Wednesday, June 8, 2011

MakeUseOf.com: “Apple Kills MobileMe, Places iCloud On The Throne [News]” plus 11 more

MakeUseOf.com: “Apple Kills MobileMe, Places iCloud On The Throne [News]” plus 11 more

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Apple Kills MobileMe, Places iCloud On The Throne [News]

Posted: 08 Jun 2011 07:31 AM PDT

Apple today announced iCloud, a replacement to the MobileMe service that expands the features available to users while also eliminating the yearly fee. This new service will be available on all iOS devices and Macs.

At its heart, iCloud is about making content available on all Apple devices simultaneously without any effort on the part of the user. The mantra "It just works" was repeated multiple times during the announcement. Once set up, device sync will occur automatically in all supported applications.

The apps supported by iCloud include the iWork suite (Pages, Numbers, Keynote), Contacts, Calendars, the App Store, iBooks, and iTunes. Productivity apps like Pages will instantly sync content created on one device across all devices using the same iCloud account. Up to 5GB of content from iWork, Contacts and Calendars can be synced.

The storefront apps, meanwhile, will instantly sync purchases. An app, eBook or song purchased on one device will become available on all devices attached to the same account.

iTunes received particular attention. Apple made sure to argue that its solution is much simpler than Amazon's, and that an unlimited number of songs purchased from iTunes can be made available on up to 10 devices without any additional charge.

Also announced was iTunes Match, which is Apple's answer to users who have a large amount of content ripped from other sources. Match can import music from you library and make it available to all devices on an iCloud account.

However, this service does have a price tag of $24.99 per year. Apple was quick to point out that Match will put no limit on the amount of music users can important from their library, making it less expensive than competitors like Amazon Cloud Storage for users with large collections.

Source: Apple WWDC 2011


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Cool Websites and Tools [June 7th]

Posted: 07 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.

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Ingredient Pairings – Numerous cooking websites let you search for recipes according to ingredients. But in case you want to find out how well a particular ingredient tastes with others, you need to pay a visit to Ingredient Pairings, a free to use website that cooking enthusiasts will enjoy. Read more: Ingredient Pairings: Suggests Pairing Ingredients For Cooking

 

CSS3.me – CSS3 provides developers with a lot of ways in which they can create boxes that are appealing to site visitors. If you need to create CSS3 boxes, then instead of coding up lines of code, simply pay a visit to CSS3 Generator which lets you create CSS boxes with custom options for gradients, radius, shadow, and opacity. Read more: CSS3.me: Generate CSS3 Boxes With Shadows, Gradients, Borders & Opacity

 

 

Wavelength – Are you looking for an app that lets you listen to music together with your friends? If yes, then one way would be through web apps that let you stream YouTube videos together. But if you want something with more options, check out a tool called Wavelength, a web app that lets you listen to songs together with your friends. Read more: Wavelength: Invite Friends & Listen To Songs Together Online

 

 

Creepy – Social networks like Twitter and Facebook expose their users in more ways then they can imagine. The “geo-tagging” feature of these networks can expose your location to anybody who wants that information. To highlight this vulnerability, a graduate student has put together this app called Creepy. Read more: Creepy: Track Any User's Location Based On Their Social Activity

 

 

PhpList – is one of the most popular e-mail marketing tools today and the most popular open-source tool for e-mail management. However, you have to download, install, and configure the software before you can start using it, which can limit the way you want to use it. Fortunately, they are now offering a beta service of PhpList Hosted. Read more: PhpList Hosted: Popular Open Source Email List Manager Software Goes To The Cloud

 

These are just half of the websites that we discovered in the last couple of days. If you want us to send you daily round-ups of all cool websites we come across, leave your email here. Or follow us via RSS feed.


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The 9 Toughest Tech Questions [MakeUseOf Answers]

Posted: 07 Jun 2011 06:31 PM PDT

MakeUseOf AnswersMakeUseOf Answers receives questions on a lot of different topics, not all of them strictly in the realm of technology. Do you enjoy to help out and do you have some experience with computers, gadgets, or the Internet? If you do, please consider helping us out and increase your chances of winning in our weekly contest with every smart answer!

