Thursday, March 10, 2011 “Cool Websites and Tools [March 9th]” plus 11 more “Cool Websites and Tools [March 9th]” plus 11 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [March 9th]

Posted: 09 Mar 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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Commitie – Without constant motivation and reminders, it is often hard to continue with your set goals. For instance many people plan to eat healthier but soon afterwards ignore this set goal. Here to help you complete all your set goals is a site called Commitie, a free to use web service that helps monitor the progress of your set goals and reminds you of them. Read more: Commitie: Get Goal Reminders & Monitor Progress


Sprite Box – It is not easy to embed only part of an online image. But thanks to Sprite Box, you can easily select a part of an online image and obtain the CSS for it. Sprite Box is a free web tool that helps you get the CSS for parts of online images. You start by providing the service with the URL of the online image. Read more: SpriteBox: Get CSS For Parts Of Images



GetAround – Renting out your car when you do not need it can be a great way to earn extra money. If you are thinking about renting out your car, then one of the easiest ways to do so is through GetAround, a brilliant website that is currently in beta. It lets people rent out their cars and lets other rent these cars. Read more: GetAround: Marketplace For Renting Out Your Car



Cube Duel – Would you like to see whether your co-workers prefer to work with you or with somebody else? If yes, then a voting poll is the best option. This is precisely what Cube Duel offers. Cube Duel is a free to use web service that compares you with your LinkedIn contacts. You start by connecting your LinkedIn account. You then rank your co-workers. Read more: Cube Duel: See Who Your Co-Workers Prefer To Work With



Addoway – Online shopping isn't without its perils. You end up with a bad seller and you can rest assured that it'll cost you a good bit of time and money. Addoway is a service that helps to reduce these risks by helping you to see if any of your Facebook friends have purchased from that seller in the past, and then ask for feedback. It uses Facebook Connect for that purpose. Read more: Addoway: Buy Only From Trusted Online Sellers


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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FreedCamp: A Feature-Filled Project Management Alternative To BaseCamp

Posted: 09 Mar 2011 05:31 PM PST

We highlighted a few great websites that facilitate meeting with your team members in our roundup, but the web keeps on growing, presenting us with handier web apps every time.

The field for project management is no exception. There are many more such applications to help you collaborate with your teammates remotely, like Scrumy and OfficeZilla.

FreedCamp is a project management web-based app much like the ones mentioned, but it aims to be a capable app with features compared to Basecamp, the popular (mostly paid, with a very limited free account option) project manager.

Let’s examine why you should definitely consider Freedcamp for your next team project!

alternative to basecamp

FreedCamp Offers Unlimited Projects For Teams With Unlimited Users

alternative to basecamp

Not only does FreedCamp let you create unlimited projects and invite unlimited users, it’s also got plenty of useful features to get you started. Signing up can be pretty easy as you can sign in with Facebook instead of creating a new account.

After that, you can import your Basecamp project files, start creating projects, as well as joining a team member’s project. You can add to-do’s, start discussions, set milestones, keeping track of time spent in each task, share files (up to 20MB of storage for project owners), and get email notifications of new assignments and project member’s progresses.

You can also obtain an RSS feed to track your work progress and chat with your teammates via a Meebo toolbar, easily using your existing accounts.

basecamp alternative

The incredible thing is that it offers all of these features for free and won’t change in the future, as the website promises the $0 price tag will remain unchanged.

Check out the features in this quick video overview, which captures the main features of FreedCamp.

Creating Projects & Seeing Their Progress In Your Dashboard

After you’ve created your account, you can make your first project, invite users, and set passwords for your project, which should enable anyone else who has the password to join your project after you’ve created it.

basecamp alternative

Like the news feed in Facebook, you can pretty much track what’s going on in your project by heading to the project dashboard. If you instead want a quick overview of all your projects, you can click on the manage projects button at the top right corner. You will then be able to perform edits on specific projects, whether that involves adding users, deleting the project altogether or deactivating it (which could be equivalent to archiving the project in question). You can also click on the dashboard button on the Meebo toolbar, which is a shortcut to the actual dashboard for all of your projects.
Freedcamp lets you create groups which could be, for example, the subject class you’re trying to organize a study group for, while the projects themselves can be the individual assignments.

