Saturday, March 19, 2011 “Cool Websites and Tools [March 18th]” plus 18 more “Cool Websites and Tools [March 18th]” plus 18 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [March 18th]

Posted: 18 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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Panorama Profile – With 500 million plus users, your Facebook profile has to offer something unique to stand out. Panorama Profile lets you create a panoramic facebook profile that will quickly attract users and make your profile look cool. Simply upload a picture and create a panorama using 5 different frames provided. Read more: Panorama Profile: Design A Panoramic Facebook Profile


FontFuse – Web designers often struggle with pairing the right fonts together, whether it’s for a new webpage or simply a text document that utilizes various styles. FontFuse is an online tool that lets you pair and find fonts that work well together online. Start by choosing a background color using the color wizard, then select a font for your headline. Read more: FontFuse: Pair & Find Fonts That Work Well Together



LEGO Photo – If you can’t get enough of Lego, here is an iPhone app you will come to love. LEGO Photo lets you convert any photo you take with your iPhone into a LEGO Portrait by simply pressing a button. Just point your camera, tap to take the photograph and click on the portrait icon in the LEGO Photo app to convert pixels into Lego bricks. Once created, your LEGO Portraits can be shared with the world. Read more: LEGO Photo: Convert Photos Into Lego Portraits (iPhone App)



Keep My Opt-Outs – Tracking browser cookies to serve adverts that are tailored to the user’s likes and dislikes is a practice that has been going on for years. But these methods prompt privacy concerns time and again. Google has now come up with a Chrome extension called Keep My Opt-Outs that lets users permanently opt out of personalized ads. Read more: Keep My Opt-Outs: Chrome Extension To Opt Out Of Google Ads



Lost Pet Atlas – is where you should create a profile for your pet if they are lost and you can’t seem to find them. It is an online directory of lost and found pets in the US. It lets pet owners search for their pets by selecting the type of pet they have (only cat and dog options are available). Read more: Lost Pet Atlas: Online Lost And Found Pets Directory


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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The 9 Best Questions From You [MakeUseOf Answers]

Posted: 18 Mar 2011 06:31 PM PDT

MakeUseOf Answers is a great place to expand your knowledge, as demonstrated by our best questions week for week. If you feel you already know a lot, join the discussion for a chance to help someone and win one of three prizes each week.

This week we are rewarding:

Best Answer of the Week – Mike

1st Runner Up – Jay

2nd Runner Up – Crosser

Thank you everyone for sharing your expertise and congratulations to the winners! Learn something new from the Best Questions this week:

MakeUseOf Answers can teach you a trick each day. Read, learn, and share by browsing Latest Questions, Most Popular Questions, or Unanswered Questions. For regular updates subscribe to the Answers RSS Feed.

Need help? Ask A Question at MakeUseOf Answers.

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Three Other Easy Ways To Resize Your Photos On A Mac

Posted: 18 Mar 2011 04:31 PM PDT

Resizeit 1 1In a recent article (Note: Pending) I showed you how to use iPhoto 11 to resize photos. iPhoto 11 is the best way for Mac users to manage, edit, and share photos, but some Mac users may not take enough photos to warrant purchasing or bothering with the program. In addition, you may simply need to quickly resize images without bothering to open iPhoto, which sometimes can mean opening a huge library of thousands of images.

For more streamlined purposes, Apple’s default OS X applications, Preview and Mail, and a free lite version of a third party application called ResizeIt may suffice. If you, on the other hand, need to do batch resizing of images, check out my article on using Automator for this purpose.

Resizing In Preview

By default, when you double-click on an image on your Mac, Preview is the application that opens it up. What you may not know is that it’s also a good application for resizing images. To do so, open an image into Preview, and click Tools > Adjust Size in the menu bar.


The drop-down window will provide you information about the dimension and resolution size of the image. For images you’re going to post for viewing on a website, the resolution size 72-150 pixels is adequate. For printing purposes, 240 to 300 pixels should be used. You should manually type in the dimension for resizing your image.


Or you can use one of the presets provided in Preview. It used to be that 640 x 480 pixels was the standard size for posting images on the web, but with many people viewing the web on widescreen monitors and small mobile phones, you might need to consider other sizes, such as 800 x 600 or the smaller 320 x 240. Unfortunately, Preview doesn’t allow you to save custom sizes as a preset. If you have a custom size you need to regularly use, create an Automator workflow or use ResizeIt described below.

Caution: when you resize images in Preview it will not give you the option to save the original of your image. So you need to either make a duplicate copy of the photo before resizing, or select Save As to make sure you’re saving the resized image as a separate file.

Resizing In Mail

If you want a super fast way to resize an image(s), simply drop it into your Apple Mail application and mail it. Done. Mail even provides you with options for resizing.


At the bottom of the composition box, Mail will tell you the dimensions of the resized photo before you mail it. You can change it to Small, Large, or Actual Size, provided the recipient of your email has a fast enough Internet speed to download a large size image file.

The great thing about using Mail to resize an image is that it doesn’t resize your original. It makes a copy and then resizes it. However, if you try to drag the image out of your drafted email, it will not be the resized version.

Resizing In ResizeIt

If you don't want to haul out iPhoto or Photoshop to resize an image, and if you need to do some quick batch resizing of images, a small free application, ResizeIt available in the Apple Mac Store, may do the trick. Now I must say, ResizeIt could use some work, although it does what it says it will do.


The best way to use ResizeIt is to select, then drag and drop one or more photos onto the ResizeIt icon in your Dock. From there you will be presented with a dialog box in which you configure the settings you need. Be sure to leave the Overwrite Files box unchecked if you don’t want to resize your original image(s). If you leave the “Choose the folder to save images” unchecked, ResizeIt will resize, save, and put your images into a folder for you.

You can also save various sizes as presets. The application worked OK for me. I do think however that the pixel boxes should start with "W" and then "H", for that's typically how dimensions are set in image applications. The first number is usually the width and the second is height. But ResizeIt is a free application, so not much to complain about. It’s a useful program for quick batch resizing.


Finally, if you click on Script > Generate Droplet, ResizeIt will produce an AppleScript script that you can save as a droplet application. It's sort of like creating an Automator application for resizing images. So for example, if you regularly need to resize photos to a particular size, like 800 x 600, then you simply create the preset in ResizeIt, and then have the application create a droplet for that size. The code will open up in AppleScript and you can save it as an application that you can keep in your Dock. From there, you just drop your images onto the droplet and, viola, they get automatically resized. That's the way computers should work.

The key to resizing images is to have as many options to do so. No one wants to receive or view an oversized image. Let us know if you have any other strategies for resizing images. For Windows users, check out Simon's article on resizing photos.

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Hot Tech Deals [Mar 18th]

Posted: 18 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. LG 55LW5600 55in LED-Backlit LCD HDTV (1080p) + LG BD670 3D Blu-Ray Player + 4x 3D Glasses $1989 Free Shipping
  2. Logitech V20 Portable Multimedia Speakers $29.99
  3. Motorola MOTOROKR T505 Bluetooth In-Car Speakerphone w FM tuner $42.99 Free Ship via code EMCKGJB39 (Exp 3/24)
  4. Yamaha YMC-500 NeoHD Media Controller 5.1Ch AV Receiver $129.99 Free Shipping via code EMCKGJB22 (Exp 3/24)
  5. IOGear GMP1001B GearPower 2000mAh Portable Battery for Mobile Devices $8.99AR Free Shipping via code EMCKGJB38 (Exp 3/24)
  6. Lenovo IdeaPad U460 Intel Core i5-480M 2.66GHz 14in Laptop (4lbs/Geforce 305M/8-Cell Battery) $649 via code USPU2D0317 (Exp 3/24)
  7. Lenovo IdeaPad U160 Intel Core i5-470UM ULV 11.6in Laptop/Netbook Hybrid $599 Free Shipping via code USPU5L0317 (Exp 3/24)
  8. Lenovo IdeaPad Y560p Intel Core i7-2630 Quad-Core Sandy Bridge 15.6in Laptop (8GB/500GB/Radeon 6550) $899 via code USPY280317 (Exp 3/24)
  9. Lenovo IdeaPad Y460p Intel Core i7-2630 Quad-Core [NEW Sandy Bridge!] 14in Laptop w/ Radeon HD6550 $899 via code USPY4260317 (Exp 3/24)

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set

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Crowdrise: Armchair Fundraising For Charities & Events

Posted: 18 Mar 2011 12:31 PM PDT

crowdrise fundraisingEvery now and then, you find some gem online which inspires you to be a better person and to raise awareness and money for causes you believe in. Sometimes this might be an inspiring post or it might be that you’ve seen someone else really working towards something they believe in. Less often, you might find something that helps you to achieve your goals.