The Best Answer of the Week is rewarded with $50 and two runners-up win $30 and $20, respectively. Every answer automatically enters the contest. Just make sure we can contact you in case you win.

Please help us out with these questions:

For regular updates subscribe to the Answers RSS Feed.

Need help? Ask A Question at MakeUseOf Answers.


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Collaborate On Projects & Chat With Others Using Chatbox For Dropbox [Mac]

Posted: 07 Jun 2011 04:31 PM PDT

chatbox for dropboxDropbox is one of the most useful applications out there as far as I am concerned. I have it installed on nearly every device I own and it’s very helpful when it comes to reaching my most important documents. Whether I need to print an important document on the fly or just want to share a file with someone who is technically challenged, Dropbox simplifies the process.

One great thing about an application as useful as Dropbox is that other people – like us here at MUO – find interesting ways to utilize it and make it even more useful for others. For instance, you can use Dropbox to share files, manage your photos, sync files on various platforms, and cut time off your school work. You can even recover your lost files with it. Now I’m going to show you how to chat with it as well.

What Is Chatbox?

Chatbox is a free application that adds project collaboration features to the already handy Dropbox. You can use it for commenting and annotating files or for simple project collaboration around folders with relevant files inside. Chatbox stores everything inside Dropbox, which makes installing the app extremely simple as it does not even require you to register an account.

“Chatbox makes it easy to discuss or comment on files shared over Dropbox. Install it, right click on any files / folders inside Dropbox, and start conversations with people you shared the Dropbox folder with.”

If you share a folder in your Dropbox with other people, whether it be your family members at home, a group of friends, or your co-workers at the office, you can essentially comment on important files so that the others know what is going on with them and they are kept up-to-date. Or alternatively, you can just have a playful chat around the files in your Dropbox.

chatbox for dropbox

Chats can occur around specific projects with Chatbox, which can be especially helpful if you’re collaborating on a large project that incorporates a lot of different files.

How Do I Use Chatbox?

To get started using Chatbox, head over to their website and download the app for OSX. Right now Chatbox is only available for Mac but you can sign up on the site to be alerted via email once Windows and Linux versions become available.

chatbox dropbox

Once you install the app, using it is as simple as right-clicking on files in Finder and selecting Show Chatbox. This begins a conversation on any file in your Dropbox instantly. As stated earlier, your comments and conversations are stored inside Dropbox, so you won’t ever lose them, and they barely take up any room, in case you were worried about that.

chatbox for dropbox

If you share your folder with others you can invite them to join the chat as well.

Conclusion

Chatbox (beta) is pretty light on features in its current state, but it gives you a simple way to communicate with others sharing the same Dropbox folder as you, which is pretty useful, and it is poised to get better. From installation to usage, I was impressed with how easy the whole process was. It will be interesting to see what other features the team adds in the coming weeks to make this app even more of a necessity.

What do you think about Chatbox? Do you like the idea of using Dropbox as a chat utility?


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How To Add Lyrics To iTunes Automatically [Mac]

Posted: 07 Jun 2011 02:31 PM PDT

itunes lyricsPicture this. You’re wandering around with your iPod on and listening to something awesome, but you can’t work out what the lyrics are. Since looking up the lyrics using your phone and 3G internet would be more effort that it’s worth, you’re left wishing the lyrics were already on your iPod in that convenient “lyrics” ID3 tag. If only you’d bothered to get lyrics for all your tracks in iTunes before!

It’s not like getting lyrics into iTunes is a terribly difficult process. These days, there’s lots of sites with lyrics, plenty of programs that will enter them into iTunes for you and a bunch of handy scripts that can do it too. Just set one going and leave it to do its business. Easy! So, here’s some of the best methods you can use.

Back Up

Before you let any program or script work with iTunes, do a quick backup of your entire library folder (especially the .xml and .itl files). In new versions of iTunes you can go to File > Library > "Back up to Disc" to do this quickly.

