Wednesday, February 9, 2011 “Cool Websites and Tools [February 8th]” plus 9 more “Cool Websites and Tools [February 8th]” plus 9 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [February 8th]

Posted: 08 Feb 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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Wildfire App – If you run a website, you might want to check out how your website's popularity on social networks matches against your competitors. Such a comparative analysis will help determine whether to stick with your current strategies or change something. One great online tool that will help you with such a comparison is Wildfire Monitor. Read more: WildfireApp: Compare Social Network Popularity Of Websites


Litefeed – If you are someone who loves scouring through Twitter stream primarily for checking the different links people share, then RSS-like reader Litefeed is made for you. I'm sure you would agree that clicking through the links to new browser tabs each time isn't fun and it consumes time too. Litefeed expands all these links, be it a blog post, a video or an image. Read more: Litefeed: Cool RSS Like Twitter Reader



AppSplit – If you have a great idea for a mobile app, you might be raring to get it launched now. However, there are lots of things that go into it – from coding, to testing, and then to actually selling it. Appsplit is a cool developers' marketplace for finished and unfinished apps. Appsplit facilitates the buying and selling of source codes and rights while also taking care of marketing and support through their Split Program. Read more: AppSplit: Buy & Sell iOS Source Codes



MTV Music Meter – Music lovers know they cannot rely solely on top music sales when it comes to finding good new bands and singers. The best way to find good new music is through social media and finding out how much hype new artists have generated. Here to help you find music in this way is MTV Music Meter, a new service from MTV. Read more: MTVMusicMeter: Discover Music Based On Popularity Online



Added Domains – Choosing a good domain name for your new website is an important step in the site's future success. While there are many online tools that can help find and register a good domain name, they basically rely on finding available domains that are a combination of your suggested keywords. Here with a different approach to the process is Read more: AddedDomains: A New Domain Name Research 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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The 6 Toughest Tech Questions [MakeUseOf Answers]

Posted: 08 Feb 2011 05:31 PM PST

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IntoNow – An App That Can Listen To & Identify The TV Shows You’re Watching [iPhone/iPad]

Posted: 08 Feb 2011 03:31 PM PST

identify tv showHow familiar are you with apps like Shazam and SoundHound? If you haven’t heard of them, what they essentially do is allow you to hold your iPhone or iPad up to a speaker that’s playing music and they will “listen” to the song and be able to identify the name of it for you. These types of apps are perfect for when you need to know what a song is called or who it’s by when you’re in, say, your car, among other places.

Well, what if you could take that same basic idea and apply it to your television viewing experience? Now you can, with IntoNow. IntoNow is a very impressive iOS app that listens to the TV shows you’re watching and tells you the exact episode it is, allowing you to share the kinds of shows you’re watching with your friends. How does it work?

What Is IntoNow?

Here’s a description taken from IntoNow’s FAQ page:

IntoNow is a consumer tech company that aims to enhance the way people engage with each other around the shows they love. Based on the SoundPrint platform, IntoNow gives users the ability to almost instantly recognize TV content and then helps them share and discuss those shows with friends, both within the product and through other social streams such as Facebook and Twitter.

We’ve previously written about apps like GetGlue and Miso, which allow you to check into the shows and movies you’re watching in order to share them with your friends, earn badges, and other cool stuff. Those apps, however, require you to tell them what show you’re watching, while IntoNow can just do it magically on its own.

How Does IntoNow Work?

identify tv show

IntoNow (App Store link) is a game-changer. It makes engaging your favorite TV shows easy, social, and fun. Just tap the green button when your favorite show is on and IntoNow will identify the episode, provide data and links associated with it, and help you share the information on Facebook and Twitter.

iphone tv show app

You can also see which shows you have in common with your friends, including whether they’ve seen the latest episode of whatever show you’re both watching. It even alerts you whenever you and a friend are watching the same show at the same time.

iphone tv show app

IntoNow, which is based on the SoundPrint platform, analyzes the ambient audio being generated from your television in three second increments. The audio is then converted into a fingerprint of sorts, which is a unique ID that is then matched with IntoNow’s huge database of information. Metadata associated with the show (and episode), like title, description, cast, etc., are then returned.

