Saturday, January 22, 2011 “Cool Websites and Tools [January 21st]” plus 10 more “Cool Websites and Tools [January 21st]” plus 10 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [January 21st]

Posted: 21 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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Goodzer – Goodzer is a new product-focused search engine that lets you search for any thing that sells in stores around you. The category of products is not confined to electronics and computers but expands to include every thing ranging from coffee to boots. Since its a first release, Goodzer currently only serves the New York city area but plans to expand globaly. Read more: Goodzer: Search Engine For Products In Your Area


Zxing Decoder Online – If you own a smartphone, chances are you have already come across QR-codes. QR-codes are matrix codes published on various products. They contain text and can be scanned and decoded through a smartphone. If you have a QR code image stored on your computer, you can decode it online using ZXing Decoder Online. Read more: Zxing Decoder Online: Easily Decode QR Codes Online



Tidypub – Whether it is an essay of yours that needs editing or a great chapter from an eBook you want to share, there are times when you need to share large pieces of text online. You can always do this by uploading a document file. However to ensure that the recipient reads the shared text in a reader-friendly interface, you will need to check out a web service called TidyPub. Read more: Tidypub: Share Text Online In A Reader-Friendly Interface



Wotsit – Have you ever come across an unknown file extension? Or perhaps you are working with a new file extension and you want to know its specifications? Either way, the site that will help you find everything about different computer file formats is Wotsit, a user friendly and free to use website that provides information on file extensions. Read more: Wotsit: Obtain Detailed Info On Different Computer File Formats



Scale Of The Universe – How small is the smallest object? How large is the largest object? There is a good chance that you do not know. To get an idea of how various objects in the universe size up against one another, pay a visit to the interactive and fun web tool entitled Scale of the Universe, a free and very informative web tool. The site lets you view the sizes of various objects. Read more: Scale Of The Universe: Visualize & Compare Object Sizes In Our Universe


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 Best Questions From You [MakeUseOf Answers]

Posted: 21 Jan 2011 05:31 PM PST

best questionsSometimes, great questions arise from great answers. Come see it happening on MakeUseOf Answers!

A great answer we are rewarding today was given by one of Answer’s most active and skilled contributors. ha14 wins the Best Answer of the Week contest for the solution he provided in reply to this question: Why does my Windows computer spontaneously reboot? Congratulations and thank you so much for your efforts!

Are you hungry for more interesting questions and great answers?

MakeUseOf Answers never runs out of ideas. Browse by Latest Questions, Most Popular Questions, or Unanswered Questions. For regular updates subscribe to the Answers RSS Feed.

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The Best Travel Deals Sites To Save Cash On Your Next Vacation

Posted: 21 Jan 2011 03:31 PM PST

best sites for travel dealsAirline tickets and other associated travel expenses constantly change within hours or days. Booking a flight just two or three days before or after your planned departure date could cost or save you up to a few hundred dollars. But with some online searching, and some flexibility in your schedule, you can possibly find great travel deals that will make your trip less costly and possibly more enjoyable.

We recently posted about a travel site called Virtual Tourist that contains lots of traveler recommendations for planning your next trip. But there are several websites geared to helping you find some of the best travel deals around. These sites are easy to navigate and they provide tools for alerting you when long and short-term deals arise.


Airfarewatchdog seems to be the most straightforward site when it comes to locating the best airfare deals. Airfarewatchdog prides itself on being a team of real people who personally seek out low airfare rates by scouring the net and posting listings as they find them.

Airfarewatchdog post deals for domestic and international flights. They list promo codes, specify if flights are non-stop, and provide comparative rates from “every conceivable airport”.

best sites for travel deals

If you have a really flexible schedule, you can take advantage of their “Today's Lowest Fares” listing.  You can be alerted about travel fares for less than $100, depending of course on your location. All you have to do is provide Airfarewatchdog with an email address to get alerts. You can also follow Airfarewatchdog on Twitter and Facebook.


