Friday, March 25, 2011 “Latest Hilarious Picks [MakeUseOf Geeky Fun]” plus 12 more “Latest Hilarious Picks [MakeUseOf Geeky Fun]” plus 12 more

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Latest Hilarious Picks [MakeUseOf Geeky Fun]

Posted: 24 Mar 2011 11:36 PM PDT


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

  1. It is a trap! (Pic)
  2. At The Bottom Of The Recycling Bin For Mobiles (Video)
  3. Cat got hold of my camera (Pic)
  4. CIA's 'Facebook' Program Dramatically Cut Agency's Costs (Video)
  5. The Problem With Wikipedia (Pic)
  6. Just How Big Is Linkedin? (Pic)
  7. Cool Optical Illusion Commercial By Samsung (Video)

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

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Cool Websites and Tools [March 24th]

Posted: 24 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!


Songtrust – If you are a member of a band, or an artist breaking into the music scene, you will find a fast-evolving industry that provides new opportunities for people to publish their music. One tool that signals this change is Songtrust. This app provides musicians with an avenue to take control in publishing their music. Read more: Songtrust: Helps To Publish Your Music & Earn Royalties


Sensr – If you need to know what has been going on in your home while you were away, surveillance equipment would be a good option. But surveillance hardware can come with a big price tag. If you are looking for a basic monitoring option, then check out Sensr, a great website that lets you view your home remotely. Sensr monitors your house via a computer camera feed. Read more: Sensr: Watch Your Home From Anywhere & Get Notifications – is an application for Facebook that aims to make your Facebook comments and photos more secure in a number of ways. First, it hides your comments and status updates from Facebook itself. How does it do that? Simple, it encrypts them. So you have full control over who can see your comments. Read more: Extra Protection For Facebook Comments & Photos



ModelXtractor – Developers often have to create diagrams to better understand or illustrate programming ideas. Due to the nature of programming, these diagrams can quickly get a little complex. Model Xtractor is one web service that will help you easily create those complex diagrams that can be used to communicate or understand programming projects or ideas. Read more: ModelXtractor: Easily Create & Share Complex Diagrams – is an app for mobile phones that helps users check if they should eat at the restaurant they are planning to go to. The app currently works only in New York City, and uses the Health Department's graded inspection scores as the benchmark for deciding if the restaurant is fit for the public. The restaurant needs to score below 28 to be considered fit. Read more: Tells You What Restaurants To Avoid


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 Handy Sites To Learn New Ubuntu Tweaks & Tricks

Posted: 24 Mar 2011 06:31 PM PDT

ubuntu tweaksHere at MakeUseOf, we strive to bring you the very best tutorials, reviews and articles to make your daily tech life that little bit easier. We’re not alone (of course!) and occasionally it’s only right to highlight some of our own favourite resources elsewhere on the web.

Ubuntu has grown in popularity immensely over the last few years “" and for good reason. The operating system is accessible (both in a software and hardware sense), compatible with a lot of software and won’t cost you a penny.

If you’re looking to expand your Ubuntu knowledge, have a burning question about some missing feature or are a newcomer to the world of Linux then these 5 sites are a great source of information.

OMG! Ubuntu!

ubuntu tweaks

My personal favourite source for Ubuntu-related news and developments, interspersed with timely how-to posts and tutorials. Due to the beautifully designed site layout, you’ll be forgiven for spending a while stumbling from article to article, and learning plenty in the process.

As well as instructional pieces, there’s plenty of news about upcoming software, updates and unreleased versions to gawp at, as well as editorial pieces, interviews and software reviews.

OMG! Ubuntu! is updated with a good cluster of posts each day, and should be your one-stop website for unofficial Ubuntu news, tips and speculation.

Ubuntu Geek

ubuntu tips and tricks

A repository (mind the pun) of tutorials and instructionals, purely aimed at the Ubuntu Linux distribution makes this a cracking resource for users old and new. Whilst the site itself could use a bit of a redesign, the information is what really matters “" and handy information it is too!

Tutorials are split up into 9 different categories, ranging from backup and networking techniques to security and package management information. The site is especially useful for newbies as there are a number of tutorials aimed at the very basics. “" Tutorials & Tips

When journalism and official documentation fails “ubuntu tips and tricks” why not ask the community? The official Ubuntu forums play host to a message board dedicated entirely to tips and tutorials. Being a message board, it’s updated far more often than any news or tutorial site.

