Saturday, January 29, 2011 “Cool Websites and Tools [January 28th]” plus 9 more “Cool Websites and Tools [January 28th]” plus 9 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [January 28th]

Posted: 28 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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QRnote – If you are looking for a tool that will help you quickly setup a webpage and create its QR code for easy smartphone sharing , then you should pay a visit to QRnote. It is a free to use website that lets you create QR codes for notes. You add text with special formatting, images, contacts, calendars, and even HTML coding. Read more: Qrnote: Create Mini Websites & Their QR Codes


UltimateChart – Do you want to stay in touch with the latest music? Do you want to know what people are listening to and what they like? If yes, then you need to regularly check in with the music rankings to know which songs are doing well with the fans. To do this, you should head on over to UltimateChart. Read more: UltimateChart: Shows Current Song Rankings Based On Many Online Music Sources



Google eBookstore – is Google's online store from where you can get more than 3 million eBooks. From novels to textbooks, self-help books to cookbooks, the eBook categories cover anything. The best part is that many of the available eBooks are free to download. On the eBookstore's homepage you will first see a "best of the free" section where you can get the top free eBooks. Read more: Google eBookstore: eBook Store From Google



Staffnote – is a free to use web service that provides you with an easy way to manage your staff's attendance and communicate with them via messages and notes in a secure interface. After you create an account on the website you can add staff members to your Staffnote page. You assign a special password to each member so they can sign in and out of Staffnote and have their attendance recorded. Read more: Staffnote: Manage Staff Attendance In A Friendly & Secure Interface



Where Did We Park? – At concerts and other crowded places it is often difficult to find where you parked your car because of the many rows of parked cars. Fortunately for Android phone owners there is a tool that uses GPS to help them in such a situation – this tool is called Where Did We Park? Lite, a simple GPS-using smartphone application for Android devices. With the application installed you can record the position of where you parked your car. Read more: Where Did We Park?: Stop Forgetting Where You Parked (Android)


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 9 Best Questions From You [MakeUseOf Answers]

Posted: 28 Jan 2011 05:31 PM PST

best questionsMakeUseOf Answers is all about helping each other. Every question is a challenge and every answer is a potential solution. If you see a good answer you can ‘Like‘ it and if you were helped don’t forget to say ‘Thank You‘.

We say ‘Thank You‘ by rewarding a Best Answer of the Week with $50 every Friday. Today, the prize goes to FIDELIS for the answer to this question: How can I get rid of a System Tool 2011 infection? Congratulations and thank you for your many great answers during the past weeks!

Care to learn something new? Check out the Best Questions below!

MakeUseOf Answers has answered over two thousand questions. I dare you not to learn something new! Browse by Latest Questions, Most Popular Questions, or Unanswered Questions. For regular updates subscribe to the Answers RSS Feed.

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Using Rules To Get Apple Mail Under Control

Posted: 28 Jan 2011 03:30 PM PST

The constant flow of emails is no doubt the bane of many computer users. Emailing is among the fastest forms of communication, but you constantly have to deal with impertinent messages, spam, and online promotions.

If you're looking for ways to get your emails under control, Apple’s Mail app features a way to set up rules for what happens to emails when they arrive. Setting up and maintaining some simple rules in Mail can significantly cut down on the amount of time you're spending shifting through and deleting unwanted emails.

The following are suggested rules for controlling your mail.

However, it's important that you customize or add rules that apply to the types of emails you receive on a regular basis. Also, see my article on smart mail folders for suggested ways to get your emails under control.

Junk Mail

Apple's Mail comes with some default settings for junk mail. Open the Mail's Preferences and click on Junk Mail to review the current settings. I believe the default settings for Junk Mail look like this:


You can simply have junk mail moved to a Junk mailbox which provides a way to double-check those messages to see if they are indeed junk. Sometimes when you register on a website, the registration email notification might be considered junk mail when it first arrives in your mailbox, so you can check your junk mailbox to see if it was sent there.

If you want more control over your junk mail, you can select “Perform custom actions” (Click the “Advanced to configure” button), which will present you with a set of rules for what gets labeled junk.


