Saturday, May 21, 2011 “Cool Websites and Tools [May 20th]” plus 11 more “Cool Websites and Tools [May 20th]” plus 11 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [May 20th]

Posted: 20 May 2011 08:31 PM PDT

Check out some of the latest MakeUseOf discoveries. Most of the listed websites are FREE or come with a decent free account option. If you want to have similar cool website round-ups delivered to your daily email, subscribe here.

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Peakery – is a site dedicated to mountain peaks, mountaineers and mountain climbing experiences. It has a collection of more than 150,000 of the world's mountains in 3 different views – List View, Map View and Photo View. You can also check out mountains by region in the Peak Directory. Read more: Peakery: An Online Directory To Explore & Share Mountain Experiences


Links In Text-Only Mode – If you are at work and a friend gives you a link to click, you should ensure that the link does not have NSFW pictures, ads, and media that will get you into trouble. A nifty tool that helps confirm this is “Links in Text-Only Mode”, a browser extension for Google Chrome. It lets you open websites in their text-only mode. Read more: Links In Text-Only Mode: Text Only Web Page Viewing (Chrome)



Proposalpad – Running a business requires you to frequently send custom business proposals to potential clients. Thus having a competent system to create and manage proposals is imperative. ProposalPad is precisely such a system which lets you create custom proposals. Read more: Proposalpad: Create Business Proposals & Manage Them Online



Rewordious – If you and your spouse are both computer geeks, then there is a good chance that your offspring will be too. For them to 'make it' on the Internet, a domain registered in their name would be greatly helpful. This is where Rewordious comes into play. Read more: Rewordious: Find Available Domain Names For Your Kids



Rrrather – The Internet has many websites that help you pass the time. If you're in the mood to play a simple voting game, check out a site called Rrrather, a simple voting site that asks you 'preference questions'. These questions can be related to anything. Read more: Rrrather: A Fun Voting Site That Lets You Pick Between Two Options


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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The 9 Best Questions From You [MakeUseOf Answers]

Posted: 20 May 2011 06:31 PM PDT

MakeUseOf AnswersEvery Friday MakeUseOf Answers honors the Best Answer of the Week . Every answer is noticed and every feedback counts. If you ever ask a question, please do let us know whether suggestions were helpful and solutions worked out!

This week the winners are:

Best Answer of the Week – Gustavo Ibarguengoytia

1st Runner Up – Bruce Epper

2nd Runner Up – Jay

Congratulations to the winners!

You may not have won this week, but I do read every answer, so I did notice yours! Keep the answers coming and be next week's winner. Meanwhile, check out the best questions of the week:

MakeUseOf Answers can teach you a trick each day. Read, learn, and share by browsing the Latest Questions. For regular updates subscribe to the Answers RSS Feed.

Need help? Ask A Question at MakeUseOf Answers.

SuperTinTin – Skype Video Call Recorder
Record and save your audio and video conversations on Skype or MSN. Easy to use.


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Move, Copy, Open, & Remove Files With File Sorter [Mac]

Posted: 20 May 2011 04:30 PM PDT

remove mac files

I've written several articles on Mac automation software, including Automator and Apple's smart technology folders and albums. Much of our purpose with computers is to get work done faster and more efficiently. To this end, there are several paid third-party automation apps on the market, including Hazel and QuicKeys 4.0, that require no knowledge or use of automation code, as with AppleScript.

Well, finally, there's a free option that might make a useful introduction to bulk file and folder automation; it's called FileSorter—a free download in the Mac App Store.

Let me say upfront, FileSorter is not the best app for what it does. It's not even close. But it's a useful introduction to folder actions if you've never used a similar automator program before. FileSorter requires no knowledge of automation code. It simply sorts files based on rules and actions you assign. It works fairly well, but as a version 1.0.2, it has many limitations I will point out later.

Setting FileSorter Rules

After downloading FileSorter, launch it, and in the welcome window click on "Create a new rule."

remove mac files

There are three parts to creating rules and actions for moving, copying, or removing files. Here's a practical rule you might find useful:

This FileSorter rule will move PNG files on your desktop to a designated folder. This rule can be used for any type of files that normally gets placed on your desktop, and that’s why you would want to have a quick way to move them.
copy mac files
First click on the green + button in the menu bar of FileSorter. Click on the "Filename" and then on the  drop-down button, select "Extension." Next, click on the second drop-down button and select "is." In the final text box type "PNG" or any file extension, e.g. doc, pages, JPG, pdf,  that you want to quickly move. Before moving to the next part, assign a name to this action.

