- Cool Websites and Tools [March 11th]
- The 9 Best Questions From You [MakeUseOf Answers]
- Become A Power Trackpad User With BetterTouchTool [Mac]
- 5 Apps That Let You Video Chat On Facebook
- 10 Awesome Apple Blogs For Geeks [Mac]
- 10 More Websites That Help Cure Writer’s Block With Writing Prompts
- Flipside 2X Wallet Giveaway Winners
- 5 Great New iPad Games You Should Be Playing
- How To Set Up Your Own FTP Server With Core FTP
- 3 Simple Programs That Can Help You Manage Multiple Windows
Posted: 11 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: 11 Mar 2011 05:31 PM PST
And the winners are…
Here are the best questions that stimulated some really good answers, too:
Need help? Ask A Question at MakeUseOf Answers.
Follow MakeUseOf on Twitter. Includes cool extras.
Posted: 11 Mar 2011 03:31 PM PST
It's especially useful for Mac users who do lots of work in applications like iPhoto or Aperture, or who surf the web. It enables you, with the click of a button, to close tabs in Safari, delete email messages, save a document, and much, much more without lifting your hand off the mouse.
What It Does
If you're a Trackpad or Magic Trackpad user, you’ll know that you can configure two, three, and four-finger gestures to perform certain actions on your Mac. This includes activating Exposé, swiping Left/Right to switch applications, or using two fingers to rotate an image in Preview. Well, BetterTouchTool is finger gesturing on steroids. Yes, it's a cliché but it's the best way to describe it.
BetterTouchTool includes a list of over 100 gestures and actions that you can customize for your trackpad or Magic Mouse. I was salivating over the number of possibilities this application will provide for navigating my MacBook Air.
With BetterTouchTool you can set gestures to, for example, open a file or URL, sleep your computer, create a new file in a current folder, show the window switcher for an active app, hide or show all windows; and if you have two monitors, you can set a swipe gesture to quickly move your main screen to your secondary one. Now that's totally sweet!
How To Set It Up
The instructions on the website are pretty clear, but in a nutshell when you first launch the application, its Preferences window will appear. You can also access the application from your computer's menu bar. You can set actions for your Magic Mouse, Trackpad/Magic Trackpad, Keyboard and Normal Mouse.
In the Preferences window, you can select which device you want to set gestures for. In this example I have selected the Magic Trackpad. Next you click the "+Add new gesture," and then you click on the Touchpad Gesture pop-up menu button to get the long list of gestures, which include “Single Finger Tap Top Middle“, “Three Tap Bottom“, “Triangle Swipe Top Left Corner“, “Single Finger Tap Top Right“….there are over 50 gestures, including "11 Finger Tap/Whole Hand" for the ultimate power gesture.
Next, you click the Predefined Action pop-up menu to set the action you want your gesture to perform.
So for example, I set “Three Finger Tap” to open the MakeUseOf website. I set a “Single Finger Tap Top Left” to mute the sound on my Mac.
As you can do with SteerMouse, you can set BetterTouchTool to perform a certain action only in a particular application. So for example, you may use “TipSwipe Left Finger Down” to close out individual tabs in Safari.
There are advanced features that you will need to spend some time figuring out. One feature includes Window Snapping which will maximize or re-size a window when it move to the edge or side of your computer screen.
The developer warns that there are some Preference settings you probably should not bother with, but as you learn and observe how the program works, how your gestures behave, and what you have for setting various preferences, you might want to delve deeper into BetterTouchTool. For example you might need to change the sensitivity settings for tapping your trackpad, say because you have a pretty heavy or light hand, or you may need to change the Trackpad speed for how the cursor moves.
If you need to get a more accurate sense of the various sides and parts of your Trackpad or Magic Mouse, BetterTouchTool includes a Live View to show the most previous action performed. This may help work out problems with complex gestures you're trying to set.
No doubt after you spend time creating various actions and setups you will probably want to use them on another Mac or MacBook laptop. Well, BetterTouchTool has you covered, because you can both export and import your actions.
All this makes for a professional grade application, which on top of all that is free. The developer only asks for a well deserved donation, and he will be getting mine shortly.
I'm not sure if there's another application like this for the Mac trackpad, but if there is let us know about it. Plus, let us know what you think of BetterTouchTool, the application of the year, in my view.
Posted: 11 Mar 2011 01:31 PM PST
Since I moved to New York City however, video chat is another thing I’ve been experimenting with. In the past, instant messaging and email have always been enough for me to keep in touch with my friends, but video chatting is nice for when you’ve been away and you just want to see a familiar face. Ideally, it would be nice to experience the best of both worlds, which would be video chatting on Facebook. In this article, I’ll show you the Facebook chat software apps you need to install in order to do just that.