Creating To-do’s, Discussions & Milestones To Replace Back-and-Forth Emailing

You can easily create to-do’s in the to-do tab of the project dashboard. Freedcamp allows you to create tasks, assign them priorities and due dates, and delegate them to team members. The neat part is that you can drag the different users, due dates and priorities around to any tasks, as well as drag the tasks to the trash bin to delete them. It doesn’t get simpler than that.

basecamp alternative

The ability to create threaded discussions are probably a big reason to use a project management tool instead of regular email. You can create discussion groups to assign to each discussion so you don’t have to keep adding individual users every time.

alternative to basecamp

Creating milestones can also help get a better overview of major goals and their deadlines.

basecamp alternatives free

Overall, Freedcamp offers many features in a simple interface at an excellent price and should definitely be bookmarked. If you’re already using another great collaboration portal, let us know which one you’re using in the comments!

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8 Great Emulators To Play Modern Home Consoles On Your PC (1994-2001)

Posted: 09 Mar 2011 03:31 PM PST

home console emulatorsIt’s time for the concluding part of my home console emulation series, and today I’m on the hunt for some tools to emulate some fairly recent machines. If you’ve missed the series so far you might want to check out home consoles of the 70s, early 80s and the transition from 16 bit to 32 bit in the early 90s. Just don’t go downloading any games (ROMs) you don’t legally own, OK?

As the systems get more advanced, emulation becomes more demanding and you may need a fairly recent PC, preferably a dual-core processor and a dedicated graphics card to get the most out of these.

1994 – Sega Saturn [Yabause]

home console emulators

Successor to the Mega Drive and loaded with two 32 bit CPUs, the Sega Saturn proved difficult for developers and early adopters alike. Due to the dual-processor architecture (a move some attributed to Sony’s looming powerhouse, the PlayStation) optimizing and building games for the platform required a lot of skill with Sega providing developers limited tools for the job.

The Saturn did sell well in Japan, but a lack of titles and the promise of Sony and Nintendo’s upcoming consoles meant PAL and North American models were discontinued in 1998 with Japan ceasing production two years later.

Yabause is a Sega Saturn emulator designed to run both .ISO CD images and commercial games themselves on a PC. The compatibility list is pretty good, and it runs on Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, PSP and even Dreamcast.

1994 – Sony PlayStation [PCSX-Reloaded]

game console emulators

The Sony PlayStation took the world by storm and make a substantial dent on Sega and Nintendo’s market share. Over 100 million PlayStation consoles were sold in total before the latest revision of the machine was discontinued in 2006.

game console emulators

Nintendo certainly had a hand in Sony’s success, as they had planned on using CD technology manufactured by Sony in a joint venture as early as 1986. When Nintendo pulled out, Sony took a step back to see what they had come up with. They soon decided to direct their efforts towards a new age of hardware and video gamers, and the PlayStation was born.

You can emulate the PlayStation on Windows, Linux and Mac with one of the last remaining active PlayStation emulators, PCSX-Reloaded.

1996 – Nintendo 64 [mupen64plus]

game console emulators

After the immense success of the 32 bit Super Nintendo Entertainment System, the Nintendo 64 had a lot to live up to. Unfortunately for Nintendo the console didn’t sell as well as Sony’s PlayStation, though it did enjoy limited success shifting around 30 million units worldwide.

video game console emulators

The N64 was Nintendo’s last home console to use cartridge-based media, and due to the expensive manufacturing process games were expensive. Still, the system was home to some fantastic titles, including Mario’s first proper 3D adventure.

The cross-platform mupen64plus emulator works on Windows, Linux and Mac with decent compatibility for most N64 ROMs.

1998 – Sega Dreamcast [nullDC][lxdream]

video game console emulators

Sega’s last-ditch attempt at a home console came in the form of the 128 bit Dreamcast in 1998. It was the first console to feature online play via its bundled 56k modem. Despite never selling as well as Sega might have hoped, the Dreamcast will go down in history as a cult console for its cutting edge features and roster of genre-defining games.

video game console emulators

Dreamcast originals like Shenmue (which might never see an end to the series), Jet Set Radio (which featured early cel-shading) and Chu Chu Rocket (the world’s first Internet play console game) have elevated the console to cult status. Some independent companies are still releasing Dreamcast titles today.

If you’re a Windows user then nullDC should suffice for all your Dreamcast needs, whilst Linux and Mac users will want to try lxdream. Both emulators are still under active development, so don’t expect every game to work. As the Dreamcast is a fairly powerful device (not by today’s standards, but in terms of emulation) you’ll need a PC with plenty of power for best results.

2000 – Sony PlayStation 2 [PCSX2]

The PlayStation 2 is the best-selling console of all time, shifting 150 million units so far. The console has been such a success that Sony is still manufacturing the PS2 slim model, and the system has accrued nearly 11,000 titles.

