Friday, January 28, 2011 “Cool Websites and Tools [January 27th]” plus 10 more “Cool Websites and Tools [January 27th]” plus 10 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [January 27th]

Posted: 27 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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MorphVOX – is a free voice-change software best used for online gaming. This tool allows you to change your voice to match any personality that you like whether it be a man, woman, or tiny folks. Use MorphVox to disguise yourself among competitors in online games, or prank call friends with a VOIP program or instant messenger. Once you have installed the desktop app, start with the Voice Doctor wizard to calibrate your voice. Read more: MorphVOX: Easily Change Your Voice


Map Of Metal – When it comes to metal music, there are many genres and sub-genres that you will only know about if you are an enthusiast. And if you aren't one, there is no better place to learn about the origins of metal music than Map Of Metal. It is an interactive guide to metal music that covers tens of sub-genres, displaying their origins on a map. Read more: Map Of Metal: Interactive Map Guide To Metal Music



WatchCount – To know which items are the most popular on eBay right now, you need to know the number of people currently watching each item. WatchCount conducts searches on eBay using real-time watching statistics and lists eBay products by number of watchers. The popularity is measured according to how many people are watching an item right at the time of the search in real-time. Read more: WatchCount: Lists eBay Items By Number Of Watchers



Fake iPhone Text – Almost everybody is now familiar with the iPhone's way of displaying a text conversation. If you want to have a little fun with your friends and fool them into thinking a fake iPhone text conversation actually happened, check out the web tool entitled Fake iPhone Text. You start by entering the text conversation and you can type in any names. Read more: FakeiPhoneText: Create Fake iPhone Text Conversations



DropDAV – If you love Dropbox but still looking for more ways to access it without the app, you'll like what DropDAV has to offer. The service lets you access your Dropbox using almost any WebDAV client such as CyberDuck or iWork for iPad. It essentially stands between the Dropbox API and your WebDAV client to let you transfer files without syncing them. Read more: DropDAV: Get Access To Your Dropbox Via WebDAV


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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LibreOffice – A Free Office Suite For Windows, Linux & Mac

Posted: 27 Jan 2011 05:31 PM PST

free office softwareThere’s a couple of decent, free office suites available these days. As well as the usual applications, cloud-based services like Google Docs make accessing your work from anywhere a doddle – but you’ll need a reliable Internet connection to do any work.

It is for this reason that it’s always advisable to have a set of tools installed, especially if you suddenly need to knock out a spreadsheet or type up a letter and can’t get online.

Canonical (Ubuntu et al), Novell and Red Hat have all revealed that they plan to include LibreOffice in their future operating systems, so what makes it so good?

Libre, As In “Free”

The LibreOffice suite began as a separate fork of the highly respected OpenOffice project on September 28, 2010. Some members of the development team were concerned about the recent Sun Microsystems buyout by Oracle, who have already discontinued the free OpenSolaris OS.

The Document Foundation was formed, Oracle were invited to become a member and it was the hope of this foundation that the OpenOffice name would eventually make its way to the new project. This was never to be, and LibreOffice is now the “alternative” OpenOffice.

free office software

LibreOffice uses the same version number as OpenOffice, as it is based on the same source code. At the time of writing there have been a number of releases including three betas and three release candidates – all within a 4 month timeframe.

This new fork of the OpenOffice project also incorporates Go-oo, a set of patches released to improve the original OpenOffice. This project has since been dissolved and incorporated directly into LibreOffice.

At the moment there’s very little to separate the two, although message board chatter suggests that the LibreOffice project is more stable than its OpenOffice counterpart.

Download & Installation

LibreOffice is available for all three major operating systems on the download page. If you’re running Windows there’s an executable installer to download and run, Mac users can download PPC and Intel .DMG files and there’s .TAR.GZ archives for Linux users.

Ubuntu users (and those using Ubuntu-based distributions) can download from the repositories for a super-fast install.

Note: Installing LibreOffice on my Ubuntu 10.10 install replaced my OpenOffice suite. Make sure you’ve not got any unsaved documents open whilst installing!

