Friday, April 29, 2011 “Cool Websites and Tools [April 28th]” plus 9 more “Cool Websites and Tools [April 28th]” plus 9 more

Link to MakeUseOf

Cool Websites and Tools [April 28th]

Posted: 28 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.

Add Your Website Here!


Push Browser – Push Browser lets you easily share links between a Chrome browser and iOS devices. It is available as an extension for Chrome and as an app for iPhone/iPod Touch and iPad. Set up an account and install it for Chrome and on your preferred iOS devices. Read more: Push Browser App: Quickly Share Links Between Google Chrome & iOS Devices


Social Compare Sizes – To accurately visualize the size difference of 2 or more objects, you need to place them alongside each other. Online, this can be done using a tool called Social Compare Sizes, a free to use website that lets you compare the sizes of various objects. You can select from a set of predefined objects such as the iPad, iPhone, an SD card, a set of AA batteries, etc. Read more: Compare-Sizes: Compare Sizes Of Objects Online



App Demo Store – Demos serve as helpful guides while showing the usage of an application or giving instructions to the user. Here to help developers offer smartphone-dedicated demos is a site called App Demo Store, a collection of smartphone-related demos. Read more: App Demo Store: Create Smartphone App Demos & Share



Bookclubit – Book clubs offer an excellent forum to booklovers. By getting together, members of a book club are able to share and discuss their opinions about a particular book. Now you can get the benefits of a physical book club online by visiting a site called BookClubIt. Read more: Bookclubit: Create & Join Online Book Clubs & Interact With Other



Excuse Generator – Gore Mountain is a premier family ski resort in upstate New York. To help people get away from the daily routine, the website of Gore Mountain offers various handy excuses through its page called Excuse Generator, a simple website that lists a number of excuses that can be used to escape to Gore Mountain. Read more: Excuse Generator: A Site That Offers Handy Excuses For All Occasions


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.

Follow MakeUseOf on Twitter. Includes cool extras.



More articles about:

Chilling Effects – A Lesson In DMCA Takedown Notices

Posted: 28 Apr 2011 06:31 PM PDT

cease and desist letterThe Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a major slice of law put in place by the United States government in order to crack down on the piracy of common media, software and other intellectual property.

Chilling Effects is an information portal and compendium of cease-and-desist or DMCA “takedown” notices, submitted by the individuals who sent or received them. The site makes for an interesting read and contains thousands of angry letters from copyright holders, ordering material to be removed.

Would you know what to do if you received a takedown notice? Are you aware of how DMCA cease-and-desist orders can be counter-productive for copyright holders? Read on to find out more.

The Chilling Effects Website

At the forefront of the Chilling Effects movement are the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the self proclaimed defenders of freedom in the digital world. Along with the EFF are several prominent universities and law schools, including Harvard, Stanford and the George Washington School of Law.

cease and desist letter

Not only is Chilling Effects home to a searchable database of takedown notices, but also contains advice and information regarding specific copyright infractions and advice on what to do if you receive a cease-and-desist order yourself.

cease and desist

Above all, the website recommends that you send in a copy of the takedown notice, so that it can be added to the database, analysed and publicly displayed. There are also simplified, easy to understand explanations of individual areas, such as copyright, fan fiction and defamation.

Sending & Receiving Takedown Notices

The website is geared towards those who have received and those who have sent cease-and-desist orders, and has submission areas for both receiving and issuing a notice. If you have sent a takedown notice then you’ll be asked for your details, the recipient’s details and a copy of the notice itself.

cease and desist

On the other hand if you have received a notice yourself then the submission process is a little more complicated. First you must find a category for the complaint, of which there are many spanning topics like defamation, parody websites and patent infringement.

cease and desist letter sample

Next fill in your personal information and the senders details, and copy and paste the notice you received into the C&D Notice Body box. Hit Enter to send your report, and wait. Chilling Effects, its academic foundations and the law students who attend these institutions will then attempt to provide legal feedback regarding the notice you received.

Whilst there is no guarantee that your case in particular will receive a personal reply, your report may improve Chilling Effects in the long run:

"When you send us a cease and desist notice, we will categorize it and add it to the “chilling effects” database. The law school clinics will then review the general issues raised and add to the developing set of FAQs on the subject(s). Each letter or incident added to the database also helps describe the scope of the “chilling” problem: How much legitimate activity is being stopped by meritless threats, and who is sending ungrounded claims?"

