Thursday, March 31, 2011 “Cool Websites and Tools [March 30th]” plus 10 more “Cool Websites and Tools [March 30th]” plus 10 more

Link to MakeUseOf

Cool Websites and Tools [March 30th]

Posted: 30 Mar 2011 08:31 PM PDT

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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Episode Calendar – We all eagerly look forward to the new episodes of our favorite television shows and missing an episode is definitely disappointing. To know when the next episode of your favorite television show will air, check out a web service called EpisodeCalendar, a free to use website that acts like an online TV schedule. Read more: Episode Calendar: Personal Calendar For Tracking Your Favorite TV Shows


SpeedyMirror – As the name suggests, SpeedyMirror creates mirror of your website content on their servers across the world so they can serve each user from the mirror nearest them. All you have to do, once you create an account, is to specify the URL of your website. SpeedyMirror then downloads your content and starts serving them through their mirrors. Read more: SpeedyMirror: Serve Your Website From Servers All Over The World



Kindle Screensavers – Visiting different websites for images, screensavers, and jailbreaking tips for your Kindle device is a little inconvenient. Instead you need a single site where you can get all of this easily. Kindle Screensavers is a free to use website that offers free Kindle background images and screensavers. Read more: Kindle Screensavers: Get Kindle Screensavers & Jailbreaking Tips



Instascriber – You probably know about Instapaper, the text-only read later service that lets you quickly bookmark online content for reading later in a clutter free, text-only interface. It's a great service except for one issue – it doesn't let you automatically subscribe to an RSS Feed of your choice. Instascriber is a tool developed by Hung Truong that lets you do exactly that. Read more: Instascriber: Add RSS Feeds to Instapaper



PicknZip – If you use Facebook, the chances are that you've uploaded a number of your photos to it, some of which are not backed up by you in a separate location. So if Facebook decides to block your account tomorrow, your photos are gone too. Hence a tool like Pick & Zip should be used now and then to download your Facebook photos. Read more: PicknZip: Download Your Photos From Facebook


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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We’re Looking For Mac & Android Writers – Do You Qualify?

Posted: 30 Mar 2011 06:31 PM PDT

Back in February, we announced that we were expanding the MakeUseOf writing staff with up to five new vacancies. Since then, we have hired Danny as one of our Linux writers and we are still going through some more of the applications. But we would like to narrow our search to those who can write about Mac OSX and Google Android.

Are these one or both of your specialist topics? Can you write two or three articles a week, sign a contract and commit long term? Although we are still accepting applications for all kinds of specialist tech areas, if you can show proven experience in writing about Mac OSX and Android, then we will take a look at you first.

Who We’re After

  • Someone who is naturally friendly, helpful, communicative and has a team spirit.
  • Someone with a sense of humour.
  • Someone who submits their work before deadline.
  • Someone who instinctively knows the goals and aspirations of MakeUseOf so they choose knockout subjects everytime, speaks and writes perfect English, and needs minimal editorial guidance.

If this sounds like you, then you need to do the following :

  • Send in an application to post4us[AT]
  • Enter “MakeUseOf writer application” in the subject field of the email.
  • Emails must be text only.
  • Do not send any attachments or resumes.
  • If you have a blog showing your work, please link to it.
  • If you’ve previously written for another blog, please link to your articles.
  • Include 5 new and unique story ideas that you would write for us if we decided to take you on.
  • Do not apply again if you’ve previously been rejected.

As well as online fame, we also offer a salary and bonuses, as well as the chance to be part of a great online writing team. We look forward to receiving your application and will respond as quickly as possible.

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5 Ways To Get Around The New York Times Paywall

Posted: 30 Mar 2011 04:31 PM PDT

new york times paywallDid you know that the New York Times spent an incredible $40 million on their recent paywall solution? Did you also know that it can be circumvented with all but a few clicks? There are in fact a surprising number of methods that currently allow you to browse the NY Times for free, despite the small fortune involved in protecting this content. As newspapers take slow, unsure steps in a bid to generate revenue online, clearly there are still lessons to be learned.

