Monday, January 24, 2011 “Cool Websites and Tools [January 23rd]” plus 7 more “Cool Websites and Tools [January 23rd]” plus 7 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [January 23rd]

Posted: 23 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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AppLock – Today's smartphones are mini-computers. They store your contact details, pictures, diary, and notes. Since a lot of this information is private, you need to ensure that if the phone falls into the wrong hands your information remains secure. For Android phone owners, a tool that helps you do this is App Lock, a free smartphone application for Android devices. Read more: AppLock: Secure Your Android Phone's Settings & Applications


GrexIt – Gmail for Enterprise, or Google Apps Mail, is a great way for an organization to manage email. However it still lacks a certain aspect of collaboration and organization that would make it even better. GrexIt adds that aspect by letting people of the same Google Apps account share email threads. Once you install the browser plugin, all you have to do is click the “Send To GrexIt” button to share any email thread with other team members. Read more: GrexIt: Store, Organize, Share & Search Gmail Threads With Colleagues



Elcodis – Have you ever had a broken gadget that you attempted to fix yourself, only to find out that you cannot find a replacement for the broken parts? Since there are several hard to find electronic parts that make up a gadget, finding the exact part is a big hassle. Fortunate, Elcodis makes the job easier for you by providing a comprehensive list of electronic components where you can buy them directly. Read more: Elcodis: Online Store For Hard-To-Find Electronic Parts



Inbox Cleaner – If you use Twitter's direct message feature, then you probably deal with a cluttered inbox as there as no way to delete multiple DMs or messages from a particular user. Fortunately we have InboxCleaner, a cool tool that manages your dm inbox in Twitter. InboxCleaner uses Twitter's oAuth access to login to your account. The dashboard lets you know the total messages you have. Read more: InboxCleaner: Clean Your DM Inbox On Twitter



Giftalogs – If you are still stuck with finding the perfect gift for the holidays, then you should check out Giftalogs. This social tool and gift suggestion app helps you discover gift ideas from your friends and then save them for special occasions. You do not need to sign up to create your Giftalog, although signing up will help you get suggestions from friends. A Giftalog is basically a storage of ideas. Read more: Giftalogs: A Social Gift Discovery Tool


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: 23 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] LapDawg – Hands-free Laptop Stands

    Hands free laptop stand
    The dream gadget designed for Laptop & Book owners. LapDawg X4 Hands free laptop stand. Holds your laptop or books in any position you want with it’s unique 360 degree rotating joints. Perfect for holding them in bed while lying down or adjust for your living room couch at eye level. Made from anodized aluminum with a beautiful black matte finish.

    [3] 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.


    [4] 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.


    [5] 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.


    [6] 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!


    [7] 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!


    [8] 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 Much Have You Spent On iPhone/Android Apps? [MakeUseOf Poll]

Posted: 23 Jan 2011 05:30 PM PST

Last week we asked you to tell us how many YouTube videos you have downloaded. The results showed us that most of you have downloaded less than 1 GB.

From the 189 votes collected, we got the following results: 40% of voters have downloaded less than 1 GB video from YouTube; 22% have never downloaded a video from YouTube; 13% voters have downloaded 1-5 GB video from YouTube; 12% have copied 5-20 GB video from YouTube; 9% have downloaded over 20 GB video from YouTube.

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

It looks like most MakeUseOf readers have downloaded some video from YouTube, but have kept to less than 1 GB in total.

This week's poll question is: How Much Have You Spent On iPhone/Android Apps?

Let us know about any smartphone apps, really. Include anything spent on iPad apps, too!

If you have recommendations for your favourite apps, feel free to let us know in the comments!

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



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How to Watermark Images Using Photoshop

Posted: 23 Jan 2011 02:30 PM PST

how to watermark imagesThere are several options on how to watermark your images online, but using an online service can have its drawbacks. They sometimes impose certain limitations, such as capping the image file size, and there is also the obvious inconvenience of not being able to watermark your images unless you have an internet connection.

