Tuesday, March 15, 2011

MakeUseOf.com: “Cool Websites and Tools [March 14th]” plus 10 more

MakeUseOf.com: “Cool Websites and Tools [March 14th]” plus 10 more

Link to MakeUseOf.com

Cool Websites and Tools [March 14th]

Posted: 14 Mar 2011 08:31 PM PDT

Check out some of the latest MakeUseOf discoveries. All listed websites are FREE or come with a decent free account option. You can make use of them without spending a dime. If you want to have similar cool websites round-ups delivered to your email daily email subscribe here.

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Funnix – is a desktop application that helps your kids in learning how to read. With hundreds of lessons, Funnix takes them step by step and teaches them the basics of reading. All the lessons are based on fun filled exercises or stories to keep childrens' attention. An easy-to-follow voice narration provides instructions. Read more: Funnix: Hundreds Of Reading Lessons For Kids


Tex2Img – If you are writing a technical paper, whether in math, economics, engineering, or other sciences, you will be running into complex equations that you can't possibly type without using special characters. Fortunately, Tex2Img is a free latex equation editor that converts latex equations into images so you can easily insert them into your document. Read more: Tex2Img: Easily Convert Latex Equations To Images



Zoho Reports – At the workplace, calling your IT department every time you need to create a comprehensive spreadsheet report from your data is an inconvenience as it slows things down. To rid yourself of this inconvenience, you should pay a visit to Zoho Reports – an online tool that lets you easily create spreadsheet reports with a data you have. Read more: Zoho Reports: Easily Work With Spreadsheets & Databases Online



Relax & Sleep – You will find numerous smartphone apps that offer an alarm to help you wake up. But what about apps that help you fall asleep? If you are looking for an relaxing sounds of nature app that wakes you up and helps you go to sleep, check out Relax and Sleep, a smartphone application for Android devices. Read more: Relax & Sleep: Relaxing Sounds of Nature App (Android)



Desktopgraphy – Desktop wallpapers play an important role in customizing your computer. Good wallpapers add the perfect touch to your computer. If you are looking for excellent wallpapers made by graphic designers, check out Desktopography, a free to use website that provides amazing wallpapers for free. Read more: Desktopography: Free Amazing Wallpapers by Graphic Designers


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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What A Hex Editor Is & Why You Might Use It [Technology Explained]

Posted: 14 Mar 2011 06:31 PM PDT

what is a hex editorThe term hex, short for hexadecimal or base-16, is the raw data structure that all files stored on your computer follow. Although literally every file is stored on your computer in this format, you almost never see this data anywhere. Yet being able to directly modify the raw bits and bytes in your computer can sometimes be used to your advantage.

So how does hex work, what is a hex editor and why might you need to use one on your PC?

What Is Hex?

The number system that humans use to count is called decimal, the numbers from 0 to 9. Decimal was invented by the Persians about 6000 years ago.

Fast forward to 1679. The binary number system made up of 0s and 1s was invented by Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz.

Finally in the 1950s or 1960s IBM formalized the Hexadecimal number system, which is a short way to represent binary data. Instead of using digits 0-9, hexadecimal uses digits from 0 to F. Counting from 0 to 31 (converting from decimal to hexadecimal):

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 1A 1B 1C 1D 1E 1F

Once you reach the end of the numeric “digits”, you simply increase the number to the left by one, just like you do with the decimal counting system.

Now that we have the basics of hexadecimal out of the way, let’s move on to some hex editors.

Hex Editors

Hex editors differ from a regular text editors in a number of ways. The basis of a hex editor is that they display the raw contents of the file. No encoding or translation into text – just the raw machine code. The second is that line numbers instead of being based on “lines” are an offset address from the beginning of the file.


what is a hex editor

My favorite hex editor is PSPad. PSPad, in addition to being a great text and code editor, offers the “Open in HEX Editor …” option which will launch the special editing mode.

Once you are in this mode, you can see the location and hexadecimal values of each bit of the file. You have two choices for editing the file – you can either edit the hexadecimal values by location, or on the right side you have the alphanumeric representation of that value which you can also edit.


what is a hex editor used for

XVI32 is also a very capable hex editor. As with PSPad you can edit the hex values directly or the character representation.

It also has some advanced hex editing tools such as an address calculator for checking offsets and some other hex-specific options which can help you get around a hex file if you know what you are doing.

What Can You Do With A Hex Editor?

Now that you know what a hex value is, and how you can open and edit them, why would you want to do that exactly?

