Tuesday, April 19, 2011

MakeUseOf.com: “Cool Websites and Tools [April 18th]” plus 10 more

MakeUseOf.com: “Cool Websites and Tools [April 18th]” plus 10 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [April 18th]

Posted: 18 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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Fresh USA News – is a pretty cool site if you want to play a prank on an unsuspecting friend. It lets you quickly create fake news stories. The stories automatically get published on their site complete with headlines, pictures etc, which makes it look like real reporting. Read more: Fresh USA News : Create Hilarious Fake News Stories


AK Families – Since the nanny spends a lot of time with the family, communicating effectively with her is a necessity. Unfortunately there are situations where the right message is not being communicated. Here to help to manage and prevent those situations is a web tool called AK Families. Read more: AK Families: Helps To Manage Your Nanny Online



TemplateNinjas – AGreat website templates can often be expensive. But thanks to occasional web deals you can get website templates at a lower price. Such deals are frequently offered by Template Ninjas. It frequently offers a variety of website template discount deals. It puts up deals and if enough developers choose to buy the deal templates, the deal is executed. Read more: TemplateNinjas: A Site Frequently Offering Website Template Deals & Discounts



My Color Screen – Many smartphone owners put in a lot of effort customizing their homescreens. Then they share it with their friends to impress them with their phone's look. If you are one of those people and are proud of your phone's homescreen, then you can share it with the world on My Color Screen. Read more: My Color Screen: Share Smartphone Themes & Wallpapers With Others



Lavasoft Rogue Gallery – While browsing the Internet, you might have seen a banner or popup that asks you to install a new antivirus program to rid you of computer infections. Mostly these intruding banners and pop-ups advertise rogue anti-malware software that would have adverse effects if installed onto your computer. A list of this malware can be found at Lavasoft Rogue Gallery. Read more: Lavasoft Rogue Gallery: Directory Of Rogue Anti-Malware Software


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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2 Effective Ways To Browse Through Your Google Reader Feeds

Posted: 18 Apr 2011 06:31 PM PDT

browse google readerGoogle Reader is yet another reason to love Google: it’s free, offers unlimited features and is very flexible. It also has a very powerful search platform that makes it easy to explore your feed archives. I rely on Google Reader to monitor all my blog subscriptions, track my online reputation, store my personal Twitter updates as well as Twitter search archives, and more.

Using Google Reader daily, you may have dozens (or maybe even hundreds) of feeds on your list – and browsing through them daily or weekly can take plenty of time. This post aims at making that procedure faster, which will hopefully increase your productivity and let you spend more time actually reading.

1. Built-in Keyboard Shortcuts

Google Reader supports quite a few keyboard shortcuts that make browsing through your daily feeds really fast and enjoyable. Keyboard shortcuts save time by helping you quickly explore your reading list without moving your hand back and forth between your keyboard and mouse.

When it comes to Google Reader keyboard shortcuts, there are probably too many of them for anyone to be able to find their way around them. I have compiled the most useful Reader keyboard shortcuts I am aware of in a handy table which will, hopefully, make it easier to memorize them:

Action TypeKeyboard ShortcutAction
Search/Add focus to the search box (to start typing the search query)
TabActivate feed filter for search
Down / Up arrowsSelect the feed type or folder to restrict your search
EnterStart searching
Browse the feed itemsjSelect the top item in the list
j / kGo to the next / previous item in the list
EnterGo back to the list
vGo to the actual page (outside Google Reader)
g tGo to tag
g uGo to subscription
g sGo to starred items
g aGo to the “All items” view
g SHIFT+tGo to the “Trends” view
g dShow the recommendations page, or the browse page if there are no recommendations
sStar item
Change the interface1 / 2Alternate between the expanded / list view (respectively)
uToggle left sidebar
fToggle full screen mode

2. Mouse Actions

If you prefer using your mouse over your keyboard, here’s a great way to supercharge your Google Reader with additional mouse actions. Google Reader – Read by Mouse: This userscript has already been mentioned in our round-up of the best Google Reader tools.