The PlayStation 2 supported network gaming (which you can still enjoy on your original console with X-Link Kai), web browsing and some of the finest exclusive originals and arcade conversions of the generation.

Windows and Linux users can use PCSX2 to emulate the system, which can successfully launch and play a large amount of games. An issue with PS2 emulation is virtualizing the multiple cores within its processor, so the more power you’ve got under the hood the better. For best results you’ll need a Core2Duo or Core-i series processor 1GB of RAM and that all-important dedicated graphics card.

2001 – Nintendo GameCube [Dolphin]

The GameCube was Nintendo’s first console to use optical media, in the form of mini DVDs which could store up to 1.5GB of data. It featured a chunky controller with 2 analogue sticks, a d-pad and 8 buttons. The GameCube only sold just over 20 million units worldwide, and was not a great success for Nintendo.

The ground Nintendo lost with their last console (the N64) was even harder to make-up against new competition from Sony and Microsoft. The GameCube also only had four Internet-enabled games and a handful of system link titles.

This doesn’t mean there weren’t some excellent games released for the system! The fantastic Dolphin emulator plays both GameCube and Wii games on Windows, Linux or Mac (Intel OS X). What’s even more amazing is that this emulator upscales Wii and GameCube titles to high definition, a feature that’s not possible on original hardware. What are you waiting for?

2001 – Microsoft Xbox [DxBx]

What happens when the world’s largest software corporation enters the games console market? A big, black, powerful, online-geared behemoth is what – the Microsoft Xbox. Despite the lure of top-selling Halo: Combat Evolved (and its even more successful sequel) the Xbox only sold marginally better than the GameCube, shifting around 25 million units before discontinuation in 2006.

home console emulators

DxBx is an Xbox emulator written in Delphi. Whilst playable game support is thin on the ground, it may interest some die-hard Xbox fans. Only a handful of games run at the moment but if you’re interested in Xbox emulation development you might want to check it out.

If you really are desperate for an Xbox you can get them cheap on eBay, or play some Xbox classics on the Xbox 360.

What’s Missing?

There are a few systems absent from the list and they include the Apple Bandai Pippin (Apple’s highly unsuccessful attempt at entering the video games industry), Casio Loopy (a Japanese exclusive), NEC PC-FX (another Japanese exclusive), Bandai Playdia (yet another Japanese exclusive), Nintendo Virtual Boy (a failed, short-lived 3D experiment) and the Neo Geo CD (a reboot of the original Neo Geo with CDs instead of cartridges).

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the last few articles as much as I have writing them. Let us know what you think of the emulators, your favourite systems and games in the comments below.

Images: Sega Saturn, Sega Dreamcast, Xbox

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Upgrade To A Smarter Windows Start Menu With Start Menu 7 [Windows]

Posted: 09 Mar 2011 01:31 PM PST

new start menu windows 7I have to admit that ever since upgrading to Windows 7, I love everything about the operating system. It’s cleaner, faster and more intuitive. However, since I’ve upgraded there’s always one thing that’s been nagging at me, and after reading comments from other Windows enthusiasts about Windows 7, it appears that I’m not alone.

The default start menu that comes with Windows 7 leaves a bit to be desired. Icons and programs are not exactly well-organized, and the ability to access the control panel and other features that were pretty standard in older versions of Windows, seem to require one too many clicks to access in Windows 7, in my humble opinion.

Through the years, we’ve offered a few alternatives for whatever start menu you’ve suffered through.  In 2008, Shankar offered four cool alternatives to the Vista start menu. Kyle also offered an app called SMOz that helped to organize your start menu. One of the best was actually a start menu alternative Kaly described in 2006 called Tidy Start Menu.  Well, in the subsequent four years, Ukrainian programmer Denys Nazarenko enhanced the app into a new version renamed Start Menu 7

A New Start Menu For Windows 7

I’m not usually one to install Windows add-ons or enhancements. I find that most of them add an additional layer of complexity and memory consumption to an already memory and processor-hungry OS. However, Start Menu 7 really caught my eye because the screenshots on the website showed a menu that’s clean, well organized, and apparently low-profile with system resources. Intrigued, I dove in.

new start menu windows 7

The first thing you’ll notice when you install and run Start Menu 7 is that you don’t only get a new Start Menu, you get an entirely new way to navigate your computer. Gone are the days where every time you want to find a file on your computer, you have to open up Windows Explorer to drill through your directory system. Start Menu 7 puts everything immediately at your fingertips. The above screenshot may look a little bit overwhelming, but follow along and you’ll see just how impressive this little Start Menu is.

