Friday, February 25, 2011 “Cool Websites and Tools [February 24th]” plus 11 more “Cool Websites and Tools [February 24th]” plus 11 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [February 24th]

Posted: 24 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.

Add Your Website Here! – Although Twitter is regarded as the simplest social network, you can still get a lot of insight from each tweet that can help market researchers. is a cool Twitter tool that tries to visualize these insights. This advanced search tool for Twitter allows you to search for tweets across different interesting filters. You do not need to sign up. Read more: An Advanced Twitter Insight Tool


Drive Me Crazy – is an iPhone app that helps you report driving offences to authorities, and also helps you connect with people who drive well and follow the rules. Whenever you see anyone violating traffic rules, you can speak his license plate number and record a message using this app, which is then sent to the local law enforcement and insurance authorities. Read more: Drive Me Crazy: An iPhone App For Reporting Driving Offences



MP3 Skip – There are numerous websites that let you download music for free. Usually the songs are in MP3 format, therefore they are playable by nearly all audio players. If you are looking for a website that lets you quickly search Mp3 music and download it, then check out mp3skip. The music you find on mp3skip can be streamed online, downloaded to your computer, or embedded. Read more: mp3skip: Search MP3 Music, Download It, Stream It & Embed It



My Rental – If you've got a property you want to rent out, or maybe an item or a product, then the best way to ensure that you get calls quickly is to put a lot of information in the form of content and pictures in your listing. My Rental is a service that helps you create a free rental listing website where you can aggregate all of this information. Read more: My Rental: Easily Create Free Rental Listing Website



The Plant List – Here is a nice reference for plant lovers. The Plant List is a growing, comprehensive scientific plant name dictionary of all plant species. Here, you can browse through more than a million plants categorized by their taxonomy. You can also view the entire plant list by family or genus, as well as find statistics based on the data from the website. Read more: The Plant List: Scientific Plant Name Dictionary


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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Top 5 Free Linux Music Creation Tools For The Artist On A Budget

Posted: 24 Feb 2011 05:31 PM PST

music creation softwareMac and Windows users have it good when it comes to laying down a rough mix, some vocals or a tasty bassline. With apps like Garageband, FLStudio, Sonar and Reason, the ability to create professional recordings is limited only to expertise and creative flair.

Linux musicians have to compromise. The industry does not see Linux as a money-spinning venture, and thus the best tools for the job happen to be free. Whilst you won’t need to spend a penny; you may have to compromise on features, support and plugins.

That said, there’s plenty of quality freebies to help you on your way. Here’s six tools to get your Linux music career off to a flying start.

Linux Multimedia Studio

One of the most feature-packed and up to date application on the list, the Linux Multimedia Studio is a free and powerful suite for both Linux and Windows operating systems. Providing some features usually reserved for paid software, LMMS gives you a complete set of tools for the job.

music creation software

The song editor can be used to compose, there’s a beat and bassline editor, a piano roll for creating melodies, effects (with 64 FX channels) and the studio is compatible with a large number of standards (including SoundFont2 and LADSPA).

LMMS is compatible with MIDI keyboards (of course) and there’s plenty of built-in sounds and synths at your disposal. If you’ve done any production in the past, the ability to import MIDI and FruityLoops (FLP) files will probably be of interest too. Everything’s tied together in a clean, modern interface. An incredible package for the (lack of) price.


Another suite with plenty of punch that’s similar to LMMS, but aimed mainly at composing. The powerful notation editor will please those who enjoy making music using a score, with quick and easy ways to share and print (using LilyPond).

free music creation software

Rosegarden boasts some fairly intuitive MIDI management, with over 100 devices supported out of the box. If your device isn’t supported you can manually configure and export the settings to help the community.

There’s also a capable audio editor and sequencer, piano roll, built-in synths and multi-language support.

Jack Audio Connection Kit (JACK)

JACK is not a music creation tool, but a tool to facilitate the creation of music through the use of other software. It essentially acts like a big virtual mixer, allowing you to take audio from applications of your choice and re-route it into other applications.

If you intend to do any music creation and would like to use multiple applications in the production process, then you’ll want JACK. You might also just want it as a considerable amount of software supports it in some way or another.


