Thursday, March 3, 2011 “Latest Hilarious Picks [MakeUseOf Geeky Fun]” plus 11 more “Latest Hilarious Picks [MakeUseOf Geeky Fun]” plus 11 more

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Latest Hilarious Picks [MakeUseOf Geeky Fun]

Posted: 02 Mar 2011 09:01 PM PST


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

  1. Freelancing: What People Think Vs. Reality (Pic)
  2. Al Qaeda Attacks Internet With Photo Of Adorable Piglet (Video)
  3. America Is Addicted To Porn (Pic)
  4. Time Spent Creating a Website (Pic)
  5. Why Can't Computers Just Be Honest (Pic)
  6. The Phone Wars (Pic)
  7. Social media policies that do far more harm than good (Pic)

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


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Cool Websites and Tools [March 2nd]

Posted: 02 Mar 2011 07:31 PM PST

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

Add Your Website Here!


Incentify – If you have trouble seeing the good in getting things done, you might lose the motivation to get moving. Incentify hopes to solve that by allowing you to set tasks with corresponding motivational rewards. This app marries your to-do list with a rewards list to get you going. To get started, add a to-do list and list your things-to-do by clicking Add Tasks. Read more: Incentify: Add Motivational Rewards & Incentives To Your To-Do List


CSSResetr – Designing with CSS is a tricky business since you have to deal with different browser markups. CSS that may work with one browser may not work with others. To get around this, you should check out CSS Resetr. This simple design tool lets you preview and download clean, browser-neutral code that will serve as your foundation for your CSS design. Read more: CSSResetr: Preview & Download CSS Resets



Easyliz – Renting out your goods or services when you can is an excellent way to make some extra money. Often on the web you will find listings websites that let you list only a specific type of goods or service. But on EasyLiz, you can find and list any type of rentable goods and services. Read more: Easyliz: Find & List Goods or Services for Rent



EverytimeHQ – If you are a budding director, writer, graphic artist, photographer, or any creative type that relies on a surge of ideas, you should find a tool that allows you to capture these ideas and lay it out for you. EverytimeHQ is a brainstorming and bookmarking tool for people who need to spark creativity and find sources of inspiration online. Read more: EverytimeHQ: A Filmmaker Tool For Bookmarking & Brainstorming



Unused CSS – Do you have unused selectors in the CSS of your website? If you do, or if you are not sure, you can easily clean up those unused selectors using a website called Unused CSS, a free to use website that helps site owners clean up their CSS. You start by providing Unused CSS with your site's URL. Then a web crawler follows the links on your website. Read more: Unused CSS: Clean Up Unused CSS


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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6+ Nostalgic Emulators For Vintage Video Gaming Enthusiasts (1972-1980)

Posted: 02 Mar 2011 03:31 PM PST

video game emulatorsStarting this week I’m going to be taking a walk through video gaming history to bring you the best emulators I can find for each system. This first instalment covers the golden age of video games when primitive games made their way out of the arcades and into homes around the world.

Some contain embedded games, though for most you’ll need your own games to play on these emulators. These are generally referred to as ROMs and provided you own the original media it is not illegal to download or possess digital copies.

The list is as cross-platform as can be, though Mac and Linux support is (regrettably) thin on the ground this time round.

1972 – Magnavox Odyssey [ODYEMU]

video game emulators

Officially the world’s first home video games console, the Magnavox Odyssey lived for three years until it was discontinued in 1975. It was powered by batteries, lacked sound and by today’s standards is pretty awful.

However, that is not the point. If you’d like to experience the thrill of the world’s first home console then you can, with the ODYEMU emulator for Windows. The system itself is completely emulated, with all 26 released cartridges integrated.

The Odyssey did need a few peripherals to get the job done though (see the video), and these aren’t all complete at the moment. The authors have appealed for help and contributions, so if you’re particularly passionate you might want to help them out.

1975 – Home Pong (Atari/Sears Telegames) [Pong-Story]

free game emulators

From the same authors who brought you ODYEMU come this small collection of Pong emulators for your Windows PC. The closest you’ll probably get to the home version is Pong 6.0, a near-perfect Pong representation.

There’s also a reproduction of Atari’s classic arcade Pong available, Pong 2.7. Speed is variable and there’s a two-player mode – prepare to lose an afternoon!