The most obvious offline method of watermarking your images is using Photoshop, and while at first, it might not seem to be the easiest, it gives you the most flexibility and allows you to watermark your images exactly the way you want to. And once you create your watermark using Photoshop, you can easily automate the process using your very own Photoshop action, and even batch watermark images.

Creating a Text Watermark

To watermark your image, first select the colour you want the text to appear in – we would suggest white. Next, select the Text tool, and type in the text you want to appear as your watermark.

how to watermark images

Once you’ve determined the size of the text, and the placement, you’ll probably want to make the text less opaque. Go to Layer > Layer style > Blending options.

watermark your images fast

Under Blending Options, drag the opacity bar down until the watermark looks the way you want it to. Usually an opacity of about 50% should do the trick.

watermark your images fast photoshop

The watermarked image will look like this.

watermark your images fast

You can also use a similar method with logos and images, preferably in PNG format. Simply open the image or logo you want to use as your watermark, copy and paste it onto your image in Photoshop, and as described above, decrease the watermark’s opacity.

If you want to get creative, play around with some of the other options found under Blending options such as Bevel and Emboss, to create a more elaborate watermark.

If you want to rotate the watermark to appear diagonally across the image, select the Marquee Tool, right click the text and select Free Transform.

watermarking images

Hovering the mouse over any given corner, you should see a small curved arrow indicating that you can rotate the image at an angle.

Creating a Symbol Watermark

Using the copyright symbol found under Photoshop’s shapes, you can create a very simple watermark that allows you to protect the entire image. This symbol can of course be replaced with any other shape you choose to use.

After opening your image, create a new layer.

watermarking images photoshop

Next, using the Shapes tool, select Custom Shapes.

watermarking images

Select the copyright sign, and draw the shape on your image, determining the size and colour. With a symbol like this, it’s possible to place it over the entire picture without detracting too much from the image itself.

watermark images free photoshop

When using a symbol as a watermark, using the additional Blending Options can really come to life. For example, with the copyright symbol, select Soft Light from the drop down menu, and make sure that Bevel and Emboss is checked.

watermark images free

The watermarked image will look like this.

watermark images free

Another method is to create the shape, using black as your colour, and then applying the Emboss filter to the shape. After drawing the shape on your image, go to Filter > Sytlize > Emboss.


When Photoshop asks you if you want to rasterize the shape, click OK.


Next, go into Layer Styles, and from the Blend Mode drop down menu, select Hard Light.


The watermarked image will look like this.


If you want to add text beneath the copyright symbol, use the same method.

Create an Action and Batch Watermark

If you want to create an action, to make it easier to batch watermark images, record the steps that you choose to take and watermark your images at the click of a button.

To create your action, follow the instructions outlined here, with the steps outlined above for your preferred watermark.

Once you’ve created your action, to run the action on an entire folder of images, go to File > Automate > Batch…


From there you can select the source folder that contains the images you want to watermark, the action you want to use, and where you want to save your watermarked images.

how to watermark images in photoshop

And of course for those of you want to make life as easy as possible, there are free Photoshop watermark actions available for download, such as PSNick’s action downloadable from DeviantArt.

Do you have any tips on how to watermark your images using Photoshop? Let us know in the comments.

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10 Free MP3 Albums To Download [Sound Sunday]

Posted: 23 Jan 2011 11:31 AM PST

Welcome to a fresh edition of  Sound Sunday. Every week I present you with 10 free albums from various backgrounds and genres that I think are worth listening to.

At the time of writing the article, the downloads are free. Unfortunately, Bandcamp limits the amount of free downloads, the artists may change their minds, or the record labels may reach their quota. So over time, most downloads will go from free to pay. This is why I recommend you to check in early every Sunday and get the albums while they’re hot.

If you have any suggestions, feel free to flood the comments or drop me an email [tina at makeuseof dot com].

