Sunday, February 27, 2011 “Cool Websites and Tools [February 26th]” plus 5 more “Cool Websites and Tools [February 26th]” plus 5 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [February 26th]

Posted: 26 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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Snip Snip It – While sharing a YouTube video, don't make your friends wait for the good parts. Simply snip out the uninteresting portions of the video. This can be done easily via a web service called Snip Snip It, a free to use website that lets you obtain certain segments of YouTube videos. All you do is provide the site with the YouTube video's URL and enter the start and end times. Read more: Snip Snip It: Easily Snip YouTube Videos & Embed


Calme – is a Windows only application for creating creative and beautiful planners, monthly or yearly and nice looking calendars. While creating a calendar using this tool, you can customize it by choosing fonts, colors and pictures. Uploading photos from your computer to Calme is easy. Holidays can be added directly from the software. Read more: Calme: Create Beautiful Planners & Calendars



Funeral Advice – Dealing with the death of loved ones is very stressful in the least, and most of the time, you do not know where to start. Sometimes all you need is a step by step guide in a compressed layout to help you out. Funeral Advice is a mobile app that does just that. These carefully written guides by funeral professionals will help you through the different basic funeral arrangemen. Read more: Funeral Advice: Mobile App Guide For Funeral Arrangements



People Lookup – Normally while searching for somebody online, you search for them separately on search engines and over social networks. This includes opening up separate tabs and typing the person's name into all those tabs. But if you are a Mozilla Firefox user, you have a much better alternative available called People Lookup, a Firefox browser add-on. After installing it, you can highlight any name on a webpage and then search for it. Read more: People Lookup: Searches Highlighted Names



Wordmark – If you ever work with web or graphic designs, you know how hard it is to keep track of all the different fonts you download to your computer. Wordmark is a tool that makes font selection super easy by letting you preview all installed fonts on your machine using any words or phrases. You can preview the fonts in a positive print or negative. Read more: Wordmark: Preview All Installed Fonts Online


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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4 Browser Extensions To Dim The Lights & Move The Focus To Any YouTube Video

Posted: 26 Feb 2011 05:31 PM PST

youtube extensionsThere can be several reasons why you would love to watch your favorite YouTube videos on a dark background with no extra page elements visible: it creates a cool “cinema watching” experience, it removes all clutter and moves the focus to the video.

With “lights” off you don’t feel yourself distracted by “related videos” to the right or users’ comments (which are usually a mess by the way). Full-screen mode could be a good solution to see the video only, but sometimes the video resolution doesn’t allow that. Besides, as you’ll see from the screenshots below, videos on the black background just look somehow nicer.

I was able to find 4 different browser extensions that allow you to dim the light for any YouTube video.  Here they are :

1. YouTube Cinema

YouTube Cinema hides everything on the page except for the video and lets you easily select the background color (as well as the video size) from the handy bar on the right:

youtube extensions

With this extension, the videos will open in YouTube Cinema mode by default. You will need to hold the CTRL key down while clicking to open a video in the usual mode.

YouTube Cinema’s options allow you to:

  • Disable / enable the auto-play;
  • Set the default video size;
  • Disable / enable video description:

youtube browser downloader

Supported Browsers:

Firefox 3.5b4 – 3.6.*

2. YouTube Enhancer

YouTube Enhancer is a feature-rich user script (I already mentioned it in my post on getting rid of popular YouTube annoyances) that lets you dim the lights for any YouTube video once you click the “light” icon.

youtube browser downloader

The icon dims everything except for the YouTube Enhancer player controls:

youtube browser support

Clicking anywhere outside the video will bring the light back on.

Supported Browsers:

Firefox (via Greasemonkey), Opera, Google Chrome (the latest version), Flock, Safari, SeaMonkey (with a patch).

3. Turn Off The Lights

Turn Off the Lights is another cross-browser extension that adds some fun to YouTube video viewing.

Similar to the one above, it works via a little lamp icon (but this one is located in your bookmarks toolbar) that fades the page to dark and brings focus to the video. Clicking the icon again brings the light back on.

youtube browser downloader

If you see no Lamp button after the installation, go to View > Toolbars > Customize in the menu and drag the “Turn Off the Lights” addon onto your toolbar.

A few fun features of this extension:

  • It supports multiple video sites: YouTube, HTML5 video, embedded videos, etc.
  • It support multiple image sites: e.g. Google Images Search, Flickr, etc.

youtube browser support

Supported Browsers:

Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera, Internet Explorer, Safari

4. Lights Out

Lights Out is another user script that does only that: dims the light on YouTube videos. So if you don’t want to mess around with other options and features, this could be a good choice.

It works via an icon:

youtube browser support

  • Clicking the icon once brings a semi-transparent background;
  • Clicking the icon twice creates a black background;
  • Clicking the icon yet again brings the light back on:

youtube extensions

Supported Browsers:

Firefox (not tested on other browsers)

Do you think dimming the lights could improve your watching experience? Which of the addons above are you willing to give a try?  Do you know of any others? Share your thoughts!