1976 – Fairchild Channel F [MESS]

free game emulators

Released in 1976 as the first in a second generation of video games consoles, the Fairchild Channel F is emulated via the Multiple Emulator Super System, or MESS for short. Don’t let “second generation” fool you – the Channel F had mono sound, supported 8 colors at a resolution of 102×58 pixels and ran at a staggering 1.79MhZ.

The system came with two integrated games, Hockey and Tennis, with 26 cartridges released in total. The latest version of MESS is only available for Windows, but there are older versions available for Linux. The emulator and immitates an incredible amount of systems and iff you’re searching for an all-in-one then check it out.

1977 – Atari 2600 [Stella]

free game emulators

An iconic console from 1977, the Atari 2600 sold 30 million units, with top-grossing game Pac-Man selling 7 million copies. Calling the Atari 2600 a success is somewhat of an understatement, and by the early 1980s the word “Atari” was as synonymous with video gaming as “Xerox” is to photocopying.

game emulators

There exists a fantastic little multi-platform emulator called Stella to get your 2600 fix. It runs on Windows, Mac and Linux (with pre-compiled binaries for Ubuntu, Mandriva and Fedora).

1978 – Mangavox Odyssey² [O2EM] [MESS]

game emulators

Known as the Philips Videopac G7000 in Europe and branded the “21st greatest video game console” in 2009 by video games website IGN, no console at the time had a full alphanumeric keyboard until the Mangavox Odyssey² turned up.

game emulators

The open-source cross-platform (Windows, Linux and DOS) emulator O2EM does a good job of emulating many of the 70 or so available games for the system. Users can also use MESS to play Odyssey² games.

1979 – Intellivision [Nostalgia] [MESS]

video game emulators

Toy manufacturer Mattel’s Intellivision was released in 1979 and sold around 3 million units. It was a direct competitor to Atari’s 2600, and despite only selling a tenth of the 30 million racked up by Atari, the Intellivision was compatible with 125 games.

Nostalgia is a quality emulator with near-perfect emulation since hitting version 5. Unfortunately the author’s website has disappeared but thankfully the download is mirrored at Emulator-Zone. Nostalgia is Windows only, Linux users will have more joy with MESS which also emulates the Intellivision platform.

What’s Missing?

Unfortunately it has not been possible to find emulators for three first generation consoles, the Magnavox Odyssey 200 (from 1975), the Coleco Telstar (1976) and Nintendo’s Color TV Game (1977). If you do know of any good solutions, then please leave a comment below as we would love to hear about them!

Join me next time when I’ll be taking a look at the next batch of consoles from 1980-1987.

Do you have any favourite emulators? Still get your old Atari out of the attic once in a while? Go all retro and mushy on us in the comments.

Image Credits: Magnavox Odyssey, Pong, Fairchild Channel F, Intellivision

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7 Hilarious Practical Joke Ideas To Play On Your Friend’s Computer [Windows]

Posted: 02 Mar 2011 01:31 PM PST

For some people, playing a good practical joke isn’t only for April Fool’s day. Whether you’re the office prankster or you want to pull a really good one on your best friend, a personal computer is one of the best tools to do so.

A computer is the type of device that lends itself to practical jokes, simply because it’s so easy to set things just enough off balance that an unsuspecting user will think things have gone completely awry. This doesn’t mean that you should do something that’s harmful, like infect it with a virus, but there are a number of little things you can do that will drive your friend up the wall.

Last year, Justin outlined four really funny things you could do with your home computer to prank your unsuspecting parents. This included classic computer pranks like tweaking Microsoft Word auto-replace or installing the blue screen of death screensaver. I enjoyed those so much that I thought it’s high time for another round of computer pranks that will have your friend ready to throw their computer in the trash!

7 Computer Practical Jokes

Some of these computer pranks are more advanced, and others are a bit basic. Choose the prank based on how computer savvy your friend is. One of the fastest and easiest ways to prank someone is to manipulate the behavior of their mouse. To do this, just go to into the Control Panel and find the Mouse settings. On the Buttons tab, you’ll see settings for the left and right mouse buttons.

Just switch the settings so that the right button is to “click” and the left button is the “shortcut menu.”  Now, when they try to click an icon or open a file, a menu will pop up rather than the file opening.

Another way you can tweak the mouse for a really funny prank is to slow down the pointer to the absolute slowest speed. To do this, instead of going to the Buttons tab, go into the Pointer Options and slide the pointer speed selection all the way down to the slowest setting.