The rule we've set so far means that FileSorter will only act on files ending in the extension you specify. Next, we need to create a folder in the Finder to move selected files to when activated upon by FileSorter. So for example, you might move all the png files to a PNG folder inside the Pictures Folder of your Mac. Since for some files, FileSorter does not allow you to create a new folder inside its application, you need to create one before we add the action in the next step.
copy mac files
Next, click on the "Add Action" button, and in the drop-down menu select "Move," or Copy—whichever you prefer.
copy mac files
Now, click on the Edit button and select "Choose," and then select the PNG folder you created for this action.
open mac files
Now, to test it out, simply select PNG files on your desktop or anywhere in the Finder, and drag and drop them on top of the FileSorter icon in your Dock.
open mac files
FileSorter will automatically move your selected files to your designated folder.

That's the basic rule and action set up for FileSorter. This works for other type of files. For example, you can set up rules and actions to move items in your Download folder to various different folders in your Finder. This is a great way to sort say all those PDF and JPG files that get saved to your Downloads folder.

Similar Folder actions can be created using Automator as well. But again, since FileSorter is free, and if you have no experience with this type of automation you might want to download it and give it a try.

Growl Notice

open mac files
In FileSorter's Preferences, you might to want to click the "Use Growl Notifications" which will inform you that FileSorter has successfully run your rules and actions. See more about Growl here.

Other Rules

Another practical rule may be for quickly moving old files to the trash or an external drive.

In this example, you might want to move all your Word doc files that were created last year to the trash.

When you click on the Edit button, you can select to move the selected files to the Trash or just Delete them all together.
The similar rule could be used for moving or deleting files in a folder that are over a certain file size.

Finally, FileSorter allows you to add Automator workflows as an action. This is useful for including complex actions that FileSorter can't perform by itself. To add Automator actions, select "Open" as an action, click the Edit button and add the Automator application you want to run.
remove mac files


There are some big limitations with FileSorter, especially when compared to a paid app called Hazel, which has been around for quite a while and automates rules and actions without you having to manually select specified files and move them on an icon in the Dock.

The biggest limitation to FileSorter is that if you include two or more rules that are similar to one another, FileSorter will run them both. So say you make two different rules to act on PNG files. Both of your actions will run whether you want them to or not. Also, another limitation to the program is that Creation and Modification Date rules are limited to specific days. It would be better if it included parameters like, "in the last ___days", for example.

But again, if this type of Mac automation is new to you, FileSorter might well be worth downloading and trying out.

Let us know what you think about FileSorter and other similar Mac automation programs you use. Also, check out my free MUO PDF, The Awesome Automation Guide for Mac OS X.


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Twicca – A Fantastic Twitter Client For Android

Posted: 20 May 2011 03:31 PM PDT

android twitter clientTwitter is an ideal mobile platform; constantly-changing bite-sized updates fit beautifully into the hectic modern lifestyle, and it’s no coincidence the maximum length for a tweet is 140 characters: it’s based on the maximum length of an SMS, minus 20 characters for the username, as the LA Times tells us. But when you’re on the go and you just want to post a quick update or check what’s going on, you really don’t need a client that gets in your way.

Making a good mobile client is a fine balancing act. You need to provide your users with the functionality that they need, but you can’t risk being too confusing. There’s no manual, and even if there was one, nobody would take the time to read it. The app also needs to be very snappy and responsive. The Twicca Android Twitter client rises to the challenge.

android twitter client

This is Twicca’s homescreen. It shows my own Twitter stream; note the ancient date for the topmost tweet — that’s a feature, not a bug: My Twicca installation is set to update manually. This conserves battery; whenever I want to get a quick fix of Twitter I can just hit the “refresh” button (bottom-right), and get a fresh bunch of tweets down the line. Also, note the work done on the buttons – just four transparent buttons, each with a very descriptive icon. The buttons are very easy to hit: you don’t have to press the icon itself. Twicca also has a light theme you can use if all of that darkness is bringing you down.

android twitter client review

Next, let’s see what it looks like when you tweet:

android twitter client review

The tweet screen has five buttons along the bottom. The left-most one (hash-tag button) is the only button I found confusing in the app. It was disabled for me, and I simply could not get it to work. I have no idea what my mistake was, but I’m sure you will enlighten me in the comments. Other than that button, there’s an “attach media” button that pops up the menu you see in the screenshot. There’s also a geolocation button that gets you into a map and lets you select your location (so you can shift it a bit if you want to). Last but not least, there’s a “shorten URL” button.