The first thing you’ll probably want to do is customize the Start Menu for the folders, applications and system tools you use most often. You do this by clicking the “Add Items” icon at the top.

new start menu

In the menu that drops down, you can add commands, folders, a line to format sections of your start menu, or you can click to choose (browse) to find the application you want to add. The coolest thing about this app is that you basically will never need to separately open Windows Explorer again. You can access every folder and file on your PC through the easy navigation system that opens up to the right of the Start Menu. Just click the right-arrow next to the folder to drill down into sufolders, and click to open any file. The scroll bar at the bottom lets you view all files and folders no matter how many you have.

new start menu

There are more features available if you click on the “Programs” folder, you’ll see three tabs. All Programs is self explanatory, Quick Start lets you add shortcuts to programs or folders that you frequently use and want quick access to, and Autorun gives you access to your Startup folder to see what apps are launching when your PC boots.

new start menu

If you glance at the bottom of the Start Menu, you’ll find a few other useful features. On the left there’s the command/search field. Type “calc” or “notepad” to open up those apps, or start typing a file name and Start Menu 7 will instantly perform the search. To the right you’ll find a golden lock button that lets other users log into a new session while preserving your own session, and then there’s the easy Power button. Unlike the Windows 7 default shutdown dialog, this one is straightforward and shows all your options on one window.

windows start menu

See those interesting clock icons? Click one of those and you can actually schedule the event. I love this feature because I can set the shutdown for an hour after school when I want to automate how long my kids will spend on the computer.

windows start menu

You can use this feature for just about anything – you can even set an exact date and time!  Start Menu 7 also adds some additional functionality in the “Options” section when you click on the “Wizard“.

In the Customize Wizard, you’ll find a few things you can tweak, but my favorite is the shortcut customizer which lets you assign keyboard keys to system actions like restart, hibernate, opening the “Run” dialog box and more.

windows start menu

By the way, if you prefer using your keyboard, just hit the Windows button on your keyboard to launch the Start Menu, and you’ll see keyboard codes show up next to each icon and folder. In the navigation area, just click the section letter and it’ll break down the shortcuts into numbers to access individual items in that box.

new start menu windows 7

Once you get used to it, this is one of the fastest ways I’ve ever seen to navigate Windows with just a keyboard in a way that I don’t think I’ve ever seen in any version of Windows that I’ve used. Give Start Menu 7 a shot and let us know if you think Denys did as good a job with this as I feel he has.

Do you have any other new start menu alternatives for Windows 7 you feel are better? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Hot Tech Deals [Mar 9th]

Posted: 09 Mar 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. Canon ImageClass MF3240 Monochrome Laser Multifunction Printer $75.99 via code EMCKGKB49 (Exp 3/14)
  2. Nitro PDF Professional Version 6.0 Software (like Adobe Acrobat) $19.99 Free Shipping
  3. Dell Vostro 3300 Intel Core i3-370M 2.4GHz 13.3in Laptop (Aluminum, 2GB/250GB) $469
  4. Dell Vostro 3500 Intel Core i3 2.4GHz 15.6in Laptop (Aluminum, 2GB/250GB) $501 Free Overnight Shipping
  5. Dell Vostro 3400 Intel Core i3-370M 2.4GHz 14in Laptop (Aluminum, 2GB/250GB) $499
  6. Dell Vostro 3700 Intel Core i3-370M 2.4GHz 17.3in Laptop (Aluminum, 2GB/250GB) $549
  7. TODAY ONLY Corsair HX Series 650W Power Supply (80 PLUS BRONZE Certified, Modular Active PFC) $84.99AR Free Shipping via code EMCKGKG26 (Exp Soon)

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set

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4 Web Services To Keep Track Of Earthquakes & Storms Around Us

Posted: 09 Mar 2011 11:31 AM PST

The inconvenient truth is that we aren't really above nature as we thought ourselves to be. Hurricanes, tsunamis, or volcanic eruptions…you name it, something seems to be always churning in some part of the world.

The least we can do is respect our planet and its fragile ecosystem. The prudent thing we can do is to follow any advisories and prepare for a forecasted threat. There are some natural phenomena you cannot do anything about, like earthquakes which strike suddenly. Then there are some like hurricanes, cyclones, and tropical storms which can be predicted with a fair amount of certainty.

