Tuesday, February 22, 2011

MakeUseOf.com: “Cool Websites and Tools [February 21st]” plus 12 more

MakeUseOf.com: “Cool Websites and Tools [February 21st]” plus 12 more

Link to MakeUseOf.com

Cool Websites and Tools [February 21st]

Posted: 21 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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Zoho Recruit – is a robust and feature-rich applicant tracking system that can track and organize job applications effectively thereby helping Human Resources executives in speeding up the hiring process. Like other Zoho tools, it's completely web-based. It generates a list of candidates who've applied for a position and the number of current openings. Read more: Zoho Recruit: Easily Track Job Applications


Jumpscan – With the surge of smartphones, especially Android-based phones, QR codes have suddenly started hogging the limelight. That's because these phones can easily scan them to access information. JumpScan is a service that generates a QR code of your online as well as personal profile. You can enter details to have a corresponding QR code image generated. Read more: JumpScan: Get a QR Code for Your Online & Personal Profile



Yutongo – There are several brainstorming tools online but most of these are ultimately lists with nice graphics. Yutongo is a nice tool with a unique take on online brainstorming and collaboration. This website offers teams a way to think of new ideas and understand them in many different ways. Read more: Yutongo: A Unique Brainstorming & Collaboration App



Traffic Amigo – is a simple and useful service that alerts you beforehand about any traffic delays due to a road mishap. This could help you take a different route and avoid getting stuck in traffic snarls. You just need to enter your mobile phone number, select the city you live in, and pick the morning and evening times when you want to be alerted. Read more: TrafficAmigo: Get Local Traffic Alerts via SMS



Formsly – It doesn't matter if you have a professional website or a casual blog, a contact page is vital so your audience can reach you easily. Formsly is a WYSIWYG web app for easily creating contact pages for your websites. You can add as many or as few elements on the page by just typing in the details. There are three tabs by default, head office, get directions and email us. Read more: Formsly: A Tool For Quickly Creating Contact Pages For Websites


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.

Do you like MakeUseOf articles? Don’t forget to share our articles with others! It’s really important to us.



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Share, Share, Share….Spread The Word!

Posted: 21 Feb 2011 06:31 PM PST

With most of the MakeUseOf articles that we profile every day, our main goal is to give you something that you will find interesting and useful.

To show you a website or a software program you can make use of is our number one priority.

This time around, we would like something from you. Something really easy and simple. That is to share MakeUseOf articles you find useful with others. That’s really the best way for you to show your appreciation for our work.

It’s quick and super easy to do.

Simply click one of the sharing buttons at the bottom of the article and vote it up (or share).

As you can see, there are options to share the article with your friends on Facebook, Twitter (retweet), StumbleUpon and Digg. Also, there is a ‘ShareThis‘ button which lets you share the article on several other social networks as well as giving you an option to email the link to someone.

You might not realize it but this has a major impact on our daily workflow and the popularity of MakeUseOf.com. So if you’re an avid reader and like what we are doing, please make sure to always share the articles you find useful with friends.



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3 Best FireFox Addons That Will Help to Organize and Schedule Your Daily Browsing

Posted: 21 Feb 2011 05:30 PM PST

schedule browser openMany of us spend most of our (free) time online. The Internet has turned into the solid source of income, the major assistant in any research, the best source of (timely) information and the effective way to keep in touch with relatives and friends (even if they live nearby).

Using so many online tools and frequenting so many different websites, we tend to find our browsing habits quite hectic. Is there any way that could help us browse the web in a more organized way?

Let’s take a look at the three FireFox addons that allow you to get more organized (and productive) with your daily, weekly and even monthly browsing.

1. Morning Coffee

Morning Coffee is the oldest, the most reviewed and the most basic addon of all the three listed here. With it, you can set multiple pages to open all at once in separate tabs whenever you want (once you click “Load My Morning Coffee” from the bookmarks toolbar icon).

The addon allows the following options for effective daily and weekly browsing management:

  • Set to open your most important pages daily;
  • Set to open other sites (e.g. those that get updated less frequently or those that do not require as much attention) on a specified day of the week / twice a week / three times a week / on weekdays only / on weekends only

Simple and easy – just what many people are looking for in an addon!

schedule browser open

2. Page Scheduler

Page Scheduler has very rich scheduling options (most of which you are unlikely to ever need though). With it you can schedule to:

  • Load the page every “n” days;
  • Load the page every weekend or every weekday;
  • Load the page within the specified period of time;
  • Load the page within the set time range;
  • Load the page on the specified day of the week (e.g. every Monday) – in the “Weekly” tab in Settings
  • Load the page every “Nth” week day of the month (e.g. every first Monday of the month) – in the “Monthly” tab in Settings
  • Load the page on the set date of each year (e.g. on January, 1 every year)

Page Schedular

3. My Weekly Browsing Schedule

My Weekly Browsing Schedule (we have reviewed “My Weekly Browsing Schedule” on MUO) is the most advanced addon here but then again, it all boils down to what your actual needs are. Besides that, it’s the only addon from this list which is available in FireFox 4 in the experimental release (so if you have switched, it’s the only options for you).