This is a good example of the type of rules you can configure to control what happens to your emails when they arrive in your box. So now let's explore another rule that will automatically set designated email as read.

Mark As Read

Since I got tired of checking and deleting emails on both my desktop computer and mobile devices, I created what might be considered a pretty extreme rule. It marks all my daily incoming emails as read, unless the sender is in my Address Book. I also make sure that some VIP emails are never marked as read, for example mail from my editors at MUO.

The rule is set up like this:


To set up this rule, click on Rules tab in Mail’s preferences. Click the Add Rules button. With the first condition, change “any” to all.

Next, click on the "Any Recipient" pop-up window and select "Date Received". In the second set of drop-down conditions, select "Is Less Than," and in the third, input "1″ days old.

Next, click the + button and select "Sender is not in my Address Book." Now this assumes that your Address Book is maintained with the names and addresses of people, clients, and companies who are most important to you.

You can also click the + button and add another condition; select "Sender is not in my Previous Recipients," which means that messages from senders you have responded to before will not be marked as read.

For added measure, you can include specific addresses for which you do not want messages marked as read.

Next, under Perform the following actions: select "Mark as Read" in the pop-up menu.

If you're accustomed to checking and deleting daily mails, this rule may throw you a bit at first, because essentially all your emails will now be marked as read except the emails that you designated should not be.

However, you will still want to peruse daily emails though they are marked as read. Here's how you do that. You can simply check your Inbox and see all incoming messages. You can also create a Smart Mailbox that will capture all your emails for the current day.

To set this up, select Mailbox > New Smart Mailbox in Mail's menu bar. Set up the rule this way:

For additional ideas on automating tasks on Mac computer, check out my free PDF, The MUO Guide to Mac Automation.

Also, let us know about other email rules you use to keep your mailbox under control.

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Lockerz – A Social Network For Entertainment & Rewards-Based Shopping

Posted: 28 Jan 2011 01:31 PM PST

Specialized social networks are a thing of the future. With the huge success of Facebook, it’s no surprise that a lot of the newer sites out there – and most of the ones I write about - feature some kind of social features or centralized community.

Lockerz is one such site that takes advantage of both of those things. Lockerz is a social commerce company whose mission is “to be the homepage for men and women ages 13 to 30, building a community of trendsetters and tastemakers who love to shop, play, and connect on the web.” It’s a place where you can interact with others in the community while earning points you can use towards major discounts on your favorite items. Does that sound like something that might interest you?

What Exactly Is Lockerz?

As I mentioned in the introduction, Lockerz is a social commerce site. It was founded in 2009 by former technology and retail executive Kathy Savitt, who was formerly the vice president of strategic communications, content, and entertainment initiatives at Amazon. The Lockerz community has grown to more than 17 million members in less that one year, and the site offers major discounts on the best fashions, electronics, music, and more.

Members of the site earn PTZ (points), which are used to lower the prices on your favorite merchandise. PTZ can be earned a number of different ways, like watching videos, listening to music, answering daily questions, inviting friends to join, buying your favorite brands, and with “FWB;)”, Lockerz’ social commerce feature.

PTZ are then used to lower the prices of merchandise in the Lockerz Boutiques. The more PTZ a member earns and decides to use, the larger the discount, which can be up to 100%.

Explain FWB;) To Me

FWB;) (yes, I have to include the winky face. Sigh) is Lockerz’ social commerce platform that they introduced in October 2010. It’s a self-proclaimed “hybrid of e-commerce and social networking”, and it rewards members for interacting with one another. For instance, members are rewarded with PTZ for introducing their friends to their favorite fashion or technology brands, as well as music, videos, and more.

“FWB;) creates a mutually beneficial relationship between members, their friends, and their favorite brands and artists. Friends share favorites, and everyone benefits.”

Once you sign up to become a member of Lockerz, you will create a personal profile (Locker) in which your badges (Decalz) are showcased for friends to view. When a Lockerz friend clicks on Decalz in another member’s Locker, both members earn PTZ.

