- Cool Websites and Tools [March 3rd]
- 10 Retro Emulators To Play Early 80s Home Consoles On Your PC (1981-1986)
- 3 Best Resources To Find Known Sites With Spyware & Viruses
- Top 4 Sites To Download Karaoke Music Without Words To Test Your Singing Ability
- Hot Tech Deals [Mar 3rd]
- Kobo: Thousands Of Free Books For Your Computer Or Smartphone
- Make Better Use Of Multiple Twitter Accounts With SharedMinds
- How To Record TV Shows On Your PC
- 3 Best Dead Simple Programs To Rip CDs [Windows]
- Join MakeUseOf On Twitter!
Posted: 03 Mar 2011 07:31 PM PST
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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Posted: 03 Mar 2011 05:31 PM PST
As with the previous list, emulators are cross-platform where possible. You’ll need games to play, known as ROMs, and just a reminder that, provided you own the original game, it is not illegal to possess digital copies. Please don’t ask us where to get these ROMs from though, we won’t tell you!
1982 – Atari 5200 [Atari++]
Introduced in 1982, Atari’s 5200 SuperSystem was manufactured as a competitor to the popular Intellivision console. The hardware in the unit was virtually identical to Atari’s 400/800 early home computers, except the 5200 was a gaming machine lacking keyboard input.
There were 69 officially released titles for the machine, most of which were arcade ports.
Atari++ is an 8 bit Atari emulator for Windows and Linux. Windows users can download the binary for their OS whilst Linux users will need to compile from source. If you’re no dab hand with the console then there’s full instructions on how to do this on the homepage.
1982 – Vectrex [ParaJVE]
Without a doubt one of the most innovative consoles in the history of video gaming, the Vectrex was an all-in-one console and vector monitor which did not require a television to play. It came with an Asteroids clone called Minestorm which is still fun to play today. You’ll find original working Vectrex consoles on eBay, but even today they aren’t cheap!
There were just short of 30 Vectrex games released, though there is a large amount of homebrew available too. The ParaJVE emulator does a great job of emulating this iconic system, and runs on Windows, Linux and Mac OS X, provided you’ve got Java installed.
1982 – Emerson Arcadia 2001 [WinArcadia]
Following the Vectrex came the Arcadia 2001 from US manufacturer Emerson. The company licensed the console to other manufacturers worldwide, though due to differences in hardware and cartridges not all games are compatible with all systems.
This resulted in multiple systems being released with hilarious names like "Rowtron 2000" in the UK and "UVI Compu-Game" in New Zealand. 51 games make up the game library for the Emerson (and its derivatives) and you can play most of them with the WinArcadia emulator for Windows, AmigaOS (yes, really) and the GameBoy Advance.
1982 – ColecoVision [ColEm]
The ColecoVision went head-to-head with Atari’s 5200 which had superior hardware but less commercial success. There were just under 150 game cartridges released for the system in total, though with the controversial first expansion module released added compatibility with Atari’s popular 2600 console.
ColEm is an open-source ColecoVision emulator for a variety of systems. Official support comes in Windows, Linux, Maemo and Symbian flavours (amongst others) whilst there are ported versions for Mac and the PSP.
1983 – Sega SG-1000 [Bee] [Kega Fusion]
Marketing for Sega’s first console, the SG-1000, was focused mainly at the Asian and Australian markets, and thus the console never really gained any ground in Europe or North America. If you’re amongst those who missed out first time round then Bee is the emulator for you.
Compatibility is high, and the emulator works on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. Bee also emulates a couple of other systems including the ColecoVision and Atari 2600. Kega Fusion is an emulator for Sega consoles will also emulate the SG-1000, on all three major operating systems.
Launched the same day as Sega’s SG-1000 in Japan, the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was a tremendous success for Nintendo. The company shifted more than 60 million units worldwide and IGN singled the console out as the greatest of all time in a list of 25.
Nintendo introduced the current standard of licensing software to third party developers for use on the NES, which combined with the console’s appeal resulted in over a thousand games. You can enjoy these with the help of FCEUX, an emulator favoured by the die-hard NES community.