Stephen Hunley – Wait and See

Genre: acoustic, blues, soul, pop rock

Wait and See is Stephen Hunley’s debut album. A soothing voice, simple melodies, and arrangements that keep the listener engaged. In short: music for the radio. The skill of this talented young singer / songwriter and the quality of the album may have to do something with the fact that he is the nephew of country vocalist Con Hunley, but that is pure speculation.

Download Wait and See free from Bandcamp.

Stephen Hunley MySpace and Homepage.

TFPP – Lost In Time

Genre: electronic, pop

Lost In Time is one of two albums from TFP and a third one, Chill Crosby 2: Rave to the Grave, is expected to be released through Circuittree Records soon. A preview is available via Soundcloud. On Bandcamp, Matt Hettich (aka wake) and Bob LaDue (aka ddb) state that Lost In Time is ”free and available for dating.” Unfortunately, both guys are taken and not available for romantic encounters.

Lost In Time is a free download from Bandcamp.

TFPP Homepage.

Electric Assembly – How To Make Mistakes

Genre: indie, experimental, shoegaze, post rock

This album contains “a collection of unreleased tracks, works in progress, rough mixes, studio outtakes, remixes and alternate versions.” David, Paul, and Steve of Electric Assembly, a London-based indie experimental band, have released the sampler in November 2006.

You can download How To Make Mistakes from Bandcamp.

Electric Assembly MySpace and Blog.

David Shultz and The Skyline – Rain in to the Sky

Genre: indie, acoustic, americana, folk, rock

Message from David: “I encourage you to download this album, and to share it. 300 copies of this album were pressed, but those are all gone now. The band and I put a lot in to this, and we’re very proud of it. Love – David

Rain in to the Sky can be downloaded for free from Bandcamp.

David Shultz and The Skyline MySpace and Homepage.

M.Island – Yes!

Genre: hip hop rap, lyrical

free mp3From his homepage: Refusing to conform to categories designed by the masses, hip hop artist M. Island dishes out the perfect blend of ingredients to satisfy both the Hip Hop purist and the most avid party-goer. “See, a lot of rappers purposely try to write a ‘club banger’ or ‘deep/personal’ song, but I just listen to the track and let my heart speak. It is from that energy, realness, and passion that the listener feels me,” explains Island. “You don't have to love hip hop…all it takes is for you to be human and I have something for you.”

Download Yes! from M.Island’s Homepage.

M.Island MySpace and Homepage.

The Nico Blues – Blame the Boredom, Blame the Basements

Genre: alternative, indie, rock

free album downloadBlame the Boredom, Blame the Basements is the debut album of the alternative rock band The Nico Blues from New Jersey. They recorded, produced, and mixed it in their home studio and released the album via their own record label Tiny Giant Records. This is the way to go in today’s music business and The Nico Blues are doing it very well.

You can download Blame the Boredom, Blame the Basements from The Nico Blues’ Homepage.

The Nico Blues MySpace and Homepage.

Dropa – A Well Orchestrated Plan

Genre: alternative, indie, experimental, ambient, electronic, new wave, pop

Dropa is the “solo indietronic, electro synth pop venture” of Micah Tamblyn from Portland, Oregon. The name he chose for his hand is rather interesting. Dropa, also known as Dropas, Drok-pa or Dzopa, Chinese: 杜立巴, was the name given to dwarf-like extraterrestrials that, according to legend, landed near the border between China and Tibet about twelve thousand years ago.

A Well Orchestrated Plan is available for free from Bandcamp.

Dropa MySpace.

Impossible Nothing – Montechristo

Genre: experimental, electronic, hip hop

According to Darwin Frost, the man behind Impossible Nothing, Montechristo is a Comic Hip-Hop Meta-Narrative. It is one of three free albums available on his Bandcamp page. If you enjoy this one, you should also give Bananas and Banana Peels a spin.

Montechristo is a free download from Bandcamp.

Impossible Nothing SoundCloud and Twitter.