Either way, it pays to be aware of what's happening around our Earth. There's the news and then there are online tracking services which keep you updated with the latest information and warnings. Let's take a look at four tracking websites which try to catch our whimsical planet at its worst.


keep track of earthquakes

Some countries like the US and those along the Atlantic coast have a hurricane season. Unlike the other seasons, this one is anything but pleasant. Let's say you are planning a trip around the Caribbean, and you just wanted to know how the weather will spell out. Or you could be just a weather watcher or a hurricane hunter with an interest in developing storms. Stormpulse is the eye in the browser you could be searching for. The interactive map helps you track storms in the Atlantic and Pacific.

The map app collects information from satellites, buoys, and radars. Features like cloud cover, radar, buoy locations and labels can be toggled off with a click. You can track hurricanes by name and location to understand if it will wax or wane. You might like to check out the previous in-depth review we did on this weather app a few years back.


track earthquakes

MyHurricane is a full screen interactive map on which you can track storms and hurricanes with their projected paths. You can search for hurricanes by name and get details like maximum wind speed, maximum gusts, and minimum pressure. Simple switches enable you to toggle the forecast options on the map. One of the more useful features (although in beta), is the storm alert you can sign up for with Twitter.

Also check out the official website of the National Hurricane Center.

U.S Geological Survey

track earthquakes

The official website keeps an eagle eye on developing natural hazards. The site has a dedicated page on earthquakes with real-time data and Google Earth and KML files. You can subscribe to the RSS feed which gives you regular information on US specific and worldwide tremors and quakes. USGS covers nearly all imaginable natural threats with its "hazards" programs. Landslides, volcanoes, floods, tsunamis, and hurricanes are backed up by real-time monitoring and interactive maps. The Earthquake Hazards program is probably the most feature rich with its Past, Present, and Future probability tools.

The USGS site also has a section for kids where they can learn all about quakes with the help of interactive study tools.

Worldwide Earthquake

keep track of earthquakes

The site began as a personal project but it has since scaled up. It is basically a Chilean website but covers the planet using Google's Maps as the platform. Unfortunately, it's not well integrated with Google Earth in spite of the link on the site. Clicking on the map gives you an information bubble with numbers on the magnitude, time, location, depth, and the category.

I haven't mentioned the many wonderful weather apps that dot the web and keep us informed on a daily basis. You can check out the lineup of some of the cool weather apps we have covered over the years. Hollywood movies have made us slightly paranoid about climate change and natural disasters. Though not as cataclysmic, natural disasters remain earthshaking as the New Zealand earthquake has again proved.

Though I am not a weather expert, maybe these web apps will help to educate us more about our fickle planet. What do you think?

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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Monitor & Download Your Favorite TV Shows Episodes Automatically With TVTrigger [Windows]

Posted: 09 Mar 2011 10:31 AM PST

Even though television isn’t going to die anytime soon, everybody can see that it’s not as dominant as it used to be. More and more people turn to their computer for entertainment. Not only because computers are more interactive but because it’s also the gateway to unlimited entertainment. You can find virtually everything on the net, including TV shows.

While I’ll leave the rights or wrongs of this to your conscience, the act of downloading TV episodes from the net is something that you see everywhere. If you are one of those who follow their favorite shows using torrent, you might want to try TVTrigger, the all-in-one solution that will help you eliminate the trouble of manually monitoring and downloading TV episodes from the net.

Getting Started

Different from other similar applications which usually handle only torrent files , TVTrigger will also download the real files. Get the app from the website and continue on to the installation process.

download tv shows

Go through the installation routine and then the app will launch.

download tv shows free

Being a good watchdog, Windows Firewall kicked in the first time I ran TVTrigger. The suggested settings for Firewall allow TVTrigger to use private networks while staying away from public networks.

download tv shows free

Now let’s explore the application in more detail.

The Complete Suite

The main interface of the app is arranged similar to a website with all the main menus on the main page. You can switch between features by choosing one of the tabs above.

download tv shows free

While you are browsing around the home page, the app will update itself in the background.

downloading tv shows

After the updating process is finished, you’ll see a notification window appear above the system tray.

downloading tv shows

The “Featured Show” will show you several recommended titles with a short description of the show. You can browse around by clicking the left and right arrows, see more information about a show by clicking the “i” button, and add the show as your favorite by clicking the heart button.

downloading tv shows

Clicking the “i” button will reveal more details about a specific show, including the rating and the ability to play the theme song.