FCEUX comes in Windows and Linux flavours or if you prefer, the multiple system emulator MESS will also play NES games.
1985 – Sega Master System [Gens] [Kega Fusion]
First released under the name Sega Mark III in Japan, the Master System was a direct competitor to the NES and sold a respectable 13 million units. The Master System is still being produced in Brazil, with 132 built-in games and no catridge slot.
If you’d like to relive some classic Sega action then you can with the Gens emulator for Windows. The emulator covers a few Sega systems, and emulation is pretty much perfect. Linux and Mac users can use Kega Fusion for Master System and other Sega emulation.
Released as a direct challenger to the NES and Master System, Atari’s 7800 finally hit the market in 1986 after Atari encountered financial difficulties. There were 59 licenced games for the system, a handful of after-market releases and the 7800 was compatible with all Atari 2600 games.
You’re going to need the 7800 OS ROMs, and luckily you can get them here (PAL) and here (NTSC). To emulate the 7800 on Windows, the ProSystem emulator works a treat. MESS will also emulate the Atari 7800.
The only home console from this era missing from the list is the Casio PV-1000 which was released in Japan in 1983 and had just 15 games available. The console enjoyed very limited success. If you do find a capable emulator for the PV-1000 then let us know in the comments.
If you enjoyed this article then be sure to join me next time when we’ll be taking a look at consoles and their respective emulators between 1987 and 1993.
Do you have any favourite games from these systems? Sega or Nintendo? Sonic or Mario? Atari or nothing? Reminisce in the comments!
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Posted: 03 Mar 2011 03:31 PM PST
Malware causes worldwide economic damage in the multi-billion dollar range and even though users are ever more aware of good security practices, it continues to be a head-to-head race between malicious software and the defense against it. Many users catch malware through browsing online. Thus not visiting known sites with spyware and viruses in the first place is an effective way to keep the computer safe.
Web Of Trust (WOT)
Type: Browser plugin, website
Service: website ratings based on user experience and domain listings
Supports: Firefox, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari, Opera, Bookmarklet
WOT does more than alert users about potential spyware and viruses. It’s an all-around service that rates sites based on general trustworthiness, vendor reliability, privacy, and child safety. The ratings are conducted by its huge international community. Users can leave comments to further support their rating and point out specific problems with the respective page. Apart from user input, the site also relies on external resources, such as listings of phishing sites published on PhishTank.
The rating symbol appears both in search results and directly in the browser. The complete rating, including user comments, is available on the ‘scorecard’.
If a user attempts to open a website with a bad rating, WOT issues a warning, which has to be discarded, before the site can be accessed.
WOT also offers a small online tool where you can manually ‘check the reputation of your favorite website’ based on its URL.
Alternatives: To my knowledge there are no comparable alternatives to WOT. Similar plugins either lack their own community or a broad support, some of the main features, e.g. no ratings next to search results, or only support one or two browsers. Other tools I tested include Trustpilot Guard (Firefox), TrendProtect (Internet Explorer) and McAfee SiteAdvisor (Firefox and Internet Explorer).
Type: browser toolbar
Service: provides “meta-site-ratings for computer safety, child safety, company ethics, and popularity”
LinkExtend is a Firefox toolbar, which includes a host of services compiled in the following categories: Safety, KidSafe, Ethical, Site Traffic, and Thumbnails. For its ratings it relies on a range of tools, such as WOT itself, Google Safe Browsing, Alexa, Scryve, and many more. If you do not trust any of the resources, you can turn off single ones via the LinkExtend options (button in the far right of the toolbar).
After installing the toolbar, a setup wizard guides you through the various options.
The ratings and thumbnails presented next to search results are some of the most comprehensive I have found. Moreover, you can highlight your keywords in search results by clicking the yellow marker symbol in the LinkExtend toolbar. If you find the information that is added too much, you can turn off select features via the toolbar options.