Tinychat is a good place for us to start. You may have heard of, or even used, Tinychat the regular way, as a standalone video chat client, but did you know that they had a Facebook chat application?
Probably not, but the Tinychat app does have over 2 million users on Facebook as of this writing. With this app, you can have up to 12 participants in your video chats, facilitating a group meeting of sorts. All you have to do to use it is head to Tinychat’s Facebook page and follow the easy steps to connect and invite your friends.
The vChatter Facebook application offers another easy way to invite and connect with friends and other random users of the service. You can search for your friends off on the right of the client, as well as see who is currently available. Or if you’re feeling adventurous, you can start a random chat and meet new people.
The idea behind ChatVibes, which is exactly what I was looking for, was to create a way to add video calls to your Facebook chat. All you have to do to integrate ChatVibes with your Facebook Chat is download the installer file, run it, select which browser you use (Chrome, IE, or Firefox), and the app will open up your browser to the appropriate page for you to grab the toolbar/extension.
Once it’s installed, you’ll be able to see a little video icon next to your friends who have ChatVibes installed. Click on it to start video chatting.
Want to talk to 3 friends at the same time? That’s the difference between FriendCameo and the other apps on this list. FriendCameo is a fun video chat app that lets you use video effects and “funny photobooths”. I like the way it’s set up and inviting/calling friends is a breeze.
BandooChat isn’t as stylish as some of the other applications on this list, but it gets the job done, and a lot of people use it. BandooChat keeps your friend list on the right side of the chat application and it will give you little popups when new friends become available for a chat invite.
You’ll see yourself on the bottom left of the application, with the person you’re chatting with on top. You can also use BandooChat to talk it up with random people.
I think Skype is on the verge of giving us a much more awesome way of video chatting with our Facebook friends, but until they actually get fully integrated into Facebook, these Facebook chat applications should be more than enough for you. Let us know which one is your favorite in the comments!
Image Credit: Supri Suharjoto
Posted: 11 Mar 2011 11:31 AM PST
If you’re an Apple fan and you love reading Apple news, you’ll love today’s list. Here’s a collection of some of the best Apple blogs, covering tips and tricks, Apple releases, gossip and gadgets.
1. MakeUseOf Mac Section
Just in case you haven’t noticed, we’ve got plenty of Mac information right here on MakeUseOf. There’s a whole Mac Section of our blog dedicated to free Mac apps, tips and tricks (and another for mobile apps if iOS is on your radar too). We’ve also written a free PDF Mac manual for anyone keen to learn a little more about their Mac, and if you have questions, there’s a category of our Answers section just for you. Browse other people’s Mac questions or ask your own. Occasionally, Apple news features in our news updates.
Despite such an array of Mac information right here, we know sometimes you need to delve deeper into the world of Apple and get your gossip, speculation, accessories and other Apple-centric goodies. So, we’ll share a few more great Apple blogs to read.
2. TÚAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog
The Unofficial Apple Weblog is a haven for all forms of Apple news, including Mac and iOS news. You’ll often see new apps, gadgets and accessories too. I’m sure if you spend too long on the site you’ll end up buying quite a large collection of irresistible iPad covers.
3. The Cult Of Mac
The Cult of Mac is a blog dedicated to all things Mac and Apple related. Lately, there’s been a huge focus on iPads and Steve Jobs, but that can hardly be avoided since it’s the hot topic of all Apple fans. If you dig around a little you’ll find some great articles on Mac applications too.
4. Mac Rumours
If you need to know what Apple is up to generally, Mac Rumours is a great blog to read. You’ll be kept informed of all upcoming Apple events, releases, price changes, news and (as it says on the box) rumours. This is great for staying in the know.
5. World Of Apple
World of Apple is a mixture of news and rumour, teamed with reviews of premium apps for Mac and iOS. The headlines focus on Apple generally and cover gadgets, applications and Steve Jobs. It’s also a good place to check before you go buying any new apps.
6. Apple Insider
The Apple Insider is exactly what you’d expect for a blog with such a name. Breaking news, feature articles, speculation, gossip and gadgets. Within that, there’s plenty of Mac and iOS info for all Apple lovers.
7. Mac OS X Hints
Mac OS X Hints lives up to its name without fail. Basically, it’s a Mac forum with a facility to submit hints for a wider audience. The best hints are then published to the hints blog for all to receive by RSS. If you’re looking for the occasional eye-opening moment, this blog will quickly become a favourite.
Macworld is Mac, iPhone and iPad focused. There’s plenty of hot news stories and the occasional application review or tips.