Missing The Point?

If you do receive a notice it is often best not to challenge it at all. Once you have removed the content your website is no longer liable, and you should be in the clear. Fighting the case will often require legal representation, which is often far more costly for the individual than the multi-national claimant.

cease and desist letter sample

There has been widespread criticism of the DMCA, many claiming that takedown notices are overpowered and make it too easy for copyright owners to remove content that may or may not be infringing.

In March 2009 Google published statistics which confirmed that over half of all takedown notices received (57%) were sent by businesses targeting rivals. It also emerged that 37% of cease-and-desist orders were not valid copyright claims at all.

cease and desist letter sample

In a move that’s typically Google, the company have been sending the valid DMCA takedown notices they have received to Chilling Effects for inclusion in the database. As Google is a search giant, these notices often relate to search results and website listings within the Google database.

One such issuer of DMCA notices has been Microsoft, who regularly seem to get in touch with Google over copyright infringements, especially when it comes to the Windows operating system. When these full reports are published on Chilling Effects they include offending search terms and links to websites that house this content.

cease and desist letter

I’m not advocating piracy, but many of the copyright claims against Google relate to pirated software, and these reports are public once Chilling Effects get hold of them. These reports all contain the locations of suspected pirated materials, delivered by the claimants themselves.

This presents somewhat of a catch 22 situation. Many feel it is important to have a public record of these notices (sharing filed reports does not contravene the DMCA), but each successful takedown notice points to another bit of questionable copyright.


Chilling Effects is a fantastic resource, especially if you run a public website (such as forums or image boards) and are concerned about your responsibility over content. If you do ever receive a copyright infringement notice then submitting it to the website can not only help you, but also others who are browsing the site for guidance.

Have you encountered any DMCA brick walls? Takedown notices? Ever filed a complaint? Concerned about intellectual property rights? The MakeUseOf court is in session, take your place in the witness box below.

Follow MakeUseOf on Twitter. Includes cool extras.



More articles about: , , ,

How To Permanently Store Your Data In The Cloud

Posted: 28 Apr 2011 04:31 PM PDT

storing data in cloudsWith the establishment of the Internet as a giant storage place, metaphorically referred to as The Cloud, local backups, cross-device syncing, and local data storage is becoming more and more redundant. In fact, the average user already stores a bulk of personal data online. Soon, even the data hoarders may find sufficient space in the digital cloud to say goodbye to terabyte-sized hard drives and complicated backup and sync procedures.

Are you ready to step into The Cloud? In this article I will show you how you can become largely independent of local data storage and store your data in the cloud. I will provide an overview of how the Internet can help you sync information across different software, platforms and devices to have your data accessible anytime, anywhere by you or by anyone you choose.

Cloud Messaging: Email

Whether you maintain a webmail account like Yahoo, Hotmail, or GMail or send and receive email via a desktop client, your messages inevitably pass through The Cloud and are stored on Internet servers, at least temporarily. The advantage of a webmail account that permanently stores your mails online, is that you cannot lose important messages and data. Some people even scan important documents and mail them to their own webmail account in order to have permanent access to them. It’s a thought worth tossing around.

Consider Google Mail for a permanent webmail account. Apart from over 7GB of free storage, it offers incredible features that will let you experience email in a whole new light.

MakeUseOf has covered GMail extensively. Here is a small selection:

Online File Storage: Dropbox

At first sight, Dropbox is a harmless little folder that sits on your desktop and holds your files. What hides behind it however, is a nifty little sync tool that works in the background and never hassles you. Not only are files in your Dropbox automatically encrypted and synced to your online Dropbox account, you also have access to 30 days of undo history, you can share Dropbox subfolders with your friends, access your files online, or sync them to as many devices as you like. 2GB of this cloud storage madness is totally free.

Care to learn more about Dropbox? Check out these articles:

Brain Online: Evernote

Evernote is something like your online pinboard or fridge for useful bits and pieces of information, some even call it their external brain. Whether it’s business cards, recipes, ideas, pictures, or invitations, on Evernote you can store any piece of information you want to remember. Evernote will index text, even from scanned documents or pictures and whenever you need the information, you can easily search and access your data collection wherever you are.