Furthermore, if a friend purchases a product or views a video in-full after clicking on Decalz, both members earn (significantly) more PTZ. As you can see, the more influential members are with their friends, the more PTZ they earn towards their own shopping experience.


By now you may be wondering what types of products you can use all these PTZ towards on Lockerz. Well, Lockerz has partnered with thousands of the best brands and stores in a lot of different categories, including electronics, designer gear, sports equipment, and clothing outlets.

I’m a fan of what Lockerz is doing. I really think that they do a good job of offering their members incentive to use the site, as well as give them creative ways to engage other users. It’s an interesting niche social network and I can’t wait to see other companies follow suit.

What do you think of Lockerz? Leave a comment below and we’ll discuss it!

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Hot Tech Deals [Jan 28th]

Posted: 28 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. Patriot PCMPBO25 PBO Core Box Office All-in-one 1080p Full HD Media Player $46.99AR Free Shipping via code EMCKJHB22 (Exp 1/30)
  2. App bundle: Get 9 Apps for the Price of 1 (Digital Download / includes Paragon Partition Manager 11, EASEUS Data Recovery Wizard, 7 more) via code MUO5OFF
  3. 20% Off Dell Home Outlet Laptops & Netbooks after Coupon Code: BP6SM900JMH74L (Exp 1/28)
  4. 15% off Dell Home Outlet Desktop Computers Coupon Code: 40V$5XKZP9ZMV? (Exp 1/28)
  5. Western Digital Elements SE 640GB Portable External USB 2.0 Hard Drive $53.99 via code EMCKJHB22 (Exp 1/30 or Sooner)
  6. Cavalry CAU3G25500B 500GB USB 3.0 Black Portable External Hard Drive $44.99 Free Shipping via code EMCKJHB22 (Exp 1/30 or Sooner)
  7. Seagate ST320005EXA101-RK Expansion 2TB USB 2.0 External Hard Drive $76.49 Free Shipping via code EMCKJHB22 (Exp 1/30 or Sooner)
  8. TODAY ONLY Mitsubishi WD-73C10 73in 3D-Ready DLP HDTV (1080p) $1089.99 Free Shipping
  9. Western Digital Elements SE 640GB Portable USB Hard Drive $53.99 Free Shipping via code EMCKJHB22 (Exp 1/30 or Sooner)

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Create Easy Painless Online Music With UJAM

Posted: 28 Jan 2011 11:31 AM PST

There are plenty of musically creative people in the world who aren’t absolutely certain of their talents — or at least, not enough to go out and buy some great software. You might be one of these people. Maybe you’ve got an idea for a song or a mashup somewhere in your head, but don’t have the tools to turn it into something worth listening to. Well, now you do.

UJAM is a new online tool for creating music. With it, you can mix up vocals with backing tracks, save it online and share it with your friends. There’s no software to download and it’s completely free. It’s a piece of cake to use.

Using UJAM

Sign-up takes less than a minute and then you’re ready to roll. UJAM kindly offers a walk-through on their site so you can see where all the tools are and get started with confidence.

To start your own creation, click on “Application” to begin using the web application.


You can record your own vocals or upload vocals from elsewhere. Just make sure if you’re uploading vocals that you’ve got the rights to use it for a new creation. If you’re recording them with UJAM, you can record it to a click beat to keep your timing steady.

The vocal track should be one single line of voice without harmonies. If you know the BPM (Beats Per Minute) you can let the application know so it’s easier to beat-match the backing tracks.

UJAM lets you change the style of your vocal track, by turning it into an instrument. It’s all done with a simple click on the “instrument” button while you’re looking at the vocal track.

Backing Tracks

There’s a huge variety of backing-track styles in UJAM to use with your vocals. You’re likely to have trouble choosing what to stick with!

Rejam Works

If you’re not feeling vocally inspired and just want to play around, try out the rejamming feature. It lets you take UJAM’s songs and re-work the chords or melody into a new style. You can do this by changing the chord progressions or the instrument or the general style of the piece.

With a couple of clicks, I changed a reggae tune into an Oxygene-style synth track.

