Thursday, May 26, 2011 “Skype Outages Worldwide & How To Fix App Crashes For Windows/Mac [News]” plus 11 more “Skype Outages Worldwide & How To Fix App Crashes For Windows/Mac [News]” plus 11 more

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Skype Outages Worldwide & How To Fix App Crashes For Windows/Mac [News]

Posted: 26 May 2011 07:17 AM PDT

Skype has suffered a worldwide outage today, with users globally unable to use the application to make calls. has been down for part of the day and there have been issues with the Skype applications also. Users of Windows, Mac and Linux clients have all been affected by the outage.

Skype has now identified the problem and hopes to have it fixed soon. In the meantime, they have issued some technical instructions on how to fix the Skype client errors some people are still experiencing.

A less technical fix is also in the works, so keep an eye on the Skype Twitter account for immediate notification.

How To Fix Skype Application Crashes

Windows Vista & Windows 7

  1. Close Skype. Right-click the Skype icon in the system tray (at the bottom right of the screen). Choose Quit.
  2. Ensure that “Show hidden files and folders” is switched on. Click Start, type run and press Enter. Type control folders and click OK. Select the View tab and ensure relevant entry is enabled.
  3. Locate the shared.xml file. Click Start, type run and press Enter. Type %appdata%\skype and click OK. Delete the shared.xml file.
  4. Restart Skype. The shared.xml file will be recreated.

Windows XP

  1. Close Skype. Right-click the Skype icon in the system tray (at the bottom right of the screen). Choose Quit.
  2. Ensure that “Show hidden files and folders” is switched on. Click Start and then Run… Type control folders and click OK. Select the View tab and ensure relevant entry is enabled.
  3. Locate the shared.xml file. Click Start and then Run… Type %appdata%\skype and click OK. Delete the shared.xml file.
  4. Restart Skype. The shared.xml file will be recreated.

Mac OS X

  1. Quit Skype.
  2. Go to the folder ~/Library/Application Support/Skype/
  3. Delete the file shared.xml (it will be recreated once you open Skype again, this is fine).
  4. Start Skype.

The ~ sign means your home folder. Open Finder and select Go > Home from the menu bar to find your home folder.

The Skype outage comes just weeks after ethical hackers noted a security hole for the Skype Mac client.

Source: TheNextWeb

Have you been affected by the Skype outage? Did these instructions solve it for you? Let us know in the comments!

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Latest Hilarious Picks [MakeUseOf Geeky Fun]

Posted: 26 May 2011 12:30 AM PDT

Check out the top picks from MakeUseOf Geeky Fun during the last couple of days.

  1. Clever Age Verification (Pic)
  2. Hidden Features Of Baby Toy Phone (Video)
  3. How A Tech Support Dude Sees His Job (Pic)
  4. 10 Types Of Facebook Friends (Pic)
  5. Technologic Animation (Video)
  6. I wish for a really nice girl… (Pic)
  7. I'll Just Play A Couple Of Skirmishes (Pic)
  8. Social Network In Stone Age (Pic)

If you would like to keep up with all latest Geeky Fun additions, please subscribe to the Geeky Fun feed here. You can also subscribe and get the latest additions via email.

Need Assistance? Ask questions to MakeUseOf staff and thousands of other readers on MakeUseOf Answers!


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Cool Websites and Tools [May 25th]

Posted: 25 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!


ListHD – While posting an online ad for the items you want to sell, sharing high quality images of your product always helps attract buyers. Unfortunately one of the largest online ads platforms, Craigslist, provides only small low quality images for your products. Here to help solve this problem is ListHD. Read more: ListHD: Post Large Images To Craigslist


Pica-Pic – There are times when veteran videogame players miss the good old days when playing video games was everybody's hobby. Thanks to Pica Pic, those days can be relived by playing the virtual equivalents of all those classic handheld video games in your browser. Read more: Pica-Pic: Play Classic Game Consoles Online



FreeMP3zz – The site may not have the largest MP3 collection on the web, but it surely is one of the simplest and most user-friendly websites when it comes to searching for music. The whole idea behind FreeMP3zz is to create and deliver an enhanced user experience where everything is accessible with a single click. Read more: FreeMP3zz: Play, Embed & Download MP3 Songs Within Seconds



bgMaker – Small images can be tiled to create brilliant backgrounds for your websites and designs. If you are looking for a competent small image creation tool, then check out bgMaker, a simple and free to use online image creation tool. You start with a simple 12×12 grid that you can edit and create images on. Read more: bgMaker: Generate Tiled Backgrounds



Speechify – is a Google Chrome extension that makes your life easier by not having to type every time you want to search something. Once installed, this Chrome extension adds a microphone icon to the search box of most search engines and popular websites. Whenever you want to do a search, simply click on the icon. Read more: Speechify: Adds Speech Search Feature To Popular Sites [Chrome]


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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Pulse – A Simple & Open-Source Desktop Wallpaper Switcher [Windows]

Posted: 25 May 2011 06:31 PM PDT

desktop wallpaper switcherHarold Wilson once said that “He who rejects change is the architect of decay”.  I'm pretty sure he wasn't referring to desktop wallpapers, but the quote fits. Boring desktops probably don't stimulate our brains that much, and so imagination and creativity could be on the verge of decaying, just a tad bit. The simple solution of scouring for new wallpapers is usually fun, but it can also be time-consuming and tedious.