Quick note: The addon icon wasn’t visible immediately after the installation, which for me happens quite often, so you may have to navigate “View” -> “Toolbars” -> “Customize” to find and install the icon.

The addon allows you to:

  • Load the selected pages on the specified day of the week at the specified time;
  • Use the “Catchup” option that loads the pages in case you were not using the browser at the scheduled time;
  • Use the "StartUp" feature for any page (this will open the page on the browser startup;

The tool also allows a few handy option to add pages to the schedule:

  • You can add multiple pages from bookmarks (use Shift + Click to select multiple pages);
  • You can use the Import feature to import a list of Websites from a simple text file

You can also organize your scheduled pages by groups and search through them – which potentially makes it possible to use the addon as the bookmarking tool that opens pages automatically.

schedule browser open

Putting this all together…

Morning CoffeePage SchedulerMy Weekly Browsing Schedule
CompatibilityFirefox 2.0b1 – – (available in FF 4 in beta)
The ability to manage weekly browsingYesYesYes
“Load all scheduled pages now” featureYesYesNo ("Open Websites Now" only opens pages for a particular Day and Time Interval)
The ability to schedule monthly browsingNoYesNo
The ability to schedule yearly browsingNoYesNo
The ability to set the exact time when the page should loadNoNo (only time range)Yes
Works viaToolbar iconToolbar iconToolbar icon
Best featureVery simple to use, no clutter, user-friendlyRich scheduling options for any imaginable needsAllows to create a very specific weekly browsing schedule


Are you aware of any other FireFox addons that allow to manage, organize or automate your browsing? Do you know any similar extensions for other browsers? Please share your tips in the comments!



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GIMP Paint Studio: A Great Addition To Make GIMP A Digital Artist’s Playground

Posted: 21 Feb 2011 03:30 PM PST

gimp paint studioSome of us here really enjoy using GIMP, and not only have we mentioned where to learn more about using GIMP, where to learn visually thanks to video tutorials, and where to learn to make your own wallpapers, but we've also provided our own simple tutorials to create image maps, improve your screenshots with callouts, batch edit images, and even create some really cool stereographic projections.

A lot of times when you're making your own graphics, you might need the help of scripts or plugins to reduce steps to achieve something you constantly find yourself doing. If you're into making your own drawings and digital paintings, you will probably be excited to find out about GIMP Paint Studio.

I certainly was when I found out through Asian Angel (thank you!). That's because GIMP Paint Studio (GPS) is a package filled with goodies that improve GIMP's drawing and painting features, especially useful if you own a drawing tablet. It consists of new brushes and tools that will likely make the digital painter-inclined user comfortable with the program from the moment GIMP is launched. The plugin is actually put together by a digital artist who has an incredible gallery on the download site to further demonstrate what can be achieved with GIMP and GIMP Paint Studio.


If you want to try the package, download the zip file from the Google Code site, which packs brushes, palettes, gradients, patterns, and tool options. Assuming you have GIMP installed, after you unzip the download file, you'll have to copy or move the files inside each folder of GPS into the original GIMP folders. Personally, I moved the entire GPS brushes folder to GIMP's brushes folder, for example, so they stay separated from the built-in ones, in case GIMP starts up too slowly for the new amount of brushes to load. For Windows Vista and 7, you can find the original GIMP folders in "C:\Username\.gimp-2.6"’; in Windows XP, locate the folders in "C:\Documents and Settings\Username\.Gimp-2.6\"; in OS X, they should go in "/Users/Username/Library/Application Support/Gimp"; in Ubuntu or any Linux system, they should be in "/home/username/.gimp-2.6". If you have the portable version like I do, find the folders in "GIMPPortable/App/gimp/share/gimp/2.0/". Now that you now where to move or copy the files, move GIMP Paint Studio's brushes into the original GIMP's brushes folders, the new gradients into GIMP's gradients folder and so on.