Find Out A File Type

Every once in a while you might come across a file that you just can’t seem to open. It has a normal size, but Word or Adobe won’t open it. So can you do anything about that?

The first thing I will do is open the file in a hex editor. Most files include some information in the very top of the file which describes what kind of file it actually might be.

Below, is a character representation of an Adobe PDF file. Let’s say someone mistakenly saves a PDF file as a Microsoft Word .DOC file.

what is a hex editor

When your system sees that extension, it will try to launch Microsoft Word to open the file – but it will fail. Open the file in a hex editor, and it is immediately clear that this file is indeed a PDF file, and a quick switch to the file extension and you will be able to open it right up in Adobe Acrobat or other proper reader.

If you see a filetype but have no idea what kind of program might be used to open that file, you might check out OpenWith which lists many file extensions and the programs used to open them.

Game & File Hacking

Another popular reason you might use a hex editor is game hacking. You can load up a game save state file and change the amount of money you have from $1,000 to $1,000,000, for example.

Now, on more recent games this has been made much harder. Many modern games include either compression or encryption which make it many times more difficult to decompile the save state or game. However, some games still allow you to edit certain variables, such as in Sonic Spinball.

In addition to looking into game files, sometimes you can glean other important information from a saved file that you otherwise might not have access to. This depends greatly on the type of file and what information you are looking for, but using a hex editor is useful in determining what exactly resides within a file.

Debugging & Editing

Finally the last main reason you might use a hex editor is if you are a programmer who is debugging your code. Instead of going back to recompile you code, a simple hex edit might be all you need to test out a verification pattern. Editing a raw binary file is not recommended for the feint of heart – modify just one character in a file could potentially render it useless. Make sure you have a backup before modifying any files using a hex editor.

When a Hex Isn’t a Hex

Hopefully you’ve learned a little bit about computers that you hadn’t known before, or at least have had your memory refreshed. Knowing how your computer ticks becomes more and more important as they become easier and easier to use. I know if you made it this far, you are ready to use these advanced strategies for getting the most out of the bits and bytes stored on your hard drive!

Have questions about hexadecimal or hex editors in general? Let us know below!

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2 Ways To Annotate Your PDF Files Online

Posted: 14 Mar 2011 04:30 PM PDT

annotate pdfIf you use Ubuntu, you may have faced the frustration of trying to find a native way to annotate your PDF files, like say, any of the MakeUseOf PDF manuals you know you can download for free. Unless you run some Windows program via Wine, wait for Evince's annotation features, or learn to use the incredibly user-unfriendly PDFEdit, you're pretty much out of luck. That's when you can be thankful that there are developers focused on making web-based PDF tools.

There are plenty of PDF tools, many that are document-viewing sites, such as Scribd, Issuu, DocStoc, etc. that beautifully display PDF files neatly on your browser, but not many of these let you do much other than admire the document.

Few web-based PDF tools actually offer annotation features, like the ones you can find in Foxit (whose Linux version doesn't actually have annotation tools) or PDF-XChange, my favorite reader with customizable keyboard shortcuts. Perhaps, you occasionally use PDF files or maybe have a PDF reader without many or any annotating features, such as the lightweight SumatraPDF or Evince in Ubuntu.

Whatever reason you have for needing a quick way to annotate PDF files, check out the following web-based PDF tools.

PDFEscape – Great For Advanced Annotating & Light Page Manipulation

PDFEscape has been featured on our site as a great PDF editor and form filler with the basic features that most users welcome. You don't need an account to edit a PDF and can load PDFs from your computer or from an URL. The number of PDF-annotation tools is pretty impressive as you can whiteout (hide parts of your PDF file), and insert links, insert arrows, images, sticky notes, checkmarks and even form fields of several types (text, checkbox, listbox, etc).

annotate pdf

That's not where the features end though. PDFEscape helps you delete, rotate and move pages in your PDF file, which even in desktop PDF readers, you usually can find limited support for.

how to annotate pdf

You can also encrypt the document with a password, as well as edit the details of the PDF file, such as title, author, etc. You can even save your progress as you're editing while you're trying the features out (you don't have to be logged in), unless you navigate elsewhere and lose your session. PDFEscape saves the annotation to the PDF file, as opposed to Okular, which is a nice PDF reader, but doesn’t save annotations on top of the PDF file, which makes annotations inaccessible in other viewers.