More Great Features

Not completely sold on IntoNow just yet? Here’s some more great features for you.

iphone tv show app

IntoNow gives you the ability to identify live TV, or anything that’s run on TV in the last five years, from your television, computer, or mobile device. It gives you full episode and cast information, as well as information on future airings.

identify tv show

You can receive notifications when your friends are watching the same episode as you, as well as comment on what they’re watching in the app, or on Facebook/Twitter. Friends can be added to the app via Facebook, Twitter, your address book, or search by name.

Lastly, you get one-click access to IMDB, Netflix, and iTunes so you can learn more or start watching right away.


IntoNow is available on iOS devices and requires wireless access (either WiFi or 3G) and a microphone to work. It works with any cable or satellite provider as long as the channels are covered by their index. If you missed the download link above, you can get IntoNow here.

I’m a big fan of this app and all of the buzz I’ve been hearing about it, as well as this type of application in general. There are recent studies out there stating that a large number of people access their smartphones while watching television, and this is the type of app that can directly take advantage of that. If I were a company like GetGlue or Miso, or a provider of television content, I would partner with (or buy) IntoNow immediately. What do you think of this type of application?

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3 Great Ways To Read Your Google Reader Feeds

Posted: 08 Feb 2011 01:31 PM PST

read google reader feedI bet you’ve got lots of feeds in Google Reader. Maybe you have so many feeds that you’ve turned off the unread count so it doesn’t drive you mad. You’ve probably organised them into folders so you can read feeds according to your mood. Yet, if you’re anything like me, you probably still just never get around to really reading those feeds often enough.

The trick is to make it more tempting. There’s numerous ways to access your Google Reader feeds which make certain articles stand out from the crowd and more enticing. If you get into the habit of using some of these, you’ll find it’s no problem at all to stay in the loop with your favourite feeds.

Trick 1: Google Reader Play

Google Play is a new toy Google itself has created for Google Reader. It is an impressive way to view the more visual post items from your feeds.

read google reader feed

While using Google Play, it’s easy to star, share and like posts as per your normal Google Reader experience. You can hide the thumbnails at the bottom if you wish, plus you can press a single button to view all items as a slideshow. Great if you’re tired and bored! Also, YouTube videos will play automatically within Google Reader Play.

Google Play originally starts with just recommended feeds, but you can adjust that to your liking to add your friends’ shared items and other categories.

google reader feeds

Trick 2: Feedly

Feedly is an extension for Firefox, Chrome and Safari (it’s also got an iPhone app). What Feedly does is re-design the layout of your unread Google Reader feed items to make it look better in a way designed to be browsed in a leisurely fashion. It compartmentalises each of your folders, showing thumbnails and short snippets of the post with each of the titles.

Plus, Feedly features a couple of items at the very top with large thumbnails in a semi-magazine style. It also links into your Twitter account, making it easy to share the things you find.

google reader feeds

Everything syncs back to Google Reader, so if you use another method of reading your feeds later (like perhaps Google Reader itself) you won’t be reading it all again. If you’ve browsed the whole page and nothing has caught your fancy, you simply mark it all as read and refresh. Voila! A new page full of interesting stuff is yours to play with.

Trick 3: Make “Next Bookmark” Toolbar Buttons

These “Next Bookmark” buttons are easy to set up, but people seem to forget they exist. Head to Google Reader and click on “Manage Subscriptions” in the bottom-left corner. Click on the “Goodies” tab and scroll down. You have the option of making a simple “Next” button or to choose a specific folder and create a “Next” button for that folder only.

google reader feeds

I’ve personally created a few buttons with my favourite folders so that I can use them as a sort of personalised StumbleUpon.

read google reader feed

Alternative Feed Tips & Tricks

If you want some more great ways of viewing feeds or using Google Reader, check out these articles:

What’s your favourite way of viewing feeds? Do you even use Google Reader or do you have a favourite alternative? Let us know in the comments!