Now let’s go back to the homescreen and see what happens when you long-press a tweet:

android twitter client review

As you can see, long-pressing a tweet selects it, and you can select multiple tweets. A short tap on the screen brings up this context menu:

best twitter app for android

Set color label” is an interesting option. It lets you assign an arbitrary color to a person’s tweets. This color is then used for their username, any links they tweet out, and as a vertical bar next to their tweet. This lets you zoom in on tweets from specific people very quickly.

When you short-tap just a single tweet, you get a much more extensive menu:

best twitter app for android

The “Share this tweet” button is interesting: It pops up Android’s default “Share” action, so you could do something like “share” someone’s tweet as an SMS to one of your contacts. Weird, yet interesting. “Retweet” instantly retweets the message to all of your followers, while “Quote selected tweet” lets you add a bit of your own text and retweet a message.

best twitter app for android

Twicca also lets you create lists right from within the app.

As you might have guessed, the Twicca Android Twitter client has a daunting amount of settings. This list doesn’t even show all setting categories, and each category has oodles of options. Users are lucky the default values are quite sane, but it you’re an obsessive tweaker who likes to customize every application, you’re going to love Twicca.

android twitter client

The one feature I’m missing is being able to use multiple accounts; I constantly monitor/update four different Twitter accounts, and not being able use Twicca for this is a bit of a downer. Other than that, I just love Twicca.

What do you think? Does this look like a compelling client, or do you know of a better alternative? Let your voice be heard!

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Mobeo – “Attack” Your Friends With This Fun Location-Based Application [iPhone & Android]

Posted: 20 May 2011 02:31 PM PDT

location based appsAnyone who has been following me or has read some of the articles in recent months will know I’m a big advocate of location based apps. Nearly a year ago I introduced you to Foursquare and other popular alternatives for checking in at locations. I’ve since gone on to cover interesting geo apps like Glympse and face2face. In each of these instances, you are either sharing your location with others or using the applications to find your friends. Often, points and things (like badges) are involved to make the experience a little more competitive, but how fun are these types of apps really?

In this article, I’ll introduce you to Mobeo, which takes the concept of geolocation to a whole new level with regard to having fun with your friends in a gaming environment. Not sure what I mean? How would you like to throw a flaming cabbage at one of your friends across town?

What Is Mobeo?

Mobeo is a location-based mobile application that lets you “play and interact with your friends by adding a game environment to your everyday world.” It’s been described as “Mario Kart” for your phone’s Google Maps – just without the racing.

location based apps

You can, for example, drop a Slippery Banana peel at your brother’s favorite coffee shop for him to trip on during his next visit, or throw a Flaming Cabbage at your best friend while she’s at the mall. With Mobeo, you can leave items wherever you are, whether you’re on your way to work/school or you’re at the grocery store. Throw items where you think your friends might be or leave them in places for them to find later.

location based mobile phone games

You will also be notified in real-time when your friends encounter one of your traps, as well as when your throws hit a target or when you discover notes around town. There is a points system (with badges!) and you can unlock new items through leveling up, also.

location based mobile phone games

Mobeo includes cross-platform messaging capabilities, so you can communicate with your friends and send them Mobeo gifts and notes while playing. You can also share events with your Facebook and Twitter accounts, which brings another social aspect to the app.

location based apps

If you’d like to see Mobeo in action, check out this short YouTube video:

How Do I Get Started Using Mobeo?

Mobeo is currently available for the iPhone and Android devices. For iPhone users, it’s important to note that Mobeo is only compatible with the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4, not the iPhone 3G. If you own a BlackBerry, Mobeo isn’t available for public release just yet, but they are looking for people to test the app on their phones.

You can also head over to Mobeo’s homepage to see the latest public activity and learn more about the app, including its rules of gameplay.

With location based apps, there are always privacy concerns. Know that Mobeo only shares your location and profile with the people you choose. You can specify who you would like to play with, whether it be a public game or a private one created for you and a group of friends.


In conclusion, Mobeo is pretty fun. If you can get your friends to use the app along with you it can turn into an ongoing battle with some real potential to be fun. I’m looking forward to getting more out of these kinds of apps once I get my fancy new iPhone, and I’m definitely excited about waging war on my friends, family members, and casual acquaintances with Mobeo.