how to annotate pdf

Crocodoc – Great For Collaborative Annotation

Crocodoc is a polished viewer and annotator for PDF, MS Word, MS Powerpoint, PNG, and JPG files. You might be reminded of Aviary's Falcon tool, which lets you annotate images (great for anyone that wants to annotate a screenshot), and web-based PDF and document viewers, like Zoho's excellent Viewer, and the Google Docs viewer, but Crocodoc also accepts other file types and has a few other features up its sleeves. Crocodoc also uses HTML5 and CSS3 instead of Flash to display documents with minimal loss of quality when compared to the original files. You don't even need to create an account as you can upload a file right away when you land on the website. You get a simple viewer with zooming, text (which you can use to fill out forms), drawing, highlighting and commenting tools after your file gets converted.

how to annotate pdf

What makes it stand out from the other PDF annotators in this list is that it allows you to share your marked-up PDF file with a shortened link, and even with embed codes! Once you share it, you can choose to let your viewers add comments to your document. The other unique feature is that you can collaborate with others so you can all view and annotate the file together, even if you're in remote locations. You can then see all of the changes made to the document in a sidebar. Crocodoc allows you to download the original file as well as the annotated version, which you can view in Sumatra, Evince or your favorite PDF reader, with annotations and all.

annotate pdf

Honorable mentions would go to PDFVue, (which has many of the same features that PDFEscape offers in slick interface, but brands marked up PDF files with a DocQ watermark) and FillAnyPDF (which is a beautiful form filler and PDF annotator, but in my tests, it didn't seem to save the annotations to the PDF file so they weren't visible when used with a desktop viewer).

What free software or web-based tool do you use to annotate PDF files? Share your wisdom in the comments!

Image Credit: Alessandro Rei

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Windows Users: Here Is Why You Need A Linux Live CD

Posted: 14 Mar 2011 02:30 PM PDT

linux live cdIn my experience Windows tends to have a habit of going wrong when you least expect, and at crucial moments. If you dread that sinking feeling as your system screws the pooch on startup, maybe it’s time to make a Linux live CD.

There are plenty of reasons the average Windows user may want to create a Linux live CD or USB stick before it’s too late. A USB-based distribution will be speedier (you’ll need Unetbootin) or you can simply burn a CD/DVD with something like ImgBurn.

If you’ve not got one yet and are interested in the potential benefits then read on.

Which One?

For the purpose of this article I’m going to keep it simple and stick to the most widely used Linux home desktop distribution – Ubuntu. This version of Linux includes a live CD from which you can use or install the operating system, as well as plenty of software to start you off.

linux live cd

There are hundreds of free Linux distributions available, so it can be quite tricky choosing the right one. Ubuntu is a simple, easy to use distribution with a straight-forward interface making it perfect for newcomers. Driver support is also excellent, and driver issues are the last thing you need when you’re trying to fix existing problems.

Scenario 1 – Windows Won’t Boot

Whilst you can often resolve issues with Windows via a Windows CD/DVD, not everyone has one. Luckily enough, you can also have a go at fixing your Windows partition with Linux. You’ll need a few tools, notably lilo and ntfs-3g which are readily available in the repositories if you’re using Ubuntu.

linux live

You can then have a crack at repairing a corrupted NTFS file system and fixing the Windows master boot record. You can find full instructions on how to do this here.

Scenario 2 – Windows Is Dead

So you’ve tried fixing what you can and nothing seems to have helped – looks like you need to re-install Windows. But oh no! You’ve (foolishly) left some vital documents on your Windows partition and you’re not formatting till you’ve got them back. Step in Linux!

linux live

Even if your Windows installation is butchered beyond repair, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to both access and backup any data you had on that partition with a live CD. Many distributions will detect your Windows filesystem, allowing you to mount the drive and recover your data via a nice friendly GUI.

We’ve covered mounting and accessing a Windows partition through Linux here.

Scenario 3 – Isolating Hardware Issues

Another handy use for a live CD is the ability to check whether or not your PC is suffering from a hardware or software fault. If Windows won’t play ball, and Linux loads fine then chances are you’re looking at a software fault (at which point you could try and fix and recover).

linux live

Of course if Linux doesn’t work either then you may have identified a hardware issue. Some live distributions come with diagnostics tools on the disc, such as Ubuntu‘s inclusion of Memtest86+. Even if you can’t isolate the exact piece of hardware giving you grief, your live CD has saved you some time so you can take the next necessary steps.

Scenario 4 – I Badly Need The Web!

