Saturday, February 12, 2011 “Cool Websites and Tools [February 11th]” plus 8 more “Cool Websites and Tools [February 11th]” plus 8 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [February 11th]

Posted: 11 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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PicScatter – When Facebook recently started rolling out the new profile design, there was immediately a rage to create the cool facebook profile picture effect that fit neatly into the grid. It turned out that it wasn't easy to get that perfect fit, and soon a service called PicScatter came into existence to take care of that. Upload your picture and then drag the image to get that perfect alignment. You can also use the fit to screen option. Read more: PicScatter: Get The Cool Facebook Profile Picture Effect


YouWereCute – Ever meet somebody cute you just could not talk to for one reason or another? If so, then you will definitely be thankful for “YouWereCute” – a web service that helps connect you with the cute somebody you could not get the phone number of. YouWereCute is a simple and free website with a wonderful concept: helping you find the people you found to be cute. Read more: YouWereCute: Website For Sharing Your Missed Connections



Hat Try On – Want to know how you would look in a Fedora? Or a top hat? Or even a Viking helmet? Now thanks to VillageHatShop's “Hat Try On” you can virtually try on hats directly through your web browser. Hat Try On is a free web tool that lets you upload your photograph and put virtual hats on it. The hats you select are from the men's and women's collection available at the VillageHatShop. Read more: Hat Try On: Virtually Try On Hats In Your Web Browser



Comment Save – is a useful Chrome extension that can save the comments you post on various sites, as well as text you type on sites like Facebook and Yahoo Answers. The data is stored locally so you don't have to worry about privacy and it doesn't work on email compose boxes, or username/password fields on any site. It can save text as you type. Read more: Comment Save: A Chrome Extension To Save & Track Your Comments



Mapbiquity – Adding a map to your website shouldn't be any different than adding any other HTML element. You should be able to create and customize your map, add your own data, obtain its embeddable code, then use the code to publish the map on your site. All of this is exactly what Mapbiquity lets you do. Mapbiquity is a simple and free to use website that lets you add maps to your website in a few easy steps. Read more: Mapbiquity: Creating Maps With Your Data Made Simple


These are just half of the websites that we discovered in the last couple of days. If you want us to send you daily round-ups of all cool websites we come across, leave your email here. Or follow us via RSS feed.

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The 7 Best Questions From You [MakeUseOf Answers]

Posted: 11 Feb 2011 05:31 PM PST

MakeUseOf Answers is full of great and challenging questions. Week after week I can only present a small selection of the very best. This includes the best answers given by our dedicated team of volunteers.

Best Answer of the Week is becoming increasingly more difficult to decide due to the amount of great contributions. This week the well deserved $50 prize goes to Oron for his answer to the following question: What type of computer or components do I need for a home theater setup? Thank you very much for the thorough answer and congratulations!

Turn the page to see the most interesting answers of the past week.

MakeUseOf Answers provides answers and challenges in the following categories: Latest Questions, Most Popular Questions, or Unanswered Questions. For regular updates subscribe to the Answers RSS Feed.

Need help? Ask A Question at MakeUseOf Answers.

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The 4 Best Websites To Check Out New Music Releases First

Posted: 11 Feb 2011 01:31 PM PST

new music releasesHow do you find new music releases? We’ve shown you plenty of tools over the months that make it easier to find some new jams. Between music search engines, streaming sites, music discovery web apps, and services like Muzic you should have unearthed lots of interesting bands and artists by now. Heck, we’ve even shown you how to use iTunes to discover new music.

After you find a bunch of artists you like, however, how do you keep up with all of their new releases? New music albums get released every week, so it’s quite easy to miss a release from one of your favorite artists, even if you’re paying attention. There are plenty of sites out there that house this type of information, but which sites should you be checking out first?

1. Billboard

If you’re looking for all the newest releases, Billboard is the official place to be. Billboard is the center for music information related to popular artists and if your goal is to merely see what’s popular or currently trending you need look no further.

new music releases

Click on the Charts tab to view the ‘Hot 100′, ‘Billboard 200′, and the top digital and radio songs in the US. They also have news and reviews of the latest albums and song releases, and you can listen to most of the latest tracks.