gimp paint studio

There are also sessionrc (can be used to rearrange the layout of GIMP to optimize working comfortably with graphics tablets) and toolrc (can be implemented to add tools to Toolbox) files in the GPS package that you can use to replace GIMP's built-in, but you should back up the original files in case you wish to restore original layouts and tools.

freeware paint gimp

What GPS provides when compared to GIMP's built-in offerings is a wide range of tools for graphic designers and digital artists: different shadowing pencil brushes (graphite, 2B, 6B, etc), pen brushes (BIC pen, sketching pen), oil brushes, etc; and other presets for airbrushing, using the ink tool, smudging, etc. You can find the whole list of offerings here.

freeware paint gimp

Artwork Made With GIMP & GPS

Here are the many astounding art pieces in the Gallery (some made by the digital painter author of GPS) that show the potential of GPS and GIMP.

freeware paint gimp

gimp paint studio

If you're inspired enough to try your hand at drawing and making your own creations, definitely check out GPS! Meanwhile, you can also check out where to get brushes if you want something smaller than the GPS package.

What programs do you use to create your artwork?

Photo credit: Ramon Miranda, GPS Gallery



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4 Essential Websites To Download Free DJ Mixes & Sets

Posted: 21 Feb 2011 01:30 PM PST

free dj mixesEven with all the free streaming music on the net sometimes it’s hard to choose what to listen to. It’s not a bad idea to turn to a compilation, mix or live DJ set for a varied and seamless hour or two.

A lot of these sets contain little-known releases and remixes from underground artists, and as such probably won’t ever make their way onto Spotify, Grooveshark or a similar service.

Whilst an MP3 download doesn’t quite replace the thumping bass and sweaty appeal of a live set you’re still bound to find something you like on one of these 4 websites.


Featuring some face-melting mixes from right across the electronic music genre, EgoThieves is the collective name for Jenai and JC Adams, as well as a select number of other quality DJs. The website itself is a shining example of engaging webdesign, with lashings of JavaScript and AJAX as well as a quirky graphical style.

free dj mixes

Regular mixes include Dubfluencial (dubstep and grime galore), Electzilla (anything electro and upbeat) and Pop! Dub! (commercial sounds meet rolling dubstep bass). If none of those take your fancy then there’s a decent variety of other mixes expertly blended for your listening pleasure. The website is also updated fairly regularly with new releases, happenings and events.

EgoThieves regularly attend club nights and live sets in the UK so if you’ve listened in and fancy coming along check the website for listings. The website operates an artist-friendly policy, whereby if the artist wants his or her song removed they simply request via email.

Random Mix: Dubfluencial 9 – Mixed by EgoThieves

download dj mixes

A rude and loud awakening for anyone still unfamiliar with the genre of dubstep. Not to everyone’s tastes but if you’re into this stuff then you might want to check out the older mixes too!

The Mixing Bowl

The only torrent site on the list, The Mixing Bowl combines community spirit, a ratio system and an endless list of live mixes from every genre you can (pretty much) think of. The mixes are tagged, categorised and uploads are regular.

download dj mixes

You’ll need to keep a good ratio to avoid getting banned, so remember to seed and not download beyond your means. There’s a ton of variety on offer, including live DJ sets, radio shows and sessions and regular big-name club mixes. As well as the usual dose of commercial, breaks and trance there’s plenty of choice including funk, chillout and tribal as well as video uploads to work your way through.

Tracker registration is open at the time of writing, but may close in future so act fast. If you’re reading this and registration is closed then keep trying as accounts will become available once inactive users are pruned.

Random Mix: DJ Kentaro Live at Ninja Tune XX (London)

download dj mixes

An eclectic mix of electro, reggae, funk, scratching performed by DJ Kentaro, who won the 2002 DMC World DJ Championships with this blinding set. The set in the torrent was taken from a Ninja Tune gig in October 2010, featuring other artists from the same label.


A quirky, edgy and awesome resource for anyone interested in lovingly blended beats and basslines. You’ve got the option of downloading the pre-mixed MP3 files or streaming them in a pop-up browser, so you can listen on the go.

dj mixes

There is plenty of variety of usual, with users submitting their own mixes for inclusion on the site. SubNav is a great way of discovering great DJs and free DJ mixes with a couple of quality hand-picked releases per week.

If you really love the site then you might be interested in the free stickers they’re offering too (they ship worldwide).

Random Mix: 27 45s in 61 – Anatoly Ice

dj mixes

27 funk 45rpm 7" vinyl records lovingly arranged into 61 minutes of wonderful seamless funk. Download it now!