If you're planning some group travel, check out Triporama. This site lists package deals for not only airline fares but also deals for hotels, tourist spots, dining and shopping.

best travel deals

Packages can be explored by various themes, including Weekend and Girlfriend Getaways, Skiing, Golf, and Family Travel, as well as Beach Vacations, and Sporting Events.

best travel deals

When you sign up for a free account, you can add and tag all your research in your Group Trip Planner. From there you and your group can research and collaborate on the best deals.


TravelAdvisor also provides best deals on flights, restaurant meals, cruises and vacation rentals. Simply input your travel dates and TravelAdvisor will deliver you comparative rates from related sources.

best travel deals

The site also has free mobile apps for researching travel deals and locations.

best last minute travel deals

It also features reviews from travelers from around the world who provide tips and critiques of travel hotspots. The idea behind TravelAdvisors is to provide lots of reviews and advice on hotels, resorts, flights, vacation rentals and vacation packages, so you can get the most out of your travel.


IgoUgo saves you the trouble of having to search various websites to compare prices. After providing your travel dates and destinations, you can select other travel websites, including Travelocity, Priceline, and Expedia, which you want IgoUgo to search.

best last minute travel deals

IgoUgo also includes traveler photos and onsite blog tips about various tourist destinations.


TravelZoo is an easy-to-use deal search site that evaluates and tests thousands of deals among more than 2,000 travel companies, including Travelocity, Orbitz, JetBlue, United, Priceline, Delta, and American Airlines.

best last minute travel deals

TravelZoo, which claims over 2 million subscribers, also finds deals for airfares, hotels, cruises, car rentals, and vacations. You can sign up to get their Top 20 alerts, that recently included such deals as a 4-Night Bahamas Getaway for $299, a Spring 5-Night Royal Caribbean Cruise for $399 ($250 savings), and 4 Cocktails with Tapas at New W Lounge in NYC for $35 (Reg. $108).

Cruise Compete

If a cruise getaway is what you're looking for, check out Cruise Compete. Agents working for this site can provide you free Cruise Quotes for the best deals.


You simply submit a ship name and sail dates, with a few pieces of relevant information, to get feedback about available prices and savings.

best sites for travel deals

Cruise Compete has information about deals and packages for cruises throughout the world, and it can also provide you with information about group rates.

As you search for travel prices, you will find there's hardly any standard fees for airfares, car rentals, hotels, or cruises. Prices seem to go up and down constantly, so taking advantage of these deal sites is the best way to possibly save some money for your trip.

There are many other travel deal sites online, so let us know which ones you have found useful.

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OneTrueFan – Discover Communities & See Who’s Visiting Your Favorite Sites

Posted: 21 Jan 2011 01:31 PM PST

see what websites people are onRemember the GetGlue bar I showed you that follows you around the web? I think it’s an interesting concept, especially because it gives you the ability to automatically have your interests posted to your page, allowing you to earn badges and stay active in that community, even if you aren’t actually going there.

OneTrueFan works kind of the same way, except rather than track certain pages you’ve been to (like product pages and TV listings) it helps build community around your favorite websites, period. Not sure exactly what I mean? In this article, I’ll explain what OneTrueFan is and how you could use it.

What Is OneTrueFan?

OneTrueFan is not a social network in the traditional sense, in that social networks attempt to localize an experience and/or lock users into a single social graph. OneTrueFan is the anti-network, bringing to light the communities that already exist at your favorite sites, with no additional effort on your part.

OneTrueFan brings to light the communities that already exist on your favorite sites. As I’ll explain below, you simply install the addon or widget and start browsing the web as usual.

see what websites people are on

Once you start browsing, you’ll be able to see the other people you’re connected to who have viewed the page you’re on, as well as do things like check into it to earn points. OneTrueFan uses data from Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Posterous, Digg, Delicious, and other services to give you data that you wouldn’t otherwise get while surfing the web.