Find a song or artist you like? With the rest of the sites on the list, you should be set with new music for a while.

2. Music-Alerts

Music-Alerts is a really simple webapp that we covered once in the directory. Essentially, it notifies you when your favorite music artist releases a new CD.

It’s not uncommon for even casual music listeners to have more than 50 artists in their music collections, and keeping track of everything those artists release on a regular basis can be a lot of work.

top new music releases

With Music-Alerts, you can add your favorite artists one by one, name your feed, and click create feed! You will receive a link to your feed that you can add to your favorite RSS reader to get notified of new music releases.

If you’re using Google Reader, I also suggest you check out GRaiN for desktop notifications. Also, be sure to check out Album Reminder, too.

3. New Album Releases

This next site is a personal favorite of mine and something I found a long time ago when looking for new music. New Album Releases, as it’s aptly named, posts new album releases every day.

top new music releases

Categories consist of Rap, Rock, Metal, Pop, Electronic, Folk, Indie, Jazz and Blues, etc. Clicking on an album will take you to a page where you can see album information such as artist, track names, format, and size on disk.

Here’s the kicker: you can download every album you find on this site. I’m not sure how, strictly speaking, legal it is, but each album page includes download links to the individual album. The site does have a DMCA policy listed, which is far more legit than a lot of the other sites I’ve seen.

4. YouTube Music

YouTube, believe it or not, is a great place to find new music releases. It’s not as easy to locate what you’re looking for right away, which is why I have the site lower on my list, but once you’ve discovered some of the new releases you’re interested in from the sites above, you can definitely use YouTube to check them out.

top new music releases

On YouTube’s Music page, you can search via categories like ‘Easy Listening’ or ‘Rap’, or you can view the day’s hits. You can even view events near you, so if one of your favorite artists is coming to town you’ll be able to catch them.

But wait, isn’t YouTube all about videos? Well, yeah, but with over 35 hours of new videos being uploaded to the site every minute, you can definitely use it to find some new music releases.

new music releases

If you’re familiar with downloading YouTube vids, in fact, you can actually rip the audio right from them to download the latest songs you come across. We’ve covered many services capable of doing this, but all you need is a simple site like FLVTO.

What are some of your favorite sites to keep up on new music releases?

Image Credit: Terry Chan

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Hot Tech Deals [Feb 11th]

Posted: 11 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. TODAY ONLY OCZ Vertex 2 120GB 3.5in Internal SATA MLC Solid State Drive (TRIM, SandForce) $176.99AR Free Shipping
  2. TODAY ONLY McAfee Total Protection 2011 Software (3-User) $9.99 Free Shipping
  3. Dell Alienware M11x Intel Core i5 520UM 11.6in Gaming Laptop $699 Free Shipping via code BHW1L0MX0D?MCX (Exp 2/28)
  4. Brother HL-2270DW Compact Laser Printer w/ Wifi, Duplexing $84.99 Free Shipping via code 40644959 (Exp Soon)
  5. Rosewill RK-800G Black Wired Gaming Keyboard $9.99 Free Shipping via code EMCKHJK42 (Exp 2/16)
  6. Samsung CLP-315W Color Laser Printer w/ Wireless Networking $149.99 via code EMCKHJK47 (exp 2/16)
  7. Paragon Partition Manager 11 Personal Edition and novaPDF Professional Desktop Edition for $15 (digital download, instant delivery)
  8. EASEUS Data Recovery Wizard v.5.0.1 and Altaro Oops!Backup for only $20 (digital download, instant delivery)
  9. Divvy for Windows and Pixo Image Effects Editor for $15 (digital download, instant delivery)

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set



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10 Last Minute Valentine Gift Ideas For The Geek You Love

Posted: 11 Feb 2011 11:31 AM PST

last minute valentine giftsValentine’s Day is upon us already and it’s the last-minute for gift-buying. What have you bought for your geek? Nothing yet? Do you need last minute valentine gift ideas right now? Gift ideas that are quick to get a hold of? We’ll help you come up with something.