Saving and Sharing

All your UJAM creations are saved on the site and shown in a list when you log in. When you want to share these with friends, click “Create MP3” and it will create a file you can send to them. Or, there’s a simple button to share directly on Facebook or Soundcloud.

Thoughts & Threats

UJAM’s idea isn’t really new. There’s plenty of competition out there, including JamStudio & Myna. What it does have is simplicity. If you want to quickly make a parody song or a demo to give to another musician you want to work with, it’s really easy to get it rolling. This simplicity makes it really accessible to newcomers, too. Try letting kids play with it for a while — or just play with it yourself until you decide whether you want to buy some professional software.

Meanwhile, here’s a few more articles that might be up your alley:

What will you make with UJAM? Share your ideas or creations in the comments!

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5 Offbeat Useful Websites For Booklovers & The Social Joy Of Reading

Posted: 28 Jan 2011 10:31 AM PST

book review websitesThe web isn't really helping us curl up under the quilt with a favorite book. Not directly at least; but it is giving the booklover immeasurable pleasure in a whole lot of other ways. While we still have to shell out a pretty penny for a bestselling hardcover, we are starting to discover new authors, new genres, and new books thanks to the viral spread of online recommendations.

Even as tablets and eBook reading apps come into our hands, ‘novel’ book services are giving us new ways to look between the covers and spur our reading habits. The range of book web apps is very wide – you can download free eBooks; you can compare prices of books across online retailers; you can organize your books online; you can get recommendations from like-minded readers. Think of something and you can bet that it's being covered by some book app.

Here are five fresh websites for booklovers that are helping me read books with a new light.


book review websites

Information wasn't so rampant when some of our favorite authors lived. But Infloox tries to bring a bit of it back by helping us find the reading habits of our favorite authors. It's about those who shaped us with their books…and the books that probably shaped them.

For instance, Agatha Christie used to like the works of Charles Dickens. The site is like a ‘collective search engine’ too, giving us insights into the favorite reading habits of entire countries, regions, job types, cultural movements or groups in general.

The Book Cover Archive

The domain name, the homepage, and the tagline are all self explanatory. Book covers are the first thing that draws you to the shelves holding them, and this website is a tribute to some cool book cover designs. The book mentions are linked to Amazon, but I think you can stay awhile on this artistic book review websites and just admire the art.

Also, check out the different ways you can go through the collection by using the dropdown.


BookGlutton is like an online book club where you can read and talk about books in real time, connected through the web. The social book reading community is very interactive as you can not only chat virtually with others but also share passages in a book by annotating, commenting, and bookmarking them. Right now, this book review websites community has 2,151 books in its collection.

BookGlutton can also be used as an education tool as groups can discuss books and teachers or students can use the markup features for topics (see the Directory mention).


The book web service positions itself as the ‘Pandora’ for book lovers. Just like the music service tries to match listeners to new music according to their tastes, BookLamp tries to do the same for book lovers. Think of it as an automated book recommendation service which can correlate the book you like with another one that has a similar writing style and features like pacing, density, description, dialog, and action.

BookLamp removes the subjectivity of other recommendation services and gives more objective results based on their own comparison engine. You can recommend your favorite books for a comparative ranking by giving the title, author, and ISBN. Some of the results were hit and miss, but it's still fun to try out because you do discover gems.


book review websites

ReadFeeder recommends books by their popular mentions in well known blogs. Expert blogs across topics are scanned and books mentioned there are sorted according to how many posts have been written about the book. So, expect to find books that may miss any of the bestseller lists but get words of praise from enthusiastic bloggers. The book ‘feeds’ are arranged neatly according to the topics covered by the expert blogs. Each recommended book gets its own page with excerpts from the blog mentioning it.

Of course, you have to buy the books to read them, but that shouldn't stop you from finding out what the blogosphere is raving about.

Just like the turn of a page, the web also turns over. Some of these book review websites may not survive the digital churn that usually gobbles up promising startups. If they do, we book lovers are the winners. If they don't, they at least give us a chance to enjoy the world of reading in a new way.

Which is your favorite online book app? We have covered a lot of book apps ourselves. Browse through them too. Some are with a bookmark.