If you’re interested in how the Internet has rendered $40 million worth of effort redundant, then read on.

A Quick Word Before We Begin

This article is designed to demonstrate just how easy it is to get around protection like this, and is certainly not meant to deprive the New York Times or its journalists of money. We here at MakeUseOf are not the authors of any such techniques.

We do however feel this is within our readers interests, hence this article. If you do feel particularly strongly about this issue then be sure to have your say in the comments, at the bottom of this article.

Clearing Cookies

Currently the paywall does not use IP (Internet Protocol) addresses to track visits. The site also allows you 20 free articles per month, and these are tracked using cookies. If you were to browse 20 articles using Chrome, you’d then be free to browse another 20 in Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari and so on as the cookies are browser-unique.

new york times paywall

So, by this logic (you probably don’t want to go swapping browsers just to read the news) you can simply clear your cookies and continue browsing. The only problem with clearing all your cookies is that other sites you regularly visit and rely on may forget who you are.

Using JavaScript, Digital Inspiration created a bookmarklet to clear the NY Times cookies alone. Drag the Remove NYT Cookies link into your bookmarks bar and click it every 20 articles or so to reset the counter to zero.

Note: Disabling cookies in your browser altogether won’t work, as the site requires cookies to function.

Removing The Overlay

Once you’ve hit article number 20, any subsequent articles you attempt to access will present you with an overlay, which will stop you being able to scroll the page and view the content beneath the "buy a subscription" box.

nyt paywall

Dave Hayes of has come up with a bookmarklet that, when clicked, removes that pesky overlay and restores your ability to scroll. Drag the NYTClean bookmarklet onto your bookmarks bar, and every time you hit the paywall, click it. You’ll see the overlay disappear and you’ll be free to read the article again.

The Google Approach

If you really want access to an article behind a paywall, you can (for a few articles) use Google. Searching for the full article title or URL in Google should bring up the article you’re looking for as the top search result.

nyt paywall

As many websites consider the "first click free", you should be able to view the article as you are coming from a search engine result. To read your next article, repeat the process and click through from your search results. You should get 5 free articles a day using this method.

This technique has been known to work on other paywalls, including the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times.

The Social Backdoor

As the newspaper is keen on building up its social networking grunt, for the time being articles that are accessed via Facebook or Twitter are free to read. You don’t necessarily have to follow every story as you can use this page to find Twitter feeds that are relevant to your interests.

nyt paywall

It’s worth mentioning that the paper has stipulated if this method of accessing content is abused then this perk will be withdrawn. How soon this will happen remains to be seen – there’s not much point following the paper on Twitter if you can’t click the articles, is there?

You can also follow @freeUnnamedNews for NY Times articles as they’re published.

Browser Extensions

Firefox users can install Greasemonkey (and Safari users Greasekit) to run user scripts (like this one at that claim to get around the paywall. Just be careful when installing scripts from sources like this, and disable them when you’re not browsing the NY Times.

new york times paywall

There was a Chrome extension that did this with 2 lines of CSS, but Google took it down and the NY Times modified a class or two.


The decision to put online content behind a paywall comes with plenty of issues. By hiding content altogether search engine optimization suffers. On the other hand leaving content in an easily accessible online location is bound to result in a similar debacle.

These five techniques probably won’t last for long, as the newspaper is bound to try and protect its content in other ways. This article hopefully provides some insight into the problems faced by traditional print news outlets and the difficulty in protecting content destined for both keen readers and search engine traffic.

What do you think of the NY Times paywall? Have you browsed the site via one of the methods above? Any other techniques? Give us your ethical, technical and financial reports in the comments below.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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3 Cool Things You Can Do With A Rooted Android Phone

Posted: 30 Mar 2011 02:31 PM PDT

uses for a rooted androidBy now you will know that there are a bunch of us here at MakeUseOf that love Android phones. Paul’s article on writing an Android app is a good example of how thoroughly we dig into these little gadgets. However, for a long time none of us were really brave enough to root our phone – it’s a bit nerve-racking to consider that you could turn your expensive new gadget into a brick.

