Monday, February 21, 2011 “Cool Websites and Tools [February 20th]” plus 6 more “Cool Websites and Tools [February 20th]” plus 6 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [February 20th]

Posted: 20 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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BigImg – High-quality images often have an insanely large size which makes it difficult for users to embed them anywhere or for that matter properly display them on the web. BigImg solves that problem by taking awkwardly large images and resizing them to your desired size so you can embed them on your website. Start by specifying the URL of the image and then either choose one of the default image sizes or specify your own custom size. Read more: BigImg: Easily Embed Oversized Images On Your Website


QuietWrite – When it comes to writing something creative or something that requires a decent amount of focus, cluttered menus are the last thing you desire. QuietWrite is a minimalist writing program that understands that. It is a minimalist text editor that hides each and every element when you start typing and all you can see is the text. Read more: QuietWrite: Minimalist Writing Program Online



Advirtus – They say the best way to bring about a change is to start slow and let it become a habit. If you need help in forming a habit, Advirtus is a great way to start. Advirtus is a great tool that lets you form habits by checking off daily tasks off your personal grid of activities. You can add tasks to your grid, print it out and as you complete each task every day, check them off. Read more: Advirtus: Helps You Form A Habit From Your Activities



Shortzy – Numerous URL shortening web services let you monitor how many people have visited your shortened URL. However your competitors can do the same and check the stats for your shortened URL, usually by simply adding a '+' sign to the shortened URL. If you want them to be unable to do this, you should use secure url shortener Shortzy. Read more: Shortzy: Secure URL Shortener That Keeps Viewing Stats Private



Where Do You Go – It is interesting to find out the places where you usually hang out. If you often use Foursquare, then you can easily get a visual representation with Where Do You Go. This cool GoogleMaps mashup creates a heat map of all of your Foursquare check-ins. With it, you can easily identify the places that you usually go to based on the amount of check-ins that you did in Foursquare. Read more: WhereDoYouGo: Create A Heatmap Of Your Foursquare Checkins


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

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Thank You To MakeUseOf Friends!

Posted: 20 Feb 2011 06:31 PM PST

It's time to say thanks to our friends who, once in a while, tip us great articles, help out on projects and in some cases offer their services at discounted prices. Thank you, guys!

    [1] ShrinkTheWeb – Website Screenshot Thumbnail Service

    Ever wanted to add website screenshots to your website? ShrinkTheWeb is one of the best services for that, both in terms of performance and pricing. The free account gets you a whopping 250,000 impressions. See it in action in our daily Cool Websites and Tools series.


    [2] LapDawg – Hands-free Laptop Stands

    Hands free laptop stand
    The hands free laptop stand holds your laptop or books in any position you want with it’s unique 360 degree rotating joints. Perfect for holding them in bed while lying down. Made from anodized aluminum with a beautiful black matte finish.


    [3] SuperTintin – Skype Video Call Recorder

    Skype Video Call Recorder
    If you need a tool to record your video conversation on Skype or MSN head over to Supertintin. It is a nice application that allows you to record all audio and video streams easily.

    [4] Walyou – Cool Gadgets for Geeks

    new cool gadgets
    Walyou is a fun blog covering all sorts of new cool gadgets and other stuff every geek is likely to find entertaining. Everything from world’s largest Gunny Bears to E-hookah gadgets. Make sure to check them out.


    [5] rade | eccles – iPhone Application Development

    The perfect iPhone development team, rade | eccles managed to put our iPhone app together in record time yet exude professionalism and dedication every step of the way. Our collaboration wasn’t happenstance. We would make the same decision all over again. Our only recommendation for an iPhone developer – rade | eccles.


    [6] TrueKolor – Affordable Quality Logo and Banner Design

    If you’re looking for a cheap, original and quality logo or banner, check out TrueKolor. We often contact these guys when we need a logo or a banner made, some of the stuff they did for us listed on their portfolio page. Highly recommended.


    [7] Mobify – Making the Web a mobile place

    More and more users access websites and read blogs using their mobile phone. Mobify lets you mobilize your blog or website by creating lightweight version of it, which loads much faster and looks great on a mobile screen. MakeUseOf’s mobile site was created by Mobify, and we’re proud of it!