First you’ll need to add repositories:

sudo apt-add-repository ppa:libreoffice/ppa

Then update your package manager and install with:

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install libreoffice

Ubuntu users (and those using the GNOME desktop environment) will want to install:

sudo apt-get install libreoffice-gnome

If you’re running Kubuntu or the KDE desktop environment then you’ll want:

sudo apt-get install libreoffice-kde

Once it’s installed, you’re good to go!

What’s Included

If you’ve ever used OpenOffice, then you’ll find all the included modules familiar, right down to their names:


free office

A highly flexible word processor that can read, edit and save text documents in a variety of formats (including Microsoft’s proprietaries). There’s no Microsoft Office-style “ribbon” layout, so if you’re fond of the retro simple look then you’ll feel right at home. You can export directly to PDF, HTML and even in MediaWiki format.


free office

No Office suite is complete without a spreadsheet program, and Calc employs some pretty powerful features along the way. Natural language formulas allow you to use words as well as numeric formulas, there’s the Intelligent Sum Button which works out your numbers based on context and support for a variety of formats including Microsoft Office 2008 .XLSX files.


free office

A straight-forward PowerPoint clone for those all-important presentations. Impress comes with everything you’d expect from a presentation tool as well as support for multiple monitors, PowerPoint files and the ability to export Flash .SWF files.


A graphics package for creating diagrams, flow charts, technical and general posters. The suite boasts an impressive maximum page size of 3 metres and support for most major image formats.


free office software

Much like Microsoft Access, Base is a database tool with the power to organise simple inventories or take on much more complex tasks. Base supports MySQL, PostgreSQL, Access and Adabas D multi-user database types, as well as JDBC and ODBC for added compatibility.


Designed to provide an “easy way to insert formulas into documents”, there’s a range of complex input methods to get your head round if you simply love numbers (or have homework to do).


Included with LibreOffice are a number of pre-installed extensions. You can download many more from the LibrePlanet website, which is awesome. Some installed extensions include PDF Import (for importing and modifying PDF documents) and WikiPublisher (to preserve your layout for a MediaWiki format).


There’s not an awful lot of difference between OpenOffice and LibreOffice on the surface. The rapid development from beta to RC and soon a stable release means the team are putting a lot of effort in under the hood.

It’s just nice to know that if OpenOffice is discontinued then there’s a worthy replacement just waiting to take its place.

Have you swtiched to LibreOffice yet? Still using OpenOffice? Reckon Oracle will flip the switch? Let us know in the comments below!

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What A File System Is & How You Can Find Out What Runs On Your Drives

Posted: 27 Jan 2011 03:31 PM PST

computer file systemsWhen you format a hard drive or a flash drive, you prepare it for its use as a storage medium by an operating system. During this process a file system is set up and all information previously stored on the drive is removed.

You may have heard of computer file systems like FAT or NTFS before, but do you actually know what they do and which ones you are using? This article explains how they work and what their differences are. I also show you how to find out which file systems run on your drives.

What Is A Computer File System?

Hard drives are divided into sectors of about 512 bytes each. Sectors in turn are grouped into clusters. Clusters, also known as allocation units, have a defined size of 512 bytes to 64 kilobytes, so they usually contain multiple sectors. A cluster represents a continuous block of space on the disk.

Operating systems rely on a file system to organize the clustered storage space. The file system maintains a database that records the status of each cluster. In essence, the file system shows the operating system in which cluster(s) a file is stored and where space is available to store new data.

Which File Systems Should I Know Of?

The prevalent Windows file systems are FAT (File Allocation Table), FAT32, and NTFS (New Technology File System).

Briefly, NTFS supports a file size of more than 4 GB, partitions can be larger than 32 GB, it better manages available space than FAT or FAT32 and thus causes less fragmentation, and it comes with a number of security-related features including on-the-fly file encryption.

Compared to NTFS, FAT file systems take up less space, they perform less write operations to the drive which makes them faster and a better fit for small flash drives, and they are cross-platform compatible. The biggest drawbacks of FAT and FAT32 are a partition size limit of 32 GB and a file size limited to 2GB or 4 GB, respectively.

A new file system predominantly used for flash drives is exFAT (Extended File Allocation Table), also known as FAT64. Like NTFS it supports files larger than 4 GB, partitions larger than 32 GB, and its file management avoids fragmentation. At the same time it is fast and optimized for mobile personal storage and handling media files.

computer file systems

Which Operating Systems Can Handle These File Systems?