Service: website reputation based on multiple rating services and scan URLs for viruses
URLVoid is an online service that compiles ratings for websites and scans them for malicious content. It is important to note that these are two separate services!
To detect websites with a bad reputation, URLVoid relies on several resources, including Google Diagnostic, MalwareDomainList, PcTools Browser Defender, PhishTank, Norton SafeWeb, MyWOT, and many others. Results are compiled within a few seconds and the tool displays the rating status for each service below an overall summary. The permalink for a specific page (example: permalink for MakeUseOf) can be bookmarked and shared.
The scanning of URLs for viruses is facilitated by several antivirus engines, including Avast, AVG, AVira, Kaspersky, and many more. Unfortunately, this tool is not very quick and my query was promptly placed in slot number 16,946 of the queue. And instead of moving up the queue, it moved down the queue.
Let me say something about McAfee SiteAdvisor and TrendProtect which are not one of the best resources recommended in this article. Both McAfee and TrendSecure are well known brands within the computer security business. However, I found several problems with these browser plugins. First of all, a conspicious amount of websites rated unsatisfactory or poorly on WOT, received a safe rating from McAfee and TrendProtect. Moreover, some sites that were clearly found to be unsafe and malicious by WOT users, carry a McAfee SECURE stamp, meaning they were ‘verified safe for e-commerce’ and are ‘tested daily for hacker vulnerabilities’. Disagreements far and wide! I cannot verify which rating system is right however. When in doubt I would rather go with the bad rating than trust the good one. Thus I recommend to stay away from McAfee SiteAdvisor.
Are you browsing with Firefox? Check out this post for the 10+ Best Firefox Security and Privacy Addons. For online resources, have a look at the article 4 Quick Sites That Let You Check if Links Are Safe.
How do you make sure your browsing is safe?
Image credits: Vaju Ariel
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Posted: 03 Mar 2011 01:31 PM PST
If you love karaoke as much as I do, you’re probably wishing you knew a few good places to download the music without words so you can sing your favourite tracks whenever you like. Well, today we’ve found a few great places to sing along to these karaoke tracks for free.
EZ tracks has a huge selection of free karaoke pop music including tracks from Celine Dion to Avril Lavigne. You can browse from various categories, such as reggae, christmas or jazz. There’s also a top 100 karaoke track listing for you to view the most popular songs. Every track in the collection is free to download and can be done so without fuss or membership.
Karaoke Version is a site filled with karaoke pieces. There’s a large free section featuring many traditional and retro songs, some of which are more recently popularised. Browse through categories of kids songs, blues and soft rock to find your favourite music. The tracks are all free to download, easy to browse and ready to use. You can even find tracks in French, Spanish and German.
Now, for those of you who prefer to sing socially, there’s a couple of great online karaoke sites you need to know about.
Karaoke Party is a fun, free way to sing karaoke with your friends online from the comfort of your own home. You can start by testing yourself privately and practising until you perfect your score. The software grades your performance and gives immediate feedback as you’re singing so you know which parts you sing well and which bits you need to work on.
Later, when you’re feeling up to the challenge you can compete with your friends. You can do this from your own homes or you can turn on party mode for an all-night battle with friends in the same room. High scores are tallied during the night, so you just sing and let the website do the work. Fun for everyone!
Sing Snap is an online karaoke competition, which combines great music with great community. Browse by genre or by what’s hot, then get singing. You can record your efforts as you go and leave them available to be rated by other members. You can also save those recordings to your hard drive and upload them to YouTube to share with your other friends.
More Free Music
If you love finding free music online, here’s some more great articles you should read.
If you know of some other great karaoke sites where you can practice or download free music without words, let us know in the comments!
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Posted: 03 Mar 2011 12:30 PM PST
For more fresh hot deals, visit our Hot Tech Deals page, which is constantly updated.
Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set
Posted: 03 Mar 2011 11:31 AM PST
Kobo is a line of electronic reading devices connected to a store, similar to the Amazon Kindle. Just like the store built into the Kindle, Kobo features a lot of books you can pay for. This makes sense; publishers need to make money somehow. Do a quick search, however, and you can find a lot of free books to download from Kobo and read on whatever device you like. Some of these are in the public domain because of their age; others are offered free.