Applications To Automatically Add Lyrics To iTunes

If you own a lot of popular music, this option might suit you just fine. Most of these applications cost a little upfront (so I won’t mention their names here) and will also change other ID3 tags for you, such as the titles, artist names, genre tags and cover art. If the thought of your other ID3 tags getting changed makes you cringe, make sure you backup before playing with these tools.

Scripts To Fetch Lyrics For iTunes

This method is free and focuses on just the lyrics ID3 tag. You’ll need to download a couple of scripts (from Dougscripts.com) and a dashboard widget to make it work perfectly.

Download these items:

  • No Lyrics To Playlist Script – This works out which tracks in your library have no lyrics and turns them into a playlist you can use to add lyrics.
  • Needle Drop Script – This script will play each track in the playlist for a given number of seconds.
  • TunesText – This dashboard widget will fetch lyrics for any track playing in iTunes and save them to your file.

itunes lyrics

Open the DMGs and put your scripts in this folder: [Username]/Library/iTunes/Scripts. If the folder doesn't exist then you'll need to create it. Double-click on the TunesText dashboard widget to install it. Once everything is ready, start or re-start your iTunes.

add lyrics to itunes

To activate the scripts, look for the menu in iTunes which looks like a scroll. Click on the “No Lyrics Playlist” script first to create your playlist. This might take a while if you have a lot of tracks. If you prefer to search a subset of your tracks for tracks with no lyrics (maybe just your favourites), click on a playlist to use as a subset before running the script.

add lyrics to itunes

Start playing a track and check your dashboard to ensure TunesText is running.

add lyrics to itunes

When that’s done, run the “Needle Drop” script to choose how many seconds of each track to play. The length of time will depend on your Internet connection, but between 5-10 seconds should suffice. If you pause iTunes at any stage you’ll need to run Needle Drop again or iTunes will go back to playing complete tracks.

add lyrics to itunes library

Now, this will cruise through your playlist and do its best to get lyrics for your tracks. Don’t forget that if your tracks are too obscure, it’s probably not going to find anything. You might want to stick the computer on mute so you don’t go crazy, too. If you get bored or need to stop the process for some reason, it’s easy to do this again later. Just delete the “No Lyrics” playlist and recreate it with the previous steps. Simple!

Adding iTunes Lyrics Manually

If these options haven’t worked or if you’d prefer to use different lyrics for a few songs, you can always change the lyrics the manual way. Just right-click on the track in iTunes, click on “Get Info” followed by the “Lyrics” tab and edit the information.

itunes lyrics

Add Other Information To Lyrics

Another neat idea for the lyrics field is to add liner notes. This is especially good for classical music as you can add details of the performance, the history of the work and other relevant information. The iPod will cut off the text at about 24,800 characters, but the information will still be in iTunes.

More iTunes Tips

If you use iTunes as much as we do, these tips might also come in handy:

Which method do you use to get lyrics into iTunes? Let us know in the comments!


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Hot Tech Deals – Samsung WEP450 Bluetooth Headset $2.99 + more

Posted: 07 Jun 2011 01:30 PM PDT

Today’s latest deal is one that you will never believe. Get a Samsung bluetooth headset for only $3 from Newegg after rebate (comes in the form of a prepaid Visa debit card).

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

  1. Samsung WEP450 Bluetooth Headset $2.99AR Free Shipping via rebate
  2. Antec Two Hundred S Mid Tower Computer Case $29.99AR via rebate
  3. Dell XPS 17 Intel Core i7 Quad-Core Sandy Bridge 17.3in 1080p 3D Laptop $1199 via code 7WR1C2?HTTQQ11 and HLSKSR06S9ZG0F
  4. Dell XPS 15 Intel Core i5-2410M 2.3GHz Sandy Bridge 15.6in Laptop $644.99 via code 0QZNX8B2J326BZ and HLSKSR06S9ZG0F
  5. Dell XPS 15 Intel Core i7-2630 Quad-Core Sandy Bridge 15.6 1080p Laptop Blu-Ray $999 via code 0QZNX8B2J326BZ and HLSKSR06S9ZG0F
  6. Seagate Barracuda Green 1.5TB Internal SATA Hard Drive $59.99 Free Shipping
  7. MartinLogan MLT-1 5.1ch Home Theater Speakers $279.99 Free Shipping via code EMCKDKC67 (Exp 6/8)
  8. TRENDnet GREENnet TEG-S50G 5-Port Gigabit Ethernet Switch $19.99 Free Shipping via code EMCKDKC43 Exp 6/8)
  9. Canon ImageClass MF3240 Monochrome Laser Multifunction Printer $69 via code EMCKDKC45 (Exp 6/8)


