pictures for facebook

PicScatter does have a few nice features that the Schweppes app doesn’t. First, if you’d rather not publish directly to Facebook, you can download the photos in a zip folder from PicScatter and upload them to Facebook yourself. If you do publish to Facebook, it will automatically tag the photos for you.

customize pictures for facebook

It also makes it easy to remove previous “scatters” if you decide to create a new layout, as well as creating an album with 9 photos, as opposed to Schweppes’ 6 photos; allowing your friends and followers to see more of the original image when you first upload it.

PicScatter doesn’t make it very clear, but it seems that you have to like their Facebook Page in order for the application to prompt you to grant it permission to access your profile.

With both the Schweppes app and PicScatter, if your tagged photos aren’t visible to your friends, rather than tag the photos, simply add each of the photos to your profile photos album, but be sure to get them in the right order. If you opt for using the tag method, you will of course have to manually remove the images from the bar each time your friend tag you in a photo, by clicking the little ‘x’ in the corner of the image.

Default Photo

If you’re looking for something a little less elaborate or low key, or if you don’t want to put your own image up as your profile picture, an interesting option is to jazz up Facebook’s default photo. With almost 70 alternatives to the default image from Darth Vader to Pippy Longstockings – there’s something in there for just about everyone.

customise facebook profile picture

There are a few other interesting options when it comes to spicing up your Facebook profile, including turning the image into a video with VanityVid, or using cool special effects on your photos courtesy of these 6 sites or even creating a cartoon avatar.

Have you taken advantage of Facebook’s latest profile layout? Let us know in the comments, and share a screenshot while you’re at it.

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Hot Tech Deals [Jan 16th]

Posted: 16 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 Pavilion dm4t Intel Core i7-640M Dual-Core 2.8GHz 14in Laptop (6GB/500GB/6-Cell + 9-Cell Batteries) $908.99 via code NB5321 (Exp Soon)
  2. EXPIRING Western Digital Caviar Green 2TB Internal SATA Hard Drive $69.99AR Free Shipping via code EMCKJJG27 (Exp 1/19)
  3. HP Pavilion dm1z AMD Dual-Core E-350 (FUSION) 11.6in Laptop w/ ATI Radeon HD6310M Graphics $424.99 via code SVMB39487 (Exp Soon)
  4. HP ENVY 14 Intel Core i7-720QM Quad-Core 14.5in 1600×900 Laptop (4GB/500GB/Radeon HD5650/8-Cell Battery) $899 via code NBK4267893 (Exp Soon)
  5. HP Pavilion dv7tqe Intel Core i7-2630QM [New Sandy Bridge] 17.3in Laptop w/ Blu-Ray $904.99 via code NBK4267893 (Exp Soon)
  6. TODAY ONLY HP DF1000A3 10.4in 800×600 Digital Photo Frame $77.99 Free Shipping

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set

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10 Free MP3 Albums To Download [Sound Sunday]

Posted: 16 Jan 2011 11:30 AM PST

Where do you listen to the albums introduced in Sound Sunday? Do you play them casually on here, download and add them to a playlist, or drop them onto your mp3 player for fresh sounds to go? Let’s hear!

And as you’re enjoying the new material each week, remember to spread the word of music you appreciate and donate where you can. If you discover something worth sharing, leave a comment at the bottom of this article or drop me a line [tina at makeuseof dot com]. I also welcome feedback and genre requests.

Let me know you’re alive and enjoy listening!

Lost – Disaster In The Making

Genre: pop, punk

free mp3This band indeed leaves me a little lost. Are they the Italian band Lost that gained internet fame through the demo track My posted on MySpace in 2007?Apparently not since their Twitter page says they are a pop punk band from the UK and the Italian band doesn’t look alike. Yet, the iTunes profile for the UK band hints to an Italian history. But no, the Italian Lost have their own Twitter account. So what gives? UK guys, please put some proper links on your Twitter page!

Lost have made their Disaster In The Making album available via MediaFire.

Lost Twitter.

Whisper – The Free Album

Genre: beats, hip hop, pop, soul, urban

From Whisper’s Bandcamp page: “This album has been several years in the making, with some of the tracks beginning their life as early as 2006. Over the years it has changed and evolved, before becoming what you see here now.  Some of these tracks represent a stage in my evolution as an artist, rather than where I’m at now, but (…) they are important parts of the journey. (…) I’m so happy that I’m able to share it with you now.

The Free Album is available from Bandcamp.