02e Info

Adding a show to the favorite list will open up a “Show Settings Wizard” window. You can turn on the automatic download feature, specify the download location, and other settings related to the show.

04a Show Settings

The favorite list is very useful to manage and automate your favorite shows. You just add the shows to the list and let TVTrigger download new episodes as soon as they become available.

If you prefer to go through the list of shows to find one or two that you might like, choose the “Browse” tab at the top of the page. Use the search function to find a specific title; or the “Genres” to filter the titles by categories such as action, comedy, drama, etc.

03a Browse

Search & Download

If you are done browsing around, click the “Torrent Search” tab and start searching for your favorite show. You can filter the result by “Seasons” and “Episodes” and you can also pick which torrent search engine(s) you want to use from the three available choices.

03b Search torrent

When you pick an episode to download, a “Copyright Content Warning” window will appear. It warns you that downloading the torrent might be illegal in your country, and you alone are responsible for your actions.

03h Copyright Torrent Warning

If you proceed, the “Torrent Download Details” window will appear and you’ll get the list of the episodes. Even though it appears with a different color, this window reminds me of uTorrent.

03i Torrent DL Details

The download progress will be shown in a standard torrent download window. If you’ve used uTorrent before, you should be familiar with it. While waiting for the download to finish, you can search for another show that you like.

03j Downloading

Other customizations, such as behavior, notifications, color, etc, are available under the “Settings” tab.

download tv shows

If you are a TV junkie who has difficulty setting up your schedule to regularly sit in front of the tube, maybe TVTrigger could help you catch up with the missing episodes. But again, please pay attention to the legal issues here. Also remember that you are the one who’s responsible for everything you do – online or offline.

With that in mind, happy hunting. And don’t forget to share your thoughts and opinions using the comments below.

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TeamSnap and Speck Fitted iPad Case Giveaway Winners

Posted: 09 Mar 2011 10:00 AM PST

Another week of giveaways have just ended and we find ourselves randomly selecting more and more winners each week!

Here are the 25 winners from the TeamSnap Premium giveaway and 5 lucky MakeUseOf readers who will each receive a free Speck Fitted iPad case.


  1. Michael Alves
  2. Lewis E. Ellwanger
  3. Ryan
  4. John Parsons
  5. Fred Maclellan
  6. Matthew
  7. Rigoberto
  8. Daryl Rhoden
  9. Kenn Gorman
  10. Abdul Hamidi
  11. Nizam
  12. Or Vilc
  13. Antony Chang
  14. Mark Shannon
  15. Kevin Charles
  16. Jay Presley
  17. Conor Mcmillan
  18. Nancy Hopwood
  19. Stefan
  20. Jose Rivera
  21. Ashwin
  22. Alex A
  23. Brian
  24. Jeff Baldessari
  25. Anthony Woods

Speck Fitted Case for iPad

  1. Cindy Meester
  2. Damien Hess
  3. John Parsons
  4. Cesar Garcia
  5. Daniel Ooi


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How To Remotely Access Your Mac From Your iOS Device

Posted: 09 Mar 2011 09:31 AM PST

Before I started using VNC (Virtual Network Computing) software on my Mac and iPhone, I can't count how many times I needed to connect with my home office computer to access a file, launch an application I needed to use over Wi-Fi or 3G, or simply shut my computer down. Up until recently, VNC software has been pretty expensive and often clumsy to use, but since the emergence of the iPhone and other mobile devices, virtual network technology has become easier to set up with improved interfaces and features for remotely connecting to your home or office computer.

While there are several advanced mobile VNC programs costing $30 or more, there are a few free options in the Apple and iTunes Music Stores that work quite well to remotely access your Mac.

PocketCloud Companion

PocketCloud Companion is a VNC program for remotely accessing your Mac from your iPad and other iOS devices. Due to the large size screen of the iPad, viewing the desktop of your Mac is three or four times better than on the iPhone and iPod touch.

remotely access mac

PocketCloud Companion remotely connects to your computer over Wi-Fi and 3G using your Gmail account. After you download the PocketCloud Companion app from the Apple Mac Store, and the remote PocketCloud client version from the iTunes Music Store, you can have both programs connecting in less than five minutes.

mac remote access

To set up on your Mac, launch System Preferences > Sharing > Remote Management. Click the Computer Settings button and check “VNC viewers may control screen with password". Enter a password. Then launch PocketCloud Companion to set up your account.

mac remote access

On the mobile client side, you will be taken through the process of adding your Gmail account and password security. It's about a two-step process. With my computer setup, PocketCloud on my iPad enables me to view both my main and secondary monitors. Anything on my desktop and in my computer can be launched, viewed, and used.

mac remote access

PocketCloud Companion includes a handy little Touch pointer that helps you navigate items on the computer desktop. It's almost like using your mouse. Of course, navigation on the smaller iPhone and iPod touch screens will be more challenging.