How OneTrueFan Works

websites people like

To start using OneTrueFan, head over to their homepage and click Get Started. Once you do that, you’ll be taken to a page where you can elect to install the browser addon to start using it around the web, or place the widget on your website to give it that functionality.

websites people like

As I’m using Google Chrome, I just installed the OneTrueFan Chrome extension, but if you decide to use the widget instead, you simply copy the script and embed it somewhere on your site. Also, you can install it to Blogger with one click.

That’s it! Like they say on the website, “You’re ready to start playing! Start browsing the web and see OneTrueFan in action.”

websites people like

OneTrueFan will follow you around the web. Drag your mouse down to the bar and register so it tracks all of your information. Don’t worry, because by “register”, I mean sign in with Twitter or Facebook Connect.

what people like

After you sign in, you can check into your favorite websites, view others who have checked in, see the history of everyone’s recent links (including yours), and share the page on Twitter or Facebook.

what people like

Everything you do on OneTrueFan earns you points, and as time goes on your activity and points will earn you badges, patches, and all kinds of accolades.

Once you’ve been browsing and using OneTrueFan for a while, you can return to the site to see all of your information. Click Sign In and you can log in again using your Twitter/Facebook credentials.

see what websites people are on

If you have the Chrome extension installed (like I do), you can click on the extension’s icon at the top of your browser and a new tab will open up that takes you right to your profile page. You might notice that your profile is already populated with data taken from your Twitter or Facebook page. Don’t worry, you can still change everything in your settings.


OneTrueFan’s Terms of Use is listed as follows: “Don’t be lame.”

This service is very easy to use and it’s a pretty cool and useful way to view data while surfing the web. The fact that it provides incentives like earning points and badges makes it fun, and it encourages you to share more of the things you find instead of forgetting about an article that you could have otherwise shared with your following or community. I’m curious to see what other types of apps and extensions will “make use of” the ability to follow us around the web.

What do you think of OneTrueFan?

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Hot Tech Deals [Jan 21st]

Posted: 21 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. TODAY ONLY KWorld SA290-Q LE Digital TV Tuner Box (1080i) $49.99 Free Shipping
  2. TODAY ONLY McAfee Total Protection 2011 Software (1-User) $6.99 Free Shipping
  3. Acer S231HLbid 23in LED-Backlit LCD Monitor $169.99 Free Shipping
  4. Invicta 6179 Swiss Made GMT Flame Fusion Crystal 500M Mens Watch $156 via code Techbargains3
  5. Xerox 7600 1200 dpi 48bit USB Flatbed Scanner $40 Free Shipping via code EMCKJHJ37 (Exp 1/27)
  6. Zalman FG1000 Gun Mouse (2000dpi) $19.99 Free Shipping via code EMCKJHJ33 (Exp 1/27)
  7. Kingston SSDNow V-Series 128GB Internal SSD Drive (2nd Gen w/ Trim Support) $159.95AR Free Shipping

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set

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Pummelvision: Create A Photo Video Montage Of Your Life In Fast-Forward

Posted: 21 Jan 2011 11:31 AM PST

software programs for creating photo montageIt used to be the case that photos would be taken sparingly, stored in albums and pored over during holidays and family gatherings. These days, thanks to digital cameras, most of us have way too many photos. We might have them neatly organised on Flickr or in some other collection, but we still rarely get a chance to look through them all because there are just so many. And if that’s how we feel about our own photos, what is the likelihood our friends will ever bother to look at them?

Enter Pummelvision. This is a service designed to grab your photos and pummel them into a short YouTube or Vimeo montage for you. Instead of watching a slow slideshow of your photos, you’re hammered with hundreds of them in a few short minutes. It’s quite a blast to see your pictures thrown back at you like this!

Watch Out For Private Photos!

Before you start, keep in mind that this is a public tool. When you make a Pummelvision clip of your photos, the video clip will be featured in the Pummelvision gallery and publicly on your YouTube/Vimeo channel. Don’t use private photos!