What do you think of Mobeo? What are your thoughts on geolocation apps in general?

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Hot Tech Deals – McAfee Total Protection 2011 Software (3-Users) $8.99 + more

Posted: 20 May 2011 01:30 PM PDT

Today’s featured deal is a hot software offer — get McAfee Total Protection 2011 Software (3-Users) for just $8.99. If you didn’t manage to catch any of those $0 antivirus deals after rebate a couple of days ago, this is pretty darn close. For $9, you’ll get a year’s worth of anti-virus protection for 3 computers.

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How to Sign and Send Important Docs Without A Printer Or Scanner

Posted: 20 May 2011 12:31 PM PDT

digital signature softwareThese days, you can use the Internet for just about everything. Except, it seems, when random companies want you to sign forms and send them back in. Then you’re left printing a document, signing and scanning the paper and sending it off. It totally ruins your aim to be as paperless as possible, it’s a waste of time and it’s just generally annoying.

Thankfully, there’s people out there who have thought about this problem and have come up with a handy solution for us all. HelloFax is digital signature software that lets you upload the document and add a digital signature, and then it will fax the file or email it to your destination. There’s no need to print or scan anything, plus it can be done in moments. It’s almost too useful for words.

digital signature software

It’s always great to see new companies solving everyday problems in a creative, workable manner. The HelloFax digital signature software is such a revelation because it allows for a wide variety of file formats to be uploaded and for signatures to be added in a number of quick and useful ways. The overall result is a service which solves your problem quickly and painlessly — and that’s the best sort there is.

Using HelloFax

When you visit the HelloFax site, you’re presented with a simple interface which guides you through the process. You really can’t go wrong. There’s nothing to download – everything is controlled through the website interface.

digital signature

Each user is entitled to 5 free faxes (and afterwards there are reasonable rates available), but email will always be free.

The only way anyone will know you’ve used HelloFax is if you ask for a cover letter to be created. Otherwise, your documents will be sent exactly as you see them.

  • First enter the US fax number or email address of where you need to send the document. At this stage you may only enter one recipient at a time. You can add a cover letter to the document if you like.
  • Secondly, upload the document to HelloFax. They accept just about any type of file format, including .doc, .docx, .pdf, .tif, .ppt, .jpeg, .png, .xls, .txt and .gif. And really, most other file types can be exported as a PDF or JPG anyway, so you can always export and upload.
  • The third step is optional, and allows you to add a signature or any other markings required on your form if need be. There’s a couple of different ways to do this. One option is to use your mouse to create a digital signature. For most of us though, this isn’t going to turn out so well. People using tablets may have more success using this method. Another way of getting a signature uploaded is to sign a piece of paper and take a photo with your phone. You can send the photo to HelloFax, they clean it up a little and isolate the signature for you.

Once you’ve created or uploaded a signature it’s simple to add it to the document. HelloFax lets you resize the signature to fit the document, then position it in exactly the right place.

digital signature software

Once your signature is in place, you’re ready to send. The fax or email is sent off directly.

Receiving Faxes

If you decide to sign up with HelloFax, you’ll also be able to receive faxes through the service.

More Online Office Companions

If you’re a freelancer or you just like to use web services for your everyday office needs, here’s a few more articles you should check out.

Did you give HelloFax a try? What did you think? How can it be improved? Let us know in the comments!

Image Credit: ShutterStock

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Get Educated On Online Web Apps & Services With Grovo’s Video Lessons

Posted: 20 May 2011 11:31 AM PDT

web app video tutorialThe internet is as much a part of our habits as flossing. I don't floss every day, but I make it a point to get on the web the first thing in the morning. I suspect this is true for most of you reading this post. But how 'digitally' educated are we about the web and the many apps and tools it throws up? Our very own site is a great place to learn how to make use of software and web apps. It's not the only one.

Grovo is another fresh 'n new online learning tool you can use if you want to grade up your internet education. All the education and training on Grovo is through online videos. But then there are so many other places for online video tutorials. Where does Grovo come in?

How Does Grovo Help Me?

Let's understand it through the word – Grovo, which is a fun brew of 'grow' and 'vocation'. More specially, it is a collection of video lessons that help you discover the nuts and bolts of today leading web apps in cloud services, social media, productivity, and online marketing.

