Friday, May 20, 2011 “DOWNLOAD Picture Perfect: Set Up Your Own Photoblog” plus 11 more “DOWNLOAD Picture Perfect: Set Up Your Own Photoblog” plus 11 more

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DOWNLOAD Picture Perfect: Set Up Your Own Photoblog

Posted: 20 May 2011 06:31 AM PDT

Technology isn’t just for technology’s sake. If you’re a photographer, for example, the web can be a great way to share your art with the world. Find out how in “Picture Perfect: Set Up Your Own Photoblog” by MakeUseOf’s resident photographer, Nancy Messieh.

The main emphasis on any photoblog should be the photography. While an aesthetically pleasing theme is always a plus, the focus should be on the photography itself. Many photoblogs do away with any frills, and instead give most if not all, of the screen real estate to the photographs.

This manual breaks down the main tools you can use to set up a photoblog, including ones you can host on your domain and ones you can quickly use free of charge. You’ll see examples of photoblogging done well, and step-by-step instructions for getting started.

DOWNLOAD Picture Perfect: Set Up Your Own Photoblog
Having trouble downloading? Right-click the link, then click “Save As…”

or Read Now On Scribd

This guide outlines:

  • Your options, from WordPress to Tumblr to Posterous.
  • The advantages of a self-hosted setup.
  • Finding suitable subjects.
  • How to think of ideas for your blog.
  • Driving traffic to your site.

DOWNLOAD Picture Perfect: Set Up Your Own Photoblog
Having trouble downloading? Right-click the link, then click “Save As…”

or Read Now On Scribd

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Cool Websites and Tools [May 19th]

Posted: 19 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.

Add Your Website Here!


CSS Prefixer – Designers and developers working with CSS will undoubtedly find it inconvenient to write vendor prefixes for all web browsers. CSS Prefixer is a nifty web tool that solves this problem and saves you valuable time. Usage of the tool is extremely simple: just type in the CSS code and click on the green “Process” button. Read more: CSS Prefixer: Automatically Add Vendor Prefixes In Your CSS For All Web Browsers


Forage – Do you want to find new videos from your Twitter account? Then you should check out Forage. This video discovery tool generates personalized YouTube playlists depending on who you follow in Twitter. To start using Forage, just type in your Twitter username and choose a genre to generate the playlist from. Read more: Forage: Twitter Based Online Video Discovery Tool



My Hurricane – Did the news just report a hurricane or storm around your area? If yes, then it will definitely concern you and make you want to know more about the hurricane's track. For this you will find MyHurricane highly useful. MyHurricane is a great hurricane and storm tracking web tool that is free to use. Read more: MyHurricane: Hurricane And Storm Tracking Online



Akshell – Developers create their web apps by first coding them in JavaScript in a desktop client and then testing them on a web browser. But you can greatly save time in this process using AkShell, a brilliant IDE (Integrated Development Environment) for JavaScript that works completely within the browser. Read more: Akshell: An Online IDE For Developing Javascript Web Apps



HelloDay – Music fans always appreciate a web service that easily delivers music to them. One such site that will be welcomed by all is HelloDay, a free to use website that plays great music videos of high quality. The site lets you specify a genre of music and then plays the relevant videos. Read more: HelloDay: Discover & Watch High Quality Music Videos In Your Favorite Genre


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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5 More Top Quality Free To Play Online Multiplayer Games [Windows]

Posted: 19 May 2011 06:31 PM PDT

free online multiplayer gamesContinuing the tradition of tirelessly hunting down quality free timewasters, today we’re highlighting some great free to play online games. If you spend much of your time in-game, casting spells or crouching to avoid a shower of bullets we’ve got you covered in this article.

Don’t forget to check out the minimum system requirements before downloading and getting disappointed. All of the games listed are free to download and play, though don’t be surprised when you’re asked to pay for additional in-game content (they’ve got to fill up the coffers somehow, after all).

League of Legends

Originally based on a Warcraft III: Frozen Throne map called Defense of the Ancients, League of Legends is a session-based 5 on 5 multiplayer battle. Each team starts at opposite ends of the map, next to their "Nexus", which they must defend. The winner is the team who destroys the enemy’s Nexus, simple as that.

At the start of the game each player chooses a champion (of which there are currently 76 in total), though your choice will be limited based on your progress, or willingness to pay to unlock further characters. There are two game modes, Normal and Ranked, with Ranked introducing tougher restrictions and a Level 30 requirement to play.

Getting started is as easy as registering a free account, downloading the client and logging in. Before jumping into battle and failing miserably you’ll be walked through a tutorial, and given a basic introduction to controls, items and spells. Then you’re free to take on the world for guts, gold and glory.