This is where Crowdrise fits in “" it helps you to support what you think is important. It enables you to create fundraising drives, campaigns and more. Plus, it will inspire you to work harder by showing you what other people are doing with the site. Once you get the bug you’ll be organising campaigns left, right and centre. It will feel great to be able to say you’re really working towards results for all of the causes you believe in.

What’s Crowdrise?

In essence, Crowdrise is a simple way to create fundraising campaigns for your favourite causes. You can use it to fundraise for a charity or for an event “" all you do is sign up, tell your story in simple English, add photos or video and share your cause with your friends and followers. They can either help to promote your cause or donate immediately. It’s that simple.

crowdrise fundraising

Crowdrise says

Our goal at Crowdrise is to make fundraising so fun and addicting that everyone wants to do more of it. The power of the crowd is real, lots of small donations really do add up, and the Crowdrise community can have a monumental impact on causes around the world.

How Does Crowdwise Work?

Crowdrise works by allowing you to be in charge of your own fundraising project and goals, but it also enables the Crowdrise community to support you and your ideals by letting other users vote on your projects. You get 100 points for every community vote for your project, plus 10 points for every dollar you raise. If your project has lots of points, you’ll be featured on a leaderboard and receive even more attention, votes and donations for your cause. There’s also a number of incentives for donating and raising money via Crowdrise.

crowdrise reviews

Not only can the Crowdrise community donate and vote for your project, but they can actively help to support it too. You never know who might jump on board to help you out! Individual Crowdrise users have incentives within the site too. Whenever you raise points for your projects, you’re also stacking up points beside your name. Top users will be featured in a leaderboard and awarded silly titles to show just how far they’ve come. See featured user Tiffany here.

Don’t forget donations are tax deductible in many countries and that Crowdrise helps to facilitate extra donations by ensuring receipts are sent immediately and on request if required. Crowdrise itself takes a 5% payment and a small transaction fee for each donation.

crowdrise reviews

Getting started with Crowdrise only involves a simple sign-up form. After that you can choose which details to add now and which to add later. Hint: Adding yourself to the mailing list scores you 500 points to start you off!

What Could You Use Crowdwise For?

The best way to get ideas is to check out the top projects currently funded through Crowdrise. Also check out what projects are being supported by celebrities and jump on board.

crowdrise reviews

Or do you have a cause you’re itching to support? Search for it and either join a project already underway or start it yourself.

One of the more interesting ideas to come out of Crowdrise is the idea of sponsored volunteerism. If you want to volunteer your time directly to a project, but don’t want to starve in the meantime, Crowdrise can help you to raise money to fund yourself. If enough people think your time is worthwhile, you might be able to continue this for some time.

what is crowdrise

What’s Similar To Crowdwise?

crowdrise fundraising

If you’re keen to volunteer or fundraise online, there’s a few other sites where you can achieve this.

  • Sparked will let you volunteer your professional skills to good causes for 5 minutes at a time.
  • Jumo allows you to nominate your interests and have Jumo connect you with causes you might like.
  • Facebook Causes is extremely viral and tied into Facebook, which makes it effective within Facebook and less so on the rest of the Internet.
  • Kickstarter, JustGiving and PledgeBank are quite similar to Crowdrise, but they’re all subtly different. Pledgebank involves making a pledge to undertake a certain activity, Kickstart is able to be used to fund start-ups and JustGiving is a little less viral and sociable in nature than Crowdrise.

There are many ways to be charitable online but most of them work in slightly different ways. I see JustGiving and Facebook Causes as the big competitors for Crowdrise, but I think there’s room enough for all of them to co-exist nicely.

What Will You Do With Crowdrise?

Now that you’ve seen just how easy it is to start fundraising for things you believe in, what will you work on? Feel free to share your Crowdrise projects with us in the comments!

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10 Websites For Geek Humor & Computer Jokes

Posted: 18 Mar 2011 11:31 AM PDT

computer jokes“There’s no place like″.

Didn’t get it? That’s geek humor. Just so that you know, it’s a play on the familiar “" “There’s no place like home.”

From the outside, the world of bits and bytes might seem very dry indeed. But if you have spent any time in a digital office or even better, at an IT help desk, you would know that it’s fertile ground for jokes. Computer errors and mishaps are the banana peels of the geek world.

The one advantage that geeks have is that we can poke fun at machines too and the slip-ups they cause in our lives. In fact, having a developed sense of humor is a prime requisite for surviving the stresses of a digital workplace. Fortunately, if you look around there’s lot to poke fun and laugh at. Remember, even a company like Google laughs at itself.

Humor cannot be built up with long introductions. The path to the joke should be the shortest possible, so sally over to these tech humor websites and give those laugh lines a workout.

Tech Comedy

computer jokes

Real life is funny and this site mirrors it.  It’s a collection of humorous anecdotes and first-person accounts of support personnel when non-geeks bring their computers in. As they say, the guy whom you dial for help hears all the crazy stories and we can all have a laugh as a result.


funny computer jokes

This site is a must visit for any guy who fancies a laugh, period. It just so happens that they have an entire section devoted to ribbing the guy who’s high on hi-tech. Here, you don’t get one liner jokes or stories; instead you face their sarcasm dripping articles that looks at everything from absurd angles. Also, don’t miss the photo captions. If you read through, it makes for loads of laughs. As a sample, try – If The Internet Disappeared: Finding Answers Without Google

Give Up Internet

funny computer jokes

If the previous site is a bit text heavy, this one favors images. The above picture had me grinning. The tech humor blog is for the “internet people”, and it is built around news, pictures, funny comics, videos, and animated GIFs.


funny computer jokes

Their About page itself is worth a read and quite definitely lays down what the site aims to do. Don’t believe them when they say that the blog is a collaboration between Nissan, PepsiCo and the current Belizian government. It isn’t; instead it’s a satirical poke at everything and anything that’s digital. The site is a bit stagnant now, with its last update in 2010, but the stories are still worth a laugh.

Geeks Are Sexy

technology computer jokes

It’s a personal opinion, but I do like the post titles the site comes up with. Geeks Are Sexy (or GAS for you) looks at tech happenings in an offbeat tone. Most of posts are news oriented, but the stuff that really interests me comes with “˜Humor’ tag. Snippets, cartoons, videos, and animations make for some fun reading in the Humor section. The funnies are collated from various corners of the web and presented for our reading pleasure (like the one above).

The Joy Of Tech Comic

technology computer jokes

You could go to the parent site “" GeekCulture and still have a laugh as it showcases instances of geeky humor from around the web, or you could stay put and read the tech comics in the sub-section. The site has a decade’s worth of archives that you can sift through if you need regular doses of light reading. Then, you can take part in the polls too.

Shark Tank

technology computer jokes

True stories from the tech world and as the blog says, it’s the place where IT and people’s cluelessness collides. Shark Tank courtesy, Sharky’s razor wit is a part of the online website. You can even download a PDF on The Best of Shark Tank that has more than 70 tales of IT miseries documented by readers.

I will let you figure this collection out for yourself. Urban Dictionary defines it as – a site with examples of people making complete asses of themselves on IRC or while instant messaging.

Geek Invasion

The site says that it’s dedicated to feeding geeks “˜relevant information’. News bytes, images, and videos”¦some cool and some downright funny fill the geek’s day. For instance, What Grills Faster? Android, WinPhone or iPhone 4? Find it out here. – Geeky Fun

computer jokes

When I am plugging other websites, how can I forget my own; especially when we have so many years of happy pickings? It is one of the lesser known features of our site, so sometimes if you feel that you could do with a break”¦head here. The funnies are just a click away.