Outdated tutorials for older versions of Ubuntu are kept separate from how-to posts which are applicable for the current version. The best thing about the forum format is the ability to address the poster directly and ask questions if you don’t understand or get stuck.

Registration is of course free, though you won’t need to register if you simply want to browse.

ubuntu tips and tricks

Much like Ubuntu Geek, is a fairly exhaustive collection of tutorials on anything and everything Ubuntu-related. From installing Ubuntu onto a Macbook Air to the many uses for the Windows “Super” key in Ubuntu, it’s a resource for users old and new.

There’s a whole section dedicated to Compiz, the current Ubuntu compositing & window manager. If you’re looking to beautify your desktop or resolve sluggish video issues then the Compiz category is a good place to start.

There are regular updates, with a new tutorial published pretty much every day.


UNIX Men, whilst not specifically dedicated to Ubuntu, is a general Linux news and tutorial resource with plenty to offer. The website caters for a whole variety of users and distributions, but hovering your mouse over the Linux Tutorials button will reveal a section dedicated just to Ubuntu.

There is also decent coverage of the world of Linux software and gaming, though beware there’s a chance you’ll need to compile some downloads from source.

MakeUseOf Answers

ubuntu tweaks

Have you got a burning question? You’ve looked all over the web and are wondering if there’s anybody out there who can help? Our very own Answers section was designed with your predicament in mind.

Simply click Ask A Question, fill in the details and both the MakeUseOf team and community will attempt to answer your dilemma. You can always return the favour by helping someone else out!


There are plenty of resources here to answer a variety of questions related to the Ubuntu operating system. Once the upcoming Ubuntu 11.04 lands there is bound to be another surge of documentation and tutorials, as everyone gets up to speed with the changes. With the aid of these few sites, you should be covered for a good few releases yet!

Do you use Ubuntu? Any favourite Ubuntu tweaks, tips and tricks? Trying to find out how to do something? Let us know in the comments below.

Image credit: Ubuntu Wallpapers



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3 Video Chat Alternatives If You Get Bored With Chatroulette

Posted: 24 Mar 2011 04:31 PM PDT

chatroulette alternativeAlmost everyone these days owns a webcam. Skype has killed long distance phone calls and Chatroulette has been a breakthrough for web-based video chats. The idea of Chatroulette is to match random strangers for a one on one video chat. It’s a dream come true for exhibitionists and people with too much time on their hands, if they know what they are getting into.

If you’re bored and tired with Chatroulette or if the site happens to be down, you should check out some of its alternatives. The video chat services I will introduce here however, are not deserted Chatroulette clones. They all offer something unique and are backed up by a community, which has made them attractive destinations for Chatroulette refugees.


Rounds is a Facebook application and a hybrid of the social network and Chatroulette. You can video chat with friends on Facebook who also use Rounds, meet new people, and make new friends. To participate in a ‘random Round’ you must have at least 100 friends on Facebook. This and the fact that chatting on Rounds is not anonymous, considerably reduces the amount of NSFW content seen on Chatroulette.

chatroulette alternative

As an active user of Rounds you collect coins, for example for taking and publishing snapshots, publishing your round link, or inviting friends. You can spend your coins on gifts, effects, skins, games, and other activities. The point is to have fun and interactive chats with your friends.

chatroulette alternative sites


Much like Rounds, Stickam is a social network built around video chat, only that it is independent of Facebook and really focuses on the video chat aspect. While many of the Chatroulette alternatives appear to be deserted, Stickam is buzzing despite or maybe because of the login requirement. It’s a lively community with a lot to discover, for example live musicians, live radio, and shuffle games.

chatroulette alternative sites

When you join the Stickam Shuffle, you are gently reminded that Stickam has a zero tolerance policy regarding obscenity and nudity. This makes it a fun and safe place to meet people and chat and the boys have a much better chance of meeting a girl than on Chatroulette.

chatroulette alternative sites

Stickam was also featured in this article: 7 Websites Where You Can Listen To A Live Music Band.


On TinyChat you can easily create your own chatroom, but you can also browse and join dozens of existing chatrooms.

video chatroom

The live directory shows a preview image of the person that established the chatroom and you can see how many people are broadcasting and viewing the room. However, you don’t know what you’re getting into until you join.

chatroulette alternative

You can connect with MySpace, Twitter, or Facebook, or simply type a nickname. In other words, you don’t have to sign up to join a chatroom. To share your webcam, click the Start Broadcasting button in the top left of the chatroom page.

chatroulette alternative

TinyChat was also featured in this article: 5 Apps That Let You Video Chat On Facebook.