Here at MakeUseOf, both the writers and readers are a fantastic combination of geeks and semi-geeks determined to find the most useful apps, tips and tricks available to all right now. In other words, we know what geeks like. If you’re lost, looking for a great Valentine’s Day present for the geek you love, you’ll be on the right track reading the following ideas. On the other hand, if you are a geek, send this article to your partner’s best friend. When your partner realises they have no idea what to get you, they’ll turn to their best friend and all will be good.

Recently, we ran a poll on the best geek presents and found out exactly how popular different geeky present ideas were around here. Most geeks are happy to receive the latest tech gadgets, handy peripherals, things from their wishlists, gift vouchers, geeky t-shirts, geeky toys, computer games, books and tech magazine subscriptions. We’ll talk you through the best ideas.

Also, keep in mind that many of the big online department stores can offer speedy delivery of items if you’re in the same country as the store. Look for the following ideas in a store which offers quick delivery to you!

1. iPad

Being able to play with the latest new geek toy is fun, even if it’s not entirely the specifications you would have bought for yourself. If your geek is an Apple fan, try getting them an iPad.

last minute valentine gifts

2. Samsung Galaxy Android Tablet

If your geek is not an Apple fan, try an Android-based tablet like the Samsung Galaxy Tablet. There’s plenty of other Android Tablet options, but this one is well-liked by many people and generally a safe bet.

3. Kindle

Reading eBooks is not only easy, it’s quite a popular way to read books. Even if your geek loves real books, there’s a good chance they’ll appreciate the portability of eBooks on the Kindle. Try getting them a Kindle.

4. Logitech Squeezebox

If your geek loves music, they’ll probably have more than a few online radio stations and music exploration services they love. If so, the Logitech Squeezebox (or Logitech Squeezebox Touch) is an excellent gift idea. Squeezebox has partnered with some of the biggest names in online music, including Pandora, Rhapsody, Slacker,, Soma FM and Spotify. It supports listening to Internet radio stations and even has apps for many online popular services. Plus, this crafty gadget can play music from any computer using any operating system.

valentine gift idea

5. Gimmicky USB Key

USB keys are amazingly handy devices, so most geeks wouldn’t be at all upset to get a new one – just make sure you get USB keys with at least 2GB of storage. It is however, a little boring and it’s not exactly something your geek will get excited about….unless it’s really gimmicky. Try getting some USB cufflinks that they can wear on your big Valentine’s day dinner out.

valentine gift idea

6. Something From Your Geek’s Wishlist

Did you know you can usually search for wishlists? Head to Amazon or Thinkgeek and search for your favourite geek’s name or email address. If you do find their wishlist you will be in gift idea heaven. You can also ask them, but that ruins the surprise and takes more time.

valentine gift idea

7. Gift Vouchers

The idea of buying a gift voucher is simple, but really useful because the recipient is guaranteed to like what they choose. Plus, most of the big online retailers will let you buy a voucher online at any time of the day or night. This is the ultimate in last-minute gift ideas. Try Amazon or ThinkGeek vouchers for something easy. Some of them even have a Valentine’s Day theme in order to be more romantic.

valentine gift ideas

8. Geeky T-Shirts

There are many places to get great geeky t-shirts. Try ThinkGeek’s Interactive T-shirts, Threadless, or MakeUseOf’s T-shirt store.

valentine gift ideas

9. Geeky Toys

If it’s a science toy or science fiction related toy, it’ll probably be a hit. Try things with extra-strong magnets or science jokes.

valentine gift ideas

10. Tech Magazine Subscription

If your geek reads tech magazines, this idea is easy. Just look for the old ones lying around and get them a subscription to that. If you want something a little different and your geek likes DIY, try the magazine Make.

last minute valentine gifts

A Few More Ideas

For some more geeky gift ideas, take a look at the 2010 MakeUseOf Team’s holiday gift idea list. It’s got some great gadgets! If you’re looking for more generic present ideas, we have a list of 50 tools to find presents, our 2010 last-minute Christmas gift ideas and our 2009 last-minute Christmas gift ideas.

Since love is in the air and some of you might be getting ideas about asking a certain important question, why not take a look at 8 Creative Ways To Pop The Question Online.

What are your favourite geeky last minute Valentine gift ideas? What’s your best plan for last minute gifts? Let us know in the comments!