What It Is
Fire up Kobo Desktop. Create a user account and you’ll see your new library, which by default will feature just a few free literary classics:
Simply click a book to start reading. The interface for doing so is really simple, which I think you’ll enjoy a great deal:
The arrow keys make for quick page turning; a simple menu on the left allows you to browse by chapter, change the font size or enter full screen mode.
Need more than five books? Head over to the store, where you can find millions of books to buy:
Here you’ll find the latest books for sale, if you’re inclined to pay for them. You can also find a variety of free books.
Scroll down in the store and you’ll eventually see a banner for free ebooks. Click this and you’ll be presented with a variety of free titles. These will range from new books that are free to promote others to literary classics.
But don’t go thinking that the approximately 200 books you can browse here are the sum total of the free books offered. Search for any book you know to be in the public domain and you’ll find a free copy of it:
Not bad at all. Remember: any book with a blue “Download” button where the price should be is free.
Want to get started? Windows and Mac users can download Kobo here. If you’re a Linux user you can request a download here, or simply download Kobo for Ubuntu like I did. Want Kobo on your smartphone? Check here.
Didn’t Borders Go Bankrupt?
You may be wondering: isn’t the Kobo Reader a dying platform since Borders announced its bankruptcy? As it turns out, no. As Kobo explained recently on its blog, Borders is only a minority shareholder of Kobo and represents a very small fraction of its global sales.
The Borders Desktop that comes with Kobo Readers in the United States? It’s just a re-packaged Kobo desktop, though inferior in some ways. The Borders Desktop, for example, doesn’t support newspaper subscriptions; Kobo Desktop does. You can use the Kobo Desktop to get access to these features on your Borders-supplied Kobo, and this will give you access to newspaper subscriptions and any other goodies Kobo may soon provide.
That’s what I did, and I’m enjoying the access to newspaper subscriptions (although my switching probably isn’t helping with Border’s bankruptcy situation). I’m hoping that future features added will include automated Instapaper subscriptions.
How do you like the Kobo Desktop? Fill us in using the comments. Also feel free to recommend other ebook services, because we love learning.
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Posted: 03 Mar 2011 10:31 AM PST
In every case I found that the desktop client fell short in some feature that I needed. This was especially true once I started managing several Twitter accounts, and logging in and out of accounts in order to send individual tweets just wasn’t an option. I needed something light on resources, fast, efficient and very easy to switch between accounts. After testing a bunch of different clients, I’ve finally settled on an interesting client you may or may not have heard about called SharedMinds Desktop.
Set Up Your Accounts & Get Started
Getting started on SharedMinds took about 20 to 30 seconds, literally. There was no online account sign-up and no painful account setup procedures. I just installed the software, launched it, typed in my multiple Twitter account credentials and that was it. SharedMinds was plugged into everything I do on Twitter.
Once you sign in with your Twitter accounts, all tweets from your friends you’re following on all of those accounts will show up in the tweet pane. I just have to say that of all desktop Twitter clients, SharedMinds really makes it intuitive and simple to monitor and use as many Twitter accounts as you like.
Do you want to only see activity on one account at a time? No problem, just scroll down to the “Current View” section on the left navigation bar and change the “Account Filter” dropdown to whatever account you’d like to use at any given time.
Of course, no Twitter client is complete unless it can view the Twitter public timeline. SharedMinds can do this, and it also lets you quickly look through currently trending topics or perform searches on all public tweets, all from the comfort of your desktop client.
I also really like the layout of the preview pane more than just about any other client I’ve seen. You can see not only the actual tweet, but there’s a quick little profile preview of the person that issued the tweet, complete with Twitter stats and website. At the top of the preview pane you can click on tabs that let you view all of that person’s recent tweets, the actual Twitter profile page, the link that they tweeted, or all recent mentions of that user.
By the way, when you click to view the embedded link, SharedMinds will show you the website within the preview pane itself – it’s an embedded browser window. You can literally view everything within this fully functioning desktop application.