Image: Shutterstock

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Backup Your PC With Ease For Free Using Easeus Todo Backup [Windows]

Posted: 28 Jan 2011 09:31 AM PST

Backing up your data is one of those things in life that you really won’t understand until disaster strikes, by which time it’s too late. For most people who haven’t experienced data-loss, the task of backing up just seems like such a good idea in theory, but so much effort in reality.

But take my advice, use this incredible free Easeus Todo Backup software and it’ll be so easy you won’t even have to think about it.  And if the worst does come to the worst, and you do lose any data, then you will be covered.

Types Of Backup

There are 2 basic types of backup you can do with Todo Backup, so first take a moment to think about your requirements.

File & Folder Backup

This is the simplest form of backup there is, and basically just makes a copy of files. These kind of basic backups are suitable when your documents or data are the most important thing, but you don’t care about your operating system or the applications installed on it. As you have a fine control over what to backup, the size of your backup is determined by your data only. However, once you’ve taken a full backup, you can run “incremental backups” subsequently, which only backs up the files that have changed. This saves space and time, while still giving you an up to date copy of files should the worst happen.

Partition & Drive Backup

This can save a copy of your entire computer, including the operating system. It’s the best choice if your computer is your primary work machine and getting it up and running again quickly is important, or if you have a lot of applications installed that you don’t want to lose. With a full partition and drive backup, you can simply change the broken drive and restore everything back to it in a few hours. Of course, these kind of backups will take longer to perform, and they include everything on that partition, so they tend to grow large. You can reduce the size with compression though.

Easeus Todo Backup

This handles both of these effortlessly, and allows you to make a bootable restore CD or USB. One point to bear in mind is that while you can backup to a shared network drive (like one of the awesome drobos we gave away last week), you cannot restore from one. If you want to be able to restore your whole system, you must backup to a physical device plugged into the computer, such as another internal drive (see my guide to adding another internal drive) or a USB hard drive.

Automated, No Effort Backups

Automation is the key to back-ups. If you have to actually launch some software every time you want to update the backup, then believe me after the first time you never actually will.

Hands-On Test

To see how the software really performs, I decided to do a full system backup of my Windows machine. The whole system is only about 10GB as it’s primarily for work. To test the restore capabilities, I’ll delete a bunch of random critical Windows files to simulate a system error, then change the drive, and attempt to restore from the backup using a bootable CD made using the Easeus software.

To start, I chose Schedule Backup -> Disk and partition backup, and gave it a name. When it comes to choosing what to backup, I made sure to select only the main Windows drive as I already had the backup drive plugged in. I then chose the backup drive E: as the destination – the USB drive I had plugged in. Be sure to check the box “Check Backup Integrity“, or there is a possibility that your backup will be corrupt. I chose a Daily backup at 8:45pm, and made sure to enter my administrator account password.

While that was running, I went ahead and made a bootable rescue USB key from the tools menu.

Make sure you don’t choose your backup drive if that’s also plugged in through USB. The process only took a few seconds. I then waited for the backup to finish, which according to the log took less than 10 minutes.

Curiously, the backup image was only about 5GB – I checked later and by default a basic amount of compression is applied. Less compression will make the backups quicker but larger, more will take longer but result in a smaller file. Regardless, I went ahead and deleted random files (don’t try this at home) until it refused to boot Windows, then unplugged the main drive and installed a new one. Just to complicate things, I replaced the original drive with a smaller one. I then booted from the USB drive. With the USB backup drive plugged in, it automatically recognized it and found the backup image, and soon enough I was choosing the drive I wanted to restore the system to.

You can even resize the partitions during the restore process. 10 minutes later, Windows was back up and running. Fantastic!


Even if Easeus Todo Backup wasn’t free, it would still be one of the best backup solutions for Windows. It is free though – and with features otherwise only found in expensive packages, it’s also incredibly simple to set up a regular automated full backup plan. If you don’t already have a decent backup solution in place, I strongly suggest you download this now. There are also full guides on the site for every type of backup operation you could want.