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Hot Tech Deals [Feb 8th]

Posted: 08 Feb 2011 12:30 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. EXPIRING LG 60PK540 60in Plasma HDTV (1080p) $1249.99 Free Shipping via code LG2135 (Exp 2/8)
  2. Microsoft Ultimate Steal – Office Professional Academic 2010 $79.95
  3. Dell PowerEdge T110 Server Desktop Intel Xeon Quad-Core 2.4GHz $329 Free Ship
  4. 360Amigo System Speedup PRO and Returnil System Safe 2011 for only $20 (digital download, instant delivery)
  5. Paragon Partition Manager 11 Personal Edition and novaPDF Professional Desktop Edition for $15 (digital download, instant delivery)
  6. EASEUS Data Recovery Wizard v.5.0.1 and Altaro Oops!Backup for only $20 (digital download, instant delivery)
  7. AMD Athlon II X3 Rana 2.9GHz CPU + Biostar 790X ATX Motherboard Combo $126.98 Free Shipping
  8. Onkyo TX-SR508 7.1ch Home Theater Receiver (3D Ready w/ HDMI 1.4) $228 Free Shipping via code AFLONK228 (Ongoing)

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set

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10 Alert & Notifier Websites To Keep Track Of Stuff You Might Otherwise Miss

Posted: 08 Feb 2011 11:31 AM PST

notification web serviceThe web has become increasingly “real time”. But the sheer number of websites we usually have bookmarked defeats our best intentions to stay up-to-date. This is where the medley of alert and notifier services can lend a hand by being watchful of updates and sending out 'just in time' alerts to our mailbox or cellphone.

To be the first guy off the blocks really helps when it comes to things like early bird discounts or giveaways. Then think about jobs and the online alert system assumes critical importance. As online alert notification tools prove, the flood of information on the web also makes for a rush to receive it first. After all, nobody likes to be at the tail end of a queue.

So check out these diverse alert and notification web services and keep yourself a step ahead of the masses.


notification web service is a notification service that monitors your favorite website, blog, or social network and sends you alerts in your inbox, messenger, mobile phone, or an application. It's a sort of umbrella service which lets you cover a smorgasbord of websites from Craiglist to Twitter.

So if you want an early warning system for bad weather or an early bird alert for discounts, this web app could be worth a try. For SMS services, check if the site has your cellular provider covered in the long list. The site was a bit buggy when I tried it out but it could be a temporary glitch.


web notification service

If you are a heavy user of Google Alerts, you might like a similar app which does the job with Twitter. Twilert sends you regular email updates of tweets that have your specified keyword. It could be your name, your website, your brand, or anything else.

You can set the schedule of when you would like to receive a 'Twilert' and you can easily manage your alerts by switching them on or off.  Advanced search options help to focus your alerts (see Directory mention).


web notification service

Yotify lets you create your own 'scouts' and send them out to track things like job postings, deals and discounts, news, videos, and anything else that can be tracked with a tag across a slew of popular websites. You can even track auctions on eBay, resumes on LinkedIn, track using keywords, and even track mentions of your name, brand, or service. Each Yotify scout can be further fine-tuned to narrow down results (see Directory mention).

Savvy Circle

web notification service

This notifier app helps you burn through your shopping wishlist without burning your pocket. Savvy Circle supports 200+ stores and as soon as any item on your wishlist goes on sale, you get an email alert. Using a bookmarklet for IE and Firefox, you can easily add items to your Savvy Circle wishlist while browsing the web (see Directory mention).

Also check out ZingSale for monitoring price drops of your favorite items.


online notification

This one is for video watchers who regularly like to keep themselves updated about the latest on YouTube. The YouTube alert tool sends an email when any new YouTube video specified by a keyword or username gets uploaded. The basic account is ad-sponsored and allows tracking of up to 10 keywords, and updates once per day.

Was It Up?

online notification is an example of a simple website downtime monitoring service which lets you know if your favorite site is down or up. You can monitor ten websites and the app polls the sites every 5 minutes. The optional keyword field can help you filter out the websites as per the presence or absence of the keyword on the landing page (see Directory mention).


online notification

Usually a music lover's taste is varied. We tend to follow a lot of artists across genres and it's a difficult job keeping track of their latest releases. Blyper does the job for you by sending you an email notification as soon as your favorite artist releases a track. Blyper is a great way to keep tabs on music releases and also discover new music in the process. With your username, you can add artists and be notified when they release a track or an album (see Directory mention).