For all you late night ravers, clubbers and Ibiza party animals there’s Livesets.us, a regularly updated source with regular live sets from DJs all over the world. If you’re mad about glowsticks and can get past the slightly bare website you’ll find a mountain mixes, with new sets added every day.

dj mixes

Featured artists include big name DJs like Paul van Dyk, Paul Oakenfold and Grooverider with a lengthy list of acts to create a heady mix of trance, dance, house, drum and bass amongst other electro offerings. Again, you can make the choice over whether to download or stream your chosen mix in your browser.

Random Mix: Fabio Live on BBC Radio 1

free dj mixes

Fabio’s Radio 1 show is on at stupid o’clock over here in the UK so listening to it on the BBC’s iPlayer streaming service is a good option. Now others can enjoy his 2 hour long drum and bass set from anywhere in the world.


Whatever your taste in music you’re bound to find something here that takes your fancy when your favourite streaming services fail you. If you’re not feeling particularly inspired and can’t find anything to listen to why not take the strain out of it and let someone else decide?

Do you have any favourite mixes or related websites? Let us know in the comments.

Intro Image: Shutterstock



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Hot Tech Deals [Feb 21st]

Posted: 21 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. Powermat PMM-PT100 Portable Sleek Inductive Charging Mat w/ Battery Door for Iphone 4 $68.99 Free Shipping
  2. Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300 Portable Duplex Sheet-Fed Color Scanner Deluxe Bundle (Instant PDF) $269.99 Free Shipping via code EMCKHJB68 (Exp 2/23)
  3. Canon imageCLASS MF3240 Monochrome Laser All-in-One Printer $84.99 Free Shipping
  4. Asus VE198D 19 inch LED-Backlit LCD Monitor (1440×900) $95.99 Free Shipping
  5. Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse w/ Nano Receiver $39.95 Free Shipping

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set

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20+ Hilarious Twitter Parody Accounts

Posted: 21 Feb 2011 11:30 AM PST

parody twitter accountsThey say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, although anyone who’s been the subject of a Twitter parody account might not necessarily agree. Parody accounts on Twitter have targeted celebrities, politicians, brands and even entire countries.

While some have been suspended, and others are coming under attack, there are still hundreds of thousands of people on Twitter who are more than happy to follow them for a dose of cynical and sarcastic humour. That said, some of them do push the envelope quite far, and aren’t necessarily going to appeal to everyone. If you’re easily offended, many of these accounts will definitely not appeal to you.

If you’re thinking of putting together your own parody account, be sure to read Twitter’s guidelines first to make sure you’re not in violating of the site’s terms.

Hosni Mubarak

For current events, the best Twitter parody account by far has to be the one which claims to be former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. The Egyptian revolution was permeated by a constant sense of humour, both on the ground and online, even in the signs that protesters were carrying. It’s no surprise then that several parody accounts have popped up, claiming to be the former president, but this is definitely the best one, and is even accompanied by a website, Confessions of a Pharaoh.

parody twitter accounts

If you like this account, you’ll also want to follow Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Al Qaeda.

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs‘ parody accounts already has over 400,000 followers and rightfully so. Being the CEO of one of the largest IT corporations in the world is bound to find you the subject of a few jokes, and much to Apple’s dismay, the account is still up and running, despite attempts to put a stop to it, since California recently passed a law criminalising online impersonations.

best twitter parody accounts

If you like this account, you’ll also want to follow Fake Carol Bartz, the parody account of CEO of Yahoo.

Stewie Griffin

Characters from shows are another popular form of parody accounts. Family Guy’s Stewie Griffin has at least 7 parody accounts on Twitter. It’s no secret why the best one has over 200,000 followers. As politically incorrect as the TV show’s character, you can get your Family Guy fix directly on Twitter.

best twitter parody accounts

If you like this account, be sure to check out Futurama’s Bender and Family Guy’s Brian Griffin.

Chuck Norris

Like Stewie Griffin, there are countless fake Chuck Norris accounts, but one of the best, and most consistent is Chuck Facts This is one of the most entertaining parody accounts out there, but if you’re easily offended, however, it won’t appeal to you.

best twitter parody accounts

If you like this account, also check out Mr. T and Vin Diesel, both of whom Chuck Norris fittingly follows.


For all the grammar nazis, the FakeAPStylebook is a great source of humour. From misplaced apostrophes to common grammar and spelling mistakes, FakeAPStylebook is the perfect form of cathartic humour for all the editors on Twitter.

parody twitter accounts

If you like this account, also check out Charles Darwin and Samuel Johnson.