Primarily a tool for creating drum beats and loops, Jackbeat is a free audio sequencer for Linux, Windows and Mac. The application uses a drum machine interface that promises to cater to both composers and live performers.

free music creation software

Jackbeat functions best alongside other software and can be integrated using the JACK and OSC (OpenSoundControl) standards. The whole interface is intuitive and straight-forward, meaning you’ll be up and running in no time.

Be sure to check out the keyboard shortcuts on this page to speed up your Jackbeat workflow!


Another feature-packed offering, Muse is more than just a MIDI and audio sequencer combining recording and editing abilities into one package. The interface dictates that simplicity is key to this multi-track virtual studio which is only available for Linux.

free music creation software

There’s full MIDI import/export support, editing via piano roll, drum editor or list view, internal and external synth plugins and JACK support for integration with other programs.

Look out for the up and coming Muse 2 (pictured), which the development team have said will see a stable release in the near future.

The Rest

There were a couple of apps that didn’t quite make the top 5, and those were:


A drum loop sequencer with a sleek interface and distinct lack of updates since 2009, which is why it didn’t make the list. Might be worth a look if none of the rest answers your drumming needs.


music creation software

A very simple audio editor and recorder which we’ve covered here. Perfect for small tasks such as sampling but lacks any of the major features that the other suites have.


The software on offer here hasn’t had thousands of dollars pumped into its production but has been crafted by volunteers in their spare time. Suites like LMMS give some of the paid virtual studio software available for other platforms a run for their money. If you’re interested in creating music on the Linux platform be sure to check a few of these out.

Have any readers created any music using these (or other) free tools? Will you try any out? What other software do you use for this task? Let us know in the comments.

Image credit: Shutterstock

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5 Cool Ways To Make Use Of National Geographic Maps

Posted: 24 Feb 2011 03:31 PM PST

national geographic mapsNational Geographic is a non-profit scientific and educational institution. In fact, it is the largest of its kind. In its mission, which reads ‘Inspiring people to care about the planet since 1888‘, the National Geographic Society is reaching out to millions of people worldwide with monthly magazines, TV programmes, public events, and more.

On the National Geographic website, you can browse a variety of informative and interactive maps. There is a lot to explore, discover, and learn. This article shows you 5 ways to make use of the online map material provided through National Geographic Maps.

Explore Atlas Maps

Geopolitical and geophysical atlas maps are a great way to investigate continents and oceans. Some geopolitical maps contain short paragraphs that highlight historical events and other interesting information about a location.

national geographic maps

Objective: To explore foreign terrain and gain a better understanding of its history, which is often based on its geography.

Play Atlas Puzzles

You can choose from 23 different jigsaw puzzles. They cover different continents, oceans, and types of maps. In option you can increase or decrease the difficulty by changing the size of the puzzle pieces and setting the rotation of the pieces to random. To assemble a puzzle, drag and drop the pieces into place, and rotate a selected piece by clicking the Spacebar.

maps on national geographic

Objective: To playfully become familiar with the geography of foreign regions on the planet.

Unfortunately, the puzzle covers are so wide and the resolution of the maps is so low, that it’s almost impossible to read the names of countries or cities. I recommend to first explore the maps.

Browse Interactive Maps

You will find interactive maps across National Geographic. One that I found particularly useful is the America’s Best Adventures Map. A map of the US is covered with blue and red dots. Each dot represents a National Geographic article that documents an outdoor adventure. Red dots represent 2010 and blue dots 2009 selections. Clicking on a dot will launch a box containing a photo, the subject of the article, and a link to read more. If you live in the US it’s a fantastic way to get to know the natural beauty of your country and then go out and explore it yourself. If you’re not, then it may be a great motivation to come visit one day.

maps on national geographic

Objective: To discover and read about outdoor adventures in the USA.

Other interactive maps you may find interesting are The Hudson and Chesapeake Bay.

View Vital Earth Statistics

National Geographic’s EarthPulse is a visual guide to trends. One of the tools provided are Vital Statistics that map out the State of the Earth 2010. Using this interactive map you can select statistics from several categories, such as Population and Migrations, Meat Consumption, Deforestation, and Political Migration. You can select up to two statistics and compare the resulting maps.

For example Population Density can be compared with meat consumption. This is an excellent resource for students.

maps on national geographic

Objective: To learn about concrete challenges our planet is facing, and compare challenges to make a connection of how they are connected.