While FAT and FAT32 are recognized by almost all operating systems, formatting a drive with NTFS used to be a sure way to make the device unusable outside Windows. Meanwhile, NTFS read/write is supported natively by most Linux distributions. A hack is available to enable NTFS read/write on the Mac OS X version 10.6, however, it appears to be unstable, hence the use of MacFuse is recommended. exFAT on the other hand requires drivers for both Windows XP and Linux, while it is supported in the latest versions of Windows Vista (SP1), Windows 7, and Mac OS X.

Why Is Cluster Size Important?

If you have ever formatted a drive, you will know that you can choose the allocation unit size, also known as cluster size.

Depending on the cluster size (from 512 bytes to 64 kilobytes) a single file can be stored in one or across hundreds or thousands of clusters. When a file is smaller than the actual cluster size, the remaining space is lost, a phenomenon known as wasted or slack space. Thus a large cluster size will lead to a lot of slack space, if lots of small files are stored on that drive. Choosing a small cluster size on the other hand means that large files are split up into many small pieces. This in turn can slow down the drive as it takes longer to read the respective file. In other words, choose the cluster size wisely.

How Can I Find Out How My Drive Is Formatted?

The file system is listed in the drive properties. Go to > Computer, right-click on the drive you wish to examine, and select > Properties from the menu. The > General tab shows the > File system.

windows file systems

To find the cluster size of a NTFS drive, use the keyboard shortcut > [WINDOWS] + [R] and the Run window will open. Be sure you run the task with administrator rights. Type  > cmd into the text line and click > OK. Then run the command > fsutil fsinfo ntfsinfo [drive letter] and hit > Enter.

computer file systems

In Windows XP and Windows 7 you can also view and change the cluster size using third party applications, such as Easeus Partition Master.

If you enjoyed this article, you might also be interested in these:

Which file system do you prefer on your storage devices and why? Did you ever run into trouble using NTFS and how were you able to fix it?

Image credits: ionuticlanzan, iQoncept

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Isle of Tune – An Addictive Game To Create Music By Creating Roads On An Island

Posted: 27 Jan 2011 01:31 PM PST

music making gamesThe problem with the Internet these days is that there’s just too many fun things to do. If you’re even remotely interested in music or casual gaming, we’ve found another fantastic time vampire for you to play with (and I mean that in the nicest possible way).

Have you got a little time to kill? If so, read on with fair warning. You’re about to be introduced to something fascinating and mildly addictive. It’s ostensibly a way to create music, but there’s something about the puzzle of how to make it sound even better that just keeps you playing with it. You can probably say goodbye to your productivity for the rest of today.

music making games

Isle Of Tune is a neat little idea, letting you visually create music by creating roads on an island. As the cars go around your roads, they pass trees, plants, lights and houses each of which make a unique sound and can be given a pitch. The result of which is a pleasant ensemble, due to the creator’s smart use of a pentatonic scale.

Play A Tune

music gamesThere’s no sign-up — all you do is start playing. If you want to save at any stage you have three save slots available, provided you’ve got cookies enabled. You can begin with an empty island or check out one of the demo islands. Take your pick. The basic setup is pretty straight-forward, so you can start building roads and adding musical scenery without any trouble.

If you add a car and press go, the tunes will commence. Personally, I was quite happy to leave them running while I created. There’s three cars, so things can get pretty interesting.

If you start with a blank slate, try adding loops early on to get a feel for the different sounds you can create. I suggest doing it early, merely because placing a loop will replace anything underneath it. So, if you get them out there first you won’t undo your work.

music games

Tips & Tricks

A few tricks with roads and loops: If a car reaches a crossroad it will go straight ahead. If it reaches a T-intersection it will turn left by default. So, if you want to add an extra leg as a loop, make the car hit a T-intersection and branch off. When it hits the end of your loop it’ll come back and go straight through the intersection. If you prefer, you can click on the intersection cross and it will give you options to force the direction.

music composing games

As you can probably tell by watching the demos and loops, you can change the pitch by changing the colour of the scenery items (the trees, plants, lights and houses). All you need to do is click on the object and you’ll get pitch and rhythm options.

music composing games

The puzzle part of it grabs you quite by surprise, when you realise you’re trying to use up the most possible room on the island or to re-create a favourite tune. Check out some of the best demos to see ‘Computer Love’, ‘Beat it’, ‘Kids’ and ‘Smoke On The Water’. Soon enough you’ll probably want to try your own.

music composing games

If you’ve made something brilliant, it can be easily shared on Facebook or Twitter.