Whisper MySpace and Facebook.

The White Soots – selftitled

Genre: psychedelic, rock, blues,

This album was recommended to me by Bill Goodman of The Soda Shop, an internet radio station and music blog. Bill runs a weekly feature called Bandcamp Recommendation. He says that this album from The White Soots is his favorite of 2010. Check out out for yourself!

You can download The White Soots free from Bandcamp.

The White Soots MySpace and Facebook.

The Ballistics – Are We Having Fun Yet?

Genre: alternative, punk, reggae, ska

Sometimes it’s worth looking into the past for great music. The Ballistics formed in 2002 and split up in 2009. Yet you will find an album uploaded to Bandcamp in December 2010. Judging by the titles, it’s a Best Of, showcasing the best of their 7 years band history.

Are We Having Fun Yet? is a free download from Bandcamp.

The Ballistics MySpace and Wikipedia.

Honor Thy Drummer – A Tribute to Mike Portnoy

Genre: experimental, beats, rock

free music downloadFrom the press release: “Independent musicians, graphic artists, and a computer graphics demogroup have collaborated on a grand scale multimedia tribute to Mike Portnoy, in celebration of over a quarter of a century of highly influential musicianship. Mike Portnoy's early investment into the internet, as well as his relationship with the global fan base, created a fad-transcending musical community that continues to grow past the post quarter century mark.

You can download A Tribute to Mike Portnoy from SpaceProg.

Mike Portnoy MySpace and Homepage.

Remedy Drive – Rip Open the Skies

Genre: indie, rock

Remedy Drive is a indie rock band from Lincoln, Nebraska. With a sound well positioned between Snow Patrol, Coldplay, and Keane (UK bands rock), every song smooches the ears of those that love music with strong melodies. Watch out for Remedy Drive throughout the US at shows and festivals from February through August. Tour dates are listed on MySpace and their Homepage.

Get your free copy of Rip Open the Skies from NoiseTrade.

Remedy Drive MySpace and Homepage.

Bess Rogers – Sampler

Genre: folk, indie, pop

From her Facebook page: “Is Bess Rogers a folkie with punk instincts or an indie-rocker with an acoustic bent? (…) Rogers — a member of Ingrid Michaelson's touring band — likes to surround her sweet lyric sentiments with a tough outer coating as she recounts tales of fumbled romance and fragile happiness.” The present sampler provides and excellent overview of her talents.

The Bess Rogers Sampler can be downloaded for free from NoiseTrade.

Bess Rogers MySpace and Homepage.

High Flight Society – Par Avion

Genre: alternative, rock, pop

In 2007 High Flight Society were on the route to fame, playing shows in front of thousands of people and having their selftitled debut record named one of the top 100 releases of the year. Shortly after the record was released, their label RKT folded and the band literally had to start over. The four track EP Par Avion is a step on the way back into the limelight.

Par Avion is a free download from NoiseTrade.

High Flight Society MySpace and Homepage.

Ben Montague – Overcome

Genre: alternative, pop, rock, soul

A solo performance in London’s Soho gained him the financial support he needed to record his first EP. The track Haunted was a success on BBC Radio 2 and when the second single Broken hit Radio 2′s A list for six weeks, Ben had really made an impression. He was invited to open for the Stereophonics at Milan’s F1 Rocks. If you happen to be in the UK, watch out for Ben’s shows across the island in February and early March. Dates can be found on his MySpace and Homepage.

Overcome is a free download from NoiseTrade.

Ben Montague MySpace and Homepage.

Nouvèrt – Il Suono Delle Parole

Genre: alternative, electronic, pop, rock

Nouvèrt – Il Suono Delle Parole by simonefabbri

Back in 2006, Nouvèrt started out recording songs in English, before they switched to their native Italian language. They released their first promo EP in Feburary 2009, followed by more releases and an Italian tour. Finally, in October 2010 they released their fist full length album Il Suono Delle Parole.

You can download Il Suono Delle Parole one song at a time from SoundCloud.

Nouvèrt MySpace and Homepage.

Also check out SPIN Magazine’s 10 Best Albums You Might Have Missed in 2010 and get a free track from each album.

If you’re looking for more material, browse past editions of Sound Sunday. You can also get in touch with me [tina at makeuseof dot com] to share free material, suggestions, and feedback that you don't want to post in the comments below.