    [8] Sendible – The easiest way to market your brand online

    We’re strong believers of the service Sendible provides — we use it on a daily basis and it has never failed us! Sendible is an online marketing service to promote, grow and track brands through the use of social media, email and SMS messaging. It has the ability to post to multiple services at once, schedule social network updates and analyse their success. We love it!


    [9] Sourcebits – Android Developement

    Sourcebits did a bang up job of helping us put together our long-awaited Android app. For that, we are eternally grateful!


Thank you, guys!

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Do You Think Google Search Results Suck? [MakeUseOf Poll]

Posted: 20 Feb 2011 05:30 PM PST

Last week, we asked readers to let us know how you keep track of your passwords. It seems most MakeUseOf readers are using LastPass (or Xmarks, which will soon be integrated into LastPass).

Out of 674 votes, we had this breakdown: 34% use LastPass/Xmarks; 16% use KeePass or KeePass X; 11% use the same password for everything; 10% use Notepad or some other text-based record; 10% simply remember them; 7% use Roboform; 7% use some other tool (the comments are full of great suggestions); 6% use 1Password and 1% use Sticky.

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

LastPass/Xmarks comes very highly recommended by MakeUseOf readers.

This week's poll question is: Do You Think Google Search Results Suck?

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the quantity of sites who use SEO to rank highly in Google search results. There’s also been plenty of debate as to whether Google should or shouldn’t try to remove them from the top slots in order to make the results better for the searchers. What’s your take?

If you have a strong opinion about good or bad search results based on something you searched for recently, give us some comparison links in the comments!

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3 Free and Easy Ways to Watermark Your Images Offline

Posted: 20 Feb 2011 02:30 PM PST

watermark your imagesWe’ve already explained several different ways that users can protect and watermark their images using Photoshop, and discussed the advantages to using offline methods for watermarking. But Photoshop isn’t exactly the most economical choice and if you don’t already own a copy, you won’t buy it simply to watermark your images. There are several free alternatives that will allow you to protect your images, and won’t cost you a cent.

There are free apps to watermark your images on the go using your iOS device, as well as more robust apps that allow you to batch watermark your images using your Windows or Mac computers, one of which includes many other features aside from just watermarking.


The free Mac/Windows app WatermarQue, allows you to select the font, size, angle, colour and formatting of the watermark that you will use. Once you have settled on the appearance of your watermark, which you can see previewed in the program, you can select a target folder on your computer where the watermarked images will be saved. Supported formats include BMP, GIF, JPEG, PNG, PSD and TIFF. Exported images can be saved as one of four formats, JPEG, PNG, BMP or PICT.

watermark your images

Drag and drop the images you want to watermark onto the blue box labeled, ‘Drop here’, if you want to preview the image with the watermark before applying it.

watermark your images free

Dragging and dropping is also used to add images to the list of files to be watermarked.

watermark your images free

Select the folder that you want the watermarked images to be saved in, and once you’re ready, click the “MarQue it” button.

watermark your images free

WatermarQue is convenient to use because of its user friendly interface and because it makes it easy to batch watermark images. The distinct disadvantage to using WatermarQue is there seems to be no way to alter the opacity of the watermark, so if you’re looking to create a subtle watermark, this app is not for you.


iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch users can benefit from the free app, Impression [iTunes link], which allows you to watermark images saved on your device.


Select the image you want to watermark from your saved photos or photo library.


Enter the text you want to use as your watermark.


Determine the opacity and increase or decrease the size of the watermark using the pinch and pull method, after which you can drag the watermark to your chosen position.


Unfortunately, watermarking using Impression is done one by one, with no batch feature, and watermarked images are saved as a new file in your photos.


Impression is also available for iPhoto and Aperture, but unlike the iOS app, they are not free.

JetPhoto Studio

JetPhoto Studio is a great free Mac/Windows app that allows you to do more than just watermark your images. It allows you to create albums, publish your images to the web, offers some image editing options and much more.

As far as watermarking is concerned, it offers a slightly different method to the other programs listed here. Rather than use text to watermark your images, JetPhoto Studio allows you to use a PNG, TIF or BMP file to watermark your images.