The script adds the ability to browse through items in a feed using your mouse:

  • Left mouse button jumps to the next item in the feed;
  • Right mouse button jumps to the previous item in the feed.

You can toggle the mouse-only mode using the button at the bottom of your screen (or CTRL+z keyboard shortcut):

browse google reader

Additionally, you can select the action for the mouse middle button:

  • Open items in tabs;
  • Share item;
  • Start item;
  • Add a tag:

browse google reader

Which tricks are you using to browse Google Reader feeds? Do you think the tips listed above can be any help? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

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4 Ways To Reduce The Size Of A PDF File

Posted: 18 Apr 2011 04:31 PM PDT

reduce pdf file sizeLately, I've been trying to scan my class notes and handouts, and transfer some e-textbooks so I can view them on my Kindle to save myself carrying too much in my backpack. This is something that Calibre could help convert easily to ebook reader-friendly formats, but the resulting PDF files are often huge, have several pages and thus, take sometime to load and smoothly display things. This is especially true for my Logic textbook, which is about 180MB.

So in my desperate search for ways to optimize PDF files, I've found that there aren't many free options. Although there are a lot of shareware programs, there are also, thankfully, a few free programs can help you reduce a PDF file size.

Irfanview & GhostScript [Windows & Possibly Linux]

If you don't have Irfanview, you should really consider downloading it. It's a much better and lightning fast alternative to the default image viewer in Windows, supports countless plugins that allow it to be extremely versatile, and converts images to different file types. You can use it to add borders and watermarks to your photos, and batch process many images at a time. You can also view PDF files, provided you download GhostScript first.

Once you have Ghostscript installed, you can use Irfanview (portable version will work as well) to view PDF files and save them as new files. You'll get a box on the right of the Save As dialog to choose compression levels.

reduce pdf file size

You can choose to save with lossless, best, high, medium, and 'dump' quality. In my tests, Irfanview reduced a 14MB PDF file to 8MB using the high-quality setting in Compression, while the lossless and best quality settings produced files bigger than the original size.

reduce pdf size

PrimoPDF [Windows]

PrimoPDF is a desktop application that allows you to create PDF files from image files and documents.

reduce pdf size

It installs itself as a virtual printer, which makes optimizing PDF files a matter of opening the files and printing them with PrimoPDF, though you can also drag and drop documents to the PrimoPDF desktop shortcut. From there, you'll get a dialog box, where you can choose the document quality.

reduce pdf size

For the smallest file size, choose the Screen setting. Pressing Create PDF starts the conversion.

Free PDF Compressor (version 1.12) [Windows]

how to reduce size of pdf document

This program is now shareware but the link provided leads to the last freeware version. It is pretty much just an executable that does a decent job at reducing PDF file sizes. In my tests, this program managed to reduce a 50MB PDF file to 45MB, with the maximum compression level, at an impressive speed (almost instant conversion).

Neevia's PDFCompress [Web-Based]

reduce pdf file size

PDFCompress is a simple web app that takes any PDF files smaller than 5MB and compresses them according to the presets you chose (low, medium, high and maximum). Maximum compression means the quality will be approximately a 10 in a scale of 100. In my test with a 3MB file and maximum compression, the optimized file was about 9% smaller, with no visible quality loss.

how to reduce size of pdf document

I should also mention PDF ReDirect which is another Windows-only PDF printer that lets you optimize and rotate PDF files, which we previously reviewed here.

What free software do you use to reduce PDF file size? Let us know in the comments!

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Spiral Knights – A Free Browser-Based Massively Multiplayer Role Playing Game From Sega

Posted: 18 Apr 2011 02:31 PM PDT

role playing gamesSince the passing of the Dreamcast, Sega is a company that has had to adapt to survive. No longer able to compete in the hardware market, Sonic’s forefathers turned their heads solely to the software market. For the first time ever, we saw Sonic on a Nintendo console.

Since then Sega has published and developed a multitude of games, and not all of them for the console market. Spiral Knights is aimed solely at PC users, and provided you’ve got a compatible browser you’ll be up and running in minutes. If you enjoy quest-based online role playing games with a hint of Zelda, then you’ll probably love Spiral Knights.