One of the most important aspects of a Twitter client is how quickly and easily you can respond to tweets in some way. SharedMinds manages to pack all of the functionality you need into a small space. The fastest way to react to a tweet is to hover your mouse over the profile icon, and you’ll see four little icons show up – reply, direct message, retweet or other options.
What are the other options? Well, if you right click on the tweet itself, you’ll see a menu list of all of the available actions you can take. These include searching Twitter for more tweets from that user, following or unfollowing the user, or retweeting and replying. Once again, this is an area SharedMinds makes multiple accounts a breeze, because you can use the dropdown accounts list in this menu to quickly change which Twitter account will take the action you select. It doesn’t get any more painless than that!
When it comes to issuing your own tweets, SharedMinds has you covered. Yes, you can just type in your tweet and hit enter, but you could also attach an image to your tweet, quickly shorten URL’s you’ve included, or “TweetShrink” some long entry you’ve typed so that it fits within Twitter’s limits. You’ve even got spell check built in!
One of the biggest pet peeves I had with a number of the other Twitter desktop clients, aside from the fact that using multiple accounts was a real chore, is the docking issue. If you just want to slide the display of tweets over to the right or left side of the screen, you really need a way to shrink down the desktop app into a single column. Many other clients won’t easily let you do this, but SharedMinds lets you “unpin” the navigation bar and remove the preview pane so that the final screen looks like below.
If you do need to navigate, just hover your mouse over the navigation button and it’ll pop out. After you move your mouse off it, it collapses back to the left. It really is a brilliant Twitter client that I’m pleased and excited I finally discovered. Even if you swear by other clients, give SharedMinds a shot and let us know what you think.
Did you change your mind and switch? What do you think of SharedMinds? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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Posted: 03 Mar 2011 09:30 AM PST
The holy grail of entertainment in your home is the mesh between television and your PC. Since the CPUs in today’s PCs are much more powerful than the set top boxes that provide the majority of programming, it is entirely possible to use your PC to record shows and to play them back later.
If you are feeling especially brave, you can actually hook a computer directly to your television set – this is called a HTPC or a Home Theater PC.
Let this tutorial show you how to save the cost of a digital video recorder by closely aligning two of the most important entertainment devices in your home to record tv shows on your PC.
Bringing In A Signal
The first step to watching TV on your PC is bringing in a television signal. You can do this in either one of two (OK, three) ways.
The cheapest way is to install an antenna and bring in an OTA (Over-the-air) signal. This depends on your proximity to the transmitting towers and how clean the signal is. This is called an ATSC signal in the United States.
The second way to bring in a signal is through a cable provider. Most cable providers offer a very basic “local” package at a cheap rate. This gives you a basic cable coming into your house, and the signal will be encoded in a format called QAM. The channels they normally charge for will show up as encrypted, and you will not be able to see them unless you are able to decrypt them with a CableCard.
QAM is actually a great way to get the signal to your home. However, there is a big problem with it. Each cable provider and even every area has different channel mappings; that is the frequency mapped to a channel such as ABC or NBC. Figuring out these mappings can be an exercise in frustration.
For both of these options you can decode the signal with a tuner card. At your PC, there is a PCI (internal) card and a USB (external) interfaces available, and then there is a network attached device which is very popular called the HDHomeRun.
The third way to get television into your computer is through Satellite. A USB tuner such as this one from TeVii will decode the signal coming in from a satellite into a format that your PC can read. In the UK this is a popular option since Freesat is available for free.
Playing And Recording TV On Your PC
Now that the television signal has a way to get to your computer, we need to be able to decode that signal into something that your computer can display on screen and record to the hard drive.
There are several software packages available to do this for you.
The easiest to use software which is actually included for free in Windows 7 is called Windows Media Center. This software from Microsoft will decode the signal, and perform DVR functionality, in a very nice interface. Look for it in your Start menu.
I’ve had a hard time getting this set up with QAM – I understand with OTA signals it is actually quite easy to get running via the Settings area.