Darth Vader

For all the Star Wars geeks, a must follow is the Darth Vader parody account. Commenting on current events from a Darth Vader perspective is clearly working since the account has over 200,000 followers and is listed over 11,000 times.

parody twitter accounts

If you like this account, be sure to check out All Seeing Yoda and Depressed Darth Vader.

AT&T Fake Pr

Many companies have come under the satirical wrath of parody accounts with every misstep, and AT&T has been no exception. This parody account not only makes fun of AT&T’s service, it’s yet another example of how the world’s current events can be seen from just about any angle.

parody twitter accounts

If you like this account, be sure to check out the fake BP PR account, BPGlobalPR and TSAgov. The fake TSA account, another one which is not for the easily offended, doesn’t appear to be active for the time being, but with over 1000 tweets, there’s plenty to catch up on.

Ferris Bueller

Another now defunct Twitter parody account, but it’s definitely worth reading through what’s already been posted. Children of the 80s will love this spoof account, Ferris Bueller, which tells the story of one of Matthew Broderick’s best films, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

parody twitter accounts

What are your favourite Twitter parody accounts? Let us know in the comments.



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Text Mechanic – A Super, Free Online Text Manipulation Toolkit

Posted: 21 Feb 2011 10:30 AM PST

text manipulation toolsIt's amazing how many of online applications exist for performing small but significant tasks that when done manually, would require ten times more time. I keep a folder of bookmarks of such applications, including, Google Translate, Timer Stopwatch, Tinychat and the online phone service, Babble.ly.

A recent set of gems I discovered is Text Mechanic, a collection of browser-based text manipulation tools—including a case converter, empty line remover, word scrambler, item picker, permutation generator, and text encryption converter.

Text Mechanic includes 25 Javascript-based text manipulation tools that are both basic and advance. Where the website lacks graphic appeal, it makes up for the number of things you can get done in it. Let's a look at a few examples.

Random Line Picker

I recently needed an objective way to randomly choose five winners based on collection email addresses submitted to me. Searching for this solution is how I found out about Text Mechanic.

text manipulation tools

To use the Random Line Picker, you simply click the "C" button to clear out all the instructions. You do this for all the tools. Next, type or copy and paste the items you want to randomly pick in the top inbox. Each item must make up a single line.

text manipulation software

Click the Pick Random Line button to start making random selections. As the site page points out, “This tool is built-with and functions-in Client Side JavaScripting, so only your computer will see or process your data input/output.”

You can also shuffle the input.

Random Number Generator

Random Number Generator is pretty straight forward. Simply select the range of numbers you need, optionally add prefix and/or suffix, and click the Generate Random Numbers button. Presto, you get a set of random number. This tool might useful for when you’re doing some sort of group facilitation, and you want to objectively and randomly select people based a number they receive.

text manipulation software

Other similar tools include a Randomize List, Word Scrambler, and Random String Generator.

Word, Sentence, Line and Character Counter

If you ever need a way to keep track of the number words, lines, characters, or sentences you're typing, this tool can help you with that.

text manipulation software

In fact, you can use this tool as a text editor. If you copy and paste text into the text box, unfortunately it won't format in the way you copied it; however it will still give you the count information.

Sort Text Tool

Think about the times you brainstormed a list of words, ideas, or names and you needed to alphabetize that list. What a pain it would be to manually do this job.

text manipulation

This sort text tool will alphabetically and numerically sort text. It will also reverse the list order, remove duplicate items, or order the list based on the length of letters on each line.

Caesar Cipher

Want to encode some text and later retrieve it? Then you might want to try this Caesar Cipher Translator/Converter.

text manipulation

Simply copy and paste the text you want to encode and click the Encode button. Your text will get the ROT 13 conversion.

text manipulation tools

When you or someone else wants to decode the text, paste it in the box and click the decode button.

As you can see, Text Mechanic performs the type of text manipulations that you might use Microsoft Excel or other more advance (and expensive!) text manipulation tools might perform. While these tools lack an undo and redo button, and you can't save the results of your conversion in the application itself, they are still powerfully useful. Bookmark your favorite tools and you'll always have them handy when needed.

Let us know of similar online text manipulation tools that you use.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com



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10 Online Resources Where You Can Learn To Read Music

Posted: 21 Feb 2011 09:31 AM PST

learning to read musicWe usually have an ear for good music; but what about the eyes? If you want to take your music education further, it's essential to know how to read music.

If you or your child cannot read a single note off a sheet of paper but can pick up a musical instrument and play it impromptu, that's great. But the skill to read and write music is just like any other language. If we cannot read or write then we can't go very far with it.

