Thursday, June 30, 2011 “[ANNOUNCEMENT] 107 Best Websites On The Web” plus 10 more “[ANNOUNCEMENT] 107 Best Websites On The Web” plus 10 more

Link to MakeUseOf

[ANNOUNCEMENT] 107 Best Websites On The Web

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 06:31 AM PDT

Here at MakeUseOf, we love websites. It’s our very reason for existing and when new sites pop up, we’re one of the first to get all hot and bothered about it.

With an estimated 350 million websites out there on the World Wide Web (and tens of thousands more starting up new every day), how do you know which ones are the best for your individual needs?

If this is a problem you frequently encounter then worry no more, as MakeUseOf once again has you covered with the 107 Best Websites On The Web.

We asked our authors, we asked you, we thoroughly went through the recommendations in our comments. Here is the outcome.

Check out the 107 Best Websites On The Web

Bookmark the site, and do us a huge favor by sharing the page with your friends and family. Do share!

[ANNOUNCEMENT] 107 Best Websites On The Web is a post from: MakeUseOf

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Cool Websites and Tools [June 29th]

Posted: 29 Jun 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!


Hazeover – If you are a heavy multi-tasker on the desktop, there will be times where having too many windows hinders your focus on that one app that you need to get your critical task done. Fortunately, a Mac app called Hazeover helps you stay focused only on the active window by dimming all your inactive windows. Read more: Hazeover: Dim Inactive Windows For Better Focus (OSX)


Axess – This is a free to use web service that lets you create and run a webpage in no time at all. When you visit the website you are given an editing platform that supports special text formatting, line indentations, images and videos, and hyperlinks. Read more: Axess: Create Web Pages Instantly & Without Registering



Free Online Photo Editor – Photo editing applications often require you to have the image stored on your computer. But if you are looking for an online photo editor that handles computer images as well as online images, you need to check out Free Online Photo Editor. It lets you edit images stored on your computer and it also accepts direct URLs of images stored online. Read more: Free Online Photo Editor: Easily Edit Your Photographs Online



PawnSearcher – A simple reminder can be very helpful in ensuring that chores and tasks do not slip your mind. Numerous web services let you set up reminders for different tasks. One of the fastest and simplest of these tools is, a simple and free to use web service that helps you quickly set up email reminders for various tasks. Read more: PawnSearcher: Get Pawnshops To Provide You With Competitive Prices



ChangeColors – At times a website's color scheme makes the text on it hard to read. In such cases you will find it helpful to view the site in your own preferred colors. Using a tool called ChangeColors, you can now easily customize and view websites in colors you like. It lets you quickly change the color scheme of any website according to your preferences. Read more: ChangeColors: Cusstomize & View Websites In Colors You Like [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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7 Great Uses For QR Codes & How To Generate Your Own For Free

Posted: 29 Jun 2011 04:31 PM PDT

Quick response codes, or QR codes for short, have been used for a few years now to provide rapid access to URLs, messages or contact information. Marketing and advertising departments love QR codes, as with a simple scan, even more advertising related to their product can be delivered straight to your thumbs.

But why let the big multinationals have all the fun? It’s easy and completely free to generate your very own codes, and these can be used in a myriad of useful or entertaining ways. Of course you’ll need a smartphone with a QR reader to enjoy your own creations.

Creating & Reading Your Own

There are plenty of good, free QR generators out there with some offering more advanced options than others. Between them, the following four manage to cover most bases, including contact cards, URLs, text messages and even access to wireless networks (including security codes):

In order to read them back you’ll need an app for your chosen device. There’s plenty out there, but at the moment I’m using RedLaser for my iPhone which works a treat (and is fully Android compatible too).

  • Download Red Laser for iOS (4.0 required, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad 2)
  • Download Red Laser for Android (1.6 + required)

Business Cards

Not exactly original, but important nonetheless. Whilst you should always provide adequate contact information on your business card (email address, website, phone number and so on) a QR code might also be a good idea.

Your QR code could be used to store all of your contact information in vCard format, so that when it is scanned on a compatible device the option to add a new contact appears. With a scan all of the information stored on your paper business card is transferred to a digital device – effortlessly.

This could also work for posters, and is certainly not limited to just vCard uses.