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Quixey Helps You “Functionally” Search For The Right Apps Based On What You Want To Do

Posted: 07 Jun 2011 12:31 PM PDT

search for appsCome to think of it, searching for apps by the use you want to put it to should be the most natural way to search. That's what a new search service hopes to deliver to you. Quixey describes itself as a functional search engine for apps across any platform and for any use. Quixey is in beta right now. But the well designed and user-friendly website has hit the ground running with its avowed aim of helping you find just the right app for the task you had in mind.

As we start using apps more and more in our daily lives – on our computers, smartphones, cars, and very soon in intelligent homes – Quixey aims to help narrow down on the right one across any platform. How useful is it to us so far? Let's look it up.

Quixey as a Functional Search Engine

Here's the brief introductory video from the startup's website:

As advertised, functional search involves telling the search engine what you want to do in plain English. Just fill up the search box that says – "What do you want to do?"

search for apps

The search then tries to find the best application that will suit your needs. The best thing is that you don't need to know the name of the app or even a detailed description to find an app for your needs. The second best thing is that Quixey covers the entire spectrum of mobile devices, PDAs, tablets, personal computers, and web applications while it is searching for an app for you.

How Does The Functional Search Engine Work?

That's not exactly explained anywhere on the site. What is put down is that – Quixey produces the most relevant search results by scraping blogs, forums, social media and other sources to learn about each app. Reviews and descriptions are taken from well-known sites like CrunchBase (for app company reviews), TechCrunch (for product reviews), and CheckPoint (for security ratings). All this comes together in the results page which we will be exploring next with a sample search.

Let's Search…

I tried out the search engine with an offbeat query but a tool which is really useful. Look at the screen below:

application search engine

These are the first few results I got. The search engine hit pay dirt by mentioning the Text Formatting Toolbar (I have covered it previously here); just the solution I wanted. The results are clearly marked out by two large arrow indicators which show the software list and little notes that help you decide if an app is right for you. These snippets are culled from the various sites like the download source or the developer's website.

application search engine

On the left of the page, you can use the filters to settle on the platform and the choice between a free app and a commercial one.

application search engine

Next, you can delve more into the apps by changing the view according to the mentions any app gets in CrunchBase, TechCrunch, or Check Point.

search for apps

Clicking on the app links takes you into their own individual pages with a few more details like download links, developer notes, videos (if available)etc.

Is The Functional Search Up To Scratch?

As illustrated above, I did get the app I was searching for right up there. For some keyword or 'descriptions' your hit rate will be more depending on what you are searching for. Like all searches it is keyword based but trying out a few top-of-my-head searches (like index my books) gave me a mix of hits and misses. Being a beta service, it is still not perfect but the promise of perfection is there.

Quixey can be another homing missile in your search for the right app. It joins the tribe which already has sites like Chomp and Appolicious jostling for space. Then there are some we have covered here –

5 Sites To Find Free Alternatives To Popular Software
5 Search Engines To Find & Download Free Mobile Apps
Find Your Perfect iPhone, Android & Blackberry Apps on appSpace
Top 5 Sites to Help You Find Apps for Your Android Phone

Yes, Quixey brings some natural language plain speak to the whole business of app search. Plus it has plans to provide free customizable app search solutions soon. Try out Quixey and its functional search and let us know your feedback.


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Apple’s New Mac OSX Lion: What You Need To Know [News]

Posted: 07 Jun 2011 11:33 AM PDT

Apple recently announced the July release of the new Mac OSX Lion, which comes as the successor to Mac OS Snow Leopard. Mac Snow Leopard users will be able to download Lion using the Mac Store in July. There’s no need to purchase a disc in order to do the installation – you just purchase and go.