Learning to read music is absolutely necessary for classical music. It is almost necessary if you want to become a professional. John Lennon and Paul McCartney couldn't read a single note. But why leave it to accidental genes (and genius) when learning to read music is definitely not as difficult as learning Cantonese.

In fact, you can teach yourself or at least get through the basics of music theory with the help of these websites.


learning to read music

Here, you can find a very basic how-to article that you can quickly skim over if you have a fair idea of playing a musical instrument. You will also find a link to a related wikiHow that shows you how to have fun while learning to read music.

An Introduction to Reading Music

learn to read music

Continue your basic education and learn to read music with the help of these ten pages that take you from the most basic musical symbols to teaching you how to give volume and speed to your notes.

Read Sheet Music

learn to read music

The free online course takes you a bit deeper into the why's and how's of reading music. You have two single introductory webpages on the topic plus a downloadable mirror version of them. The learning music course by Jason Silver is unfortunately not complete. After going through the above two links, you can use the topic links on the left side of the page to read up on some more music theory.

Music Arrangers

learn to read music

The music theory tutorial website by the Australian composer, Joe Paparone has a paid side along with a bunch of free lessons that you can exploit to get through the basics. The free lessons are arranged around – Pitch, Chords, and Time. Each of these three facets is then explored with the help of lessons. Titled "Baby Stuff', the light tutorials are just an introduction to the theory behind musical arrangements and compositions.

Dolmetsch Online

how to read music

This is an important resource that documents the life of Arnold Dolmetsch, a French-born musician and instrument maker, and his family. It's also a resource for beginner musicians who can tap into the music dictionary and the music theory page. The music theory pages start with naming conventions and ends with lessons on composition. In between, a brief history of music is also touched upon.

Ricci Adam's Music Theory.net

how to read music

The nicely designed website has three sections – Lessons (animated walkthroughs for beginners), Exercises (for practice), and Tools (with calculators that help to measure notes, intervals, and chords). The interactive lessons help to make your task of learning how to read music easier with step-by-step slideshows. This site is especially useful for those learning how to play the piano as you can summon an online keyboard with a click and play on it or mark notes.


how to read music

eMusicTheory is an educational resource designed for both teachers and students. The site aims to teach music through a series of drills. It requires a paid subscription, but you can use the free resources on the site – the practice drills and interactive theory pages which help to polish your music learning. You will need the Java plug-in to be enabled in your browser as the concepts are explained using an interactive Java applet.


Teoria is not only an excellent reference source for the basics of music that go into learning how to read music, but the interactive exercises help to finetune your music reading skills and ear training. The tutorial section is where you should start if you are a newbie. The tutorial section helps you in reading music by making you understand intervals, scales, chords, harmonic functions, and musical forms. The alphabetical reference section is an online glossary with embedded audio files.


learning to read music

The online guide resource has a comprehensive section on music. Music theory takes up a considerable amount of space with more than 80 articles on the subject. The Beginner’s Music Theory sub-channel will take intensive reading as it is mostly text, but you can be sure that the tutorials have all the bases covered when it comes to reading and learning about music.


YouTube as usual could be a nice stopover is you like learning via videos. The How to Read Music is the first in a series of videos by Walt Ribeiro who teaches you all about sight reading. You can find all his lessons on his website where he covers it all with weekly music lessons. You can also follow the suggestions given on the sidebar for many more videos that teach you how to read music.

This is certainly not where it ends. In fact, this could just be a harmonious beginning that you can follow up with these two resources –

Top 6 Sites to Find and Print Free Sheet Music – by Mahendra
3 Tools To Write Your Own Sheet Music Online – by Simon

You can sing…you can play too…but can you recognize a sheet of music when it's placed before you? Let these online lessons help you read music and become a well rounded musician. Let us know about the importance you place on learning how to read music.

Image Credit: Shutterstock



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Internet Explorer 9 RC Version Available For Download [News]

Posted: 21 Feb 2011 09:00 AM PST

Microsoft’s latest foray into the world of HTML5-compliant browsers got off to an energetic start yesterday with the release of Internet Explorer 9′s release candidate (RC).

Internet Explorer 9 attempts to cut back much of the dead wood featured in previous releases. Critics will be delighted to know that the crippled JavaScript engine and cluttered user interface have gone to make room for a much prettier, cleaner and (dare I say it) Apple-esque appearance.

Inspiration has clearly been taken from rival products, such as Google Chrome and its snappy one-stop address bar. Internet Explorer 9′s address bar will function similarly to Chrome’s (albeit without instant search results).

Microsoft have also spent some time improving on IE8′s oft-forgotten excellent security record.