MR Cluck – Birdbone Altar

Genre: experimental, ambient, electronic, minimalist, acoustic, tape music

MR Cluck is an all around talent. Writer, musician, and artist in general, he presents us here with an album of predominantly tape loop based music that, in his own words, “documents a fall from grace into regrettable cyclical behavior.” There is no accounting for taste or art.

Get Birdbone Altar for free from Bandcamp.

MR Cluck MySpace and Blog.

BackBeat SoundSystem – One Step Forward

Genre: pop, dub, roots, reggae

The list of genres caught your interest, didn’t it? The music of BackBeat SoundSystem is very unconventional. Pop with traces of reggae and electronic music, swaying from one side to the next like a palm tree in the wind. Or as they say it: “Made with movement in mind. Traditional reggae music slapped upside the head with a party stick. Stomping bass, dub synths & steady grooves.” Excellent stuff!

One Step Forward is a free download from Bandcamp.

BackBeat SoundSystem MySpace and Homepage.

Still got room on your mp3 player? 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 or simply post it into the comments below.

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Latest Hilarious Picks [MakeUseOf Geeky Fun]

Posted: 23 Jan 2011 10:12 AM PST


Check out the top picks from MakeUseOf Geeky Fun during the last week.

  1. Most Common & Dangerous Passwords You Better Avoid (Pic)
  2. What Happens To Your Error Reports at Microsoft (Pic)
  3. What Have I Become (Pic)
  4. Laptop Self-Charger: Never Run Out Of Power (Pic)
  5. The Main Difference Between PCs and Macs (Pic)
  6. Free Hugs* (Pic)
  7. Saving Private Ryan (Pic)

If you would like to keep up with all latest Geeky Fun additions, please subscribe to the Geeky Fun feed here. You can also subscribe and get the latest additions via email.


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How To Set Up A Second Hard Drive In Windows: Partitioning

Posted: 23 Jan 2011 09:30 AM PST

A few days ago, I showed you how to physically install a second hard drive into your system, and today we will be looking at the software side of that.

Even if you didn’t crack open the case and add in another drive, you might still want to read on if you’d like to learn about the drive management system in Windows, and what partitions are.

Background – Partitions, and Filesystems

I’ll be throwing around some fairly technical terms today so it’s important you have an overview of what all these terms mean.

To begin with, a partition is a block of space on a hard drive. In Windows terms, you might think of a partition as a single drive letter (like C: or D:). Windows also likes to refer to a partition as a “volume“, but they are the same thing for our purposes. A single hard drive may consist of one, or many partitions – each of which will be assigned their own drive letter in Windows. For most people, a single partition is enough – however most home computers actually have another partition, hidden from Windows, on which recovery programs are placed. If your computer has a message like “Press F2 to enter recovery mode” when you turn it on, chances are you have a secret partition. Some people like to partition their drive so that Windows runs from a small section of the disk, with the data stored on an entirely separate partition – this means that re-installing Windows won’t overwrite your data. In other cases, a hard drive is partitioned in order to allow multiple operating systems to be installed at the same time – on booting the computer, you can then choose which partition you will boot from.

A Filesystem is the particular method by which data is stored on that partition. Which filesystem to choose has been known to cause violent arguments among many geeks, but suffice to say Windows XP used FAT32, Windows 7 uses NTFS, and Linux and Macs use something different entirely. Each filesystem has limitations and advantages, but for our purposes it is useful to know just that:

(a) If you’re planning on dealing with large files (like 4+ GB movies, etc.) you should use NTFS.

(b) If you want to swap drives between systems, you should use FAT32 as Mac OS X cannot write to NTFS without additional software, but you won’t be able to deal with large files.

If you’ve installed a second drive into your Windows machine, I suggest you use NTFS. To make matters more difficult though, a lot of drives come pre-formatted as FAT32 – grrr, what a headache!