So you’ve accepted that Windows is dead and gone, got your data back but now you’ve realised your boss has been waiting for an email for 2 hours, and you’ve got no functioning OS on your PC. Insert your live CD, connect to a network and use your live CD’s built-in web browser to send that email – tragedy averted.

linux live cd

Wireless internet might be an issue for some users as additional drivers are often required. If you find yourself in this boat then a direct connection via Ethernet should provide network and internet access.

Scenario 5 – My C:\ Drive is Full of Fail

If you’ve got a nasty case of malware poisoning and the idea of booting Windows only to watch it eat all your data doesn’t appeal, Linux might help you out.

Linux is a very secure operating system, with some distributions being more secure than others. Generally speaking viruses do not affect Linux, so most Linux antivirus applications are designed to stop the spread of malware between Windows machines.

It’s no lie that most malware and viruses are geared towards the Windows operating system, and being able to scan your Windows drive within Linux is very useful. Justin has written an article regarding the validity of a Linux antivirus and the best tools for the job.


When it comes to PC security, maintenance and recovery it really does pay to be one step ahead of the game. If you’ve got a spare USB stick you’re willing to sacrifice (2GB or more) then you’ll find loading speeds and boot-up time to be faster than a CD counterpart.

You won’t know how useful that live CD can be until you really need it!

Have you got a spare live CD in the drawer? Do you use a USB stick? Which distribution? Has it ever saved your bacon? Let us know in the comments below.

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Hot Tech Deals [Mar 14th]

Posted: 14 Mar 2011 01:30 PM PDT

If you’re in the market for a new computer, laptop, mobile phone, games and other accessories; don’t waste your time searching online. We’ve taken the liberty of locating the best tech deals and unifying them into a single post for your convenience.

For more fresh hot deals, visit our Hot Tech Deals page, which is constantly updated.

  1. Dell Inspiron 15 Intel Dual-Core T4500 2.3GHz 15.6in Laptop (2GB/250GB) $399.99 via code HLSKSR06S9ZG0F (Exp Soon)
  2. Dell Inspiron 15R Intel Core i5-460M Dual-Core 2.53GHz 15.6in Laptop (4GB/500GB) $599.99
  3. Dell Inspiron 17R Intel Core i3-370M Dual-Core 2.53GHz 17.3in Laptop (4GB/500GB) $558.99 via code 0CQ6F64K$ZCPV$ (Exp 3/14)
  4. Dell XPS 15 Intel Core i5-2410M 2.3GHz Sandy Bridge 15.6in Laptop (4GB/500GB/Geforce GT525M) $729.99 via code 932N$0ZCCHWZB9 (Exp 3/31)
  5. Dell XPS 17 Intel Core i7-2630QM Quad-Core Sandy Bridge 17.3in Laptop (6GB/640GB/Geforce GT550M) $929.99 via code 932N$0ZCCHWZB9 (Exp 3/31)
  6. HP dv6tqe Intel Core i7-2630QM Quad-Core Sandy Bridge 15.6in Laptop (6GB/750GB/Radeon HD6770) $824.99 via code NB2212 (Exp Soon)
  7. HP dv7tqe Intel Core i7-2630QM Quad-Core Sandy Bridge 17.3in Laptop (6GB/750GB/Blu-Ray/Radeon 6770) $924 via code NB6515 (Exp Soon)
  8. HP ENVY 14 Intel Core i7-720QM Quad-Core 14.5in Laptop (4GB/640GB/Radeon HD5650/TWO 8-Cell Batteries) $999 via code NB4793 (Exp Soon)

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set

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5 Best BitTorrent Search Engines Now

Posted: 14 Mar 2011 12:30 PM PDT

bit torrent search enginesThe bit torrent search engine world is constantly changing. Search engines come and go, for every service that disappears, a handful more appear. We’ve decided to put together a list of some of the search engines that stand out for one reason or another.

Whether they are specialized sites searching for films, music or TV shows, or torrent results are accompanied by invaluable information including verification, each of these sites have something unique to offer. These sites don’t just make it easy to search for and find torrents, they’re a great resource for finding interesting files, movies and TV shows if you’re looking for something to keep you entertained.