Lion boasts more than 250 new features, covering all facets of the Mac operating system. Highlights include AirDrop, FaceTime, AutoSave, Internet Restore, new features for Mail and better usage of full-screen capabilities.

Lion will be available to users with the latest Snow Leopard update, using an Intel Core 2 Duo, Core i3, Core i5, Core i7, or Xeon processor. Mac fans can sign up to be notified the minute Lion becomes available. The purchase can be made online in Snow Leopard via the Mac App Store and installation can begin immediately.

Many of the new Lion features are designed to work together, such as the Full-Screen Apps, Multi-Touch Gestures and Mission Control. Users can enjoy their applications full-screen, then switch to Mission Control with a quick gesture in order to change applications.

Lion features such as Resume, Auto-Save and Versions work harmoniously to ensure your work is saved and ready to use at all times.

Other new features such as FaceTime bring the family of iOS devices closer to Mac OS.

So, will you be an early adopter of Lion? Let us know in the comments!


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Elixir – Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Your Android Phone

Posted: 07 Jun 2011 11:31 AM PDT

elixir for androidThat smartphone sitting in your pocket or on your desk right now is actually a computer. Of course, you already knew that. But what kind of a computer is it, exactly? What are its specifications, how much RAM does it have, what kind of sensors are on-board and what do they mean? If you’ve ever wondered about any of these things, Elixir for Android has the answers you’re looking for, and much more.

Elixir has both an app and a widget component, and we’ll be looking at both. Let’s start with the app first:

elixir for android

That’s what you see when you first launch Elixir. It’s basically a long (two screen-lengths) list of device specs and stats. But Elixir isn’t even getting warmed up yet. Let’s try tapping the top-most entry:

elixir android app

Turns out Acer is dubbed the Liquid E “Salsa”. Quite an interesting moniker for such a humble smartphone. Oh, and yes, I’ve got a Liquid E, and now everybody knows. Don’t worry, my other phone is a Galaxy S.

This exhaustive list of system specs just goes on and on, and includes such details as the original time stamp of this build and the version incremental:

elixir android app

This may seem like tedious, nerdy information, but if you’re ever trying to solve an issue with a custom ROM, it can come in very handy. You can have someone else who isn’t having the same issue tell you if you’re both running the exact same build or not, for example. Or file a very specific bug report that makes it clear you really know what you’re talking about.

Onwards we forge! Let’s see what happens when I tap the battery icon:

elixir android app

Anything and everything you ever wanted to know about your battery is right here. While this particular information is also available via the built-in Battery Info setting, it’s very handy to have it alongside all of the other system specs.

The volume control option is another example of how thorough Elixir is:

elixir android review

When you tap it, you get a slider for each and every volume setting. This app really cuts no corners.

Let’s move onto the the sensors tab:

elixir android review

Wow, that’s a lot of sensors. They all update in real-time. Let’s tap the orientation sensor to see what happens:

elixir android review

Elixir goes so far as to tell me the exact make and model of the orientation sensor in my device. I’m not sure why would I ever need this information, unless I was trying to fix the device myself and actually solder a new component onto the board. Note that the other properties (Version, Resolution etc.) are not provided by the sensor.

Next, the “running” tab:

Image

This is divided into three sub-tabs. Tapping an app opens up an expected wealth of information about it, but that’s really aimed at developers so we’ll be moving on now. Before looking at the widget, let’s see what settings this comprehensive app offers. The top of the settings screen lets you set the temperature unit, time format and other such expected settings. But then it gets interesting:

Image

Turns out Elixir can show constant system information right on your status bar. You can either see the information in vertical bar or circle style. I chose “circle style”, and it looks like this:

Image

The battery meter is a bit superfluous for my phone (I’ve got a decent one built in) but the CPU usage meter is an interesting touch. I won’t be using these personally, but if your notification area isn’t too cluttered these can be worthwhile additions.