Classified Ads (Offline)

Selling something locally? Too big for snail mail? For weighty electrical items, cars, hardware and so on QR codes could be used to help sell your item. If you are using an online merchant for the sale (such as eBay or AutoTrader) the QR code could be used to link directly to the item’s point of sale.

If you’re simply selling offline and advertising locally a QR code can be used to provide a web link to the manufacturer’s description, which will provide a lot more information than you can fit on a classified advertising card. Simply print out your code and glue it on!

Clothing & Jewellery

QR codes are on everything from rings to scarves to t-shirts these days, and getting your own t-shirt from somewhere like Cafe Press or Spreadshirt is easy. Why not advertise your brand on your back? If you’re a photographer, events organiser or musician (to name but a few) who doesn’t mind being scanned regularly then QR might be an effective tool.

You don’t actually need a valid use for QR codes in order to get some clothing or alternative jewellery made up though, and a t-shirt or bracelet that scans might make the perfect gift for the geeky girl or guy in your life.

Forum Avatars

Depending on the forum, a QR code as your avatar can act as a quick way of identifying you. Of course you won’t necessary want this for all forums, but it might help drive traffic to your site or increase your social media outreach with a simple scan.

Award yourself additional points if you can actually get it to look like something.

Starting A Revolution

Okay, so starting a revolution might require more than a scan of your mobile phone, but the ability to embed text, email addresses, URLs and so on within a code mustn’t be overlooked. If you’ve got something to say why not place codes around town and get your message out there? Many who know what QR codes are for will probably scan them out of pure curiosity (I know I would).

Bus stops, the subway, lamp-posts and even urinals (sorry, but it’s true) are all opportunities for this.


Will adding a QR code to your next job application land you that dream position? Possibly not, but it might set you apart from the rest of the crowd who simply didn’t think that far ahead. Employers love initiative and the ability to demonstrate understanding, so why not show off your forethought and get a cheeky link to your website in the process?

A must for social media types, programmers and techies alike.

Share This!

This could work pretty well on the street, especially if you’re an artist, street performer or (dare I say it) a graffiti writer. Simply stick a QR code next to your artwork/pitch/throw-up and link to a URL that tweets the scene. For example: “I’m currently in St. James Park, London watching The MakeUseOf Jazz Quartet” with a Google Maps link.

Add your own hashtag to monitor the success of your QR bombing. We could call it QRaffiti!


Remember there’s an endless number of applications for QR codes, especially considering it’s so quick and easy to generate your own! As more people switch on to the smartphone revolution, more people have access to these innovations. If you come up with any great unique uses then be sure to let us know!

Have you tried any of these? Do you scan QR codes on your phone? Any favourite scanners or generators? Add your thoughts below.

Images: Business Card, QR Code Ring, Street QR Code, QR Wall Code

7 Great Uses For QR Codes & How To Generate Your Own For Free is a post from: MakeUseOf

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How To Find & Fix Bad Pixels On Your LCD Screen

Posted: 29 Jun 2011 03:31 PM PDT

Bad pixels often occur on brand new screens. Since a single bad pixel can become a great annoyance once you know it’s there, any new display with a warranty on it should be checked for bad pixels instantly. When you discover one however, you do not necessarily have to take the new display straight back to the shop. You may be able to fix it yourself.

In this article I will explain what a pixel is and for what reasons it can get stuck. I will then show you how you can identify bad pixels on your LCD screen and what you can do to possibly fix them yourself. Only after you have tried all your options, is it time to claim your warranty.

What Are Pixels?

Simply put, pixels are single dots in a raster image and all of them put together make up the entire image.

pixel image

What you are seeing on your computer screen right now, technically, is a raster image made up of hundreds of pixels. On CRT, LCD, LED, or plasma displays, however, pixels are not static, they display moving and ever changing images, therefore they must change colors. To achieve this, every pixel is divided into three sub-pixels, i.e. red, green, and blue. Each sub-pixel is powered by a transistor that controls the on/off state of the pixel.

What Is A Bad Pixel?

A bad pixel is a pixel that does not display the color you expect it to display. It is either stuck in a certain color, temporarily off, or permanently off, which equals a dead pixel.