If you’ve ever used a mouse that’s this slow, then you know how infuriating it can be. Again, these are only good for pranking non-computer savvy users, because average to advanced users will know exactly where to go in order to fix the mouse behavior.

Now, if you want to try something that is not so subtle, try tweaking the font color for Windows settings. Many people don’t realize how easy it is to alter the look of Windows. Changing the Windows font to white will render a lot of things completely invisible. Just open the Window Color and Appearance settings in the Control Panel, select the item you want to alter (like hyperlinks, window titles or window menu items) and set the font to white.

A third great computer prank is a classic. The premise is that you will create a desktop background image that is identical to the user’s real desktop, except none of the icons are clickable. This confuses a lot of people into thinking their computer is locked up. Just take a quick snapshot of the desktop area using your favorite screenshot app, or just using Print Screen.  Then, move all of the desktop icons to a temporary folder, completely clearing the normal desktop.

Now you’re ready to add your static picture as the desktop background. Just right click on the desktop, go to Personalize and click on Desktop Backgrounds.

Go to the directory where you saved the bitmap of the desktop capture, and select it as your new desktop background. Now, when they try to click on the desktop icon over and over, nothing will happen!

If that prank is a little too involved for you, another great joke you can play is altering a commonly used shortcut into an annoying audio file. All you have to do is right click on the icon and in the properties, just type in the location of a really funny audio file for the shortcut target.

One of the funniest audio tracks I’ve used for this is “Peanut Butter Jelly Time” – it’s hilarious watching their expression when one of the most annoying songs in the world starts blasting.

Another alternative to this prank is playing around in the Startup folder. On Windows 7, you can find Startup in the list of Program Files when you click start. Open up that folder and paste a shortcut to the annoying audio file into it.

Turn up the sound and then turn off the computer. The next time they boot up the computer, watch their reaction!

This last prank is my own personal creation – I call it the “fake boot virus.” Basically, you create a Windows script that shuts down the computer, and put it in the Startup folder. Here is the script that will accomplish a complete shutdown of a Windows system without prompting.

<script language=”VBScript”>

Dim objShell

Dim strComputer
Dim strShutdown

strComputer = “Owner-PC”

strShutdown = “shutdown -s -t 0 -f -m \\” & strComputer
set objShell = CreateObject(“WScript.Shell”)
objShell.Run strShutdown



Save it as “shutdown.wsf”, and place it in Startup. The moment they start up the PC, it will immediately shut down again. Watch as it dawns on them that they have some horrible computer virus! To end their misery, just boot it while holding down Shift (or into safe mode), and delete the file in the Startup folder.

Computer pranks like these are not always enjoyable for the person being pranked – after all, some people have to struggle enough as it is just to get the computer to work normally on a good day. But sometimes, pulling a good computer prank reminds people just how vulnerable we all are to assuming the absolute worst whenever something strange starts happening with our computers.

Have you ever played any of these pranks on anyone? Share your funny computer practical joke experiences in the comments section below – we want to hear them!

Image Credit: Rajesh Sundaram

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Hot Tech Deals [Mar 2nd]

Posted: 02 Mar 2011 12:30 PM PST

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

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

  1. Samsung SGH-a137 Flip Cell Phone w/ Speakerphone (Unlocked, Dual-Band GSM) $27.99 Free Shipping
  2. Lenovo G560 Intel Core i3-380M 2.53GHz 15.6in Laptop (4GB/500GB) $499.99 Free Ship
  3. TODAY ONLY Vizio E421VA 42 inch LCD HDTV (1080p) $499.99 Free Shipping
  4. 55″ Sony BRAVIA KDL55NX810 3D-Ready LED-Edgelit LCD HDTV (1080p, 240Hz, Wifi) for $1799.99 Free Shipping after Coupon Code: DSG21460 (Exp 3/5)
  5. 47″ LG 47LX6500 LED-Backlit LCD HDTV (1080p, 240Hz) for $1199.99 Free Shipping after Coupon Code: ACU21565 (Exp 3/5)
  6. 46″ Sony BRAVIA KDL46NX810 3D-Ready LED-Edgelit LCD HDTV (1080p, 240Hz, Wifi) for $1199.99 Free Shipping after Coupon Code: TDO21478 (Exp 3/5)

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set



10 Websites For Reading Children’s Stories Online

Posted: 02 Mar 2011 11:31 AM PST

childrens stories onlineFor children, stories are the window to the outside world. Stories continue to tell generations that the world outside is filled with great adventures, heroic princes and beautiful princesses. It also has ogres and monsters that we must battle to keep it that way.