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ibVPN Giveaway Winners

Posted: 26 Feb 2011 02:30 PM PST

Nowadays, virtual private networks (VPNs) serves more than just one purpose. In addition to providing an extra layer of security online, anyone can use a VPN to trick country-specific services into letting you access them. Take Hulu, for example.

Today, we’ll be announcing 25 lucky MakeUseOf readers who will each receive a free 6-month subscription. Will you be one of them?

  1. Will Reichard
  2. Shaun Bell
  3. Philip
  4. Mike
  5. Kevin
  6. Jeff R
  7. Elise Schuchman
  8. Antanas Antaso
  9. Angelo Cruz
  10. Aimee Lee
  11. Colin Ripley
  12. Dhruv Shah
  13. Fabian Falatyk
  14. Graves De Armond
  15. Joseph Gorman
  16. Lashawnda Brown
  17. Luan
  18. Matt Coolbaugh
  19. Muki Dumbeldor
  20. Nick
  21. Ofa
  22. Renato H. Gatdula
  23. Rotem
  24. Saurabh Pandya
  25. Ted Betts

Congratulations! Your new account details will be sent to you via email next week. In the meantime, check this giveaway out: Teams and Collaborations Made Easy with TeamSnap [Giveaway]



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Hot Tech Deals [Feb 26th]

Posted: 26 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. Dell Inspiron 17R Intel Core i5-460M 2.53GHz 17.3in Laptop (4GB/500GB) $629.99
  2. TODAY ONLY Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-H55 14MP 10X Digital Camera $159.99 Free Shipping
  3. TODAY ONLY Philips PD7012/37 7in Dual Screens Portable DVD Player $109.99 Free Shipping
  4. Dell Vostro 3700 Intel Core i3-370M 2.4GHz 17.3in Laptop (Aluminum, 2GB/250GB) $569
  5. Dell Vostro 3500 Intel Core i3 2.4GHz 15.6in Laptop (Aluminum, 2GB/250GB) $510 Free Overnight Shipping
  6. Dell Vostro 3300 Intel Core i3-370M 2.4GHz 13.3in Laptop (Aluminum, 2GB/250GB) $469
  7. Dell Vostro 230 Mini Intel Dual-Core E5700 3GHz Desktop (2GB/320GB) w/ 17in LCD $329
  8. Dell Inspiron 17R Intel Core i3-380M 2.53GHz 17.3in Laptop (4GB/500GB) $569.99 via code 2XPRH?027BJSVC (Exp 2/28)
  9. Dell Inspiron 15R Intel Core i3-370M 2.4GHz 15.6in Laptop (3GB/320GB) $499.99
  10. Dell Inspiron 15 Intel Dual-Core T4500 2.3GHz 15.6in Laptop (2GB/250GB) $399.99

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set

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4 Chrome Tools Every Ubuntu User Should Check Out

Posted: 26 Feb 2011 11:31 AM PST

google chrome browser toolsChrome is fast supplanting Firefox as the web’s coolest browser, and Ubuntu users realize this. Chrome is sleek, fast and offers a wide variety of useful additions. It’s no wonder many Ubuntu users are replacing Firefox with Chrome as their default browser.

So many Ubuntu users love Chrome that a variety of great Ubuntu-specific tools for Chrome are popping up. From beautiful notifications to quick installation of software, some Chrome plugins should simply be used by every Ubuntu user. Here are just four such Google Chrome browser tools worth checking out.

Chromify OSD

Chrome’s new notification system is convenient, but not exactly beautiful. On Ubuntu, which has had an attractive notification system for years now, these notifications stick out like a sore thumb.

Don’t worry; help is on the way. With a little bit of tweaking you can turn this:

google chrome browser tools

Into this:

google chrome tools

This works perfectly with Streamie, an awesome real-time Twitter client and many other web apps. Gmail integration isn’t working yet, but it’s on the to-do list.

Check out Chromify OSD if you’re interested, and be sure to check out the discussion happening over at OMG Ubuntu to find out more.


If you’re a Ubuntu user who regularly checks blogs and forums for cool new software, you’re probably pretty good at copying “sudo apt-get install” lines from your browser into the command line. That’s cool, but unnecessary if you use Chrome. Apt-linker, a brilliant Chrome plugin for Ubuntu and Debian users, transforms any “sudo apt-get install” line into a clickable link:

google chrome tools

The plugin’s not that complicated; it simply turns such lines into an AptURL link for single-click installation. Still, this little plugin could make any application enthusiast’s life a lot simpler!

Check out Apt-linker, you won’t regret it.

Ambiance Theme

It’s only on the Mac that Chrome tries, at all, to fit in with the operating system around it. If you love Chrome, but wish it felt more native on Ubuntu, you should check out the Ambiance theme for Chrome. This skin allows Chrome to fit in perfectly with Ubuntu’s default theme:

google chrome tools

Or if you like your current theme but wish the scrollbars looked consistent with the rest of the OS, try this extension.