Chatroulette remains the non plus ultra of anonymous one on one chat shuffling. None of its contenders has a big following and thus cannot compete. However, there are a few services that engage users with unique features and a fun community. The alternative video chat sites not only let you meet random strangers, but you can also connect with people and make friends.

If you love to chat, also check out these articles:

What is your favorite instant messenger or online chat room? Do you video chat a lot?

Image source: sellingpix



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How To Use Applescript’s UI Scripting [Mac]

Posted: 24 Mar 2011 02:31 PM PDT

how to use applescriptIf you’re a fan of using Mac OSX Applescript, you’ve probably noticed some limitations. Namely, that not all programs can be manipulated directly with Applescript. You can, however, use Applescript‘s User Interface (UI) scripting to fill the gaps if you know how.

It’s possible to use Applescript to control the user interface of just about any program on your Mac. Sometimes it’s a little difficult, but it is indeed able to be done. I’ll show you the basics of how to do this yourself and take you through a simple script using these techniques.

Brush Up On Basic Applescript First

If you’re new to Applescript or haven’t looked at it in a while, brush up on your Applescript knowledge before reading this guide.

I’ll add screenshots which cover as much as possible, but this article is about the finer details, not about basic Applescript (which we’ve already covered).

Enable UI Scripting

Before you can use UI scripting, go to System Preferences, Universal Access and check the box to enable access for assistive devices.

how to use applescript

Using Key Strokes

The simplest way to interact with the UI of a program with Applescript is to simulate the entering of keystrokes, as if you’re using Mac shortcuts and typing commands.

For instance, in TextEdit you might want to do a find-and-replace search. You probably already know that you can type CMD-F for Find/Replace, type in your search term, press tab to move to the next field, type in the replacement term and then hit “Replace All” to replace the text.

applescript tips tricks

In Applescript, you can also tell the user interface to type these commands. You would communicate CMD-F by the command keystroke “f” using {command down} with Applescript. Also note, the way to execute CMD-SHIFT-S is keystroke “s” using {command down, shift down}. You can also type into the UI with Applescript by using keystroke “mytext”, where your text is entered between the inverted commas. Finally, you can type some simple key strokes such as TAB like this: keystroke tab.

applescript tips

Before using the keystroke command, you need to ensure the process class is being invoked (and don’t forget to end those tell commands later).

tell application “System Events”
tell process “TextEdit”

See the screenshot for the full commands for this basic find/replace action in sequence.

applescript tips

Clicking Buttons

When your program has a number of buttons to choose from, normally you can use a simple Applescript command to control them. In the case of the find/replace you might want to click “Replace All”. The command for this is click button “Replace All”.

More Complex GUI Manipulation

As many Mac programs weren’t designed to be handled by Applescript with UI Scripting, sometimes you have to hunt around to find what you’re looking for. To do this, use the free program called UIElementInspector.

Once this is running, you can inspect any UI element you wish. The UI element inspector will continuously show you the details of any element you’re hovering over.

Look at this example and you can see the hierarchy. The pop-up menu is part of a group, which is part of another group, which is part of a sheet, which is part of a window. Note it’s also described as a pop up button, rather than a menu.

applescript tips

Now see how this is represented in the script:

tell group 1 of group 1 of sheet 1 of window 1
tell pop up button 1

As you can see, in order to get the script to work you need to add a little common sense and a little bit of trial and error.

how to use applescript

In this case, I wanted to save the document as RTF. I used a keystroke command to open the “Save As” window. This hovers above the file’s “Example” window, but the UI element inspector seems to ignore this extra window. Nevertheless, in order to execute the script, you need to call window 1 to action, not window “Example”.

You also need to remember to include every little click you would normally make. In this case, you need to remember to click on the pop-up menu before you can instruct that menu to choose a menu item.

It takes a little work to ascertain exactly what you need to write into the script for the UI you’re trying to use, but with patience and a little guesswork you can manage to do so. I hope that by opening your eyes to this possibility you’re able to create more useful Applescripts for use alone or in Automator.

What are your favourite ways to use Applescript? Could you make those scripts better with some UI scripting? Let us know in the comments!



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Goodbye Dave & Jorge. Welcome Danny!

Posted: 24 Mar 2011 01:31 PM PDT

Danny StiebenNo sooner had our former technical editor, Jorge Sierra, announced that he was leaving than we also heard from Dave Drager that he would like to leave too. A combination of day job, studies and family made him decide to leave the MakeUseOf writing staff after 3 years.   This was a big blow to all of us as Dave and Jorge have been with us through all our highs and lows and I think I speak for everyone here when I say that it just won’t be the same around here without them.  It goes without saying that we wish them well for the future and in everything they decide to do.