Battlefield Play4Free

Do you enjoy shooting things? How about driving and flying whilst shooting things? Then the case is clear – you need to play Battlefield. Dating back to September 2002 when Battlefield 1942 was originally released, the Battlefield franchise has gone from strength to strength over the years and this free offering might stave off the hunger before Battlefield 3 lands.

Incorporating heavily team-based capture and attack/defend game modes along with vehicle-driven warfare, your average match can be explosive to say the least. With tanks, planes, air strikes and fully destructible buildings there’s plenty of eye candy and action to keep even the most seasoned players happy.

Certainly one to revisit if you remember the frantic, laggy yet golden days of BF1942 and Road to Rome.


Vindictus is a massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG) with some brutal hack-n-slash gameplay. Running on Valve’s fantastic Source engine, the game is visually pleasing even by today’s standards. The in-game objects can be interacted with, destroyed and picked up to be wielded as weapons.

There are currently 3 classes to choose from (though 5 are planned) and regardless of class, teamwork is essential if you’re to advance the game and beat Vindictus’ 6 story-based episodes.

Combat Arms

Taking its cues from classics like Counter-Strike and the Call of Duty franchise, Combat Arms is a jam-packed free first person shooter from South Korean developer Doobic Studios. The game features a levelling system, with the player earning Gamer Points to spend on additional weapons and customization.

There are a ton of game modes to enjoy, including capture the flag, co-op play and various objective based game modes. Of course there’s always the option of flashing your cash, and this will allow you to buy unlocks with NX (the publisher’s credit system, which requires real money).

Combat Arms also features an integrated clan system and gaming leagues, making it quite a competitive corner of the web.


The final game on our list isn’t quite as meaty as the previous two, but may suit younger and casual online gamers. MapleStory is a side-scrolling MMORPG with simple controls and plenty of bright colours.

The game follows the typical RPG setup, with your character venturing into dungeons to defeat monsters, meeting fellow warriors, levelling up abilities and collecting in-game currency known as "Mesos".

In addition to developing the ultimate warrior, players can also form guilds, get married and even form families. Unsurprisingly, MapleStory is huge in South Korea where it was initially developed.

Honorary Mention: Duty Calls

War. War never changes. Oops, it just did! Not strictly a multiplayer game (well, it’s not strictly a game at all) Duty Calls is a Call of Duty parody released alongside the recent Bulletstorm as a marketing ploy. If you’ve played Modern Warfare (or any Call of Duty game since) then you’ll be giggling like a school girl for the most part.


Hopefully there’s enough multiplayer carnage here to at least whet a few appetites. The fact that these games are free to play at least gives you the ability to fully evaluate them before deciding to splash out on some upgrades. Then again, you might never feel the need to pay a penny and enjoy some quality games for the sweetest price of all.

Do any of these free online multiplayer games tickle your fancy? Have you got any other suggestions for us? We love to hear what you think, give us the low-down in the comments below.

Intro image: Shutterstock

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Get Over 100 Portable Freeware Utilities With NirLauncher [Windows]

Posted: 19 May 2011 04:31 PM PDT

portable freeware utilitiesNirLauncher is a library that comes packed with over 100 portable freeware utilities for Windows. It is the perfect toolbox to carry around on your USB stick for emergencies, for example if you need to recover lost passwords or monitor your network. The tools are pre-sorted into 12 different categories and you are free to add additional software packages if you like.

Although NirLauncher is designed for portable use on your USB flash drive, you can of course install it on your local hard drive for everyday use. The applications have been developed by NirSoft and are also available individually through the NirSoft homepage.

What’s In It For Me?

The tool contains over 100 portable freeware utilities. If you are not familiar with utilities from NirSoft, you may not recognize these tools. However, not only are the apps sorted into categories by function in NirLauncher, you can also view a short description that explains what the respective tool does.

portable freeware utilities

It’s impossible to list and cover all the utilities in the scope of this article, but you can view all of them in the Utilities List. Below is a short list of utilities I found interesting or useful:

  • Password Recovery Utilities

    WirelessKeyView: Recovers lost wireless network keys (WEP/WPA) stored in your computer.
    PasswordFox: View passwords stored in Firefox web browser.
    Asterisk Logger: Reveals passwords stored behind the asterisks (‘***’) boxes.

  • Network Monitoring Tools

    SniffPass: Capture the passwords that pass through your network adapter.
    NetResView: Displays the list of all network resources on your LAN.

  • Web Browser Tools

    MozillaCookiesView: Alternative to standard ‘Cookie Manager’ provided by Netscape and Mozilla.
    FirefoxDownloadsView: Displays the list of downloaded files in Firefox.

  • Video/Audio Related Utilities

    Volumouse: Adjust the volume of your speaker with the wheel of your mouse.