For instance, you have heard all about Facebook but can't figure out the difference between Facebook Profiles and Facebook Pages. Grovo's video tutorials on Facebook help to scatter the cloud of confusion. Each lesson shows you how to do something specific on one website or topic.

web app video tutorial

Grovo's focus is on online web apps and web services and with it's professionally produced content gives the site its USP. Here's a glimpse at the subjects which Grovo covers:

An Example of a Learning Session on Grovo

Grovo has free and premium (for businesses) plans. Right now, let's register for free and check out what's on offer.

The next step serves as a launching pad for your first lesson. Grovo gives you three suggestions – pick one.

web app tutorial

For instance, I want to learn more about Dropbox. The All Courses page lists all sites that Grovo covers with its lessons.

web app tutorial

I can drill down to the course title I am looking for or use the Filter Courses list. Some courses have a "G" (those are paid business courses) courses marked next to them, and some are tagged as 'under construction'. The introductory tutorials in some of the business courses are free.

web app tutorial

Going back to my course on Dropbox, I see that the course page has 6 short video lessons. From here on, the design of Grovo and its usefulness as a learning app emerges.

video tutorial

I can click on Description and get an overview of the course.

video tutorial

I can take the sample quiz or the complete quiz for the course and see how much of the learning I have retained.

video tutorial

Takeaways sum up the key points and gist of the entire course.

Glossary of course, lists all the technical jargon you might have come across in the course.

The Video Lesson Itself

All these features come together for each video lesson you take on the site. The video lessons are professionally produced with excellent screencasts. For that chancy attention span of yours, they are also short. Though there are quite a few half an hour long videos too.

web app video tutorial

All activity is logged on your account and you can always check your progress and track it.

The Appeal of Grovo

Grovo so far is ad- free. The video lessons are engagingly created with the best practices of instructional theories in mind. Video lessons, lesson notes and quizzes help you to grasp the ins and outs of a web technology quickly. The navigation bar on top of the page makes finding a relevant course a painless experience. The site says that they 'operate on two-week production cycles'. So you can actually look forward to fresh content.

Is it just one of those new video tutorial sites on the backwash of YouTube? Or does it make for a focused learning experience if you are new to the internet or a particular web service? I think Grovo holds lots of promise for continuing one's web education. What do you think?

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How To Create Your Own Basic WordPress Widgets

Posted: 20 May 2011 10:31 AM PDT

how to create widgetsMany bloggers will search high and low for the perfect WordPress widget that will do exactly what they want, but with a little programming experience you may find it’s easier to write your custom widget.

This week I’d like to show how to do exactly that, and the widget we will be writing is a simple one that picks out a single random post from your site, pulls the featured image, and displays it on the sidebar – a visual “check this out” widget that will help users to find more content on your site.

This is also an extension of a continuing series in which I show you how easy it is to customize your WordPress template.

You may also be pleased to know that we’ve added a new WordPress Tutorials category to MakeUseOf, so be sure to check that out for an ever growing archive of up to date tips and guides to the world’s favourite blogging platform.

Key Concepts: WordPress Queries and the Loop

Each page on your blog consists of a query to your database of posts. Depending on the page you are viewing, the query will change. Your blog homepage for instance, may use the query “get the latest 10 blog posts“. When you view the category archives, the query may change to “get the latest 20 posts for the category family photos only, order the results by date published“. Each query will return a set of results, and depending on the page template being used, each result will be run through the main “loop” of the template.

Each page can in fact consist of more than one query though, and you can even create your own queries to add functionality to various places in your template. You can see an example of this in use at the bottom of this article – we have a few additional queries that run on every page that aim to show you related articles you may be interested in, or articles which are trending this week.

To make our custom widget though, we will simply need to create an additional query that grabs X number of random posts plus their images, and displays them in some way on the sidebar. I already showed you last week the code to grab the featured image, so we really just need to know how to make a new WordPress widget and place it on the sidebar.

Basic Widget Code

Start by creating a new .php file in your wp-content/plugins directory. You could also follow the tutorial offline then upload it using the WordPress interface, but I find it’s easier to write as we go along in case you need to debug. Call your file whatever you like, but I’m going with random-post-widget.php

Paste the following into the file and save. Feel free to change the section at the top with my name in it, but don’t adjust the rest of the code yet. This is basically a skeleton empty widget, and you can see where it says //WIDGET CODE GOES HERE is where we will add our functionality in later.