Despite being a browser game, Spiral Knights is a fully 3D application. On Windows or Linux you’ll need at least a 1.3GHz processor, 512MB of RAM, 64MB of video memory and Java 1.5 installed. Mac owners will need the same specification, except with 1GB of RAM instead of 512MB.

A minimum screen resolution of 1024×600 is also required. You can download Java for your operating system here, if you don’t already have it.

Haven & Clockworks

Developed by Three Rings Design and published by Sega, Spiral Knights is a massively multiplayer online role playing game (or MMORPG for short) that can be enjoyed in your browser thanks to the wonder that is Java. Spiral Knights is completely free to play, you do not need to pay a subscription or buy an account; though you are given the option of purchasing in-game perks should you want them.

role playing games

Your (and everyone else’s) character is as the title suggests, a Spiral Knight. You’ve crashed on a strange planet, and this virtual world is your oyster. You won’t be expected to do it alone, as the game actively encourages teamwork and guild development.

The planet is called Cradle, and the game roughly divides itself between the two main “areas”: Haven and Clockworks. Haven acts as a headquarters for all Spiral Knights, allowing players to socialise freely. Clockworks are essentially dungeons that much of the time require you to team up and quest your way through. If you’ve played an MMORPG before, then this concept will undoubtedly be familiar.

role playing rpg

Quests are split into three tiers, and you’ll have to work your way up to the most rewarding tasks. Clockworks are accessed via gates in the Arcade area of Haven. The whole thing is spiced up by having both active and dormant gates within this area. Dormant gates require players to actively spend minerals in order to access them, meaning there should be a decent variety of quests to choose from at any given time.

role playing rpg

Clockworks will introduce the player to adorable monsters, pickups and treasure boxes along the way. There are hordes of enemies, hazards and breakables to smash along the way, and all the while you’ll be collecting resources for bigger and better upgrades.

Starting Out

Once you’ve registered for an account, and clicked Play, Spiral Knights will download. When this download has completed, the game will launch in a new window and you’ll be able to login or simply continue from where you were. If it’s your first game you’ll need to design a character, of which you can have three.

role playing rpg

Of course you won’t be able to wander around Haven without a heads up, and this comes in the form of the Rescue Camp. This is the area you initially start out in, after having crashed on the planet Cradle.

free role playing games

Here you’ll learn everything you need to know about game mechanics, social elements and controlling your Knight. It is also at this point that you’ll be introduced to energy, an important element in the game.

There are two types of energy, mist energy and crystal energy. Your character develops 1 mist energy every 15 minutes of playtime, with a maximum of 100 energy stored at any particular time. Crystal energy can be purchased with US dollars, and can be stored in higher amounts.

free role playing games

Energy is used for nearly everything in the game, from your very first steps out of the Rescue Camp to unlocking tougher, more rewarding Clockworks. As you’d expect, there are plenty of weapons to come across including swords and handguns, with unique powers to unleash across the world.

role playing games

For a free browser MMO, Spiral Knights is a surprisingly deep game with plenty of rewards in store for those willing to invest the time.


If MMORPGs are your thing, Spiral Knights is probably worth a shot. There are a distinct lack of good free and accessible games in such a successful genre and the use of Java means Windows, Mac and Linux users can play together nicely. Hats off to Sega for publishing a truly unique online gem for the Internet’s favourite price.

Have you played Spiral Knights? Any other MMO role playing games you enjoy? Let us know in the comments.