We have actually featured a few applications that do the wallpaper-hunting and rotating for you according to your preferred time intervals. Wally is one such program that's also open-source and cross-platform; John's Background Switcher is a similar application for Windows. Both can download images from online sources, such as Flickr, Picasa, etc. These two are full of functionalities but If you want less complicated tools, you can check out ScrollWall and Wallpaper Juggler.

Pulse is another background rotator that happens to be open-source, and is very simple to use. Available for Windows, this program simply sits in the system tray once you run the executable.

desktop wallpaper switcher

When you right-click on the tray icon, you get three options: To get the next wallpaper, to change Settings or Options, and to exit.

desktop wallpaper switch

The Options window presents you with some simple fields.

desktop wallpaper switch

There's a keyword field for you to type your preferred genre of wallpaper. The current source of wallpapers is Rewalls, a Russian website with lots of wallpapers, and since Pulse actually uses Google Translate to translate the keyword you typed, you might have to be careful about being too specific. The default keyword of “Spring” provided absolutely stunning wallpapers, but when I typed ‘sushi’, Pulse took several tries to find the right wallpapers.

desktop wallpaper switch

While Windows 7 can also rotate wallpapers, it only considers wallpapers you already have on your hard drive, unless you do some tweaking. With Pulse, at least, every wallpaper is a surprise, and you can choose how often you'll see these new surprises. The times offered on the Options ranges from 1 minute to 1 hour and 30 minutes, with 5-minute intervals. The software is actually in beta, so there might be more time options in the future.

Below the frequency options, you can set Pulse to skip or not pictures with lower resolutions so you only get high quality wallpapers. Beneath that, you can select whether to delete cached images and how many days' worth of wallpapers your cache folder should save.

desktop wallpaper switcher free

Finally for the Options dialog, you can choose your language settings. Changes are applied immediately, but since this is beta software, if you encounter hiccups, you just need to restart the application. The amount of memory used by Pulse when I had set it on changing wallpapers every 5 minute change is about average.

desktop wallpaper switcher

Pulse may be a beta application but its simplicity and ease of use make it a good choice for users that don't want to bother too much with settings things up, but just want new HD-quality wallpapers inundating their desktops.

If you're interested in checking out more interesting wallpaper applications, I would recommend my favorite, innovative product Wallcast. Don't forget to check out hand-picked collections of sexy wallpapers that your significant other will approve of, cool social networking backgrounds, and dual-monitor wallpapers. If you're an iPad owner, you should probably check out these wallpaper apps to turn your device into a magnificent picture frame. If you're on Linux, there's quite a few wallpaper changer apps you can read about here.

Do you prefer to seek wallpapers the manual way or find Pulse or similar applications useful? Let us know in the comments!

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A Few Things To Consider Before Jumping On The Google Latitude Bandwagon

Posted: 25 May 2011 04:31 PM PDT

google latitude privacyThis week we’ve already explored a few unique and interesting ways to use Google Latitude, the location tracking arm of Google Maps. With Latitude enabled and a few friends connected to your account you can share your location with whomever you choose from a smartphone or PC.

Of course using a service which tracks, records and shares your location comes with its own Google Latitude privacy considerations, most importantly privacy and security. Latitude can be fun, safe and useful but the risks associated with recording your home address, workplace and daily routine must not be underestimated. Here are a couple of things to consider before sharing and recording your location with Google’s flagship location service.

Is It A Little Too Revealing?

Call me old fashioned, but there’s something a little unnerving about sharing your exact location 24/7 with a group of friends. It is not too hard to see how this would potentially backfire on you too.

Say you’re invited out by a (Latitude-enabled) friend, but don’t fancy it and make up a quick excuse about another engagement. You also forget that your smartphone is silently recording your every move for your whole network of friends to see, blowing your cover and revealing where you really are. Not exactly a relationship-destroyer, but maybe a bit awkward the next day.

google latitude privacy

Google Latitude does allow you to limit the exactitude of your shared location, meaning you could opt to share only your general location. The main problem with this limitation is that many of Latitude’s valid uses rely on accurate location reports. Finding your friends in a crowd, meeting someone for lunch or marking a point on a map is impossible with a general location.