Generally, what can happen is that the liquid crystal inside a sub-pixel is not evenly distributed, therefore that pixel never lights up. If all three pixels are affected, you get a pixel that is temporarily off. Another scenario is that a transistor is broken and consequently the pixel is permanently off (dead) or possibly also permanently on (burning). The latter is the worst case scenario as you cannot fix a broken transistor. You may, however, be able to fix problems with the liquid crystal.

How Can I Find Out Whether Or Not I Have Bad Pixels?

There are several online tools and applications you can run on your computer to identify bad pixels.


I have previously recommended the online LCD test tool from Flexcode. Since then, they have provided an updated version of the tool, which comes with a much better interface, making it easier to use. Simply run all five color tests (green, blue, red, white, and black) one after the other and check your screen for irregularities.

test lcd screen

Like the previous version, this one also includes a ‘massage the pixel‘ option, which may possibly fix a stuck pixel by over-stimulating it. So should you spot bad pixels or find darker regions on your LCD screen, run the ‘Fix My Screen‘ mode for a longer period of time (about one hour) to revive the affected pixel/s.

test lcd screen


IsMyLcdOK is a portable application for Windows. You can easily zap through the various test screens using number keys, as well as F2 through F5. F1 brings up the options overview.

find dead pixel

Mac users may want to try Pixel Fix, a Dashboard widget to cure stuck pixels on LCD screens.

I Found a Bad Pixel – How Can I Fix It?

The only way to fix a stuck pixel is to over-stimulate it and pray that it comes to life again. You can over-stimulate pixels in two different ways – you can either send rapidly changing signals to the respective pixel or you can manually apply pressure to the respective area on your screen.

I have described both methods in my previous article 5 Ways To Fix A Stuck Pixel On Your Screen. Briefly, you can use the ‘Fix My Screen‘ option of LCD2 (see above) to treat the entire screen. If you can’t have your whole screen blocked for up to an hour, you can also use the ‘undead pixel’ option of UDPixel (screenshot below), to locally fix a bad pixel. Finally, the most successful method appears to be the manual one, i.e. applying pressure to the area of your screen that has the dead pixel.

For a thorough description, please refer to my previous article.

fix stuck pixel

If none of the methods worked instantly, try again and try several times. As you can see from the comments to the first article, it is very possible to fix bad pixels!

For more information about LCD monitors and a huge selection of test images, check out The Lagom LCD monitor test pages.

Have you ever succeeded in fixing a stuck pixel and how did you do it?

Image credits: Luis Azevedo,

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Take Control of Your Internet Tracks With MAXA Cookie Manager

Posted: 29 Jun 2011 02:31 PM PDT

Internet cookies. You’ve heard of them, you’ve been warned about them, and you’ve grown to fear what they are telling the world about your Internet surfing habits. How can such an innocent sounding thing be so evil? Everyone loves cookies, right? Well when it comes to your Internet browser, cookies can be a good thing, but they can also be a bad thing too.

We’ve covered cookies in some detail here at MakeUseOf. Guy previously covered the elusive cookie that plagues so many people, and Grant described the positive ways that websites make use of cookie technology. We’ve also showed you a few ways to opt-out of certain tracking cookies.

If it all feels just a little bit too confusing, you’re not alone. How are you supposed to know the difference between a “good cookie” or a “bad cookie”? What if you don’t even know where to start to even find these things? The truth is, most people can’t recognize a good cookie from a bad one. That is why software like MAXA Cookie Manager is so valuable.

Setting Up MAXA Cookie Manager

The MAXA Cookie Manager removes the confusion from the entire process of protecting yourself from dangerous tracking cookies. The software comes pre-configured with the majority of the “good” cookies out there, like those that retain your account-specific information for IM chats, your Facebook sessions, and a whole list of other online services where you really want the website to remember you.

When you first download and run the MAXA Cookie Manager, you’ll have the option to check off the common online services you use the most, like certain IM services and social networks.

MAXA has the ability to monitor and protect you from browser specific cookies, covering many different browsers like Firefox, IE, Opera, Chrome, Safari and even Flock. Keep in mind that the free version will only detect non-browser specific cookies, but it won’t delete them. For that you need the Pro Version.