Ubuntu’s repositories are great if you’ve got high-speed Internet, but it leaves a lot to be desired for dial-up users. These unlucky people need to wait hours for a program and its dependencies to download. It is possible to download all these files on a fast connection, then take them to your computer on a disk, but you need to know what dependencies applications need in order to install them.

Enter Apt-web. This website, also available as a Chrome app, informs you of all the dependencies you’ll need to install a given program and offers direct download links for all of them:

google chrome browser tools

While this isn’t always going to be quick, it’s easier than diving into the dependencies yourself and manually downloading each file. Check out Apt-web, or install Apt-web as a Chrome app for quick access.


Ubuntu is great; so is Chrome. It’s no wonder there are tools for making the two work better together. Can you think of any more useful Chrome extensions for Ubuntu? Share them in the comments below, along with any questions.

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3 Of The Best Free Pomodoro Productivity Apps

Posted: 26 Feb 2011 09:30 AM PST

pomodoro productivityDavid Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) productivity method can be overwhelming, and because of its complexity, I couldn’t use it with any consistency. For all of its positive attributes, I found myself getting lost in all the little details, and not really getting much of anything done.

If you’re like me, the Pomodoro Technique may appeal to you more. It’s deceptively simple, to the point where it may make you wonder if it will work, but for people with a short attention span, it can be the perfect antidote.

The first step before using the Pomodoro Technique is familiarizing yourself with it. While the technique is simple, reading Francesco Cirillo’s book, provided as a free download on the site, is a great way to understand how it works and discover the ways in which you can use it to its full potential.

In order to use the technique, you need to begin your day by creating a plan. Make a list of the tasks you are going to tackle. An extremely simple To-Do list template, available for download with the PDF of the entire book, or as an individual sheet.

pomodoro productivity

The basis of Cirillo’s concept is that all tasks should be done in increments of 25 minutes, followed by a 3 to 5 minute break. Each 25 minute time period is called a Pomodoro. After 4 Pomodoros, you can take a 15 to 30 minute break.

When planning your day, you need to estimate how many Pomodoros each task will take, although this is something you might not be able to do until you get a hang of the technique and understand exactly how you use your time.

In order to find the method that works best for you, there are several free apps that you can use to boost your productivity. While you can order the book and kit from their online store there are many free online and offline apps that are just as useful.

Pomodairo (Windows/Mac/Linux)

The Adobe Air app Pomodairo takes all of the essential elements of the Pomodoro technique and rolls them up into one tidy little package, and is the best choice for someone who wants the full Pomodoro experience.

pomodoro productivity timer

You can use the app to create a task list, adding a short description and the estimated number of Pomodoros needed for the task.

pomodoro productivity timer

Once you start the task, begin your timer. If you’re interrupted, hit the interruption button, after which you will have to re-set the timer for another 25 minutes to work on the task at hand.

pomodoro productivity timer

Once the 25 minutes are up, the app’s alarm will go off (with a less than appealing buzz) after which it will start timing your break automatically, but rather than a 5 minute countdown, it will count up how long you take a break, with the buzzer going off at 5 minutes.

Right clicking a task allows you to mark it done/undone, edit it or remove it from the list.

pomodoro productivity technique

Pomodairo is not only a great app to use to keep you on track, it also keeps a searchable log of your work and statistics, making it easy to analyse your work patterns and use of time.

Tomato Timer (Web)

If you’d rather not download an app, Tomato Timer is useful webapp for keeping track of your time. Unlike Pomodairo, the app does not account for your task list or log, so if you want to keep a task list or a log of your work you will have to use a separate app. Something as simple as a combination of Google Tasks and an Excel sheet would be sufficient.

pomodoro productivity technique

As far as the online timer is concerned, you can start, stop and reset the timer for your Pomodoro, short and long break, and in the settings you can alter the lengths of each time period.

Tomato Timer is compatible with Chrome 4.0+, Firefox 3.5+, Internet Explorer 8.0+, Safari 4.0+, Opera 10.5+, and the iPhone & Android’s mobile browsers. Chrome users have the added benefit of desktop notifications and an alarm.

Focus Booster (Windows/Mac/Web)

Focus Booster is available as a desktop version, either as a free Adobe Air download or as a free Windows download, as well as as a free web-based version. Both the desktop and web versions don’t have any bells and whistles. A timer counts down your 25 minute Pomodoro.

pomodoro productivity technique

A small alarm will sound and your 5 minute break will automatically begin.

Settings in the web version include toggling the alarm sound on and off, as well as toggling a clock ticking sound on and off.

Settings in the desktop version are identical, with the exception of having the choice to keep the Focus Booster window on top of other apps, and to bounce the dock icon when the time period is finished.

pomodoro productivity

If keeping track of your work or visualising your use of time is important to you, Focus Booster isn’t the app for you. If on the other hand, you simply want to use the timed method of working without the analytical aspect of the Pomodoro Technique, it will be sufficient.

Have you used the Pomodoro Technique? Do you prefer it to the GTD Technique? Whatever be your productivity mantra, download MakeUseOf’s Smart Productivity Guide for more tips.

Also, let us know about your favorite Pomodro app.

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