Let us get you started on Evernote:

Passwords Anywhere: LastPass

What is the greatest annoyance when you quickly want to check your email on a friend’s computer or in an Internet café? After years of letting your browser store your password, you actually forget it! The same fate awaits those who reinstall their computer or set up a new device.

LastPass is a long term solution because it encrypts and stores your passwords online. It also offers extensions for all major browsers and mobile devices, allowing you to sync passwords across multiple browsers and operating systems and all your gadgets. In addition, LastPass provides a secure password generator, which creates nearly uncrackable passwords.

Bookmarks Sync: Xmarks

When we talk about The Cloud, we’re automatically talking about browsers and bookmarks. Browsers are our digital window into The Net and being the most important tool for accessing the Internet, many people are almost emotionally attached to their browser. While many browsers now offer syncing of personal data, what they all lack is cross-browser-syncing of bookmarks. What good are your bookmarks if you cannot access them anywhere?

bookmarks sync

Note that Xmarks will no longer sync passwords. The company has acquired LastPass and is thus deprecating the password sync feature in Xmarks.

Cloud Entertainment: Amazon Cloud Drive & Player

Right now, Amazon Cloud Drive is nothing but yet another online storage space. However, with the introduction of its Cloud Player, it provides a glimpse into the future of digital entertainment. Soon, we will store our media files locally, they will all be located in the cloud and accessible through apps on our digital devices. You can text the future now by using the 5GB free space on Amazon Cloud Drive for your music (US only).

Do you now see how laptops in the future will be based on a browser rather than an operating system? If you’re all ears about The Cloud now, you might like these articles:

Needless to say, an article like this can only scratch the surface and show the biggest and best cloud tools to store data in the cloud. There are many, many more and I’m sure you know one or the other. So are you floating freely in The Cloud already or is something holding you back? Please share your opinions in the comments!

Image credits: Lightspring

Follow MakeUseOf on Twitter. Includes cool extras.



More articles about: , , , , , , , , , ,

Find, Listen To, Or Promote New Music With Amazing Tunes

Posted: 28 Apr 2011 02:31 PM PDT

new music releasesHere’s a little something for those of you who love to make or listen to new music. The Internet has given us yet another awesome way to discover and promote music: Amazing Tunes. The idea behind Amazing Tunes is so incredibly simple that you’ll probably jump on board instantly.

The Amazing Tunes Radio Station

Amazing Tunes have created a UK radio station for new music releases and have promoted the station enough to attract some big names and labels to their airwaves. They also offer this station online and certain shows as podcasts for the rest of the world to enjoy. Amazing Tunes are so good at attracting new talent that they are able to claim that they play 100% new music.

new music releases

For the listeners, this is great news. You’ll get to hear all sorts of new music releases every day and you’ll never get bored of what you’re hearing. In fact, you”ll have to act quick to get hold of the tracks you love before you forget what they were and get interested in something else.

Browsing Music On Amazing Tunes

As you may have guessed, you can also browse the selection of music by searching for popular tags, for emerging or famous artists, browsing the charts, featured artists, track name or any other way that takes your fancy. You can then listen to tracks using the flash player or you can purchase the track.

new music

Recommendations & Personalisation

If you’re logged in, you can also tag tracks as you wish or mark the songs you like using the heart and broken heart buttons. Logging in requires either a simple sign-up or use of a Facebook Connect login.

If you’ve rated enough tracks, Amazing Tunes can begin to recommend more tracks you might like. The more you rate, the better your recommendations will be.

Playlists can also be created by clicking the playlist button whenever you find or hear a song you like.

new music

Buying Tracks From Amazing Tunes

Since any artist can upload music to be heard on the radio or sold via Amazing Tunes, there’s a decent collection of tracks you can purchase. At the moment, all tracks are 79p each or free. Not too onerous, huh? Once you’ve paid, you’re emailed a download link.