But the time finally came that I realized there is just so much more Android phones can offer when you’ve finally rooted it. I opted for the safest, easiest solution for my phone – I went with SuperOneClick. Now, with a freshly rooted phone and a new ROM flashed, I went out in search of the coolest things I could do with my souped-up superphone. Let me just say, I wasn’t disappointed.

Wireless Tether – Data Access Via Your Laptop

So, you have a data plan through your cellular provider. One day, you find yourself stuck in a car or a bus without any Wi-Fi access, and you’ve got a paper to turn in to your professor, or you owe your boss a report before the end of the day. What’s a geek to do?

Using tethering without purchasing a tethering plan is very likely against your terms of service with your cellular company. However, in a pinch you can fire up the Wireless Tether app, transform your Android into an instant Wi-Fi hotspot, and quickly connect to the Internet with your laptop long enough to fire off that critical file.

uses for a rooted android

Keep in mind that you’ve got to be rooted, and most likely you’ll also have to have installed a new ROM like cyanogenmod (my favorite for the Droid) that supports netfilter (iptables) in order for it to work properly. But once you hit that green icon, your phone instantly starts transmitting its cellular Internet connection (3G, etc…) via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Here’s my PC connected.

You can lock down the network, only allowing specific devices to connect, or you can keep it wide open (not recommended). The moment you start transmitting, the device will show up on your laptop or desktop Wi-Fi network list.

Go into the settings to add encryption or change the SSID transmitted by the phone. If you’re broadcasting without a plug, you’ll definitely want to turn down transmit power to conserve the battery for as long as possible.

Download Wireless Tether with this QR Code:

uses for an android phone

Overclocking Or Undervolting With Setvsel

A lot of people root their phone for the sole purpose of overclocking and speeding it up. Personally, a bigger concern of mine isn’t speed, it’s battery life. I want to stretch out the battery life as long as possible. If you’re rooted, a very cool app you can use for either overclocking or undervolting is Setvsel.

uses for an android phone

When you install and run the app, it displays the current CPU speed in large font in the center of the screen. Slide the blue bar to the left to overclock your Android and increase performance, or slide it to the right to slow it down and save on battery power. Just changing it a little bit to the right dramatically increases how long my battery stays charged – it’s pretty impressive.

It’s written for the Motorola Defy, but it worked fine on my Motorola Droid. Just be careful about overclocking, that you don’t overheat your phone and damage it.

Download Setvsel with this QR code:

uses for an android phone

Access Phone Settings From Anywhere With WebKey

A while back I wrote about a security app called Mobile Defense that could track your Android if it ever got stolen. Mobile Defense only allowed for very general tracking. Now, with a rooted Android, full remote access is possible, and that’s what WebKey accomplishes. With WebKey, you can access your Android’s GPS, SD card, location and a whole lot more.

First, install the app on your phone and launch the service. Make sure to add users so you can log in, and click “Start service.”

uses for an android

If you’re on the LAN, you can access your device using the IP address. From outside the LAN or anywhere on the Internet, you’ll need to access the special page to access your phone. The moment you log in, you’ll see just how powerful this remote access app really is.

uses for an android

As you can see, the application gives you almost full access. You can see the current screen and take snapshots, adjust the backlight, open a webpage on the phone, run commands, make a call and more. Click on the GPS link at the top to get exact GPS coordinates of where the phone is located.

You can see recent calls, check SMS messages, open up a Terminal and issue commands to the phone, and clicking on SDCard, you can browse through all contents of the memory card through an Explorer-like browser app.

uses for an android

If someone else is using the phone, you can click on the “Chat” button at the bottom of the browser window and establish an instant chat session with the person using the phone.

There are a whole lot of uses for powerful web-based access to the phone like this. Install it on your kid’s smartphone for peace of mind. Maybe you’ve issued phones to workers and want to keep a log of all data and phone usage?  The possibilities are endless.