The geeky world is full of wit as it is of wisdom. If you still feel that your life could do with some more laughter, we won’t disappoint you. Here’s a collection of top-lined, high-on-the-laugh scale posts you should check out “"

55 Geeky One Line Jokes by Tina
7 Hilarious Practical Joke Ideas To Play On Your Friend’s Computer by Ryan
5 Websites To Get Hilarious Practical Joke Ideas by Angela

We will continue to lighten up your mood. Help us out by letting us know about your favorite watering hole for geeky humor.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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3 DIY Computer Repairs You Can Easily Do Yourself

Posted: 18 Mar 2011 10:31 AM PDT

diy computer repairsDon’t pay someone else to do it for you! If you’re prepared to get your hands dirty and learn something in the process, DIY computer repair is a great little hobby, and will save you hundreds in support costs when you’re paying 3 or 4 times as much as the cost of the replacement component for the technical staff.

Read on to learn about 4 easy DIY repairs that anyone can do. For a great primer on the insides of your computer, don’t forget to check out our great guide to PC hardware too.

Replacing The Memory

So you ran a memory checker and found out that the cause of your random blue screen of death was bad memory? Or maybe you just think your computer has been running a little sluggish lately? Well, have no fear – upgrading or replacing the memory in your PC is the easiest of all the DIY repairs that you can do.

The hardest part of replacing the memory is figuring out what memory you need. Luckily, comes to the rescue with a simple memory scanner app for both Windows and Mac. Just download it, run it, and it’ll tell you what kind of memory your machine is running (which you can then buy from, of course).

diy computer repairs

When the scan has finished, you can click through to get an extremely thorough report that outlines all your upgrade options. In fact, I can upgrade my iMac to a whopping 16GB of RAM for just £143! Bargain!

computer repairs

To physically replace the memory, open up the case. The memory slots will be right next to the CPU. On either end of the sticks there will be white latches that you pull outwards to release the existing memory. Slotting memory back in can sometimes take a little force, so make sure you’ve got it the right way round then push down on either side next to the latches. It should slot down into the place and the latches will come up on their own, though you may need to lock them in.

If you turn the computer on and it beeps horribly, you’ve probably just not inserted them right. Check out some YouTube videos on how to replace memory before you try this, and don’t forget to touch a radiator or use an anti-static wrist strap at all times when handling the memory.

computer repairs

Replacing The Hard Disk

If your hard disk has failed then replacing it is the easy part – getting your data back and restoring everything from backups is harder. Luckily, we’ve written loads of articles in the past month or so about physically replacing hard disks and fantastic free backup solutions, so be sure to read through them:

All you really need to know is what type of hard disk you currently have, and if your motherboard can handle SATA. The article I wrote on adding a second hard drive will help you understand if you have the right connections.

computer repairs

Replacing The Power Supply

The most common failure in any computer is the power supply, but it’s a moderately simply process to replace. Unless you have a very small form factor or all-in-one PC, ATX power supplies are basically all the same. When buying a replacement, you need to check a few simple things:

  • That the power output will be sufficient. Unless you’re running a huge gaming rig, 400-500w is more than sufficient.
  • That you have enough connections for all your devices.
  • That you have connections for your motherboard and video card.

diy computer repairs

Basically though, any modern power supply with work with your PC – the only time I’ve ever had a problem is when trying to retrofit an old power supply I had lying around into my modern PC.

Begin by opening the case and identifying all the existing places the power supply is plugged into. There will be plugs going to each of your physical drives (hard disks and DVD etc), as well as one large one to the motherboard, and possibly a few more that provide power to your graphics card. It’s these little ones that will be difficult, so you may want to write down which go where. The power supply itself will also be screwed into the case, usually with 4 screws that you can find directly around when the large black power cord plugs into the case. Lay the case flat so it doesn’t fall downwards and hit your motherboard when it comes undone.

A Word Of Warning: NEVER attempt to repair the power supply itself. If it’s broken, trash it and get a new one. These things store masses of power in their capacitors a long time after being switch off, and they can give you a very serious shock.


As you can see, there are some PC repairs that you can easily do yourself, and it’s a learning experience. Personally, I’ve been tearing apart PCs and upgrading them since I was 10 – my only motivation was to get them back together again before dad came home! Sometimes things won’t work, and it can be very frustrating. For these times, a spare computer and a quick Google search can be a lifesaver. Just be careful not to touch other parts, and never force something in.

Have you tried any DIY computer repairs or upgrades yourself? Let us know how it went in the comments! Would you prefer video tutorials on how to do these upgrades?

Image Credit: ShutterStock 1, ShutterStock 2, ShutterStock 3

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Export & Share Your GPS Adventures In 3D With Breadcrumbs

Posted: 18 Mar 2011 09:31 AM PDT

gps adventuresIf I had to name one thing that I love about the latest advancements in technology and the Internet, it’s the integration of GPS technology with web and mobile applications.

Here at MUO, we’ve covered a number of cool mobile GPS apps, like my article about the geocaching adventure I went on with my kids, our coverage of Google Maps Navigation, and Evan’s awesome article on using GPS to locate a lost phone. When it comes to going on adventures, either a mountain biking or a hiking trip, or any other type of adventure where you’d like to track your route and share your GPS adventures, there are lots of choices. You’ve got the GPS Mobile Tracker Evan covered or of course Google Latitude as well.

Many of the tracker apps today let you save the entire route as a GPX file, consisting of GPS “waypoints” that map out your trip. But what do you do once you’ve saved all of these routes? Wouldn’t it be cool to turn that data into a documented record of your adventure, complete with pictures and video? This is exactly what Breadcrumbs can help you do.

Breadcrumbs Lets You Document & Share Your Tracks

The name of this web-based application makes sense, because you’re basically taking a GPX plot of waypoints that outlines your entire route, and you’re elaborating on the experiences you had with “breadcrumbs” of media, comments and more. It’s a very cool way to not only show people where you’ve been, but also what you saw along the way.

You do need to sign up for a free account using your email address. Once you have an account, you can immediately start importing either GPX files from your various mobile tracking apps, or data from your Garmin GPS device.

gps adventures

The application basically integrates the overlapping layers of data with Google Earth imagery. To start documenting and sharing your travels, just click on one of those two buttons (GPX or Garmin) at the top menu. To demonstrate this web-based app, I took a walk down my long driveway and let the MyTrails mobile app (Android, iPhone) record the walking route with about 25 waypoints. When I was done, I saved the GPX file to my PC and then clicked the GPX import button in Breadcrumbs. Here’s what my route initially looked like.

share gps tracks

The import wizard takes you through a number of steps where you describe the route and add information that you may want to share with the people you’ll be sending the trip to. Making the route public lets you share a URL with anyone, and they can see all of the details right on the Breadcrumbs website.

share gps tracks

If you took any photos or video during your trip, make sure to upload that media as you step through the wizard. The coolest thing about Breadcrumbs is that it can recognize the GPS coordinates of a photo or video if it was captured with a camera that is enabled to geo-tag media (many of the latest ones can do that). Breadcrumbs will automatically place those photos on the map where they were taken.

share gps tracks

Once you’re done, you’ll see your route marked out with a start and end point and your media files listed in the bottom pane. Your different imported tracks are stored in your account under the category that you defined for it.

Some of the information under “Track Details” comes from what you entered during the import process, but a lot of it comes directly from the GPX or Garmin data, depending on how much information the app you used captured during the trip.

share trip gps

You’ll see statistics like total distance traveled, speed traveled, the time of the trip, elevation and much more. After returning from a hiking trip, some of these details are pretty cool to review. You can also click on the “Chart” tab in the bottom pane to see a plot of elevation and speed over the length of the trip.

share trip gps

You can elaborate along your route with comments, using a sticky note. Or you can add markers like where you stopped to camp, a point of interest and more.

share trip gps

If your media isn’t automatically geotagged, just drag the photo or video onto the map itself and Breadcrumbs will automatically geotag the photo for you, using those coordinates. You will need to zoom out a little because the high-zoom view doesn’t always allow attaching media like this.