TorrentButler is a great torrent search engine if you’re looking for a film to watch, but don’t have a specific movie in mind. You can browse the latest, most popular, or the newest torrents from the homepage, and can limit the results to HD videos only. You can also browse films by a specific genre.

bit torrent search engines

Each entry is accompanied by a plot summary, cast list, and a YouTube Trailer.

torrent file search engine

Clicking on the green Torrents button reveals the torrents available for download, accompanied by the number of seeds and file size, with two separate lists for High and Standard Definition.

torrent file search engine

If you want to see more info on each torrent, click the information button to the left and you will be taken to the torrent’s original page on The Pirate Bay.

torrent file search engine


No list of bit torrent search engines would be complete without EZTV. If you’re looking for the latest TV shows on both British and American TV, EZTV is the go-to site to get your fix.

best torrent search engine

The home page is updated on a daily basis, with links to the latest torrents from the previous night’s TV lineup.

best torrent search engine

Searching for specific TV shows will take you to the show’s main page, where you can find the latest torrents, available from 6 mirrors including The Pirate Bay, BT-Chat and Torrage. With shows that have been on the air for several years, only the last 5 or 6 seasons are available on EZTV. Each show is additionally accompanied by a plot summary and the latest mentions in entertainment news.

best torrent search engine

If EZTV is down, as tends to happen every now and then, you can always keep up with them through their Twitter account.


Fenopy is a torrent search engine with eight categories of files. You can search for movies, music, TV shows, books, games, applications or anime.

Each torrent is accompanied by standard details such as file list, ratio of seeders to leechers, and file size.

Fenopy sets itself apart from other similar torrent search engines with a few special features. Where available, files are accompanied by previews, meaning you can hear a snippet of an MP3, listen to the audio from a video file or even preview a PDF before downloading the torrent.

In addition to previews, a large majority of the files are marked either as verified torrents, or alternatively as fake. With Fenopy you don’t have to waste your time downloading a file that turns out to be a dud. With Fenopy you can also choose to browse verified torrents only.


For music buffs, Coda.fm is a great choice for searching for torrents. Browse the latest releases, popular artists, genres or search for the music you want to download. Like TorrentButler, Coda.fm is a good source for music if you don’t have any specific music in mind that you’re searching for.

Coda.fm makes it easy to discover new music. When searching for any given artist, it will list other similar artists that you might like. While the site does feature the latest albums, some of the artist pages do need updating to include them on the same page.

Albus are accompanied by a review, as well as torrent details such as the seeder/leecher ratio.

In addition, the entry is accompanied by a complete track list, artist bio and their other albums.

Cinema Torrents

Cinema Torrents is another solid choice for searching for films. Whether you know which film you want to download, or are looking for something interesting to watch, Cinema Torrents has you covered. The site has its own weekly picks, as well as a list of the hottest movies available for download.

The site isn’t just limited to the latest movies available, featuring films from the seventies and eighties as well. Each film is accompanied by its IMDB rating, Cinema Torrents rating, as well as other information just as rating and length, and a short plot summary.

Each film is accompanied by a list of available torrents, and at a quick glance you can also see the quality of each torrent, including DVD and cam, whether or not the torrent is verified and the seeders to leechers ratio.

bit torrent search engines

Also be sure to check out the following posts:

Torrent Search Helps You Find Torrent Files Quickly & Easily

Top 6 Alternatives to Pirate Bay Downlaods

Top Torrent Search Engine for All Torrent Downloaders

What are your favourite bit torrent search engines? Let us know in the comments.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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How To Use Your Trackpad To Powerfully Navigate Any Application

Posted: 14 Mar 2011 11:30 AM PDT

how to use trackpadRecently I wrote a review of a powerful application, BetterTouchTool that empowers users to activate all kinds of menu shortcuts and perform other application, desktop, and Finder actions using Apple's Magic Mouse, Trackpad/Magic Trackpad, or normal mouse.

As I mentioned in the previous article, BetterTouchTool will be especially beneficial for Mac users who work in iPhoto, Aperture, and similar applications where you may primarily navigate controls using the mouse or trackpad. Of course if you use a MacBook laptop, BetterTouchTool is a must have program for power users.

In this article, I provide tips on how to use the trackpad on BetterTouchTool with iPhoto. What I cover can of course be applied to any application that you use on a regular basis.

While it may seem time consuming to set up presets in BetterTouchTool, the effort will save you time over the long run. BetterTouchTool is what computer automation is all about—saving us time.

Default Gestures and Actions

Apple provides a small set of trackpad presets that are especially useful in applications like iPhoto or Aperture.

how to use trackpad

Opening the trackpad settings and instructions in System Preferences, you see how to use your trackpad or Magic Mouse to rotate, zoom-in and scroll through a sets of photos. These actions are useful but they don't compare to the power of BetterTouchTool. So let's move on.