Download WebKey with this QR code:

uses for a rooted android

Do any of the apps above satisfy any of your reasons for rooting your Android phone? Did you have other reasons why you wanted to root? What cool apps have you uncovered for your rooted Droid? Share your insights and opinions in the comments section below.

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Hot Tech Deals [Mar 30th]

Posted: 30 Mar 2011 01:30 PM PDT

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. Yamaha YMC-500 NeoHD Media Controller 5.1Ch AV Receiver $129.99 Free Shipping via code EMCYTZT376 (Exp 4/24)
  2. Toshiba 55UL605U 55in LED-Backlit Ultra-Thin LCD HDTV (1080p, 120Hz, Netflix Streaming) $1148.99 via code TOSHIBA323 (Exp 3/31)
  3. Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex 1.5TB USB 3.0 Portable External Hard Drive $109.99 Free Ship
  4. HP Pavilion dv6tse Intel Core i5-2410M Dual-Core Sandy Bridge 15in Laptop (6GB/640GB) $664.99 via code NB2315 (Exp Soon)
  5. HP dv7tqe Intel Core i7-2630QM Quad-Core Sandy Bridge 17.3in Laptop (6GB/750GB/Blu-Ray/Radeon 6770) $892 via code NB739862 (Exp Soon)
  6. HP ENVY 17 Intel Core 7-2630QM Quad-Core Sandy Bridge 17.3in Laptop (6GB/750GB/Radeon 6850) $1199 via code NB7275 (Exp Soon)
  7. HP Pavilion dm1z AMD Dual-Core E-350 (FUSION) 11.6in Laptop w/ ATI Radeon HD6310M Graphics $399.99 via code NB5751 (Exp Soon)
  8. Logitech M705 Marathon Laser Mouse $26.99AR Free Shipping via code EMCKGHA73 (Exp 4/4)

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set

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Preview Multimedia Content Within Tweets with Parrotfish

Posted: 30 Mar 2011 11:31 AM PDT

preview twitter multimediaThe web is full of great multimedia material, and the joy of being on the web lies in the process of discovering and sharing those treasures. One of the best sharing tools available today is Twitter. Its simplicity makes this little blue bird soar by leaps and bounds.

But in terms of multimedia sharing, Twitter’s strong point becomes its weakness. The text-based nature of the service prevents us from embedding multimedia content. We can only put URLs in our tweets. The 140 character limitation even forces us to use shortened URLs. If one wants to know more about the content of a link, he or she has to open the link themselves. But Parrotfish is changing that. This web service from‘s lab will allow you to preview multimedia content from the embedded URL within your Twitter account.

Adding The Browser Extension

In its simplest sense, Parrotfish works by detecting the existence of multimedia URL’s in a tweet. If it finds a link, Parrotfish will display the content of that URL. The service is able to do so because it’s supported by 165 multimedia providers, including YouTube, Tubmlr, Scribd, Facebook, and Amazon.

preview twitter multimedia

Different from the WordPress plugin, Parrotfish works on the user’s side. It means the features will only work for those who have downloaded and installed the browser extension. So the first thing that you have to do to view multimedia content on your Twitter account is to click on the download link.

view multimedia in twitter

Parrotfish provide extensions for Firefox, Chrome, and Safari. The site will detect the browser that you use and give you the appropriate download link. Please note that the extension is called Embedly and not Parrotfish.

view multimedia in twitter

You can use the feature right after installation, but you might want to adjust some settings to personalize it. Open up your browser preferences and go to the Extensions tab.

view multimedia in twitter

You can enable, disable or uninstall Parrotfish from the extension pane. You could also add your Instapaper account to add the content to your “read later” list.

preview twitter multimedia

Media-Rich Twitter

Now let’s see how Parrotfish can make your Twitter experience better. Pick one of the tweets. You can expand and collapse the content by clicking on the tweet.

preview twitter multimedia

Without Parrotfish, the content of the tweet will look like any other ordinary tweet: just plain text with URL(s) to follow.