Getting Your Music On Amazing Tunes

Amazing Tunes have made it easy to give them your music as high quality MP3 files. All you do is upload it to their site and they’re able to play it on the radio. You’ll need to sign up, but that only involves a simple form or a Facebook Connect login. Make sure you own the copyright for all parts of your music and lyrics before you upload your tracks.

new music

Your tracks will be available for people to listen to via the website and may eventually feature in the Amazing Tunes Audition. If it gets enough attention it will get played on Amazing Tunes radio.

discover music

If you choose to make your tracks available to sell, you’ll need to provide a Paypal account. Amazing Tunes passes 100% of the profits directly to the artist, although Paypal fees do apply. Amazing Tunes recommend that you sign up for PayPal’s micropayment system in order to keep as much of your income as possible. Not a bad way for a struggling musician to make a bit of spare cash at all – there’s nothing to lose!

new music releases

You can also promote your gigs for free through Amazing Tunes too.

More Music Discovery Services

We know you love music, so check out these other music discovery services, too:

Have you signed up for Amazing Tunes? What do you think? Let us know in the comments!

Image Credit: ShutterStock

Follow MakeUseOf on Twitter. Includes cool extras.



More articles about: , , , , , ,

Hot Tech Deals – Sony Ericsson XPERIA X8 + more

Posted: 28 Apr 2011 01:30 PM PDT

Today, we’ve got the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X8 for $160; some cheap, refurbished Logitech products and a couple more random deals.

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

  1. Lenovo Video Docking Station (VDK8726) for Laptops $47.99 Free Shipping
  2. TODAY ONLY hec ITX200A MiniITX HTPC Computer Case w/ 200w PSU $34.99 Free Ship
  3. Logitech Z623 2.1ch Multimedia Speakers (Dented Box, THX Certified) $94.99 Free Shipping
  4. Logitech Harmony 610 Advanced Universal Remote (REFURB) $39.99 Free Shipping
  5. Sony Ericsson XPERIA X8 3in Touchscreen Smartphone $159.99 Free Shipping
  6. Asus G73JH-BST7 Intel Core i7-740QM Quad 17.3in Laptop w/ Radeon 5870 (REFURB) $899
  7. iRobot Roomba 560 Vacuum Cleaner w/ 2 Virtual Walls (REFURB) $199.99 Free Shipping via code EMCKFHB75 (Exp 5/4)

NEW: Download MakeUseOf iPhone App. FREE!



More articles about:

Save Paper By Formatting & Printing Your Files With Govert’s Imposition Tool [Windows]

Posted: 28 Apr 2011 12:31 PM PDT

print to pdfPaper costs money. Save both by printing your PDFs on half-pages. Whether you want a booklet or side-by-side copies, a free tool for Windows not only makes this possible but also simple. Stop messing around with printer settings and get the document exactly how you want it. Many printers allow you to print to PDF as a booklet, or to print side-by-side copies. The interface for doing so however, varies depending on the type of printer you’re using and a number of other factors.

Whether you routinely print our free PDF manuals or find yourself with a steady stream of documents you need to print and read, this is a tool you should probably know about.

Getting Started

To get started, simply download Govert’s imposition tool. It comes as a single executable file, but you’ll need to download .NET 2.0 to run this program. Once everything’s working, you’ll have a window that looks like this:

print to pdf

Add a PDF, pick the print mode you want and you’ll quickly make a new PDF file formatting the way you want it.

What do these different modes mean? Great question. Keep reading to find out, and to see pages from a yet-to-be-released manual.

Booklet Printing

Want a booklet you can fold and staple down the middle? This is the mode you’re looking for. Govert’s tool will automatically arrange your document for convenient book making, so try this out if you want something that feels and reads like a book.

best way to print pdf file

You can optionally include folding marks, which makes the process a little bit simpler. There will also be a few blank “pages”, depending on your total number of pages, but this is normal in the world of publishing.

2-Up Printing

Want two “pages” per page, but aren’t very keen about the folded booklet? 2-up printing will put two consecutive pages on each sheet of paper, making for easy reading without a lot of extra work.

best way to print pdf file

Optional lines can seperate the two pages printed on a single sheet, which isn’t necessary but sometimes nice.

Duplicate, Side By Side

Want two copies of your document? This is the tool you need. Every sheet will have two versions of the same page.  Perfect if you are printing out leaflets and flyers.

best way to print pdf file

Cut every sheet down the middle and you’ve got two half-page documents. You can optionally have a cutmark on the top page, which is great if you’re going to use a paper-cutter to slice through an entire document.