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Hot Tech Deals [Apr 18th]

Posted: 18 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. Sony Bloggie Touch MHS-TS20 8GB Portable Video Camcorder $149.99 Free Shipping
  2. Dell Inspiron 15R Intel Core i3-380M Dual-Core 2.53GHz 15.6in Laptop (2GB/250GB) $449 via code HLSKSR06S9ZG0F (Exp Soon)
  3. Dell Inspiron 15R Intel Core i3-2310M 2.1GHz Sandy Bridge 15.6in Laptop $549.99 via code HLSKSR06S9ZG0F (Exp Soon)
  4. Dell Inspiron 17R Intel Core i5-2410M 2.4GHz Sandy Bridge 17.3in Laptop $699.99 via code HLSKSR06S9ZG0F (Exp Soon)
  5. Dell Inspiron 14R Intel Core i5-2410M 2.3GHz Sandy Bridge 14in Laptop $699 via code HLSKSR06S9ZG0F (Exp Soon)
  6. TODAY ONLY Dell IN1920 19 inch Widescreen LCD Monitor $89.99 Free Shipping
  7. Cradlepoint CTR500 3G/4G Travel 802.11g Wireless Router $109.99 Free Ship
  8. HP Mini 110 Intel Atom N455 10.1in Netbook (1GB/250GB/Win7) $224.99 via code NB7676 (Exp Soon)
  9. Dell Vostro 230 Mini Intel Dual-Core E5800 3.2GHz Mini Tower Desktop w/ 22in LCD $399

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set

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4+ Ways To Improve Your Grooveshark Music Experience

Posted: 18 Apr 2011 12:31 PM PDT

grooveshark musicGrooveshark is definitely one of the most popular options when it comes to streaming music online for free, especially since it’s one of the few services which can still be accessed from anywhere in the world. The basic services provided are pretty impressive, from creating personalised playlists and saving them, adding songs to your favorites, and keeping up with the most popular songs of the moment.

With a few extensions and userscripts, Chrome users can make the service even better, from adding an in-built lyrics search engine, making it even easier to share songs from Grooveshark on social networks and controlling playback using keyboard shortcuts, you can really enhance and improve the Grooveshark experience.

Easily Share Songs

If you want an easy way to search for individual songs on GrooveShark, the website Tinysong makes it easier than ever, even giving you a shortened URL for easy sharing.

grooveshark music

If you're a Chrome user you can also benefit from a little extension that gives you a quick and easy way to search Tinysong without having to access the website at all.

grooveshark tips and tricks

Search results can easily be copied, or saved to your favourites, saved only within the app, not in your Grooveshark favourites.

grooveshark tips and tricks

Use Keyboard Shortcuts

If you're a fan of keyboard shortcuts, the Chrome extension, keySharky will definitely appeal to you. After installing, open up the extension's options to familiarise yourself with the shortcuts, or if you prefer, configure the keyboard shortcuts of your choice. With the shortcuts you can play/pause, go to the next or previous song, stop, add the song to your favourites, and adjust the volume, amongst other options. Of course for the shortcuts to work, you have to be on the Grooveshark page.

grooveshark tips and tricks

Generate Playlists

Groovylists makes it extremely easy to create playlists on Grooveshark using your existing playlists on iTunes, Spotify or and Last.fm. If you already have your playlists sorted out using any of these apps or services, with Groovylists you can quickly import and save those lists on Grooveshark .

With iTunes, you will have to export your playlist in XML format. To do so, simply right-click the playlist name, and select 'Export.

grooveshark music stream

Select the location on your hard drive where the file will be saved, and make sure that XML is the selected format.

grooveshark music stream

Once the file is saved to your computer, you can then import it into Groovylists to generate a Grooveshark playlist. Once Groovylists has done it's thing, click the link to open the playlist in Grooveshark where you can save it.

grooveshark music

With Last.fm, you can export your playlists by entering your username, or anyone else's for that matter. Groovylists will then import all the playlists that already exist and you can convert them at a click of a button. Spotify users will need to open their playlists, select all of the songs, right-click the selection and select Copy HTTP link, and paste the link into Groovylists, in order to generate a Grooveshark playlist.

Groovylists playlists are limited to a maximum of 200 songs, and we also did notice that it sometimes had a hard time reading song tags, with songs which weren't in the iTunes playlist finding their way into the Grooveshark playlist

Replace Ads With Lyrics Search

Better Grooveshark, a userscript which works with Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Opera, alters Grooveshark in several ways. First, it removes the ad on the right-hand side of the page, which normally can only be removed by upgrading to a paid account. In addition, it replaces the advertisement with a lyrics search engine.

grooveshark music stream

In addition to these main features, it also adds the title of the song that is playing to your browser tab.