05f No Parrot

But with Parrotfish activated, the media content will show up under the link. So, there’s no need to click on the link in order to view it.

preview twitter multimedia

As a bonus, you’ll get the Instapaper “Read Later” link under the media, giving you the ability to save the tweet to be read later. But in order for this link to work, you have to fill in your Instapaper user account details in the extension’s preferences.

05c Instapaper

Parrotfish features also work well for any other kinds of content. Here’s an example of a tweet with a link to a blog post. The content of the post (text and images) is displayed below the link.

preview twitter multimedia

If you are a (heavy) Twitter user who uses the web based client, you’ll definitely love Parrotfish. Not only does it save you time from opening those links, it also reduces additional burden off your system by not opening more browser tabs.

Try this web tool and share your thoughts and opinions about it in the comments below. If you are a self-hosted WordPress blogger, be sure to check out the WordPress extension.

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DOWNLOAD You Like This: The Facebook Marketing Guide

Posted: 30 Mar 2011 11:00 AM PDT

If you’re not on Facebook you don’t exist. Anyone trying to market a business, product, band or some other public figure knows this, and that they need to “get a Facebook presence” because “Facebook is huge”. That’s great, but how do you get started?

By reading the latest free MakeUseOf manual, “You Like This: The Facebook Marketing Guide” from MakeUseOf’s own Angela Alcorn. This guide explains everything you need to know about promoting yourself, your business or your ideals on Facebook.

In order to make the best of Facebook for marketing, you’ll need to understand the tools available, how they’re used, best practices and how to set the tools up. But that’s just the start. Once you start piecing together this puzzle you’ll be able to manage your marketing efforts across multiple Facebook products with ease and style. Angela’s guide outlines all this and more, so download now.

You’ll find a lot of great information, including:

  • Why businesses shouldn’t create personal profiles
  • The difference between Pages and Groups
  • Making your Page look amazing
  • Useful applications for your Page
  • Organizing successful contests and giveaways
  • What, when and how you should post to Facebook

DOWNLOAD You Like This: The Facebook Marketing Guide
(take a moment and share this guide with friends on Facebook and Twitter
using the social network sharing buttons below)


Read now on Scribd

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Amazon Launches Cloud Storage Service With 5GB Free! [News]

Posted: 30 Mar 2011 10:42 AM PDT

Amazon has recently opened a new cloud storage service in order to offer affordable cloud storage facilities to all types of users. The cloud storage facilities enable users to store files remotely via a web browser and to stream music from that remote storage back to their local devices using Amazon Cloud Player.

Whether you are a business, personal user or solo professional, there is a free account available for 5GB initial storage and a range of prices available for further storage.

Like any online backup solution, Amazon cloud storage offers you peace of mind if your computer is lost, stolen or crashes. It also offers a convenient way to access your files if you are away from home or on the go.

Amazon have also linked purchases from the Amazon Music store to the Amazon cloud storage. If you buy an MP3 album from the MP3 store, Amazon will give you 20GB cloud storage for one year for free. They’ll also automatically store your MP3s for you within your storage, meaning they’re permanently backed up and available for you to stream from any web browser.

The pricing for increased storage is incremental, starting at US$20 per year for 20GB storage. Sign up now for 5GB free!

Have you tried Amazon cloud storage? How do you think it compares to similar free online storage services such as Dropbox? Do you use the Amazon Cloud Player? Would you consider a paid plan? Let us know in the comments!



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8 Tips On Getting The Most Out Of The Apple Mac App Store

Posted: 30 Mar 2011 10:31 AM PDT

mac app storeI’ve been downloading, using, and reviewing Apple software and third-party related software for over ten years, and I have to say that the new Apple Mac App Store is probably one of the most convenient ways to discover new Mac programs. It provides developers with ways to reach a wider audience of Mac users, and gives consumers and users of Mac programs a central place to go and discover the most recent and available programs in the Mac market.