Partitioning and Formatting Your Drive in Windows

Launch the disk management app by clicking Start, and typing in diskmgmt.msc – click the application that pops up in the search results. You should see a screen similar to this:

The top half of the display shows what partitions currently exist. The bottom half displays the physical devices – the drives – in your computer. In this case, I have a single 64 GB NTFS partition, which is my C: drive where Windows is currently installed. Beneath it, we have my new 50 GB drive, shown in black because it is currently all free space. Your setup may different though – Windows 7 often creates a 100 MB hidden partiton called “System Reserved” for recovery options, for instance. Note, if you drive came preformatted as a FAT32 partition, Windows may have already assigned a drive letter to it. Make sure you identify exactly which is the new disk.

You can perform various operations on the partition, or the empty space, by right-clicking on it.

If you have an existing FAT32 partition you want to get rid of (be very sure this is the new second drive and not something else), then simply right-click on the existing volume and choose either Format or Delete Volume. Choose Format if you’d simply like to make it into a fresh NTFS partition instead of FAT32. Choose Delete Volume if you’d like to make more than one partition on the drive – for example, one for music and one for movies. You can also choose Change Drive Letter and Paths if you’d just like to change the letter that Windows has automatically assigned it.

Now, having deleted your existing partition or if there wasn’t one to start with, we can go about creating a new one. Right-click on the black empty space to create a new partition by choosing New Simple Volume.

You’ll be greeted by a standard wizard opening screen, and after clicking Next, you can choose how large you partition will be. 1 GB is roughly 1000 MB. The default setting will already be the maximum size, but in this case I’m going to split the drive into two 25 GB partitions (25000 MB) to store different kinds of data.

On the next screen, you can assign it a drive letter. Choose NTFS as the format and give it a suitable name so you can identify the drive. You can then repeat the process by clicking on the remaining Unallocated free space. If it’s the last partition you are making, just leave the size option at the default to use all remaining space. Now you should have some more drives, so check Computer from the Start Menu to see:

I hope you’ve learnt a little about disks and partitions today. They might seem scary and somewhat high level at first, but in reality they’re quite simple. So long as you are careful about what you’re deleting, managing your own disks and partitions is a lot more rewarding than simply taking the options that the manufacturers give to you.

There are also some alternatives to the built in Drive Management application that you might want to consider – like the Free Partition Manager, or Paragon suite of tools.

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Lapdawg and 360Amigo System Speedup PRO Giveaway Winners

Posted: 23 Jan 2011 08:00 AM PST

And now, we will be announcing the 27 winners of these 2 giveaways. For the Lapdawg winners, we’ve sent you an email — please reply within 24 hours. As for the 360Amigo System Speedup PRO winners, we’ve forwarded your details to the developer and they will be in touch with you shortly.

Okay, so here are the winners.


  1. Brady Chan — Lapdawg X4
  2. Megan Coombe — Lapdawg Pug

360 Amigo System Speedup PRO

  1. Alex Guzman
  2. Barry Smades
  3. Benjamin Arthur Sundqvist
  4. David Alexander
  5. David King
  6. David Melvin
  7. Gabriel Landaeta
  8. Hovsep Avedissian
  9. James Katkus
  10. Jason Anderson
  11. Kenneth Nanney
  12. Larry Clemons
  13. Leoner Gutierrez
  14. Leslie Cowger
  15. Luis Flores
  16. Marvin Picon
  17. Micah Macdonald
  18. Moray Nairn
  19. Paula Hersey
  20. Pushkin Passey
  21. Rob
  22. Sameer Rashid Mir
  23. Scott Mac Donald
  24. Terry Anderson
  25. Tony Beecher

Congratulations! Be sure to join us tomorrow for a new giveaway — we’re offering SyncMate 3 Expert Edition for Mac. And don’t forget about our Mega NAS Giveaway!

MakeUseOf would like to thank P360Amigo and LapDawg for their generosity while participating in this giveaway. Interesting in sponsoring? We’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with us via email.

Got Questions? Ask Them Now FREE on MakeUseOf Answers!



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