2 by 2 1/2 Inches

This is like the duplicate setting, but you only get one copy. Basically: if you cut the sheets in half down the middle you have two stacks. The left side of the page is the first half of the document; the right, the second.

print to pdf

Great if you want the document to be a stack of half-page sheets.


I like this tool quite a bit; thanks go to Freeware Genius for pointing it out.

Soon after becoming the eBook editor I was surprised to learn that many of our readers print our guides. I’m not sure why this surprised me; perhaps it’s because I rarely read anything on paper anymore and print documents even less often. While I do understand the appeal of printing such manuals, using full pages to do so is pretty wasteful. Tools like this make printing our manuals less wasteful, so I recommend all of our readers do so.

Prefer reading PDFs on your e-reader? So do I, but the formatting can be problematic. If this is familar to you, you’ll find Briss makes PDF files e-reader friendly. Even if you don’t use e-readers, combining Briss with Govert’s tool could have some awesome results. If you try this, share your thoughts in the comments below.

Do you have any other PDF printing tips or tools you use to print to PDF? Share them below, along with your questions about Govert’s imposition tool.

Follow MakeUseOf on Twitter. Includes cool extras.



More articles about: , , ,

Create An Easy Informative Website Tour For Your Site In Minutes With Amberjack

Posted: 28 Apr 2011 11:31 AM PDT

create website toursWouldn’t it be cool if you could go to a brand new website that you’ve never visited before, and just click a button to get a brief tour of the site? You could see whether or not the site was worth your time, in far less time than it would take for you to browse through the site yourself. Well, now you can offer that service to your own website visitors. A very cool, free service called Amberjack lets you create a website tour that will highlight all of the best areas and features of your website. Within minutes, you can convince your newest visitors that your website is well worth becoming a regular visitor.

There were a couple of services like this mentioned at MUO before, such as Touration and Demofuse, but as far as I can tell none of them had the ease of use, and the ability to customize the tour to your liking so easily. The method that Amberjack uses to do this is impressive. Within just a few quick steps, the site generates javascript code that runs the Amberscript tour application – turning the browser window into a virtual tour of your website, exactly how you configured it. It’s the coolest tool that I’ve seen for web designers in a very long time.

Setting Up Your Amberjack Tour

If you’re nervous about installing anything on your own web server, don’t worry about it. The tool runs on Amberjack’s server. All you have to do is paste the code into your main page (such as your header.php file), and paste the button graphic into your page design. All visitors have to do is click the button to start the tour.

To design the tour, just visit Amberjack and click “Create Your Own Tour.”

create website tours

On the Basic tab, all you have to do is fill in the URLs for the webpages on your site that you want to highlight as part of the tour. Don’t get too carried away. No one is going to want to sit through twenty pages of the same thing – just choose five or six of the cool areas and features of your site and past those URLs into the fields.

The Skin tab selects the theme of the tour. You can pretty much leave everything else on all of the other tabs as is, but if you want to customize the look and feel of the tour, Amberjack gives you the flexibility to do so.

website tour creator

On the Behavior tab, you can select the name of the Tour – the default is “MyTour“, and that ID will be used in the link that sends visitors into “tour mode” for your website. I also highly suggest changing the “Close Button” and “Exit Page” URLs to send visitors back to your main page. This gives the appearance to visitors as though the browser view simply changed from the “Tour” view to the regular view – seamlessly running the Amberjack tour without ever leaving your site.

website tour creator

The Captions tab lets you further customize what the tour will look like. You can change what characters show up on the previous and next tabs, the close button, and the website page number description (this will all make sense once you see the tour!)

website tour creator

Finally, there are also some advanced options where you can have the tour fetch a CSS file or a JavaScript file at the end of the tour. This lets you further customize the behavior as visitors transition out of the tour back to your site. If you don’t know what any of this means – just leave the fields blank!

website tour software

Finally, just click the “Create Your Code” button at the bottom of any one of the configuration windows, and the Amberjack system creates your tour and gives you the three pieces of code that you need to embed the system onto your site. You’ll find the large snippet of code that goes in your website header under “Tour HTML code“.

website tour software

The “tour entry link” is the link that anyone can type into the browser to see your website tour – you don’t necessarily need a button. However, you’ll find the button code listed on this page as well. This is a good thing to place at the top of your main page – the first thing a new visitor will see.