The main thing to remember is not to share your location with just anyone who requests. This is sensitive data, so be careful who can access it.

A Compromised Account & The Consequences

Should your password find its way into the hands of a dishonest and calculating individual, your last week’s worth of location data (not to mention live data, should you be unaware of the intruder) could lead to devastating consequences.

google latitude privacy concerns

Latitude works out where you live and where you work based on data collected. Even with only a week’s worth of data a potential burglar can tell when you are likely to be out at work, and what time is perfect to come round and break in.

Similarly, should a friend’s account be compromised your location is suddenly being shared with a complete stranger who may or may not be up to no good and this could also have knock on consequences.

Could The Data Ever Be Released?

A court order could in theory see Google required by law to release your known whereabouts and any history they may have stored, should it arise in court. It’s unlikely if you’re trying to avoid being traced that you’ll use a service like Latitude, but it’s likely that many will feel strongly about this kind of information finding its way into any hands but their own.

google latitude privacy concerns

In addition to this (and despite Google’s notoriously tight-lipped security) it is very unwise to assume all data stored on its servers is 100% secure. Data could be leaked following an attack or human error and as we’ve learned recently from the Sony saga – it’s a tough lesson to learn (twice).

Googlephobes Beware

If you’re the sort of person who is concerned about Google’s Internet might, then Latitude probably isn’t going to fill you with confidence. The search giant has confirmed that only the most recent data is stored on the server, but the fact remains that Google’s got the dirt on you.

google latitude privacy

I don’t personally subscribe to the belief that Google is up to no good with this data, but at the same time there are things to consider before giving any company such specific information about your daily routine, job, travel habits and so on.


This article is not designed to scare you out of using Google Latitude, and with proper care over who you choose to share your location with it can be a fun and useful tool to have. At the same time it’s worth remembering that recording your every move has potential knock-on effects, even if only your last week’s worth of data is available.

Have you used Google Latitude? Do any of these Google latitude privacy points concern you? Advise and amaze us in the comments below.

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3 Free Photo Customization Websites With The Best Features

Posted: 25 May 2011 03:31 PM PDT

photo customizing sitesIf we were to be judged by the amount of photos we take on a regular basis, most people would qualify as photographers. Today, almost everyone owns a digital camera, either as part of a mobile phone or in the form of a dedicated device. Taking pictures has become something everybody can do. Anytime. Anywhere.

Taking lots of pictures of course doesn’t mean they are any good. Professional photographers know that often the real work is done in post-processing. While the goal of every photographer is to take the perfect snapshot that requires zero editing, the manifold tools that are available can also be a source of great entertainment for the hobby picture takers. Not only can you improve your photos by adjusting the frame, correcting blemishes, or changing the color, you can also add cool effects and fun elements.


In case you were hoping to find an online alternative to Photoshop…voilà, you have just found it! Aviary currently is the most powerful image editor suite on the net. Moreover, it is very easy and intuitive to use. Advanced features are available through separate tools, which helps to keep the option madness at bay. Best of all, you can start customizing your photos right away, signing up is not required.

It all starts with a photo. To start customizing with the basic editor on the front page, simply upload your photo or paste the URL via the respective button in the top right. In the next step you can choose from several great features for customizing photos, for example whiten (teeth), red-eye (removal), blemish (correction), resize, and sharpen.

photo customizing sites

If you want to make more advanced changes, scroll down and load one of the advanced creative tools

photo customization site

For a more detailed review of Aviary’s advanced creative tools, check out this MakeUseOf article: Edit Images Online with The Aviary Photo Editor Suite. Also check out Feather, Aviary’s HTML5 photo editor and our review about it: Feather – A Light, Simple But Powerful HTML5-Based Online Photo Editor.

An alternative to the Aviary suite is Pixlr, which was reviewed in detail here: Easy & Powerful Online Image Editing With Pixlr.


If you’re looking for something that has more out of the box effects to customize your photos with, have a look at FotoFlexer. It may not make much an impression at first sight. Once you’re in, however, you will notice what a great tool it is! No signup is required, there’s a simple interface, it’s easy to use, and it’s packed with features.

You can start by uploading a photo from your hard drive or edit photos from a selection of photo customizing sites, including Flickr, Facebook, or Picasa. For this demonstration, I connected FotoFlexer to my Flickr account.

photo customization site

After you select a picture, the image editor loads and you can start having fun. You can choose from several different tabs, including a basic editor, effects, layers, and geeky stuff, meaning more advanced editing.

photo customization site


BeFunky is one of these tools that look super simplistic at first sight, but then turn out to offer way more than expected. The root to this first impression is the minimalistic, almost oversimplified interface. What hides behind it, however, is a range of options and a fast engine that allows almost instant changes.