Pummelvision From Many Sources

You can make Pummelvision clips from all sorts of online photo collections including Flickr, Dropbox, Tumblr, DailyBooth or Facebook. All options except Tumblr use a form of secure authentication. Tumblr is simply brought in via URL. There are no extra security options, so private photos in these collections will be included. If unsure, don’t connect a service where you might have private photos.

software programs for creating photo montage

If you work with Facebook, your choice is either photos you’ve tagged in Facebook or all of your photos. If you choose Flickr, you can choose to use a particular set of photos. You could use a Flickr set to ensure none of your private photos appear in the Pummelvision clip.

photo montage software

What Sort Of Montage?

Some people use Pummelvision to make a quick summary of their life or their awesome Tumblr. Others make it a little more focused — if you use Flickr sets you could limit it to one particular holiday or photos of you and your partner.

You could use a Pummelvision clip to quickly update people on your life, as an introduction on your blog’s landing page, as an anniversary present, a gift to a friend, a holiday video or whatever else you might be able to think of.

Here’s an example Pummelvision from the gallery by I Still Shoot Film

How To Use Pummelvision

It’s really easy to make a Pummelvision clip. There are only a few options and they’re pretty simple to figure out. Choose where the photos will come from, authenticate and choose whether you’d prefer a YouTube clip or a Vimeo clip.

software programs for creating photo montage

Pummelvision then authenticates your choice of video so it can post videos to your own YouTube/Vimeo account.

Pummelvision will automatically choose the photos which are used from your collection, so if you’re offering thousands of photos they’ll randomly pick a smaller selection. If you’re using a Flickr set perhaps all of them will be used, depending on the size of your set.

There is only one piece of music for the Pummelvision videos so far, but it’s a great number by Friendly Ghost. It’s perfect for most photo collections.

Opinions On Pummelvision

Most of the things which could drive people from Pummelvision to a competitor are things already being considered by the site. More music options would be great, especially something slower for moving photo collections. Being able to exclude private photos would be an important next step.

That said, there are no competitors at this stage. All the fun is happening right here!

Photo & Video Lovers

If you’re always uploading photos and video and need some new ideas, check out these posts:

What have you made using Pummelvision? What great montages have you got in mind? Let us know in the comments!

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10 Interactive Financial Websites That Teach Kids Money Management Skills

Posted: 21 Jan 2011 10:31 AM PST

teaching kids about moneyTo fill the piggy bank, it's important to start early. A dollar doesn't go far, but with some sound advice it can be stretched. Kids of today don't need to understand how money can be spent, but they need to know how money works.

For parents to have a kid who is money-wise is a boon because it makes those save or splurge decisions easier to handle. There's no right age for having that money talk with your kids. If he or she can spend or borrow, they sure can learn to save and invest. As a recent Reuters article says, it's important to start early because by the time your child reaches high school, their money habits are already forming.

So, the buck stops with the parents. Start the money education at the dinner table or take the help of these interactive websites that impart financial literacy in a fun way.

The Mint

teaching kids about money

The Mint believes in educating American children about money because the lessons on saving and debt need to be urgently learned. The site has sections tailor-made for kids, teens, parents, and teachers. The tools consist of games that are built around earning, saving, spending, and giving. Lessons on how money moves are also imparted in an easy to grasp language. With a basic understanding, you can play the quizzes and calculator games like the Be Your Own Boss Challenge on the website.

Practical Money Skills

how to manage money

This financial literacy website covers the young of all ages with its package of personal finance articles, games, and lesson plans. You can also check out Whats My Score to understand the nitty-gritty of credit. Interactive financial games like Financial Football are cool fun learning experiences as you answer money related questions and score touchdowns. Financial Soccer, Road Trip, and Ed's Bank are equally engaging. Look into the other quizzes and money calculators on the roster.

Planet Orange

how to manage money

Planet Orange is a nicely designed interactive financial game that reaches out to those in the 1st to 6th grade. Join Cedric and Amy as they help you navigate the deep reaches of space and learn all about earning, spending, saving and investing. The game involves activities that focus on different features of money and the choices you have to make for completing the mission.