The Mac App Store is easy to navigate but there are some things you should consider when visiting the store and thinking about possible downloads.

Benefits Of App Store Shopping

As I outlined in a previous article about the App Store (which explains how to install and set up the application), the benefits of visiting and downloading apps from there is like getting all your apps from the iTunes App Store. When you download applications from the App Store, they are automatically installed in your Applications folder, as well as onto your Dock.

mac app store

When apps are purchased from the store, there's no fussing about with keeping up with app licenses, because the licenses are tied to your Apple account. You never have to worry about losing that information.


Finally, the updates of your App Store purchases are put into one central place. You’re notified through the Apple Store app that there are updates available for apps that you purchased in the App Store. Note of course, that apps purchased outside the App Store will not get the App Store update notification. However, with most third-party applications you purchase outside the App Store, you are typically presented with an option for the application to automatically check for updates on a regular basis.

App Store vs Developer’s Site

One of the biggest drawbacks to using the App Store is that you can’t download trial versions of posted applications. Free and demo applications have, for a long time, been the hallmark of computer technology. But in the App Store there’s no refund once you pay and download programs.

mac apps store free

So the first piece of advice is to do your research. Though it defeats the purpose of the App Store, you should still visit the developer’s website to get more information and download a trial version of an application you're considering for purchase. Professional developers these days typically include a video and other supporting how-to information about their application(s) on their website. This is much more than what you get in the App Store.

If after using the demo app, you’re satisfied with the application, trash it and then go purchase it in the App Store, so you can benefit from the advantages described above. Or you may decide to cut Apple out as the middleman and provide the developer with all the revenue.

Read The Comments

Buying products and services online has empowered many consumers because of one thing – public customer ratings and feedback. While the rating system is not 100% accurate, if you’re seeing lots of low ratings about an application, you will definitely want to read the complaints.

mac apps store free

When you click to view information about an application in the App Store, buyer comments are presented by “Most Helpful,” which is based on how many other App Store users found a user's review helpful in their description. App reviews can only be submitted by customers who have actually purchased the selected app from the App Store. This is a good thing because many of the reviews will be based on the reviewer's actual use of the software. However, I tend to first sort comments by “Most Critical” to see if there are any red flags that I should know about. If there are a lot of low ratings, I then sort by “Most Recent” in order to see if the developer has fixed problems in app updates.

I personally find the customer comments more helpful than the descriptions developers provide about their apps, as good user comments will often tell you why an app is useful or how they think it can be improved.

Write Comments

I’m not a developer, but I’ve tinkered around enough in Mac programming to know that developing applications takes skill, persistence and lots of patience. Many developers don't receive the appreciation they deserve for the work they do. So if you find a very useful application, take five minutes in the App Store and write a paragraph or two of positive feedback. Your comments will also help other consumers in their buying decisions.

apps store for mac

Check Out The Freebies

Before you purchase an app in the App Store, you should check to see if there is a free lite version or free alternative version to the app you’re considering for purchase. Clicking the Top Free section of the App Store will reveal all the goodies. Just because an app is free doesn't mean it's cheap. Here's one early list of very useful free apps.

apps store for mac

However, if you’re looking to purchase a particular type of app, do a general search and get as many results as possible. This is where you will see free versions of apps listed alongside paid apps. With a little research, you may discover you don’t need the bells and whistles of say the $10 Twitterrific for Twitter app. The free official Twitter option may suffice.

Managing Your Purchases

Another benefit of purchasing apps from the App Store is that you if you want to download those same apps to another computer on your Apple account, all you need to do is open the App Store app on that computer and then click on Purchases in the tool bar. Apps with the grayed "INSTALL" button will be available for download to your other Mac.

apps store for mac

Also, if you started downloading a huge triple digit app from the Store, and for some reason you needed to pause that download, you can resume downloading by also opening the Purchases section.

Browsing Applications

The App Store provides several different ways to browse and become familiar with new and old apps. In the App Store tool bar, you can browse by Featured apps (ones that Apple has chosen to be featured), Top Charts (top selling apps), and Categories.