Free App Alert

Nothing can send you rushing to the iPhone App store faster than the news that a paid app is available now for free. Free App Alert helps you to jump the queue by sending alerts via email, Twitter, or RSS. The alerts come with a small description, a thumbnail, and also the time limit of the free offers if any (see Directory mention).

Another similar site is App Giveaway for iPhone and iPod Touch apps.


If you don't want to miss out on torrent downloads of your favorite TV shows then set up a reminder for your favorite episodes and get notified through email, RSS, calendar entry, or as  a simple webpage. Once a good quality torrent is available, Seriesly alerts you and you can set options for quality and the kind of download link you want (see Directory mention).

Conference Alerts

We have been having fun so far, but the researchers among us would prefer an alert system that tells them about the happenings in the academic world. This app follows conferences around the world across a variety of academic fields from anthropology to law. A free subscription keeps you updated on the latest conference happening near you. You can define the alerts you want by giving keywords, country specific information, and details like conferences with calls for papers etc.

Do you like to be on the alert? Then these alert apps are just the tip of the information iceberg. Check out all the alert and notification web services that we have covered and you might find a few more worth shouting about. Do shout out about your favorite ones.

Image credit: Shutterstock

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ReactOS – Open-Source Windows Clone Software To Seriously Look Forward To

Posted: 08 Feb 2011 10:31 AM PST

operating system alternative windows 7We dedicate a huge amount of time and effort into presenting you with useful software and tips for common applications, but there are many more developers that dedicate enormous chunks of time to gift humanity with free software. We’ve discussed many open-source projects in this corner of the web, and there’s no stopping it. The open-source community is on a roll and has produced so many applications that even full operating systems have been made for anyone to explore.

While Ubuntu, for instance, has made impressive leaps in user-friendliness leading to a simpler GUI, many users, if not most, are more familiar with the Windows environment so not a lot of people wish to go through a potentially steep learning curve with another new OS. There’s been some advancement in the open-source world that Windows users won’t have to completely fear using a new OS.

ReactOS is an effort to provide a Windows NT-like architecture that is compatible with existing drivers and applications. An easy way to look at it would be to say that it is a clone of the Windows OS (which is closed-source so it’s not possible to really clone it), when in reality, it’s an alternative to the Windows OS, with the difference that it’s a collaborative open-source project and it’s in its infancy. While the team behind ReactOS has been heavily developing this young operating system for over a decade, it is still in the alpha stage. However, there is a number of reasons that make ReactOS worth a look.

operating system alternative windows 7

Why Care About Another OS?

There are a couple of favorable points to ReactOS: Compatibility, familiar interface, speed, and of course, the GNU GPL license. Although the name “ReactOS” suggest a reaction from dissatisfaction with the current dominating OS provider, this system isn’t just another OS. It’s actually based on the Windows NT kernel to provide the most compatibility with hardware and software, which other non-Windows systems may not always achieve 100%.

alternative to windows os

Take any of the Linux distros, for example, some of the more popular ones even, some of which may have come a long way and gained more fans due to improved user-friendliness. According to ReactOS’s official site, since Linux started as a clone of UNIX, it doesn’t implement the same kernel architecture design of the Microsoft Windows NT series, which means not all software will be completely compatible. The keyword here is all, as we cannot ignore the fact that the WINE (which ReactOS includes parts of in its code) and PlayOnLinux projects have brought pretty great relief (check out WINE’s application database for more information). There are still, many more unsupported Windows-only programs that have yet to port over to Mac or Linux systems.

How It Looks (So Far)

alternative to windows os

So since this project is a rewrite of the Windows architecture, the ReactOS GUI is familiar to anyone who’s seen Windows 95, as ReactOS did start humble beginnings with the intention of cloning Windows 95. Since it sports a simple interface and strips itself of fancy bells and whistles, it’s lightweight and boots pretty fast.

Note that although the project isn’t ready for everyday use as stated on its website, there are many ways to try ReactOS. The download options include a Live CD, which allows you to test the OS without even installing anything on your hard drive. There are also downloadable packages for you to virtualize in VirtualBox and VMware, as well as emulate with QEMU. In my test, I used a virtual machine (~60MB package for VirtualBox), and while it was a snappy experience at first (bootup lasted between 5 and 8 seconds), things were a bit sluggish even after I tried installing VirtualBox’s Guest Additions.