If you don't want all of the features that Better Grooveshark provides, there are also a few Chrome extensions that afford you the same features. Ads Free Grooveshark removes the advertisements from the website, and Grooveshark Lyrics adds the option to search for lyrics directly within the website.

What extensions and add-ons do you use with Grooveshark? Let us know in the comments.

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How To Do Powerful & Productive Editing Using ‘Track Changes’ In Microsoft Word

Posted: 18 Apr 2011 11:31 AM PDT

track changes in wordBefore I started using Microsoft Word and Apple's Pages to write, edit and revise long writing projects, I would laboriously print out drafts of my documents and use  red or green pens to edit what I had written. Then I would go back to my simple word processor and make those corrections in my document file. I would sometimes print my document three or four times to make additional markups.

But when I started working with actual editors who required my writing to be done in Word, and who actually gave me copious feedback and suggested changes to work, I discovered the Track Changes tool in Word. Track Changes is the one feature that has changed my writing process for the better. With Track Changes, you and your editor or other readers can make all the edits and changes you want in your document file, and Word will record those changes so you can, if need be, delete those edits or keep them. Track Changes means you can experiment with revising parts of your text without the fear of losing your original thoughts. Plus, if you get a pesky teacher or editor who makes edits to your work that you don't like; well, you can delete them and move on.

So as a follow-up to the article I recently wrote about using the Comments tool in Word, let's explore the Track Changes tool. If you have never used it, be prepared to discover a hidden treasure for writing.

Setting Up Track Changes

First, here's what Track Changes looks like in Word:

track changes in word

After you turn on Track Changes (on a Mac: Tool > Track Changes > Highlight Changes or on a PC, Review > Track Changes) and you or another reader of your document makes edits (e.g., deletes words, adds and changes sentences, make formatting changes and so on), Word will insert a balloon in the margin of the page, with a thin line connecting to where the edit was made. If a word is changed, for example, Word will display in the balloon the original word that is replaced by a new word in the body of the text. If one or more words is deleted, Word will record the deleted text in a balloon. Your name or the name of the person who made the edit, as well as the date and time of the edit will appear in the balloon’s toolbar.

If you move text around in your document, Word will record in a balloon the text you moved, and then it will create another balloon for where you reinserted the moved text. The moved text will be highlighted in green and will be double underlined. Clicking the “Go” button in the balloon will take you to the spot where the moved text was originally typed.

microsoft word track changes

Finally, notice the check and x buttons in the balloon's toolbar. These are useful for when someone edits your document using Track Changes. Clicking the check means that you accept the change, and at that point the balloon will disappear. If you click the x, the change will be rejected and the edits will be replaced with the original text.

Enabling & Disabling Track Changes

In addition to activating Track Changes in the Word toolbar, you can enable and disable the Track Changes tool in three or four other places in Word depending on what version of Word you’re using. In Word for Mac 2011, the Track Changes On/Off button exists in the Ribbon bar of Word.

microsoft word track changes

The Track Changes button can be inserted in Word’s toolbar (View > Toolbars > Customize Toolbars and Menus…). You can also create a keyboard shortcut, if one is not provided for your version of Word.

Notice also when you select Tool > Track Changes > Highlight Changes you will get several options for how you want to deal with the Track Changes tool. If for example you want Word to record changes, but you find the balloons popping up in the margins a little too distracting, you can de-select the “Highlight changes on screen” button.

microsoft word track changes

Other Preferences Options

As Word tries to be everything for everybody, it provides many options for how you may want Track Changes to work. When you click the Options button (see above) or Word > Preferences > Track Changes, you get more options than you probably care to think about. You can change the markup colors for the edits you make. You can track or choose not to track the movement of selected text.

microsoft word track changes

If the whole balloon still drives you crazy, you can deselect the "Use balloons to display changes" and Word will still track the changes and display them inside the body of the text (see below), which is similar to the old pen and paper method of marking changes, but with a lot less mess.