Set Up of iPhoto

I'm assuming you have already downloaded BetterTouchTool and have read over the basic setup in my first article, as well as the instructions provided in the application's manual. As you may or may not know, you can scope BTT gestures and actions to work only in specified applications. You add the application in the left column.

The actions we assign in BetterTouchTool for iPhoto are all based on the latter's menu shortcuts, because that's mainly how you navigate iPhoto—using keyboard shortcuts. Typically keyboard shortcuts are useful for when your fingers are already on the keyboard, but when they're on the mouse or trackpad, your workflow gets slowed down when you move your hand away from your mouse or trackpad in order to activate a keyboard shortcut. The same goes for when you move the cursor to the application's menu bar to select a menu shortcut. Using BetterTouchTool you can keep your hand on the trackpad or mouse and quickly activate shortcuts.

Re-using Assigned Gestures

If you use iPhoto on a regular basis, you probably do a lot of editing in the program. While you can double-click on the thumbnail version of a photo to enlarge it, you have to use the menu shortcut, Command+E, to open the photo in the Editor. Or you can click the Editor button in the menu bar of iPhoto. But those options are a little troublesome if your fingers are already on the trackpad. Let's make a simple Three Finger Swipe Down gesture to activate that shortcut.

how to use trackpad mac

Notice when I select the Three Finger Swipe Down gesture, a little pop-up informs me that the gesture is already in use. But I'm going to re-use it anyway because when I'm working in iPhoto, that assigned gesture won't conflict with what I'm doing while I work in iPhoto. If you already started using BetterTouchTool, you will want to make sure the gestures you use don't override an important global three-finger gesture you will want to use while in iPhoto. For example, I use a global Three Finger Swipe Left and Swipe Right to control the volume on my computer. I would not use those same gestures again application because I want that volume control in every application I’m working in.

Next, in the Custom Keyboard Shortcut box, I assign the shortcut, Command+E to the gesture. Now when a photo is selected, using the Three Finger Swipe Down quickly opens the image in the Editor. You use the double-tap or clicking gesture on the image to move it back to the browser.

Other Gestures and Actions

To add more gestures and actions for iPhoto, you just need to select those keyboard shortcuts you use on a regular basis. If for example you rate your photos, you might create three and five-finger tap gestures for assigning 3 and 5 star ratings to photos.

how to use trackpad

You might use the Four Finger Click to send selected images to the trash. It takes more effort to use the Four Finger Click than to use a Four Finger Swipe Down; this means you're less likely to accidentally delete photos.

Another useful set of gestures is one for quickly copying image adjustments made on photo, and another related gesture for pasting copied adjustments in other photos. Using gestures this way helps improve your workflow.

The key to BetterTouchTool or similar programs is to focus on using and learning a few gestures at a time. Presets should only be created for actions you perform on a regular basis, which helps you remember them.

Now that I'm using BetterTouchTool, I probably won't go back to my regular mouse. With BTT I can pretty easily automate more tasks and do things faster than with a mouse.

Let us know what you think of BetterTouchTool or similar tools. And by the way, if you're looking for tutorials on how to better edit images in iPhoto, check out my article here.

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5 Websites To Go To For Offbeat And Funny News Stories

Posted: 14 Mar 2011 10:30 AM PDT

funny news storiesLet me add a few more adjectives like quirky, way-out, bizarre, weird, and definitely off-the-wall to the above headline; because, satirical websites are well deserving of all these qualifiers. Opening a newspaper on its frontpage is usually depressing these days. So is switching on the television where each 'Breaking News' breaks nothing but a calamity or a scandal.

But thankfully, funny news stories from around the world can also give us a few laughs. It may be unintentional in the way it happens, or it may be turned into humor thanks to satire. The free and open web perhaps has bit more space to convey the funny irony in some of the news that happens around the world.

The five websites mentioned below may be just enough to spark your sense of humor. Even if they don't there are a lot many more funny news websites that help you break into a laugh. Just a note of warning: Some of the news items may not be suitable for below 18 audiences.


funny news stories

When it comes to collecting the best of the bizarre from around the world, this website heads the bookmarks. The site's slogan – “It’s not news, it’s Fark," says it all. Fark.com is basically a social aggregator of funny, interesting, and amusing stories submitted by a social network of news junkies who scour the web for news which grab eyeballs but not necessarily headlines.