Tuneful Competition

Since this ingenious little application is so simple and yet engrossing, I’m quite looking forward to letting it entertain some kids for a while.

Of course, this game is outclassed by both music programs and games with bells and whistles, but being the best is not the point at all. This is just an enjoyable combination of both to entertain you and put a smile on your face. Its biggest competitor is the rest of the Internet.

Here’s a few good examples of games which might compete for your attention:

music making games

Feel free to share your Isle Of Tune masterpieces with us in the comments!

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Hot Tech Deals [Jan 27th]

Posted: 27 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. Gran Turismo 5 Video Game (PS3) $44
  2. EXPIRING Acer S231HLbid 23in LED-Backlit LCD Monitor $169.99 Free Shipping
  3. TODAY ONLY Crucial RealSSD C300 64GB SATAIII 6Gbps 2.5in Solid State Drive (TRIM) $99.99 Free Shipping
  4. Diamond Radeon HD5850 1GB HDCP PCI-E Video Card $134.99AR Free Shipping
  5. Nikon Coolpix S3000 12MP 4X Digital Camera w/ VR Image Stabilization $79.95 Free Ship

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set



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Make Instapaper Beautiful & Usable With Scripts & Apps

Posted: 27 Jan 2011 11:31 AM PST

instapaper appMake the incredibly useful but often bland reading service Instapaper more attractive and useful by adding style and keyboard shortcuts. By design this site is simple; the site’s creator says this in the Instapaper FAQ. But just because the interface isn’t beautiful by default doesn’t mean you can’t make it beautiful yourself. A variety of Instapaper enthusiasts have made plugins that change the look of your favorite tool for the better, giving it a modern interface and even keyboard shortcuts.

Instapaper is well known for its ability to bookmark articles to read later. A simple shortcut on your browser bar allows you to save articles you want to read but don’t have time for right now. The service even removes annoying layout elements from the text for you, allowing you to focus on just the writing.

Having said that, it’s not the prettiest site on the web. The Instapaper iPhone/iPad app can be customized to look how you want, but there’s no default way to do this on the web. Enter Greasemonkey and its increasingly cross-browser user scripts. There are several scripts dedicated to sprucing up Instapaper, and one of them is right for you. Heck, if you use Chrome, you can even have the services back your readings up for offline reading. Let’s see what can be done.


There are a variety of scripts out there for changing the look of Instapaper. Perhaps the best known is Threestyled, which gives the web app a feel comparable to an iPhone app.

instapaper app

If you’re looking for something more understated, try Greyscaled. This theme makes use of the color gray, and gives your reading an understated feel:

instapaper scripts

Finally, if you’re a big fan of the font Helvetica, you should check out Helvetipaper. This theme gives Instapaper a feel inspired by the famous font, giving your reading a cool vibe.

instapaper app


Changing the look is nice, but what about Instapaper’s lack of keyboard shortcuts? Don’t fret; there’s a script for that. There’s one catch, though: you need to be using a Mac, or at least Safari.  If you are, check out Instapaper Beyond, an extension for Safari that brings intuitive keyboard controls to Instapaper. It’s really nice being able to browse articles using the keyboard, so check it out.

I wish there was something like this for every platform, but it seems the extension is Safari-only at this point. Sorry everyone else!


Want access to your Instapaper articles offline? If you’re a Chrome user you can. Just install the ChromaPaper app from the Chrome Web Store. This simple app gives you a quick way to access Instapaper, and also archives all of your Instapaper articles for offline reading.

This is perfect for plane rides or other long periods of disconnection. It’s like using your e-reader to read Instapaper offline but without the investment in a dedicated device.


Great services inspire great third-party tools, and Instapaper is no exception. You can change the look and feel of this tool and even read it offline.