There’s way too many changes, improvements and tweaks to fit into a news story. You can get the full low-down now at DownloadSquad. They have done an excellent review of the release.

Read: Internet Explorer 9 RC released: Everything you need to know

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How To Install A Windows Web Server On Your PC With XAMPP

Posted: 21 Feb 2011 08:30 AM PST

install windows web serverSome of our articles here on MakeUseOf require the use of your own web server. Although the easiest way to go about finding web space is to purchase hosting where a web server is already set up for you, a free and almost-as-easy to use option is to install a server on your local home computer. We have covered WAMP previously and now I would like to update the topic with a software package known as XAMPP.

XAMPP is a collection of software that includes Apache, MySQL, PHP and Perl. It also includes Tomcat, FileZilla FTP server and Mercury Mail for sending emails. These packages are used for the following tasks:

  • Apache – Web Server, hosts content at http://localhost/
  • MySQL – Database Server, many software packages use this to store data
  • PHP – Programming language, many modern programs use this as a language
  • Perl – Programming language, many programs use this language and has been around longer than PHP
  • Tomcat – Server used to execute Java programs
  • FileZilla – FTP server used to transfer files to/from your local machine (only necessary if you need access remotely)
  • Mercury Mail – Mail system used for sending emails

These programs work together to give you a very robust environment for hosting web programs on your local machine.

Getting Started

Download the correct program for your operating system. This tutorial will go over the Windows version, but the MacOS X, Linux and Solaris versions are very similar. Run the installer and click OK on any security dialogs that pop up. When you get to the following menu:

install windows web server

I would suggest checking off Apache and MySQL as a service as this will allow you to better manage this software later.

When finished, click “Yes” to start the control panel.

windows web server

There is a bug if you are running 64-bit versions of Windows (Vista, 7 or Server 2008). It will say “XAMPP Component Status Check Failure [3]“, but it is safe to ignore this error as everything else seems to work fine.

I also received several popups after installing the software. One was from Microsoft Security Essentials asking to send the FileZilla binary to them for analysis (this software can sometimes be used in backdoors – however this use is legitimate) and also the Firewall will pop up a few boxes asking if you want to allow the port to be used. Leave the checkbox unchecked so that your server will not be available over public wifi and other open networks (for example if you connect at a Starbucks), but to still allow your server to be available from your local PC and other computers in your own private network.

Once the control panel is up, click “Start” on Apache and MySQL.

windows web server

Your web server is now up and running, if all went properly!

Managing Your Server

The first thing you should do is click the “Admin…” button for Apache. This will launch your default web browser and send you to the Welcome page. If it gives you the option, click your language (in this case, English) and you will see your administration area.

windows web server

One of the first things to explore are the sample programs. Under the PHP list they include several programs which demonstrate the sorts of things PHP can do.

The “Status” page will show you which services are currently activated. They should all be green except for FTP, SMTP and Tomcat.

set up web server

Next up is ensuring the security of your server. By default there is no password for your MySQL’s administrator account, also known as “root“. If you are on a small local network and you do not care who has access to the data stored in your machine then it is fine to leave this as is; however if you plan on opening your server up to the internet or you have roomates who you may not fully trust it is good to add a password to this account. You can follow the links to set up security of your system. The first option sets a root MySQL password and the second puts a password on your entire web directory.

Finally, if you plan on accessing your server outside of your home, you will need to log into your router and forward port 80 to your local machine. This is much easier to do if you are set up on a static IP address.

Installing Programs On Your Server

The main thing you need to know about where your server stores data is that it is in a subdirectory of your installation directory named htdocs. In my situation the web directory is:


This includes the administration program. The default page your web server loads when you visit http://localhost/ is index.php. You can open that file to replace it with your own text or remove it altogether, it is really up to you.

install windows web server

Now that you have a web server set up, what can you do with it? Well one popular thing you can do is to set up wordpress locally. You can set up your own mixtape or even a proxy server, the possibilities are endless.

Really what you get out of it is the ability to learn something new and provide an environment that allows you to create and modify code in a very easy way. Although this server is not meant for production use, it does give you a very reliable development environment and sandbox to learn the ropes, so to speak.

What’s Next?

After you have your server up and running, the world is your oyster. Install and run that software you’ve always wanted to test out. The Apache Friends FAQ page has a lot of information on XAMPP and extended options, check there to take your install further. If you have any problems or questions about your setup, ask below and we’ll be sure to help you out!