Switch into “edit” mode to modify your tracked route by clicking on “Edit” and selecting “Edit Track” from the top menu. Now you can grab waypoints and move them wherever you want. Or just click to delete the ones that you don’t want to include.

gps adventures

Once you’re done editing and adding media and notes to your route, you’re ready to share it out. Just use one of the three share buttons to pick the method you want to use. “Share” just gives you a URL you can send to friends, or you can use Facebook and Twitter to distribute your adventure that way.

Do you use any GPS apps that exports GPX files? Give this cool GPS track editor a try and document some of the cool trips you’ve gone on. Let us know what you think of Breadcrumbs and whether you know of any other similar online track editing tools in the comments section below.

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Know Your Soul: A Guide to Rift’s Class System [Gaming]

Posted: 18 Mar 2011 08:31 AM PDT

rift class systemThe launch of a new MMORPG is always exciting for fans of the genre. Each new game is effectively a new world to explore, and although there are often similarities between games in the genre, the differences are often less subtle than they first appear.

Rift is the latest combatant to enter this competitive arena, and one of its unique features is its class system. There are only four classes in the Rift class system, but each has multiple souls. You can obtain all the souls, but you can only use them in combinations of three. Sound a bit confusing? It is, but this guide will help you understand.

What’s A Soul?

rift class system

If you’ve played any recent MMORPG you’re likely familiar with the concept of the talent tree, a branching series of options that improves your characters and unlocks new abilities. In Rift, a Soul is essentially an individual talent tree. When you obtain a soul, you obtain that talent tree and the ability to put points into it. The talents are tiered, which means you have to put at least 5 points into first tier talents to access the second tier, at least five more into the second tier to access the third, and so on.

rift review

The talent trees tied to a soul in Rift, however, also have roots. As you put more points into the talent tree, you can access new root abilities that aren’t tied to any particular talent. Let’s say, for example, you decide to play a Cleric and you choose Inquisitor as one of your souls. If you put 20 points in the Inquisitor soul’s talent tree you will gain an ability called Excommunicate, which damages an opponent and throws them back. It doesn’t matter what talents you take – if you point 20 points anywhere in the Inquisitor talent tree, you gain Excommunicate.

Think You Have Soul? I’ve Got Three!

If you were only able to pick one soul at a time, the Rift class system wouldn’t be much different from MMORPGs like World of Warcraft and Lord of the Rings Online. What makes Rift unique, and a bit confusing, is the ability to pick any three souls available from your class and put points into them however you choose.

Let’s return to our Cleric example. Let’s say I want to smite my foes with holy vengeance, so I stick with Inquisitor because it has a lot of damage dealing abilities and talents. However, I also want to heal my allies, so I pick a second soul called Sentinel. And I also want to have a pet, so I pick Druid as my final soul because it offers a little fairy that follows me around and heals me.

rift review

Now I have three talent trees, and I can put points into them as I choose. Obviously, this gives me a lot of options! But you’re also given a lot of points to spend – 66 by the level cap of 50, in fact. You can only spend 51 points in any single tree, so you’ll be dabbling a little bit in other souls even if you choose to grab every single talent available in one particular soul’s talent tee.

Pick a Role, Any Role!

rift class system

While you can have just three active souls at any one time, each class has access to nine souls in total. If you’re a veteran MMORPG player, you might at this point be asking – what’s the point? Sure, you can mix and match between nine souls with each class, but wouldn’t you be missing out on a lot of potential combinations?

Rift answers this concern by making Roles available. Every character in Rift can have up to four roles (you start with one, but can purchase more). Each role is a combination of three souls that you’ve selected with it’s own allocation of talent points. A Cleric, for example, could have a role for healing groups, a role for solo questing, a role for tanking and a role for dealing damage in groups. You can switch between roles at any time when you are out of combat.

Since changing roles is so easy in Rift, there’s rarely any reason to deal with a combination of souls that’s not best for a given task. You can take on the role of a relatively defenseless healer in dungeons, but when you’re soloing you can transform into a nasty spellcaster or melee combatant with no penalty. This means there is absolutely no reason to worry about leveling slowly due to a role you want to fill in a group.


Hopefully, this guide has helped you understand the Rift class system. It is a bit more complex than simply picking a single talent tree and being done with it, which is what some MMORPGs ask players to do. The flexibility of Rift’s class system is one of the game’s main selling points, so if you’re a bit tired of games that strap you down into a particular specialization, Rift may be the breath of fresh air you need.

If you’re interested in an MMO like Rift but you don’t want to pay to play, check out our post about the best free MMO games.

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Cool Websites and Tools [March 17th]

Posted: 17 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.

Add Your Website Here!


PDF Converter – PDF files are not easy to edit. Doc files on the other hand are easily modifiable. Therefore, converting a PDF file into a Doc file would greatly ease the editing process. If you have a PDF file and would like to convert it into a Doc file, check out the Facebook PDF app titled PDFConverter. Read more: PDF Converter: Facebook PDF Application For Converting PDF To DOC


Agreedo – When you have multiple teams in an office working on different projects, meetings are necessary but they could also be time consuming if not conducted correctly. A meeting planner should be used that can set the agenda and tasks beforehand. Agreedo is one such advanced meeting planner. Read more: Agreedo: An Advanced Meeting Planner For Teams



Agent Anything – Do you need somebody to help you complete a task? Are you willing to pay for it? If you answered yes to both, then you need to pay a visit to Agent Anything. It is a wonderful website that helps you outsource errands or tasks to students. You can post a task on the site along with the amount you are willing to pay. Read more: Agent Anything: Outsource Your Errands & Tasks to Students



Exquisite Tweets – You may often read a tweet from somebody and wonder what the background was behind it. Exquisite Tweets is a tool that can help you understand the story behind a tweet. Simply paste the URL of a single tweet and the tool will fetch all the tweets that are a part of that same thread. Read more: ExquisiteTweets: See The Whole Thread Behind A Tweet



Digestly – Are you interested in following some people on Twitter but don’t have time to waste filtering through lots of other tweets? Digestly is a perfect solution for people who want to receive tweets digests from selected people without using any tool other than their email. Simply enter the username of the Twitter user you want to receive tweets from. Read more: Digestly: Receive Tweet Digests From Selected Users Via Email


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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GNOME 3 Beta – Welcome To Your New Desktop [Linux]

Posted: 17 Mar 2011 06:31 PM PDT

gnome 3 reviewRecently a beta version of the new GNOME desktop environment was released for testing, before the final scheduled release some time in April. As GNOME is the preferred graphical user interface for a considerable amount of Linux distributions, it’s only right that we check it out.

Many Linux users will already be using GNOME 2 which made its way into Ubuntu, the most popular desktop Linux distribution. GNOME’s main counterpart is KDE, often preferred for its look and customizability. The next version of Ubuntu (11.04) should be using GNOME 3, albeit with its own custom “Unity” shell and not the GNOME-Shell featured here.

Evolution Or Revolution?

The desktop has evolved “" or so say the many bloggers and pundits who have laid their hands on the latest GNOME 3 beta. The desktop environment takes on a new shape, and one that probably won’t come as second nature the first time you use it.

So there’s a learning curve “" your familiar desktop with its taskbar, window buttons and application menu is about to be blown out of the water in favour of a radical overhaul, partly written in JavaScript.

gnome 3 review

You’ve still got your multiple desktops (this is Linux we’re talking about) and you can still switch between them with Ctrl+Alt and the arrow keys (up and down now, not left and right). The familiar system tray area is also present, though the system clock has been shifted to the middle of the bar.

what is gnome 3

This bar, which is the closest thing GNOME 3 has to a Windows (or even GNOME 2) taskbar only ever displays the focused application, though without the Mac OS X-style extended menu. Contrary to what I have read on a blog or two, I was still able to Alt+Tab between windows.