Pictures can be uploaded, downloaded, printed, or shared via the respective buttons in the top right. What they hide is that you can connect to several networks to collect or spread your images. Via the respective buttons in the top left you can switch between the edit and create mode. Editing refers to basic image editing, i.e. cropping, resizing, adjusting color etc. Creating is everything else, i.e. adding effects, frames, text, and other goodies. Each selection changes the available features in the sidebar.

photo customization website

The only drag I found with BeFunky is that you are constantly reminded that there is a pay version by the ‘Upgrade Now’ button in the bottom right and the many ‘Premium Effects’ that are only available with the upgrade. While there are free items for every single of the dozens of effect categories, it’s a nagging reminder that you could get access to even more.

photo customizing sites

A tool that looked promising, but turned out to be very slow was Picture2Life. Creating a free account is optional and it offers a huge amount of quick fixes, effects, and adjustments. Unfortunately, the interface is not as intuitive as that of other tools and it takes forever to make changes. If you are looking for the tool with the most features though, do give it a spin!

If you’re willing to register to access a tool that provides many one-click effects, try out flauntR. We have reviewed the tool in this article: FlauntR – A Killer Online Image Editing Tool.

With so many great tools available online, do we really still need software for customizing photos? What photo customizing sites do you prefer to use?

Image credits: Marynchenko Oleksandr

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How To Add A Print Button To Your Web Page

Posted: 25 May 2011 02:31 PM PDT

how to add a print button to a web pageYou know, something like adding a print button to a web page sounds pretty simple, right? In fact, why do we even need to add any print button or link to the page at all, when all the reader has to do is click on “File” and “Print…” in the browser menu?

Ultimately, different people want the print feature on their webpage for different reasons. You may just want to add convenience. When the reader can just click a button to get a printout – it saves a few clicks, and every click counts. Other people want to customize the printed text – in other words, hide certain elements of the page from the printout. In other situations, people prefer creating a carefully customized, printable version of the website.

For each of these situations, there are different solutions. We’ve always tried to offer innovative print solutions here at MUO, such as Justin’s article about printing on half-pages and Karl’s article on PrintWhatYouLike. In this article I’m going to provide four ways that you can integrate a printing button or link into your website – from the very simple HTML and Javascript approach, to the more customizable CSS approach.

Integrating Printing Into Your Website

When you look at any webpage, it’s pretty easy to see why you may want to customize the printout. A typical webpage has ads, banners, ad links, sidebars and footer sections that do nothing more than eat up page space and wastefully consume paper.

how to add a print button to a web page

If you have a fairly simple website, or you don’t really care whether or not all of the graphics and formatting prints, then all you have to do is add a simple button to your webpage and use the “print()” javascript method to send the webpage to the printer.

<input type="button"   onClick="window.print()"   value="Print This Page"/>

Placing this code into your site at a location that’s quick and easy for your readers to use looks something like this.

add print button to web page

All the reader has to do is click the button and the page will get sent directly to the printer without any page formatting whatsoever. If the page is beyond the printable width for the printer, it’s possible you could end up printing out far more pages than is actually necessary.

add print button to web page

Some people don’t really like the appearance of a form button, so as an alternative you can simply use a link with the embedded javascript to do the exact same thing.

<input type="button" <a href="javascript:window.print()">Print This Page</a>

You can see how in many cases a simple text looks much cleaner than a button, but which you use really comes down to which looks better in the area of the webpage where you want to provide the print feature.

add print button to web page

As you can see from the example printout above, the formatting of many ads and banners don’t perfectly match the browser display when you simply use the print command. This becomes much more apparent for more complex websites. Another approach people use is to block entire sections of the website using CSS, and assign specific sections of the page to print. You do this by first linking the CSS file in the header section.

<link rel="stylesheet" href="print.css" type="text/css" media="print" />

Next, you’ll need to create the actual CSS file and save it in the same directory as your webpage. The CSS file should assign all of the sections of the page that should not be printed, and then also make the elements of the page you assign to print as visible.

DIV#header, DIV#newflash, DIV#banner {display: none;} body {visibility:hidden;} .print {visibility:visible;}

Now that your CSS file is set up, all you have to do is go through your page and tag each section with the “print” class.

<div class="print"> This line will be printed. </div>   <div> This line won't. </div>

Now you can see in the printout where only the sections of the page marked with the “print” class get printed to the page, and all other sections don’t. The one difficulty with this approach is that you have to make sure to turn off the display for all DIV sections that you don’t want printed. As you can see below, I didn’t add the “div” section for the Google Ad, so that still printed.

web page printing

It can take some time to build the CSS file and lay out the classes correctly. If you really don’t want to bother doing this on every page, then you may opt for one last approach. This is my favorite technique for providing perfectly formatted, printable versions of the webpage. All you have to do is create a PDF formatted version of the webpage content, save it on your web host, and then link the file in the header of the page.