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8 Cooking Websites With Video Recipes For Some Tasty Visual Tips

Posted: 11 Feb 2011 10:31 AM PST

cooking websitesIf you are an incurable foodie who cooks more than he (or she) gorges, then the overplus of cooking makes for sweetened browsing. When you browse through websites that inspire you to take to the apron and the kitchen, you will realize that there's isn't a facet of cooking that has been left uncovered.

Okay, maybe we still haven't taken a good look at some video recipe websites yet. Top tier cooking websites like Allrecipes and Epicurious have pretty well stocked cooking video sections. But then there are some websites which present video recipes as the main course. Why for the love of food should one miss out on them?

So, don your apron and check out these eight which dish up some appetizing video recipes.

cooking websites

The cooking website features around 25,000 video recipes further souped up with 150,000 recipes of all kinds. Then there are the food snapshots to stir up a monk's appetite. What I really like about the site is the prominence given to cuisines of all kinds from A (American) to S (Spanish). The videos are arranged around categories like Places, People, Educational, Health etc. You can use the search to get to a video demonstration of a recipe. A free registration also allows you to upload your own videos.


cooking sites

If you are a 'Chowhound' who spends every waking hour thinking about the next meal, then this site is meant for you. The site combines the best of multimedia to cook up a visually appealing website. You have large high-resolution graphics and videos, and neatly explained recipes. You can browse by complexity of recipe, by cuisine, and by course. Videos are organized by collections and playlists. One of the features of the site are the 'Hacks' which are basically tweaked version of recipes.


cooking sites

The cooking website currently hosts 16,000 cooking videos arranged simply around ingredients, dishes, cuisines, and techniques. Cookblast is also a video recipe search engine which scours recipes from other sites. You can follow the link to read the text of the preparation on the source site if Cookblast lacks it (see Directory mention).


cooking sites

Anything which has 'tube' attached to it generally stands for video. FoodTube is trying to organize itself as a YouTube-like source for cookery videos. So you can browse through Channels, check out featured videos, dive into Groups, and also add your own video recipes. The collection of 3,300 videos in a range of categories is enough to keep you busy with your ladle.


best cooking sites

Tastydays is one of those cookery websites which can turn you into a recipe spouting foodie. The site has a video section and a section that covers cooking shows with snippets from the likes of Celebrity Masterchef. The cooking shows could do with some more content as some of the names on the list do not show any content. But the recipes don't suffer from the same problem as every recipe has a video to boast of.


best cooking sites

CookingVibes is a cool Silverlight web application which provides you with a stock of recipes submitted by users. Most of the recipes are enhanced with videos. There is also an index of restaurants worldwide, enabling you to review and save them to your favorites. CookingVibes encourages community participation so you can interact with fellow foodies and professional chefs.

Start Cooking

best cooking sites

Kathy Maister takes you through the basics of cooking and then into more advanced epicurean delights with a series of videocasts. From learning how to boil an egg, you can graduate to making a sausage and egg casserole. If you are a beginner cook don't miss the Kitchen Basics section. You can download the videocasts with iTunes as episodes and carry them around in an iPhone or an iPod. The other option is to download them as MP4 or FLV files to your desktop.


cooking websites

Le Gourmet has 600 plus videos on food and beverages. Then there's a small section which takes you to chef school to teach some of the basic stuff. Le Gourmet also explores roadside cuisine with a selection of travel videos focusing on street food.

With the riches of cooking websites on the web, it's quite easy now to polish your taste buds. You can go from 7 Good Online Cooking Guides For The Beginner Cook to 5 Fascinating Recipe Sites To Brush Up Your Culinary Skills and maybe stopover at 5 Of The Best Sites For Kid-Friendly Recipes. Our cooking and recipe websites will help you keep the kitchen fires burning.

Do you find video recipe websites helpful? Let us know of your personal favorites.

Image credit: Shutterstock

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How To Control Your Torrent Client From Your Mobile Phone

Posted: 11 Feb 2011 09:31 AM PST

mobile torrent clientFrom its humble beginnings some ten years ago, peer-2-peer file sharing has evolved in leaps and bounds, with the majority of Internet traffic now focused on the “torrent” protocol. Torrent clients are now so advanced that they don’t even need a centralised tracker anymore – just give them a torrent and they can seek out peers themselves.