Again, here’s that download link for this incredible piece of software. Let us know your experiences in the comments if you’re a current user – or what backup software you use instead?

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5 Cool Things You Can Do With Bing Maps Aerial View

Posted: 28 Jan 2011 08:31 AM PST

bing maps aerial viewWhen it comes to online mapping, there are a few websites that are currently king of the hill. Those include Google Maps, Mapquest and Bing Maps. I think it’s safe to say that most of us here at MUO really like Google Maps. Mapquest deserves some coolness points too, with its ability to geotag your blog updates.

When it comes to Bing Maps, how much do you really know about it? A lot of people avoid it simply because it’s Microsoft. However, if you read through some of our past Bing articles, like Evan’s on planning car trips and Steven’s on some of Bing’s cool map apps, then you know that Bing actually has a lot to offer.

One feature of online mapping sites that I really like is the overhead aerial view that utilizes satellite images and overhead or street photography. Up until now, I really thought that Google completely owned this area. However, it didn’t take very much playing around with Bing Maps aerial view to realize that Google may very well get a run for its money.

Zooming In On Bing Maps Aerial View

The moment I tried zooming far into one of Bing’s “Bird’s Eye” maps, I was stunned by the quality and level of detail when compared to Google.  To get to Bing Maps aerial view, all you have to do is go to Bing Maps, click on the drop-down near the zoom controls and choose “Bird’s eye.” (Notice that “show angled view” is enabled).

bing maps aerial view

When you do, you’ll see the map transform to an overhead view that isn’t really that much different than what you’d find at Google or Mapquest. The differences aren’t really that apparent until you start clicking on that “+” zoom button a few times.

bing aerial maps

Once you get in close using Bing Maps aerial view, the level of detail becomes much more apparent. I believe this depth of imagery comes from something called “photogrammetry,” which according to the Microsoft News Center is taking the original satellite photographic images and developing geometric properties to produce 3D map images. Whatever it is that creates these impressive images – it adds a level of detail that you just can’t get from Google Maps at many locations.

bing aerial maps

Just check out this angled, 3D view of the Federal Reserve Bank in Boston, Massachusetts. As you can see, the view provides an angled, 3-dimensional view of the building, the cars and the surrounding land.

bing aerial maps

Here’s how this view looks on Google Maps aerial view.

bing search maps

As you can see, the amount of detail that you can make out from the angled overhead view is just much more impressive. When you enable the Photosynth feature, you can even take virtual 3D tours of some of these buildings that other users have added to the map.

Other Bing Maps Aerial View Apps

For other photographic views of an area, don’t forget about traffic cams, which you can also enable in the web apps area.

bing search maps

This app enables small icons of cameras throughout the map. All you have to do is hover your mouse over one of those cameras and you can see the most recent snapshot taken from that traffic camera. This is a pretty cool way to get a glimpse of what weather or traffic conditions look like on the road at that location.

Another cool aerial view feature is if you click the “traffic” icon (the traffic lights). This displays all of the roadways color-coded by the level of traffic. When a traffic disruption occurs, the map displays a warning icon. Hover your mouse over it to find out what incident is affecting traffic.

bing search maps

Another awesome feature of Bing aerial view is the user submitted “places.” You can get there by clicking on the “Places” icon (the star), and in the pop-up box, click on the “Explore” link. You’ll see the all of the user-generated “places” of interest highlighted both on the map and described in detail in the left pane.

bing search maps

This is an awesome feature to use when you’re planning an upcoming trip. The aerial view lets you see the landmarks and lay of the land around the places that you want to visit. All user submitted places are displayed as a numbered icon on the map, so all you have to do to plan your itinerary is click the icon and review what others wrote about the location.

Using Bing Maps for directions is another cool way to make use of Aerial view, because you can enable “walking directions” and see exactly what buildings or landmarks that you’ll pass as you walk the route from one tourist spot to another.

bing maps aerial view

I also have to add that when you zoom down into the aerial view until you get to street level, you’ll be blown away by the clarity of many of the street level snapshots (depending where you are of course). The image below is the street level view of Boston Common.

bing search maps

Overall, while I can’t rightly say that Bing Maps dominates the world of overhead mapping, the quality of the maps have improved dramatically since I last tried using Bing Aerial View a while back. If you haven’t used it in a while, I highly recommend that you give Bing overhead maps another try. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Have you ever used Bing Maps aerial view? What do you think of it? Share your thoughts and insights in the comments section below.