Create Custom Trail Maps

TOPO! Explorer is National Geographic’s map service for the U.S. that can be enjoyed online or on your desktop. The website features free “topographic maps, aerial imagery, hybrids, and a recreation database filled with updated trails, points-of-interest, photos, videos, trail reports, and descriptions from professional and community sources.” In addition, you can create your own custom maps and share them with the community. In short, it is an invaluable resource to plan your next USA hiking trip.

national geographic maps

Objective: To find, create and share hiking trails, 4WD roads, hunt units, forest roads, and other information to fuel your outdoor activities.

The TOPO! Explorer desktop software is free and comes with atlas maps for the entire US and many additional functionalities. However, the SuperQuads, i.e. “the detailed maps, aerial images, and hybrids” you can view for free on the website must be purchased. The reason is that you can use the application to print these maps.


National Geographic Maps is a conglomerate of different resources and information. If you’re just looking for a plain map to locate a location, directly going to Bing Maps or better yet using Google Maps may be your best bet.

However, National Geographics’ strength is the outdoors and the challenges our planet is facing. This is where you will find fantastic collections of information, condensed into easy to grasp maps, topped off with great pictures and insightful articles. If you’re on this planet to explore the outdoors and learn about its challenges, National Geographic is a great place to start your discovery.

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Slideshare’s Zipcast – Like Ustream For Presentation-Based Meetings

Posted: 24 Feb 2011 01:31 PM PST

slideshare presentationHave you attended a few online meetings in your time? Were they easy to use? Did you need to download the presentation separately? Did the presenters have trouble with audio-visual setup and responses to audience questions? Well, Slideshare has a solution to all this and it’s free!

Zipcast is Slideshare’s newest feature, which essentially allows you to run a Ustream-style chat and meeting space. You are able to give a voice-over and video presence to the presentation and to control when the slides change. Meanwhile, your audience can chat about the presentation, meaning you’re able to monitor questions your audience might have in real time. It’s basically a very simple, free way to co-ordinate an online meeting.

slideshare presentation

If you like, you can learn a lot more about Zipcast by watching Robert Scoble’s video interview with the Slideshare Founder and CEO.

Start A Zipcast

The easiest way to start a Zipcast is to go to the presentation you wish to use and click on “Zipcast“. Yes, it’s possible to create a Zipcast on any public presentation on Slideshare.

slideshare presentation tips

Slideshare lets you choose whether to make your Zipcast public or private. Private Zipcasts are able to be password protected and ideal for company meetings, whereas public Zipcasts are perfect for teaching and sharing ideas on given subjects. Even if you choose not to have a password on a private Zipcast, your meeting will only be visible to those who have the URL. It won’t be listed in the Slideshare Zipcast listings.

Then all you need to do is set up your camera and microphone using Flash, then share details of your Zipcast meeting until you’ve got an audience.

slideshare presentation tips

Here’s what a Zipcast looks like in action. You can see the presenter video and the chat log on the right, the presentation on the left. Below this is a collection of pictures of the participants. Everything is all in one centralised location, so there’s no fuss.

slideshare presentation tips

Sharing On Social Media

When you start a Zipcast you are asked if you’d like to share the Zipcast on Facebook. It’s a great way to let your friends know you’ve started the meeting and tell them they can join in. Later, you can still easily invite people to join you. Also, if you’re chatting in a Zipcast you can share your messages on Facebook. I would have liked to see Twitter as an option there, too.

presentation with slideshare

Limitations of Zipcasts

Things you can’t yet do with Slideshare’s Zipcast meetings:

  • Scheduling.
  • Recording.
  • Allowing multiple users to lead the presentation.

However, all of these features are in the works (as shown in Robert Scoble’s video interview).Also, you can create your meeting URL ahead of time, then email people, create a Facebook event or use some other way of scheduling attendance for your Zipcast. You could also use a screencast creator to save your presentation along with the chat records.

Despite the limitations though, Slideshare’s Zipcasts are a lot easier to set up, use and manage than other online presentation systems I’ve seen, such as Vokle. I think it has a solid future ahead.

slideshare presentation

For Presentation Lovers

If you love Slideshare, you’ll enjoy these articles too:

If you’ve started a Zipcast or can think of a great way to use this service, let us know in the comments!