Funny news stories like 'the weirdest beers you might actually want to drink' or the scientifically serious, 'Has life been found in a meteorite?' finds its place on this site. Many of the funnies are from mainstream news sources like NY Times, AP Wire, and BBC. Then you also have Photoshop files uploaded by community members which are part of its running contests. The site displays around 50 links a day. To see all the links submitted in real-time calls for a paid TotalFark membership.

The Smoking Gun

funny news articles

The Time Warner website features news snippets you may avoid if you see them in any other regular news publication. Most of what goes unreported in other news media, finds a place here. The site showcases publicly available legal documents, arrest records, and police mug shots got from government and law enforcement sources, via Freedom of Information requests.

Most of the news is out of the way but completely authentic according to the site. The site has even made a Time Waster game section out of mug shots, where you have to match the face to a crime. The news items or documents are arranged in categories and some of the 'crimes' aren’t funny but definitely are offbeat and bizarre.


funny news articles

It is tagged as a tech humor site but the collection of links on the site goes on to capture other interesting stuff too; though most of it is on the geekier side. The site also produces a variety of features like fake news stories poking fun at the tech and political worlds. All news items are linked to their original source. For example, you can check out the Android vs. iPhone war wallpaper or the infographic on how Star Wars changed the world.

The Daily Mash

There's something about British humor and this satirical news website pitches it just right. The site gives a new turn to national and international news with spoof stories, commentary and opinion. There's even a line on the daily weather, along with a regular Agony Aunt column and polls. Whether it's politics (Gaddafi welcomed by online forums) or sports (England made to give back Ashes), you can always start your day with this 'newspaper' instead of your regular one.


funny news stories

It went off the information highway for a brief spell but is now back on the funny track. It is one of the more popular news satire websites on the web and from its menu you can figure out that it takes a dig at just about everything from politics to sports, and even the arts. News items are mentioned as 'briefs'.  So, expect to read about how heroic oil companies are offering to fly Libyan oil to safety or read about Oprah's sister.

These five sites are just few of the 'funny lands' on the web. I haven't highlighted the better known ones like Cracked and The Onion because I figure if you like satire and funny takes, you already might have them on your daily read list. If you don't have them yet, then go ahead and check them out. You probably won't come back. But if you do, then read through some of our previous posts which guarantee a few laughs at least.

Faux News: 10 Best Websites for Fake News & Satire – John McClain

9 Hilarious Websites To Visit When You Need To Kill Time – Simon Slangen

Which website is your source for a daily diet of laughter?

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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How To De-clutter And Simplify Your Facebook Wall

Posted: 14 Mar 2011 09:30 AM PDT

declutter facebookFacebook Wall is a powerful tool: it lets you stay in touch with hundreds of people all over the world and keep up-to-date with what they are up to and what they share. With it being such an important tool, it is quite clear why it has been tweaked so many times throughout the life of the social network.

You can see lots of things at a glance once you enter your Facebook dashboard: your friends’ current mood and thoughts, your friends’ new friends, your friends’ photos, etc; as well as your new potential friends, your friends’ upcoming events and lots of other things. With so much information stuffed into one page, it is easy to get lost. With Facebook killing default wall filters while quietly introducing new wall settings, seeing what you actually want becomes almost impossible.

Would you like to have more power over your wall? The following user scripts will help you to tweak your Facebook wall to de-clutter and simplify it!

Note: All the three user scripts listed here to declutter Facebook have been tested on FireFox (through Greasemonkey). They should also work on Google Chrome.

1. Simplified Facebook

Simplified Facebook adds a new box to your Facebook wall that enables you to easily filter out certain updates from your wall:

  • Remove likes,
  • Remove new friendships,
  • Remove applications,
  • Remove links,
  • Remove photos,
  • Remove applications.

declutter facebook

2. Remove Facebook Right-Column

Remove Facebook Right-Column: While the above script lets you filter out irrelevant updates from your stream, this one lets you move focus to your wall updates. It removes the right column that contains pokes, events, “People you may know” and other things that clutter your home page:

clean up facebook wall

3. Better Facebook

Better Facebook is the most advanced script of all reviewed here. Whether it makes Facebook experience simpler or more complicated is for you to decide but some of its options do turn really effective to declutter your Facebook home page:

1. Use powerful feed filters to remove certain updates from your wall. Better Facebook “Feed filter” feature gives you access to multiple options which can change your Facebook stream completely. For example, you can:

  • Hide / minimize / move / apply certain CSS to… all updates from any friend of yours (to stop hearing from him without “un-friending”);
  • Hide / minimize / move / apply certain CSS to… all updates of a certain type (links, notes, friends tagged in a video or photo, application updates, etc, etc)
  • Hide / minimize / move / apply certain CSS to… all updates from a certain application;

Mind that using filters may slow down Facebook while posts are being processed. Using many filters may cause increased slowdown on slower computers.