Elixir also offers settings to let you tweak exactly what each icon in the app does. What happens when you tap the battery icon, and what happens when you tap and hold it. The same goes for each and every icon in the whole app. You can literally spend hours configuring this beast. But we’re not going to do that! Instead, we’ll be moving onto the the widget:

Image

This is Go Launcher’s Add Widget dialog. As you can see, Elixir dominates the list. By default, all widget types are enabled, and Elixir takes up 19 lines (!) of the available widget list. Naturally, Elixir lets you disable any widget types via its Settings screen, so you can bring this down to a much more manageable list (say, one or two widgets).

Let’s try adding a 4-by-1 widget, that can contain seven icons:

Image

Tap one of the X’s and get a list of possible uses for this spot on the widget:

Image

You can have it show a device indicator, call a contact, launch an app or do just about anything else. Lather, rinse, repeat, until you end up with something like this:

Image

This particular widget shows device memory status, battery temperature, CPU frequency, cell signal strength, WiFi status toggle, device auto-rotation toggle, and screen-lock toggle. That’s seven buttons that fit in what would normally contain just four buttons. It’s literally packed with functionality.

This is what it looks like on the screen (I selected the transparent style):

elixir for android

The buttons are small but are still quite easy to hit. The screen-lock button requires special permissions (from the Options screen), but even after I granted them, it did not exactly work right on my system. I think that’s due to a conflict with No Lock.

Privacy Concerns

On the market, Elixir is listed as two separate apps: Elixir itself, and the Personal Add-On. This add-on is needed only if you want to grant Elixir data to your personal information, such as missed calls, unanswered messages, etc.

Bottom Line

In one word: Wow. In a sentence: If you’re a power-user and don’t mind thinking of your phone as a computer, this is an amazingly capable system utility. Try it out.


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Mobile Notifier: A Better Notification System For iOS 4 [Jailbroken iOS]

Posted: 07 Jun 2011 10:31 AM PDT

notification system iosThe latest rumor in the Mac universe is that in a couple of months Apple is going to release the latest version of their operating system for its best selling products – the iDevices (iPhones, iPod Touches, and iPads). This OS – dubbed iOS 5 – promises to bring lots of new features along with improvements to the existing features.

One of the most requested improvements is to the notification system for iOS. The current notification system is designed to make sure that users get all the incoming messages – at all costs. But this arrangement is annoying because it interrupts any activity that is currently in progress. To be cut off in the middle of a game is not something that any gamer would tolerate. On the other hand, if users choose to ignore the notification, it will just disappear. Users then have to go through piles of apps to find out which ones sent the notifications. It’s very easy to accidentally leave some notifications unnoticed.

Right Here, Right Now, For Free

Getting a better notification system is something that iOS users will look forward to, and Apple has made the right step by trying to improve the current system. The bad news is, it’s still unclear when exactly the next iOS will be released. But the good news is, there’s already a better notification system available for iOS. If you have a jailbroken iOS device running iOS 4, you can install the system right now, for free.

The system is called Mobile Notifier by Peter Hajas, and it’s available from Cydia. But before you can install it in your iOS device, you have to add Peter Hajas’ repo first.

  • To do that, open Cydia and go straight to “Manage” and choose “Sources“.

notification system ios

  • Within the “Sources” area, tap “Edit” on the top left of the screen, and then tap “Add” at the next screen to be able to enter Peter Hajas’ repository address.

ios notifications

  • The “Enter Cydia/APT URL” window will pop up. You should fill in the field with this address:

http://phajas.xen.prgmr.com/repo

  • Then click “Add Source“. Cydia will download some packages and update its repository with the new source.

ios notifications

  • Now that you’ve added the repository, you should go to the “Search” area and search for “MobileNotifier“. Tap on it to see more details and tap the “Install” button. The app will be downloaded and installed into your iOS devices. After that your device will be restarted automatically.

ios notifications

The New Notification In Action

If you want to do some adjustments, you can find some options within the “Settings” area. You can enable or disable the features here. Since I wanted to know what Mobile Notifier does (and how it’s different from the default notification system), I turned all the features on.

ios notification app

Here are some of my findings.