<link rel=alternate media=print href="printversion.pdf">

That’s all you have to do! You can embed the print button on your site just like in the examples above, but instead of the CSS file loaded for the print method, the PDF, DOC or other file is sent to the printer. As you can see below, this generates the cleanest printable version of your page, and you can pretty much customize it to look exactly how you want it to.

how to add a print button to a web page

As you can see, there are plenty of options to choose from when you want to place a print button or link on your webpage. Any of these choices work well, but the right choice really comes down to how complex the webpage is, and what content you want to offer your readers when they choose to print your webpage.

Have you tried any of these techniques to add a print button to a web page? Which technique do you like best? Do you have any other solutions? Share your insight in the comments section below.

Image Credit: Sundeip Arora

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How To Hack Your Kinect & Use It To Kill Zombies

Posted: 25 May 2011 12:31 PM PDT

kinect hackJust a few months ago I highlighted some of the crazy Kinect hacks that were coming out from small development teams. Well, development has moved on to a more user friendly state now, and the drivers have been released for all to download and play with. One studio has even gone so far as to make a little tech-demo zombie game for the PC, so today I thought I’d walk you through the process of setting up the Kinect on your PC and getting the game running.


There’s quite a few things to download and configure here, but it’s certainly not difficult. You’ll need to install 3 different layers of drivers and middleware in order to get this tech demo working.

Here’s the things you need to download:

On the Kinect hardware side of things, if like me you own a bundle Kinect with Xbox Slim, you might be wondering how on earth the device will plug into your computer – the answer is that you’ll need to buy the power supply / USB adapter separately (search Amazon for “Kinect power supply” – best deal is about £10/$16). Those of you who bought the Kinect on its own should already have one. Don’t plug it in yet!


  • Start with Microsoft .Net install if you don’t already have it. Then run the OpenNi package you downloaded first. When done installing that, extract the files to your desktop. Open up that up and run the installer for Windows found in the Bin directory.
  • Next, navigate to the Program Files -> OpenNI -> Data directory. Keep that open.
  • Again, from the directory you extracted on the desktop, open up the OpenNI -> Data directory in there. You should see a SamplesConfig.xml file. Copy that to the Program Files -> OpenNI -> Data directory you should still have open from step 2.
  • Open up the SamplesConfig.xml file and change the line that reads:
  • <License vendor="vendor" key="key"/>


    <License vendor="PrimeSense" key="0KOIk2JeIBYClPWVnMoRKn5cdY4="/>

    This is a license key provided to the community to allow everyone to use the Kinect device.

  • At this point, you should be able to plug in your Kinect device and have Windows recognize it with some drivers. There are actually devices contained in the Kinect – the motor, camera, and microphone. Each will be listed as separate device.

kinect hack

  • Although we’re not finished yet, it’s important you test this before we move on. Open up Program Files -> OpenNI -> Samples -> Bin -> Release and run SimpleViewer.exe to see something like this:

how to hack kinect

  • Go ahead and install the PrimeSense MiddleWare next (Nite-Win32- You’ll need to provide the license key again during install (here it is again: 0KOIk2JeIBYClPWVnMoRKn5cdY4=)
  • Check that’s working too by going to Program Files -> PrimeSense -> NITE -> Samples -> Bin -> Release -> SampleTrackPad.exe

how to hack kinect

  • Finally, extract the Zombie Holdout directory to your desktop and launch the game file inside there! Assuming everything has worked so far, you should be able to calibrate by just lifting your arms up to match the guy on screen. Reload by lifting them up again, and shoot by just pointing. Another awesome feature is that by twisting your body a little left or right you can look around.

kinect hack

Of course, there’s a million other things you could do with your Kinect now that it’s hooked up to your PC. I’ll take a look at some more next time, including how to control your Windows or Mac mouse, which would be perfect for that new living room media center.

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Share Files & Collaborate With Groups Of People With RRRipple

Posted: 25 May 2011 11:31 AM PDT

collaboration software freeIf you’ve been to a family gathering or birthday party, you’ll notice how everybody seems to bring their own camera. You will also know how difficult it is to collect everybody’s shots into one collection. Sending and asking images to and from all attendees is often a daunting task. Browsing all of their Facebook accounts and downloading all the images one by one is not much easier either. A better solution is to set up a “dumping place” where everybody can put their images (and videos) so that the files are available to all family members.

The scenario is only one of the many possible usages of RRRipple – an online tool that will let you:

“Organize, display and share photos, videos, comments, notes, links and files in your own online portfolio.”

Other usage possibilities suggested by RRRipple are a place for teachers to post data for students and parents, and a container for files in one project collaboration.