9. The Mac Observer
The Mac Observer features news on Apple products, personalities and events. Breaking news, editorials, forum discussions, appearances, products, rumour, podcast updates and deals are all featured regularly.
10. Mac User
Mac User is actually a UK magazine for Mac lovers. The blog counterpart is just as well-written, but focuses on more immediate or Internet-focused news. As for most of these Apple blogs, the focus is as much on iOS devices and Steve Jobs as it is Mac OS.
More Mac Blogs
You might also like these articles on Mac sites:
We know only too well these are not the only Apple-centric blogs out there. Let us know your favourites in the comments!
Posted: 11 Mar 2011 10:31 AM PST
From jumping into the shower to using voice recognition software, these famous authors (some Booker Prize awardees) have their own idiosyncrasies. But all of them seem to agree on one hurdle: the dread of writer's block.
We start off with a popular site for writing prompts. The prompts, numbering 346 so far, are on display for you to mouseover and see the writing hints on display. Most of the writing prompts aren't about words or phrases, but they force you to cajole your brain into thinking more imaginatively…and then write.
WritingFix.com is an educator's resource for writing lessons and language skills. Among the resources you will find different kinds of writing prompts. For instance, if you are into journal writing and need a daily prompt to trigger your typing, check the prompt generator here. The random writing prompt comes up with a click and a little note says that there are 566 of those published so far. You can also sign-up for “Daily Writing Prompts” and receive a week’s worth of prompts every Sunday.
A prompt each day should help you light the spark of creativity. Plink has a nice interface with a prompt and a text field displayed prominently. You can use the prompt in your own work or just sign-up and answer it on the site itself. Either way, it should help you to think and write. With Plink, you can also add photos, playlists, maps, and more with a few keywords. You can also choose to share your answers on the social networks. You can also contribute your own prompts.
The writer's site allows you to break the stranglehold of dullness with aids like Grab Brag – the randomly generated writing prompt that authors can use to get started on writing an essay, story or poem. Pick the number of words you want and the site generates writing prompts for you using randomly selected words or phrases. The site also has a weekly prompt which gives you a more detailed scenario to work on. You can subscribe to it as a RSS feed.
How about 1,108,918,470 creative prompts to make you perk up and start to write? That's what Story Starter's idea generator gives you with a click of the button. Plus, there's 729 ideas reserved for kids in their junior section. The site hasn't been updated for some time but the story prompts are still there waiting for you to mine them.
The site says that it can inspire you with its random prompts. Try it out with a mouse click. A pop-up opens to display a random prompt which you can build up or click again to get a fresh prompt. Again, the site lies un-updated, but as long as it keeps throwing prompts at you, it is useful.
There are database generated prompts and then there are the ones personally picked by a passionate blogger. This little effort is the latter. I found this blog accidently, and I must say that I liked it. Why didn't I think of it myself? The idea is very simple – the bloggers (Meg Genge and Laini Taylor) post a writing prompt on Saturday and invite you to post your writing (anything that gets your pen moving). Check out the 256 prompts on view so far.
You can also call it the "toasted calendar". Writing prompts are arranged on a calendar, one for the day. You can change the display of course, but if this suits you, click the arrows to browse through any previous month's prompt ideas.
I have pointed the link straight to the page which houses all the writing tools you will need in case you get stuck on writer's block. Try out the Quick Story Idea Generator or the Quick Story Theme Generator. There are a few other tools too, like the Writing Challenge Generator which spits out writing prompt ideas according to a few permutations and combinations you can set with the dropdowns. The site also links to other generator sites, some of which are quite cool like The Forge – Fantasy Name Generator.
A useful site for fiction writers who can't seem to go beyond the turn of the page; the writing prompt website gives you 3,900 narrative situations to pick and combine. You can use the story starters and writing prompts to flesh your stories with characters and conflicts. Select your characters, pick a mindset, and decide on an action.
If you have tried out any of the links before reaching this line, I hope you have hurtled over writer's block. If you haven't, then fret not; there are two more resources you can tap into –
Scroll down, we need your comments.
Image Credit: Shutterstock
Posted: 11 Mar 2011 10:00 AM PST
Now, we’ll be announcing the five MakeUseOf readers who will each receive a geeky Flipside 2X wallet sent directly to their doorstep for free.
Congratulations! An email has been sent to your inbox. Please reply it within 48 hours to claim your prize.
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Posted: 11 Mar 2011 09:31 AM PST
If you haven’t already done so, now would also be a good time to download my Magical iPad Guide which has another set of free game recommendations as well as lots of other great apps and usability tips to help you get the most from your iPad. Check it out and let us know what you think, iPad fans.
