Thursday, March 24, 2011 “Cool Websites and Tools [March 23rd]” plus 10 more “Cool Websites and Tools [March 23rd]” plus 10 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [March 23rd]

Posted: 23 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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Booze Calculator – Are you aware of the dangers of drinking both for your health and your wallet? Well here is a cool-scary tool that visualizes the effects of drinking for you. Booze Calculator is a flash-based information app that profiles the different types of booze you drank the previous night and then gives you facts and trivia. Read more: Booze Calculator: Calculate The Effects Of Drinking Alcohol


Proxlet – is a useful tool that can help filter twitter noise effectively. That means unnecessary tweets, hashtags they don't need to see, users, apps etc – from their Twitter stream. While there are similar services available that I've come across in the past, what's great about Proxlet is that it works on the browser, desktop and mobile. Read more: Proxlet: Filter Twitter Noise Effectively



SearchPSD – If you are a web designer, it's likely that you maintain your own repository of Photoshop files that can come in handy in various projects. Images like company logos and buttons are usually the same, irrespective of the overall webpage design. SearchPSD is a nice site that offers a number of such PSD files. Read more: SearchPSD: Free Online Collection Of PSD Files



Salonmonster – Salon customers book in advance to prevent long waits and inconveniences. As the number of customers increases, managing their appointments becomes tougher. To avoid problems it is best to have a functional and efficient appointment handling system. SalonMonster is precisely that system. Read more: Salonmonster: A Great Appointment Scheduling Website For Salons



YTcloud – While YouTube helps us find specific videos that we want to watch, it is also a cool tool for video surfing or checking out random popular videos online. YTcloud enhances the experience by displaying a tag cloud of the most popular videos from YouTube. The default view shows you the tags for the 50 most viewed videos of the day. Read more: YTcloud: A tag Cloud For YouTube To Discover Popular Videos


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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10 Important Mac Tools You Should Use But Probably Ignore

Posted: 23 Mar 2011 06:31 PM PDT

mac toolsAlthough Macs are robust computers with plenty of awesome features inside Apple’s operating system itself, there are a slew of free third-party applications that should be in every Mac user’s Applications folder. These tools do all sorts of things, from cleaning out international language files you don’t need, cloning your hard drive, to providing better features for reading PDF documents.

I’ve chosen only Mac tools that I’ve personally used over the years, including ones that don’t duplicate what pretty much already exist as part of Mac OS X. However, I’m sure there are other useful applications that MUO readers can recommend, so please do so in the comment section below. Also, you may want to look for these applications in the App Store. Downloading these apps from there means that they can be more easily updated in the future.


If you want to reclaim several hundred megabytes of hard drive space, Monolingual can do that for you very quickly. It removes unnecessary language resource applications installed on your Mac. You simply check and remove the international languages you don’t need. This is especially useful if you have a MacBook Air which has a smaller amount of memory than most Macs.

mac tools

Carbon Copy Cloner

With 500GB external hard drives being almost as cheap as an iPod Nano, there’s no reason not to be cloning your entire Mac hard drive. Carbon Copy Cloner can create a bootable backup of your entire Mac without you hardly lifting a finger.

cool mac tools

You can schedule the backup to run on a regular basis. In the event your Mac crashes, you can simply reboot from the cloned drive.


I’ve written about Growl! before. This little behind-the-scenes program can notify you about new email, Direct Message tweets, completed uploads, and lots of other activity happening in your Mac. Growl supports over a hundred different browser, chat, file sharing, multimedia, music, productivity, and download applications.



Your desktop can be more than a place to park files and display wallpaper. With GeekTool, you can actually customize your desktop to display all kinds of information, such as the time, date, weather, or even the tweets from your Twitter contacts.


Check out the possibilities of what this app can do. GeekTool may appear a little intimidating to Mac newbies, but Jeffry’s how-to article should help you get started.