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The Rise & Fall Of Google Video Player & Google Video

Posted: 28 Jan 2011 07:31 AM PST

google video playerGoogle is one of the giants of the tech world. Even the largest and most experienced technology companies can make mistakes however, or try to jump onto a ship after it has already set sail. Google's forays into social networking are the most recent example, but several years ago Google struggled with another emerging business – online video.

That's not to say Google didn't try. It had its own service, Google Videos, and its own media player, unsurprisingly called Google Video Player. How did these services come to be, and what made them go boom?

The Beginning Of Google Videos

google video player

After CES 2005, Google announced that it would be entering the field of video search. Although Google now has a plethora of search functions, video was still new at the time; YouTube was launched a month after Google launched its video search. This was part of a broader effort by Google to expand its business – the Google Books project was announced just a few months before Google Videos.

Expanding alongside numerous competitors, Google Videos quickly began adding features. In its initial launch, Google Videos was really just a search function. There was no player of any kind. By June of 2005 however, Google had released two viewing options. Google Video Player was used to play video in a browser, while Google Video Player made it possible to download and view video in a standalone application. At the time, this made a big splash, causing analysts to say fancy things such as “content distribution has been disintermediated“.

download google video

Google Video Player wasn't a bad piece of kit, but it wasn't particularly new, either. It was based off VLC originally, and it looked and felt similar as well, at least in its early stages. The player could use .gvp files, which did not contain video themselves but instead pointed the player to the online source.

Google Ventures Into Paid Content

download google video

There wasn't much major news about Google Videos or the Video Player until January of 2006. That's when Google announced that it was going to start offering video-on-demand as a paid service, a move that shifted Google Videos from a straightforward YouTube competitor into an iTunes sparring partner. Google offers TV shows like Survivor, I Love Lucy and CSI for $1.99 an episode. Some shows were unlimited play, while others were 24 hour rentals.

In a typical Google move, Google Videos continued to have the beta tag applied to it even after it began charging for paid content. It didn't receive rave reviews, either. PC Mag gave it 3 out of 5 stars, stating that although there was a lot of free content, some of the paid content seemed overpriced and the DRM restrictions on such content weren't clear. The combination of free and paid content on the same service also made the paid content feel cheaper – a search for CSI could return high-quality on-demand videos as well as an amateur parody made by three guys in a basement. Google Video Player seemed like another hoop to jump through, as well – it wasn't nearly as well integrated into Google Videos as Quicktime was with iTunes.

Fall Down, Go Boom, Buy Competitor

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In a major embarrassment for Google, CBS pulled out of Google Videos after less than a month of partnership. This left Google with a paid content service that didn't have much paid content, and the free video content was at this point clearly lagging behind YouTube, which had taken off like a rocket and showed no signs of slowing down.

Google forged some other partnerships over the next year, but 2006 was by and large a period of radio silence when it came to Google Videos. Analysts, unsure of what to make of Google's apparently failed attempt to compete in the emerging online video market, made predictions of many kinds. One of the more interesting rumors placed Apple and Google into a hypothetical partnership, but this never came to pass.

Speculation that Google was going after YouTube, however, did come to pass. In November of 2006, Google purchased YouTube for an incredible $1.65 billion. With this, the death knell of Google Videos and Google Video Player sounded. Google Videos still exists as a search function, but the ability to upload videos was disabled in early 2009, and the developer blog has been virtually abandoned ever since. Google Video Player had an even shorter life, officially kicking the bucket on August 17, 2007.


The rise and fall of Google Video Player and Google Videos are actually great examples of how Google functions as a company. Google's vision sometimes outpaces its execution, but when this happens, Google often finds another way to make things work. In this case it simply bought the people who'd already figured out online video, and YouTube has since risen to even greater heights.

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