I bet all of us have our own favorite stories from childhood. Most of us also have fond memories of hours spent in storytelling. The digital avalanche may have hit the generations that have followed us. They may be growing up too soon. But stories continue to hold their place in the imagination of a child.

Hollywood and Disney may also be coloring TV and the movies. But thanks to interactive websites, children's stories have got a wider canvas to tell their tales. From classical literature to folk tales, and even modern children's fiction, today's child can take his pick to read, listen, and watch.

Storyline Online

childrens stories online

Do you act out the stories to your child? Maybe you haven't been able to yet, but famous actors from The Screen Actors Guild certainly can as it is their bread and butter. Actors (how about Elijah Wood or Hillary Duff) read aloud stories in their own voice and your child can listen in thanks to the streaming videos. The nicely designed interactive children's story site is free and is a wonderful initiative made possible by the participation of SAG.

Mrs. P's Magic Library

childrens short stories

The magic of stories is in its storytelling. Kathy Kinney as Mrs. P really brings back the fun in "story time". Most of the stories are targeted for children between the age groups of 3+ to 6+ with a few for 9 and 11 year olds. The books narrated by Mrs. P are all old classics across genres. You can check out the video selections and use the dropdown filters to select the ones you want to watch.


childrens short stories

There's nothing like a good audio story played back for your child before he or she drifts to sleep. Storynory could be your download source as it has a huge bank of free audio stories and poems for children. You can choose from fairytales, classics, Bible stories, educational stories, and also quite a few original ones. Storynory is also available on iTunes in the Kids and Family Podcast section.

Story Cove (Classroom)

childrens short stories

Story Cove brings you stories from around the world arranged under the names of the continents. You can open up the “story book” in your browser and let it playback the story for you. You can even play an animated version of the story. Teachers can download lesson plans and use the stories for some tutoring.

International Children's Digital Library

childrens stories

The online children's library has a single purpose mission of providing free access to children's literature from around the world. The site is well organized and you can explore the library by searching for books by country, doing a simple search, or by using the many other methods listed. The site supports quite a few international languages. A free registration allows you to save favorite books, set your preferred language, and also bookmarks pages of books you plan to come back to.


childrens stories

It's not a problem putting kids in front of a camera and telling them to read out stories which other kids can listen or watch. Smories is a just that: original stories for kids, read by kids. On this site, you can expect to get stories that won't be found anywhere else. There's also a special version of Smories for the iPhone and iPad. Here's a more detailed look into this nice children's website.


childrens stories

This site gives you shelves of books you can download or read in your browser. Most of the books are for children of various age groups. You can download books in many formats starting with the basic epub type. Options are available for iPad/iPhone, NOOKcolor, Literati/Kobo, and devices like Amazon Kindle and Android phones.  You can even use this website as a publishing platform for your own children's books.

Aesop's Fables

Aesop's fables have been traditionally used to teach kids about morals. This site perhaps houses the largest online collection that you can read or listen to. There are 655+ fables, some with illustrations and audio.

Magic Keys

The site has books for young children, older children, and young adults. All books are illustrated and some have embedded audio. Check out The Farm Animals which is a 'Click-a-Word Talking eBook' of animal sounds.


childrens stories online

MeeGenius is a reading application for the iPhone, iPad, iTouch, Google TV, Google Chrome Web Store, and the Web. The iPhone/iPad app is free as are the introductory books. The collection of free ebooks, just six strong, are a reading pleasure. The books are superbly illustrated and the site can read them out to you or you could read it yourself. To make them easier to follow, audio playback comes with word highlighting. You can also personalize the book by giving your own names (or your child's) to the characters in the books.

In this age of pixels, it might be a tall order to tell children about pixies and fairies. But a good imagination flowers with a developed reading habit. The web isn't a book but it has cool resources for children like the ones we have covered earlier :

How to Publish a Children's Book with StoryJumper – Beth
Put Your Child Into The Middle of A Story With Story Something – Saikat
7 Online Magazines for Kids That Are Worth a Read – Saikat

Do your children prefer digital stories to the ones they hold in their hands?