When you do paste the code into the script area of your header, don’t forget to replace the “Placeholder” text with the text that you want to display when that particular page shows up in the tour.

website tour software

Either embed the button on your site, or add a link – something like “take a tour of this site” – on your main page. You can even send the tour link to anyone you want via email, and they can visit your website tour directly. The link looks like it goes directly to your site – but it calls the Amberjack tour script.

The tour window pops up an explanation box over the webpage and dims the page itself so that it is sort of a background window that visitors can view as they read your explanation about the page.

create website tours

This is a cool website feature that some web designers would spend hours trying to code and implement on a webpage, and thanks to Amberjack, you can create a website tour and have it implemented on your site in literally a matter of minutes.

Give Amberjack a try with your site, and sell your website to your newest visitors, in your own words. Let us know what you thought of the system. Was it easy enough to customize? Is there anything you would add? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Follow MakeUseOf on Twitter. Includes cool extras.



More articles about: , , , , , ,

4 Great Plugins For Easy Installation In Linux

Posted: 28 Apr 2011 10:31 AM PDT

easy linux installationWe know that there are numerous open source programs that find their home in both Windows and Linux. Many of these turn out to be among the apps that we use daily. However, did you know that you can get certain plugins only for Linux? Plus if a plugin exists for Windows, Linux lets you easily install them. Let’s find out what they are.

FX-Foundry For GIMP

FX-Foundry is a great set of plugins for GIMP to make image manipulation a lot easier with cool effects. It’s more than likely that everything an active graphics or image editor will need is included in this pack, because the menu dedicated to FX-Foundry is pretty extensive.

The plugins can be installed from their website by downloading the .tar file and extracting all the individual files into the correct directories. In this way Windows users can use the same plugins. However, compared to the Linux way this is a difficult procedure. Fedora, for example, has these plugins packaged up, so it’s simply a matter of selecting the checkbox while you’re installing GIMP. You should check your distribution for whether they have the plugins packaged or not because availability varies from distro to distro.

easy linux installation

Thunderbird Plugin For Libnotify

Many GNOME-based distributions often have libnotify as a common way to show notifications from multiple programs. The programs that come with the distribution by default will all probably have support for this notification system, but once you start installing other programs, things start to look a bit different. If the program doesn’t have native support for libnotify, then your only hope is for a plugin that will do the job.

Thunderbird has its own notification system and looks out of place when it appears. However, there’s a plugin to fix that! Simply get the plugin from here, install it, go over the settings, and you’re done! All the notifications should go over libnotify now. Don’t forget to turn off Thunderbird’s default notifications, otherwise you’ll see your messages twice.

easy linux install

GnuCash Finance::Quote Plugin

In case you’ve played around with the Windows version of GnuCash, you’ll maybe have noticed that a few select features do not work without the specific Finance::Quote plugin. Written in Perl, this plugin allows the program to download quotes about stocks, currencies, and whatever else the world offers. Since the developers can’t force you to install Perl on Windows (which isn’t exactly easy), they leave that plugin out and let you install it if you really need it. However, in Linux, that won’t be an issue. For all distros that I’ve ever used, the plugin came automatically with the installation of GnuCash. How cool is that?

easy linux install

Banshee Plugins

Unless you closely follow a handful of Linux programs, it’ll come as a surprise to you that there are currently Windows builds for Banshee, a great music player. I haven’t tried out the Windows app myself, but I’m pretty sure that they have added a couple of plugins. Though once you get to the Linux side, you’ll notice that there are a lot of plugins for this app. Just search for Banshee in your repository and handfuls of plugins will start showing up along with it, ready to install. Just look at the screenshot for some of the many that I have installed!

easy linux installation


The highly customizable nature of Linux is demonstrated by these easy to install plugins that can definitely make your user experience better. The great thing about plugins that are installed via package management systems is that they automatically update when there’s a new release pushed to the repositories. New versions let you enjoy more features and tighter security.

Are there any plugins that you really enjoy in Linux? Share them with us in the comments!

Image Credit: Flickr

Follow MakeUseOf on Twitter. Includes cool extras.



More articles about: ,

Listen To & Record Songs From Internet Radio Stations With StreamWriter [Windows]

Posted: 28 Apr 2011 09:31 AM PDT

record internet radioLong before the age of the computer and the Internet – and even before the age of television - radio was the most advanced entertainment system in every household. Unlike audio cassettes, radio survived the stampede of newer and more advanced technologies while maintaining a fairly strong fan base.