Once you’ve gone through the quick install Wizard, the software is ready to start protecting you. It’ll always run in the taskbar and it will alert you when any new, malicious cookies arrive while you’re surfing the web. When you open the Cookie Manager, it’ll show you a dashboard of all of your current cookies across all browsers. It shows you the name of the site that installed the cookie, when it was created and last accessed, when it expires, and what browser it’s connected with.

You can click on the “Export List” button to export your entire cookie list as an HTML output file. This is a good way to send your list off to an IT friend if you want someone to take a closer look at them to determine whether there are any “bad” ones there that the Cookie Manager might have overlooked.

Click on the “Online Privacy Test” button, and MAXA will perform a full-scale test regarding what private information cookies can currently access on your system. It will display that information to you so that you can gauge whether or not you’re satisfied with your current privacy settings.

If you don’t recognize a particular cookie, or you just want to know more about what it does, select one from the list and then click on the “Cookie treatment” button, and select “View Details”.

This pops up an informational box that provides a lot more detail about the originator of the cookie and more specifics about what it does and where the file itself is stored. Remember, just because Cookie Manager has identified a cookie as a “web bug” doesn’t mean it’s bad. It just means that the behaviors of that cookie meet MAXA’s criteria of a “web bug”. It may be perfectly safe, in which case you can set MAXA to consider specific cookies as safe.

Anytime the software recognizes that you have cookies on your system that are specifically made for tracking you, you’ll see the following warning pop-up.

You can choose to delete all of them instantly, without further investigation, or you can choose to manually search through the list and delete them yourself, one at a time. In the Pro Version, you can also configure the software to automatically block specific cookies as well. For the free version, you’ll need to have an active part in deleting these tracking cookies.

Don’t forget to click on the “Settings” button to explore the options available with this software. For example, you can set up the software to keep checking all of your cookie “areas” for new, dangerous cookies at a set time interval. You can also configure the software to launch with Windows, and configure alert sounds for new cookies that come up.

Not many people have the time or the know-how to manually search through every spot on their computer where tracking cookies could reside. These cookies could potentially give away information about yourself that you consider private. MAXA Cookie Manager helps to simplify the process so that you can have greater control over what information is being tracked and what isn’t.

So give MAXA a try and see if it sets your mind at ease while you’re surfing the web. Did it catch any dangerous ones on your system? Share your insights and thoughts about the software in the comments area below.

Image Credit: Crystal Woroniuk

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Hot Tech Deals – D-Link DIR-825 802.11n Dual Band Xtreme N Wireless Gigabit Router for $94.99 + more

Posted: 29 Jun 2011 01:30 PM PDT

Get $60 off the D-Link DIR-825 802.11n Simultaneous Dual Band Xtreme N Wireless Gigabit Gaming Router, our feature deal of the day for a low $94.99 plus free shipping. The router features 4 gigabit ports, dual-band wireless for improved speed and range, and Shareport technology which allows for the sharing of devices over the network on the USB port.

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

  1. Dell Vostro 3550 Intel Core i3-2310M 2.1GHz [Sandy Bridge] 15.6in Laptop (Aluminum) $499
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  4. Dell Vostro 3350 Intel Core i5-2310M Sandy Bridge 13.3in Laptop w/ ATI Radeon HD7450 $679 via code R975$?FPRF?31X
  5. TODAY ONLY Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex 320GB Portable External Hard Drive $39.99 via code 24HRSALE629C (Exp 6/29)
  6. TODAY ONLY D-Link DIR-825 802.11n Simultaneous Dual Band Wireless Router $94.99

Hot Tech Deals – D-Link DIR-825 802.11n Dual Band Xtreme N Wireless Gigabit Router for $94.99 + more is a post from: MakeUseOf

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The Top 5 Websites For iPad App Reviews

Posted: 29 Jun 2011 12:31 PM PDT

Finding good iPad apps in these new fangled app marketplaces is hard enough at the best of times, so let me show you 5 of the best sites I use to find great iPad apps and those little hidden gems, without having to trawl through the entire app store.

The problem with the built-in in app store is that by default, it lists the top apps as being the bestsellers or most downloaded, and frankly I’ve never trusted the wisdom of the crowd. Check out the top paid apps at the time of writing. Number one is a pokey TV app that basically copies the functionality of various region-specific TV apps.