  • Internet Related Utilities

    SiteShorter: Save a screenshot of any webpage into a file.
    DownTester: Test your Internet download speed.

  • Command-Line Utilities

    BluetoothCL: Show Bluetooth devices list.

  • Desktop Utilities

    OpenWithView: Disable / enable items in the ‘Open With’ dialog-box of Windows.
    Clipboardic: Small and simple clipboard manager.

  • Disk Utilities

    DriverLetterView: View and change drive letter assignments.

  • System Utilities

    WhatIsHang: Get information about Windows software that hangs.
    ProduKey: Displays the CD-Keys of MS-Office/Windows installed on your computer.
    DriverView: Displays the list of all device drivers currently loaded on your system.

  • Other Utilities

    SkypeLogView: View log files created by Skype.
    IconsExtract: Extract icons and cursors from executable files.

How Does It work?

Download the NirLauncher ZIP file and unpack it to your flash drive or local hard drive. The ZIP file is only 9.4 MB large and unpacks to a folder of 14.1 MB. Considering that it contains over 100 utilities this size is impressively small.

Note that your anti-virus program may detect and report some of the applications while you are installing NirLauncher. In my case AntiVir wanted to move iepv.exe, dialupass.exe, chromepass.exe, and some other tools to quarantine. Checking the detection code, however, didn’t yield results, meaning this specific app was not reported to be a virus, but it was detected based on malware-typical behavior. The false positive detection is a known issue and NirSoft openly discusses it in the following post on the NirBlog: Antivirus companies cause a big headache to small developers.

Once unpacked, you can run the NirLauncher.exe and browse the tools by categories. To launch a utility, highlight it (click it once) and click on > Run in the bottom left of NirLauncher.

freeware software portable

Several tools require Administrator privileges to function. In this case you can either right-click the utility and select > Run As Administrator from the menu or click > Advanced Run.

run as administrator

Advanced Run gives you more options, for example to run the utility in full-screen mode or run with custom environment variables.

freeware software portable

Many utilities are available in a 64-bit version. If you’re running NirLauncher on a 64-bit Windows, the respective utility version will load automatically when selected to run.

You can also launch apps from the NirSoft folder within the package folder. Simply double-click the respective .exe file. You will note that for every .exe file there also is a .chm file. This is a help file, but even though there appears to be one for every utility, I didn’t find a single one where it worked, neither launching through NirLauncher, nor through the folder.

Can I Customize NirLauncher?

Yes you can! As mentioned above you can access all applications individually through the NirSoft folder. If you want to remove a utility, simply delete it from this folder. Likewise you can add portable tools.

However, you need to (remove or) make an entry in the respective group, so that the tool is (no longer) accessible via NirLauncher. Edits need to be made to the nirsoft.nlp file, which is also located within the NirSoft folder. This is a regular text file that you can open with Notepad. Simply remove or add the required information, save the file, restart NirLauncher and see whether your changes were successful.

portable freeware utilities

Additional utility packages can be found on the NirSoft Download page, for example the sysinternals2.nlp, which adds the SysInternals Suite to NirLauncher.


Taken together this is a super handy tool with many useful utilities that takes up astonishingly little space and should thus fit on any portable drive. In addition, you can customize it to contain only your favorite portable apps, which may make it even more compact and useful.

We have previously covered NirLauncher here. If you are interested in portable apps in general, check out these resources:

What utilities do you find are missing from this extensive collection and which ones are your favorites?

Image credits: -dal-

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SwipePad – A Stylish Quick-Launch Utility For Your Android Phone

Posted: 19 May 2011 03:31 PM PDT

quick launch androidOne of the cool things about having a smartphone is that there’s a virtually endless supply of apps. Granted, not all apps are created equal, but with time, you will probably find more than a few you like and use on a daily basis. And that’s where the question of launching those apps enters the picture.

Sure, you could always just drag a bunch of icons onto your homescreen, and go back to the homescreen whenever you want to run a new application. But you probably have more than one homescreen (most launchers start you off with five or more), and then it’s a matter of scrolling around until you find the icon you need. In short, it can be a bit of a hassle, especially for those few applications you tend to use constantly.

Another concern is that launchers sometimes crash. I won’t name names, but I’ve recently had a fairly catastrophic launcher meltdown, where I ended up having to use the search button to launch voice search, use it to access the browser, use the browser to access the market, and finally set up a new launcher through the market. That wasn’t much fun, and that’s exactly the type of thing SwipePad would have helped me avoid.