Hunters Episode One HD
Appealing to the XCom fan in me, Hunters HD is a deceptively deep and addictive top-down turn-based strategy game that reminds me of the old Games Workshop Space Hulk games, and has so far managed to steal 3 hours of my life away. Taking control of a squad of elite fighters, the gameplay is essentially to head off to a remote location, walk around, and kill everyone. The interface is stunning – you can pinch zoom and rotate your way around the map, and it automatically follows the action cinematic style during the enemies turn. You can customize your squad with various armor and weaponry, and upgrade as you level up with access to heavier weapons and special equipment.
I was a little discouraged the first time I played by how hard it seemed, but I was taking the wrong approach and just running in guns ablaze. This is a strategy game, no doubt about it, and it will take careful planning and cunning use of team members abilities if you are to survive.
The game is free until your fighter’s level exceeds 2, at which point any further levelling requires an in-game purchase. Even if you just play until then, it’s still a good 3 or 4 hours of gameplay, far more time than I’ve spent in most paid iPad games! I can’t guarantee you won’t want to instantly unlock more levels though. [iTunes]
Eco Punk (Ad Supported)
While it doesn’t quite have the depth of Hunters, Eco Punk is a quick little arcade-style game that has you skateboarding around picking up trash and avoiding the polluting cars. OK, you’re not going to spend more than 10 minutes at a time on this, but it’s a well made game and definitely going to keep the kids quiet for a bit. [iTunes]
If you’re a fan of the Heroes of Might and Magic turn based strategy games, Highborn certainly feels similar, but not so much that I’m prepared to call it a clone. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, then don’t worry either because there’s a thorough tutorial on gameplay mechanics. The graphics are nice and the dialog is hilarious, but I find the interface to be a little clunky. Still, this one will keep you amused for hours, and even has a semi-plot in there, which is unique among most iPad games. [iTunes]
Tilt To Live HD
Unlike most mobile arcade games, Tilt To Live actually requires skill and practice, but you’ll soon get the hang of it. Tilt your device to move the little rocket around the screen and collect power-ups that let you destroy the ever multiplying red dots.
I suggest playing in top down mode until you’re used to the idea of tilting your iPad. Further weapons and game-types are available to unlock as an in-game purchase. [iTunes]
Max Adventure Free:
A simple survival horror that’s surprisingly good. Left thumb controls movement, right thumb controls your ray-gun. Run around fending off the invading aliens until it all becomes too much and they devour you. Collect coins to upgrade stuff. It’s all very simple stuff, but I can’t wait to upgrade to a double ray-gun! Must… finish… article… [iTunes]
What do you think? A nice round-up of new games? Do you have a favourite you’d like me to feature in the next article, if so then fill in the comment form and tell us about it.
Don’t forget to check out these great iPad games round-ups too!
Posted: 11 Mar 2011 08:31 AM PST
For something like this, a lot of people immediately consider a long list of file sharing solutions like the 5 browser-based P2P file sharing tools Tim mentioned or the 4 file sharing applications he wrote about that communicate over the Internet. We’ve covered lots of FTP clients, and Varun showed how to enable the Windows FTP service to serve out files from your own FTP site.
Setting Up Your FTP Domain
I’m going to show you how fast and easy it is to set up an FTP server on your home PC with up to three domains where you can assign specific users and passwords that have access to specific directories on your PC.
When you first launch Core FTP Server you’ll see a blank domain listing where you can get started configuring your three free FTP domains. To do so, just click the “Setup” button.
The domain setup is where 90 percent of the configuration takes place. You’ll see, buried on this page, not only the ability to configure your FTP domain, but you can also enable signed certificates for access to the FTP server, virtual paths that users can navigate when they connect to your server, lots of security options like SSH, SSL, etc.
If you’ve purchased certificates, click the “Certificate” button to set them up. If you don’t have one, you can set up your own “Self signed certificate” with the screen below.
The fastest and easiest way to set up the server (although obviously not the most secure), is to just configure “localhost” with the standard FTP port and set up a root FTP path where anyone connecting to your FTP server can obtain files. You can also create sub-directories for individual users, and you set these up when you configure secure user accounts. You do this after setting up your domain by clicking on the “New” button next to the Users listing.
Here, I’ve set up a user called “ryanfriend1” that will have access to the “ryanfriend1” sub-directory upon logging into the FTP server. As you can see, Core FTP Server offers a whole list of options per user that you can configure like download and upload speeds, timeouts and even limit the amount of KB the user can download.
On the left navigation bar in the user setup box you can also click on the “Permissions” link to block or allow file and directory access permissions for that user.