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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Build Your Own Customized Portable & Fast Operating System With Slax

Posted: 02 Mar 2011 10:31 AM PST

build operating systemWhat is your main use of the computer? Not everybody uses it to play resource-hungry highly-detailed 3D games or produce and convert videos. Most people I know use their computer only to browse the Internet and do light document editing. Considering how powerful modern computers are today, common computer usage is really wasting a lot of resources. But like it or not, we need to keep upgrading our computers to the latest and greatest specifications because the operating systems used by us are resource hungry.

Most people should do just fine using a light operating system which doesn’t require a powerful computer – something like a Linux distro. Some of them are even small enough and light enough that they can be installed on and run from a USB drive.

If you’d like to have a portable OS that meets your everyday computing needs and can fit inside a USB drive, try Slax. It’s a modern, small, and fast version of Linux which is built specifically for portable usage.

Let’s Go Shopping!

Slax is a Slackware-based Linux operating system with a modular approach. It includes a wide collection of basic pre-installed software for daily use and being modular means that users have the ability to easily add or remove more modules (a.k.a. applications) to the OS without the need to install or configure anything.

Please note that the ability to add or remove modules is only available if you use USB (or another rewritable medium) to install Slax. You’ll also need a computer that can be booted from USB to run Slax.

To acquire the OS, go to the Slax website. You can choose to download the standard package or the customized version. The standard version will set you back around 200MB. That’s not a small size, but it’s very tiny compared to other OS’s. As a comparison, a standard Ubuntu installer is around 700MB.

build operating system

If you want to customize and build your Slax Operating System, pick the “Build Slax” tab at the top of the page.

how to build an operating system

Then you will see all the suggested modules that are already included in the package, along with the option to “add more modules“. You can add the modules you want, then go back to this page and download the customized package by clicking one of the download links at the bottom of the page.

how to build an operating system

Clicking on “Add more modules” will bring you to the “Modules” page. You can browse around the available categories to pick the modules that you need.

how to build an operating system

To add one of the modules to your package, click the “add to build” link to the right of the page. If you’ve downloaded a Slax package before, you can add the modules by downloading them.

build an operating system

If you change your mind about a module, you can take it off your package by clicking the “undo build” link.

build an operating system

After you are done with your shopping, go ahead and download the package. It may take a while depending on the speed of your Internet connection.

Installing Slax On The Drive

Installing Slax on a USB drive is very easy. After the download is finished, extract the contents of the package onto the USB drive. You should see two folders there: “boot” and “slax“.

build an operating system

Open the “boot” folder and you will see two “bootinst” files. This file is the one that will make your drive bootable. If you are running Windows, run the one with the “.bat” extension, but run the other one with the extension “.sh” instead if you are using Linux.

04b bootinst

Your computer will execute the command – wait until the process is finished. It should take less than two seconds to finish. But please remember to run the command only from the USB drive and not from your boot drive, otherwise it will rewrite your Master Boot Record.

04c Create Boot

Congratulations! You’ve successfully built your own portable Operating System that you can put inside your pocket. The next step is trying it out. Plug the USB drive into your computer and reboot your computer from the USB. If everything went well, you’ll see the Slax menu.

05a slaxmenu

Choose one of the options and hit enter to start Slax. After a quick few hundred lines of code on your screen, you will finally arrive at your Slax desktop.

build operating system

I’ve only played with Slax for a while, but I found the OS to be fast. Everything that comes with the package is enough to support a normal computer’s life from browsing the Internet to editing office documents to watching movies. But I also found that not every computer I tried was able to be booted from the Slax USB. There were cases where the boot would stuck at the preliminary loading stage. I’m still trying to find the cause(s) and solution(s) to this problem.

Those who want to know more about Slax can visit the Documentation page.

Have you tried Slax? What’s your opinion about it? Do you know any tips and tricks on using Slax? Please share using the comments below.

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Flipside 2X Wallet Review and Giveaway

Posted: 02 Mar 2011 10:00 AM PST

When it comes to wallets, I’m usually quite radical. While friends of mine would carry around conventional leather wallets, I would be sporting a money clip. Then as time moved on, I refrained from even using a wallet. I never liked to carry more than I needed to use.

However, I recently discovered a very geeky alternative to the conventional wallet — the Flipside 2X wallet. Today, we’ll be taking a look at the Flipside 2X and I’ll show you what’s hot about it and what’s not. Also, we’ll be giving 5 wallets away. So if you’re a geek or have a geeky boyfriend, read on.