So, what’s this SwipePad thing, anyway? In its simplest form, it’s a quick-launch pad (for Android 2.1 and above). It constantly runs in the background (and takes up a line in your notification area). When you touch one of the edges of your screen (configurable), it pops up a grid of twelve buttons that looks like this:

quick launch android

That circle you see at the bottom is my finger. The white space (or rather “black” space) at the edges is very useful, because it gives you a spot where you can rest your finger while looking for the icon you need. Then, once you find the icon, just slide your finger over to it, and it turns blue:

quick launch android app

If you let go at that point, the app simply launches. But if you keep your finger on that button for two seconds, it turns orange:

quick launch android app

At which point you can let go and get the following menu:

quick launch android app

Quite straightforward, really. The first two options let you set an application or a shortcut for that slot. The third, AppLauncher, is an “extra” (paid) add-on that is supposed to allow you to launch even more apps. To me, that defeats the purpose of the app – what I like about Quick Launch is that it’s simple and minimalistic. The fourth option, Tasking, lets you bind the button to a “recent task” switcher, which also costs a modest sum. I did buy this add-on, and we’ll have a quick look at it later on.

Last but not least, “Hide” is an interesting option which lets you completely remove that button from your grid, in case you keep activating it by mistake. Here’s what the grid looks like with a hidden button:

launch app android

Next, let’s look at the preferences:

launch app android

Note the two red strips lining the screen. That’s not a bug: it’s a graphical display of the “swipe areas”. Touching those areas in any app would activate SwipePad. On my phone, the right area is bound to SwipePad itself, while the left launches the Tasking add-on to quickly switch between recent tasks. But you’re not limited to just these two areas:

launch app android

As you can see, they covered pretty much every possible area. In fact, after I originally wrote this review, they released a new version including “bottom half” options (both for the right and left edge). “Top edge” probably had to be omitted because on most devices, that opens the notification area.

Next, let’s take a quick look at the paid add-ons:

Kudos to the developer for using this business model; the app is completely ad-free and nag-free, and works well without any add-ons. But if you want to show your support (and get a bit more out of the app), getting an add-on is the thing to do. I felt the first two add-ons, AppLauncher and MoreSpace, might complicate the app. So I went with Tasking, which looks like this:

I love the bold typography at the bottom-left. As I mentioned, I invoke it by swiping from the top-left edge of my screen, and it works just like the launcher but with a different context menu:

quick launch android

This is what you get when you long-press an app in the Recent Tasks list. Carefully-picked options, and quite powerful.

Using SwipePad becomes faster with time, thanks to muscle memory. You only need to memorize the position of twelve apps, and swiping from the edge of the screen to one of the twelve buttons quickly becomes a single, intuitive motion that you can do without even pausing to see what icon you’re pressing, kind of like touch-typing. With skilled use, SwipePad is pretty much the fastest way to launch an app on your phone, short of binding it to a hardware button.

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How To Download MP3′s & Control Grooveshark From Firefox

Posted: 19 May 2011 02:31 PM PDT

control grooveshark firefoxFor those of us with access to Grooveshark, life is pretty good. We can listen to quite a bit of amazing music for free, simply by picking a playlist and kicking back to enjoy the tunes. Sometimes, you could be tempted to think things on the online music scene couldn’t get any better. But then someone comes along and creates a little tool which completely makes your day just by adding a little bit more awesome to the mix.

Today we’ve got two of these nifty tools to show you. One is an easy way to download the MP3 files directly from Grooveshark as you use it, while the other is a neat way to control Grooveshark playlists from within Firefox. With these two tools up your sleeve, we’re sure you’ll be pretty pleased.

control grooveshark firefox

Groove Shredder Add-On For MP3 Downloads

Groove Shredder is a new MP3 downloader for Grooveshark. It’s a Firefox extension which makes MP3 downloading simple, by opening a dedicated toolbar button which you can toggle on and off, then downloading MP3′s to your computer when activated.

When using Grooveshark, all you need to do is double-click to activate Groove Shredder. Search for a tune you like and double-click the result. Grooveshark will instantly ask you where you’d like to save it and what name to give the MP3 file. When the download finishes the song will play normally.

control grooveshark firefox

Groove Shredder will also activate when you’re playing playlists, so you can easily download the tracks as they come up. Obviously, if you just want to listen to the tunes, you should disable Groove Shredder while you relax. Just click on the Groove Shredder toolbar button to toggle the downloading ability on and off.

GrooveShark Remote Control — Firefox Control for Grooveshark

GrooveShark Remote Control is a new playlist manager for Firefox users running Grooveshark. This allows you to play, pause and shuffle tracks from Firefox instead of switching tabs to stay in control. It also features track information in your taskbar (now known as the add-on bar in Firefox 4), allowing you to know about what you’re listening to and control all the important stuff without leaving your current tab.

control grooveshark

GrooveShark Remote Control will pop up a Growl window when the track changes in order to let you know the new track details. The remote control also disappears when it’s not in use, which is really good if you’re low on space in your taskbar.