But life must go on!   So I am pleased to announce today that Dave’s replacement will be Danny Stieben.   Danny is our youngest staff writer at 17 years old, he was born in Germany and now lives in Texas.  As a Fedora Ambassador, Danny is obsessed with all things Linux and so he will be focusing exclusively on writing Linux posts for MakeUseOf.

Look out for Danny’s first post next week.   In the meantime, why not follow his Twitter feed and if you have any Linux subjects you would like Danny to cover on MakeUseOf, shoot him an email at danny AT

This is also a good moment to mention that we are still looking for several more new writers to join the team.   Do you have what it takes to write for us?  If you think you do, send us an email at post4us AT and persuade us that you are the one we have been looking for.  If we agree, we will be in touch right away!

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Hot Tech Deals [Mar 24th]

Posted: 24 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. Corsair XMS3 6GB (3x2GB) DDR3-1600MHz PC3-12800 Triple Channel Memory $54.99AR Free Shipping
  2. EXPIRING Apevia X-QBOII Micro ATX Mini Tower PC Case w/ 500W Power Supply $29.99AR
  3. Microsoft 9DR-00001 Notebook Presenter Mouse 8000 $39.99 Free Shipping via code EMCKGHF56 (Exp 3/30)
  4. Targus AKB24US Wireless RF Keyboard $9.99 via code EMCKGHF58 (Exp 3/30)
  5. Dell E2011H 20in LED-Backlit Widescreen LCD Monitor $109.99 Free Shipping
  6. Newegg 10% Off All External Hard Drive Sale (Hitachi 750GB Portable HDD $53.99, MORE) via code EMCKGHF62 (Exp 3/23)
  7. Samsung B2230 Glossy 22in Widescreen LCD Monitor (1080p) $124.99 Free Shipping via code EMCKGHF44 (Exp 3/30)
  8. TODAY ONLY Iomega Select 1TB USB 2.0 Portable External Hard Drive $79.99 Free Shipping via code EMCKGHF38 (exp 3/30)
  9. Western Digital WDTV Live PLUS Network HD Media Player (Netflix Steaming) $79.99 Free Ship via code HARDOCPX323E (Exp 3/30)

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set

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Yahoo Challenges Google Instant With Instant Answers [News]

Posted: 24 Mar 2011 01:07 PM PDT

Yahoo launched a competitor to Google Instant this week called Search Direct, which aims to provide searchers with instant answers for their searches where possible. Search Direct has begun with 15 categories of instant answers, but hopes to expand to hundreds of categories in the near future.

Yahoo intends to focus on delivering the answer directly to the user, rather than supplying a list of links which the user then has to click on. Rich search results and answers instantly appear in the extended query box. Yahoo has combined search results with popular content in order to provide these answers.

Search Direct will predict your search with every keystroke entered into the search box and offers immediate results for these types of searches:

  • Trending Search Topics — Showing the most popular searches related to what the user has typed.
  • Direct Answers — For common searches such as addresses, shopping, weather forecasts, stock information and movie showtimes.
  • Search Previews — For the ten most popular search results.
  • Rich Content — For the top sports and news results related to the search.
  • Direct Results — Allowing the user to go directly to the page, rather than viewing all the search results.

Yahoo Search Direct is available now.

Source: Search Engine Land

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Why You Should Always Keep Your Ubuntu Installation Updated [Linux]

Posted: 24 Mar 2011 12:31 PM PDT

update ubuntu installationWith a new release every six months, keeping up with Ubuntu can seem overwhelming. Still, there are many good reasons to keep updating to the latest version of Ubuntu: security updates, the latest software in the Software Center, optional access to bleeding edge programs and all of the latest features Ubuntu has to offer.

Next month’s Ubuntu release, 11.04 (codename Natty Narwal), will be radically different than releases before it. Using the Unity shell in place of the standard Gnome setup, 11.04 sports an elegant user interface and a plethora of changes. I’m using the alpha version on my primary computer (probably not a great idea, I realize) and am sincerely impressed. Expect a write-up next month, when 11.04 is officially released.

Many users won’t notice any changes, however, because they’ll keep using their older version of Ubuntu. Some won’t realize a new release is out, some won’t care to make the upgrade and still others will put off upgrading until later. While I wouldn’t recommend everyone make the switch on release day (bugs are sometimes known to be wiped out within a month of release), I do argue that using a relatively recent version of Ubuntu is a very good idea.