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Hot Tech Deals [Feb 24th]

Posted: 24 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. Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex 1TB Portable External USB Hard Drive $99.99 Free Ship
  2. Zalman FG1000 Gun Mouse (2000dpi) $19.99 Free Shipping via code EMCKHHF55 (Exp 2/26)
  3. Samsung SpinPoint MT2 1TB 2.5in Internal SATA Laptop Hard Drive $79.99 via code EMCKHHF29 (Exp 2/26)
  4. TODAY ONLY Garmin nuvi 265T Portable GPS Navigation (3.5in, Bluetooth, Lifetime Traffic Updates) $79
  5. TODAY ONLY Symantec Norton 360 v4.0 All-in-One PC Security Software $21.99 Free Shipping
  6. Canon EOS Rebel T2i SLR Digital Camera w/ 18-135 F/3.5-5.6IS Lens $839 Free Shipping
  7. TODAY ONLY Sapphire Radeon HD5870 2GB EyeFinity 6 Edition Video Card (DX11, 6x Mini DisplayPort Adapters) $179.99AR

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set

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Penguin Pills: A Single GUI For 9 Different Linux Antivirus Programs

Posted: 24 Feb 2011 11:31 AM PST

linux antivirusCombine nine different Linux antivirus programs into a single GUI. Whether you’re a security-conscious Linux user, or just occasionally need to clean up a Windows system from a safe distance, Penguin Pills aspires to combine all the major Linux scanners into one simple GUI. Update definitions and run a scan for all nine programs quickly and easily.

From AVG to Kaspersky, most major antivirus programs on the market offer some sort of Linux version; we highlighted 4 Linux antivirus programs recently. Installing all of these scanners can give you a lot of options, but every interface is very different while some lack a GUI altogether. Penguin Pills is currently offered on SourceForge, but keep reading to find out what this application can do.

One GUI To Bind Them…

Using this program is pretty straightforward. Fire up the program and you’ll see the basic interface:

linux antivirus

You can select which AV program you want to use. When you do, the command line variables will change; you’ll see this on-screen. There are some options you can select, and what these options are depend on the antivirus program you’re running with Penguin Pills. You can click “Test” to ensure a given program is installed and working, and “Update” to keep definitions up to date:

antivirus for linux

This works the same for every program, which is nice. Want to scan something? Select it with the “Add Folder” button and it will be added to the list:

linux antivirus

Once you’ve got everything set up just the way you like it you’re ready to scan. Click the “start scan” button at the bottom-right of the program window and your scan will begin. You can see how things are going via the console. You may be prompted to make a decision; do so using the command line. Most programs leave your options to deleting or repairing a corrupt file, but be sure to read everything to make an informed decision.

Supported Antivirus Software

There are nine programs supported by Penguin Pills; here are the download links for the Linux version of all of them:

Most of these programs are intended for private use, but offer licenses for commercial usage. Installation varies, but in general the ReadMe files provided with the downloads will fill you in.

Does anyone really need 9 different antivirus programs? Not really. It’s nice to have access to whatever software you want, though, and Penguin Pills gives you access to most of the major players from an easy interface. Whether you install one or all nine of these programs it’s worth having a simple GUI around for updating and running scans.


There are a lot of simple GUIs out there that make command line programs easier to use; few work with as many programs as Penguin Pills. I’m certainly going to keep this on my laptop for scanning external drives and looking at the occasional file.

Can you recommend a better way to scan files on Linux? Let me know in the comments below. Also feel free to let me know how you like Penguin Pills.

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Teams and Collaborations Made Easy with TeamSnap [Giveaway]

Posted: 24 Feb 2011 11:00 AM PST

Managing a sports team is hard. Not only do you have to schedule games and practices, you need to know which players can make it to which games and keep track of the player’s performance. Combine this stress with the constant barrage of emails the modern coach receives from various parents and players and you’ve got yourself a stressful job.

Enter TeamSnap. This web app is for team managers and coaches everywhere, and gives you a central place to track everything from schedules to payments to refreshments. Best of all, your entire team can log in anytime to check all to this out or discuss team happening.

We’ll be giving away 25 annual premium TeamSnap subscriptions worth almost $2000. Let’s take a quick look.

Log in to Team Snap and you’ll see an overview of what the service can do. Various tabs give you access to functions, and there’s even a place for coaches to put notes for the team:

There’s even a weather summary on this page, perfect for gameday.