More Grooveshark Tools

If these two useful additions to your Grooveshark set-up aren’t enough, take a look at some of our previous articles on Grooveshark and some other useful add-ons we’ve previously featured:

What are your favourite tools for using Grooveshark? What’s your ideal Firefox-Grooveshark setup? Let us know in the comments!

Image Credit: ShutterStock

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Hot Tech Deals – XtremeMac InCharge Portable Charger for Apple iPod/iPhone $10.97 + more

Posted: 19 May 2011 01:30 PM PDT

The most notable deals today are of course, the XtremeMac InCharge portable Charger set for Apple iPod/iPhone which is going to just $10.97. Also if you don’t mind it being refurbished, $60 will get you a Garmin nuvi 750 GPS.

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

  1. Denon AVR-891 7.2ch 105W/ch 3D-Ready AV Receiver $383.04 Free Ship via code AFL4COUPON (Ongoing)
  2. TODAY ONLY TRENDnet TPL-303E2K Powerline Ethernet Adapter Kit $49.99 Free Shipping
  3. TODAY ONLY TRENDnet GREENnet TEG-S80G 8-Port Gigabit Network Switch $29.99 Free Ship
  4. XtremeMac InCharge Portable Charger for Apple iPod/iPhone $10.97
  5. Garmin nuvi 750 GPS (REFURB, 4.3in, Text To Speech) $59.99
  6. Philips 46PFL7705D/F7 46in LED-Edgelit LCD HDTV (120Hz, Netflix Streaimng) $779
  7. Polk Audio RC85i High Performance In-Wall Speakers (PAIR) $149.99 Free Shipping
  8. Logitech Harmony 510 Advanced Universal Remote Control (REFURB) $39.99
  9. Sharp LC40LE810UN 40in LED-Backlit LCD HDTV (1080p) $699.99 Free Shipping

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America’s National Jukebox Showcasing Early Musical Recordings

Posted: 19 May 2011 12:31 PM PDT

early musical recordingsListen to century-old recordings anytime, thanks to the The Library Of Congress. An organization dedicated to preserving American and global culture lives up to it’s mandate with the National Jukebox, a collection of early commercial musical recordings which anyone can access online.

There was recorded music before the 1950′s, but you wouldn’t think it based on what’s reflected in popular culture. Sure, the occasional movie will take place in the 1930′s and feature a brass band, but for the most part any music made before the early days of rock and roll is rarely heard.

Interested in what early popular music sounded like? You’re in luck. America’s National Jukebox is a great place to browse for music from the early 1900′s all the way to the late 1920′s. Whether you’re into classical recordings or ragtime, you’ll find something to listen to here. The quality is, as should be expected, not exactly Dolby surround. Recording technology at the turn of the century was primitive to put it best. Still, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing of value here.

What It Is

Every recording found on this site was, previously, not found anywhere online. Employees at the Library of Congress spent a great deal of time taking old records and digitizing them. You can see a slideshow outlining the undertaking, if you’re interested.

It seems that none of the recordings can be downloaded, but they can all be streamed for free.

Finding Recordings

Head on over to the National Jukebox and you can start browsing. There’s a search bar of course, and a browsing feature that allows you to look for music by category.

early musical recordings

Find music you want to listen to and you can do so. Playing an individual track is simple:

vintage music

Or if you prefer, you can add tracks to a playlist and have them play in any succession you prefer. All you need to do is click the “Add To Playlist” button seen beside every track listing; a new window will pop up, and every track you add will be queued here.

early musical recordings

There are a few pre-set playlists, of course. The Victor Book Of The Opera is a good one for opera buffs to check out and is supplemented with an interactive book. There’s also a collection of other playlists to browse. Highlights include:


Blogger and columnist Chris Weigant argued that the national jukebox is a good example of tax dollars spent well. I’m inclined to agree; sharing our cultural legacy with the world is a good idea all around.

What do you think? Is this endeavor a cool one, or a waste of resources? Let us know in the comments below, or just complain about how modern music is better than century-old stuff. Whatever you think is constructive.

Looking for music that’s a touch more contemporary? You can always listen to music on Grooveshark, or check out our many Sound Sunday posts to download lots of free music.

Image Credit : williamcho

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How To Update Ticker Content On Your Website From Your Mobile Phone

Posted: 19 May 2011 11:31 AM PDT

One of the coolest things about being an independent journalist is that you’re almost always on top of current events within your field. On the flip side, there’s also a lot of demand on you to get the latest information and news out on the web before anyone else does.