If you regularly download and read PDF documents, I definitely recommend that you ditch Apple’s Preview PDF reader and start using Skim. It has tens times more features for annotating documents and bookmarking pages than Preview does. It is the best free alternative PDF reader.

cool mac tools


Quicksilver enables you to practically keep your hands on your keyboard at all times, because if you learn how to use it, you can simply activate Quicksilver with a keyboard shortcut and type whatever application, URL, or even Address Book contact you want to launch on your desktop. You can even use Quicksilver to activate features in iTunes without bringing the music player to the forefront.

cool mac tools


If Quicksilver is not as intuitive as you would like, you will find Google’s QuickSearchBox more user friendly. Amazingly, this search application finishes the hundred yard dash well before Apple’s own Spotlight can get off the starting line.

tools for mac

With QuickSearchBox, you can even do Google searches from your desktop, instead of heading over first to your favorite web browser. Check out this article for other things you can do with QuickSearchBox.

Permanent Eraser

When you throw files in the trash of any computer, those files are never fully disposed of. Bits and pieces of it, or even entire files can remain in the bowels of your hard drive. You can use Apple’s Secure Empty Trash feature to overwrite deleted files, but for more sensitive files you will want an application that provides added security.

tools for mac

Permanent Eraser does exactly that. According to the developers, “This utility overwrites your data thirty-five times, scrambles the original file name, and truncates the file size to nothing before Permanent Eraser finally unlinks it from the system. Once your data has been erased, it can no longer be read through traditional means.” This type of application should be  a part of every Mac user’s arsenal.


When you purchase a DVD movie, you will probably want to back it up on your computer hard drive, as you do with other important digital media. HandBrake can do that job for you.

tools for mac

HandBrake works with Mac, Linux, and Windows. Though the application’s interface looks challenging, using it is not too difficult. Check out our instructions here.


If for some reason you want to change the classic Mac OS X screen image that appears when you log into your Mac, you can easily do that with Loginox.

mac tools

There are a few very geeky ways to do this, but Loginox makes it a drag and drop process. It’s a very useful tool if you want to customize that part of your Mac.

These are ten Mac tools I’ve used over the years. There are others, like Evernote and Skype that I assume many Mac MUO readers are familiar with. But let us know what free Mac tools you think should be part of this list and why.

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5 Interesting Uses For A Spare Old Smartphone

Posted: 23 Mar 2011 04:31 PM PDT

uses for a smartphoneThese days we change our mobiles, laptops, cars and decor more than ever. If you’re on a rolling 12 month mobile contract, chances are you’ll get a brand spanking new smartphone each and every year.

This results in a drawer full of disused cellular devices, none of which are as good as your current iPhone, Android or Windows Phone 7 device. However, many of these old bits of tech can still be put to good use in some way or another.

Let’s be honest, the first iPhone, early Android devices and the Symbian platform are pretty long in the tooth by now. Here are 5 options to explore the next time you find an old mobile phone.

Skype Phone

There are a few good mobile versions of the popular Skype VoIP and messaging platform and there are also dedicated Skype phones. If you have an old Wi-Fi compatible smartphone (3G would work too, but you’ll need a SIM and credit) then why not turn it into a dedicated Skype device for your home?

You can text, call other Skype users for free or even buy some well-priced Skype Out credit and call landlines and mobiles anywhere in the world.

uses for a smartphone

I recently used an old Symbian device for this purpose whilst my girlfriend was overseas. I was able to make calls on a real phone (which is a bit more personal than staring at a screen, distracted by your email) at a fraction of the price of calling from a mobile or landline contract.

Remote Control

An old smartphone can also function as a handy remote control for your media centre or computer. There are plenty of free applications available on both Apple’s App Store and the Android Marketplace. If you’re interested check out the fantastic Gmote for Android or our list of iPhone remote control apps.

XBMC users will be pleased to know there are apps available for both Android and iPhone, and Boxee users can control their TV with the iPhone App.

Older Symbian phones can be used as remotes with ControlFreak, though there seems to be little for newer 5th generation S60 handsets (though there’s always the Ovi Store).

Portable Audio

Many old smartphones either come with a lot of storage or have expandable memory card slots. If said device supports high capacity MicroSD cards then you can pack some serious storage for a decent price.

You can put this storage to good use with plenty of music and podcasts and choose a good app with which to listen to them. Set your phone’s profile to flight mode, disable Bluetooth, dim the backlight and battery life should be tolerable.

Not a fantastic permanent solution, but great if your iPod’s out of order or maybe as a Bluetooth-ready audio player for the car.