Rich Kid Smart Kid

how to manage money

Future entrepreneurs have this website for free lessons on finance and wealth creation. All lessons are taught by Toki using four financial games. Games are designed around levels from Kindergarten to Grade 12. For instance, learn how to make profit by playing the Jesse's Ice Cream Stand Game. Other games like Ima's Pay Yourself First teach about using your money wisely.

Savings Quest

ways to manage money

How to save and reach your savings goal can be learnt by playing a round of My Savings Quest. The character you play has to learn how to save money by budgeting and spending within the money earned from a choice of jobs, and savings. The game teaches you simply how to save for the things you want while paying for the things you need.


ways to manage money

The interactive story put together by a bank takes kids through the basics of money and banking. The site explains the processes that go into banking. Parents can use the website as a tool to explain where the money earned is ending up and how it is earning as interest. The game is designed as a story and each character in the story takes you step-by-step through the entire banking process.

H.I.P Pocket Change

ways to manage money

The U.S Mint website for kids is a great place to learn all about money thanks to a long lineup of games, art activities, puzzles, facts, and trivia. Then you have cartoons and a bit of history thrown in for good measure. If you are interested in understanding how it all begins check out the toon that shows the birth of a coin.

Sense and Dollars

There are fun money games on this interactive website for kids, but here's the one to play for all those yearning to escape home: the Check It Out game gives you a job and one month's worth of income with one month's worth of bills. Think you can cope? Play and find out.


Here kids do all the explaining as they talk money and business with you. The financial education show is for preteens and uses skits and comedy to teach the basic stuff on finance. The site links to Disney's Hot Shot Business Game. Unfortunately, the other games mentioned give a broken link error, but you still have enough on the site to keep yourself occupied. There is a section for teachers and parents with downloadable lesson plans based on the episodes.


teaching kids about money

The interactive website features a series of games that take high school students through lessons in credit management, budgeting, saving, and spending. You cans select any of the scrolling images to play a random game.

We have covered a lot of finance and personal finance apps, but these websites bring back the fun into saving money. From pocket money to the first pay check, it's a long financial journey. Make sure your kids have the right tools to make every buck count along the way. Do you have any more financial games to add to the list?

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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How To Physically Install A Second Internal Hard Drive

Posted: 21 Jan 2011 09:31 AM PST

When you find yourself running out of hard drive space, you can either delete something or add some more space. While an external USB hard drive is an easy plug and play option, it’s not really ideal – they take up disk space, possibly an extra power socket, use up a valuable USB port, and are generally slower than internal drives. Let’s take a look today at the more difficult option of adding a second internal drive.

Now would be a great time to download our new guide – Your PC, Inside And Out – to familiarise yourself with the basics of your computer. We’ll be focusing only on the hard drive today, but the guide will give you a great overview on all the random sockets and ports you’ll see on the motherboard once you’ve cracked it open.

Step 1: Identify If You Can Add Another Internal Drive Or Not

Not all computers are built equal, unfortunately. If you have a laptop, or an all-in-one machine where the system internals are hidden behind the monitor – then your only option is to go with a USB drive and you really shouldn’t think about opening it up. If you have a slim desktop then read on, as there is a chance you will have enough room for a second drive. If you have a mid to full size tower, then you should be able to easily add a second drive, or two, or three! Refer to the chart below if you’re unsure.

Step 2: Backup

Although we’re not anticipating any problems, it’s good practice to back up your crucial data before doing any kind of hardware alteration. We’ve covered some great options for backup here, and here in our directory.

Step 3: Open The case

Before going any further, unplug the power from the case and all peripherals.

Most tower cases can have their sides removed with just two screws. You need to remove the side which doesn’t have the motherboard on it, so look at the back of the system, find the USB/mouse ports, and remove the OPPOSITE side.

Step 4: Get Rid Of Any Static Electricity In Your Body

When touching the insides of a computer, technicians use a grounded wrist-band to reduce the risk of shocking any delicate components with the static electricity stored in the human body. For our purposes, touching a radiator will suffice.