One approach that I’ve seen large, mainstream news organizations like CNN use is to publish a scrolling “breaking news” banner across the top of the web page. This allows editors to publish a news headline even before the writer is finished researching and publishing the article. When you’re writing about breaking news, being first to print is really important, and having a ticker content like this can give you an advantage.

The one problem with banners like this is that traditionally you had to go in and edit the web page in order to update the banner content. I wanted to implement this on my own website, but I thought it would be really cool to have the ability to upload the updates directly from my mobile phone so that it automatically updates the scrolling banner.

I developed a very simple ticker content management approach to doing this using PHP and a free Android FTP client called AndFTP. Although, you can also use just about any FTP client for this approach, such as the USB ones Aibek listed, or even the web-based FTP clients I wrote about for when you’re on the road. Wherever you can FTP, you can update the banner.

Installing the Banner on Your Website

Many of you that are familiar with basic HTML will recognize the old Marquee code that initiates the scrolling text along the top of your webpage. The code looks like this:

<div align="center"><FONT color="#F00000" size="+1"> <MARQUEE bgcolor="#FFCC33" direction="left" loop="20" width="75%"> <STRONG>THIS IS A TEST</STRONG> </MARQUEE></FONT></DIV>

You’ll need to edit the background and text color, and font styles to match your website and to give it a professional look and feel. I quickly chose colors that sort of match my website format, but it could use some tweaking – as an example, it will do! In its simplest form, the Marquee scrolls the text that you’ve typed into the code. As you can see above, my script has a bold “THIS IS A TEST” in it, so that’s exactly what gets displayed.

ticker content management

This would require you to edit that code snippet in your page in order to update the scrolling text. To automate this, I replaced the text with a PHP include, and had the PHP script pull text right out of a text file that I called “test.txt”, stored in a subdirectory on the public HTML folder of my web account. This is what that PHP include looks like.

<div align="center"><FONT  color="#F00000" size="+1"><MARQUEE bgcolor="#FFCC33"  direction="left" loop="20" width="75%"> <STRONG><?php include("/ftpdocs/test.txt"); ?></STRONG> </MARQUEE></FONT></DIV>

Now, instead of static text stored on your webpage, you’ve got PHP pulling the content of a file stored on your web server. That means that any time the file content changes, your website banner text will also change.

This is great – but again, I don’t want to have to be at my home PC to update the banner text. So, using a text editor on my mobile phone, I created a text file and saved it with the same name as the file stored on my web server. The text file will contain the latest news updates.

ticker content

Any time you make changes to the text file on your mobile device, just fire up your mobile FTP client, such as AndFTP, and upload the new file to the subdirectory on the server where you pointed the PHP include.

ticker content

The old file gets written over, and the new text gets displayed on your website. Now, to update the scrolling banner on your site, just change the text stored in the file on your mobile phone, upload it to your web server, and you’ll see the new text show up.

ticker content management

There are a few more ways you could improve the functionality of this approach, such as syncing a DropBox directory to your web server, and then just dropping the new file to DropBox will update the Marquee. This approach is a little more complicated though, and requires some configuration changes on the web server that you may not have permissions to make.

This solution is fast and easy, and it gives you the freedom to update scrolling text on your site from any location that you have access to FTP and a text editor. Updating your site with the latest news really couldn’t get much easier than that.

Did you try this approach, and did it work on your website? How would you improve the process – is there any way to improve the PHP script? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Image Credit: Wally Gobetz

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Transform Windows 7 Into Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal With Ubuntu Skin Pack

Posted: 19 May 2011 10:31 AM PDT

ubuntu natty narwhalThere are a lot of advantages and disadvantages that each operating system has. One has the most compatibility with current software, one has the most polish, and one has both but isn’t as supported. OK, maybe Linux doesn’t always have both, but recently it does carry its own class of design and polish. This is especially true for systems like Ubuntu where the developers are going out of their way to create the “next desktop”.

Let’s say that you are a Windows user because all of your programs work with it, but you like how the new release of Ubuntu, 11.04 “Natty Narwhal” looks. What can you do about that?

The Solution To Your Problem

May I introduce to you the Ubuntu Skin Pack. This handy program will install (and even download other necessary components) in order to make your desktop look and operate more like Ubuntu. Although it is not perfect (show me some kind of transformation pack that is!), it does do a great job of recreating the experience and theme. The best way for you to enjoy it is to install the pack! Please note that this works only in Windows 7.


