Friday, April 8, 2011 “Cool Websites and Tools [April 7th]” plus 9 more “Cool Websites and Tools [April 7th]” plus 9 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [April 7th]

Posted: 07 Apr 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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IssueMap – Creating a map of statistics with the data you have is not a very difficult task. However the job becomes increasingly complicated when the size of the data increases. Fortunately since the data is often stored as CSV or Excel files, you can use IssueMap to quickly create the maps. Read more: IssueMap: Easily Create A Map From Excel Or CSV Data


Saga 2012 – Ever since the blockbuster "2012" movie came out, much has been said about how the world will end on that year. Many believe that cataclysmic disasters of today are leading up to 2012 – and with all that is happening around, it is understandable that people are very interested in this date. Saga 2012 is an app that gets a kick out it by letting you create a video depicting you or your friend as the lone hero to save the world. Read more: Saga 2012: Generate Your Own "2012" Hero Video



PenIO – While PenIO cannot replace tools that let you create websites, it does give you one of the fastest ways to publish a simple text-based webpage. Once you give your page a name and choose a password, your webpage will be created as You can click anywhere on the webpage to edit that section. Read more: PenIO: Create A Text Based Page & Publish In Seconds



TorrentButler – Every Internet user who downloads movies through torrents knows that all torrent websites are essentially the same. All of them simply list the torrent for a particular movie without publishing any detailed information about it. But TorrentButler is quite the opposite. It lets you search for regular as well as high definition movies. Read more: TorrentButler: Get Latest Movie Torrents Along With Details Of Each Movie



GetRaised – You cannot be happy at your job unless you get the salary you deserve. But how does one determine the right amount for one's job and find out if one is being underpaid? The answer is through Get Raised, a web service that asks you a series of questions to determine whether or not you are underpaid. Read more: GetRaised: A Site That Helps Find Out If You Are Underpaid


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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4 Completely Free Cross-Platform Music Games

Posted: 07 Apr 2011 06:31 PM PDT

music gamesSo Guitar Hero is dead, or so say publishers Activision. Rockband is the last remaining “band sim” for your console, and after bitterly disappointing sales of Rockband 3 it probably won’t last long either.

There’s a couple of possibilities as to why these music games are no longer that attractive in the public’s eyes. Maybe it’s the cost? The equipment required? Or maybe the amount of space taken up by all those plastic instruments? Despite this decline, the PC’s various free takes on the genre are doing rather well. You don’t need cash, you don’t (necessarily) need to purchase extra equipment and the only room you’ll be clearing will be hard-drive space.

Frets on Fire / FoFiX

Easily the best-known guitar sim for the PC, Frets on Fire will feel very familiar to anyone who has picked up or watched Guitar Hero. The idea is to hit the coloured notes at the right moment by holding down the appropriate button and “strumming”.

music games

If playing a virtual guitar with a keyboard seems a little lacklustre, you’ll be delighted to know it is possible to use guitar controllers with Frets on Fire. There are individual instructions for each system on this wiki page. The game features the awesome ability to import your own tracks (or simply download the community’s efforts) and import songs from Guitar Hero 1 and 2 (all you need is your original disc).

The music game is available for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X. If you have questions, bug reports, ideas or fancy downloading some new songs try the community forum. Don’t forget to check out FoFiX, a modded version with plenty of enhancements (including drums) over the original.


If you’ve ever wanted to bring an arcade Dance Dance Revolution-style experience into your home then Stepmania is the software to help you achieve this goal. The engine has already been used in two other commercial arcade games, In The Groove and Pump It Up Pro, and the latest version (3.9 stable, at the time of writing) packs in some serious features.

free music games

The community is doing its usual stellar job of propping up the project with new songs, art and themes. The ability to use a proper dance mat (which you can get pretty cheap on eBay these days) should vastly improve your experience, though if you want to play with the arrow keys on your keyboard you’re fully able to.

The latest (pre-release) builds of what the community has dubbed "Stepmania 5" even supports online play. You can download Stepmania now for Windows, Linux and Mac.