Back on the main screen of Core FTP Server, if you click on the “Access Rules” button, you can specifically block an IP or domain, or a range of IP addresses, if you ever have the need to.
Once you’ve set up at least one FTP domain and a user, go ahead and click on “Start” and you’ll see the server launch in the activity box at the bottom of the main page. When you see that the server is “active…”, your users are almost able to access your FTP server. You still have to forward incoming FTP inquiries to your new FTP server.
First, open up a command prompt on the computer where the server is running and type “ipconfig” to check your IP address. Once you have the address for the PC, you’re ready to set up your router. Log into your router admin page and (in the case of a Linksys router) click on Applications & Gaming. For other routers, find where you can configure Single Port Forwarding.
Enable FTP port forwarding to the PC address where you’ve enabled your Core FTP server. Once you’ve started your server and enabled router forwarding, you’re ready to connect to your FTP server from anywhere in the world. To display this, I used my laptop to connect from outside my home LAN and opened up a command prompt. I quickly did an FTP to the IP address that I know is assigned to my router from our ISP (if you don’t know, just visit a site like WhatIsMyIp from your FTP server PC to find out).
As you can see above, the server welcomed the user with the message that I defined for that domain. It let the user that I defined log in using the assigned password only, and it issued the exit message upon disconnecting.
The whole process of setting up a fast and simple FTP server with password protected user access takes less than 15 to 20 minutes. Core FTP makes it really easy to open up a directory or directories to yourself or to your friends from anywhere in the world with a functionality that goes much beyond the default FTP service that comes with Windows.
If you’ve tried Core FTP Server, share your thoughts about the pros and cons. Do you know of any other comparable free FTP server software? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Posted: 11 Mar 2011 07:31 AM PST
But you know the saying, right? More windows, more problems? Managing an endless buffet of windows can be a bit of a chore, and Windows has never been the best at making it easier. This is particularly true if you’re using an older version of Windows, such as XP, but even Windows 7 has room for improvement.
This program is a light and simple way to add functionality akin to Mac OS X Expose to Windows. When you press the hotkey, Switcher opens up all of your windows in a thumbnail view and arranges them for easy selection.
Easy, right? Functionally, that’s about all Switcher does. But there is a lot of customization in the program, which makes it possible to tame Switcher in any way you choose. The program can be activated by any hotkey you define, or can be activated by the position of your mouse. There are three different view types – tile, dock and grid – giving you plenty of options to select your favorite style. You can even say how windows should look when thumbnailed including their frame, label and more.
That’s all there is to Switcher, but that’s all there really needs to be. It’s a quick, simple program that can be installed, configured and then left alone. Any computer quick enough to benefit from this program’s functionality should not be slowed down by setting Switcher to run automatically on boot.
Although Windows 7 users won’t gain much from XNeat Windows Manager Lite, those still using Windows XP will likely enjoy this program, as it allows the older operating system to enjoy some task management enhancements that are similar to the features of Windows 7.
Half of XNeat’s functionality relates to the taskbar and how windows on it are managed. With XNeat installed, you will have the ability to sort and group programs listed in the taskbar using drag-and-drop functionality. In addition, you will have access to a new right-click context menu that provides options for finding windows by their type (hidden, trayed, etc) and finding recently opened items. Note that this context menu doesn’t work if you’re running Windows 7.
Another new menu that has been added can be found by using the middle-click mouse button on a window’s titlebar. This will open an array of options including the ability to send the window to the system tray, make the window stay on top, or make the window transparent. You can even change the process priority of the window, although to be honest, I’m not sure you’ll see much effect from this option on a modern PC.
Last, but not least, is the Hot Menu. This is accessed via a hotkey, opening a menu that lets you select through all open windows. You can also access many of the same functions XNeat makes available by right-clicking the taskbar.
Note that the Hot Menu does not appear to work in Windows 7.
Do you like buttons? Do you like pressing buttons to make cool things happen? Then I have the software for you!
Chameleon Window Manager Lite is all about buttons. Six buttons, to be exact. These new buttons take residence on the titlebar of open Windows, and they provide mouse-click functionality to a number of convenient ways to move windows. The buttons added allow you to do the following.
This added functionality will be somewhat more impressive to Windows XP users than to Windows 7 users, since features like window transparency and alignment are available in Windows 7, although accessed via different ways. Still, Chameleon can be handy even if you do have Windows 7 because the added buttons are sometimes quicker than, for example, picking up a window by its titlebar and then dragging the whole thing to the left side of your display.
These three programs should help you manage multiple windows and keep rogue windows under control. They are just a few solutions answering a common problem, however – so feel free to leave a comment about any similar program that you love to use.
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