The latest iteration of the two most popular torrent clients also allow for remote control – so let’s see today how to make use of the remote control functionality from your mobile phone as a mobile torrent client. Although I will show how to access this from your mobile, we will also be covering access from other PCs along the way.

For a Mobile Torrent Client, You Will Need:

  • A modern torrent client. I recommend uTorrent for Windows, and Transmission for Mac.
  • An iPhone or Android mobile, or at least a phone capable of full Internet browsing.

Setting Up Your Torrent Client (Windows – uTorrent)

Firstly, make sure you are using the latest uTorrent. At this time, it’s 2.2. You can check from Help -> Check for Updates.

Open up the Options -> Preferences menu (or press Ctrl-P).

mobile torrent client

From the sidebar, select Web UI, then tick the box to Enable Web UI, set a password and username, and I’d also suggest changing the default port number. In this case I’ve made it 9091.

To access your torrent client from another computer on the local network, you need only type your IP address, then a colon and the port number, and /gui/. The easiest way to find your IP address is to click Start, type CMD, then hit Enter. A command line window should open, type IPCONFIG and hit Enter again. Look for the line that says IPv4 address.

Here I can see that my IP is, so from another computer, I type in to access the web interface.

download torrents mobile

Setting Up Your Torrent Client (Mac – Transmission)

With Transmission installed and open, select Preferences from the menu, and open the Remote tab.

Tick the box to Enable Remote Access, and enable authentication. Note down or remember the port number you specified.

Close the preferences to save your settings. As a quick test, hop over to another computer and type in the IP address of your torrent machine, followed by a colon and the port number you wrote down from the preferences screen.

If you don’t know your IP address, the easiest way to to find out is to open the Network section of System Preferences. Here you can see my IP address is

download torrents mobile

Bear in mind that on a wireless network this may change often when you disconnect and reconnect, so if you want to keep the same IP – essential if you are to access your torrent client from the Internet – then you will need to change this to a fixed IP. Here you can see I accessed it on my home network from another PC by typing in

download torrents mobile

Accessing From Outside Your Local Network

In order to access your torrent client remote control page from outside of your local (home) network, you’ll need to set up your router to forward the relevant requests to your local PC. Your router will have a separate IP address with which it communicates to the outside world – so we need to link the two together. We will make it so that any requests it receives on port 9091, it will send to your local PC so it can respond with the torrent web interface.

Load up your router interface – try this link for the most common setup ->, but you’ll need the admin password from your router documentation.

mobile torrent downloader

Router interfaces vary greatly, but you need to look for a section called Port Forwarding. On my router, it’s helpfully in the sidebar under Advanced. Fill in the form to Add Custom Rule. Again, this may vary, but in mine I needed to fill in:

  • Name: for your reference, I named mine “web gui”
  • Start Port and End Port: Since I only need to forward one port, I entered 9091 for both start and end.
  • Protocol: Set this to both just to be sure.
  • Local IP address: This should be the IP of your torrent machine which you noted down earlier. Some interfaces will require you to type in the full four sections of the IP – mine just needs the last number.

Next, figure out your external IP address. The easiest way is to visit this page and copy the number there.

mobile torrent downloader

To quickly test if it’s working, turn the Wifi network on your iPhone or Android off – this will force it to use 3G. Type in http://(your external IP):9091 (or the port you chose), and don’t forget to include the trailing /gui/ if you’re using uTorrent.

Here is mine, fully set up:

mobile torrent downloader

To remove the address bar and create an icon for your torrent manager, just use Safari’s + > Add to Homescreen function.

To Upload A Torrent From Your Phone

Both uTorrent and Transmission web GUIs come with a handy upload or open button. Just copy the URL of the torrent you want to download, open up your torrent manager on your phone, hit Open, and paste in the URL.