Radio has evolved for the better by embracing the Internet. Now it’s more global: anybody can access almost unlimited choices of radio stations in any imaginable genre from all over the world. But traditional radio receivers can’t handle streams of Internet radio. You need the new breed of radio receivers in a new form of desktop application.

If you are a fan of Internet radio, you might want to try StreamWriter. This is a Windows application that will help you listen to and record songs from Internet radio stations.

The Portable Radio Recorder

StreamWriter is available as both a portable and installable application. Both versions require some preliminary setup when you first use it. Other than deciding on the language, you have to determine the location to save the application data. If you install the application to your hard drive, choose “registry/application data folder“. But if you use the portable version, choose “application path“.

record internet radio

You also need to decide where to save your recorded songs. If you use the portable version and save the songs on your USB thumb drive, make sure you have enough space on the limited space drive.

record streaming radio

The main interface of StreamWriter is divided into two: the stream list on the left and the station search/filter on the right.

record streaming radio

Start by searching or filtering the Internet radio stations according to your liking. You can use music genre, bitrate and file type to find the stations you like. While there are lots of genres you could choose, there are only three bitrate options (64, 128 and 192 KBps) and two file types (MP3 and AAC).

record streaming radio

Double click on one of the search results to start recording/streaming that particular station. You can choose more than one station, but please note that all the stations will share your Internet bandwidth. So if your Internet connection speed is a bit slow, you should limit the number of stations that you record.

how to record internet radio

You can also listen to one of the stations while recording them. Select one station and click the play button. You can also stop recording a station by selecting it and clicking the “stop record” button (the blue square with the red dot on it).

You can refine the category of your recorded songs by adding more filters. Choose the “Filters” tab and type in additional strings in the “Wishlist“. You can even add artist names and song titles if you want to. Songs that match these strings will be downloaded when one of your chosen stations plays them, and they will be displayed in the right pane.

how to record internet radio

The “Saved songs” tab will list all of the recorded songs. I found out that you can play the songs on this list while also playing one of the stations under the “Streams” tab. So unless you can set your brain to process two sources of audio at once, you might want to turn off one source before playing the other.

how to record internet radio

Some Settings & Notes

Further adjustments are available in the “Settings” window. One of them is the ability to “Skip ads“. This will make sure that the application will only record the songs

04b Settings Cut

Or if you want to assign a keyboard shortcut to the playback control, you can do so in the “Hotkey” section.

record internet radio

You can explore other settings and adjust each one to your preferences.

Some of you might wonder whether recording Internet radio is legal. I honestly don’t know, but I guess it’s as legal as pressing the record button when the traditional radio plays your favorite songs. But even if you don’t want to record anything, you still can use StreamWriter to listen to Internet radio streams.

So what do you think about StreamWriter? Have you tried it? Are you using a different application to listen to Internet radio? Share your thoughts and opinions using the comments below. Oh and if you like Internet radio, don’t forget to check out our article about Shuffler.

Image credit: C.P.Storm

Follow MakeUseOf on Twitter. Includes cool extras.



More articles about: , , , , ,

The 5 Best New Desktop Video Cards

Posted: 28 Apr 2011 08:31 AM PDT

best video cardsIf you want to play games on your PC there is no single component that’s more important than the video card. Although other parts – such as the processor and the memory – have an impact, most games are limited by the video card that you have in your system.

Fortunately, video cards are widely available and not difficult to install. Most simply insert in your computer’s PCI Express 16x slot, and it’s usually possible to install the video card without removing other components in your PC. The most difficult part of acquiring a new video card is often finding the right one at the right price. I’ve picked out five of the best video cards, from the fastest to the most affordable.

Super-Ultra-High-End Card: AMD Radeon HD 6990

best video cards

If you have more money than you know what to do with and you want the fastest video card available today, you really have just two choices. One is the AMD Radeon HD 6990,and the other is the nVidia GeForce GTX 590.

These two cards are similar in many ways. They both have two high-end GPUs on a single card, both of these cards are essentially the same as two individual cards linked together in SLI or CrossFire, and both of these cards are far more expensive than anything else out right now.