Getting Started

Aside from the standard signing up process, RRRipple allows you to sign up using your Facebook account. If you use Facebook to set up your RRRipple account, you will be asked to provide a preferred email address.

collaboration software free

The first thing you need to do after you are finished setting up your account is invite your friends and/or family members to join the service. After all, what good is a group sharing feature without any group members?

00d invite

Then type the email addresses of the people you want to invite, write a short message, and click the “Invite” button.

collaboration software

After the message is sent, a confirmation window will appear.

collaboration software

I honestly expected more from the “invite new contacts” step. If users are allowed to sign in using their Facebook account, why can’t they invite people from their Facebook friends list? It would be more convenient than having to invite contacts one by one via email.

Before you go any further, you might want to watch the welcome video to familiarize yourself with the service.

Building The Library

The next step of the process is building your RRRipple library by adding content to it. Click the “Import” button at the top right corner of the page.

collaboration software

RRRipple accepts virtually any kind of files, including photos and videos. You can import files from your computer’s hard drive to RRRipple’s cloud storage. If you have a large collection of photos in your Facebook account, you can import them directly to RRRipple.

software to collaborate

You will see your Facebook photo albums, choose one and click “Open” to start importing photo(s) inside that album.

software to collaborate

A progress bar will tell you how far along the importing process has gone.

software to collaborate

After the importing process is finished, you can add more details to the files. Click “Post” to finalize the process.

02f post photos

The files will be added to your portfolio and sorted chronologically.

05a chronological order

Let’s Get Together

Now it’s time to share. You can create new groups, choose members of the group from your contacts, and drag and drop the contents of your library to your group(s).

03a create group

To add a new group to your “Group Portfolios“, click the “Create Group Portfolio” button and fill in the necessary data. There’s the option to allow group members to post and share content. Unless you want the group to be a passive one, enable this option.

06 create group

You can create as many groups as you need, for example: Family, Office Friends, Hiking Buddies, Project X, Annie’s 2nd Birthday, etc. Then share related content to the group from your library.

Other than the Flash-based web application, RRRipple is also available as an iPhone and iPad app.

collaboration software free

If you need a tool to help you share and get files among groups while having fun doing it, RRRipple might be able to answer the need. However, I found the web app to be a little slow and some of my upload attempts failed in the process. Hopefully, the glitch will be addressed by the developer in the future.

Have you tried RRRipple? Do you know of other similar services? Share your thoughts and opinions using the comment below.

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Learn & Practice Camera Exposure Settings With CameraSim

Posted: 25 May 2011 10:31 AM PDT

camera simulatorUnderstanding camera exposure can often take the joy out of taking pictures. Semi and professional level cameras like the Canon 50D or the Nikon D80 are fairly affordable, and the automatic exposure settings of these type of cameras can help you take good photos. But you may not get your money's worth if you only shoot in automatic mode. Learning exposure settings on DSLR is not easy, but a website called CameraSim enables you to experiment with exposure settings and get a better idea of how camera exposure works.

Using your own DSLR camera and a few good articles or books about lighting and image exposure, CameraSim might be a useful tool for learning about ISO, aperture and shutter speed settings, and shooting under various lighting conditions.

You can hop over to CameraSim and start playing around with the settings, but if you have no prior knowledge about the subject, I present below a few explanations of settings that you can apply to get you started with the simulator.

Overview Of CameraSim

What's useful about CameraSim is that it's designed with the basic metering features found in DSLRs. It presents a fairly typical outdoor shot with shadows and highlights on the subject, a moving object, a shallow depth of field, and fairly normal outdoor lighting conditions. It also includes in the focusing screen the spot metering circle and the AF points, but there doesn't appear to be a way to activate that feature so we will ignore it.

camera simulator

Exposure Settings

The green settings represent the shutter speed (far left), aperture/ f-stop setting, the exposure level indicator, and the ISO speed.

camera exposure settings

Moving the sliders below in the simulator is like moving the dials on your camera. The simulator also has the Shutter Priority,  Aperture Priority and Manual modes on a camera. Notice there's no automatic mode or other exposure presets that many beginners rely upon for shooing pictures. The purpose of CameraSim is to help you get beyond shooting in automatic mode so that you can have more creative control over your shots.

Aperture Priority

Okay, let's explore a few exposure settings. What I present here is in no way intended to be an introduction to the understanding of exposure. There are many other articles and books that you should read.

First, if you’ve played around with the settings already, refresh the page so that you are taken back to the default settings (ISO: 200, Aperture: 11, Shutter speed: 1/125 sec) in the simulator. The default shot is fairly well composed with a shallow depth of field (DOF), which the means the girl in the foreground is in focus, while the background is out of focus.