<?php /* Plugin Name: Random Post Widget Plugin URI: Description: Random Post Widget grabs a random post and the associated thumbnail to display on your sidebar Author: James Bruce Version: 1 Author URI: */     class RandomPostWidget extends WP_Widget {   function RandomPostWidget()   {     $widget_ops = array('classname' => 'RandomPostWidget', 'description' => 'Displays a random post with thumbnail' );     $this->WP_Widget('RandomPostWidget', 'Random Post and Thumbnail', $widget_ops);   }     function form($instance)   {     $instance = wp_parse_args( (array) $instance, array( 'title' => '' ) );     $title = $instance['title']; ?>   <p><label for="<?php echo $this->get_field_id('title'); ?>">Title: <input class="widefat" id="<?php echo $this->get_field_id('title'); ?>" name="<?php echo $this->get_field_name('title'); ?>" type="text" value="<?php echo attribute_escape($title); ?>" /></label></p> <?php   }     function update($new_instance, $old_instance)   {     $instance = $old_instance;     $instance['title'] = $new_instance['title'];     return $instance;   }     function widget($args, $instance)   {     extract($args, EXTR_SKIP);       echo $before_widget;     $title = empty($instance['title']) ? ' ' : apply_filters('widget_title', $instance['title']);       if (!empty($title))       echo $before_title . $title . $after_title;;       // WIDGET CODE GOES HERE     echo "<h1>This is my new widget!</h1>";       echo $after_widget;   }   } add_action( 'widgets_init', create_function('', 'return register_widget("RandomPostWidget");') );?>

As it is, the plugin doesn’t do much apart from print out a large title with the words “This is my new widget!“.

how to create widgets

It does however give you the option to change the title, which is kind of essential for any widget. Adding in other options is a bit beyond the scope of this article today, so for now let’s move on to give it a real purpose.

write your own widget

A New Query & The Loop

To make a new query to your blog database, you need to use the query_posts() function along with a few parameters, then run through the output using a while loop. Let’s try this – a very basic query and loop to demonstrate. Replace the line of code that says:

<h1>This is my new widget!</h1>

with the following:

// WIDGET CODE GOES HERE query_posts('');	 if (have_posts()) :  	while (have_posts()) : the_post();  		the_title();	 	endwhile; endif;  wp_reset_query();

This is an absolutely basic query using default options and zero formatting of the output. Depending on how your blog is set up, the default will most likely be to grab the 10 latest posts – then all the above code does is to output the title of each post. It’s pretty ugly, but it works:

write your own widget

We can make it a little better right away just by adding some HTML formatting to the output with the ECHO command, and creating a link to the post using get_the_permalink() function:

  query_posts(''); if (have_posts()) :  	echo "<ul>"; 	while (have_posts()) : the_post();  		echo "<li><a href='".get_permalink()."'>".get_the_title()."</a></li>";   	endwhile; 	echo "</ul>"; endif;  wp_reset_query();

write your own widget

Already, it’s looking much better. But we only want one post, picked at random. To do this, we specify some parameters in the query:


Of course, you could change it to any number of posts – in fact, there’s a whole range of extra bits you can pass into the query in order to restrict, expand, or change the order of the results, but let’s stick with that for now. If you refresh, you should see just one post which is randomized each time you refresh.

Now for the featured thumbnail. Replace the code with this, hopefully you can see where we are grabbing the thumbnail and displaying it:

query_posts('posts_per_page=1&orderby=rand'); if (have_posts()) :  	echo "<ul>"; 	while (have_posts()) : the_post();  		echo "<li><a href='".get_permalink()."'>".get_the_title(); 		echo the_post_thumbnail(array(220,200)); 		echo "</a></li>";	   	endwhile; 	echo "</ul>"; endif;  wp_reset_query();

You can see the finished results again on my development blog Self Sufficiency Guide, though I might have moved things around by the time you read this.

how to create widgets


See how easy it is to make your own custom widget that can do exactly what you want? Even if you don’t understand 90% of the code I’ve shown you today, you should still be able to customise it somewhat by just changing variables or outputting different HTML. We wrote a whole widget today, but you could easily use just the new query and loop code on any of your page templates.

Problems? Need some different WordPress related help? I’m always on hand to help in MakeUseOf Answers, so head on over and post a new question there.

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Turn Your Android Phone Into a Shared Internet Launching Point With PAW

Posted: 20 May 2011 09:31 AM PDT

internet start pageWith all the things that a mobile device can do these days, what’s left if you want to stand out from the crowd?