USB Storage & Mass Transfer

Most smartphones will mount in a USB mass storage mode for transfer of data to a PC. For an interesting twist on the small portable hard-drive or potentially large USB stick an old smartphone may suffice.

smartphone uses

It’s especially handy if you ever need to review information on-the-go, with support for images, text documents, PDFs and so on commonplace on a lot of devices (even old ones). What’s more if your PC supports Bluetooth after pairing the two you’ll be able to transfer wirelessly, with a couple of clicks.

Video & Audio

It might sound a bit obvious, but the camera on that old smartphone can be useful too. Even if it doesn’t take crystal-clear video, your old device could be used with something like Qik to stream video live to the Internet.

If you simply want to use your phone as a webcam then you’ll need an app like IP Webcam for Android or SmartCam. You’ll then have a handy wireless webcam to mount or run around with as you see fit.

uses for a smartphone

Even the basic dictaphone function on most smartphones (and the plenty of apps available that do the same job) can be useful, and quicker than typing out a note too.


Don’t forget that if you really don’t think you’re going to be using your old smartphone then you an always sell or recycle it. Depending on the condition of your phone it may still be saleable on an auction site like eBay. Even if you can’t sell it you can still get some money from recycling, or choose to donate it to charity.

Do you have any old smartphones lying about? Thought up any genius uses for them? Let us know in the comments.

Image credit: Shutterstock

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How To Make A Portable Test Web Server With Server2Go

Posted: 23 Mar 2011 02:31 PM PDT

portable php web serverWhether you’re a blogger or a web designer, upgrading and improving the website is a never-ending job. Whether you want to tweak the template or test some changes before activating them live, it’s nice to have a local system set up where you can view “live changes” before they ever go live on the Internet.

There are lots of WYSIWYG applications that let you create a static HTML page and then preview what it’ll look like before you actually upload the new pages to your web host. However, if you have a PHP-based website like a WordPress blog, things aren’t quite that simple. You need a web server that can handle PHP and MySQL at the very least.

Here at MUO, we’ve covered a number of ways to install your own local web server like Dave’s review of Linux web server software, as well as his review of XAMPP for Windows. These are great if you intend on using the same computer for all of your development work, but if you travel a lot, wouldn’t it be nice to have a portal PHP web server installed on your thumb drive or portable hard drive where you can test changes anywhere, even if there’s no Internet access? One of the easiest portable solutions for this is Server2Go.

Bring A Working Web Server Anywhere

Compared to the configuration work it takes to set up a working web server, the ease with which you can install and run Server2Go on a portable drive is unbelievable. This is a perfect solution for me, because I want to make some design changes to my blog template without the risk of taking down my entire site. So, in order to accomplish this feat, I decided to test drive Server2Go.

When you download Server2Go and extract the files, you’ll see that the directories are set up like a regular web server with “htdocs” being the public directory where your web pages will go.  No installation required.

portable php web server

All you have to do is copy those files and directories to your portable drive. Now, if your only goal is to test your website that’s written in either straight HTML or PHP, you’re done. Just copy your site to htdocs and you can view it by launching the web server (running Server2Go.exe) and then going to – the default localhost IP configured in pms_config.ini.

This is pretty slick because you will have a fresh web server to test any website that you want at any time and anywhere. But what if you want to load up a complete PHP site with a back end SQL database?

Server2Go was originally made to run off of a read-only CD, so the default setup will not save MySQL database changes. If you want to configure the server to keep all of your settings, you need to edit pms_config.ini so that LocalMirror=0, OverwriteLocalMirror=0, and DeleteDatabaseFiles=0.

Do this edit before you move on or you’ll lose all of your configurations. When you’re done, open up phpMyAdmin by going to and log in as root without any password.

Now, set up your database. This needs to be the database name that you use for your regular website. In the case of a WordPress blog, you’ll make it whatever you configured in wp-config.php on your live blog.

local host web server

Also create a new user with the same user id that you use on your live WordPress blog. You do this in phpMyAdmin by clicking on the SQL tab and typing:

“CREATE USER ‘my_id’@'localhost’ IDENTIFIED BY ‘your_password’;
GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON *.* TO ‘my_id’@'localhost’
CREATE USER ‘my_id’@'%’ IDENTIFIED BY ‘your_password’;

Now that your database is ready to go, move a fresh copy of WordPress to your new portable web server by copying all of the WordPress files to the htdocs directory.

local host web server

Remember to edit wp-config-sample.php with the database and user information, and rename the file to wp-config.php. Run “” and you should see the following screen.

local host web server

You now have a working local installation of WordPress! The next step is to just export your database and import it into your local WordPress installation. We’ve covered lots of backup procedures at MUO, but one of my favorites was Dean’s on the database backup plugin. I won’t go into the details here, but I highly recommend that plugin to transfer over your entire database.