This video from ReactOSorg and some very promising screenshots from the forum, however, showcases installed applications, such as Mozilla Firefox and SumatraPDF, and fast, overall response from the system.

I wasn’t able to install anything as clicking on software categories in the ReactOS Applications Manager would show me a dialog that would quit without reaching the end of the progress meter. Navigating through the Start menu turned out better and there were quite a few replicated applications built-in on regular Windows systems, such as Character Map, Paint and MineSweeper (WineMine in ReactOS).

windows alternative

windows alternative

windows alternative

As you can see, a lot of the icons are borrowed from Linux. Even the ReactOS Applications Manager is slightly reminiscent of Ubuntu’s Software Center.

operating system alternative windows 7

There’s been similar but abandoned projects, such as Freedows, but as ReactOS has many years in the making, it shouldn’t be ignored as it shows brilliant potential. With sufficient support from the community, ReactOS may evolve from being a very fascinating project to a more mature, ready-for-primetime system.

What are your thoughts on a potential Windows alternative like ReactOS?

Image credit: ReactOS Foundation

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Print and Create PDF Files From Web Pages With JoliPrint

Posted: 08 Feb 2011 09:31 AM PST

create pdf from web pageAmazon has just announced that sales of its e-books have already surpassed printed books. Even though the news could be the sign that digital publications have started to hold its ground, e-books (and e-documents) still have a long way to go before they can completely replace their printed counterparts – if ever.

Kindle, iPad and other e-book readers and tablets might be the future of publishing, but nothing can replace the feeling of reading from the printed page – yet. That’s why most people still buy printed books and print articles from the web. But if you’ve ever tried to print webpages, you will know how horrible the results can be. To overcome this problem, people have invented tools like ReadableReadability and Instapaper, that come up with their own version of good looking printed webpages.

If you are on a quest to find a way to print nice looking webpages – either physically or digitally, you could try joliprint. This service will create a pretty PDF from any web page, and it will also help you add PDF-printing features on your website or blog.

Readers: Just Add The Address

From the readers’ point of view, using joliprint is as easy as writing down the web address and clicking the “joliprint it!” button.

create pdf from web page

The web service will compile the information on the page, strip out the unnecessary elements, convert it into PDF, and send the result to be downloaded by the user’s browser. This is a good way to collect information for your research. Later on, whether or not you want to print the PDFs into physical copies is up to you.

To see how good the PDF result is, I “joliprint”-ed one MakeUseOf article. Below is the result. To make the pages easier to read and to optimize the use of space on the paper, joliprint divides the text into two columns. It also resizes the images to fit the column width.

save web page as pdf

Then I printed the same article into PDF – unmodified. I got the same layout as the website, along with the ads. Even though the web layout might be best for web viewing, it’s not optimized for printing.

save web page as pdf

Another thing to note is that after comparing the two printouts, the joliprint version took less pages (only 3 pages) than the non-modified PDF version (6 pages).

While adding web addresses one by one to be PDF-printed is fine on one or two occasions, you might want to install joliprint’s bookmarklet if you do a lot of web printing.

save web page as pdf

After dragging and dropping the bookmarklet button to your browser’s bookmark bar, give it a name.

print web page

Now you can easily print any webpage that you encounter by clicking the bookmarklet.

Publishers: Integrate The Print Feature

If you own a website or blog, you’ll do your visitors a great favor by adding the joliprint button. To do that, go to the “Get the button” page and follow the instructions.

The first step is to decide the type of your site.

print web page

If your site is a normal website, choose the kind of button that you want to use.

02b Choose Button.jpg

The last step is to get the embed code, then copy and paste the code to your website.

02c Embed Code.jpg

But if you own a WordPress blog, you’ll get more power by installing the joliprint plugin. You can download the plugin from the WordPress plugin repository, or…

print web page

You can search and install the plugin from within your WordPress blog admin area.