Note: Using the Transmission interface straight in mobile Safari caused a few problems for me, where the keyboard would disappear immediately and I couldn’t paste the URL in. To solve this, add the GUI as a homescreen app using the method I described above.

mobile torrent client

Here are a couple of other helpful torrent related tutorials you might like to follow:

If you have any problems with the mobile torrent client tutorial, let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to help (please don’t ask me about Android phones though – you might want to try the Answers site to harness the power of fellow readers and editors).

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6 Best Websites To Send Free Electronic Valentine Cards

Posted: 11 Feb 2011 08:30 AM PST

valentine cardsValentine’s Day seems to just sneak up out of nowhere, and just a day or so before it arrives, you find yourself sitting in traffic suffering from a panic attack because you just realized you forgot get the love of your life even just a simple and thoughtful Valentine card.

Well, stop panicking because MakeUseOf is here to help. So long as you have an Internet connection, you can put together a solution that will turn you from a zero to a hero in no time. The first step is to order flowers as soon as possible. Check out MissyFlowers or Flowers2Mail to start. Once you get the flowers out of the way, it’s time to choose a clever, funny or romantic card to the one that you love.

No more than a few years ago, electronic greeting cards were somewhat cheesy and anyone that received them immediately assumed that the sender was just too cheap or busy to buy the real thing. However, with the advent of social networks, more of the world is adopting the “online life” mentality.

Along with things like instant messaging and updating your social networking “status” – electronic cards have become a very normal part of everyday life. Today, it’s perfectly normal and acceptable to receive your birthday or Valentine cards electronically.

Choosing from Free Electronic Valentine Cards

I scoured the web for only the very best free electronic Valentine Card services available. In some cases, most of the cards were for purchase only, so I threw those out. In other cases, you had to install a toolbar (can you say adware?) in your browser, so I threw those out as well. What’s left is a list of the top free electronic Valentine cards services online. Pick the one that suits your situation, and you can rest assured the card will be high quality and well-received by the person you send it to.


Egreetings is probably one of the best e-card services online. I say this because not only is the website professionally designed and well integrated with Facebook, but because 100% of the site is absolutely free. It’s supported 100% by sponsor ads.

valentine cards/></p><p>Not only are the cards animated and well designed, but there are also cool features you’ll discover on the site, like the tool that lets you create your own animated e-card complete with your own face integrated into the design, using either an existing picture or with your webcam.</p><p style=valentine e cards

American Greetings

One of the largest greeting card producers in the world also offers one of the best free electronic Valentine card services that you’ll find anywhere. American Greetings uses the concept of the e-card and really breaks the mold with some of the coolest ideas for an electronic Valentine. One example was an e-card that plays a really funny video of a hamster singing a love song in a low baritone voice – it’s hard to watch this video without laughing.

valentine e cards

Then there’s this Valentine greeting, where you can type in a message, choose the type of voice, and then baby Cupid will say your programmed message to the recipient you send it to – it’s a cute way to get the message across in a way that will make the person you’re in love with smile. Most of the e-cards you’ll find here push the concept of the e-card to the limit – it’s a great site.

valentine e cards


If the person that you want to send the Valentine e-card to has a great sense of humor, you just can’t go wrong with a free FunPunch animated Valentine card. Some of these cards are just hilarious. You’ll find cards with animals reciting or singing the romantic message, fake magazine covers where you can insert a face, or the most popular ones – the stripper-grams where you can insert your own face into the action, what a riot!

free valentine cards


If you or the person the card is for is more of the emotional and romantic type that prefers sentiment over humor, you can’t go wrong with the Valentine’s Day section of 123Greetings. These are e-cards that feature the sort of sweet-talk you’ll find in the cards at your local store, but these also have romantic background music playing as the words slowly scroll down the screen.

free valentine cards

I have to admit, these sort of cards make me gag – but heartfelt, romantic notes aren’t for everyone. If you’re a romantic at heart, these are the e-cards for you.