The first step is to create a new album, determining the album’s physical location on your computer.

how to watermark your image

Go to the Thumbnail tab and drag and drop the images you want included in the album into the window.

how to watermark your image

Next, go to the Actions tab and select Web Ready.

how to watermark your image

This will open a window in which you can determine your watermark and its position, and then batch watermark images, as well as resize them if need be. The watermarked images will be exported to the location you selected when you first created the album.

watermark your images

If you’re looking for more free methods to watermark your images, whether online or offline, take a look at these articles:

How do you watermark your images? Let us know in the comments.

Image credit: Shutterstock

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Hot Tech Deals [Feb 20th]

Posted: 20 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. Corsair Enthusiast CMPSU-650TX 650W ATX Power Supply (80PLUS) $59.99AR Free Shipping via code EMCKHJB23 (Exp 2/21)
  2. Sharp AQUOS LC-46LE620UT 46in LED-Edgelit LCD HDTV (1080p, 120Hz) $799.99 via code N2G56030?1GXTC (Exp 2/23)
  3. Alienware M15x Intel Core i7-740QM Quad-Core 15.6in 1600×900 Laptop (6GB/500GB/Radeon HD5850) $1199.99 via code DELN (Exp 2/21)
  4. Samsung P2770HD 27in Hybrid LCD HDTV & Monitor (HD Tuner) $289.99 Free Ship via code SMSNGLCD70 (Exp Soon)
  5. TODAY ONLY Canon PIXMA iP2702 Color Inkjet Photo Printer $24.99 Free Shipping via code CanonPixma5 (Exp 2/20)

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set

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10 Free MP3 Albums To Download [Sound Sunday]

Posted: 20 Feb 2011 11:30 AM PST

Sound Sunday provides you with an eclectic blend of free music.

This week is full of gems. We have guests from Singapore, the UK, Ireland, and the USA. The featured albums cover styles from alternative rock and folk, disco, and melodramatic pop, via reggae, ambient, electronica, to beats, rap, and trip hop. Want more of the same or something different? Your feedback and input can shape next week’s edition! Just leave a comment or eMail me [tina at makeuseof dot com].

Prefer mainstream music? Turn the page to see where you can listen to full length commercial albums right now for free!

Many new album releases from acclaimed artists can be streamed for free from various websites. KCRW currently offers album previews for Adele – 21, PJ Harvey – Let England Shake, The Black Keys – Brothers, and many more. On NPR Music’s Exclusive First Listen you can currently preview British Eyes – The People’s Key, Telekinesis – 12 Desperate Straight Lines, and Wanda Jackson – The Party Ain’t Over, among others. Consequence of Sound has compiled a tentative video tracklist for the Foo Fighters’ forthcoming seventh album, release date April 12th. The list is based on live appearances during which the Foo Fighters introduced new material.

Caracal – Bear. Shark. Wolf.

Genre: alternative, rock

Bear. Shark. Wolf. is the first full length album of Singapore’s alternative rock band Caracal. They have been invited play at the Canadian Music Festival in Toronto. To make that trip happen, Caracal is currently raising funds through their Caracal Goes Canada blog. If you appreciate their music, please help them come to Canada!

Bear. Shark. Wolf. is a free download from Bandcamp.

Caracal MySpace and Facebook.

Sophie Madeleine – Sidetrack Sessions

Genre: folk, pop, acoustic

This album is an excellent example of how wonderful procrastination can be. While supposed to be doing more productive things, she recorded cover songs, hence the name Sidetrack Sessions with the subtitle ‘or the things I did when I should have been doing something else’.

Sidetrack Sessions is a free download from Bandcamp.

Sophie Madeleine MySpace and Facebook.

Thy Wolven Magick – Ω

Genre: ambient, drone, soundscape

This album was released through the dutch DomaData Netlabel. It’s a three track spooky soundscape that stretches over 50 minutes. Perfect soundtrack for ghost stories or other scary tales told on a cold winter night.

Omega is a free download from Bandcamp.

DomaData Netlabel Twitter.