Have any other great Instapaper tools to share? As always, comment below. Also feel free to recommend alternative services to reading things later.

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7 Websites Where You Can Listen To A Live Music Band

Posted: 27 Jan 2011 10:31 AM PST

live music bandIf you love music, and if you really enjoy listening to live music bands, there is an entire world of live Internet streaming music available. There are many music performers providing live entertainment for absolutely free on the web.

There are a lot of websites on the Internet that allow people to stream content online. For example, David described how to use BlogTalkRadio to host your own live Internet talk show. Dean described how to set up your hardware if you want to produce your own Internet TV show. Grant even showed you how to stream live content to the Internet using your cellphone. These are all awesome ways to publish live content, but what if you enjoy being in the audience more than being on stage? What if you’d just like to sit back and let someone entertain you with live music?

For those of you that enjoy listening to live music bands, I’m going to share 7 awesome websites where you can get your fill of musical entertainment.

7 Awesome Sites For Live Music Bands

One of the quickest ways to find live music is to search through the live listings at Blog TV. This is probably one of the most active websites on the web, with an amazing variety of live streaming content.

Blog TV has a huge volume of live webcam streams. Buried in this collection of streaming content, you’ll discover some of the coolest live music shows online.

live music band

All you have to do is click on “Channels” and go to “Music.” The majority of those live streams are music DJs, but if you search enough you’ll come across live music bands and solo performers.

Another site that’s similar to Blog TV is Stickam – a live community of performers, radio hosts and even celebrities.

live music

At Stickam, there are usually many thousands of live streams to choose from at any given time. To find live bands and musicians, just click on the “Music and Bands” link on the left.

When it comes to live, streaming entertainment, there’s really no other site that can top LiveStream. The streams here are of a much higher quality than most of the other sites. At LiveStream, you’ll have access to some of the coolest live performances, like professional concerts and performances from all across the world.

live music

The cool thing about LiveStream is that many of the music bands that stream their live events also record them so that you can go back later and watch their shows. I was lucky enough to catch this live music band called Alter Bridge performing one of their songs.

live music

Another site with great live music feeds is Ustream. At this site, you’ll also find a music channel to browse, and most of the shows are just as well done as those at LiveStream. In fact, the content at Ustream seems even more varied. For example, I spotted this live jazz band performance by a band known as Kraaij & Balder in the Netherlands.

live rock music

I don’t even like jazz all that much, but I found myself sitting  back and enjoying the soothing sounds that this laid back band sent streaming out of my laptop speakers. There is nothing quite as cool as watching such a live music show from thousands of miles away.

live rock music

Not only are there plenty of live broadcasts to choose from, but you can click on “Videos” to check out any past live performances. Also, don’t forget to check out the “Upcoming” section to see if there are any scheduled shows that you may be interested in.

While many of the sites I’ve mentioned above include a whole mix of content, not just music, there is a site called JukeZoo that’s devoted exclusively to just live music.

live rock music

JukeZoo is all about live performances, and the main page features a list of nearly daily scheduled webcasts that you can watch. If you don’t want to wait around for a show, you can also click on any of the previous webcasts to enjoy recordings of past live webcasts. You do need to sign up with your email account before you can start watching the shows.

The performances here are all really fun to watch, and it’s a great venue for new bands to get their sound out there to new audiences. If you enjoy discovering new bands and new music then JukeZoo is definitely the site for you.

If you just like live band concerts, but don’t really care if the performance is literally “live”, then you’ll love the site Wolfgang’s Vault. This website is also all about live performances, but it’s about live shows from the past. If you sign up with your email account, you get instant free access to tracks of all of the live recordings.

live music band

I discovered some awesome content at Wolfgang’s vault, including live performances by the likes of The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and of course the king of the Blues – B.B. King.

There’s something really special about live music shows. There’s something very “human” about the imperfections, mistakes and the “raw” nature of a live performance. With the websites above, you can enjoy live music any time of day from the comfort of your home.

Have you ever tried any of these websites? Do you know of any other cool live music sites you can share? Offer your insight in the comments section below.