The first thing you’ll notice about the Flipside 2X is its radical clamshell design. I use the term “clamshell” because it relates to me but in the wallet world, it’s considered a bi-fold. Basically, it has three separate components that are held together at one end by a joint and another by a latch. Its 4.25 x 2.45 inch body is made entirely out of hard plastic and comes in 4 colours: stealth black, flare orange, avalanche white and impulse blue. When empty, it weighs a measly 3 ounces, which is basically insignificant.

The Flipside 2X gets its name from the distinctive flipping action when unlocking it — upon pressing the latch, the spring-loaded joint flips the top component over, revealing the contents of the wallet.

First, let’s take a look at the wallet in its entirety. It’s made out of a sturdy polycarbonate. On the bottom case, it has a detachable clip for storing business cards and receipts. Inside, the wallet is divided into two compartments by a centre, swivelling card slot attachment.

The Flipside 2X can hold up to seven cards, more if your cards are thin: three cards slot into the top cover, three cards go on one side of the centre piece and one more on the other. Then there’s a money clip on the inside of the bottom cover. The compartment between the top cover and the centre piece, which holds 6 of the 7 cards, is RFID shielded.

One of the main concerns about this wallet is how it feels like to have in your back pocket. Your next question is probably whether or not it’s excruciating to sit on. As someone who’s been using this wallet for the past couple of months and wears it at the back, I’m happy to report that the Flipside 2X is just as comfortable to sit on as a regular, leather wallet.

Personally, I feel that it’s great to finally have a wallet that doesn’t deform. I’m also alright with the fact it only holds 7 cards since I hardly need more than that anyway. Plus, being RFID-shielded provides a comforting sense of security.

We’re giving away 5 Flipside 2X wallets this week. And since they retail for $39.95 (link to their online store), it’s probably a good idea to participate in our giveaway and win one.

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.

Step 2: Share!

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

Like it on Facebook

Or share it on Twitter

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

This giveaway begins now and ends Wednesday, March 9th at 2100hrs PST. The winners will be selected at random and informed via email.

Spread the word to your friends and have fun!

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How To Produce A Family Biography Using a Video Camera & Editing Software

Posted: 02 Mar 2011 09:31 AM PST

family video biographyRecently I wrote an article about preparing for the digital afterlife. In part it’s about how we preserve and pass down the physical and digital aspects of our life. With today’s digital technology it's a lot easier to document our own life and/or the lives of people we care about. You could pay a videographer in your area to do the project for you, but even so, you will still have to have to do lots of preparation work before the video production can begin.

So if you have a digital video camera and editing software like iMovie or Movie Maker, you can create a family video biography yourself.

Gathering Resources

If you have never seen a family video biography, do a Google search on the topic and you will find samples produced by professional videographers and amateurs. Here’s one YouTube sample, The Turner Family Biography, that illustrates well what I will explain in this how-to.

family video biography

Most family videos consist of an interview with one or more individuals about their history of their life. Interviewing at least two people, say a mother and a father, is often more interesting, providing an additional voice and perspective in the video.  Most good family video productions run from 30-90 minutes – the shorter the better – and includes lots of cutaway images and video footage which illustrate the content of the interview.

You will need to collect and scan as many family photos, existing digital images and other artifacts as possible related to your interviewee(s). Most of today's home printers include a scanner feature for converting paper photos into digital format. There are also several free Photoshop alternatives for retouching photos. See this article for recommendations.

Interview Questions & Outline

Next, you will need to come up with a list of 25-50 questions for your interview. Great Life Stories has a good starter list of questions, for the various times and aspects of an individual’s life. They include questions about birth place, school days, employment, hobbies, travel, places of worship, triumphs and tragedies, and words of wisdom.

Next, you will want to have an outline of your video in mind. You don't have to necessarily start off with the beginning of a person's life. You can start off with the most important time of a person's life and then work backwards and then forwards from there.

Interview Setup

The setup for an interview is fairly easy. Select an area with lots of window light, especially if you don't have lighting equipment to do your interview. Have the interviewee(s) facing the light.

how to make a family biography

If need be, you can purchase an affordable 500 watt mechanic's light system. See this Videomaker magazine tutorial for setting up a light system.

Video Camera Setup

You will definitely want to put your video camera on a tripod. Since your tripod will be stationary throughout most of the interview, you don't need to buy an expensive one. About every three or four questions, you should vary the range of your shots from wide, medium to close-up. Experiment also with shooting from slightly different angles.

how to make a family biography

If you have the skills, you can also zoom in close on the person's face during very emotional responses. See my article, 10 Simple Tips to Make Home Videos Look Professional for additional ideas.