Chris Dooks – Minimal 48

Genre: avant-garde, electronica, folk, folctronica

Chris Dooks is a polymash audio artist from the UK. As the title suggests, Minimal 48 was created in a mere 48 hours, in response to Glasgow’s Minimal Festival, which was held in November 2010. The album was produced entirely on an iPod uing live DSP processing software, while Chris was wandering around the locations.

Minimal 48 is a free download from Bandcamp.

Chris Dooks Homepage.

Lamp – Sagittarius

Genre: progressive, rock

From their MySpace page: “Lamp is a two piece progadelic band based in Cork [Republic of Ireland]. This two headed, four armed procrastinating monster is made up of two young men with sickeningly Irish surnames; Ted Murphy and Shane O’ Leary. These two boyoz have been playing in bands together since the age of 15. They started Lamp around January 2007 as a side project (…).

Sagittarius is a free download from Bandcamp.

Lamp MySpace.

Mr.Fari – The Free Album

Genre: alternative, reggae, pop, jam, roots

From his Bio on ReverbNation: “Mr.Fari says that his work is "like growing a little farm in a very urban city." He feels it is simple, organic, minimalist yet concrete and streetsy. He is heavily influenced by old school reggae, which is in his lyrics and is something he says he picked up in Puerto Rico. His love for satire and irony comes from his upbringing in Kuwait and reading Sufi style poetry.

The Free Album is available from Bandcamp.

Mr.Fari MySpace and Facebook.

Graham O’Brien – Live Drums

Genre: drums, down tempo, instrumental, hip hop, trip hop

Graham O’Brien is a drummer and music producer based in Saint Paul, Minnesota. In 2010 he debuted with his solo project Live Drums, for which he sampled synthetic sounds and live performed drums to create a unique and engaging sound experience.

Although Live Drums has surpassed the numbers and costs $2 on Bandcamp, it is licensed under a Creative Commons license and can be downloaded for free from Clear Bits or NOECHO Records.

Graham O’Brien MySpace and Facebook.

Q.Dub – Lost In Piff Clouds

Genre: hip hop, beats, rap, mixtape

Album intro: “Take a stroll through Jerz with the talented artist/writer Q.Dub a.k.a “Clutch Game” VP of Presidential Block Development Group(PBDG) one of Brick City’s hottest up and coming record labels!

Lost In Piff Clouds can be downloaded for free from

Q.Dub Facebook.

Graveola e o Lixo Polifônico – selftitled

Genre: pop, melodramatic, k-pop, jam

free albumGraveola e o lixo polifônico literally translates to Graveola and the polyphonic trash. This album, however, is not trash at all. The band itself describes it as a mix of many styles, including rock, samba, barrocobeat, and protopunk. Yes, it’s as busy as a farmer’s market, but also equally fascinating and enticing.

Download Graveola e o Lixo Polifônico free from Graveola’s Homepage.

Graveola MySpace and Homepage.

Ro Danishei – End Of The Rainbow

Genre: club, disco, pop

free mp3 downloadA poem introducing the album from Ro’s Facebook page:
Welcome to the end of the rainbow
Where bluebirds don’t fly
The sun doesn’t shine
Just a disco ball spins high in the sky
Strobing lights that blind your eyes
Keep them shut and open wide
They’ve lied to you kids, there’s only night
Click your heels three times
See you on the other side

End Of The Rainbow is a free download from Ro Danishei’s Homepage.

Ro Danishei MySpace and Homepage.

This is the end. For more entertainment, browse Past Editions of Sound Sunday. Feel free to get in touch with me [tina at makeuseof dot com] or use the comments to voice your questions, feedback, and suggestions. See you next week!

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What Is A Static IP Address, How Do I Get One & Its Advantages / Disadvantages

Posted: 20 Feb 2011 09:31 AM PST

static ip addressIn home networks, IP addresses aren’t usually fixed, but they do fall within specific ranges. Your router will assign a new IP address automatically if another computer joins the network, or if your configuration changes. For the most part, this works out just fine – you shouldn’t notice a difference to your Internet performance or application functionality if your IP changes.

A static IP address however, is one that doesn’t change. Your computer decides upon the address it wants, and it tells the router. Why would you want to set up something like this though, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of doing so? Is there a better solution?