As with other VNC programs, there is typically a delay between what you see on your desktop and what you see on your iOS screen device. So for example, if you click to close a window on your desktop, it may take about five seconds before you can see the window close on your iOS device. So be patient and keep trying if it doesn't work at first. VNC computing does not provide the same experience as actually working on your computer, but it's a useful resource for when you really need it.

RDM + Desktop Lite

Another VNC program similar to PocketCloud is RDM + Desktop Lite. The free version is ad-supported, but you might find its interface more handy than PocketCloud's.

mac remote access free

RDM + Desktop Lite is optimized for the iPhone and iPod touch, although it can be used on the iPad as well. After downloading RDM + Desktop Lite from the Apple Mac Store and the remote mobile client on your iOS  device, the setup is even easier than PocketCloud. You need to set up an account, add the given computer number in the client app, and you're good to go.

remotely access mac

With RDM + Desktop, you can remotely access your Mac just like you would with any other VNC program. But its client app also includes navigation and action buttons which keep you from having to point your remote cursor to menu bar items on your desktop. You can, for example, quickly shutdown, log off, or close and quit windows and applications with the touch of a button.

Both PocketCloud Companion and RDM + Desktop include a virtual keyboard if you simply need to do some typing on your computer via their remote clients. I found extended typing using the programs too slow and cumbersome. But it's great for when you're in a pinch and need to make changes to a document on your computer and then perhaps remotely email that document to yourself or someone else.

These free programs are a great introduction to VNC technology for mobile devices. If you have never tried using virtual computing, you'll be amazed at what it can do. If you give them a try, let us know what you think.  Or if you have another favourite app, let us know all about it.

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5 Tips & Tricks When Using The Ubuntu Software Center [Linux]

Posted: 09 Mar 2011 08:31 AM PST

Tweak the Ubuntu Software Center for faster download speeds, easily installed add ons and single-click installation from blog posts. There’s nothing quite like the Ubuntu Software Center on any other platform. It’s an easy-to-use tool for installing tens of thousands of different programs, the vast majority of which are completely free. Simply put: if you love free software you’re going to love Ubuntu and its Software Center.

By nature the Ubuntu Software Center is a stripped-down, easy to use program. Meant to be more accessible to the average user than the standard Linux package manager, the Ubuntu Software Center breaks applications down into categories for easy browsing. Whether you’re looking for a game, an office application or an e-book reader, you can find software easily and install it in one click.

But are there any tweaks out there to make the software center work better? As it turns out, there are.

Use The Fastest Downloading Server

One simple tweak which could increase your downloading speeds dramatically, is to change the server from which you’re downloading packages. Ubuntu, by default, uses either the primary server for your country or region, or the default Ubuntu servers, to download packages from. For some, a local server could offer faster download times. This is particularly true if you go to a university that happens to host repositories.

Let’s find out if that’s true for you. In the Ubuntu Software Center, click “Edit” followed by “Software Sources“. Among the options you’ll see a “Download From” drop-down box:

Ubuntu Software Center

Click this, then click “Other…“. You’ll be presented with a shocking number of servers. If one is near you, go ahead and pick it. If you’re not sure which is going to be fastest, click the “Select Best Server” button:

linux software center

This will test all servers and connect you with the fastest one. Depending on where you live, this could give you a big speed boost. This is particularly useful during times when the primary Ubuntu servers are slow, such as when a new edition of Ubuntu comes out.

Easily Install Add-Ons

It’s easy to miss, but with Ubuntu 10.10 the Software Center added a quick way to install add-ons for your applications. For example, if you install Firefox you’ll see the following options:

linux software center

To install these add-ons simply click their checkmarks, then scroll down and click the “Apply Changes” button at the bottom. If add-ons you always install are offered this could be a huge time saver!

Clickable Installation Links

This one can be a huge time saver. It’s possible, when writing an article about Ubuntu, to provide your readers with a single-click link for Ubuntu software installation. These links will automatically open in the Ubuntu Software Center when clicked by Ubuntu users. The problem is that lots of bloggers ignore this advice, instead offering cryptic “sudo apt-get install” instructions.