Home video editors like Apple's iMovie or Movie Maker offer all you need to edit and complete your project. After importing projects in iMovie, for example, most of your production will consist of cutaway images and cross dissolves.

iMovie ’11 provides a very easy drag-and drop feature for adding cutaway images or other short video clips. This means that your viewers can still hear your interviewee talking, but the cutaway photos and video clips illustrate what is being talked about.

family video biographies

To create a cutaway, you simply drag it to the top of a designated part of your main footage. Choose Cutaway from the pop-up menu.

family video biographies

You can also adjust the position, duration, and panning of your cutaways.

family video biographies

In addition to setting the duration of your cutaways, be sure to select Manual under Cutaway Fade so that your cutaways fade in and out more smoothly. You can also adjust the speed of a very short cutaway footage. You can, for example, slow it down if the original clip moves too fast.

iMovie also includes royalty-free music for your productions. Here are other iMovie features you can use, including tips on how to manage your project, control the audio, and export it for online sharing and DVD formatting.

family video biography

These type of video projects do require some work, but with good planning and execution they can be shot and produced in a couple of weekends.

Let me know if you any questions about this type of project. Also please share your strategies for completing a family video tribute if you have already produced one.  In the meantime, here is some further reading on iMovie and Windows Movie Maker :

How To Add Opening & Closing Credits To Your Movies With iMovie '09 [Mac] – Bakari
10 Reasons To Use Apple's iMovie '09 [Mac] – Bakari
Make Quick & Professional Looking Videos with Windows Movie Maker (Part 1) – Mark
Make Quick & Professional Looking Videos with Windows Movie Maker (Part 2) – Mark
How To Watermark Your Videos In Windows Movie Maker – Jessica

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Gmail Upgrades Labels Using Two Labs Extensions [News]

Posted: 02 Mar 2011 09:09 AM PST

Google has upgraded Gmail labels this week, bringing two Labs features into everyday functionality and making email organising easier for everyone. Gmail users keen to give the new features a try will find that they are already enabled and ready to use on all Gmail accounts.

Google says, “We created the ‘Hide read labels‘ and ‘Hide Labels from Subjects‘ labs to help people manage their ever-growing lists of labels. Given the popularity and usefulness of these labs, we've decided to graduate them into fully-fledged features.”

Previously the “Hide Read Labels” labs functionality would have hidden all labels in the labels list without unread items. Now there’s greater flexibility, as users can choose which labels to show always, hide always or hide when read. This fine control is also quite intuitive, since it is reminiscent of the Gmail chat options.

The “Hide Labels in Subjects” labs extension is now seen controlling which labels are shown/hidden in messages. While in labs, the only option was to hide all labels or none of the labels. Now that it has been incorporated as an official feature, users can choose which labels can be seen in the messages and which to hide.

Labels can be controlled individually by clicking on the label and viewing the options or edited in bulk by accessing the labels tab in settings. Note there are two different controls: one for hiding or showing labels in the label list; and one for hiding or showing labels in the message list.

Have you tried the new labels features? How have they helped you? Tell us in the comments!

Source: Download Squad

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Navi-X: The Ultimate Internet Media Source For XBMC & Boxee

Posted: 02 Mar 2011 08:31 AM PST

internet media sourceBrowse thousands of TV shows, movies and podcasts from one interface, and keep track of your favorites. Navi-X, a plugin you can add to XBMC and Boxee, brings a variety of content from around the web to a single interface you can easily browse from your remote. A content aggregator made up of user-contributred playlists, Navi-X can seem overwhelming at first. Do some exploring, however, and you’ll soon find a treasure trove of multimedia content.

A media center application is only as good as the content it can play. Navi-X certainly brings a lot of it. Compatability with XBMC and Boxee means you can use Navi-X on Linux, Mac and Windows machines, but if you have a jailbroken Wii you can use Navi-X via WiiMC.

A Series Of Playlists

So what is Navi-X? It’s hard to explain, so perhaps it’s best to use their words, from the Navi-X FAQ:

Navi-X is a “content aggregator” that provides access to all kinds of multimedia content, listed on a public directory of user contributed listings or playlists for playing on your TV or PC!

Simply put, Navi-X is a collection of playlists. Some of these playlists are official RSS feeds from around the web; some are user-generated playlists. All off them offer content you can stream. The point is, there’s a lot of content collected here. Take some time to look around.