The first thing you’ll want to do is enter your roster, of course. Everyone on your team will be able to sign up for a username and password, which will give them access to all information shared. Once you have your roster added the fun begins. You can share your schedule with the team:

As you can see, you can add your scores to this view to. Very useful, but it’s hardly all the service offers. You can track whether players can make it to games or practices:

Another feature worth highlighting is the statistics tool. This allows you to track your player’s points, assists and more. Best of all, the information is presented in a clear way that’s easy to browse:

For your players, this will be the highlight of the service because everyone enjoys the bragging rights of being the best on the team. The way this information is organized will make your players feel like they’re playing for a professional team.

Your team can use TeamSnap to discuss anything they like, courtesy of a messaging board. They can also upload photos of the team:

Other highlights include the ability to track team payments and a refreshments schedule.

Concerned your team won’t check the service enough to keep up? Don’t worry; they can sign up for email reminders of games and practices. Simply put, TeamSnap is designed from the ground up to make managing a sports team as simple as possible.

What’s more, TeamSnap has a nifty free iPhone app that works with your subscription and allows you to manage your projects on the move.

The free version of TeamSnap includes only the ability to add a roster, a schedule and a messageboard. Find out more about Teamsnap’s pricing, or keep reading to get a free year of premium service (a $79 value).

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 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, March 4th 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 TeamSnap 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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Enter A War On Wheels With Turn-Based Strategy Game Darkwind

Posted: 24 Feb 2011 10:31 AM PST

turn based strategy gameIf there’s one thing that I don’t like about real-time massively multi-player online games is that some players live their entire lives on some of those games. If you’re a newbie and just testing the waters, you’re lucky to survive for five seconds. Unless I’ve had a lot of time to practice the game offline, I tend to shy away from MMOGs.

Still, sometimes it’s fun to take a break from work and enter into some kind of online competition with a bunch of other players online. One type of game that I enjoy a lot are turn-based strategy games, because they require more careful thought than just quick fingers. This also makes turn-based games a little bit boring at times, because they’ll move a lot slower than real-time war games or shooters.

Recently, I discovered an awesome turn-based strategy game called Darkwind that combines many of the elements of turn-based strategy with real-time action. The game’s logo is War on Wheels, and for good reason. Essentially, you strap yourself to a high-powered vehicle that has machine guns and rocket launchers mounted on the front, and you take part in insane races against other drivers, literally going to war against the competition.

Choose Your Wheels & Go To War!

Learning how to play this game will take you no longer than thirty minutes to an hour. After you sign up for an account, just install the game and when you launch it, you’ll see all of the information you need on the main screen. This includes a chat room and server information.

turn based strategy game

At the lower part of the main screen you’ll see all active users, as well as all upcoming events. You can also watch any ongoing live events if you want to sit back and be a spectator. There are constantly events going on that you can jump into – at least every ten to thirty minutes.

free turn based strategy game

Before you dive into playing with other players, take the thirty minutes or so to run through the tutorial. You’ll quickly learn how to choose the direction and speed for your car to travel during each turn, as well as how to use your weapons, and also how to change the view so that you can see what’s going on from all angles.

free turn based strategy game

Depending on what the event is, you may face obstacles or a track to navigate through. The tutorial has you manage a couple of jumps and also shows you how to approach and fire upon a truck.  Driving your car isn’t a whole lot unlike other racing games you might have played, but it requires a little bit of careful planning. Depending on how you place your car, and what speed you choose, you could send the car sliding right off the road, or slam it directly into a concrete wall.

free turn based strategy game

The game makes you think about the physics of how a car behaves at a certain speed and direction. When you get good, you can cut corners on a race track by sliding through it rather than trying to cut to the inside like everyone else is trying to do. Or carefully plan how you land after a jump so that you get the speed and direction advantage over other drivers.

strategy games turn based

Your car also comes with a weapon system that you can arm and target at any time during a race or an arena combat event. The tutorial shows you how to select, arm, target and fire the weapon while you’re driving the car turn-after-turn.

strategy games turn based

Firing on other vehicles is a matter of keeping them within the “firing zone” and having your weapon repeat-fire. If you incorrectly plan your speed and direction, the other driver may escape your firing zone and then spin around to place you inside theirs.

strategy games turn based

So, once I got the hang of handing the car in the tutorial, I decided to try the real thing. Looking through the upcoming events I saw a deathrace coming up. This is basically a race a few times around the track while shooting at others and dodging missiles. So, I registered and waited the 5 minutes until the match started.