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Secure Your Internet Activity with ibVPN [Giveaway]

Posted: 21 Feb 2011 07:30 AM PST

In the last year or so, I think we’ve all come to realise that our internet communications are really quite insecure. Using a public WiFi connection? FireSheep will easily grab your social network network passwords in seconds, giving anyone on the same network instant access to your entire life.

There are a lot of things that can happen to you too if you don’t secure yourself online. You have a reason to be scared, and there’s no point in lying to you about it. But this week, we’re giving 25 six-month subscriptions to ibVPN to totally secure your internet activity.

What a VPN does for you

Put simply, VPN creates a secure tunnel between your computer and remote location. Anything you communicate will be encrypted and secured between those two points – so the government can’t read your tweets, the national firewall won’t be able to see what pages your viewing or block them, and someone on the public WiFi won’t be able to grab your passwords. Of course, every user on the internet must have an IP address, and usually it’s quite easy to grab the details of who was on that IP at a precise time from your ISP. With a VPN though, your IP will be in a remote location on ibVPN’s servers. If a government agency was to try and subpoena those records, they would find none, because none are kept.

A pleasant bonus to having your IP address located in a different country is that you will also be able to watch streaming video services such as BBC iPlayer (UK) or Hulu (USA) that are normally restricted to viewers within that country.

Types of VPN

There are three main types of VPN, and ibVPN offers all of them. A PPTP connection is the easiest to set up, but not 100% secure. To simply get an IP address in America for Hulu though, it is sufficient. If you’d like top security, OpenVPN is the best choice. Personally, I’d suggest OpenVPN for all your needs, and this is how I tested ibVPN.


On a Windows machine, setting up your ibVPN is a quick download away. Mac OS X is a little harder, but there are full instructions on the site. To connect to your ibVPN, right click on the new taskbar icon and choose a server.

ibVPN offers a choice of servers which will show as your physical location, and you can switch if you find one is a little slow. When the icon is red, your connection is insecure; when it’s green you are safe.


Connected to the US2 server, I was able to get a reasonable 1 MB/s download and 0.6 MB/s upload speed. While the download speed is clearly going to be lower than my regular internet speed, it is more than useable.

I tested by trying to access Hulu again, and sure enough I was able to watch the latest episodes streaming with no speed problems or jittery video.

We’re giving away 25 premium six-month subscriptions to ibVPN and here’s how you can win one.

How do I win a copy?

It’s simple, just follow the instructions.

Step 1: Fill in the giveaway form

Please fill in the form with your real name and email address so that we can get in touch if you are chosen as a winner. Click here if you can’t view the form.

The giveaway code required to activate the form is available from Friday’s newsletter or on our Facebook page.

Step 2: Share!

You’re almost done. Now, all that’s left to do is to share the post. There are 2 options to choose from or you can do both!

Like it on Facebook

Or share it on Twitter

Giveaway eligibility
In accordance with Facebook’s Promotional Guidelines 2.4.2 and 2.4.3:
Individuals who are over the age of 18. If you are under 18, get your parents to participate on your behalf;
Individuals who reside in a country embargoed by the United States; Belgium, Norway, Sweden, or India are not permitted to enter.

This giveaway begins now and ends Friday, February 25th at 2100hrs PST. The winners will be selected at random and informed via email.

Spread the word to your friends and have fun!

MakeUseOf would like to thank ibVPN for their generosity while participating in this giveaway. Interesting in sponsoring? We’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with us via email.



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Google Beefs Up Adobe Support In Docs & Gmail [News]

Posted: 21 Feb 2011 07:05 AM PST

Google’s free suite of web apps has just been updated to allow for the uploading and viewing of Photoshop .PSD files. The move should simplify the process of exchanging commissioned work between designers and clients, which often requires converting the PSD’s to Adobe’s other standard, PDF.

You dont even have to upload the file yourself. As long as it’s online you can point the Google Docs Viewer straight to it and view it in your browser.

Other supported filetypes that can be viewed using Google Docs include: Microsoft Office 2010 documents (.DOCX, .XLSX etc…), Adobe Illustrator documents (.AI), AutoCAD (.DXF) and font files (.TTF).

The move makes Google Docs more of a universal file viewer than a simple set of web apps with bundled storage.

In other Google-related news Gmail has recently been updated to enable Chrome’s in-built PDF viewer by default. The viewer was added a while back, and out-performs Google’s own Docs viewer so much that Gmail has made the jump. Chrome’s plugin-less PDF viewer can be enabled in Chrome by visiting about:plugins within the browser.

Do you use Google Docs? Will you make use of the new Photoshop support? How about Chrome’s in-built PDF reader? Let us know in the comments below.

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