An open-source rewrite of the popular UltraStar, Perfomous probably provides the most feature-packed "band experience" here. Whilst the rest of this software concentrates on specific aspects such as playing the guitar and dance, Performous combines several different aspects under one package.

You can sing (think SingStar, Lips), play the guitar, play the drums or dance using Performous, and the peripheral support isn’t bad either. You can find everything you need in the documentation to connect your guitar controller, drum kit (this also works with posh, MIDI drum kits) and dance mat to your PC.

Adding songs to Performous is a fairly easy task, you can even rip your SingStar discs with the included ss_extract tool. There’s plenty of information about adding songs on this wiki page.


If you’ve ever played any Japanese rhythm action games (notable titles include Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan and Elite Beat Agents) then you’ll already be familiar with this genre of game. Osu! is a free version of the popular Nintendo DS rhythm games, where players must complete on-screen gestures and hits in time with the music.

music games

This usually involves tapping a lot of hit boxes, sliding a slider over the duration of a note or spinning a wheel frantically with sugary J-Pop blasting out in the background. Osu! is all of these things, but with the added bonus of a community continuously coming up with new songs (or beatmaps, as they are known).

This music game is only available on Windows, though a jailbroken iPhone version is available too if you’re that way inclined (hopefully it’ll make its way onto the App Store soon).


Who said you need a console to enjoy music games? Even if you don’t own guitar controllers or a dance mat you can still take part, try out the software and see what the community has come up with. Some of these (Frets on Fire and Stepmania especially) are blatant party games – simply combine with friends, beer and volume for some guaranteed fun.

Don’t forget to check out our other collections of free games and gaming articles, we love wasting time as much as you guys do!

Have you tried any of the music games featured here? Did you use your console controllers? Any good? Let us know in the comments below.

Image credit: Shutterstock

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Upgrading From Firefox 3 To Firefox 4 – How Smooth Is The Migration?

Posted: 07 Apr 2011 04:31 PM PDT

upgrade to firefox 4With Firefox 4, Mozilla has recently released a major upgrade to its popular open source browser.

With every browser upgrade, users have to adapt to a slightly new interface, some extensions may no longer be compatible, and personal data and settings have to be imported. Many people are reluctant to upgrade because they are not sure what to expect or they don’t welcome change. This article examines how smooth the migration from Firefox 3 to Firefox 4 really is and which first steps you should take after completing the upgrade to Firefox 4.

We have previously shown you what is new in Firefox 4 and why you should upgrade. (Re)visit these articles in case you need an extra primer to make the move.

Download Firefox 4

Small upgrades within one version of Firefox usually happen automatically. To upgrade to a new version, however, you need to download the installer and perform a ‘manual’ installation, as if you were installing a new program.


Close Firefox and run the Firefox 4.0 setup file you just downloaded. I typically select the custom installation, not because I’m such an expert, but because it allows me to make some individual choices. For example you can decide where the installer shall place icons and shortcuts for the program and I don’t like shortcuts on my desktop.

upgrade to firefox 4

The upgrade is quick and painless. Within three clicks you will reach the installer screen that indicates it’s ready to upgrade and an incredibly quick few seconds later you will be presented with the finish and launch Firefox now window.

upgrade firefox 3 to firefox 4

First Launch

When you first launch Firefox 4, it will check whether your previously installed add-ons are still compatible. In other words, all your add-ons, provided they are compatible, will be imported automatically!

firefox 4 upgrade

Chances are that several add-ons will no longer work with Firefox 4. The candidates will be summarized in a list. Click the > Check Now button to see whether the developer meanwhile provided a Firefox 4 compatible version. If they did, you will be able to install the updated add-on in the next step.

upgrade firefox 3 to firefox 4

Click > Install Now to proceed and > Finish once the installation was completed.

Inside Firefox 4

When Firefox 4 has finally launched for the first time, you will see little difference to the version you closed only minutes ago. At first sight, it may look like you changed the theme, but nothing more.

In my case, Firefox 4 launched with the browser session I had just closed in Firefox 3. Moreover, I was already logged into all the services I had used before closing Firefox 3 for the last time. All my bookmarks, history, cookies, cache, and other personal data had been copied over as well. It almost felt like I had never upgraded.