I have to say, game play might be turn-based, but it’s still fast paced and very fun to play. The list of players names go green whenever they’re done planning their next move.

Once all players are ready, all cars move through their current turn. The clock has a limit per turn, so no one can hold up the race.  Another cool thing about Darkwind is that anyone can create a match. From the main screen, just click on “custom event” and you can create a race or combat arena using whatever parameters you like.

turn based strategy game

Overall, I’d say that it’s probably one of the more fast-paced turn based games I’ve ever played. Obviously, not as heart-pounding as Big City Racer or some of the other cool online racing games Simon wrote about, but with the combination of turn-based strategy and a fast-enough pace to get you sitting on the edge of your seat, it’s a game that can easily keep you up into the early hours of the morning trying to win your war on wheels.

Give the game a shot and let us know what you think. Do you prefer this turn-based game over other real-time racing games? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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Effectively Track Your Computer Time (And Bill For It!) With Chrometa

Posted: 24 Feb 2011 09:31 AM PST

keep track of time on the computerFor any web-warrior who spends the majority of their time working at a computer, the ability to track your time is crucial. Both from a productivity standpoint and from a billable hours standpoint, the ability to capture your working time is very important for the business. There are lots of time tracking applications available so let’s find out what makes Chrometa stand out from the pack and why you might want to use it.

At the heart of the Chrometa 2.0 time tracking application is a desktop service built upon a Java framework. You can download it today for Windows and they are working on a Mac version which should be released within a month or so.

Chrometa 2.0 has been out for a while now, however the developer recently dropped the $99 price tag. You can now receive a free license key for Chrometa 2.0 at this location. The license key works with version 2.0 of Chrometa which is available for download here.

After installing the software (and any necessary Java components), Chrometa will launch and start collecting usage data on your machine. Ignore it for a day and go about your normal business activities. After you come back, you will see a screen with your most frequently used programs.

keep track of time on the computer

After you use it for a few days, you will start to see some trends emerging. Categorizing your applications will allow you to break apart the time you use for projects or personal use. This can then allow you to bill for that time where you might not have kept accurate time previously for that project.

track time on computer

Privacy is always a concern with time tracking applications. Chrometa has this covered by allowing you to clear your private data or even password protect the Chrometa interface. This is good for two reasons: the first is that you can prevent prying eyes from seeing what you are doing, or if you are a business owner or manager you can install the software on your employee’s PC to see what they are doing without giving them the ability to remove their tracking data.

track time on computer

It will also ask you to enter your time when you are idle at your computer for a certain amount of time. This could be because you are on the phone with a client (paid) or were out to lunch (not) so it is important to track this information as well.

track time on computer

All said, Chrometa is a great free time tracking application which you should use if you want to have an automated way to track where you spend your time. A very similar program is RescueTime, which we have mentioned in the past. The main difference that I see between these two pieces of software is that Chrometa is completely offline, which for someone interested in privacy may be a very attractive option.

Chrometa also has some other options available if you are able to pay for a monthly subscription. They have just released their web-based software app which starts at $19 per month. They have introduced some new features including splitting categories into clients and projects, adding billing information directly into the program, and more.

The web interface is very similar to the offline app with the exception that it is available anywhere online.

keep track of time on the computer

With all of that being said, Chrometa 2.0 (desktop version) is a very capable time tracking application that would work well if you are interested in tracking personal time or time to be billed for a business. If you are interested in some of the billing features, you may want to check out the web app (not free) but it is well worth it if you can recover previously unbilled time. If you just need to track time on the web and in applications, the free version (Chrometa 2.0) works just as well.

Let us know if you have any other preferred time tracking applications or interesting uses you have found for Chrometa!

Image Credit: harshlight

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10 Creative Uses Of The New Facebook Profile Page

Posted: 24 Feb 2011 08:31 AM PST

facebook profile customizerDon’t call yourself a true Facebook user if you haven’t tried to “hack” your new profile page. Well, at least that’s what the profile page hackers believe. A French artist called Alexandre Oudin is credited as the pioneer of the craze. Since then many people have joined the trend and created their own hacked profile page.