There are also side columns for top free and top paid apps. I don’t find any one of these browsing options better than the other, mainly because I purchase apps based on their ability to solve particular problems, not because of how popular they are. The category for the “Top Grossing” apps is not that helpful, because they are often the most expensive apps in the store, which doesn’t mean they are the most purchased.


Apple does include theme collections that are useful to find new and useful programs. Scroll down to about the middle of the App Store home page to find featured themes.

mac app store

The current Better Together collection, for example, includes some great recommendations for applications for sharing and syncing information between Macs and iOS devices.

Missing Features

There some crucial missing features in the initial version of the Mac App Store. As with the iTunes App Store for iOS devices, there should be a way to save apps on a personal wishlist, as well as a way to gift apps to another Mac user. Also, while it's great that apps immediately download and install into your Application's folder, there's no equally clean method for uninstalling purchased apps. Sure, any application can be easily deleted, but trashing an app does not clear its residue from your computer. For this you need to use a utility like App Cleaner or a similar application.

While Apple definitely wants to keep the Mac App Store clean and easy to use, it would be better if it included tab browsing, similar to what you have in the iTunes App Store.

Let us know about your experiences using the Mac App Store. Do you visit it often? Do you find it easy to use?

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3 Handy Keyboard Shortcuts You Need To Program Into Your Media Center Remote

Posted: 30 Mar 2011 09:31 AM PDT

media center remoteWhether you prefer Boxee, XBMC or the Hulu Desktop for your media center, it’s nice to get up from the couch as little as possible. If you don’t want to leave the couch very often, you’d better program your media center remote to do simple tasks.

Keyboard shortcuts are a great shortcut to accomplishing this. Perhaps you use, as your remote, a joystick that mimics your keyboard (works well combined with an old Playstation DVD Remote).  Or maybe you use another brand of remote that allows you to map buttons to particular keystrokes. Perhaps you mapped the essentials – arrow keys, escape and enter – in order to easily use XBMC or Boxee. If that’s the case for you, you’re going to want to add these keyboard shortcuts as well. They make using a computer as a media center even better, and aren’t much work to set up.

Launch Software

The idea here is obvious enough – you want your software to load at the click of a button. Luckily for you, Windows makes this easier than you think.

As Lifehacker recently explained, it’s pretty easy to make a keyboard shortcut for launching any program. Follow those instructions and you’ll have shortcuts ready to program onto your remote. Linux users can add such shortcuts using the “keyboard shortcuts” dialogue in their desktop’s control center to create shortcuts for launching any program. Mac users aren’t as lucky.

media center remote

I find this really useful for launching Hulu Desktop when I’m in Boxee, as it’s no longer easily possible to watch Hulu from within Boxee itself. There are infinite uses for this setup, though, so experiment and fill us in in the comments below.


Sometimes you just need what’s currently open to close. Whether you were watching sports not broadcast in your country, launching ROMs and games from Boxee or just making use of a web browser to watch a video your favorite media center couldn’t handle, it’s nice to be able to close software quickly from the couch.

media center remote control

There’s no shortcut quite so universal for closing applications as “Alt” and “F4″, which can close just about anything on Windows and Linux computers. Mac users can instead use “Command” and “Q”; the effect is the same.

The point is this: add this command to your remote and you’ll always be able to close what’s on screen with one button.

media center remote

Even better: in Windows 7 pressing “Alt” and “F4″ from the desktop brings up the system shutdown menu. You could turn off your computer, or put it to sleep, from the couch (assuming you’ve already mapped the arrows keys and enter to your remote, that is).


Closing isn’t always ideal. Sometimes you’re going to want to leave a given program open and switch to another. Programing “Alt” and “TAB” onto your media center remote gives you a quick way to do so. This is ideal for switching between two media centers or, on Windows 7, getting back to the desktop from whatever program you happen to be running.

Linux features “Alt” and “TAB” by default; Mac users should use “Command” and “Tab” to cycle by program.