microsoft word track changes

Reviewing Changes

In the latest versions of Word, you get several ways to review, and accept and reject, your changes. You can simply scroll up and down the pages and view them, or you can use the navigation buttons in the Ribbon to move from one edit to the next. This is useful for longer writing projects.

how to track changes in word

You also have options for the type of edits you want to review. This is useful when you have lots of edits in the margins and you need to sort your way through the stacks. It's not a pretty sight when an editor sends you back edits in nearly every paragraph of writing. This happens to even the best of writers.

track changes in word

You can also click in the menu bar (View > Sidebar > Reviewing Pane) and all your edit will be displayed, stacked on the left side of your document.

When you first use Track Changes in Word, it may seem very uncomfortable especially if you're accustomed to the old pen markup method. But when you see how the tool can save you time, as well as save you the need to print out stacks of paper, it will be well worth the effort to learn how to use the Track Changes.

Let us know what you think of the Track Changes tool, and what other tools in Word you find useful for writing. Also check out our other articles about Word, including How To Make Use Of Research Feature in Microsoft Word 2007, How To Build a Mind Map In Microsoft Word, and How to Make Index Cards in Microsoft Word 2007.

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MacKeeper Giveaway Winners

Posted: 18 Apr 2011 11:00 AM PDT

We’ve selected 25 MakeUseOf readers at random to win a free copy of MacKeeper from our giveaway. Let’s find out who they are.

  1. A. Minkah
  2. Art Clarke
  3. Brandon Brown
  4. Brian Alberghini
  5. Christina Williams
  6. Ede Mäekivi
  7. Jeff Kushner
  8. Jerry D’Ascoli
  9. John Parsons
  10. Jon Irish
  11. Judy Allison
  12. Kyle Maguire
  13. Lee Orozco
  14. Mark Cummins
  15. Michael Madarasz
  16. Mike Burton
  17. Min Kim
  18. Mohd Hazim
  19. Roderick Chu
  20. Ron Bailey
  21. Simon Day
  22. Tim Siler
  23. Tom
  24. Wayne McCollough
  25. Willy Hoek

Congratulations! We’ll be sending you an email to confirm your prize. If you don’t receive it in a few days’ time, please check your spam inbox for any emails from @makeuseof. Otherwise, please send Jackson an email.

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5 More Cool Google Based Games You Can Play For Fun

Posted: 18 Apr 2011 10:31 AM PDT

We know that Google knows how to have fun. From the cool Googleplex to Gmail motion, Google never hesitates to show its lighter side. But most of us will never get to work at the famed Google offices or get fooled by the 'notorious' Google hoaxes beyond the day. Even then, as we have seen every Google product has an element of fun in its DNA.

We might not notice them during the usual runs, but thanks to third party web apps or sometimes Google itself, Google's services get a fun face.

Some of the five fun Google games mentioned below have some practical use too. But you can ignore the uses and just go and have some casual fun instead.

Old Snakey

google games

Old Snakey has been one of the oldest members of Gmail Labs. It's the Gmail equivalent of the classic Snake game. Activate it from Settings – Labs – Old Snakey. You also have to enable Gmail's Keyboard shortcuts (Settings – Keyboard shortcuts). Then just hit '&' to start the game. Classic rules apply.

Suggestion Chain

google games

Enter any search term, more fuzzy the better, and Suggestion Chain turns the keyword into something you can make sense out of. You can click on the results and see the kind of results the Google search throws up. The site is very minimalistic but smooth. Apparently it was made in six hours by its creators. The web app simply takes the search suggestions from Google and displays them more neatly. Try it out by throwing some wild words at it. The results just might throw up something unexpected.


google free games

Uncluttering your inbox is one of the drearier tasks of our digital lives. We all know how emails tend to stack up. 0Boxer tries to prod us over the procrastination hurdle by turning it into a game. Your job is to rack up points by organizing your email into the right folders (archiving), and also being prompt in replying to the ones in your inbox. The objective is to achieve a 'zero' inbox. The game is also social because you can compete with your participating friends and get on the leaderboard. Being a third party service, you have to authorize it to use your Gmail account. You can revoke this any time of course. The game is supported with a Chrome Extension, Safari Extension, Firefox Add-on, or Mailplane depending on the browser you use. (See Directory mention)

Also check out The Email Game which has a similar concept. Read up on how can have fun & earn points emptying your inbox for real.