First off, you should download the setup file to a place where you can easily find it. Once the download completes, head on over to that folder and double-click the setup file to launch it. The setup itself is easy and doesn’t really have any hidden items with it. Just click through it, making sure that everything is selected in order to get the full experience. While the setup is doing its thing, it’ll eventually poke you about installing a component that it needs for smooth operation. Go ahead and click yes so that it’ll automatically install and download that component for you as well. When the entire setup completes, go ahead and restart your machine.


ubuntu natty narwhal

In case you use a password on your account, or have multiple accounts on your machine, you may notice some changes. At the bottom, “Windows 7″ is now replaced with “Ubuntu 11.04″. The background should have also changed, but in my installation that did not happen. Not sure what went wrong, but there’s enough hacks out on the Internet to be able to change the login background if you want to.

windows 7 ubuntu theme

Once you get to your desktop, you’ll see that it looks very similar to the Ubuntu desktop. The Ubuntu icon is in the top-left corner, which is now your new place to launch the re-themed start menu. The dock on the left side (created by a program called Rainmeter) also recreates a nice visual theme of the actual Unity dock. Don’t try to do a lot of things with it that are featured in Unity, because there isn’t very much you can do to mess around with it, aside from poking around in the configuration file. Speaking of which, Rainmeter may bug you about a misplaced configuration file. Just follow its instructions and it should go away.

windows 7 ubuntu theme

There’s not a whole lot else to it. You can have virtual desktops thanks to VirtualWin. Many windows should fit right in with the theme, as long as they’re not those notoriously famous programs that decide to create their own complete theme that stick out from the rest. For everything else, I’ll let the screenshots do the talking.

ubuntu natty narwhal

Even Firefox plays nice!


Overall, the Ubuntu Skin Pack is a great way to get that Ubuntu feel when using Windows. Although it’s not completely free of kinks, I hope that the developer can continue working on it so that it’ll feel like an A+ solid product. That being said, it’s already a great product as it is. Most themes or transformation packs rarely come close to this.

What do you think about the idea of the Ubuntu Skin Pack? If you’re an Ubuntu-loving Windows user, will you be installing this on your machine? What other packs could you suggest?

Let us know in the comments below!

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Feature The Latest Posts Of Your Blog As An Interactive Slideshow Video Using Wibbitz

Posted: 19 May 2011 09:31 AM PDT

blog posts slideshowDue to the nature of blogs, where older articles are pushed down by the newer ones, visitors will only see the latest articles when they visit and in the process miss a lot of older posts. If you own a blog, what can you do to make sure that your visitors read as many posts as possible?

One trick is to display your posts at the top of your main page, so they will be instantly accessible. One of the tools that you can use to do this is Wibbitz, a web service that will help you feature the latest contents of your blog as an interactive blog posts slideshow.

Building The Player

Basically, Wibbitz will help you collect your blog posts (either using RSS or direct links), and then compile them as a slideshow video. Similar to other web services, you should register before you can start building your slideshow player. After registering, you can build as many players as you need. Then you can continue customizing the player.

Start by naming your player with something that you can remember easily. If you want to create more than one player for your blog, it’s advisable to name the players similar to the blog name.

blog posts slideshow

Other details that you need to fill in are the website’s URL, the text that you want to appear on the launcher, and also the theme.

There are several themes (color combinations) available on the list. Choose one that you like and click “OK” to save.

recent posts slideshow

You can also set the language, upload a logo and item image, and choose the background music.

recent posts slideshow

Click “Next” to move on to the “Content” addition process. You can use your blog’s RSS feed URL, or you can use the direct links of the articles. The advantage of using an RSS feed is that the content of your slideshow will always be updated with your latest posts. But static links can also be useful if you want to keep certain posts always visible.

recent posts slideshow

In the next step, you’ll get a script that you can put in your website to embed the slideshow player. This script is intended for general websites.

posts slideshows

If you want to install the script on a blog, Wibbitz provides users with a more customized setup. Go to the lower parts of the page and choose the type of blog that you use. For WordPress, the basic setup is downloading and installing the plugin, then putting the script’s URL path into the plugin’s settings.

posts slideshows

After you save your settings, you will be brought to your Dashboard. There are three panes there: “My players“, “Analytics“, and “What’s New“.

posts slideshows

The “My Players” pane is the place where all of your players are listed. You can edit the player’s settings, view the statistics, refresh the code, or share the players via Facebook. You can also add more players here.

03x my players

Adding The Slideshow Player To A WordPress Blog

I’ll use WordPress as an example since I only have a WordPress blog. To add the slideshow player to a WordPress blog, you have to download the plugin from Wibbitz and upload it to your blog(s).

Since the downloaded plugin is a .rar file, you have to extract the contents and recompress it into a .zip file. You can use almost any compression utility. One recommended free compression application is 7Zip.

04b compress plugin

The next step is to upload the plugin to your blog. Go to the “Install Plugins” menu and choose the “Upload” tab. Choose the file and click “Install Now“.

04c upload plugin

After installation, you will find “Wibbitz Configuration” in the side menu.