Volume consistency is a big problem on the Internet. Web advertisers seem to love being much louder than the videos they sponsor, even more so than on television. Quick access to a Mute button can make this painless.

Frustratingly there’s no standard mute button on the Windows platform, but I was able to program my remote to copy my keyboard’s special “mute” button. If your keyboard doesn’t have such a button, I’d recommend following these directions from HowToGeek. They’ll get you set up. Linux users can set any combination of keys to work for this purpose; check your desktop’s settings for keyboard shortcuts. Mac users can simply use the volume button on their keyboard.

Can you think of any more shortcuts worth adding to your remote? Do share; I’m always wanting to improve my setup.

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6 Places To Read Old Newspapers & Archived News Online

Posted: 30 Mar 2011 08:31 AM PDT

read old newspapersIt might be old and stale, but dated news still has its uses. Does the image of a guy who keeps stacks of yellowing newspapers in his attic seem somewhat out of the ordinary? It might be an obsessive disorder, and rummaging around in that pile may not appeal to us, but that pile could be a storehouse of valuable information.

Searching through old newspapers is not only about history but also has practical applications for genealogists. Old newspaper records lead to names of places, individuals and obituaries.

That aside, a casual student of history can check back and see how the world perceived a momentous event. Say, how did the depression happen and how does it relate to the recent recession?

Thanks to digitization of data, we no longer have to search haphazardly through reams of newsprint. All we need is a search engine and of course, a site that lets you read old newspapers. Here are six:

Trove (Australia)

read old newspapers

You can think of it as Open Source to a wealth of information. It might be Australia centric, but that takes very little away from the information that The National Library of Australia site supplies for free. The portal has a long lineup of newspaper 'titles' which you can select individually or even refine by state. Further filtering by year and date gives you access to a digitized format of the paper. You can also download it as a PDF.

Times Machine – The New York Times

read old newspapers online

The "Times Machine" is a browser that can take you from the very first issue of the newspaper (September 18, 1851) to The New York Times of December 30, 1922. It is limited if you consider the number of years it covers, but it still covers a significant piece of history when you see that the time period covers something like the First World War.

Chronicling America

read old newspapers online

With the help of this huge archive of historical newspapers held by the Library of Congress, you can view pages from newspapers belonging to 23 states. The aim of this project (The National Digital Newspaper Program) is to chronicle the newspapers published between 1836 and 1922 by all states in America. There is also a directory that lists information on newspapers published in the United States from 1690 to the present. You can use the very flexible filters to view newspaper pages from a place and time, using keywords to locate specific places, people, and events. The archive can presently serve up 3308613 pages.


read old newspapers online

This is a site that does not store a continuous archive of old newspapers, but rather a more selective collection that presented important events in American history in the last 400 years. The site is meant for students and educators who want to look at how news has been published since the early days of newspapers. The selection of old newspapers covers the periods from 1700 to 2004. Remember, these are selected news items and not complete newspapers.

The Newspaper Genealogy Archives

read old newspapers free

The coverage of news items remains selective but the countries covered broadens with newspapers from the U. S., England, Scotland, Ireland & Australia. The site is meant to be a free resource for genealogical & historical research. The archives cover news items from the 18th- through early 20th-century newspapers. The news items are less about globally significant events but of personal announcements (births, deaths, company formations etc) that can be used to trace genealogical clues amongst the citizens of five related countries.

Google Archive Search

read old newspapers

By default we head to Google for our entire search. Try out Google News Archive Search to search for that bit of news in the whole historical haystack. The News archive search can also automatically create timelines which show selected results from relevant time periods that's really useful for spotting news trends.

Thanks to these online digital archives, news can be preserved for posterity and made available with a click. There's a lot more trawling you can do on the web…like, check out this Wikipedia page for a complete lists of online news archives from around the world. A lot of these publications have searchable indexes. If you are a history buff, then old newspapers are a valuable tool to trace the footfalls of history.

Would you agree that no news is old news when it comes to history?

Image Credit: Wikipedia

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