Notifications have been moved to the bottom of the screen, and upon booting, I was presented with a smart-looking pop-up prompting me to connect to a wireless network. The desktop is an attractive affair, and feels like it was designed with your applications in mind; with plenty of space to get work done.

what is gnome 3

Before continuing it’s worth mentioning that GNOME 3 has support for all existing GNOME applications, so all your old apps will work without an update. What won’t work however is Compiz, or any other compositing or window manager. These are gone in favour of Mutter, which delivers much less impressive results and actually lagged considerably on my machine (you can turn it off). For me a good-looking desktop is important, and animations less so “" so I’ll let it slide till the final release.

The Activities Window

You’ll be forgiven at first for scratching your head when it comes to launching an application. GNOME 3 uses its Activities window in the top left of the screen for this task, and with a simple hover (or click) of the mouse your desktop disappears and you’re presented with a neat looking interface.

what is gnome 3

There’s a few options on this screen, the first is your current desktop’s active windows and the second is a list of applications. On the left there is a quick launch favourites area where apps and locations can be pinned for quick access (and your active apps will also appear here) and on the right there’s a Find box which you can use to locate folders, documents and launch applications.

Right click an application and you’ll be invited to add it to your favourites, but search for a folder and this option is not present “" something that might bother a lot of users who rely on quick access to a specific folder.

gnome 3 desktop

In the (latest) live version I tried, I couldn’t find any way of simply browsing my drives within the Activities window. Instead I could search for a folder and open it in a file manager on the desktop. Whilst this is slightly bothersome, the Find box works well and the absence of too many panels and options delivers a clean, minimalistic feel.

Look & Feel

You’re either going to love it or hate it, but once you’re up to speed all it takes is a simple flick of the mouse to bring up the panel. Flick again and it’s gone. Keyboard dependants will be pleased to know the “Super” key (Windows key) will also launch this feature, and the Esc key will cancel it.

The placement of the Activities trigger (top left) contrasts nicely with the network manager (bottom right), whilst the other two corners of your screen remain inactive.

gnome 3 desktop

Re-arranging your windows and desktops is a fairly easy, drag and drop affair. Clicking a desktop will display all open windows within the centre of the Activities window, in a nice tiled view for easy perusal.

gnome 3 desktop

Rather interestingly GNOME 3 does not include minimize or maximize buttons on its windows, mainly as there is nowhere to minimize to. The lack of a maximize button is excused by the fantastic inclusion of a Windows 7-style Aero Snap feature. Simply drag the window to the left or right to snap in place, or to the top of the screen to maximize the window.

gnome 3 review

When I first switched from Windows 7 I really found myself missing this feature within Linux. It’s nice to see it finally implemented, even if the GNOME team didn’t come up with it themselves.


It’s certainly different, and it might even speed up your workflow but its going to take some getting used to. As this is only the beta release I’m going to wait for the final version sometime in April before casting a more concrete judgement. For now though, it’s a very attractive and cunning take on the modern desktop.

You can make up your own minds regarding GNOME 3 by downloading a live USB image and following the instructions over at the GNOME 3 homepage.

What do you think of the new GNOME desktop environment? Maybe you prefer KDE? Any reasons why? Let us know in the comments.

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6 Important PC Tools Most People Never Use

Posted: 17 Mar 2011 04:31 PM PDT

pc toolsVirtually everyone who owns a computer and is connected to the Internet knows about the security implications. Most people do worry about malware and I would like to think that only a few run a computer without an antivirus program or other security-related software. However, there are many more important PC tools that most people never use, even though they are essential for running a stable and secure system.

If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, you might be well advised to glance over this article. I will show you 6 critical tools that will make your work with a computer easier, your data safer, your system more stable, and your overall computer experience much smoother.

Backup Program

Are you feeling guilty already? It’s not like backup programs are secret tools that nobody knows of; yet a lot of people either don’t worry about their data or they just never get around to running backups. It’s time to quit that!

Reasons To Use A Backup Program:

  1. You will always have a second copy of your data in case the other copy gets compromised or is lost.
  2. Your data is valuable! A backup will save you money or time trying to recover damaged or lost files.
  3. Murphy’s Law: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

Which Backup Program To Use:

MakeUseOf recommends FBackup for local backups and Mozy for online backups (2GB free).

pc tools

Also Check Out The Following Articles:

Password Manager

Unless your name is Data, you probably have a hard time remembering things now and then. If you’re human that’s normal. Nevertheless, you should 1. have a different password for every account and 2. change it often to protect yourself from hackers and identity theft.

Reasons To Use A Password Manager:

  1. Never again forget a password.
  2. Use complicated secure passwords and thus protect your accounts from getting hacked.
  3. Murphy’s Law: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

And you’d better back up your Password Manager!

Which Password Manager To Use:

MakeUseOf recommends LastPass, a cross-platform browser plugin that stores and syncs your passwords wherever you go. For local storage I recommend KeePass.

free pc tools

Also Check Out The Following Articles:

Software Or Driver Update Tools

As mentioned in the introduction, almost everyone these days is aware of viruses, hackers, and other security-related threats that linger online. And I’m sure you have all heard about security holes in various programs. While a lot of programs install security updates automatically, many won’t do anything, unless the user initiates an update.

Reasons To Use Upgrade PC Tools:

  1. Fix security holes.
  2. Fix bugs and gain access to new features.
  3. Murphy’s Law: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

Which Upgrade Tools To Use:

Probably the reason why most people do not use these PC tools is that none of them cover all possible software or hardware. However, they are still easier to use than checking for updates manually. I recommend Device Doctor for driver updates and Update Notifier for finding software updates.

Also Check Out The Following Articles:


We all install software to test it and then never use it again. So it sits there and takes up space. Worse even, it may start with Windows and come to live now and then and get on our nerves. Why not simply uninstall it?

Reasons To Use An Uninstaller:

  1. Frees up space on your hard drive.
  2. May even speed up your system if the software starts with Windows.
  3. Unclutter your Start menu.

Which Uninstaller To Use:

Windows comes with an uninstaller. However, software dedicated to this task is much better! MakeUseOf recommends Revo Uninstaller and IObit Uninstaller.

free pc tools

Also Check Out The Following Articles:


No matter which file system you have on your hard drive, the fuller it gets, the more likely it is that files will be fragmented, and this will slow down the hard drive. Check the article on file systems below for more information.

Reason To Use A Defragmenter:

  1. Speed up your hard drive.

Which Defragmenter To Use:

MakeUseOf recommends Defraggler and Auslogics Disk Defrag.

free pc tools

Also Check Out The Following Articles:

System Maintenance Software

System maintenance tools remove temporary and junk files, clean your system and boost its speed. Most system maintenance software actually comes with an uninstaller, a defragmenter, and malware protection. So they are an all-in-one tool to keep your computer in top shape.

Reasons To Use System Maintenance Software:

  1. Remove junk files and free up space.
  2. Fix common annoyances and boost system speed.
  3. Clean all browser browser files in one place.

Which System Maintenance Software To Use:

MakeUseOf recommends Glary Utilities and CCleaner.

pc tools

Also Check Out The Following Articles:

For more software recommendations from MakeUseOf check out our The Best Of: Windows Software page.

Which of the recommended PC tools have you been using? Did I motivate you to start using any of the others?

Image credits: Ivan Montero Martinez, Matthias Pahl, Vladru, Helder Almeida

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5 Cool Things You Should Know About Reddit

Posted: 17 Mar 2011 02:31 PM PDT

reddit tipsMost of you will have heard of Reddit. In fact, most people on the Internet daily will regularly see articles and topics made popular by Reddit either directly or indirectly. Sometimes Reddit debates will even find their way into mainstream news. However you view Reddit, there’s no denying its popularity and influence on Internet culture. It’s definitely worthy of a little attention.

Now, if you’re already a Reddit regular you might be wondering if perhaps intervention is more appropriate than reading more about cool things happening on Reddit. I hear you! But it can’t be stopped. There are some great things going on at Reddit and they need to be shared.

reddit tips

Oh, whoops! Looks like you all went there at once.