Keep in mind that even though the database backup will move over all posts and comments, the theme and formatting will not carry over. To do this, you need to copy your entire wp-content directory from your online blog to the fresh install of your local one. Enable the required plug-ins and configure the theme to match your online setup. Once you’re done, you have an exact local replica of your entire online website or blog.

Here’s a local copy of my own blog running on Server2Go.

portable php web server

Now I can tweak the template and other aspects of my blog – including testing new plug-ins and widgets – before they ever go live on the actual online website. After taking my website down a few times just by playing around with a new widget, this feels a whole lot safer.

Give Server2Go a shot on your own portable thumb drive or hard drive and let us know how it goes. What other ideas do you have for making use of such a portable and fast to set up web server? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Image Credit : El Frijole

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Hot Tech Deals [Mar 23rd]

Posted: 23 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. TODAY ONLY TRENDnet TEW-644UB 802.11n Wireless N USB Adapter $14.99 Free Shipping
  2. Samsung ML-2525W Monochrome Laser Printer w/ Wireless Networking $79.99 Free Shipping
  3. Wenger SwissGear Legacy 15.6in Checkpoint Friendly Laptop Bag $29.99 Free Ship
  4. TODAY ONLY Intel Pentium E6500 Wolfdale 2.93GHz CPU + MORE Super Combo $234.99AR
  5. Verizon Motorola Droid X Cell Phone – FREE with contract
  6. EXPIRING Acer S211HLbd 22in LED-Backlit LCD Monitor $129.99 Free Shipping via code EMCKGJC46 (Exp 3/23)
  7. HP S2031 20in Widescreen LCD Monitor $89.99 Free Shipping via code TECHBARG30 (Exp 4/3)

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set

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5 Websites To Go Back In Time & Find Out What Happened This Day In History

Posted: 23 Mar 2011 12:31 PM PDT

this day in historyThe next best thing to a time machine is definitely the digital database which store gazillion bytes of data.  Thanks to it and the browser, we can literally go back in time and access a nugget of information. Going back to a historical date and learning which major event shaped the future is not only an educational journey, but it can be one of fun too.

For instance, tell me which important event took place on December 17th? History will record it as the day that sparked the Jasmine Revolution that’s still changing our future. But on the same date another event took place more than 100 years back which set our future. The answer: It was also the date of the first airplane flight by Orville and Wilbur Wright at Kitty Hawk.

So, meander along to these websites and go back in time to see what happened this day in history.

This Day In History

this day in history

It was while reading this page that I got the idea. The page always turns over to the current day and date to give you a peek into what happened today in the past. There’s usually a lead story with multimedia frills. On the left column, the site captures the other significant events of this day in history categorized under different headings. You can also jump back and forth into time using the calendar. You can also have “˜This Day in History’ delivered to your inbox.

BBC “" On This Day

this day in history website

BBC generally has an eye on world events. So, it can dip into its huge archive of news nuggets and pick up the ones that were momentous on this very day in the past. It’s About page says that On This Day is a showcase of some of the most significant as well as some of the quirkier stories broadcast by BBC News since 1950. It also covers the years of the Second World War (1939-45). The interesting part is the “In Context” side note which basically shows the effects and what happened next due to the event. You can search by date, by year, by theme, and by witness accounts.

New York Times “" On This Day

this day in history website

New York Times has a cool educational resource called The Learning Network which is a blog. It’s currently in the midst of a change, but you can still dive into the news items from the past. The design of the The Learning Network is student friendly with months and dates clearly linked to past archival content. Every major event across the centuries is lined up for your study. You can also check out birthdays and obituaries.