First, if you have some incoming notifications while you’re not using your device, they will appear at the lock screen. Mobile Notifier will tell you how many notifications you’ve missed, and if you touch the notification bar, you can view them there on the lock screen. Unfortunately, the version of Mobile Notifier that I’m trying out (version beta4r1) doesn’t allow users to act on the notifications right away. I hope future versions will do.

ios notification app

To act on the notifications, you have to unlock your device. You can see the list on the unused area above the multitasking bar. By default, you can open the multitasking bar by clicking the home button twice.

Tap on one of the notifications to open it in its default application. You can dismiss all the notifications by tapping on the “Clear pending” link and confirm by tapping the red “Clear pending” button.

ios notification app

But if you are in the middle of something, the notification will appear as a single small bar above the screen. You can ignore it if you want. Or you can tap the small arrow button on the right to save the notification for “Later” or “Open” it right away.

notification system ios

After trying out the app for a while, I also found that the current version is not really suitable for the iPad yet as the notification window got messed up when you change the device’s orientation.

The developer’s blog revealed that the new version (beta5) is already out with some new features like the ability to reply a message directly from Mobile Notifier’s window. But at the time of writing I couldn’t update my Mobile Notifier to the latest version.

I don’t know what kind of renewed notification system Apple will come up with inside iOS 5, but at the moment, I think Mobile Notifier is so much better than iOS 4′s notification system.

Have you tried Mobile Notifier? Do you use another iOS notification system? Please share your thoughts and opinions using the comments below.

Image credit: Apple


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How To Make Links Open In The Background With Firefox & Chrome

Posted: 07 Jun 2011 09:31 AM PDT

open links in backgroundDo you regularly browse through emails or RSS feeds and cue up links in your browser to read later? As you do that, you may often find yourself distracted by your browser popping up in the foreground or by the focus being stolen by a new tab. Whether you’re using webmail, a desktop email client or an RSS feed reader, there are tricks and techniques to make links open in the background. This article shows you how to tame foreground-seeking links in Firefox and provides some tips on how to deal with Chrome.

If you’re opening links from outside your browser, it doesn’t matter where you open them from. You could be clicking on a link in either Thunderbird, a PDF document, or another program. What does matter is your default browser.

Firefox

open links in background

There is a simple tweak that allows you to force Mozilla Firefox to open ‘diverted’ links in the background. Note that this will affect all links, including those opened from within the browser!

Go to Firefox and type > about:config into the URL bar. Hit Enter and you will likely encounter a warranty warning. Fear not! Just promise to be careful and proceed.

open links in background firefox

Next you will see a long list of advanced settings. You can > Filter for > browser.tabs or simply scroll to the entry > browser.tabs.loadDivertedInBackground. Double-click this entry to set its value to > true. To revert the change, simply double-click again. Done.

open links in background firefox

As you can see from the screenshot above, there is an option to also make your bookmarks load in the background. Furthermore, note that you can make links from within the browser load in a new tab in the background if you perform a middle-click, typically using the scroll wheel of your mouse.

Chrome

open links in background firefox

If you decided to go with Google Chrome as your default browser, the whole scenario becomes a little more complicated. In short, there is no straightforward way to make all links open in the background. But at least there are some workarounds for some scenarios.

As with Firefox, you can use a middle-click to make links from within Google Chrome open in a new tab in the background. When you’re dealing with outside browser applications however, there doesn’t seem to be a solution at all.

Now if you’re using Google Reader and love your keyboard shortcuts, i.e. clicking [V] to open the current article in a new tab, there is a way to make the tab open in the background, which doesn’t require your mouse. In fact, there are three extensions able to do this and they all work equally well:

If you’re looking for a more general solution, check out this extension, which will force all links that contain a _new or _blank cue in the target to open in a new background tab when you left-click them.

This being Chrome, you don’t have to restart your browser to install new extensions. In order to make the new extension work, however, be sure to reload the respective tab before trying.