One of the things I’ve been toying with is making portable web servers, like my article on Server2Go, which was borrowed from ideas from Dave’s article on XAMPP. After successfully configuring a few portable web server setups, I started looking at my mobile phone and wondering about other possibilities. What if I could set up a mobile web server on my phone, and then anywhere that I am (where there’s a Wi-Fi network), share out any web content that I have? Furthermore, what if I could carry around a customized start page that I could use to access my own important weblinks from any computer on that network, or share those out to others on the network?

The good news is that using two tools – the PAW Mobile Web Server, and the SPGM (Simple Picture Gallery Manager) – this is all possible.

Installing The Mobile PAW Web Server

While searching for the best tool that would allow me to transform my Android into a portable web server, I stumbled across the PAW Web Server solution.

The PAW mobile web server is the coolest Android web server I’ve ever seen. Why’s it so cool? Because there’s ZERO setup. That’s right, you install it, click this cool little run button, and it tells you what the URL is.  You’re done.

internet start page

Of course, there is the usual setup when you want to actually serve out content, like a shared Internet start page. Think about what this tool lets you do. Anywhere that you’re visiting, if there’s a Wi-Fi network available, you can launch this app and open up your own mobile web server to anyone on that network. All they have to do is type in the IP address of your phone – cool!

Once PAW is running on your phone, it hosts all content in the /PAW/HTML/ directory on your SD card, to the entire network.

mobile start page

The system defaults to system tools stored in the App folder, which includes some pretty cool features once you’re connected to your phone through your browser. You can make calls, send SMS or email messages, browse through your phone using a file manager, and a whole lot more.

For our purposes, there’s only one thing you have to do. Open a browser and type in the IP address your phone provided once PAW was running. After creating a login ID, you’ll be in the admin area. Click on “Add-Ons“, then “Plug-ins” and install the PHP plugin.

mobile start page

Set your timezone and then click “Install“. This will enable the ability to host PHP webpages – a requirement if you’re going to use SPGM. You’ll have to stop and start the server on your phone. The next time you log in, you should see PHP installed under the “Plug-ins” menu item.

mobile start page

The next step is to take that new-found ability and make something useful out of it.

Installing The Simple Picture Gallery Manager

There are two things that I thought people would like to do with such a web server.

  • It would be cool to launch a mobile Wi-Fi web server on a network so anyone on that network can view your picture gallery of photos you have on your phone – directly from any web browser on the network.
  • The PAW web server also lets you carry around a “startpage” that you can customize and then host, letting both you and your friends access your favorite websites, online documents and more, all linked from your own personal starting page.

The cool thing is that you can accomplish both of these tasks using the Simple Picture Gallery Manager (SPGM). All you have to do is download the entire collection of files into your PAW HTML folder. At this point, you’re already prepared to start serving picture galleries.

All you have to do to set it up is run Gallery Mage and use it to open any directory on your computer or mobile phone that has the pictures you want to host. Export those to SPGM format. Copy that entire exported directory to your HTML folder on your phone, and your gallery is live!

To see your picture galleries, all people have to do is type in the IP address of your phone appended with the SPGM folder. For example, people can access mine on a local network by visiting: All gallery folders you import will automatically display.

Creating A Start Page

The last thing I want to do is create that cool launch page. You can do this when you export those SPGM picture files to your phone by editing the pic-desc.txt file that gets exported along with them. Just add the URL links to the captions.

Once you do that, import your new “start page” gallery to your PAW server, and you’ll see all of the link icons on the gallery page.

internet start page

You or your friends can click on any of the images, and then click on the URL link below the image to visit the site. This is a useful way to organize links to pictures, online documents, websites and more, all stored on your mobile phone and ready to share out as an internet start page, so long as you have access to a wi-fi network.

Did you try this setup and can you think of any other awesome uses for it? Do you know of any other PHP apps that might run on this mobile web server that would transform your mobile phone into a powerful little Wi-Fi web server? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below.

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Facebook Integration Provides More To “Like” About Bing [News]

Posted: 20 May 2011 09:19 AM PDT

Microsoft, in partnership with Facebook, this week rolled out what is being dubbed “social search” or “the friend effect” on its flagship search engine, Bing. The technology allows anyone with a Facebook account to log in, recommend, discuss and share directly from within Bing search results.