Step 5: Find The Hard Drive & Connectors For It

The insides of all computers are quite similar, and you can read the PDF guide for a full breakdown. The hard drive is a fairly sizeable chunk of metal like this:

You should find it sitting in a metal cage of some sort. Check now to see if you have room to fit another one in there. A tower case will normally have space for up to 3 or 4 drives, but a smaller desktop system may have only been designed to take one drive, in which case you’re out of luck and will need to consider either upgrading the one already there, or using a external USB drive instead.

Step 6: Identify If You Have A SATA Or IDE Drive

Look at the following picture and compare it to your drive. If yours is of the type at the top, with a wide ribbon cable – it’s a very old connection type called IDE. Ideally, yours will be SATA. If you do find yourself with an IDE drive, you’re not completely out of luck but I’m afraid it’s out of the scope of this guide. IDE drives are becoming increasingly harder to buy, and it’s a good indication your computer is really getting old.

Check out the things plugged into it. One will be power. There are two possible types of power cables, and you will of course need to find a spare one in your system that you can use. These might be tucked away somewhere, so follow the other power cables carefully and try to find a spare one.

Some hard drives can take either kind of cable, but the SATA type are easier to plug in so I use those if available. If you have a spare power cable but it isn’t SATA, you can still get a second drive but you’ll need to make sure it can accept a MOLEX type power cable, or you can get a MOLEX to SATA adapter for under $10.

Next, follow the SATA data cable (not the power one) to the motherboard, and have a look at where it is plugged in. Different motherboards have different numbers of SATA ports, and older machines may even only have one. Obviously, if you can only find one SATA port, then you can only plug in one SATA drive drive. If you can see some spare sockets, then congratulations – you can now go buy a second drive!

Step 7: Buying A Drive

There is very little between drive manufacturers, and most hard drives that develop a fault do so within the first week of use. On the technical side, you are looking for a “3.5 inch SATA hard drive”, and make sure you pick up another “SATA cable” while you are there – the store clerk should able to help you with this if you can’t find one.

Step 8: Install

Sliding the drive into the cage is the hardest part as sometimes it can be blocked by a large video card or other cables. Identify the cables before you actually go ahead, noting which sides face up (SATA data and power cables all have a little notch on one end which means that inserting it the wrong way around is virtually impossible).

Once seated in the drive cage, use the screws that came with the drive to secure it – you will need to align the holes on the drive with the holes in the cage or tray. Next, find the spare power cables and the SATA cable, and plug those in. Replace the side, and power up the machine.

I’ll be covering the software and configuration side of adding a second drive in my next article – so stay tuned for that. As ever, feel free to ask any questions in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer.

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Live Out Adventure and Conquest In the Battle for Wesnoth [Cross Platform]

Posted: 21 Jan 2011 08:30 AM PST

battle for wesnothYears ago, when I was in high school, I remember getting very addicted to turn-based adventure strategy games like the popular Ultima series.

The allure of these games is that they draw you into the plot with an interesting and emotional plot with intrigue and adventure.

It’s been years since I’ve explored the world of turn-based fantasy adventure games like that. This week I did some searching for more. Here at MakeUseOf we’ve covered a few turn-based strategy games like Battle Dex, which Simon covered, and battle games like Scorched Earth and space-based Ogame, which I covered.  I was very pleased that I did start looking again, because I discovered another great game called Battle for Wesnoth, that I am sure is going to consume my next few weekends.

There are several elements about this game that I like. The first is the soundtrack. The music is a wonderful orchestra theme that just sucks you right into the story. The second is the plot. You’ve got an evil Queen bent on overtaking the entire land, murder of every true heir to the throne, and the quest of the one surviving heir to the throne – you.