Library of Congress – American Memory

this day in history website

You can expect the largest library in the world to keep abreast of all that has happened in the past. The Library of Congress doesn’t disappoint with its History Archive and the 365 pages in the Today in History Archive. The only limiting factor is that it is limited to American history. You can carry out a full text search of the archive, jump to certain date, or just go from month to month. 


this day in history

You can search Wikipedia by date and of all the resources, Wikipedia probably gives you pay dirt as its linked pages are treasure trove of historical information. On the landing page itself, you can spy the On this day…feature. Clicking on the date takes you into the wiki page for the day and this becomes a portal for further exploration. You can also catch up with what happened in recent years. The calendar is also a handy jumping off point to other days.

What happened today, all those years ago, could be just another online tool for education or an interesting way to look at history . If you remember my earlier post on 7 Historical Websites That Let Us Go Back & Take Another Peek At History, it clearly demonstrates that the web is like a time capsule which not only archives everything but also allows us to flit from the present into the past with a click.

Do you think that such websites add an extra edge to our education?

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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Make The Web A Better Reading Place With The New Readability

Posted: 23 Mar 2011 11:31 AM PDT

new readabilityThe Internet might be a great source of information, but it’s not always a great place to read that information. Some web owners try too hard to monetize their site that all of the advertisements prevent visitors from having a nice reading experience. Then there are also the other factors that make the situation worse, such as bad page layouts and poor combinations of fonts and background colors. That’s why web reading tools like Readable, Readability, Instapaper, and Joliprint have become indispensable partners for many Internet users.

To give general web users a better reading and writing environment, Readability – one of the pioneers in web reading technology – has rolled out its new version. This new Readability focuses not only on the readers, but also on web publishers.

From Bookmarklets To Add-Ons

Basically, web services like Readability will convert any webpage into a more read-friendly format. To know more about the concept, let’s watch this short introduction video.

The old version of Readability relied on a Javascript bookmarklet for the conversion. Users would install the bookmarklet on their browser’s bookmark bar, and every time they wanted to have a more read-friendly version of a webpage, they would have pressed the bookmarklet.

Even though the bookmarklet is still functional, the New Readability utilizes browser add-ons to carry out the conversion task. To get the add on for your browser, click the “Get the Add-On” button on Readability’s main page.

new readability

The site will detect what browser you use and give you the download link accordingly.

make website readable

After the download is finished, install the add-on. In my experiment, the Safari version of the Readability add-on required a manual installation.

make website readable

After a quick installation, the Readability add-on button will appear next to the URL field.

make website readable

You can enable or disable the add-on from the Preferences window.

making websites readable

Using The Add-On

To see the differences between the old and new version of Readability, I opened a MakeUseOf page and pressed the Readability button. The article page was quickly converted into a clean, easy-to-read page. But so far, it’s more or less similar to the old version.

making websites readable

The big difference is in the tool sidebar. Along with the familiar “Reload” and “Print” buttons, the new version also gives users tools to quickly change the page layout according to their preferences. Click one of the boxes under “Font & Color” and the layout will change into a pre-defined layout.

making websites readable

The tool will also let users quickly change the width of the text area and also the font size, which is useful if you have sight problems.

If you prefer clean text for your articles, Readability lets you “convert links to footnotes“. No more blue-underlined text as every link will now go to the end of the article. You can also hide the images within the article if you want to.

08i Readability  Links 2 Footnotes

Another additional feature on the sidebar is the sharing button. Now you can easily share the article that you are currently reading via Twitter, Email and Facebook. Readability goes one step further by providing you with a shortened URL of the article.

08j Readability  Share Article

More Publisher Friendly

The problem with most services like Readability is that they are not publisher friendly. Stripping down a webpage into the clean, easy-to-read format also means stripping out all of the publisher’s income.

To solve this problem, Readability offers a paid subscription model to its users. Subscribers can choose how much money they are willing to pay every month (with the minimum amount being US$ 5.00). Readability will then give 70% of the money to writers and publishers, while keeping the remaining 30% to maintain and improve the service.

09a Readability  Subscribe

To make the offer more compelling, paid subscribers will get more features compared to free users, such as the ability to save articles to read later and also mobile access to the saved articles.

09b Readability  Feature Comparison

If you are a writer or publisher and you want to participate in the program, you can add the “Reading Buttons” on your website(s). Adding the buttons is as easy as embedding the provided script.