If you look closer, however, you will probably notice a few changes after all, like the position of the tab bar, buttons that have changed, or add-ons that are missing because they are no longer compatible.

First Steps

Per default, Firefox 4 launches with the new Tabs on Top feature enabled. If you prefer the tabs where they used to be, go to > View > Toolbars and uncheck the > Tabs on Top option.

For those of you welcoming more space and less clutter, consider disabling the Menu Bar and thereby reducing it to a single button in the top left corner. It turns out that this feature is also available in Windows XP. Go to > View > Toolbars and uncheck the > Menu Bar option.

upgrade firefox 3 to firefox 4

In case you are wondering which extensions you have lost due to the upgrade, click the key combination [CTRL] + [SHIFT] + [A] to open the add-ons manager in a new tab. Contrary to previous versions of Firefox, disabled and incompatible add-ons are now shifted to the bottom of the list, so you can get a quick overview. If you find that any essential add-ons are missing, switch to the > Get Add-ons view and search for alternatives.

upgrade to firefox 4

Finally, enjoy a great new HTML5 page! Here are a few suggestions: 15 Sites That Do Amazing Things With HTML5 and 10 Websites To See What HTML5 Is All About


Upgrading from Firefox 3 to Firefox 4 is a very smooth experience. All your personal data will be imported automatically and superficially, you will notice very little change. Yet Firefox 4 does bring many new features, including significantly increased speed, synchronization options for your personal data, and support for HTML5.

You should keep in mind though, that it’s not really a question of whether it’s painless or worth it to make the move. Browser upgrades should always be treated as a mandatory operation, especially if your browser will handle security relevant data, such as passwords, credit card information, or online banking. Fortunately, with Firefox 4 the upgrade is both very easy and rewarding.

What do you think of Firefox 4 and what are your favorite new features so far?

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Color: The Hottest Smartphone Photo Sharing App [Android/iPhone]

Posted: 07 Apr 2011 02:31 PM PDT

smartphone photo sharingAre you ready to try something a little new? How about a social network designed with smartphones in mind, rather than one based on desktop computer principles? Well, that’s what Color have put together. It’s a nifty little app for Android or iPhone which lets you take photos and share them with your friends.

This concept of the new generation application with no sign-in, no manual adding of friends and a simple use-and-go attitude is revolutionary because it is simply so easy to get involved. When sufficient people start using this application it will no doubt interest many more new users for the service.

Getting Started With Color

When you first launch Color it can be a little confusing. There’s not a lot of detail anywhere, just a few buttons that aren’t quite as intuitive as you might think. There’s nothing in the menu other than “refresh”. Many people are left wondering, what are you supposed to do, exactly?

smartphone photo sharing

The short summary is this: on the left is a button for a shared or location-based history of photographs; in the middle is a button to take photographs; on the right is a button for a timeline of photographs.

If you’re within a small radius of someone else using the smartphone photo sharing application, you can choose to share your photos with them. This can be useful at both private parties or at public events.

Using Color With Friends

Color revolves around the idea of friends in the system, saying “Don’t Use Color Alone”. See the following Color Demo video for its use in action with many friends.

One of the neat things about Color is that there’s no need to log in. Color knows who you are by your phone. You can tell it your phone number for account safety or it uses other identifying data from your phone to identify you. If you have told it your number, it may make the transition easier when you upgrade or lose your phone in the future.

sharing photos smartphone

The process of finding your friends is also automated. The theory behind using Color is this: you’re ambiently connected to your friends via the application. You can see their photos and where they were taken. You can also view them by place, seeing all the photos you and your friends took in any given location. So, say for instance you all like a particular restaurant, you’d be able to upload photos of you and your friends there. At the same time, you could see photos your friends upload from the same spot. If you take photos of the food, you can comment on how good it was.

sharing photos mobile

So, you can see that once you and your friends are all playing with Color it will be a tremendously useful application. It will make much more sense too, when there are photos in place to help you understand the different menus.

sharing photos smartphone

Problems With Color

On occasion, you might see a handy guide saying “Take a photo of yourself” or “Make a Group”, but if for some reason you quit Color before following the instruction, it can be a little confusing to work out how to do this later.