A True Choose-Your-Own-Adventure

The entire point of Battle for Wesnoth is that it is a quest system. Each quest is called a “campaign.” When you install this game, you’ll find a whole list of campaigns already installed with the game. These represent many hours of game play.

battle for wesnoth

The first thing that struck me about this game was, as I mentioned earlier, the soundtrack. I love games with larger-than-life music that’s dramatic and that fits the plot and theme of the game well. This soundtrack does that better than most others that I’ve seen. The second thing that struck me was the unique artistry that you’ll find throughout. For example, this hand drawn scene below was from the Heir to the Throne sequence.

battle of wesnoth

Once the campaign starts, it’s time to get moving. Depending on the mission of the campaign, you’re going to have to situate the players that you control (those you’ve recruited) in a strategic way to either escape from battle, or enter battle in a way that gives you the greatest possible advantage. Along the way, there may be some dialog that takes place to go along with the overall plot. In the first mission, you need to escape the oncoming onslaught of Orcs.

battle of wesnoth

At the beginning of each campaign, you’ll see what represents a successful mission, and what represents failure. The first campaign is easy enough – escape through the attacking horde of attackers and make it to the signpost at the upper left corner of the map.

battle of wesnoth

If you’ve ever played turn-based strategy games before, there’s virtually no learning curve to this game. Once you right-click on any of your characters, you’ll see their stats and the number of moves left in the current turn. You’ll see highlighted map tiles showing how far you can travel in this turn.

battle for wesnoth downlooad

Between each of your turns, the enemy has an opportunity to move or fight within their own turn-limits. As you watch, the entire battlefield will light up like a movie. As you watch in this first campaign, your elf defenders try to fend off the attacking hordes of Orcs. Overall, the elves do an amazing job of holding back the enemy long enough so that you can slip through their ranks.

battle for wesnoth downlooad

If you are faced with the situation where you have to fight (and trust me, you will be), by left clicking on the enemy rather than a tile where you want to move, you’ll see an option for which weapon you’d like to use. By clicking “damage calculations” you can see the odds for both the attacker and the defender. Try to choose the one where the defender has the least chance of going unscathed.

battle for wesnoth downlooad

Aside from moving and fighting, you have a number of other actions you can choose from in the “Actions” menu option at the top. These are useful things like switching between your units (helpful if they’re far apart), or recruiting more units from “friendlies” as you travel through the landscape.

If you make it through all of the campaigns that come pre-installed with the game, the fun isn’t over by far. The first thing you can do is put together your own campaigns with the Map Editor tool that’s built right into the game. If you’re a fan of games like the SimCity series, this editor along is a lot of fun to mess around with.

If you’re all about the game play, then I suggest when you’re done all of the campaigns that you click on “Add-Ons” from the main menu. Once you connect to the game server, you’ll discover an entire list (a long one, I might add) of additional campaigns and other cool map-packs that developers have added for extended game play.

battle for wesnoth

This is the beauty of open-source games like Battle for Wesnoth. The game doesn’t end once you’ve finished the preloaded missions – it goes on and on for as long as there are developers happily creating new worlds to explore and new quests to conquer.

It’s really the open-source nature, the high quality, and the multi-player gameplay (also included) that makes this particular game such a top choice.

Have you ever tried Battle for Wesnoth? What do you think? Are there any other open source turn-based fantasy games like this one that you like as well? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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Network Attached Storage (NAS) Mega Giveaway

Posted: 21 Jan 2011 08:00 AM PST

In case you’re looking for the four NAS reviews we’ve featured over the past week, here’s a quick round-up.

Plus, we’ll be giving each and every review unit in this mega giveaway so you could walk away with a new, very expensive toy!

Data Robotics Drobo FS NAS Review and Giveaway

Synology DS411j NAS Review and Giveaway

Netgear ReadyNAS Ultra 4 Review and Giveaway

QNAP TS-419P+ Turbo NAS Review and Giveaway

So there you go. Over thousands of dollars worth of network attached storage up for grabs. Spread the word to your friends about this awesome site. We give away cool gear.

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How CD/DVD/Blu-Ray Copy Protection Software Works [Technology Explained]

Posted: 21 Jan 2011 07:31 AM PST

cd copy protection softwareAh, copy protection. This technology, also known as Digital Rights Management (DRM) is a necessary but often overdone part of our digital world. In theory, DVD or CD copy protection software is a tool that protects the content creators from losing sales to piracy. In reality, it's a sometimes obtrusive technique that can alienate customers.