03a Joliprint WordPress plugin.jpg

After the plugin is installed, you can customize several things about joliprint via its “Options” pages.

03b Joliprint Options 1.jpg

One of the available customizations is the header of the resulting PDFs. You can use your blog name as the header or define your own text header. You can even use your own graphic as the header.

03c Joliprint Options 2.jpg

Another cool thing you can add to your joliprint feature is Google Analytics. By inserting your analytics code, you can track down and analyze the statistics of PDF-printing that your visitors do from your blog.

After you are done with the settings, you can check out your blog to see whether the joliprint buttons appear and whether the feature works well. By default, the joliprint button will appear at the end of posts and pages.

create pdf from web page

As a person who still relies heavily on printed documentation, I find joliprint’s service to be indispensable. What about you? Have you tried joliprint? What do you think about printing out webpages? Do you use other similar services?

Please share your thoughts and opinions using the comments below.

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How To Format A Large Hard Drive With Either FAT Or FAT32

Posted: 08 Feb 2011 08:31 AM PST

how to format a hard driveIn a recent article I detailed how to format a USB drive and in a follow-up article I explained what file systems are good for. In both articles I mentioned that there is a 32GB size limit for partitions when formatting with FAT or FAT32. Well, as some of you certainly know, that is not the entire truth. FAT / FAT32 itself can handle up to 16TB hard drives and up to 2TB are supported in most operating systems. Microsoft has set a 32GB partition size limit for the FAT / FAT32 file system to promote NTFS, which is generally more efficient when working with large partitions.

So first of all, this limitation only exists in recent versions of Windows. Secondly, Windows does recognize large hard drives formatted with FAT / FAT32. And finally, you can circumvent the 32 GB limit.

In this article I will show you how to format a large hard drive with FAT / FAT32 or create a 32+ GB partition with said file system.

The Manual Way

You don’t need a tool to circumvent the 32 GB partition limit, you can do it manually and it’s fairly easy. Rather than using the standard Windows formatter, you switch to the command line.

In Windows XP, go to > Start > Run. In Windows Vista and Windows 7, go to > Start, type > Run in the search field, and launch it. Type > cmd into the text field and click > OK.

how to format a hard drive

Enter the following command at the prompt: format /FS:FAT32 X:

Replace the letter X with the drive letter for the external device you wish to format and hit > Enter.

how to format hard drive

That’s it! The formatting may take a long time as it did in my 15.2 GB example above, but it works.

The Tools

If you don’t want to mess with the command line, you can use tools that apply the same principle, but provide a nice graphical user interface (GUI) for your convenience.

SwissKnife (Windows XP)

SwissKnife is a simple partition manager that lets you do more than just format your hard drive with different file systems. You can also use it to delete, create, and resize partitions and it works faster than Windows.

how to format hard drive

However, the free version of SwissKnife is only available for Windows 95 through XP. If you would like to use it on more recent versions of Windows, you have to purchase SwissKnife Premium or try one of the other free tools below.


Windows 7 users can try Fat32Formatter. It’s a self-executable tool with a decent GUI that allows you to format large hard drives with FAT32. Balloon tips guide the user through its functions. No other documentation is available.

how to format hard drive

This tool is almost too simplistic. While you can delete a partition and create new ones, you cannot choose the allocation unit size, which does make a different as I outlined previously.

FAT32 Format

FAT32 Format is another very basic portable GUI tool that doesn’t require installation. It just does one task, and it does it very efficiently: format drives with FAT32.

how to format a hard drive

FAT32 Format works with Windows XP through 7 and supports up to 2TB partition size. You can choose the allocation unit size and give the partition a new volume label. Unfortunately, it can not create new partitions.

If you want to manage your partitions, i.e. create new ones or change their size, I recommend that you use dedicated software. First, create a partition that you want to format with FAT32. Then, in case your partition manager can’t do it, use one of the tools above to carry out the FAT32 formatting.

For detailed instructions, see James’ article on How To Set Up A Second Hard Drive In Windows: Partitioning. For a third party alternative to Windows’ partition manager, see Justin’s article on GParted – The Ultimate In Partitioning Software. If you are interested in the limitations of FAT32 in Windows XP, check out the respective Microsoft Support article.