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Amahi Home Server – Setting Up File Duplications & Exploring the App Store

Posted: 16 Jan 2011 09:30 AM PST

In my third and final article about Amahi Home Server, I’m going to show you how to create new network shares to store files in, set up file-duplication for critical files using the Greyhole storage pool, and have a quick look at the other applications in the app store, such as Transmission for downloading torrents. I also test the file redundancy by powering off a drive while the server is running!

If you haven’t already and wish to follow along with setting up your own home server with Amahi, you should begin by setting up a basic installation, then adding a hard drive to your system.

Turn on advanced settings

The storage pooling technology we’ll be looking at today falls firmly under the category of advanced, so you’ll need to enable advanced settings. Log into your HDA and click on Setup -> Settings -> tick Advanced Settings.


Shares are the most fundamental part of your server. A Share is basically just a folder that you access on your network to store files on, and Amahi is set up by default with Shares such as Books, Movies, Pictures. To create a new Share, go to Setup -> Shares, and click the New Share button. The default options are fine, just type in the name of your new share and click Create.

File Duplication

With advanced settings enabled, you’ll notice that on the Setup -> Shares screen, a new menu option for Storage Pool has appeared. From here, we can select drives to add them to the “pool”. Once in the pool, we can duplicate files across them and ensure redundancy.

Note: the first drive listed is the drive that Amahi is installed on. It is strongly suggested that you don’t add this one to the pool, as filling it up would break your server.

For this, I’ve added two drives into the pool, so I’ll be able to create a maximum of 1 copy. Tick the boxes next to the drive to add them into the pool:

Now we need to tell the system to make copies of anything in a particular share. To do this, click back to the Shares screen and select the Share you wish to add the duplication feature to. In this case, I’ve chosen Movies. Scroll down to the Storage Pool option, tick Uses Pool, and select the number of additional copies.

To test it, I copied 20 GB of my favourite movies in and waited about half hour for Greyhole to balance everything. To simulate a hard drive failure, I pulled the power off one of the drives while the system was running. The results? Good and bad.

Firstly, I tried to access the movies again, and they were fine – the duplicates obviously worked. On the bad side, Amahi gives no indication by default that a drive has actually failed, so if this were a real-life drive failure, I simply wouldn’t know about it. I approached the creator of Greyhole (Guillaume Bordreu) in the official chatroom to ask about this, and it appears the fault is with Amahi. Though Greyhole will send emails when errors occur, by default Amahi doesn’t enable outgoing emails. He suggested following this Amahi wiki tutorial on enabling outgoing emails, and then to edit the greyhole.yml and greyhole.conf with the email address you want alerts sent to.

Hopefully, future versions of Amahi will sort this out. I must say I’m impressed with the fact that I was able to get a comprehensive answer, from the creator no less, in under 5 minutes. The same could not be said of most software packages, and this one episode has given me somewhat more faith in the power of Linux and the open source community in general.

There’s also a useful page here on recovering from a hard drive failure with Amahi in case your system is restarted and cannot boot.

App Store and Transmission

One of the things I like to offload to my server is downloading torrents. Ideally, I’d like to just drop my torrent files in a network share, and let the server handle everything from there. In fact, this is the default behaviour for the Transmission app, which you can install from the Apps -> Available tab. Once installed, you’ll be able to access the torrent management page directly from the Transmission Web Interface, and a new share called Torrents is automatically created.

Of course, Transmission isn’t only app available, so here’s a few that caught my eye.

WordPress: If you’d like to run own blog on the world’s most popular and actively supported blogging system, WordPress is it. This app makes setting it up to run on your home server easy, and when you start getting a few thousand visitors a day, you can easily offload your site to a real web host. (Bear in mind that some ISPs eplicitly forbid you from running a webserver on your home internet connection)

WebVNC: To make your server truly headless, you can install WebVNC, which lets you log in and view the desktop from any web browser, not just the standard HDA dashboard.

DLNA: Enables your shared movies and media files to be viewed on DLNA/UPnP-AV clients easily, such as the Xbox360 or Playstation 3. DLNA is essential if you’re planning on streaming movies rather than simply running a backup storage server.

CrashPlan: Though I haven’t a had a chance to try this one and can’t vouch for it, CrashPlan promises to be your ultimate back-up solution; with encryption, compression and automated backups on all of your Windows, Mac OSX, and Linux clients.

That’s it for this series. Thanks to all those who have contributed in the comments of previous articles and suggested alternatives that we can explore in the future, and do please let us know if you found this useful in setting up your Amahi server, or your experiences with it so far. Would you trust your files to it?

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