But opinions aside, you may be wondering how copy protection software works. The answer to that question varies depends from one disc to the next, but there are a number of general categories into which copy protection software can be grouped.

Region Locked Copy Protection

cd copy protection software

Optical media, particularly in the form of DVDs and Blu-Ray discs, are often “region locked”.  This means that they contain a form of copy protection that prevents a disc from playing if it is inserted into a player that contains a different region code than the disc.

There are some "region-free" players, and in the case of players such as computers, it is sometimes possible to change the region code of your optical drive. Players such as PowerDVD will ask you to change your region if you insert a region locked DVD, and players such as VLC Player ignore region locks completely (if the firmware of your optical drive allows it).

Disc Encryption

copy protection software

An incredibly popular form of copy protection, disc encryption protects content by encrypting it using one of a number of set encryption keys. The encryption can only be broken (in theory) if a valid key is used to decrypt the content, making it available for viewing. If a valid key isn't used the content will be unplayable or scrambled. This also prevents users from copying a disc or burning it to another storage device such as a hard drive.

Encryption is a running game, however. The encryption keys used can be compromised, often through reverse engineering. Encryption can also become vulnerable to brute-force attacks as computing power increases. Agreed encryption standards often don't change as quickly as computer hardware progresses. The creation of software capable of bypassing copy protection is illegal in many parts of the world, but there are still free decryption programs available.

Registration Keys and Online Product Activation

copy protection software

Computer software is very difficult to protect against piracy because of its nature; the software must be installed on a computer in order to function, and once installed it can be copied or altered.

Registration keys used to be the standard method of protecting software, either on disc or downloaded, but such keys are also vulnerable to being compromised. The keys are usually generated using an algorithm, and that algorithm can be reversed-engineered or otherwise compromised. This is why “key generators” are capable of creating a valid registration key for some programs.

As a result, companies such as Microsoft have moved towards online production activation. When you buy a Microsoft Windows 7 disc, for example, you receive a key in the box. This key is activated through an online server that not only checks that the key is valid but also checks that the key hasn't been used before. If the key has been used before, the server tries to determine if the key is being used by the original buyer.

This sort of activation remains controversial. Some forms of it, such as that used by Ubisoft, require that a PC be connected to the Internet during the entire duration of the software's use. Hence the controversy; many users feel they shouldn't be restricted to using their software only when online.

Device Driver Copy Protection

copy protection software

Another form of copy protection that relates primarily to computer software, device driver copy protection installs a new driver on a computer as part of a program's installation process. The responsibility of this drive is to validate the software and also to protect the software from attempts to circumvent it or run it without a proper registration key or disc. Some examples of this technology include Starforce and SafeDisc.

These forms of copy protection are controversial because the device driver can interfere with a computer's normal operation in some cases. Users of software protected through this method have sometimes experienced a degradation of optical drive performance. The device drivers can also be a security risk; in 2007, Microsoft patched a SafeDisc related vulnerability in Windows XP. The driver could be exploited by malware to gain administrative access.

High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection

cd copy protection software

Developed by Intel, HDCP is a relatively recent form of copy protection. It circumvents the traditional problems associated with content encryption by moving the responsibility of encryption from the content itself (the disc, file, or other media) to the devices playing the content.

HDCP is designed to protect content that travels across a digital connection such as DisplayPort, DVI or HDMI. The device sending the content and the device displaying the content must have valid HDCP encryption keys and must authenticate. As you might have guessed, this is the form of content protection used to control Blu-Ray. Like other forms of encryption before it, HDCP has been cracked through the release of a master HDCP key, which was most likely reverse-engineered.


Remember, these are just the forms of copyright protection that most commonly apply to CDs and DVDs. There are other forms of authentication and encryption that are frequently used to protect digital content, such as music downloaded from the iTunes store.

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