A closer look at the app reveals the average review is just 2 stars, with 80% of all the people who purchased it rating it one star. Curiously, you can’t sort by ranking. Way to go designing usability there, Apple!  So off we go, in search of reliable app reviews…


A no-nonsense reviews site that covers a lot of ground, my favourite part of the site being the App Lists.  This is similar to our very own Best Of Software pages, but focusing on a single topic – Best Holiday Baking Apps, for instance. It's refreshing to view app round-ups without having to painfully search yourself and try out each one.


While not strictly a reviews site, this site offers pretty much every kind of functionality you could possible want from the app store itself – and much much more. Where to begin? With RSS feeds for everything, you can view the stream of apps with various powerful filters:

  • iPad, iPhone or Universal (and now Mac apps too).
  • All paid or free apps only.
  • Updated apps, new apps, or price Drops

It can be a bit much sometimes, but if you're looking for a raw stream of new or recently made free apps – and don't mind wading through the chaff – nothing beats it.

iPad Board Games

Okay, I admit it – this is my site. Having recently taken on a few incredible new writers (that frankly put my own review efforts to shame) and publishing two or three times a week, my hobby project is now the leading site for iPad board game reviews. With honest and extensive reviews from real board game fans, iPad Board Games is a site you can trust – but then I would say that wouldn’t I?

If you think that board games are boring, you really ought to go check out some of the highly rated games, and be prepared to have your eyes opened to a whole new world. I’ll tell you now – Monopoly is nowhere to be found. The current top games include Carcassonne, a beautiful tile laying / city building game with incredible depth and strategy and comprehensive online play options; and Ticket to Ride, a classic Eurogame that sees players racing against the clock and each other to build the greatest rail line across the American continent. You wouldn’t believe the quality of some of these board game conversions – most other iPad games just don’t compare.

iPad AppStorm

Launched only a few months ago as an offshoot of the main AppStorm site, their iPad specific in-depth reviews, opinions and news make for a great read. Though there does seem to be a definite “productivity” slant to their app choices, they still offer a good variety that keeps this site permanently in my RSS feed.

An article highlight - Is an external keyboard really worth it? – convinced me to hook my wireless keyboard to my iPad instead of my main Mac, as it’s just too small for daily use, but absolutely perfect for working on my iPad on the move.

Vital Titles

Finding child-appropriate and still genuinely fun or educational titles is perhaps the hardest thing to do. It seems like a lot of child-focused software is just mass produced junk that’s designed to cash in on unwitting parents, and that’s where sites like Vital Titles come in. An up and coming site, Vital Titles covers a wide variety of genres and ages, with honest reviews and a real parent’s take on things. We need more sites like this!

Honorable Mention: Discovr Apps ($0.99) – One App To Rule Them All

This paid app help you discover similar apps with a visual representation of the results. To use it, you start by typing the name of a single app, and are presented with other suggestions. It's a bit like Wikipedia in that you never quite know where you'll end up, but it's simply a great tool to discover apps that might be better or more suited to your needs than the original one you thought of.

Newcomer: Yahoo! AppSpot

Free, but only available to US iTunes account holders, Yahoo! brings us a curious little attempt at replacing or augmenting the app store. One user loves it – “finally, a search that returns relevant results“, while others complain it scans their library yet gives random suggestions for apps they might like. Knowing Yahoo!, it'll be dead and useless in a few months, but if you have a US account then give it a whirl and let us know how it works out in the comments.

What's your favourite site for iPad app reviews? Do you feel I've made a glaring omission here? Of course, there is one increible news source I didn't mention – MakeUseOf! In fact, you can follow all our iPad related stories here, and with a new member of the team an enthusiastic iPad user, I think there's going to be even more coming this way soon!

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Editra: A Powerful & Expandable Cross-Platform Text & Code Editor

Posted: 29 Jun 2011 11:31 AM PDT

00a editra logoThere are tons of text editors out there, so why would you need another one? Most people will be satisfied by their OS default plain text editor, while the coders would need a dedicated code editor. There are also people who need both.

For those who are still looking for the perfect text editor, you might want to try Editra. This is a powerful and expandable cross-platform editor, for both plain text and code. It’s available for Windows, Mac and Linux, and you can add more features to fit your needs by installing plugins. If there’s one text editor which is worth trying out among all others, Editra would be it.