When a user makes a search, any results that can be linked to your Facebook friends will be displayed alongside the list of webpages. For example a search for “Make Use Of” will list friends who have recommended our website (clicked “Like”) or even individual articles, and a “London” search will display a list of Facebook friends living in that area. Occasionally search results may even display recommendations from people not on a user’s contact list to highlight the most popular shared articles.

According to Bing, 90% of shoppers will consult a friend before making a purchase, with 80% holding off buying until a friend approves the purchase. Microsoft reacted to the research by implementing a quick way of discussing potential purchases by selecting a few products and messaging a friend directly from your search results.

Just in case a particular webpage does not have a “Like” button, Microsoft have also refreshed the Bing Toolbar which now contains a dedicated Facebook “Like” button. The Bing Toolbar only works with Internet Explorer 7 or later on the Windows OS.

According to Microsoft, friends play an important part in online searches:

“Bing delivers a more personalized search experience by using the interests shown by your friends. Now you won't miss potentially interesting information that may have been buried deep within the search results. Bing will surface results, which may typically have been on page three or four, higher in its results based on stuff your friends have liked.”

Read: Facebook Friends Now Fuelling Faster Decisions @ Bing

Is it a Google beater? Will social search really make that much difference to the way you use the web? Do you even care what your friends think? Let us know in the comments below.

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3 Cool Ways To Use SD Memory Cards

Posted: 20 May 2011 08:31 AM PDT

sd memory cardsSD memory cards are one of the most common forms of mobile storage, but they also tend to be very specific in their purpose. They're great when used with devices like smartphones and cameras because their thin profile and high storage capacity makes it possible to keep these devices slim. On their own however, these cards tend to be less useful than USB thumb drives and portable hard drives.

That doesn't have to be the case though. There are quite a few cool ways to re-purpose old SD memory cards and drag some extra life out of them.

Convert To A USB Drive

sd memory cards

The reason why SD cards can be a bit unwieldy is simply the format. These memory cards come in many different sizes, which fit into different slots on a computer. Some computers have support for many types of memory cards, but some don't support any cards at all. Desktop computers are particularly bad about this.

Fortunately, you can side-step any such compatibility issues by simply turning your SD card into a USB drive. It doesn't require any fancy tricks, just an SD card to USB adapter that's compatible with the card you have. You'll find these at local and online electronics retailers with a typical price tag of around $10.

Once you have converted the SD card to a USB drive, a world of possibilities opens up. You can load mobile applications, use the drive for encrypted storage, and do anything else you could do with a USB thumb drive. That's not to say some of these options aren't available on stock SD memory cards, but converting the card to USB makes it possible to use it with a wider variety of PCs and programs.

Create A Boot Drive

uses for sd memory cards

SD cards are quick, so they make a good candidate for a boot drive. Not every computer will present you with the option of booting from an SD card (you'll have to check your BIOS) but if the option is available, your SD card could become the host of an alternative operating system.

It's possible to run Windows (with WinToFlash) or Mac OS X off a SD card, but both of these operating systems require a fair amount of space, so it's unlikely an older memory card will be able to accommodate them. A Linux variant is always a good option, and one of the easier programs for installing to your memory card is UNetBootin. It’s possible to install an OS to not only an SD card that’s by itself, but also an SD card that is in another device. I can boot Linux on my PC off my HTC Thunderbolt phone, for example.

Of course, if your computer is having trouble booting off the SD card, you can always just slap it into a USB adapter as suggested above. That should make your memory card bootable by most PCs.

Geek Accessories

sd memory cards

Like USB thumb drives, SD memory cards are a great candidate for wearable data storage because they're small, they're lightweight, and they're durable. In fact, a card is often smaller and lighter than a thumb drive, so it's really the best choice.

There are many different ways to convert an SD card to something wearable or pocket-able. Perhaps the best option is a necklace lanyard or holder. This lets you keep you keep the card accessible at all times, but the card remains out of the way and safe from danger, and can also be hidden beneath your shirt or jacket easily (hey, a 32GB card isn't cheap).

Alternatively, you can forego the wearable option and just go with a keychain or wallet option. Although less visible and accessible, these options may be more practical, and often can hold multiple cards at once.


There are many other ways to use SD cards, but I've focused on methods that actually keep the cards usable. Recreating the Mona Lisa with memory cards might be geek-cool, but probably isn't practical.

Feel free to leave comments with your own ideas of cool ways to use SD cards.

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