Fire up Navi-X from within your media player and you’ll see a number of choices to start with:

internet media source

These are sub-apps; the main sources of content. Navi-Xtreme, the first choice, offers a shockingly deep collection of user-created playlists. Search the content to find whatever you want, or browse to find something good.

The “Site Scraper” section of Navi-Xtreme, for example, features direct links to media from around the web. Whether you’re looking for YouTube channels or network television, you’ll find it here:

internet television

You can also browse a wide variety of user-created lists here. Beware: a lot of the content in the user-added sections is pirated. Use at your own risk.

The next channel, LiveTV, is identical to the Boxee plugins LiveTV. Other highlights include the Video & Audio Podcasts plugin, which gives you access to the entire iTunes podcast library. If you’ve got a favorite you’ll find it here.

internet media source

Other highlights include full access to Apple’s movie trailers and NASA’s videos. If you’re looking for radio, you’ll be happy to find Shoutcast and Radiotime.

Note that, while browsing, you can mark any item or list your “favorite” by clicking the right button, then clicking “Add to Favorites“. This will make things easier to find later: all you need to do is click left until you bring up your favorites panel.


So how does one get access to all this content? Well, first of all you need to install either Boxee or XBMC. Download Boxee here or find XBMC here.

Once you have your media center application of choice set up you’ll need to install Navi-X. Boxee users can do this by adding “” to their repository list; XBMC users can download XBMC here and install it using XBMC’s settings panel. Need more information? Check the Navi-X FAQ for precise instructions. Fans of Internet multimedia can never find quite enough content, so Navi-X is great to have around.

What do you think? Will you be using Navi-X, or do you have some other Internet media source in mind? Share in the comments, as always.

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The 3 Best Bookmarking Alternatives To Delicious

Posted: 02 Mar 2011 07:31 AM PST

alternatives to deliciousDo you use Delicious to keep track of all of your bookmarks? If you do, you may have noticed the service mentioned in the news in recent months, with talks of Yahoo shutting Delicious down or selling it in the near future. This presents a cause for concern to some, especially if you’re a long-time user who’s afraid of possibly losing all of their hard-earned, well-placed bookmarks.

Or perhaps you aren’t concerned at all. Maybe you just dread the idea of switching services, or maybe you’ve been looking to switch but aren’t quite sure how to. What you need is a list of good alternatives. With the services listed below, you will be able to migrate your bookmarks over from Delicious, allowing you to rest easy knowing they’re alright.

1. Delicious To Google Bookmarks

Let’s start with the most recent method that’s out there. Just a few days ago, Google launched a new tool that allows you to import your Delicious bookmarks into Google Bookmarks. How timely of them.

alternatives to delicious

Like everything Google makes, the importer is very basic and straight forward to use. You can log in using your Delicious credentials or click the OAuth link to import all your bookmarks, labels and tags included.

2. Springpad

Springpad is another really good alternative to Delicious. You can use Springpad as a place to save things you want to remember, but if you’re a Delicious user they also support importing your bookmarks.

delicous alternatives

To do this, you’ll need to log into your Delicious account, then go to Settings>Export/Backup Bookmarks. Springpad will import your tags and notes. Then you log into your Springpad account and follow the simple instructions for uploading your Delicious bookmarks.

One Springpad Bookmark will be created for each of your Delicious Bookmarks, with all of the original titles and privacy settings left intact. A new notebook called ‘delicious’ will be created to house all of them.

3. Diigo

alternatives to delicious

Next up on the list is Diigo. With Diigo, you can easily import your Delicious bookmarks. Like Springpad, you'll need to export your bookmarks from Delicious first. Then, log into Diigo, click on Tools at the top-right of the page. Select the Import Bookmarks link and locate the file that Delicious helped you export and you’re all done. Like the other services I’ve mentioned, all of your tags will transfer over too.


I’ve also seen that Evernote can handle the importing of Delicious bookmarks, so if you prefer to use Evernote over the other services I mentioned you might want to explore that option as well, although it does take a bit more work.

So there you have it, three solid ways to preserve your Delicious bookmarks, should you feel the need to either back them up somewhere or switch services altogether. There are other methods out there, sure, but as far as I can tell these are your best available options. I’ll leave the decision up to you, but I’ve listed them in the order in which I would go about the move.

Do you still use Delicious to keep track of all your online bookmarks? Which of these services would you most like to switch to? Leave a comment below so we can get a good discussion going!

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