What Is A Static IP?

When we talk about IP addresses of home computers, we are usually referring to two types of address. One is your external IP address – the one that the world sees as your Internet connection. Then you have your private IP addresses internally on your home network. Even if you only have one computer on your home network, it will have a private IP given to it by the router. Private IP addresses cannot be routed over the Internet and are strictly for private use. There are a few possible ranges of private IP address, but for most home users this will be 192.168.*.* (where * can be anything).

Your router interface, for instance, is likely accessible through – this is a private address. Your home computers might then be anything from to Most routers will just assign internal addresses on a first come first served basis. The first computer you plug into the router will send out a network request saying “I need an IP address, my hardware address is x.x.x.x.x.x” and will be assigned, then the next will get

Your external IP address is not something you can change – it will be given to you automatically by your Internet provider. You can purchase a static external IP address, but they are incredibly expensive. If you do need to access your home network from a remote location, consider getting a dynamic address that will update itself when your IP changes.  For a home network though, you are free to assign static, non-changing IP addresses to whatever computers you want, so let’s a take a look at when you would do this.

static ip address

Why Would I Need A Static Private IP Address & What Are The Advantages?

Essentially, you need a static IP anytime you are trying to forward certain packets from the Internet to certain computers or devices on your home network. For example:

A Local Web Server

In order to set up a web server on your home network that is accessible by anyone in the world, you need to forward incoming requests on port 80 to your web server machine. If the web server was to restart and get a new IP from the router, the special rule that you created to forward requests on port 80 to the old server IP address wouldn’t work anymore, and your server would break.

Remote Torrent Management

A few weeks ago I showed you how to manage your torrent client from a remote computer or mobile phone, but it involved forwarding requests on port 9091 to the machine running the torrent client. We found out the address of the machine and created a rule based on that, but again, if the address was to change, the remote management wouldn’t work.


For some older routers and gaming setups, you needed to forward certain ports to your xBox or PC to play online multiplayer games. More recent routers include an automated setup procedure called uPNP which eliminates the need to set up rules by hand.

Disadvantages Of A Static IP

Static IPs need to be configured manually, and often you will need to make a few changes to your router configuration too. In this respect, they are said to have an “administration overhead”, because you need to keep track of the settings yourself. For home networks, this usually isn’t an issue with only a few machines to worry about – but for corporations and companies this is quite a problem.

Without correct router configuration, you are also likely to see more IP address conflict errors. For example, if you set one of your machines to the IP address, and your router continues to hand out IP automatically, then at some point, another machine will be given the same IP! Basically, static IPs can be quite problematic.

The Solution: Reserved Addresses

Instead of having to manually configure the settings on every PC we want to give a static IP address to, we will simply “reserve” the address we want to give them in the router’s automatic IP address system. By doing this, we ensure our machines have an IP address that will never change, without actually assigning a “static” IP address as such, which would complicate things. To do this, open up your router configuration page and look for a section on DHCP or LAN IP.

Look at the section labelled Static Leases or Reserved Lease Info. There are two or more fields that need to be filled in. First is the hardware address (6 pairs of alphanumeric characters), which is unique to every network device in the world, and second is the IP you wish to assign it. You should be able to see your hardware address in the list of current “leases” (a lease refers to the address that the router has automatically lent to your device) next the IP it is currently assigned. If not, type IPCONFIG /ALL (from Windows command prompt) or IFCONFIG (from an OS X Terminal) and look for either the Ethernet or Physical Address.

how to obtain a static ip address

In this case, I want the device with the hardware address E0:CB:4E:A5:7C:9D, currently with IP, to stay that way forever. Enter this information to create a new reserved address.

static ip address

You can also change the IP address from here if you’d like the reserved one to be different to what it is currently, but you will need to restart the device in order to get the new address. You are basically “tying” a particular local IP address to a particular piece of hardware.

That’s it – now your address won’t change after a restart and you can keep your special routing rules the same. Confused? Problems? Feel free to ask in the comments, and I will endeavor to answer as best as I can – but remember that every router model is slightly different.

Image credit: Shutterstock 1, Shutterstock 2



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