Happily, each release of Ubuntu is free to download and install. It’s also really easy to do an in-place upgrade; just run your update manager and you’ll be informed of the new release. There are more than a few benefits to staying up to date.

Get Security Updates

update ubuntu installation

Security is probably the most essential reason to stay up to date. Simply put, many Ubuntu computers are no longer receiving security patches because the release they run is too old.

A new version of Ubuntu is released every six months, each with a number as its name. This isn’t a traditional version number; rather, it represents a year and a month. Next month, for example, is April of 2011; the fourth month of the century’s eleventh year. As such, the Ubuntu release coming out next month is version 11.04. Before that came 10.10, which came out in October (the tenth month) of 2010. Most releases are provided with security updates for 18 months after they are released. The exception to this rule, of course, is Long Term Service (LTS) releases, which are supported for three full years.

Confused? Click here to find out if your version of Ubuntu is still supported. You’ll see a nifty chart outlining the support lives of every Ubuntu release. It’s important you make sure your version of Ubuntu is still getting security updates. If it’s not, your computer could be vulnerable, and it’s time to upgrade to a newer version of Ubuntu.

The Latest Software, In Your Software Center

ubuntu update after install

Ubuntu releases don’t just update what come with Ubuntu on the CD; they offer new versions of every piece of software in the repositories and the Ubuntu Software Center. As such, if you want quick access to the latest software, the simplest way is to use the latest version of Ubuntu.

That’s not to say that you can’t get the latest software on your older version of Ubuntu if you really want to. You could add an Ubuntu PPA and get access to the latest version of particular software. But it will only get you so far.

Bleeding Edge Software

update ubuntu installation

Programmers are very likely to be using the latest version of Ubuntu. As such, if you want to try the latest and greatest Ubuntu software as profiled on MakeUseOf, you might need to be using a pretty new release. It’s not always convenient, but unfortunately it’s usually true.

As one of MakeUseOf’s Linux writers, I frequently feature exciting new apps for the platform. Frequently, in the comments section, I hear people saying a program doesn’t work on their computer. The reason is almost always a two-year-old version of Ubuntu.

Simply put: if you want to play around with new software you’re probably going to need a fairly recent version of Ubuntu.

New Features

Whether it’s Unity’s new user interface or improved printer drivers, there are usually a lot of great things in each new release of Ubuntu. Some of these can be added manually to older versions, of course, but the best way to get it all is to use the newest Ubuntu.


There are many different versions of Ubuntu, but pretty much all of them follow the same six month cycle. Regardless of what Ubuntu you use, staying up to date can improve your Ubuntu experience.

Can you think of any other compelling reasons to keep your Ubuntu installation up to date?  If so, please share them below. Also feel free to offer any compelling counterpoints you might have, because I always love discussing these things with readers.



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Features That May Make You Want To Start Using Windows Live Messenger

Posted: 24 Mar 2011 11:31 AM PDT

windows live messengerIf you are an avid user of IM messaging systems, then you will know that here at MakeUseOf, we are constantly in search of new IM apps, as well as the latest advancements in the field of messengers. Shankar’s article of 15 IM tools is a good example of that.

For years, MSN Messenger was a well known and popular chat program a lot of folks used. With the advent of GTalk, Yahoo IM, Meebo, Digsby, Trillian, and so many other chat programs, MSN really started falling by the wayside. In order to rebrand the IM app (along with grouping other social network services under the one umbrella), the app was renamed “Windows Live Messenger” and packaged along with other Windows Live apps.

Last year Jack did an awesome job covering a number of the best features Windows Live Messenger has to offer. In this article, I’d like to cover some some additional features, and ways you can use Live Messenger to quickly transfer photos and other files to your friend’s computer.

Integrating Windows Messenger With Everything

One of the most annoying things about most of the older, original IM applications like Yahoo Messenger and MSN Messenger is the fact that they are so isolated from other social networks where your friends hang out. This is gradually changing as these older IM apps have to compete with newer IM systems like Meebo or Yoomo that integrate multiple IM accounts into one client.