Galactic Inbox

google free games

Galactic Inbox is a nice little time-waster based on HTML5. The game is inspired by the tons of email we have inside our Gmail accounts and was meant as a tribute to the development of Gmail. It also ends up show casing HTML5 and the capabilities of modern browsers in action. You have to control the flying Gmail envelope with keyboard buttons; that's your spaceship and you have to shoot down objects flying towards you.

Chrome Fastball

google games

The cool interactive YouTube game was created to show off Chrome's speed. The Flash game plus video was launched last year when Chrome became the third most popular browser in the United States. The challenge is to complete a series of steps using other web services (like Twitter, last.fm etc) to get the chrome ball to the finish line in the fastest time possible. The challenges come in the form of tasks and riddles. You goal is to complete them in the shortest time possible. There are point penalties for skipping steps. If you search around, you will also find a few 'cheat sheets' on the game.

Google is the last place you would expect to find online games for fun or being used by third parties as objects of fun. But as some of our previous posts show, Google sneaks some stress busters in. Check these Google games out –

7 Quick Games You Can Play On Google Search
6 Google Earth Games For Some Fun & Frolic Around The Globe

Do you know of any Google games we might have missed? Let us know.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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Combine All Your Hard Drives Into One Seamless Storage Container With LVM [Linux]

Posted: 18 Apr 2011 09:31 AM PDT

combine hard drives into oneIf you tend to use up a lot of storage, you’ll probably have had some storage problems. You might still have a lot of empty hard drives lying around, but they were more than likely all low-capacity drives, so splitting up all your data across these drives would be confusing in the long run.

However, there’s an easy way to combine all of those hard drives into one seamless storage container with a Linux technology called LVM, which is short for “Logical Volume Management”.

What LVM Does

LVM is a fairly complicated technology, so I won’t be able to explain exactly what goes on behind the scenes, but explaining the setup is still game. LVM operates on its own partitions, meaning that instead of creating ext4 or any other partitions, you’ll be creating LVM partitions. Once you have made an LVM partition on each of your hard drives, you can then use a tool to combine hard drives together into one Volume Group (or VG for short). From here you need to create a Logical Volume for each partition you want to make in your Volume Group. These Logical Volumes can stretch across multiple hard drives.

Performing The Operations

Knowing what it does is great and all, but how do you actually do it? There are two ways you can go with this setup. One involves using the terminal, but that can easily get confusing, and the commands themselves aren’t that easy to figure out either. Instead we can use a great GUI tool to do everything for us! Fedora ships with this tool by default, so check to see if you can install it via your own provider.

Although package names change from distro to distro, you’ll probably be wanting to look for something similar to system-config-lvm. Before you begin, make sure that you have a partition with your preferred filesystem on each hard drive so you can correctly initialize them.

The GUI Tool

combine hard drives into one

When you start the tool, you’ll be greeted by something similar to this screenshot, but with more white space. I already have a LVM going on in my system, so whenever I open it I am greeted with some graphs. From here you can go to the left pane and go into “Uninitialized Entities” and choose the partitions you want to turn into an LVM. If you need help choosing which one is the correct one, you can use GParted or Palimpsest to help you out.

combine hard drives

Click on “Initialize Entity” and acknowledge the warning. Once that is done, you can go ahead and create a new Volume Group. It gives you a number of options, but they can stay at their defaults. Just name the Volume Group, and you’re done. It’s preferable that you put “vg_” as a prefix, just to help differentiate between names later on if necessary. You can repeat the same process on your other hard drives, except that you’ll be adding the rest to a VG, and not creating a new one every time.

combine hard drives

Now you can go to your new Volume Group and click on Logical View. You have almost everything set up, except for the Logical Volume. Click on the appropriate button to do that and you’ll see another window full of configurations. You can type in a name (preferably with a “lv_” prefix), how large it should be based on the available space in the VG, what filesystem it should be and where to mount it, and if the volume should be mirrored across two hard drives. Be warned though that if the hard drives have different sizes, your Logical Volume’s usable size can become much less if mirrored. Choose the parameters that you want and hit OK.

combine hard drives into one

That’s it! You can now make use of your new combined space and not have to worry about finding things on different drives.