Go Beyond Plain Text

The first time you open Editra, you might not see the advanced features hidden behind the simplistic look. There is only a white blank text area and a set of basic tools in the toolbar. You don’t have to do anything to use it as a plain text editor. Just type the words as you would normally do.

01b plain text

But once you start writing a line of code, you will see the real power of Editra. Not only does Editra color the codes based on their types but it will also automatically put limits to those codes. For example, if you write “html” between ““, Editra will not let you write anything else on the line.

Editra will also put the codes into groups that you can fold (hide) and unfold (show) by clicking the small minus/plus symbol on the sidebar.

01c html multitab

Editra supports tabs so you can work on multiple texts and codes in different tabs. A little exploration will also lead you to other features hidden within Editra’s menu. One of them is the ability to generate HTML, LaTeX, and RTF using the “Generator” menu under “Tools“.

02a generator

To quickly fold and/or unfold a long set of codes, you could use the “View – Code Folding” menu. Use “Toggle fold” to fold/unfold selected codes, or use “Toggle all folds” to hide/unhide everything on the page.

02b toggle folds

If you prefer to code without the colors, you can uncheck “Syntax Highlighting” under the “Settings” menu.

02c sytax highlight

Expanding The Features

One of the ways to develop applications that fits everyone’s needs without bloating the size, is to use add-ons. This concept allows users to add only the features that they need by installing specific plugins.

You can find many plugins for Editra in their “Plugins and Extras” page, but the quickest way to add them is via the “Plugin Manager” under the “Tools” menu.

03a plugin manager

There are three places inside Plugin Manager. You can find all the installed plugins under “Configure“. Here’s the place to enable/disable, uninstall, and configure them.

03b configure

To browse and choose new plugins to install, go to “Download“. Check the boxes of the plugins that you want and click the “Download” button.

03c download

The chosen plugins will be listed in “Install“. Decide whether you want to install them in “User Directory” (available only for the specific user) or to “System Directory” (available to all users). Click the “Install” button to wrap up the process.

03d install

Go back to “Configure” to activate them. All the changes will be applied after you restart Editra.

Another feature worth mentioning is the “Style Editor“. This feature allows users to change the writing environment to their preference. Users can customize everything from the background color to the code color.

04a style editor

There are some pre-set style theme that you can use by choosing one from the dropdown list, but you can further customize any item manually by choosing it from the side list and changing its elements.

04b style

There are so many more features lying dormant within Editra’s menus that it’s impossible to list them all. Try and explore the application yourself to find the hidden gems. Then tell us what you think in the comments below.

While you’re doing that, don’t forget to check out our other articles about other text editors such as: Vim, Tincta, Sublime Text, and WriteMonkey.

Editra: A Powerful & Expandable Cross-Platform Text & Code Editor is a post from: MakeUseOf

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Watch Your Spending & Control Your Budget With These 8 Free Budget Calculators

Posted: 29 Jun 2011 10:31 AM PDT

Any personal finance adviser will tell you that developing and maintaining a financial budget is the best way to meet monthly expenses, save for financial emergencies and plan for the future. Keeping a budget basically means totaling  your income for the month and subtracting the total of all your expenses. A budget calculator allows you to itemize your expenses so you can see where all your spending is going, especially for non-fixed discretionary items like groceries, music downloads, fast food, entertainment, computer software and the like that may be keeping you from paying off your credit debts or building a sufficient savings account.

Mint is one of the best free online budgeting systems, but if you don't think you need something that elaborate, there are several other free sites for doing month-to-month budget calculations.

The Budget Calculator

This aptly named budget calculator is straightforward and includes expense boxes for many of the most typical types of fixed and non-fixed expenses—rent or mortgage, electricity, water, phone, Internet, etc. You need to input of course what applies to your personal finances.  It also contains boxes for monthly savings, IRA, and investments.


After you enter the amounts and press “Calculate Budget” you can view and print out your budget for the month. As the site points out, “If the amount you get is a negative number check your expenses and savings to find out what is causing you to spend more than you make, and if you have money left over, put more money into savings or put it towards ‘Fun and Entertainment‘”.

Budget Calculator

This calculator is not as extensive as the one above, but if your expenses are limited to the basics – rent or mortgage, one or two credit cards, car loan, entertainment, etc – then this calculator is useful for quick results.