What is your favorite file system? Did you switch from NTFS to FAT32 before and what were the reasons?

Image credit: Kar

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Intel’s New Quick Sync Video – What It Is & What It Does [Technology Explained]

Posted: 08 Feb 2011 07:31 AM PST

intel quick sync videoComputer processors are entering a new phase of life. Both Intel and AMD now have processors available that incorporate an integrated graphics processor directly into the architecture.  This provides many advantages in terms of cost and power efficiency, but performance is also improved.

One of the ways this is manifesting is the Quick Sync video feature added to Intel’s new line of Core processors. According to Intel, this technology makes it possible for the company’s new processors to transcode video more quickly than a $500 video card. Video transcoding is a common task, although you may not realize you’re doing it. Exporting videos from a video editor, converting video formats and sending video to a mobile device are all examples of common tasks that benefit from accelerated transcoding. But how does Quick Sync work?

The Theory & Reality Behind Quick Sync

intel quicksync

Processors are quick, but they were originally built as a very linear device. Information is shipped in, executed, and then shipped out. Changes and improvements have made this simple explanation less accurate over the years, but it largely remains true.

GPUs, on the other hand, are massively parallelized. They’re built to deal with numerous bits of information, which is advantageous when computer hardware needs to output high-definition video or complex 3D graphics. By placing an integrated GPU directly on a new CPU architecture, it’s possible to have the best of both worlds – at least in theory.

But does it really work? Yes, it does – and it actually seems to work as well as Intel suggests, which is rather stunning. According to benchmarks from Anandtech, a new Intel Core processor with Quick Sync enabled can encode video more quickly than a Geforce GTX 460. That’s very impressive, as the Geforce GTX 460 is undoubtedly a more powerful piece of hardware than the integrated graphics processor on Intel’s new processors. This means that Quick Sync will be the quickest way to transcode video for most users.

The Hardware Quagmire

intel quick sync video

If you like to create videos for YouTube, or you just have to ship videos off to your mobile device frequently, Intel Quick Sync should excite you. It could save you a lot of time. To enable Intel Quick Sync, however, you”ll need to make sure that you purchase the right hardware – and unfortunately, Intel has thrown several hurdles in your path.

The first hurdle is the chipset. Intel’s new Core processors use the LGA1155 socket, which isn’t compatible with older LGA1156 sockets. This means new chipsets for motherboards, which have arrived in the form of the H67 and P67. This is where things get funky. You see, the H67 is the only chipset that supports Quick Sync. If you buy a P67 motherboad, sorry – you can’t use it. However, the H67 chipsets don’t have overclocking features unlocked, while the P67 does. This is a choice no enthusiast wants to be forced to make.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Quick Sync will also be disabled if you’re using discrete graphics. It should be noted, however, that Quick Sync should work on laptops with switchable graphics as long as the discrete graphics are turned off.

The Fight To Find Compatible Software

intel quicksync

If you decide to buy an H67 motherboard and you don’t have a discrete graphics processor, there is still one more thing to consider – the software. Just as with transcoding acceleration on GPUs, Intel’s Quick Sync needs software optimization in order to work. Otherwise the software doesn’t quite understand what the hardware is, or how to use it.

Currently Intel lists seven programs as being optimized for Quick Sync:

  • Arcsoft MediaConverter
  • Arcsoft MediaImpression
  • Corel Digital Studio
  • CyberLink MediaEspressor
  • CyberLink PowerDirector
  • MainConcept
  • Roxio Creator

These are all very common software tools, but they’re far from every imaginable video transcoding software. It remains to be seen how quickly Intel’s technology catches on. I think it’s safe to say, due to Intel’s clout and cash, that Intel will have few problems making Quick Sync a commonly supported feature, but any prediction of the future is dubious when we’re talking about computer hardware.


Intel Quick Sync is exciting, but still in its infancy. Its speed is offset by the limited hardware and software support that makes figuring out how to use it confusing. The fact that it can’t be used with the P67 chipset or a discrete card also limits its appeal. Still, if you’re thinking of buying or building a computer and you’re not a PC gamer, Quick Sync is something to consider.

I hope that this guide has helped explain the technology, but if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment.

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