This is a particular pain if you’re low on phone memory, or if you forgot to turn on your 3G internet access or GPS before you turned the application on. If you have forgotten, it might ask you to go change your settings (mine spots my lack of GPS and conveniently takes me to a menu where my GPS settings aren’t). Either way, you’ve logged out of the application and probably won’t be able to get to the handy guide you saw before.

I think Color is a good lesson for developers in why the occasional bit of documentation doesn’t go astray. I mean, who wants to put off their early adopters? If you explain how it will work when there’s more friends to play with, they’ll stick it out and tell their friends until they reach critical mass. If it’s just confusing and lacking in information, people will just delete the application.

sharing photos smartphone

Why Is Color Groundbreaking?

You can easily see that Color is like a new generation Facebook and Foursquare, but simplified so all you do is take the photo and make comments. The application does the rest. What comes next is the business model side of things: Color aims to use your photo information to link you with Groupon-like deals for places you visit regularly, places your friends visit or places you are right now. It’s such a simple, yet elegant, overlap of ideas. Brilliant for their business and also quite useful for the users, too.

What Else Could You Use?

Well, there’s plenty of other smartphone applications for sharing photos with friends: Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, etc. There’s also a Groupon application for group deals, Foursquare and many others for location check-ins. But Color rolls them all into one and removes the need to check-in. All you do is take photos. With that sort of simplicity, you can see why they expect to be leaders in the future.

smartphone photo sharing

Have you tried Color for Android or iPhone? Did you find it easy to set up? Would you recommend it to your friends? What was your first impression? Let us know in the comments!

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Hot Tech Deals [Apr 7th]

Posted: 07 Apr 2011 01:30 PM PDT

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

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

  1. Dell Inspiron 15R Intel Core i3-2310M Dual-Core Sandy Bridge 15.6in Laptop (3GB/320GB) $549 via code HLSKSR06S9ZG0F (Exp Soon)
  2. Dell Inspiron 15R 15.6in or 14R 14in Intel Core i3-380M Dual-Core 2.53GHz Laptop $449 via code HLSKSR06S9ZG0F (Exp Soon)
  3. Hitachi XL Desk 2TB USB 2.0 External Hard Drive $79.99 Free Shipping via code EMCKFKC59 (Exp 4/13)
  4. Dell Vostro 230 Slim Intel Dual-Core E5800 3.2GHz Mini Tower Desktop (3GB/250GB) w/ 22in LCD $399
  5. Dell Vostro 230 Mini Intel Core 2 Duo E7500 2.93GHz Desktop (3GB/320GB) w/ Viewsonic 24in LCD $449
  6. Dell Vostro 460 Mini Intel Core i5-2400 Sandy Bridge Quad-Core 3.1GHz Desktop w/ 19in LCD, Win7 Pro $619
  7. HP Photosmart Premium Color Inkjet All-In-One Printer (Wifi, ePrint) $89.99 Free Shipping via code EMCKFKC77 (Exp 4/13)
  8. Asus ML239H 23in IPS LED-Backlit LCD Monitor w/ HDMI $209.99 Free Shipping via code EMCKFKC55 (Exp 4/13)

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set

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6 TV-Ready Media Center Programs You Should Check Out

Posted: 07 Apr 2011 12:31 PM PDT

tv media centerIf you’re looking to set up a media center, you need to know what free software is out there. Choose the media center application that works best for you by comparing the best programs on the market.

If you’re looking for a program to watch your favorite videos from the comfort of your couch, you’re going to need a good TV media center program. These programs are designed to be readable and browsable from your couch, and present you with the media on the web and on your hard drive. All vary in terms of features, and all have something to offer. One of them is right for you. This list is by no means definitive, but it does cover most of the major players.