LVM is a great way to combine all of your hard drives into one seamless working volume. It brings many practical features to your computer so that you can get more work done, and spend less time worrying. It’s also a great way to get the same “Drive Extender” feature that Windows Home Server uses. Plus with mirroring, you can also be sure that if one hard drive fails, you still have all your data. How cool is that?

What do you think of LVM? Are you possibly going to use it in the future? Do you have any home servers that are using LVM? Let us know in the comments!

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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OtterBox Reflex Series Case for iPhone 4 Review and Giveaway

Posted: 18 Apr 2011 08:30 AM PDT

Over the past few months, we’ve reviewed quite a few iPhone cases — some were fancy, others were biodegradable. We’ve even reviewed some antibacterial iPhone cases. However, if we were to asked to pick the most dependable, rugged iPhone case, our choice would be Otterbox cases everytime. In the past, we’ve reviewed the Otterbox Defender and Commuter cases, and we loved both of them simply because of the level of protection they provided.

Today, we’ll be looking at their newest case for the iPhone 4 from the Reflex series. We’ve also got one to give away so stick around if you’d like to win it.

When it comes to protection, Otterbox has always been considered the industry standard. However, most of their cases are slightly bulky and doesn’t really appeal to the everyday user. The Reflex series case, on the other hand, is by far their lightest iPhone 4 case (at just 26g) with the lowest profile and doesn’t look out of place at all. In fact, it looks like a regular hardshell case but what you can’t see is the amount of research and development that went into creating this case — it’s not your ordinary iPhone case in the slightest bit.

The case (and the entire line of Reflex cases) gets its name from the design — interestingly, it borrowed the idea of the automobile “crumple zone” and integrated it into the case, resulting in a protective, yet flexible case that is shock-absorbent. As you can see, the case isn’t entirely plastic. It has a 1 cm plastic zone along the edges that extend into the corners. These reflex zones bend upon impact and spring back into position, thereby protecting the iPhone from any potential damage that may result from a fall.

The Reflex series case is a two-piece assembly which separates at the middle and is joined together via a smart “clip” which on its own, does’t really seem to do anything but when an iPhone is slotted in, the two pieces clip together firmly until they’re taken apart again.

Besides the reflex zone, the rest of the Reflex case is pretty standard: the dock connectors, silent switch, headphone jack and noise cancellation mic access are all unobstructed. The sleep and volume control buttons are both covered. As you can see from the image below, the case bevels over the iPhone’s screen, giving it that little extra bit of protection.

As with all Otterbox products, the Reflex series iPhone 4 case comes with a screen protector, application card and micro-fibre cleaning cloth.

Overall, the Reflex case is very different from the rest of the Otterbox product line — it’s slim and light, yet it still has that Otterbox protective factor. If I’m to be completely honest, there’s only one thing about the case that I dislike and that’s the fact that it doesn’t provide a soft, rubbery inner lining.

The Otterbox Reflex Case for iPhone 4 retails at $44.95 and is available from their online store. We’re giving one away this week and here’s how to win it.

How do I win it?

It’s simple, just follow the instructions.

Step 1: Fill in the giveaway form

Please fill in the form with your real name and email address so that we can get in touch if you are chosen as a winner. Click here if you can’t view the form.

The giveaway code required to activate the form is available from our Facebook page.

Step 2: Share!

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

Like it on Facebook

Or share it on Twitter

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

This giveaway begins now and ends Friday, April 22nd at 2100hrs PDT. The winner will be selected at random and informed via email.

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