2. Easily remove certain boxes: Better Facebook allows you to disable many of the boxes that appear in the right sidebar, including those that Better Facebook adds itself:

  1. Just clicking the “X” to remove any panels you no longer want to see.
  2. You can also click the header title of any box in the right panel to “collapse” it without removing it completely!

clean up facebook wall

3. Mark as read and /or mute certain updates: if some of the threads seem to be taking too long or you just want to mark something as read to archive it, use the tool’s Gmail-like “Mute” and “Mark as Read” options available for each individual post as well as for all the visible threads via the control panel:

declutter facebook

Are you aware of any more tricks to simplify your Facebook experience? Please let us know in the comments!

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It’s Showtime with Elmedia Player PRO for Mac [Giveaway]

Posted: 14 Mar 2011 08:30 AM PDT

Elmedia Player PRO for Mac OS X is the ultimate choice for watching videos on your computer for its sheer volume of unique features. Elmedia sets itself apart from other video players by supporting a wide variety of video formats, most uniquely, Real Player videos. And that’s not the only unique feature in this media player. Elmedia allows you to download videos from the Internet, directly within its inbuilt browser.

This week, we will be giving away 25 copies of Elmedia Player PRO worth almost $500. Find out how you can score one for yourself.

Browse websites directly within the Elmedia browser and the player will automatically display all the downloadable videos, regardless of format. You can play the videos and animations online within the browser, but why do that when you can download the files to your computer to watch when you don’t have access to an internet connection.

You can choose to display all media files available for download on the site, or display only flash or video files. Once know which file you want to download, clicking the download link will save the file to your computer, and to your Elmedia library. Growl notifications let you know when the download is complete.

The Elmedia Player library can be browsed either by video format, or by date. Browse your videos downloaded today, in the past week or in the past month. The Elmedia library lets you keep all of your videos organised, and create playlists, using an easy drag-and-drop interface that is found in other media players like iTunes.

And the features don’t end there. You can take screenshots of your videos, either one at a time, or at an interval of every 0.1 to 10 seconds, essentially converting your file into a series of photos. All photos in a series are saved in tiff format to a folder on your computer. And you can watch your videos in full screen mode, fit to the window, detach the video screen from the library, float the screen on top of other windows, and even zoom in on your video screen.

Formats supported include FLV, SWF, AVI, MOV, MP4, WMV, RM (Real Player) and XAP (Silverlight).

How do I win a copy?

It’s simple, just follow the instructions.

Step 1: Fill in the giveaway form

Please fill in the form with your real name and email address so that we can get in touch if you are chosen as a winner. Click here if you can’t view the form.

The giveaway code required to activate the form is available on our Facebook page.

Step 2: Share!

You’re almost done. Now, all that’s left to do is to share the post. There are 2 options to choose from or you can do both!

Like it on Facebook

Or share it on Twitter

Giveaway eligibility
In accordance with Facebook’s Promotional Guidelines 2.4.2 and 2.4.3:
Individuals who are over the age of 18. If you are under 18, get your parents to participate on your behalf;
Individuals who reside in a country embargoed by the United States; Belgium, Norway, Sweden, or India are not permitted to enter.

This giveaway begins now and ends Friday, March 18th at 2100hrs PST. The winners will be selected at random and informed via email.

Spread the word to your friends and have fun!

MakeUseOf would like to thank Eltima Software for their generosity while participating in this giveaway. Interesting in sponsoring? We’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with us via email.

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Latest Hilarious Picks [MakeUseOf Geeky Fun]

Posted: 14 Mar 2011 06:47 AM PDT


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

  1. Spock Overshares on Facebook (Video)
  2. Somebody is sleeping on the couch tonight… (Pic)
  3. Methods Of Spreading Democracy (Pic)
  4. The IT Crowd join FriendFace (Video)
  5. iWear (Pic)
  6. The State Of Internet Based TV (Pic)
  7. Lag: An Animated Story of High Latency (Video)

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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