If you want to create your own, below are several examples that could inspire you. Please note that due to the nature of Facebook profile pages, which some people change as often as changing clothes, the linked Facebook page might already display a different series of images when you visit them. That’s why some of these page profile artists recorded their creations and saved them somewhere else.

Tools Of The Trade

Before we go through the examples, let’s see some of the tools that you can use to customize your Facebook Profile Page. We discussed several of them in 3+ Ways To Customise Your Facebook Profile Picture and How To Reface Your Facebook Profile Using FB Photo Magic.  There are also other similar tools that you could try, such as :

facebook profile customizer

Armed with these tools, you are ready to go. You only need some inspiration to spice up your own design, inspiration you could perhaps get from some of the following profile pages. The list is in no particular order – except for the first.

  1. Alexandre Oudin

    The first spot is reserved for Mr Oudin to honor him as the person who triggered the trend. He creatively used a close-up picture of himself to compile his profile page. Looking at how many profile page creation tools are available today, it’s amazing how he – being the first of the pack – did his profile page manually, with the help of Photoshop and a lot of patience.

    customize facebook

  2. Jon Yang

    I have only one word for this one: amazing. Mr Yang used the profile page layout to perfectly put the emphasize on the action.

    customize facebook

  3. John Robert-Nicoud

    Whose heart wouldn’t melt after looking at this cute picture? Mr Robert-Nicoud divided the images into two parts and so enhanced the focus on each one. The cute hand and the small flower connected the two parts and gave soul to the whole.

    customize facebook

  4. Thibaut Le Brasseur

    Who said that Facebook profile page hacks have to be built only from photos? This example shows a playful twist to the page hacking process.

    customize facebook profile

  5. Jack Smith

    This is what we call going all the way. Mr Smith didn’t stop at utilizing the profile page and photo streams, but also the other lines of images. I don’t know whether this one was done manually or by using one of the available tools, but you surely need lots and lots of patience to do it the manual way.

    customize facebook profile

  6. Cynthia Lay

    Even with the help of the Facebook profile page builder, this profile page is not an easy one to create (at least not for me). Aside from the well-thought out composition, adjusting the position of the butterflies to fit the page hack layout is not something that ordinary people could do in one go.

    customize facebook profile

  7. Claudio Nader

    While I personally think that this one is not as good looking as the other examples, Mr Nader creatively uses the space that he has to promote himself. He shows us that the Facebook profile page hack can also be used to literally show your profile.

    02h Claudio Nader

  8. Taylor Kwek

    This is an example of how a limitation can be turned into an advantage. Mr Kwek utilizes the edges of the profile picture and photo streams as a virtual wall to give the illusion that he is peeking from behind the wall.

    01h Taylor Kwek 2

  9. Dave Keffer

    This profile page hack literally bends the concept of linear edges. The curved photos give the feeling of depth, as if there’s a room behind the page.

    01i Dave Keffer 1

  10. Serentonin Boogie

    Scrapbook fans will love this one. Instead of using just one photo like the majority of profile page artists, Mr Boogié tastefully composed and stitched several images into one, making the result a true work of art.

    facebook profile customizer

These ten are just a tiny proportion of the total number of Facebook profile page hacks. There are lots more examples out there, and it’s impossible to show them all. If you have a favourite or if you’d like your creations to be featured here, please share them using the comments below.

Image credit: thurana

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HackerProof: Your Guide To PC Security [PDF Guide]

Posted: 24 Feb 2011 08:00 AM PST

It’s a jungle out there. From trojans to worms to phishers to pharmers, the web is seemingly full of hazards. Keeping yourself safe requires not only the right software, but an understanding of what kind of threats to look out for.

That’s where “HackerProof: Your Guide to PC Security” Comes in. This excellent guide, brought to you by MakeUseOf’s own Matt Smith, provides an objective, detailed, but easily understood walkthrough of PC security.

By the end of this guide, you will know exactly what PC security means and, more importantly, what you need to do to keep your PC secure.

Knowledge is power; arm yourself. Get this guide and you’ll be well on your way to understanding and preventing the most common security vulnerabilities.

This easy-to-follow guide outlines all you need to know to protect yourself, including:

  • The history and types of modern malware
  • Which operating system is most secure
  • Good security habits that keep you safe
  • Software that can protect you
  • The importance of backing up your data
  • Recovering from a malware attack

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Like all MakeUseOf manuals, this is completely free.