Image credit: paolo ferla

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How To Set Up A Proxy Server In Ubuntu Linux

Posted: 27 Jan 2011 09:31 AM PST

how to set up proxy server in ubuntu linuxThere are many reasons why you might want to learn how to set up a proxy server in Ubuntu Linux to send your browser traffic through. Perhaps you are surfing on an unsecured wireless network, or maybe you don’t want the BOFH at work to see where you are going on the Internet. Whatever your reason, it is fairly simple these days as long as you have some computer ability and are able to set up a system at home or work to serve as a proxy.

What is a proxy? Simply put, a proxy is an intermediate stop that your browser makes while requesting webpages and other web content from the Internet. Many companies legitimately use them so that they can filter content both for security purposes as perimeter control, as an anti-virus/anti-malware solution, or to make sure employees are adhering to Internet policy.

When your browser makes a request, it first contacts the proxy server. If the proxy server is also a cache – it will check the cache locally to see if the content already exists – if it does it will serve it locally, speeding up your browser experience considerably, or if it doesn’t, it makes a request for that content on the general web.

The Easy Proxy For Ubuntu

how to set up proxy server in ubuntu linux

The ‘easiest’ way to create a proxy with Ubuntu is creating a tunnel through SSH. Jorge wrote this excellent how-to on the topic, and the process remains much the same for us.

For a quick overview, you first must have an Ubuntu server with SSH access available to you. You can do this by having a server on your home connection, work connection, or wherever you want your proxy to sit.

how do i create a linux proxy server

Once you have that set up, you follow the process in the article to use the “SOCKS” protocol to tell your browser to use that proxy location to download all information from.

This method also works if you have a wireless router that supports SSH, such as Tomato or DD-WRT.

The Almost-Easy Proxy For Ubuntu

linux proxy server

The second way you can do this is to use a web proxy. As long as your Ubuntu system is set up to serve websites, you can install a web app named GlypeProxy which will act as a proxy for your web browsing session. Simon has a great how-to on setting up GlypeProxy and it would work the same way if you were running a web server on your own Ubuntu system.

Using this method has its pluses and minuses. On the upside, you do not need to modify your own browser settings to use this web proxy. This would be essential if you are in an environment where you do not have the ability to specify a proxy server in your browser options.

On the downside, unless your web server is set up to use SSL encryption, it is also very insecure. Anyone watching the traffic from your machine would still be able to view your content with no problem at all.

The Complicated-To-Install But Full-Featured Proxy

On the more involved side of things, you can install a “real” proxy server on your Ubuntu Linux machine. Proxy software has been developed specifically to address many issues spoken of above and there is a lot of software out there available that can do the job for you.

There are two main types of proxies we will go over, a “normal” proxy and a “transparent” proxy. The normal proxy works as above – you specifically have to enter the proxy information in your browser for it to be used in your web browsing. The second kind, a transparent proxy, works in such a way that all of your web browsing goes through the machine whether you specify it in your browser settings or not.

A real proxy server on Ubuntu usually centers around a piece of software named Squid. Squid is an open source proxy server in wide use across the internet. Squid is easy to install and configure. Install and edit the configuration file:

$ sudo apt-get install squid3
$ vi /etc/squid3/squid.conf

And add:

http_access allow local_net
acl local_net src

Where is your local network. Restart squid and you have a basic proxy server set up – you would modify your settings to use a web proxy on port 3128 and the IP address of your Ubuntu system.

how to set up proxy server in ubuntu linux

You can really get fancy with how you set up a proxy server in Ubuntu Linux. Howtoforge has this great tutorial on setting up Squid with Dansguardian and ClamAV for antivirus and malware protection.

Whatever Works For You…

From easy to hard, whatever kind of proxy server you need, Ubuntu can provide. Let us know your setup and how it works for you!

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Tribler: A Decentralized Torrent Client To Search, Download & Share Files

Posted: 27 Jan 2011 08:31 AM PST

best torrent clientAre you a torrent user? What do you normally do when you want to download files using a torrent network? The common steps are you go to one of the torrent tracker sites, search for the file(s), download the torrent file, open the torrent file using your preferred torrent client, and finally, wait for the download to finish. As you can see from this description, you rely on the torrent sites to find the files that you are looking for. So far, the whole ecosystem runs on that very principle.

But there’s a new torrent client in town called Tribler (currently available only for Windows and Mac) which offers an alternative method of sharing files using torrent. This client allows users to connect directly to other users to search, download and share files – without the need for centralized torrent servers.