1. Best Of Reddit

On a daily basis, you’ll see the best posts of Reddit on the front page. But that’s not where it stops. Every year, Reddit staff ask for submissions for the best of Reddit. This is where you’ll catch up on all the very best Reddit brought us during the year, including all the memes, innovations, novelty accounts, communities, feel-good stories and hilarious posts. Frankly, if you’re not forever alone and attached to your computer, you probably did miss a few of these.

Check out:

2. Subreddits

There are thousands of Subreddits on Reddit. These have their own sub-communities within Reddit and foster a great variety of opinions and voices. Most people find the Subreddits a little difficult to get into, since Reddit is basically a maze of links and you may never find what you’re really looking for. But, there’s one Redditor who thought they’d make things easier for us all. Whilst avoiding fetishes, bands, political parties and marijuana Subreddits, they created a list of over 800 Subreddits in a Google Document for us to enjoy. This incredible list will have you browsing your favourite topics in no time.

While you’re looking around, take the time to notice that some Subreddits have customised their style to suit their topic. Check out:

reddit review

3. Reddit Memes

If you haven’t quite caught onto Reddit’s basic history and memes, there’s a great run-down on Encyclopedia Dramatica. It helps to explain some of what you see on Reddit. Keep in mind that a lot of the memes originated on 4Chan, too.

reddit review

Check out Reddits home-grown 100 pushups meme. All it took was a rant about pushups and a few comments about McDonalds to get started “" then the thread just continues with the same pattern and different topics… Forever. Seriously, this thread started over two years ago and I don’t think it’s over yet. Keep clicking “Continue Thread” and you’ll see what I mean.

reddit review

4. Incredible Generosity & Gift Exchanges

You may not believe it after viewing some of the comments, but a lot of Redditors are extremely kind and will help each other out of a fix if possible. Reddit has seen everything from ideas to help solve depression to suicide watch, organising a toy drive, getting someone a job or bailing them out of jail. These save lives!

There’s also many fantastic stories of spontaneous generosity offered on Reddit daily. One of the most memorable stories is Today you… Tomorrow Me which spawned its own pay-it-forward mentality Subreddit.

what is reddit

There’s also plenty of people trusting their fellow Redditors and joining in gift exchanges:

5. Innovation & Random Cool Stuff

Great things come out of Reddit and there’s no way I could possibly explain it all to you. However, I can point you in the direction of some of the best random things about Reddit:

reddit tips

More Reddit-Related Posts

As you can see, the world of Reddit is quite varied and interesting. There’s a real community building there and attempting to make good things happen in this world.

Do you use Reddit?   If not, why not?  If so, what are some of your favourite pages?

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Hot Tech Deals [Mar 17th]

Posted: 17 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 Vostro V13 Intel Core 2 Duo ULV SU7300 13.3in Laptop (3.5lbs/3GB/320GB/Win7) $349
  2. Dell Vostro 3300 Intel Core i3-370M 2.4GHz 13.3in Laptop (Aluminum, 2GB/250GB) $469
  3. Dell Vostro 3400 Intel Core i3-370M 2.4GHz 14in Laptop (Aluminum, 2GB/250GB) $499
  4. Dell Vostro 3500 Intel Core i3 2.4GHz 15.6in Laptop (Aluminum, 2GB/250GB) $489
  5. Dell Vostro 460 Intel Core i5-2400 Sandy Bridge Quad-Core 3.1GHz Desktop w/ 22in LCD, Win7 Pro $759
  6. Dell Vostro 230 Mini Intel Core 2 Duo E7500 2.93GHz Desktop (3GB/320GB) w/ Viewsonic 24in LCD $449
  7. Dell Vostro 230 Slim Intel Dual-Core E5700 3GHz Mini Tower Desktop (3GB/250GB) w/ 22in LCD $399
  8. Dell Vostro 230 Mini Intel Dual-Core E5700 3GHz Desktop (2GB/320GB) w/ 17in LCD $329
  9. Dell Inspiron 15 Intel Dual-Core T4500 2.3GHz 15.6in Laptop (2GB/250GB) $399.99 via code HLSKSR06S9ZG0F (Exp Soon)

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set

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How To Create The Ultimate Boot CD For Windows

Posted: 17 Mar 2011 12:31 PM PDT

ultimate boot cdLinux users love to brag about their awesome live CDs, talking about how every Windows user should have an Ubuntu live CD. They make a good point: these CDs allow you to access your computer even when you’re having serious system errors.

Some Windows users, however, aren’t entirely comfortable with learning to use Linux to solve Windows problems. Happily for them, it’s perfectly possible to make the ultimate boot CD for Windows using free tools. You’re going to need a legal copy of Windows XP to do so, of course, but assuming you have that handy all you need to do is follow the simple steps below.

This ultimate Windows boot CD will include everything you need to rescue a busted system, from data recovery software to antivirus scanners. Best of all, the included tools are almost all free to use.

Step 1: Find Or Buy A Windows XP CD

The first thing you’re going to need is a Windows XP CD. Ideally this CD will be a Service Pack 2 disk, though some Service Pack 1 disks might work. Anything older than that won’t work. It’s also worth noting that some OEM CDs, which are what usually come with new computers, won’t work. The idea here is to have a retail disk, typically purchased separately from your computer.

Please don’t discuss anything related to pirating Windows XP in the comments below; it will be removed.

Once you’ve got your CD, insert it into your drive, ignoring any auto-prompts. Working from an ISO? Extract all files, using 7-Zip or any other program that can unarchive ISO files.

Step 2: Install UBCD4Win

This step is simple; just download UBCD4WIN and install it. The download is pretty big, so expect to wait a while if your connection is slow. The installation process is pretty standard; just follow the prompts.

UBCD4WIN is a piece of software capable of taking the data from a Windows XP CD and creating a Live environment with it. Drivers and a lot of software can easily be added to the mix, as you’ll see in the next step.

Note that this software is Windows only, so Linux and Mac users cannot use it without access to a Windows machine. Sorry!

Step 3: Set Up Your CD

Now we get to the fun part. Start up UBCD4WIN and you’ll see the main interface:

ultimate boot cd

Point the “Source” path to your Windows installation files. If you’re using a CD, this is simply your CD drive. If you extracted files from an ISO, this is the folder where the files are now.

Use “Custom” if you have any additional files you want to add to the CD.  Read more about that here but be warned: it’s kind of geeky.

Be sure to check out the “Plugins” button at the bottom of the window. Here you can configure which additional applications will and will not be included on the CD.

ultimate boot cd for windows

These files range from antivirus scanners to disk repair tools, so make sure you go through this list. Want to know what you could include? Here’s a complete list.

Once you’re ready to go, feel free to click “Build“. This will start the process, and ask you to agree with Window’s EULA:

ultimate boot cd for windows

Assuming there are no errors with the process, your ISO will be created. Feel free to try it out using Virtualbox to make sure everything worked properly.

Step 4: Burn Your ISO

Want to burn your ISO to a disk? Check out this list of free alternatives to Nero to find the best tool for the job. I highly recommmend CDBurnerXP.

Step 5: Boot Your ISO

Only one step left: booting from your ultimate boot CD. Insert the CD into your computer, then restart the system. Now you need to launch the boot options. How to do this varies depending on your computer; on a Dell, for example, you press F8. Don’t panic; there are typically on-screen instructions during startup, and you can always consult your manual if you get stuck.

Once you get the CD to boot you’re in! You’ll have a bootable Windows environment featuring a plethora of free tools:

ultimate boot cd

Did this process work for you? Can you think of uses for this amazing toolset? Leave your comments below, and feel free to point us towards better tools for the job.

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Make Your Blog Reading a Hoot With RSS Owl

Posted: 17 Mar 2011 11:31 AM PDT

rssowl readerEven though I love spending time every day reading news stories on my favorite news sites, or visiting my favorite blogs, I’ve never really been able to get into the whole RSS feed reader thing. For a while, I tried using Google Reader, but I found that while it works really well, it didn’t sort, organize or filter the news stories the way I wanted.

I also really got into RSS Bandit for a while – a powerful desktop RSS reader that you can even use to bring in email feeds and Facebook or Twitter updates. Once again, my reader experiment turned into a mess because not only did I find it fast and simple enough to organize and filter feeds, I also never took the time to clean up my older unread feeds.