09c Readability  Reading Button

Also don’t forget to register your site to join the “Readability movement“.

new readability

As a reader, I think the New Readibility is way better than the old one. Especially with the addition of quick layout and sharing tools. As a writer, I think the paid subscription model offered by Readibility might be one of the solutions to provide readers with a more comfortable reading environment while keeping that environment publisher friendly.

What do you think about the New Readability? Share your thoughts and opinions using the comments below.

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Network Your Computers & Devices Step by Step [Giveaway]

Posted: 23 Mar 2011 11:00 AM PDT

The book Network Your Computer & Devices Step by Step written by Ciprian Adrian Rusen and co-authored by his team at 7 Tutorials thoroughly describes the process of creating an interactive and safe home network. Owing to its easy to follow step by step instructions and clear organization, the book is suitable for everyone who knows the basics of computing. Previous experience in setting up a home network is not required.

This week, we will be giving away 25 free copies of Ciprian’s ebook in PDF, Mobi, APK and ePub formats

Each chapter is preceded by a ‘Chapter at a Glance’ summary, which highlights its key lessons and on what pages to find them. While beginners are advised to read each chapter from beginning to end, more experienced readers can use these cues to jump to points of interest.

The chapter itself starts with a short list of what the reader will learn on the following pages and it concludes with a list of key points that were covered in the chapter. Throughout the book clear step by step instructions, plenty of screenshots, highlighting of important points or known issues, and cross-links to further information make this book an easy to follow manual.

The book addresses all networking-related features that Windows can handle. While it mostly focuses on Windows 7; it also explains how to integrate computers running Windows XP, Windows Vista, Mac OS X, and Ubuntu Linux into the network.

This is an overview of the skills this book teaches:

  • Set up and configure a router.
  • Connect peripheral devices to the network.
  • Manage user accounts.
  • Manage Windows 7 libraries.
  • Create and connect to a network.
  • Customize network sharing settings.
  • Create and join a homegroup.
  • Share libraries, folders, and peripheral devices.
  • Stream media over the network and the internet.
  • Secure the network.
  • Set up parental controls.

The final chapter provides troubleshooting tips for network and internet problems and the unavoidable technical lingo is unscrambled in the Glossary.

There is very little left to be desired. Maybe the author should have mentioned that the minimum edition required to complete all networking projects is Windows 7 Home Premium. While the book clearly focuses on a home network and does not cover professional networking aspects, some readers may get stuck trying to use Windows 7 Starter. Overall, this is an excellent book, which should not leave any open questions about how to set up a comprehensive home network.

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 from yesterday’s newsletter or 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 Belgium, Norway, Sweden, India or any country embargoed by the United States are not permitted to enter.

This giveaway begins now and ends Wednesday, March 30th at 2100hrs PDT. 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 Ciprian Adrian Rusen for his 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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Catch Notes, A Note-Taking App For Android & iOS That’s Definitely Worth A Look

Posted: 23 Mar 2011 10:31 AM PDT

mobile note takingIn my constant quest for the best note-taking environment, I’ve used Evernote, SpringPad, SimpleNote, reQall, and finally, Toodledo‘s Notebook, which unfortunately only takes formatted text at best, which still remains a text-only note application and thus doesn’t allow me to take more advanced notes with graphs, and what not. Between web apps, I’ve found Catch Notes, formerly known as 3Banana, to be a very capable productivity enhancer that sports a minimalistic interface and is packed with features.

Since it’s also got mobile apps, I feel like many users can probably make really good use of this app, which can be for capturing text notes, but also audio and images. Let’s see what makes Catch Notes a top-notch mobile note-taking app.

Rich-Text Files You Can Edit

mobile note taking

Unlike Evernote, which is in my opinion a great, versatile app nonetheless, Catch Notes actually lets you edit the content of your rich-text files, which is a godsend in some situations. You may have, for example, articles to clip, which may include images. You can use the Chrome extension, Firefox addon, or IE Accelerator to clip the text seamlessly or email notes to from several of your registered email addresses. I’m clipping, for example, this Kent University webpage on graph theory, which has images that Catch doesn’t initially, er, catch if I use the Chrome extension, but I can easily copy the text plus images and paste them onto a new Catch note on the actual website, which will capture the article nicely.