Browse the list, find more information. Try them all out if you have to; after all, all of these programs are free.


tv media center

It started as a media center for the original Xbox, but it’s evolved to become so much more than that. XBMC is considered by many to be the best media center out there, and it’s not hard to see why. Insanely customizable, and giving you quick access to your movies, music and TV shows, it’s simply a hard program to top. Like XBMC, but want more online content? Check out NaviX, the ultimate extension for XMBC. You’ll find lots of streaming content there, so enjoy.


tv media center software

Built using code from XBMC, Boxee can seem overwhelming at first. There are TV shows, movies and more to browse, and even an entire App store. Start using it for a while, though, and you’ll wonder how you lived without it. That’s because Boxee allows you to customize everything enough that your favorite videos on the web are only a few clicks away.

Want to learn more? Read 5 things you should do after installing Boxee.

Hulu Desktop

tv media center software

Simply put: it’s all of Hulu’s videos, from your TV. There’s really not much more to this program; you can’t add your own videos, or watch any videos that aren’t on This makes it useless outside of the USA, naturally, but assuming you’re in the States and most of the shows you like are on Hulu, this can be a good program to have around. Read more about the Hulu Desktop


tv media center software

This one’s a little different. Basically a web browser built for television, Kylo is a pretty good media center in itself. Links to most of the major video sites on the web are easily accessible, and an interesting control paradigm makes for easy browsing. Sadly, Hulu is blocked, but there’s still a lot to discover here. If you want your media experience to be the web, try out Kylo.


media center tv setup

A slick user interface for browsing your own videos. While lacking in online content, Moovida is a great option for those looking to organize their desktop video collection. Lots of customization options await, so check it out!


tv media center

A recent addition to the field, Linux media center Enna comes with some capabilities not seen elsewhere. Support for couchbound book reading, for example and a pretty slick photo browser as well. This exciting new application also gives you access to your local music and videos, so give it a spin.

Record Live TV

Like these desktop clients, but want to record live TV as well? You’re not alone, particularly if you’re paying for cable anyway. There are a number of programs you can use to accomplish this, and all are outlined in Dave’s recent article How to record TV shows to your PC. Check it out.


Know of a tv media center application I missed? Share it below; it might well be featured later. Also feel free to recommend any of the programs for the benefit of our readers, because they love to learn!

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How To Use Microsoft Word Mailings To Automate Emails

Posted: 07 Apr 2011 11:31 AM PDT

microsoft word mailingsWhile there are a lot of things I don’t like about Microsoft Word, there are many more things I love about it. In particular, I like how flexible the drawing tools are, the included templates for things like letters and resumes, and most of all, I love the ability to automate many of the tasks that you do often. One of those tasks is sending reports or emails.

Most of us are faced with a job where you have to send a report to an entire team of people. What makes this worse sometimes is that you have to send individually tailored emails to each person with specific information pertaining to them. Maybe 80 to 90% of the verbiage is the same, but that 10 or 20% specific to the person is unique – so you find yourself spending hours writing up email after email.

Sending Automated Emails

In the past, I wrote about how you could automate Google Analytics to send out scheduled reports, which you could then pass on to your boss or client. But the form of automation that I’m going to show you today is a little different. Instead of producing the data for you, Word is going to automatically fill in the details about the person on your contact list, while allowing you to quickly fill in the data or information that you want to send to that person. This makes the email feel personal and direct, but at the same time you aren’t spending hours writing up tens or hundreds of personal, direct emails.

To get started, in Word (in my examples it’s Word 2007), click on “Mailings” and then click “Start Mail Merge.”

microsoft word mailings

The Wizard isn’t necessary, but it’s nice because it helps you to remember everything you need to do. First, pick a template that you’d like to use for your generic report.

microsoft mailings

Word has a lot of good styles and layouts. Once you choose your template, just click OK. Now your entire report is written for you, all you have to do is fill in the text. When it comes to the date, make sure to choose “today” so that the document always uses today’s date every time you recreate it later.

microsoft mailings

When you choose your recipient list to receive these emails, you can use your current Outlook contacts, a current contact list that you’ve exported from somewhere else, or create a new list of contacts.

microsoft mailings

In my example, I’ve selected recipients from my current Outlook contacts.

Now that you have your recipients selected, you’re going to tell the document what information to pull out of the Contacts information and automatically embed into the report. You do this by clicking on the “Insert Merge Field” button.