Internet Explorer

Not surprisingly, there is no way to make links open in the background when links outside Internet Explorer are clicked. You can, however, use the middle-click or a [CTRL] plus left-click to open links from within the browser in a new tab in the background. In any case, please don’t use Internet Explorer as your default browser!

The Verdict

Taken together, it’s rather surprising that (of these three browsers) Firefox is the only one able to perform such an essential and simple task! Furthermore, the fact that the option is available natively, shows that the Mozilla core developing team is listening much better to its audience than Google or Microsoft. So if you find links opening in the foreground annoying, then your best bet is to make Firefox your default browser.

Do you use another browser, for example Opera, and do you happen to know how to make links open in the background? Please share your solution in the comments!

Image credits: Leigh Prather


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Can You Actually Hire Computer Hackers Online? [Geeks Weigh In]

Posted: 07 Jun 2011 08:31 AM PDT

computer hackersAsk 5 different people about who the typical hacker is, and you'll likely receive 5 different responses. Some see computer hackers as rebels against governments and corporate entities that have become corrupt, while others consider them to be nothing more than Cheeto encrusted losers sitting in their mother's basement.

The different legends about hackers can make them seem like a potential resource for those who feel the need to go beyond the law. Be it as simple as trying to crack an important encrypted file you've forgotten the password to, or as devious as keeping tabs on a person's moves online, there are reasons why a hacker-for-hire might appeal. But can you actually lay out your own cash for this service, or will you just be scammed?

A Dangerous Underworld?

computer hackers

You might expect that finding a hacker would require delving into a shadowy underworld filled with people using cheap pre-paid mobile phones and handles like xXx1337HackerxXx. Digging into this might be possible, but risky.

You'd be wrong. Finding a computer hacker – for basic password cracking and similar services, at least – is not difficult. A simple Google search for “hackers for hire” will reveal the sites for a number of organizations like Hire 2 Hack and HireHacker. These organizations promise that they can crack databases, emails or websites.

benefits of computer hackers

Of course, they want money in exchange. Hire 2 Hack, for example, has a $150 minimum charge for hacking an email account. More complex work, like hacking a website, usually requires that you submit information about the website you'd like to hack in order to receive a quote. It's not much different than hiring a contractor to fix your patio.

Playing With Fire

computer hackers

At first glance, many of the hacking services online look at least somewhat legitimate. Although not the same as a legitimate company website, they usually offer multiple payment options and conform to a reasonable standard of website design and copy editing. Most of the red-flags that indicate a scam website, like annoying pop-ups, poor grammar and audio/video content that plays without permission, are not found on these sites.

However, that doesn't guarantee that these sites are safe. Since the service is illegal, you are not going to have much leverage if there is a customer service issue. In my research, I found that there are surprisingly few complaints online about people being simply ripped off by such services, but it’s always a risk.

A bigger risk is the potential that your hacking request will be used as blackmail. There are several articles online describing a situation where a person hires a hacker to obtain a password or perform some other service, only to have the hacker turn around and threaten to tell the target who hired them. A post by someone named Matt Bennet on Ripoff Report accuses YourHackerz.net of blackmailing him for $1,000.

Of course, all of this information is obscured by the anonymity of the Internet. For example, the above report only accuses YourHackerz.net of blackmail, but the poster does not report that he actually paid the money or provide any substantial details about his experience. Is Matt Bennet real, or is he a competitor trying to discredit the service? What about the posters who reply to Matt Bennet's article, claiming they had successful experiences? Are they real, or are they simply trying to drum up business with fake reviews?

Conclusion

Can you hire hackers online? Yes, you can. I’m sure you could hire them offline as well, if you know who to speak to or where to look.

The more important question is – can you trust computer hackers you hire online? In my opinion, no, you can't. This does not mean every hacker service, or even a majority of them, is a scam or is staffed by malicious hackers looking to blackmail customers. However, because the service is illegal, there's no way to determine the reputation of the service, and there's no accountability. This means there is no basis for trust.

If you do choose to hire a hacker, it would be wise to protect your identity. Do not use your real email address, do not provide personal information, and for the love of all that is holy, don't pay with a credit or debit card!

Live Free or Die Hard


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