Another website with the same sort of romantic e-cards is the Valentine’s Day section of DGreetings. While the site design itself leaves a little to be desired, the quality of the cards themselves is actually pretty good. You’ll find flash-based e-Cards that have well-done animated messages and background music that starts on its own and flows well with the message.

free valentine cards

Yahoo Kids

Finally, keeping in mind that kids like to send Valentine’s Day cards too, kids can send free electronic Valentine cards over at Yahoo Kids.

valentine cards

These are a few cute animated cards where kids can quickly fill out names for To: and From: and send off the card via email to any of their friends. It’s an easy way for little kids to get in on the online e-card craze as well. And if you’ve ever seen the excitement on a kid’s face when they receive one of these from a friend, you’ll know it’s a great way to share the love!

Have you ever tried any of these Valentine e-card services? Do you know of any others that are just as good or better? Share your own resources in the comments section below.

Image Credit : Bernhard Aichinger

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What Is FireWire & What Are Some Of Its Uses? [Technology Explained]

Posted: 11 Feb 2011 07:31 AM PST

what is firewireConnectivity is a bit of a boring subject. It’s an important one however, because your PC doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s really just the centerpiece of a constellation of consumer electronics including digital cameras, external hard drives, thumb drives, smartphones and more.

Every device meant to communicate with a PC needs a method of connection. Most rely on USB, but FireWire is an alternative with a long history. Although less common, FireWire does have advantages when compared to other standards.

What is FireWire? Some History

what is firewire

The brainchild of Apple, the FireWire standard began its existence as a concept in the late 1980′s. The goal of the project was to create a relatively inexpensive, high-speed connection that was easy to use, but Apple did not originally intend for the technology to be used as a connection for external devices. FireWire was used by Apple and by other companies, such as Sony, for years until the standard was presented to the IEEE as a method of connecting external devices to a computer. FireWire was ratified in 1995, and it began appearing on Apple computers soon after.

FireWire quickly became popular on audio and video devices like digital camcorders. The reason for this popularity was the speed; the original FireWire 400 standard could achieve a data transfer rate of up to 400 Mbit/s. This left USB in the dust, as the first version of that standard could only manage a maximum data transfer rate of 12 Mbit/s.  The massive gap in capability made FireWire an obvious choice for anyone with the need to move big files.

Speed continued to be FireWire’s advantage for over a decade. When USB 2.0 arrived packing a 480 Mbit/s transfer rate FireWire responded with the FireWire 800 standard, which boasted a 800 Mbit/s transfer rate. In addition, benchmarks consistently reported that FireWire was better able to sustain a high rate of transfer, giving FireWire a larger advantage than these numbers would suggest.

The Uses Of FireWire

what is a firewire port

FireWire connections are easy to distinguish from USB because they are smaller and tapered on one end, while USB is flat and rectangular. As said above, FireWire is most commonly found on audio and video devices like digital camcorders. It’s also common to find FireWire on external storage devices. The main reason to use FireWire over USB is simply the connection speed. If you have a device that supports both FireWire and USB, you’re better off using the FireWire option – unless your device supports USB 3.0. I’ll explain more about that in a second.

In addition to simply connecting devices, FireWire can be used to set up ad-hoc networks. There are no routers; a direct FireWire connection will work and Firewire hubs can be used to split connections. However, Microsoft discontinued support for this feature in 2004, which means that the latest versions of Windows (Vista and Windows 7) do not support FireWire networking. Mac OS X and most variants of Linux continue to support this feature.

The Death Of Firewire?

what is firewire

The history of FireWire has been one of a capable underdog that never quite gets ahead of its competitor (USB, in this case) despite being generally superior. Unfortunately, this is a history that could soon come to a close.

USB 3.0, which is slowly filtering into the market as it is added to new devices and new PC motherboards, has a theoretical peak transfer rate of 5 Gbit/s.  This astonishingly high figure is well in excess of what Firewire can currently manage, which makes FireWire’s future uncertain. FireWire has continued to exist solely because it offers a higher data transfer rate than USB. With that advantage gone, the purpose of FireWire remains unclear.

That’s not to say that FireWire is guaranteed to become extinct, but the standard will have to be revised substantially if it is to compete with USB 3.0. FireWire may also have to tangle with Light Peak, Intel’s prototype optical standard that is aiming at sustained transfer speeds of 10 Gbit/s. It’s unclear when Light Peak will become available, but any future revisions to FireWire would likely want to take aim at Light Peak rather than USB 3.0.

Image Credits: TweakTown

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