On Windows Messenger, you can now import contacts from your external social networks by clicking on the “Add Contact” icon and selecting “Add people from other services…

windows live messenger

You can import contacts from all of your top social networks and email systems like Facebook, LinkedIn, Outlook, AOL Mail and even your Gmail account.

msn live messenger

MSN Messenger will sort through the email addresses of your contacts and try to determine whether or not these people are already in the Windows Live system. You can select which people you want to connect with inside Windows Live Messenger, and the system will send a mass invite out to those friends.

msn live messenger

Sending Files & Photos On MSN Messenger

Once you open up a chat with one of your online contacts, at any point during the chat, you can send over a file by clicking on “Files” and “Send a file or photo…

msn live messenger

The file appears embedded right inside the chat itself. If it’s a photo you’re sending, Windows Messenger will now actually display a thumbnail image of the photo. A request is sent to your friend to accept the file transfer. Once they accept, you’ll see the status bar showing the transfer taking place.

messenger live

As you can see, sending and receiving files in Live Messenger is pretty straightforward. However there are a few things you should set up before you start receiving files from friends. Click on Tools, Options, File Transfer to access the file transfer properties.

messenger live

Here you can set up how incoming files you receive from friends are automatically handled. You can save incoming files to a specific folder, enable automatic anti-virus scanning of those files using whatever software you prefer (or install Windows Live OneCare).

Windows Live For Mobile

If you want to send and receive files and photos from your mobile device, you can enable Windows Live for Mobile on your account by clicking on “Phone” and the “Mobile Settings” button.

messenger live

Once you’ve set up Windows Live for Mobile, you can automatically share pictures that you take on your phone, and you can access the whole range of mobile apps now available on Windows Live Mobile.

Additional Features Available On Live Messenger

There are also a whole range of cool things you can do with Live Messenger – some have been part of the software for a while and others are somewhat new.

If you read my article on the MSN Gaming Zone, then you will know that Microsoft is trying to compete in the online gaming industry. One way it is doing that is by integrating online games into the Live Messenger. All you have to do is click “Games” at the top of the chat window and available games you can play with your chat partner will appear on the left.

Another useful feature that Jack mentioned in his article is the Request Remote Assistance feature. Although I do have to report that when I tested this feature with our writer Dave, we found that the remote access component is flaky at best. It actually sent both of us offline and didn’t work. So, this feature may or may not work for you – but it seems Microsoft has a bit more work to do to get this working for everyone.

Another little feature you might not have realized exists in Live Messenger is the little “record” icon at the bottom of the chat next to the emoticons. You can quickly record yourself and send the clip over the chat session to your friend. This is useful for when you’re not really interested in an audio chat, but you did want to send a clip of yourself doing something like singing.

windows live messenger

Whether or not you like Microsoft, it seems that Windows Live Messenger, formerly MSN Messenger, will probably be around for a long time. It does seem that Microsoft is continually improving on the IM software by adding some additional, pretty cool features like those listed above. However, whether it will be able to fully compete in the future with all of the new, jazzy IM clients coming out remains to be seen.

Do you find these features useful? What other things do you think Microsoft should do to improve their IM client? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.



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What A VPN Tunnel Is & How To Set One Up

Posted: 24 Mar 2011 10:31 AM PDT

vpn tunnelA VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is a method of linking two locations like they are on a local private network. There are several reasons why you might want to set one up. Usually there is an aspect of convenience and you might also want to add security to your connection.

Let’s go over several reasons why you might want to set up a VPN tunnel and then look at the differences between running a tunnel versus running a complete VPN service on your machine.

What Is A VPN Tunnel?

A “tunnel” is simply a link between two locations through some other material. A good analogy is a tunnel that goes under a mountain. Both sides of the mountain are linked up through a direct path; in this case the “mountain” is the Internet. So essentially a tunnel is a direct shortcut through the Internet.

Although by definition a tunnel is not encrypted, typically the reason that you are creating one is that you want to add some encryption to it. Let’s say you have a branch office in one location using a regular Internet connection and then you want to connect to a server somewhere at your main office location. Since the data you are transferring between offices is likely sensitive, you wouldn’t want someone to be able to view that data while travelling over the Internet. That is where a VPN tunnel comes into play.

Why You Might Want To Set Up A VPN Tunnel

There are many reasons you might want to set this up. The first reason many people use this for is to encrypt a TCP/IP connection from an application to a server. Some applications, mainly ones based on a client/server protocol, need to connect to a database server to access their data. Using a tunnel is an excellent way to not only make the connection easier for the end user but also to secure the communications.

The second reason is that you want to encrypt all of your traffic leaving some location. A tunnel can be set up, by using a regular or transparent proxy, to transfer all of your Internet data via that tunnel.