NextPVR is the latest update from what used to be called GB-PVR. It is actually a complete media center and is able to both view and record television shows, but also display your other media on your computer in a pleasant interface. It is not as easy to use as Windows Media Center, but is a good option if you do not have that available.
The Software That Came With Your Tuner
Almost every provider of hardware tuners also include software that is able to work with it. This software can at least play live TV, if not record as well.
I use Haupage and my provider bundles it with a package called WinTV. This software will play live TV coming in (QAM or OTA) and will record it as well. It also interfaces with the radio tuner that the card also has. This specific integration is only possible with software from the original provider, and is important if there is a specific feature you want to access.
If you do not use Windows or want to check out Linux, MythTV is a great solution for watching and recording television on your computer. It is not quite as easy to set up as the other options, but the interface is top notch and you can get a lot of support in their forums.
There are some other software available which can take the place of a cable box on your computer. BeyondTV and SageTV are both well-known makers of software, but both are also just under $100 in cost. It seems expensive, but if you think of the money you will save from your cable provider it is definitely worth it and can actually pay for itself in a month or so.
Recording television, specifically high definition television, takes up a LOT of hard drive space. A few gigabytes per hour. If you will be doing a lot of recording, make sure you have a decent amount of hard drive space, at least 500GB.
If you are going to be watching and recording HD television, you will also need a decent processor and graphics card, or you can see performance suffer and the television may actually stutter.
Once you get set up, however, you will be glad you did it. I’ve been running a PC-based DVR since about 2003 and haven’t looked back! Let us know if you have any recommended software for recording television, or if you need assistance getting your own rig set up.
Also, if you like your entertainment, check out our PDF guide on How To Build A Great Media Center For Your Home.
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Posted: 03 Mar 2011 08:30 AM PST
That’s why most CD owners – especially those who are always on the go – prefer to rip their collections to digital format. There are many CD ripper applications out there, but here are three best alternatives that (I think) will provide you with dead simple way to rip CDs.
Love it or hate it, iTunes is one of the most popular media players today. It’s also a great CD ripper. If you are an iOS device owner who wants to put the songs from your CDs to your device(s), iTunes is your one stop station.
We’ve covered iTunes many times before, we even published an ebook about it, so I won’t go too far about this one. Basically, every time you put an audio CD in your computer disc tray, iTunes will show it on the sidebar, grab the song information from CDDB, and offer you to rip it to digital format.
You can choose which digital format that you want to use from the “Edit – Preferences – General” menu. Click the “Import Settings” and you’ll see all the available formats. To retain the CD quality, choose lossless format; while for the best compatibility, choose MP3.
This one is an app specifically built to rip CDs. It supports more digital music formats than iTunes and uses a different online CD database. CDex would be perfect for those who manage their digital music player manually. We’ve covered the older version of the app back in 2009.
A little note for the paranoids: you need to fill in your email address before you can connect to the CD database to retrieve album/songs information. But you can use a fake email address and everything will still work just fine. I’ve tried it.
This one is a relatively unknown open source app. What makes fre:ac different from tons of other CD rippers out there is its speed. The encoder is designed to utilize multiple-core environment. While those with older generation machines will not see the differences, the ripping process will be a lot faster under dual/quad core processors.
The app will auto detect audio CDs and look for their information on the net. The information will be tagged into the result files and users can customize how the information is going to be displayed. And since fre:ac also supports Unicode characters, it can handle non-Latin song name.
To choose the encoder that you want to use to rip your CDs, go to General settings and pick the Encoders tab. This is also the place to determine where you want to save the conversion result later.
Choosing the format can also be done from the main interface. They can be accessed from the small arrows next to the play button.
What makes fre:ac different from many other similar applications, is that it comes with everything inside. So you don’t have to download several different elements/plug-ins just to make the app works.
There are many other alternatives to dead simple CD rippers. If your personal favorite is different, please share it (and why you love it) using the comment below.
Image credit: Gabyu
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Posted: 03 Mar 2011 07:31 AM PST
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