For example, I’m creating a report about a specific website for a client, so I’ve defined that website in their Contact details, and here I’m telling Word to use that URL in the report.

microsoft mailings help

If you’re using Outlook, don’t forget that Outlook Contacts offers User Fields, where you can insert any information you want for that person.

This is useful when the information you want to embed for that person isn’t found in the Contact List fields.

The coolest thing about the Microsoft Word Mailings is that you basically create “fill-in” fields for the parts of the report that are unique for each person.

microsoft mailings help

So as you’re writing the generic message and you get to a place where you have to write something that would have specific data relevant to that person, just click on “Rules” and choose “Fill-in“. This lets you define the prompt question and a default answer. What will happen is when you load up your automated document, it will prompt you to fill in every single one of the fill-in fields for each recipient.

microsoft mailings help

Once you’re finished creating your automated mailing, your document will consist of some fields that automatically fill in based on recipient Contact details, and other fields will fill in based on what you’ve specified for information.

microsoft word mailings

For each document, you can quickly send out the email report from Word by clicking the Outlook button on the upper right part of the screen, choosing “Send Email” (or send as PDF attachment), and you’re done!

Using this technique, you’ll cut down your correspondence work by at least 50% or more. Up front it’ll take you some time to get the document set up perfectly, but every week or month that you need to issue the report, you’ll be very happy that you put in the effort.

Give Microsoft Word Mailings a shot and let us know how it went. Did it save you time? Share your own experiences with it in the comments section below!

Image credit: clix at

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4 Recommended Linux Distros To Help You Choose The Right One For You

Posted: 07 Apr 2011 10:31 AM PDT

linux distros As Linux keeps growing as a viable desktop solution, the chances that you’re willing to try out Linux yourself is continually increasing. When you finally decide to take the plunge and have a stroll through Linux Avenue, you’ll need to be able to decide which distribution (or in short, distro) out of the thousands that are out there is right for you. Making the right choice is an important step, because it can help make your experience much more enjoyable. Just imagine if you tried out a distro that wasn’t meant for you?

Before we move on to what each distro is all about, you need to figure out what you need for yourself. What do you really want in your operating system? Ease of use? The ability to tweak every minute detail of your system? Technologies that pop up in other distros by the time you’ve used them for a long time? Make sure you know exactly what you want, as it’ll make the selection process a whole lot easier.


Ubuntu sometimes appears as the new face of Linux. Instead of seeing Tux, the Linux mascot, you sometimes see Ubuntu logos. Ubuntu has quickly become a popular choice among desktop users, and I must say that my first true experience with Linux was with Ubuntu. Every distro has a different goal, and Ubuntu’s is simple: make Linux as easy as possible for users. This includes taking away features like a root user, and adding style, one-click install buttons, and a large package repository. If you’re not tech-savvy, this is a great way to get started.

linux distros


Fedora is another popular choice among many desktop users. It is different from Ubuntu, however, because it gives a clean desktop to work on while giving the user more control over the system. It retains features such as a root user, and has a more descriptive package manager. In other words, you need to know a little bit more about how Linux works and how packages combine together and become installed in order to successfully use Fedora.

If you paid attention to what’s going on in other Linux distros, you shouldn’t have a problem with this. Also, Fedora’s strict open-source policy prevents you from installing proprietary software or drivers without a little bit of work. Again, if you learned a thing or two, this shouldn’t be a problem.

best linux distros


openSUSE is along the bottom of the most-popular choices for desktop users. However, it still has plenty of support to be a well-formed distro. Its goal isn’t to be noob-friendly nor be restricted to open-source software by default, but instead to create its own workspace. By default it uses a different desktop environment in addition to its own multi-purpose package manager. If you’re a beginner looking for a distro, this one may be more similar to Fedora than Ubuntu in terms of being “challenging.” It’s an interesting project nonetheless and definitely worth checking out.

best linux distros

Arch Linux

I may have described Fedora and openSUSE as slightly challenging, but I was exaggerating. Arch Linux has a completely different setup and is meant for a completely different group of enthusiasts. Arch has always been intended for those who know a thing or nine about Linux. The idea of this distro is that the kernel and base packages are given to you, and you install this system. When that’s done, you boot into the system and start installing everything from scratch: your display manager, your desktop environment, your browser, your drivers, and everything else that you need or want.