The Decentralized Client

The main interface of the client consists of a search field and a tag cloud field called “Network Buzz” – showing currently popular keywords. Those who don’t want to be bothered by the details can go straight to the search field.

best torrent client

In terms of searching speed, Tribler virtually gave me instant results, complete with the download button. You can sort the list by popularity, size, or name.

bit torrent client

Aside from the files, Tribler also showed some “channels” (the term it used for the sources/peers that provide the file) in the search result.

01c Search Result - Channels.jpg

If you want to, you can browse the available channels and view them by several categories: Popular, New, Updated, Favorites, All and My Channel. You can peek inside one of the channels by selecting it.

bit torrent client

Inside a channel is the list of available files that it hosts. Click on the file to reveal more information about it. You can choose to download or play (stream) the file by choosing one of the available buttons. You can also add the channel to your favorite, or mark it as spam.

bit torrent client

Your favorite channels will appear inside “Favorite“. To add more items to the list, select another channel from the Popular list and click the “Mark as Favorite” button.

torrent client

My Channel” is the place where you can manage all your files; the ones that you’ve downloaded and the ones that you are willing to share. Since you can search for other users’ channels by searching for their username and vice versa, you can utilize Tribler as an alternative way to directly share files with your friends, family, and co-workers.

torrent client

The “Shared torrents” tab inside “My Channel” will list down all the torrents that you share.

torrent client

While the “Manage” tab allows you to monitor RSS feeds periodically for new torrent files and to add new torrent files that you’ve downloaded from another source. This means that Tribler can also be used as a normal torrent client.

03c My Channels - Manage.jpg

All your currently downloaded files are listed under the “Library” menu. And as any other torrent client, you can Stop, Resume, and Delete those files. Other common features are the ability to view what’s inside the package and look at the list of trackers and peers.

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If you decide that you don’t want to keep one of the downloaded files and decide to delete it, you’ll get the confirmation window with the options to completely eliminate it from your computer.

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Settings & Few Notes

If you decide that you want to keep Tribler for a little bit longer, you might want to visit the “Settings“. The “General” sub-menu gives you the option to change the nickname or your computer and the profile image. This is also the place to change the location where Tribler should save the downloaded files.

05a Settings - General.jpg

While the “Connection” sub-menu deals with the port used for incoming/outgoing torrent connections, the “Bandwidth” lets you customize the download and upload rate. If you are looking for options for media playback, it’s located under “Misc“.

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After using Tribler for a while, I felt that this client reminded me of the old version of Napster. As with other decentralized peer-to-peer clients, the quality of the search and downloads relies on the number of available peers on the network. I think the current Tribler user base hasn’t reached the point where users can comfortably find and download whatever that they are looking for – yet.

What’s your opinion of the best torrent client? Have you tried Tribler? What do you think of Tribler’s features? Share your thoughts and opinions using the comment below.

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Google Rebrands Coupons As “Google Offers”, Launches iGoogle Widget [News]

Posted: 27 Jan 2011 08:15 AM PST

After Google’s mighty $6 billion bid for next-big-thing Groupon was turned down, evidence emerged last week of a rival Google Offers service. It was soon officially confirmed, although until now we’ve not seen anything exciting. So what do most journalists do in this occasion? They Google it.

A search for the term ‘coupons intitle:Google Offers‘ reveals more than 40,000 results for money-off codes. If you’re fond of the company’s iGoogle customized homepage then you can even add a new Google Offers widget that shows offers near to your location.

Since the announcement of the existence of Google Offers, the company has confirmed that this is to replace the Google Coupons service available to local businesses. Offers seems to be centred around location, so integration with Google Maps (online and mobile) is bound to happen sooner or later.

Current offers range from hotel discounts to driving lessons and even money off mini golf. To begin with Google have actively targeted small businesses, and these make up a considerable chunk of the available offers.

Google Offers are single-purchase codes and offers to be used at checkouts and cash tills alike, and thus don’t require the same group-purchase that Groupon demands. Details have emerged of a Groupon-like pre-paid product also under the guise of Google Offers, although details are unclear at this stage.