But suppose you wanted both the foreground and the background in focus. Click on the Aperture Priority setting (which means that you control the Aperture and the camera will automatically set the corresponding Shutter speed for you) and close down the f-stop to about f/18. This number appears to be bigger but what you're really doing is closing down the aperture instead of opening it up. Now click the "shutter button" to snap the photo as you would in a real camera.

camera exposure settings

The foreground and background should be in focus. So the lesson here is that if you want a shallow depth of field, you use a larger f-stop of say f/11, and a smaller opening if you want the entire image to be sharp. The distance between the camera and the subject also influences the DOF. Refresh the page for original settings; change the distance to 9.5 feet, and snap the photo. Notice how you lose the shallow DOF at that distance.

Shutter Priority

Now refresh the page again and select the Shutter Priority Mode, which tells the camera that you will control the shutter speed, while the camera will set the corresponding aperture setting for you. In the last shot we took we captured the motion of the toy fan, but now let's try to freeze it.

camera exposure settings

Move the Shutter “dial” to a slightly faster speed of 1/250 second and snap the photo. That should freeze the fan. Now click the “Return to viewfinder” button and move the shutter speed up to say 1/800 sec and snap the photo. Notice that this setting not only freezes the fan, but it introduces a little more shadow in the girl's face. This is because the shutter speed is faster which means less light hits the sensor of the camera. So keep that in mind when trying to balance settings.

Note that the image results on the computer screen may be different than what I'm describing, depending upon your monitor's resolution. The image may appear lighter or darker than it should be. See our article on 5 Online Tools to Help Calibrate Your Monitor.

Refresh the page again, and this time – still in Shutter Priority Mode – lower the shutter speed to 1/30 to 1/15 sec, and snap the shot. Notice now that you get a blurred image.

camera simulator

This is because the shutter speed is too slow for hand-holding a camera. You would need to stabilize the camera with a tripod to shoot at a slower shutter speed. Notice also that the reciprocal f-stop is closed down and you lose the shallow DOF.

For additional information about the Aperture and Shutter priority, check out this article.

The automatic settings on many cameras can provide the appropriate settings for taking photos in typical lighting situations, but learning about and experimenting with exposure is the best way to have more creative control over your shots.

Let us know what you think of CameraSim. Do you find it useful? Are there similar online tools that you find helpful? Let us know about them.

Image credit: Shutterstock

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Play the Angry Birds Game in Your Browser Right Now, For Free

Posted: 25 May 2011 09:31 AM PDT

angry birds gameAre you too productive working on your computer? Good news! The Angry Birds game is now available on every computer, so you’ll never actually work again. Or, at least, never be able to. That’s right, the infamously addictive iPhone game is now free to use on every computer.

The new Angry Birds web app is technically for Google Chrome, meaning that it works on Linux, Mac and Windows computers. If you know what you’re doing though, you can get it working on most modern browsers. Keep reading to find out how, but be warned – you might not be able to stop once you do.

Getting Started

Using Chrome? Then head here to install the Angry Birds game on your browser. You’ll get a nifty new icon on your start page.

angry birds game

Click this to play. When you do, you’ll be able to start playing. If you’ve ever played Angry Birds before, you’ll find this immediately familar:

angry birds

If you’ve never played before, the concept is easy. Use the slingshot to propel birds at structures. Make the structures fall onto pigs, so you can get the eggs.

The controls are pretty good, if not quite as fun as they are with a touch screen. Click and drag to fire your angry birds, and use the scroll wheel to zoom in and out. You might experience some lag, depending on your computer. If this is true for you, switch to the SD mode by pressing the button below the game; everything should speed up.

All current levels are free, though there will be paid additional levels soon. Most of the levels will be familiar to fans of Angry Birds, but there are a few Chrome-exclusive levels, which you need to unlock during the game.

angry birds

The means of doing so aren’t obvious, but you just might catch on. Keep playing and you’ll figure it out!

Unlock All Levels

Of course, you could also just cheat. BrowserScene, the phoenix that recently rose from the ashes of Download Squad, explained how in a recent post. Basically, you need to copy some code into the address bar when you’re playing. The code is as follows:

javascript: var i = 0; while (i<=69) { localStorage.setItem('level_star_'+i,'3?); i++; } window.location.reload();

Undoing the change is simple with this code:

javascript: var i = 1; while (i<=69) { localStorage.setItem('level_star_'+i,'-1?); i++; } window.location.reload();

Not a bad hack, if you just want to get to the Chrome-exclusive levels as quickly as possible.

angry birds game

Using Other Browsers

Being a web app, Angry Birds doesn’t necessarily require Chrome. It worked well for me, in Firefox 4 and Safari, for example. Other browsers may vary, but in general you’re going to need one that’s very up to date and supports HTML5.

Want to know if your computer will work? Head to and you’ll figure it out quickly. If you can’t get it to work, it may simply be time to install Chrome.