04e configuration

Enable the plugin by checking the box, fill in the “Wibbitz Player Path” with the script’s URL, and click the “Update Wibbitz Player” button.

04g player path 2

After that a small “Play” button will appear on the left side of your blog. When you hover your mouse over it, the button will slide out with your launcher text written on it.

04x hover mouse

Clicking on the play button will open the Slideshow Player. The player will show articles from your blog. The article’s title will be written at the bottom of the frame, while the article’s main image is moving in the background. If the article has no main image, the background will display Wibbitz’ image.

06a video result

The plugin only allows one RSS feed per blog, but that doesn’t mean that it should be the feed from the same blog. You can put feeds from one of your blogs into another blog’s slideshow player to cross-promote the content.

blog posts slideshow

If you want to give your visitors some exposure to the articles that they might’ve missed, Wibbitz’ slideshow player is a good way to do so. Moreover, the player will not disturb your visitors as it hides silently at the side until your visitors choose to open it. Try to build one for your blog and tell us what you think about it using the comments below. If you want more permanent-style exposure, you could try SlideDeck.

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Why Apple’s New Thunderbolt Port Is Awesome [Technology Explained]

Posted: 19 May 2011 08:31 AM PDT

apple thunderboltI/O ports aren't a technology that folks spend a lot of time thinking about. Let's face it – they're not sexy. USB 3.0? Firewire? eSATA? Yawn. Wake me up when we start talking about gigahertz again!

Still, ports are important. As the interface between your computer and everything else, your ports determine what you can do, and how quickly you can do it. Try buying an old keyboard with a USB 1.1 port at a yard sale and transferring some MP3 files through it. It will feel like it’s taking years.

Now Apple and Intel have released an entirely new port called Thunderbolt. What does it do, and what does it mean for modern and future computers?

Hey, You Look Familiar

apple thunderbolt

One of the strangest elements of the new Thunderbolt port is the fact that it technically doesn't use a new port at all. It instead uses a mini-DisplayPort connection, the proprietary video port Apple has used for years.

The idea of adapting a video port for I/O seems odd at first, but it makes perfect sense for Thunderbolt because, unlike USB 3.0, Thunderbolt is meant to do more than just transfer data. The use of mini-DisplayPort also means there is already a (small) install base of compatible devices on the market, which will make the growing pains felt by all new technologies easier to tolerate.

Breakneck Speed, Courtesy of Intel

apple thunderbolt port

Although Thunderbolt debuted on Apple computers, the engineers at Cupertino were not responsible for its creation. The technology was actually researched by Intel, which was working on the project under the code name Light Peak. Intel's goal – which they met – was the creation of an all-purpose port capable of transferring data at speeds of 10 Gbps per channel – and Thunderbolt has two channels.

Initially, Intel thought this would require fiber optic cables for devices rather than copper ones, which is why the project had the code name of Light Peak. After much testing however, Intel found that they could achieve 10 Gbit/s even with copper wire (which is less expensive), resulting in the birth of Thunderbolt.

Just to give you some perspective, here are the current maximum transfer rates of other popular connections.

  • USB 2.0: 480 Mbit/s
  • USB 3.0: 5 Gbit/s
  • Firewire 800: 800 Mbit/s
  • eSATA: 6 Gbit/s

Thunderbolt has them all beat, and by no small margin.

One Port To Rule Them All

apple thunderbolt

There is more to Thunderbolt than the transfer speeds, however. What's also exciting about Thunderbolt is the fact that it supports both the PCI Express and DisplayPort protocol. What does this mean? It means that almost any peripheral imaginable could be hooked up via Thunderbolt including not only storage drives and data devices but also external video cards and even Ethernet.  With the proper adapter, Thunderbolt should be able to connect with virtually every peripheral on the market today without causing degradation in performance.

It gets better. Apple Thunderbolt supports daisy-chain connections, which means that the single Thunderbolt port on a MacBook could theoretically support numerous devices including displays, storage devices and more. The maximum number of devices supported on a chain is seven, and up to two of those devices can be high-resolution DisplayPort monitors.


Honestly, there's nothing bad that can be said about Thunderbolt. It's an amazing I/O technology that absolutely crushes every other port out at the moment. Apple's inclusion of the port on its new MacBooks and iMacs gives these products a definite advantage over similar computers that lack the new technology.

Of course, Intel didn't just develop Thunderbolt for Apple. As is always the case with new tech, it will take time for Thunderbolt to trickle through the market. It looks like that this new port is relatively expensive to implement relative to USB 3.0. What remains to be seen is how that impacts adoption. FireWire was superior to USB for some time, but FireWire lost that battle because it cost more to implement than USB, among other reasons.

The future's always difficult to predict, but Thunderbolt should make new high-speed peripherals possible. It will be interesting to see what comes to market.

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