How the company will differentiate between the two remains to be seen, as does the effect on Groupon.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Google’s latest venture, and whether or not you think it will take off.

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iSpy Turns Your Computer Webcam Into Surveillance Equipment [Windows]

Posted: 27 Jan 2011 07:31 AM PST

free webcam surveillance softwareCameras are everywhere. It’s likely that you have a few of them in your home and connected to your computer. For the most part, PC webcams are used to chat with friends over Skype or record YouTube drama-bombs, but they’re not necessarily restricted to this. If you’ve ever lived in an environment where you weren’t completely sure who has access to your computer – such as a dorm, for example – you may have wondered how you can use your webcam to keep tabs on your computer while you’re away.

iSpy is an in-depth program that can do just that. It has the ability to record video, record audio, provide online access to video and more. Let’s take a look at how this powerful free webcam surveillance software works.

Recording Video & Audio – The Basics

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Once you have installed iSpy and launched it you’ll be greeted with the main window, which is nothing more than a large black space with some menu options at the top. iSpy is able to record multiple video streams at once, so this launch area is meant to provide the space needed to keep tabs on a large number of cameras. We’ll stick to a single camera in this post, however.

iSpy has a recording window open by default, so you can use that to set up a video stream. Simply right-click on the gray box and then click Edit. You’ll come to the Camera options screen. Click on the [...] button besides the Source label and then select your camera from the Open Local Device drop-down menu. Presto! Your camera is now added and can record. If you’d like, you can also adjust the frame rate and resolution at this time.

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Adding a microphone is also easy. Just click the Add Microphone button at the top of the main window and then select the microphone installed on your PC using the same method described above for a camera.

By default, you can start recording by right-clicking on a video or audio stream and selecting Start Recording. Obviously some automation would be handy, however – and iSpy has plenty of support for that.

Recording With Motion Detection

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The depth of iSpy becomes apparent once you start to explore the tabs alongside the Camera tab when you edit a camera. There are in fact too many options to cover in this post, so I’m going to focus on the most important ones.

Motion Detection is likely the most critical. A webcam being used for surveillance doesn’t need to be used all the time – just when things are happening. Motion Detection enables this. You can adjust the sensitivity of the motion detection, the type of detection used, and the frequency with which motion detection is processed. At the highest sensitivity level, even the slightest movement will cause the motion detection to activate. A level of between 50 and 75 is often more manageable.

Once you’ve set the motion detection you should visit the Recording tab. Check the Record on Movement Detection box and then choose the settings you’d prefer. The defaults should be fine, but you can make some adjustments. For example, Inactivity Record will determine how long the camera continues recording once movement stops.

Scheduling & Alerts

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Motion detection is one way to activate surveillance, but it’s not the only way. You can also schedule a camera to record at certain times using the Scheduling tab. The options here are fairly clear. You can schedule recording at any hour of the day, any day of the week, and do the same to stop. This method may prove more effective if you don’t want to hassle with motion detection or you’re concerned about who is near your computer at a specific time of day.

Another handy feature is alerts, which are configured in the Alerts tab. When enabled, an alert can take one of any number of actions when movement is detected. Two included options are a beep sound and the displaying of the iSpy Window, which could be handy if you just want to scare someone off. However, you can also execute a specific file if you have some special alert in mind.

YouTube Uploading

Another nifty feature of iSpy is the ability to upload videos to YouTube automatically. Now, this is a feature that I suggest you use with some caution, because once set up it is indiscriminate. Have you ever taken a shower and then walked over to check an email before getting dressed? Unless you’d like to be on YouTube naked, don’t leave this option enabled 24/7.

However, this option is handy because it enables an easy way to make video files accessible online from any PC. Just enter the YouTube tab, click YouTube Settings, and enter your account information. You can adjust the YouTube category and tags if you’d like, as well. Just be aware that the upload won’t be instantaneous, and I suggest giving it a trial run as well. I had some issues with my firewall blocking the upload.


These are just some of the features found in iSpy. Overall, it seems like great software that could even be suitable for use in a professional environment. While I didn’t go into the details, the free webcam surveillance software also offers support for IP cameras, it can record multiple streams, and video streams can be directly accessed via an Internet connection. If you need basic surveillance, iSpy should fit your needs.

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