So, for a while I resorted going back to just making my daily rounds through my top 5 or 6 favorite sites, and called it good. Google Alerts helped with staying on top of the latest stories on the topics that interest me, but I kept having this feeling that I was missing out on some cool news stories and blog updates. In fact, I probably was. So, I was pretty excited when I tried out the RSS Owl reader and discovered that it has both the news filter and the automated clean-up features that I needed.

Importing Feeds Into RSS Owl

The beauty of this application is that migrating to the RSS Owl reader takes no setup time at all. When you first install and launch the application, you have the choice to import feeds in several ways, including importing your existing feeds from your Google Reader account, importing all feeds from a particular website, or even searching for available feeds based on a set of keywords that you’re interested in.

rssowl reader

I tried the keyword approach to see how well RSS Owl was able to pull up relevant feeds for the topics that I’m interested in. According to the website, the feeds are drawn from providers like Google, Technorati, Delicious and Flickr. While I found a few really good feeds that I was interested in, overall I found that the list was shorter than I expected.

rssowl software

If you do like the keyword search approach, one very cool feature is that you can preview the feed before you decide to subscribe to it by clicking the “Preview” button. The feed preview comes up in a pop-up box. Just take a look at the latest feed content and decide whether or not you want to follow it.

rssowl software

Once you’ve added a list of feeds to your reader, the most powerful part of RSS Owl is actually the “New News Filter” which automatically takes the incoming news streams and sorts them according to the parameters that you set. If you’re like me and you really don’t have the time to read every single item in an RSS feed to spot the stories that really interest you, just set up as many News filters as you want and let RSS Owl serve as your own personal feed secretary.

rssowl software

You can select keywords that you want RSS Owl to search the news feeds for, and then identify an action you want the reader to take.

Once you have specific feeds and news groups set up with incoming stories, you can also have the software notify you only at specific times, like when only certain feeds receive a new update or when only certain news categories that you’ve set up with the news filter above receive a new item.

Another slick feature of the RSS Owl reader is how fast and easy it is to share those items that you like. When you click on a news item that interests you, and you see the feed item display in the bottom pane, you can click on the “Menu” option to see all of the things you can do with that news story. One of those choices is to “Share News”. You can also do this by just clicking on the “Share News” icon as well – RSS Owl is well integrated with Facebook, Delicious, Technorati, Twitter and Digg.

rssowl review

Labeling is probably the fastest way to organize the news stories that you want to get back to later. When you click on “labeled news” on the left, you’ll see all of the items you’ve labeled sorted and color coded.

rssowl review

Another nice feature is that RSS Owl has an embedded web browser, so you don’t have to open up a separate browser window to view links or to view the full version of feed items that are shortened. You do have to set this up under “Browser” in the Preferences menu option. Choose to default to the embedded browser.

rssowl review

The layout of the main page is also really well designed in that it is not at all complicated, yet you can jump around from topic to topic using a cool tabbed approach similar to popular web browsers like Firefox and Chrome. You can also quickly manage each title by tapping the buttons at the top to label, sticky or share them.

rssowl reader

I think of all of the choices for desktop RSS readers out there, RSS Owl really stands out as a leader. At least, it’s the first reader that I’ve found that keeps up with my restless mind and lack of time. It’s nice to have a reader that does most of the work for you, and in that way the RSS Owl reader definitely fits the bill.

Have you tried the RSS Owl reader? Share your thoughts about the pros and cons of this reader compared to the others you’ve tried. Share your insight in the comments section below.

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Which Is The Better Reader – Kindle Vs iPad [Geeks Weigh In]

Posted: 17 Mar 2011 10:31 AM PDT

kindle vs ipadTwo of the best-selling readers in today’s market are Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s iPad. While both are ground breaking and very cool technology, they both have their own pros and cons for being used as a reading device. So which one is a better reader for the bookworm within each of us?

Every person has different reading habits, and each device can be used in different ways to fit into those habits (or even create new ones). Read on to find out which is the better reader – Kindle vs iPad!

The Display

kindle vs ipad

On first glance the differences in the display and size between the two are obvious. The iPad has a full-color, backlit screen and has a 9.7″ diagonal viewing area. The Kindle uses a low-power yet high contrast E Ink-patented technology and has a 6″ diagonal.

iPad’s screen is bright when it is dark out, but does have some readability problems in the daylight. The shiny LCD screen reflects light and images (and fingerprints) like nobody’s business, making reading in daylight a challenge. In contrast, the Kindle works best in bright light. However when it is dark out you will need a light source to read anything since there is no internal light display.

How easy it is to read on either display is up to interpretation but generally speaking the E Ink is regarded as the most easy to read – almost as easy as real paper. This helps reduce eye strain when sitting for a long session of reading.

Of course the iPad reigns supreme for interactive and full-color content. The E Ink display of the Kindle just doesn’t display any of it (literally).

The Feel

The iPad is over twice as heavy as the Kindle. Carrying around the iPad can be a pain, with some men taking to a “Murse” to carry their gadget around. This weight is significantly noticable over time and depending on how much time you spend reading, it could be a major consideration.

The Kindle on the other hand is very lightweight and durable. It can be slipped into a laptop bag with no problems or even stored in an oversized pocket (such as in a jacket). I think the Kindle wins out in this regard.

Battery Life

Apple’s legendary length of useful battery time is well known and the iPad is no exception. Eight to 10 hours of “touch time” is not unheard of and as far as gadgets go is very respectable. However the Kindle beats the pants off of the iPad as a reader. Since it’s display is E Ink, the only power used is when you are changing the text such as when you are turning pages. That means that you can have up to 2 weeks of reading time on the Kindle.

App Store and Book Ecosystem

One thing that is very important to understand is how the whole ecosystem of each platform works. Both on the Kindle or iPad, you are using their chosen platform to obtain and read books.

On the Kindle, you are “˜locked in’ to Amazon’s store. There are some workarounds to get your free books on the device, but unless you read only classics which are our of their copyright then you are stuck with Amazon for rights management.

For the iPad, you actually do have more options at hand. Amazon has a Kindle App available for iOS, giving you the ability to read books both on the iPad and many other platforms (including the Kindle). They also have their own iBook app, and anyone can really create an eReader for the platform (such as the Nook Reader).

ipad kindle compare

This is a big detractor for the Kindle and the iPad as an eReader (in this author’s opinion). Once you purchase a Kindle/iBook/Nook book, you are essentially “˜stuck’ with it on that platform. You can’t extract them out, removing the Digital Rights Management (DRM) should you choose another platform at a later date.

The iPad is definitely a winner here. Since you have more of a choice of readers available, it does give you some flexibility in “˜future proofing’ your digital library. It also allows you access to the enormous iPad library of apps, whereas the Kindle has a miniscule collection of a few games (and it not even designed for this type of computing).


ipad kindle compare

Finally we look at the cost of the two. The Kindle 3 (Wifi only) comes in at a very reasonable $139, and the cheapest iPad 2 at $499. If you are willing to buy used equipment, you can push the price down on both platforms, putting these two eReaders within the reach of many consumers.

For what you get, the iPad is certainly a better value with many thousands of apps available, but if you just want to use it to read books then it is most definitely overkill.

So Which is a Better Reader?

When you stack up Kindle vs iPad like this, I think the Kindle wins out as the better dedicated reader. If you are a voracious consumer of books, the available apps on the iPad are a distraction and you wouldn’t maximize your investment in the platform. The variety of conditions you are able to read in on the Kindle, including broad daylight, also make it a preferred choice if you are at the beach or other sunny place where reading tends to occur. The price is the final clincher. Not having to worry about replacing a $500 device vs a $150 device is also a consideration.

Winner: Amazon Kindle

kindle vs ipad

Disgree with the above analysis? Make sure to let us know the error of our ways in the comments below!