How To Set Up A VPN Tunnel

Jorge wrote up an excellent tutorial on how to tunnel web traffic with SSH Secure Shell. That tutorial is for forwarding all traffic in a web browser, but we are only using a local port forward to create a simple “tunnel” between machines. For this example, let’s say we want to forward local port 5555 to remote port 80, to securely access a web application on a remote machine. This tutorial also assumes we have a working SSH connection on the machine to encrypt the traffic.

  • First download Putty and run the executable. Fill in the hostname (IP) and other access information for SSH access.
  • Now enter the Connection->SSH->Tunnels menu. Here is where we configure the SSH tunnels. Enter your port information, for the above example the number and settings are shown below.

vpn tunnel

  • Once you connect, Putty will open a screen connecting to the remote location. You could also set it up so that it does not launch a shell – it will then just show a blank screen, but the tunnel will still be open.

free vpn tunnel

  • Your tunnel is now ready for use. Open a web browser, or point whatever application you are configuring to localhost, and the port to whatever you set to forward. In this example it is port 5555 and forward it to the web server.

vpn tunnel

Even though you are not running a web server locally, you will see that you are connecting to the remote server just like it is running on your local machine. That is why it is called a tunnel – it is a direct connection to a remote place through a mountain of the Internet.

If you are interested in a more feature robust VPN tunnel, check out the excellent VPN resources we have here on MakeUseOf. They vary from free Internet surfing VPNs to more featureful VPN software for businesses.

Do you have any other unique reasons for setting up a VPN tunnel between two machines? Please share your ideas below, and as always let us know if you have any questions about setting this up!

Image credit: Geograph



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Manage Passwords & Personal Information Across Machines With Sticky Password [Windows]

Posted: 24 Mar 2011 09:31 AM PDT

free password managerWith so many cool web tools and services out there, even the most casual of net users will have no less than 5 different kinds of web accounts. From email accounts to Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, blogs, chats, backups…the list goes on. It’s scary to think that our sensitive data is out there, and the password is the only safety measure that protects our privacy from those hungry prying eyes.

Even though our life would be much simpler if we used one password for all accounts, the consequences – once that single password was revealed – would be dire. But using and memorizing different passwords for different accounts could easily strain your brain, especially if you have lots of web accounts. That’s why a good, free password manager is a necessity and Sticky Password Free could be a good possibility for Windows users.

Setting Up The Manager

Sticky Password Free is the free version to the more advanced Pro version. Even though it’s limited to fifteen passwords and one account, the free version is good enough for everyday users. Aside from automatic login and form filling, users can also keep secure memos and create a portable version of the app.

After downloading and installing the app, there are some steps that you need to go through before the app is usable. The first step is to create a master password to access the password database. Since this one is going to protect all other passwords that you use, make it really strong. Add upper case letters, lower case letters and numbers to the combination.

free password manager

To make everything more secure, Sticky Password provides you with a virtual keyboard to fill in the password fields. The purpose is to prevent keyloggers from recording your keystrokes. This is especially useful if you use a public computer where the level of security is unknown.

best password manager

After configuring “Access control” and “Locking timeout“, you will be asked to install the browser extensions and/or plugins. These extensions will help you to automatically record and fill in passwords and other user information within your browser(s).

best password manager

Using Sticky Password

After the configuration process, Sticky Password will open. You need to fill in your master password to unlock the data inside the app.

best password manager

The first time you use Sticky Password, it will offer to import data from exported Sticky Password, browsers, and other compatible applications. You can do data import later using the “Import” link in the main window.

password manager

All the data is displayed in the main pane. You can easily add, remove, edit and search them.

password manager

You can access this window later by choosing “Manage Database” from Sticky Password’s System Tray menu.

password manager

Similar to other database managers, the first thing that you have to do before using the app is fill in some data. Click the “Add” button and start adding accounts and secure memos. You can also add data to your identity, but you are limited to one identity in the free version.

04a Add Account

There are two different kinds of account that you can create: Web Account and Application Account.

05a Add Account

If you choose web account, you can add the URL of the site or select one from your saved bookmark list.

05b Add URL or Bookmark

Then you can fill in all the details about that web account.

05c Account Details

If you need to come up with a stronger password for the account, you can use the password generator. Aside from determining the length of the password, you can also add more factors to strengthen the result.

05f Generate Password ext

If you’d like to store some important text in the database, use “Secure memo“. You will get a basic text editor with options to choose a text icon and a template.

05e Secure Memo

To help you fill in forms on the web, you might want to complete your personal information. Go to the “Identity” window and fill in the fields under “Value“.