Android & iOS (iPhone & iPad) Apps

android note taking

iphone note taking

Testing this mobile note taking app on the iOS platform, I really liked the fact that you can record audio notes of up to 2 hours in length, and can access your notes in Airplane mode, that is, when Wi-Fi is off. Not only that, but the app also caches the images, something I wish the native Mail app would do. Not only that, you can keep adding multimedia snippets to the same note, so you can don’t have to keep separate images, text and voice notes for the same topic.

I imagine the Android app would have the same features but I should also mention that the developers behind Catch also have two extra handy apps exclusively available for Android users, which you can check out here.

Attaching Files & Limits

iphone note taking

Since you can also attach common image and audio files to any of your notes, keep in mind you have a 70 MB note limit, which resets every 30 days or so. Despite this limit, you can have as many text-only notes as you want, close to 700 minutes of voice notes, close to 20 high-resolution attachable images, and almost 350 smaller images, which sound very reasonable for regular users on the go.

mobile note taking

Is There A “Catch” To Catch Notes?

There are many other reasons why you should at least, peruse through the Catch website as I couldn’t cover all of the features here, but let’s look at the “limitations”. There is a 70 MB note limit, which is still 10 MB higher than Evernote’s note limit, and so it’s very reasonable. Perhaps a minor detail, but I didn’t find any options to back up or export my notes on the website, though you can easily use the import page and export notes if you have an Android handset. I also felt the image capturing ability was a bit buggy at times since the clipped content would sometimes show me the images on the website, and sometimes wouldn’t. This didn’t happen at all in the mobile apps though.

Overall, Catch is a great addition to your collection of productivity apps. What do you use to capture notes and remember everything? Let us know in the comments!

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People Love You. Show It Off On WordPress With Collision Testimonials

Posted: 23 Mar 2011 09:31 AM PDT

collision testimonialsShow off the great things people say about you, right on your WordPress site. Whether you want a dedicated page or a rotating sidebar widget, Collision Testimonials lets you display the kind words of happy clients wherever you want. You can even have a form for people to leave feedback on their own.

Whether you’re running the website for a small business or promoting yourself on the web as a freelancer, it’s important to share the positive things other people say about you. If your website runs on WordPress, Collision Testimonials is among the best ways to do so. This free plugin can be installed easily from within WordPress, so let’s take a look at how it works.

How It Looks

Like most quality WordPress add-ons, this plugin aims to integrate itself well into whatever theme you’re using. The sidebar widget, which displays a random testimonial on every page, looks like this:

collision testimonials

Adding this widget to your page is easy; just visit the Widget preferences panel in WordPress and drag the “Collisions Testimonial” widget to the appropriate place.

You can also add a page of your testimonials. This will include every testimonial you’ve collected; perfect if you want a single landing page to send people to:

wordpress testimonial plugin

Adding this page is a little more complex than adding the widget, but don’t panic. All you need to do is add code to the page where you want your testimonials to be displayed. In your page editor, click the “HTML” tab to enter the HTML editor. Add this code to your page, above and/or below the other content you want on that page:

Want to configure how things will look on this page? That’s changed in the configuration page.

It’s worth noting that, if you’re the sort of person who likes to custom-edit themes, you can also add testimonials that way. You’ll find directions to do this on the theme’s configuration panel.


Collision Testimonials features a few configuration panels in the WordPress administrator interface. For example. you can add and edit testimonials in a simple interface:

wordpress testimonial plugin

You can save testimonials, leaving them as public or simple saved in the backend. You can also “feature” certain testimonials, useful if you want a page of just your featured testimonials. Other options include limiting the number of testimonials displayed and more, so be sure to explore the options.

User Submitted Testimonials

Want a page where your clients can leave testimonials on their own? You can do that too. The code to leave on a page for that is:

Here’s what the form looks like:

collision testimonials

You may not want this page to be in your WordPress menus, instead sending it to your happy clients so they can express themselves. Submitted testimonials will need your approval before going live, so don’t worry about angry rants showing up on your site.


Installing this plugin is easy; just search for “Collision Testimonials” in the plugin section of your WordPress dashboard.

Not sure how build your own WordPress site? Check out our WordPress manual to get started using WordPress on your own domain.

I set up a lot of websites for local businesses in Boulder, and have found this plugin to be very useful. Do you think you could use it on your site? Let me know in the comments below. Also let me know if there are any other tools for showing off testimonials on WordPress, because I’m yet to find anything better than this.