In fact, there is no true “default” in Arch, so the screenshot presented is just an example of what you can do. Benefits to doing things this way is that you know exactly what is installed on your computer, because you installed it and nobody else. It also keeps things as minimal and efficient on system resources as you want.

It’s definitely not something for beginners, but it’s a great learning tool while building a very usable system.

linux distros


In the end, the choice of Linux distros is always up to you, and no one is “better” than the other. Such statements have always been an opinion, and with the wide range of distros, making your right choice couldn’t be better. It’s always best to remember who you are, and what the target consumers are for each distro. Making the right decision will save you many headaches in the future.

What Linux distro(s) do you use, and why did you make that choice? What aspects made you choose one distro over another?

Image Credit: Intro, Ubuntu, Fedora, openSUSE, Arch

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Make Your Self-Hosted WordPress Blog iPad Friendly With Onswipe

Posted: 07 Apr 2011 09:31 AM PDT

ipad friendly wordpressStatistics say that the iPad is the most successful consumer product today. In less than a year (nine months to be exact), the tablet has found its way into the hands of 15 million people. And looking at the enthusiasm towards iPad 2, business analysts predict that the success rate of the second generation of Apple tablets will surpass the first.

What does this data mean to us?  For a start, more and more people who access the Internet will do so from an iPad or another tablet. So if you have an online presence, it would be a good idea to adjust the interface of your site to be tablet friendly. Automattic, the parent company of, has realized this and have added a feature that will optimize its 18 million blogs for tablet viewing. So for those of you with a self-hosted WordPress blog, there’s an app a plugin for that.

Touch, Swipe, Rotate & More

To bring this feature to realization, Automattic worked with Onswipe – a company which specializes in tablet (and other touch-enabled device) publishing. users don’t have to do anything as the feature is already added to their blogs. On the other hand, self-hosted users will need to install the Onswipe plugin before they can make their blog iPad friendly. The plugin will add the ability to:

  • automatically adjust the content layout according to how the reader holds their device.
  • give the reader an easy way to save the blog to their device’s home screen.
  • show a customized loading screen while the blog is loading.
  • create a beautiful magazine-like cover from the latest article.
  • easily share the content via Facebook, Twitter and email.

If these power-ups excite you, download the plugin on the Onswipe website, then upload and install it onto your blog.

ipad friendly wordpress

Or get it from the “Plugins – Add New” menu inside your blog.

ipad friendly blog

Set Some Things Up

After installation, you may want to visit the “Onswipe” menu to adjust some elements of the plugin to your liking.

ipad friendly blog

The first thing to do is look at the “Display a special theme for iPad users” box and make sure that the feature is turned on.

ipad friendly blog

Move down a little bit to choose whether you want to display the “front cover” for your blog. This cover will give your blog a magazine feeling.

ipad friendly website

To further customize your blog, you could upload a 200×200 pixel PNG image as your cover logo. This logo will be displayed on the front cover.

ipad friendly websiteo

You can easily create the cover logo using any image editor. For experimental purposes, I created a quick text-only logo and uploaded it.

ipad friendly website

You can also upload a launch screen image if you want to. The requirement is 768×1004 pixel.

03e Launch Screen Image

Then choose the font you want to use in your iPad-ized blog. The default is ArvoRegular, but there are lots of other choices in the list.

03e Display Font

The last step is to choose the skin color and click the “Save Settings” button.

03g Skin Color

And The Result Is…

I used my blog for the experiment, so I opened the address using iPad’s Mobile Safari. The “front page” greeted me, along with a “swipe me” tag at the right to continue to the post page.

05a Cover s

This is how the portrait view will look. The post page is divided into several blocks. The latest article is positioned at the top, followed by smaller boxes of older articles below it. Titles of posts are displayed in white above transparent colored tape. The color of the tape is the skin color that you chose in the Onswipe settings menu.