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What Gamers Need To Know About Network Synchronization In Games

Posted: 24 Feb 2011 07:31 AM PST

network synchronizationYou spotted your target as he crossed a small open passage, making a beeline for the rocket launcher. It’s the perfect setup; he’s looking for the weapon he wants to acquire and you’re behind him, ready to strike. You leap down, aim your weapon at your foe, and pull the trigger. Suddenly, your enemy warps to the left. He’s not facing away from you at all – in fact, he has the rocket launcher and you’re staring down the barrel. Blam! You’re toast.

Anyone who has played games online has likely had a situation like this happen to them. It’s a symptom of poor network synchronization between game clients. It’s an unfortunate reality that can never be fully banished from online gaming, but there are some things you can do to reduce the effects.

Network Synchronization For Games – A Brief Introduction

network synchronization

Multiplayer gaming has never been easy on developers. A good game net-code has to be able to sync the gameplay of many different players, all of whom could live almost anywhere. There’s no way to know the Internet connection each player will have. Yet, in spite of these challenges, a multiplayer game must provide a smooth experience. Otherwise it isn’t much fun.

The challenges facing games can be summarized as two things – latency and packet loss. Latency, better known as lag, is the amount of time it takes for a game client to communicate with the server and/or other game clients. If you have a headshot lined up and you pull the trigger, you may not actually hit. That’s because the other player moved by the time your action was acknowledged by the server and your foe’s game client.

Packet loss is a self explanatory term. It’s the number of packets sent between game clients that fail to reach their destination. If serious packet loss occurs, the game may become confused about the actions a player is taking, or may not acknowledge those actions at all.

Game developers counter these problems by using algorithms that predict player behavior, thus smoothing player movement. Some games also rely on client-side hit detection to further reduce issues, although this can leave a game vulnerable to hacks. But what can you do to improve your online gaming experience?

Software Solutions

game synchronization

I’d love to tell you that there was some software utility that could dramatically change your network synchronization in games, making all instances of stuttering, freezing and other issues a thing of the past. Unfortunately, I can’t, because I’ve never run into software that could accomplish this.

However, security software can interfere with game performance, and it’s worth checking into if you’re experiencing unusually bad online play. Sometimes a problem with an online game can be related to a firewall or anti-virus program that doesn’t know the game is legitimate software.  Issues such as this are usually resolved by adding the game to the security software’s list of permitted programs.

Network Solutions

game synchronization

Issues with multiplayer gaming are often related to network connectivity problems. Two main types of issues can occur – those that exist between your modem and the Internet, and that exist between your PC and your modem.

Sometimes a game can have trouble communicating with a server because of a problem with your Internet connection. Some users mistakenly come to believe that this happens due to a lack of bandwidth. In fact, latency and packet loss are the real issue. You can check to see if there is a problem with your Internet connection by connecting your computer directly to your broadband modem with an Ethernet cable and then using a line quality test. If you find that ping times and/or packet loss is high, you may want to call your ISP and ask them why.

If your Internet connection seems fine, your problem may instead be related to how you connect your PC to your broadband modem. A wireless Internet connection that is suffering from interference may drop packets frequently, for example. Even a wired connection is not immune to problems, as router misconfiguration or even damaged Ethernet cords can cause latency and packet loss issues.

Hardware Solutions

game synchronization

In rare cases, games can lose synchronization because of actual hardware problems inside your computer. An Ethernet controller chip that’s on its way out, for example, could cause serious disruptions. You might also encounter problems if your networking hardware has the wrong drivers installed.

Obviously, the driver issue can be resolved by installing the correct drivers. Actual hardware failure, however, is a different problem. If your Ethernet or WiFi controller is built into your motherboard you’ll have to replace your entire motherboard to fix the problem.

network synchronization

Improved latency and reduced packet loss can sometimes be achieved by installing better hardware. For example, a computer connecting to a network via wireless g might see online gaming performance significantly improved if it is instead connected via wireless n. Most Ethernet controllers provide similar performance, but there are speciality Ethernet cards available for gaming, such as the Killer NIC products. Although most reviews agree that these products aren’t worth the price, they can slightly reduce latency.


As you’ve now learned, online gaming is effected by many different variables. A game can become desynchronized for a variety of reasons. Figuring out the exact cause of the problem usually requires a trial-and-error approach starting with possible software conflicts and ending with an investigation into possible hardware failure.

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