Image credit Shutterstock

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View & Share Your Photos Wirelessly Among PCs, Macs & iOS Devices With Cinq

Posted: 17 Mar 2011 09:31 AM PDT

wirelessly share picturesI think that the real work of any photographer starts after taking the pictures. Managing photos requires a lot of effort, especially in the digital era where anybody can easily take hundreds of shots using various cameras at hand.

That’s why we tend to let our photos scatter amongst different devices, mostly on computers and mobile phones. Manually keeping the collections together is a tedious job, especially if you are an avid photographer. To lighten the burden, you could try Cinq. It is a tool that will help you view and wirelessly share your pictures among PCs, Macs, and iOS devices.

Setting Up The Server

The first thing you have to do to link up the entire system is set up the Cinq server on your PC’s and/or Macs. The server will allow the iOS app [iTunes Link] on your iOS device(s) to connect to your desktop computer(s).

The installation process will guide you through the Server Setup Wizard, starting from signing up for a Tunaverse account, giving a unique name to your computer, to adding a “My Picture” folder (Windows) or “iPhoto” folder (Mac) to the system.

wirelessly share pictures

After installation, the app will sit quietly on the System Tray in Windows, or in the Menubar on a Mac. Clicking on the icon will give you access to “Preferences“.

share photos wireless

This is what the Cinq Server looks like. Picture folders will be displayed on the left pane while the images inside the folder are visible on the right pane.

share photos wireless

Using The iOS App

Another essential part of the system is the iOS app. After you download and install the app, launch it to start the setup. To connect the computer and the phone, all devices need to log in with the same account.

share photos wireless

After logging in, you’ll see all of the connected computers on the main screen. There are also the Photos App, Recently Viewed, and Facebook icons there.

wireless picture transfer

Settings will allow you to edit your Tunaverse account and to connect Cinq to your Twitter and Facebook account. You can also choose which items you want to keep on the Home Screen.

Now you are ready to use Cinq. To browse photos stored on your computers, tap on one of the connected desktops. You can share pictures on your computer by picking one of the images inside a folder and tapping the share button on the bottom right corner of the screen. The sharing options include Facebook, TwitPic, or email. You can also print a photo (via wireless printer) and/or save it to the Photos App.

wireless picture transfer

To browse a photo collection on your iOS device, tap the “Photos App” icon. This feature allows users to wirelessly send pictures from your device to your computer – either in bulk or one by one. All you need to do is to tap the “Share” button, pick the images that you want to send, and click the “Send” button.

wireless picture transfer

You can cancel the sending process anytime by clicking the “Cancel” button on the home screen, and confirming the action.

03e Send Photos

To set which computer should receive the sent photos, go to Settings and choose “Send Photo Settings“. Then choose your preferred computer from the list.

03f More Settings

You can also choose to enable photo sending via “WiFi Only“. This option is available under “Settings – Advanced Network“, and would be useful for iOS device owners with no or very limited data plan.

The Social Side

On the social side, Cinq allows users to share photos to two major social sites: Twitter and Facebook. But to enable these social features, you have to link Cinq with your Facebook and Twitter account and authorize Cinq to access the data.

By authorizing Cinq to access your Facebook account, you’ll be able to access your friends’ Facebook photos. Tap on the Facebook icon to start, then you can search or browse your contact list to view their photo albums and individual photos. Unfortunately, you can’t download Facebook photos.

wirelessly share pictures

In general, I found Cinq to be very useful. It works perfectly as long as the Internet connection is good. You can send your photos directly from your phone to your desktop computer even if you are miles away from home. So if you often move pictures among your gadgets, you should try Cinq. Don’t forget to share your thoughts and opinions using the comments below.

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5 Ways To Improve Laptop Gaming Performance

Posted: 17 Mar 2011 08:31 AM PDT

improve laptop gaming performanceGaming laptops have always been behind desktops when it comes to raw performance, but they remain popular because of their portability. Not everyone likes being tied down to a desk when they want to game, and if you like to take your computer over to play multiplayer with some friends, a gaming laptop is the way to go.

You can’t easily upgrade gaming laptops, however, so if you want to improve your laptop gaming performance you’ll usually have to rely on software enhancements. This limits what you can do, but there are some tools and some tips that can improve gaming performance on a laptop.

Install The Latest Drivers

improve laptop gaming performance

The drivers that are shipped with most hardware are rather static. There may be some minor upgrades from time to time, but by and large installing a new driver for, say, your Ethernet controller isn’t going to drastically change laptop gaming performance.

Video card drivers, however, are an exception. Nvidia and ATI, the major video card manufacturers, are in a constant battle for performance dominance. This means not only releasing new cards, but also releasing driver updates that improve the performance of cards already on the market. If you pay close attention to video card reviews you’ll often see that identical video cards end up performing better over time. That’s the driver improvements at work.

If you’re on a laptop, ensuring that you have the latest drivers installed is the easiest way to obtain maximum performance. If you’ve never updated your drivers since the day you first bought your laptop, installing the newest version may increase your performance by as much as 20%.

Overclock The GPU

improve laptop gaming

Laptops are more limited than desktops when it comes to overclocking. CPU overclocking is rarely possible, since it’s usually not enabled in the BIOS. However, some models of laptop do allow for GPU overclocking.

Both Nvidia and ATI now have utilities built into their software suites that allow for GPU overclocking. There are essentially just two settings that you need to worry about – core clock and memory clock. The core clock is the speed of the actual processing cores on the GPU, while the memory clock is the speed of the memory used to buffer video data. Each has its own individual tolerance for overclocking, so you’ll need to experiment to find the maximum stable setting. Remember to take baby steps – don’t jump in and try to overclock by 20% from the start. Instead, up the settings by no more than 5% at a time.

You might also be able to change the speed of the system fan, if one has been dedicated to the GPU. If you’re given control of this setting, feel free to up the fan speed. This will of course cause more noise, but the extra cooling can make a higher overclock possible.

Check Your Power Settings

improve laptop gaming

Laptops, unlike desktops, are meant to be used away from a power source frequently. This means that management of power is a big deal. On a desktop, you can set Windows power management to high performance and call it a day, but laptops often switch back and forth between different power management presets.

Sometimes, a laptop will switch into a power management setting meant to conserve power and doesn’t switch back when it should have. Or you may simply have changed the power management settings yourself and then neglected to change them back later. In any case, it’s important to make sure that your laptop is using its high performance power profile when you are playing games.

In addition to this, some newer laptops have what is known as switchable graphics. This means the discrete laptop GPU is supposed to turn on automatically when needed and then turn off again when it’s not. If you’re experiencing unusually poor performance in a game, check your GPU settings and make sure the switchable graphics are turning on as they should.

Turn Down Texture & Shader Details

improve laptop gaming

Gaming laptops are sometimes limited by the volume and quality of their video memory. The memory available to a video card is important because it acts as the highway between your GPU and your display. If it’s out of room, a traffic jam forms, and your frame-rates start to dip.

The easiest way to make a game run better is to simply turn down the resolution. But before you do that, I recommend checking the game’s texture and shader and/or shadow settings. High-resolution textures, if a game makes them available, often eat up video RAM. Complex shaders or shadows can also have the same result. While all of the graphical effects applied to a game have some impact on performance, these are the settings most likely to improve laptop gaming performance if video memory is your laptop’s bottleneck.

Shut Down Background Applications

improve laptop gaming performance

As a last-ditch effort to improve your gaming performance you can try shutting down system tray applications. Ideally, you shouldn’t have too many such applications running in the first place. But as time goes on and various programs are installed, patched and un-installed, you may find yourself with a sizable collection of utilities in your system tray. Since laptops are less powerful than desktops, a laptop gaming PC is more likely to be impacted by these programs.

You can shut background programs down manually, or you can use a program like Game Booster 2, which offers a 1-click “gaming mode” button that turns off programs and services that could drag your frame-rates into the trenches.


Hopefully, these tips will provide you with some boost to gaming performance. As you’ve likely noticed, however, these tips mostly relate to system maintenance and software tweaks. Unfortunately, since replacing the CPU or GPU on a laptop is rarely an option, these are the tips you’ll have to rely on. If you still can’t play a new game after following the above recommendations it’s likely time to buy a new gaming laptop.

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