College Budgeting Calculator

If going to college is in your plans, the banking website,, has a free student loan and budget calculator that computes your assets. This includes job income, scholarships, grants, parents/other, and your expenses – tuition, books and fees, room board, etc.


Free Financial Advice

Free Financial Advice also has a basic budget calculator, but it also features lots of short article advice for personal finance management and savings, including investing for beginners, ideas for earning extra money, saving gas, clothing, computer software, landscaping, paying off debts, etc.


Free Financial Advice doesn't require you to register or provide your email.


DebtSteps has three extensive budget and loan calculators – Free Household Budget Form, Mortgage Payment Calculator, and a Credit Card Payoff Calculator.


When you click on the household budget form, select the Print View option at the bottom of the page, and you will get a very extensive list for income and assets boxes, and numerous one for expenses – including unsecured debts, and gifts and donations.

Home Budget Calculator

Home Budget Calculator does what the above calculators do, but it includes two other unique features. It provides data boxes for you and your spouse’s income as well as more specific data, such as your tax withholdings, FICA, and retirement deductions or expenses.


The calculator also includes a visual pie chart that depicts your monthly expenses.


Frugalpig is a site dedicated to providing readers with tips and strategies for frugal living. It includes its own budget calculator for finding what the site calls “budget leaks”. If you need or want an old fashion pen and paper method for budgeting, you can also download the site's free PDF family budget worksheet.


Frugalpig also provides lots of tips about saving money on groceries, gas, home expenses, entertainment, and shopping in general.


When you get into the habit of creating and maintaining a budget, you will typically start looking for how you can tighten your budget to either meet monthly expenses, pay off a huge debt, or create emergency savings.

Screen shot 2011 06 20 at 3 25 05 PM

Bankrate has a budget calculator as well, but it also includes several other financial calculators for mortgages, auto loans, credit card transfers, and home equity calculations.

Also, check out these articles for other online and software tools about budget keeping:

Manage Your Money Safely with ClearCheckbook – Daniel
Save Money and Track Your Finances with Mint – Karl
How To Use Mint To Manage Your Budget & Spendings Online – Bakari

Let us know what you think of these sites and which online financial tools you have found useful for controlling your budget.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Watch Your Spending & Control Your Budget With These 8 Free Budget Calculators is a post from: MakeUseOf

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6 Live Professional News Streams You Can Watch Online For Free

Posted: 29 Jun 2011 09:31 AM PDT

Watch what’s happening in the world right now, without paying for a cable subscription. Several TV stations from around the world stream their English channels directly to the web, giving you access to what’s happening right now from your browser. A growing number of broadcasters, seeking new audiences, are putting their shows onto the Internet for everyone to watch. The quality and the viewpoints vary, but the point is clear – if you have Internet access you can watch live news.

We’ve previously shown you websites where you can watch news online, but that list focused mostly on on-demand clips. If you want to know what’s being reported right now though, you’ll need a live stream.  Here’s 6 that you should consider watching on a regular basis.

Al Jazeera

Arab dictators hate it but that doesn’t mean you will.

It’s hard-hitting journalism from the Middle East with coverage from all over the world. Al Jazeera is making a name for itself during the Arab Spring. They have reporters on the ground all over the region and every dictator seems to, at some point, blame them for causing the uprisings.

You can watch Al Jazeera on your desktop with LiveStation, or you can watch on their website.


Business more your thing than politics? Check out Bloomberg.

Known for its up-to-the-minute take on Wall Street and stock markets around the world, Bloomberg offers three different TV streams: US, Europe and Asia. Check out all three streams at Bloomberg TV.


To some it’s that channel you surf by when you’re looking for something else to watch. Don’t let C-SPAN’s reputation scare you though. It’s possibly the best resource out for there for hardcore political junkies. Watch what’s happening in Washington DC in real time.


In many ways, it’s France’s answer to the BBC. Funded by the French government, France24 aims to bring a less Anglo-centric worldview to the news cycle. Having said that, they do offer an English stream.

Curious? Why not check it out?  Expect to hear some debate and get a different point of view.

NHK World

The international broadcast of Japan’s national broadcaster, NHK World is perfect when news from Japan dominates the headlines. Their coverage of the recent earthquakes gave them a great presence on the web, but as that story fades into the background, NHK remains a solid news broadcaster from a Japanese perspective.