Don’t worry; there’s a solution. Aptlinker can make installation commands into clickable links. Just install this Chrome extension and any “sudo apt-get install” command will automatically change into a link. Installing a program is as simple as clicking the link!

Find more information on this by reading 4 Chrome Tools Every Ubuntu Users Should Check Out.

Browse By Software Source

Looking for a program in a repository you added? Perhaps a PPA? Don’t worry; the software center has you covered. Click the arrow to the left of the “Get Software” menu item in the left panel. You’ll see your custom software sources:

linux software center

You can do the same thing with the “Installed Software” item, to see which software you’ve installed from which sources. This is a handy way to keep track of which sources you can perhaps remove from Ubuntu.

Use Synaptic Instead

Ubuntu Software Center

Not sure any of this is giving you the flexibility you need? Time to call in the big guns, then. Synaptic is the ultimate package manager, giving you the ability to add or remove just about anything on your system. It’s not as user-friendly as the Ubuntu Software Center, but it is a great deal easier to tweak. Check it out; it’s in the “System” menu under “Administration”.

The Ubuntu Software Center is a great piece of software, and it’s only getting better with time. Ubuntu 11.04 is rumored to include software reviews from users and more, so stay tuned!

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Beluga – Stay In Touch With Groups Of Friends On The Go [iPhone/Android]

Posted: 09 Mar 2011 07:31 AM PST

With SXSW coming up, the race to become everybody’s favorite group chat application is on in full force. I wrote an article entitled 3 Fun & Simple Phone Apps That Will Change The Way You Text Message back in November in which I shared Kik, GroupMe, and Fast Society with you, but the game is changing ever so quickly.

When I first shared these apps with you, their core focus was text messaging. Now though, these apps are starting to get more social, offering some very useful options and integration with some of your favorite services. GroupMe, in fact, recently added Foursquare integration to its service, which I think is huge.

Beluga, however, might just be the best cross-platform messaging app for groups, of them all. In this article, I’ll show you what’s so special about it and what you can use it for.

What Is Beluga?

Like BlackBerry Messenger, but for iPhone & Android.
Like GroupMe, but no text messaging fees.
Like Twitter, but private to your friends.

“It’s like Gmail for text messages.”

Beluga (directory app) allows you to quickly create private groups, called pods, to stay in touch with your friends, coordinate plans, and share your life. The app lets you send and receive instant updates, location information, and photos, all via push notification, which of course means that there are no SMS/text messaging fees. That’s right, you can send as many messages as you want without having to worry about being charged for anything.

ways to stay in touch with friends

With Beluga’s full multi-way communication, everyone in a pod will see every update made by individual members of the group. This is perfect for staying in touch with family and close friends (kind of like Path), planning events or a night out on the town, keeping up with different groups of friends, or just anything spontaneous really.

how to stay in touch with friends

As I mentioned, you’ll get real-time alerts using the push notifications feature on your phone. You can control these alerts from the settings and you can even set them differently for each individual pod.

Users can share photos and their location with certain pods if they wish, and you’re free to invite anyone in your contacts list with an email or mobile phone. You can add a new member anytime and they will instantly be looped into the conversation that’s already been taking place.

ways to stay in touch with friends

Beluga works with any phone and has native apps for iPhone and Android devices. You can access your messages from your phone or the web, and Beluga’s “pods” are completely private, meaning that there is no over-sharing of your photos, location, etc. with others who you wouldn’t want seeing that information.

You can download Beluga for the iPhone here and for Android here.


Ironically, as I just finished writing this article about how great Beluga is I’m seeing reports on Twitter saying that Facebook just acquired them (I’m not kidding). If that is true, I’m sure the social giant will have some big things in store for this app, so definitely keep an eye on it.

What do you think of group chat clients? Do you have a personal favorite?

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Latest Hilarious Picks [MakeUseOf Geeky Fun]

Posted: 09 Mar 2011 06:45 AM PST


Check out the top picks from MakeUseOf Geeky Fun during the last week.

  1. Who's The iPhone Killer? (Pic)
  2. k bye (Pic)
  3. The Internet: With & Without Homework (Pic)
  4. Server Attention Span (Pic)
  5. Charlie and the Apple Factory (Video)
  6. Spot The Differences (Pic)
  7. Generation X Vs. Generation Y (Pic)

If you would like to keep up with all latest Geeky Fun additions, please subscribe to the Geeky Fun feed here. You can also subscribe and get the latest additions via email.


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