Ultimately, however, the AMD Radeon HD 6990 wins, and for the most mundane of reasons; it’s actually available. The GTX 590 is out of stock at most retailers. The AMD Radeon HD 6990, on the other hand, is in stock for just a tad over $700. The 6990 is also slightly faster and offers a gigabyte of additional video memory, making this choice even easier.

High-End Card You Can Actually Afford: AMD Radeon HD 6950

video cards for computers

AMD’s Radeon 6900 series is the elite of AMD’s elite, and among the best video cards available today. The Radeon HD 6950 is the least powerful card in that line, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s not worth your time.

Inside the 6950 you’ll find AMD’s Cayman GPU with reeled in clock speeds and has disabled two SIMD units, resulting in a shader count of 1408 (the Radeon 6970 has 1536). Although this does cause a performance difference, the key spec to focus on is the GPU architecture. Even when slightly hobbled, Cayman is fast.

It’s the price, however, that really makes the Radeon HD 6950 shine. The basic model with 1GB of memory can be had for about $240, while the 2GB version is around $260. The base Radeon HD 6970 is at least $340. Paying 30% less for a 10% performance decrease seems like deal to me – and the Radeon HD 6950 usually beats the performance of nVidia’s GTX 560 Ti, as well.

Mid-Range Value Leader: AMD Radeon HD 6850

video cards for computers

Although the cards above are great, they’re both still over $200. That’s a sticky figure for many people, as it can be hard to justify spending as much money on a PC video card as you would on a new gaming console.

Fortunately, there are great cards below $200. One of the best is the AMD Radeon HD 6850, which offers (arguably) the best value of any card on the market. Selling for as little as $165, this video card is capable of playing  modern games at 1080p resolution with most or all detail settings on. According to the Steam hardware survey, about 65% of gamers are still playing games on monitors with a native resolution below 1080p. If you’re one of them, buying anything more than this would be overkill.

The Radeon HD 6850 is so good, in fact, that it dominates virtually every other cards priced $20 above or below it. The GeForce GTX 560 Ti has trouble competing, and AMD’s own Radeon HD 6970 feels rather pointless, as it is up to 20% slower but just 15 bucks less expensive.

Mid-Range Budget Option: nVidia GeForce GTX 550 Ti

video cards for computers

As you’ve no doubt noticed, the green team hasn’t had much of a showing in this list so far. That’s not because nVidia cards are terrible, as they are typically competitive with anything AMD has to offer. When it comes to price-for-performance, however, they’re usually just one step behind.

One card that does manage to beat out the AMD competition, however, is the GeForce GTX 550 Ti. This relatively new card from nVidia hit the market with an MSRP of $149, at which point it fell victim to the Radeon HD 6850′s awesomeness. But since its release the GTX 550 Ti has dropped in price to as little as $135, giving the card the chance to stand on its own.

The GTX 550 Ti’s performance is about 20% less than that of the Radeon HD 6850, but with a price gap of at least $30 separating the cards, that’s tolerable. In addition to this, the GTX 550 Ti clearly stomps similarly priced competition such as the older nVidia GTX 450. If you’d like a new video card but can’t afford – or don’t need – the Radeon HD 6850, this is a good pick.

The Sub-$100 Warrior: AMD Radeon HD 6670

best video cards

Budgeting only $100 for a video card really limits what you can buy, but it’s understandable. PC gaming is not a cheap hobby, and if you have a very old card that needs to be upgraded so you can play more modern games, picking something under $100 may be your only choice.

Your best bet in this slim section of the market is likely the Radeon HD 6670, a $100 video card that offers usable performance. It will play almost any game at a resolution of 1680×1050 with the detail settings at high, and most games at 1080p with detail settings at more moderate levels.

When it comes to price-for-performance, the Radeon HD 6670 actually is not that attractive compared to the GeForce GTX 550 Ti or Radeon HD 6850. If your budget is absolutely limited to $100, however, this is easily the fastest card you’ll be able to purchase.


Video card recommendations are always a contentious subject, as the battle between the green team (nVidia) and the red team (ATI/AMD) has been on for years. Do you have a favorite card that’s missing here? Let us know in the comments.

Follow MakeUseOf on Twitter. Includes cool extras.



More articles about: , , ,

No comments:

Post a Comment