RT is an international broadcast funded by the Russian government, offering news and documentaries around the clock.

This one seems a little more blatant with its agenda than any of the other networks listed here. There’s even an entire Wikipedia article of criticisms. Still, it’s important sometimes to find news from an entirely different perspective, and for Westerners, RT is certainly that.


These are the highest quality, free streams that I could find. Do you know of any other ones?  If so, please add them in the comments below, and be sure to check the comments for other recommendations. If past news-related articles are any indication I’ll probably be called a liberal/conservative/communist/fascist/corporate hack/anti-globalist a few times as well, which will be fun.

Image Credit: Joe Goldberg

6 Live Professional News Streams You Can Watch Online For Free is a post from: MakeUseOf

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6 Websites To Do Some Virtual Globetrotting With Google Street View

Posted: 29 Jun 2011 08:31 AM PDT

Applications like Google Earth, Google Maps, and numerous panorama websites have come as manna for armchair travellers. You can 'browse' to places which otherwise would have taken the price of a ticket and more. Google Street View is a feature both on Google Maps and Google Earth that brings you panoramic 360 degree views from many locations around the world. It started from the United States and now embraces all the continents (even Antarctica).  Take the "Pegman" and drag him around to view street level imagery on available locations on Google Maps.

The windshield view can take you to new places and help you plot out spots to visit. Google Street View has also given rise to a motley of websites and apps – some fun, some really useful. Let's check out six of them.


The Google Street View based mashup 'teleports' you around the world with a random display of street sightings from around the world. You can choose locations of course, but the fun is in the hit-or-miss play. You can test your knowledge of world geography by hiding the location as you tramp about around the world. Try the full screen. For a quick browse, check out the gallery of Street View photos. You can view it all in a slideshow and the handy time limit box lets you have some control over the display. (See Directory mention)

Show My Street

This Google Maps mashup is a handy address finder because it relies a bit on Google Street View. Basically, it lets you type in an address and the location is displayed on a Google Map. Street View comes into the picture if the spot concerned is in the apps database. If it is, it's great because then you have a realistic guide to take you through the streets. You can use the map just as you would any Google Map, and also share it via Twitter, Facebook, and email. (See Directory mention)


This site is very similar to MapCrunch in the way it displays random Street View snaps. You can go on clicking on the next button or filter sightings by country, tag, or choose the recommended ones.

Google Sightseeing

Google Sightseeing as the name suggests takes you on a journey around the world courtesy Google Earth, Google Maps, and Google Street View. This is a blog which collects selected picks from around the web and presents it in a neat format. All blog posts are arranged around countries and categories. There is a specific section that aggregates street view sightings. The site has no affiliation with Google.


HistoryPin is a neat combo of Google Maps, Google Street View, and historical photos. It is a community driven website where members can 'pin' old historical photos on a map. Using Street View, you can compare the two locations if that spot has a Google Street View record for it. You can also drag the timeline to see pictures of a particular place from a particular time in history. What's interesting about this site and the photos is that every photo could have a story behind it. HistoryPin is a global project in partnership with Google. We talked about this app and two more when we looked at 3 Awesome Historical Google Maps Mashups.

Also try out the Flickr and Google Street View mashup which takes historic images from Flickr Commons and compares them with their respective modern day Google street view locations.

StreetView Fun

There have been controversies with Google Street View being said to be too intrusive and unmindful of people's privacy. This site perhaps sums it up in a funny and humorous way. Street View Fun is an out and out collection of sightings that can conjure up a laugh or just a smile at its worst. Straightaway you can check out the Top 100 list to see the best on offer here.

For more laughs you can check out the very similar Street View Funny.

There’s even a Street View game…

If you are looking for a rather unique mashup, play the StreetView Zombie Apocalypse experimental game. The game takes an address and tasks you with avoiding zombies while you navigate with the help of Google Street View. You have to beat the clock too!

These apps are simple mashups, but you can experience the fun quotient when you immerse yourself in them. Take a few more ideas on virtual globetrotting with the help of the 4 Tips While Using Google Earth Street View.

Let us know about the uses you put Google Earth, Google Maps, and Google Street View to.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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