Google’s web store had a good launch; it didn’t take us long to point out six Chrome web apps you should check out. Angry Birds though, is a big deal for Google’s promotion of the concept of web apps. Perhaps the most popular mobile app is now on the web, legitimizing the concept of web apps just in time for the commercial launch of Chrome netbooks.

Will this lead to more apps taking to the cloud? Only time will tell, but for now let’s just enjoy this game. Leave your comments about the future of web-based applications in the comments below, or don’t because you’ve been playing the Angry Birds game for the past six hours. It’s up to you.

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10 Fun & Useful Chrome Extensions For Your Wikipedia Browsing

Posted: 25 May 2011 08:31 AM PDT

chrome extensions wikipediaEven as the battle rages on between Chrome extensions and Firefox add-ons, it is we users who are coming out on top. There's the sheer variety to choose from. Let's take Wikipedia for instance. The online encyclopedia has managed to maintain its top-dog status when it comes to quick access (and free) source of valuable information. I can take any keyword and dive into Wikipedia's rich cache of knowledge and not come up for air.

Just so that my deep diving into Wikipedia remains a fun and educational experience, a bounty of Chrome extensions is a must-have for my browser. Nancy started me of with her post on The 7 Coolest Wikipedia Plugins for Your Browser. Why stop there when the Chrome Web Store beckons with so many more choices to make my Wikipedia browsing more fun.

Wikipedia Companion – Mini Wiki Browser

chrome extensions wikipedia

As the name says, it is like a mini-browser for Wikipedia. Just like a browser it brings one touch access to your search and history as you trawl through Wikipedia. It makes Wikipedia lookups easier with a few optional controls. For each page of information, you can show-hide the sections in the article. You can set language options for the mini-browser, change font size, and set the extension to open a featured page on Wikipedia. You browsed pages remain in history till you clear them.

Wikipedia Smart Links

wikipedia extension chrome

While reading Wikipedia, a linked term usually takes us away from the original page we were reading. Sometimes we don't come back at all. Solve that with Wikipedia Smart Links that popups up a selection of any article linked from within it when you hover over the link with your mouse. You can also use Wikipedia Quick Hints for the same purpose.

Wikipedia Image Preview

wikipedia extension chrome

Wikimedia Commons or the other copyrighted images are a treasure trove. Sure you can get them with a search or a click on the image thumbnail itself. This Chrome extension makes it simpler to view by giving you a full-size preview of an image in a lightbox, which loads right in the same page while fading the background. The Wikipedia Reader extension brings the same functionality and also gives you a dekko at the reference link box with a mouseover.

Wikipedia – Most Popular Articles

wikipedia extension chrome

This is a simple extension that displays the most popular articles of the day. Oh yes, you also get pages like "404 error" and "Main Page". That's evened off by topical pages like Dominique Strauss-Kahn and McDonald's monopoly.

Beautipedia Modified, Chromified

Restyle the way you read Wikipedia with a distraction free neater interface. You can use the menu on right-top to browse to a random page, Some of the other features like Talk and Edit weren't returning the desired results though.


If you want to give your Wikipedia reading experience another little tweak, install this Chrome extension that does a simple thing – it duplicates the Ubuntu font on your Wikipedia pages and changes the default look and feel by a smidgen.


chrome extensions wikipedia search

This simple Chrome extension socializes Wikipedia by adding a Facebook Like button to each article in Wikipedia , Wikimedia, Wikiquote , and other Wikimedia-Foundation sites.


chrome extensions wikipedia search

This Chrome extension for Wikipedia hasn't seen a download yet, but I think it could be really useful if you are deep into Wikipedia research and need to quickly scan a Wikipedia page to see keywords that fall into it. The extension lists up anchored words in the sentences of Wikipedia articles. You can then lookup the important parts first by looking at the words that have their own articles. Then, you can click through to a word or topic that interests you. It seemed slightly buggy as I had to click the extension twice to get the word list.

Wikipedia + Ngram

chrome extensions wikipedia search

Admittedly this extension won't be of much use to us normal folks, but if you use Wikipedia for research you can use Google's Ngram Viewer straightaway to graphically see the popularity of a given word over the years. The info page on Google's Ngram also has this link which shows its utility as a research tool.

Wikipedia Progress Tracker

chrome extensions wikipedia

This post started out as one meant for the Wikipedia hound. So, in the end, it's essential to just take a look at how much of Wikipedia's terrain one has conquered. The extension tracks your total reading and displays it as a percentage (in scientific notation). You have to be logged in to allow the extension to retrieve your Wikipedia browsing stats.

From faster navigation to better reading, we have seen the utility of Chrome extensions. Why shouldn't you utilize them for enhancing your Wikipedia visits? Let us know about your favorite Chrome extensions…for Wikipedia browsing or otherwise.

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