Image Credit :Sarah Reido

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How To Resize Images Using iPhoto

Posted: 23 Mar 2011 08:31 AM PDT

If you ever couldn’t email a digital photo or post it up on a website, typically it was because the image was too large in size. Even a standard 3 megapixel size iPhone photo, with the dimension of 768 x 1024 may be too large for posting on an online forum, though its resolution size may be under 1MB. Or you might try to put a set of 3-5 megapixel photos in a folder but discover they’re too large for emailing. So what do you do?

Well, we have seen earlier that your Mac also gives you three different apps that can help you quickly resize images. But it also helps if you know something about resizing images with iPhoto for various purposes.

The best and fastest way to resize photos on your Mac is to use iPhoto. It’s an application that comes installed in the iLife suite of most new Mac computers. If it didn’t come installed on your Mac, and you don’t think you take enough photos to purchase the application, there are still two other applications, namely Preview, included by default as part of OS X that you can use.

Checking Image Size

With iPhoto 11, you can not only quickly email an image right from within the application, but you can also find out the size of the images you’re resizing. In iPhoto’s menu bar, at the bottom of the application, you need to click the Info button to find out the image type and size of a selected photo, as well as other metadata.

resize photos mac

In my screenshot above, the image is in RAW format, the largest size format next to TIFF that some digital cameras can produce. Notice the dimensions and actual file size of the photo are much too large for emailing or posting on a website. In order to send an image this size to someone, you would need to post it in a file sharing service like Dropbox so it can be downloaded.

resize photos mac free

Most cameras produce by default JPEG formatted photos, which means that the images are compressed to reduce the size. In the above screenshot, the dimension and file size of the photo is smaller. However, it might still be too large for emailing, especially if you want the receiver of the email to be able to comfortably view the image in their mail application or on an online gallery or forum. So it must be resized.

Mail Resizing In iPhoto

There are two ways to resize images in iPhoto ’11. Again, at the bottom of iPhoto, there’s a Share button, and in the pop-up menu you can select Email. Your selected photo(s) will get resized and placed in a stationary template.

resize photos mac free

You can of course change the template and size of the photo placed in the email.

resize photos mac free

In my selected photo, the Full Quality Actual Size of the RAW photo is over 7MB. The Large (Higher Quality) size is 797KB, the Medium size is 362.29KB, and the Small (Faster Downloading) size is 281.29KB.

resize images mac

With this method, all you have to do is select the smaller size for emailing, especially since the photo is placed in a stationary template. You can try sending the Full size if you know the receiver wants to reprint the image and has a fast Internet connection to be able to download it.

Export Resizing From iPhoto

If you don’t want to send your selected photo(s) in a stationary template, there are two other ways in iPhoto to resize images. Select File > Export.

resize images mac

This method provides a little more control over how you resize your images. In the first pop-up menu, Kind, you can select to change the format of the photo from say RAW to JPEG or PNG, or you can keep it in its Original format. The Current format means that when you import RAW images in iPhoto and then edit them, they will get exported as compressed JPEG images. You wouldn’t want to email or post a RAW image unless you know the receiver could process the image with an image editor like iPhoto or later versions of Photoshop. Most Internet service providers don’t allow for significantly large size attachments in an email.

resize photos mac

If you want the receiver of your image(s) to be able to print your image, you would leave them at the highest quality and size that you possibly can for emailing or posting them to say a photo sharing site. So where it says JPEG Quality, Small would be for emailing and publishing to websites for viewing purposes only. The Medium size is also not for printing, but it provides a higher quality image to recipients who have a fast Internet connection, such as DSL.

The Large size is suitable for printing standard-size photos (2 by 2, 2 by 5, and 4 by 6 inches.) The recipient would need a fast Internet connection, or you would need to post the image(s) on a file sharing service like Dropbox.

The Full size should be used for making high-quality prints of an acceptable size or to post in a web gallery, in which recipients can download and print. Typically, JPEG images this size are a couple of megabytes.

There are other applications, like Photoshop, and Apple’s Preview that provide even more control over resizing photos. For Windows users, check out Simon’s article on resizing photos on Windows.

Let us know how resizing photos in iPhoto works for you. Or if you have found another useful way to resize images, let us know about it.

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