05b Portrait s

The article blocks will rearrange themselves to fit the screen every time the device is rotated. This is how the page will look in landscape view.

05c Landscape s

For comparison, I turned off Onswipe and refreshed the page. The appearance went back to the theme I am using, similar to how it would look if viewed from a computer’s browser.

ipad friendly wordpress

After trying out Onswipe, I felt that the result was not as good as I expected it to be – yet. The developer has promised that the full platform will come this spring. This means that we can expect more goodies in the future. We can also bet that there will be more tablet-friendly themes for us to choose from then.

What do you think about iPad-izing your web layout? Do you know of any other tablet-optimized WordPress themes? Share your thoughts and opinions using the comments below.

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Four Free Game Benchmarks That Will Make Your PC Scream

Posted: 07 Apr 2011 08:31 AM PDT

free game benchmarkAs the controversy over the recently released Crysis 2 is highlighting, graphical quality is still a big deal in the PC gaming world. Computers, like consoles, don't improve on a set cycle; they're improving constantly, and the newest computer components have raw power that puts both the Xbox 360 and PS3 to shame.

Taking advantage of the power can be difficult, however; doing so without spending a lot of money on benchmarks and games is even harder. Fortunately, there are some game demos that have benchmarks built into them, and they're a great way to benchmark your gaming PC for free.


free game benchmark

Released in 2007, Crysis was and is among the most graphically demanding games ever made. At the time of its introduction most computers struggled to play the game with more than a few details turned up, and even a modern gaming rig may struggle significantly with this game when the settings are at maximum.

This makes Crysis a great benchmark. Even today, the question "Yeah, but can it run Crysis?" is relevant, as there are very few computers capable of showing everything this game is capable of. If your computer has been bad, load Crysis and crank it up to max. That should show it you're the boss.

In order to use the free game benchmark you'll need to download the Crysis singleplayer demo, then download the Crysis Benchmarking Tool. You can run the benchmark without this tool, but it's substantially more difficult. Do yourself a favor and download the extra file.

Just Cause 2

free game benchmark test

Although primarily a console game, Just Cause 2 (like the original) has no problem making use of the graphical power available on a modern computer. Scenic vistas, detailed models and massive explosions are all part of this game's visual spice, and they all look better on the PC.

Just Cause 2 is only available on Steam, so you'll have to sign up for a Steam account to download the demo. The demo benchmark is not as detailed as what is available in the full game, but it does feature a reasonably long gameplay loop that shows off Just Cause 2's ability to render a massive landmass with little performance degradation.

Mafia II

free game benchmark test

Essentially a Grand Theft Auto clone with its own dash of style, Mafia II was released to the PC without much fanfare and to average reviews. Despite that, the game's graphics were concrete shoes to many PCs, particularly those with older processors.

Mafia II isn't the most beautiful game, in my opinion, but it does offer some very detailed character models and a few cool graphical effects. I'm particularly enamored by how fire and explosions are rendered in this game. The free game benchmark is simple to use and accessed directly through the game's main menu.

As with Just Cause 2, Steam is the only way to download this game or its demo, which includes the benchmark.

Tom Clancy's HAWX2

free game benchmark

A relatively recent release, Tom Clancy's HAWX2 is notable for the game's ability to render huge amounts of high-detail terrain. After all, HAWX2 is a flying game – whenever you're not in a dogfight you'll be staring into the distance, admiring the scenery, which is textured using high-resolution satellite images.

HAWX2 supports DirectX 10 and, with the proper settings, can make heavy use of tessellation. This makes it a great benchmark for testing the features of newer graphics cards. This benchmark seems to run particularly well on Nvidia cards in comparison to those from AMD, so you might be a little disappointed if you’re part of the red team, although the most AMD cards made in the last year have no problem with this title.

The HAWX2 benchmark is extremely easy to use and can be downloaded as a standalone executable. You will need to set up an Ubisoft account to run the benchmark. You can also access the benchmark via the game demo available on Steam.


These four games will push your hardware to the limit, but they're not the only benchmarks available. If you have a favorite – and free – game benchmark not listed here, let us know in the comments!

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