05g Add Identity

If you need to install Sticky Password in several PCs you might need to import the database from other computers. You can easily “Export” the database from one computer and import it on another.

05j Export

Creating The Portable Version

A portable version of the password manager would be perfect for people who need to keep their passwords with them all the time. If you are one of those who can’t part with your passwords, you can create a portable Sticky Password to keep in your thumb drive. Just click the System Tray icon and choose “Portable version“.

06a Portable Version

Choose the drive where you want to keep the portable password manager and click “Next“.

06b Install or Sync Portable

Sticky Password will build the portable version. After the process is finished, you will see the result (the portable app and the data folder) inside your thumb drive.

06f Portable App

Other than a thumb drive, you can also put the portable Sticky Password in your Dropbox folder and access it from every other computer that you use. The advantage of this arrangement is that you will always have updated data in all of your computers. But please note that the total size of this portable app plus data is quite big (more than 10 MB), so synchronizing the app might take quite a while under a slow Internet connection.

As for the usage, just let Sticky Password sit quietly in the System Tray. It will automatically show up and lend a hand in time of need.

free password manager

Have you tried Sticky Password? Or do you know and use another better free password manager? Share your favorites using the comments below.

Image credit: stopnlook

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How To Find & Play On A Minecraft Multiplayer Server [Gaming]

Posted: 24 Mar 2011 08:31 AM PDT

minecraft multiplayer serversMinecraft didn’t have much of a multiplayer feature when it was first made available. Over time however, multiplayer has been expanded and enhanced. Now it’s possible for players to play in creative or survival mode with people across the globe.

There’s just one problem. For all its enhancements, Minecraft doesn’t have a multiplayer server browser yet. If you’d like to connect to a server you need to know its web address, and you’ll have to find that on your own.

Finding A Minecraft Multiplayer Server

minecraft multiplayer servers

The best place to find a Minecraft server is the Minecraft official forums. You’ll find two boards there, one for creative servers and one for survival servers.

Creative servers are cooperative. You won’t encounter monsters and you won’t have to worry about fighting other players. Your only goal is to do what the server type implies “" be creative, build stuff, and have fun.

Survival servers, which are still a beta feature, replicate the single-player survival mode. The world is hostile and full of monsters, but is now full of other players as well. By default, anyone can attack anyone else on a survival server.

finding a minecraft server

The forums for both types of servers are basically the same. People who are hosting Minecraft servers make a post with their server’s web address and maximum player capacity. In order to join you simply copy-and-paste the web address into the multiplayer menu of the Minecraft client.

One thing that is notably lacking from this system however, is a way to make sure a server is actually running before you try to join. There is one popular community server listing an uptime-tracking website called Minestatus, and the largest Minecraft multiplayer servers are listed on it.

However, even though there are hundreds of servers listed on Minestatus, they are far from covering every server in the game. It’s wise to check a server’s thread before getting too excited, as players will complain about servers that are frequently down. The only thing worse than being unable to connect to a server is joining one, spending three hours building your first base, and then returning the next day to find that the server is unavailable.

Can I Play? Please?

Now you’re ready to join a Minecraft server, right? Well, not so fast.

If you simply try to randomly join servers that look attractive, you may have some problems. Why? Because many servers have what is called a whitelist. If you’re not on the whitelist you should be able to join the server, but you may be booted out shortly thereafter, or you may not be able to actually change the world (any block you destroy will instant respawn).

finding a minecraft server

Getting added to the whitelist is usually as simple as posting in the server’s thread or sending a forum message to the server’s owner. However, some of the more complex and popular servers actually require applications. You’ll need to state why you want to join, how often you want to play, and other information.

Then if you want to stay whitelisted, you better read the rules. While there are some “no rules” servers, they’re relatively rare. Most servers are trying to provide some kind of unique experience, and to do that they implement certain rules. Players might be expected to only attack other players outside of towns, for example. Or there might be rules against setting structures on fire, looting player chests, etc.


minecraft multiplayer servers

Once you’ve found a server you want to play on, read a server’s rules and been whitelisted, you can connect and start playing. Shew! If that sounds like a lot of work, it is. I’ve seen veteran gamers throw their hands up in frustration trying to find a reliable server to play on.

Minecraft is unfortunately not a game where you can just hop into multiplayer any old time and start playing, but if you’re patient, it is a lot of fun. The biggest Minecraft multiplayer servers are essentially mini-MMORPGs with towns, economies, wars and more. They’re worth the time it takes to check them out.

Image Credit :MineStory server thread



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