Saturday, June 11, 2011 “Cool Websites and Tools [June 10th]” plus 12 more “Cool Websites and Tools [June 10th]” plus 12 more

Link to MakeUseOf

Cool Websites and Tools [June 10th]

Posted: 10 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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Fly On Desktop – April Fool's is not the only day of the year when you are allowed to pull pranks on your friends. If you are looking for something that will confuse your friends while they use their computers, check out the brilliant prank app called FlyOnDesktop, a desktop app for Windows operating systems. The app produces virtual flies on your screen that move about, creating the impression that there really are flies on the monitor's screen. Read more: FlyOnDesktop: Prank Your Friends by Creating Virtual Flies On Their Desktop


Tunefort – is a new entrant in the league of online music streaming services and lets you quickly search for a song, add it to a playlist, listen to it online or download it to your computer. All the songs are hosted on's servers, a file sharing service that operates in accordance with the DMCA rules. It’s simple and easy. Read more: TuneFort: Search, Create Playlists & Download Music Easily



Open Near Me – Tools that let you find places are a dime a dozen. But very few tools actually put the search results into the context of time and location. Open Near Me is a tool exactly like that, as it lets you search for businesses that are near your location and are open at that given time. Right now, the tool only works for the city of Boston. Read more: OpenNearMe: Finds Local Shops That Are Open Today



Silent Film Director – Who doesn't want to be a movie director? This iPhone app will make your dream come true by letting you create a vintage style movie right from your phone. You can choose various styles such as the 20?s, 60?s, 70?s, a black and white movie or a sepia style movie. You also have the option to choose from 3 built-in sound tracks or upload music from your PC, Mac or iPod. Read more: Silent Film Director: Create Silent Movies From Your iPhone



Signnow – While there are several tools online that allow us to sign documents for legal or contractual reasons, nothing looks as easy to use as this tool. Signnow is an e-signature tool that lets you attach your signature to any document and then e-mail it to others for signing. You do not need to register – just upload the document and click the sign tool. Read more: Signnow: A Simple & Free Electronic Signature Tool


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 11 Best Questions From You [MakeUseOf Answers]

Posted: 10 Jun 2011 06:31 PM PDT

MakeUseOf AnswersEvery Friday MakeUseOf Answers honors the Best Answer of the Week . If you ever ask a question, please make sure you acknowledge the help you will be receiving and do let us know in case an answer helped you solve your question. Feedback, whether it’s good or bad, is a great motivation for all of us!

This week the winners are:

Best Answer of the Week – Mike

1st Runner Up – Larry_m7

2nd Runner Up – ha14

Congratulations to the winners!

If you don’t feel apt enough to actually solve questions, how about learning something new? Check out the best question of the week:

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

Need help? Ask A Question at MakeUseOf Answers.


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How To Create An iPhone Or Android App Without Any Coding Skills

Posted: 10 Jun 2011 04:31 PM PDT

how to create iphone appsLearning how to code and produce a basic iPhone or Android app is not a simple drag and drop process. While Apple’s Xcode helps lay down the foundation for building an iPhone app, it can take hours of coding and trial and error to produce a basic RSS feed or portfolio application.

But if you’re really eager to make a mobile app based on your website, business, organization, or just a fun quiz game, a website called Buzztouch may well be the web-based solution for you. Buzztouch is essentially Content Management Software for iOS and Android. It provides a template-based process in which you import your app’s information into the online software, and in turn it will create the code that you need to compile the data for your application. I gave a try and it does work.

how to create iphone apps

What You Need

MUO has previously covered the steps on how to develop a simple iPhone app and submit it iTunes. You should read that article as it’s part of this process. Buzztouch however does not get your app onto iTunes, nor does it compile it in the programming application, Xcode, or the Android counterpart. What Buzztouch does is help you develop your app so that you can export the code to Xcode, and then from there you go through the process of submitting your app to the iTunes App Store. Since I’m an iPhone and Mac user, this review will focus on creating an iPhone app.

The tools Buzztouch provides are totally free. It seeks to inspire aspiring developers, designers, content publishers, and the like to leverage their technology.

However, beyond Buzztouch, you will need a copy of Xcode on your Mac. If you already have a current or older free version of Xcode, you’re set to go. If not, you will have to download it from the Mac App Store, for $5. Once you get your app completed, you will need to shell out $99 for a developer’s license to upload your app to the iTunes App Store where it will go through the approval process.

create iphone app

Developing Your App

Buzztouch provides some excellent video tutorials for developing your iPhone application. I will provide simply an overview of the process. Basically, the core content of the Buzztouch app consists of one or more basic mobile iPhone template items. For example, I partially created an iPhone RSS feed app for, although of course you can download the official MUO app from the App Store.

After you do the free registration on the Buzztouch site, you will need to be familiar with the tools and templates that the app creation software provides. You will need to create and gather the content for your app before you get started in the process. It’s like gathering content for producing a website. In fact, your existing website could be the basis of a web-based iPhone app. Thus a Buzztouch app could be useful for realtors, modelling agencies, small restaurants, performers, bloggers, etc.

You start off the process by creating a name for your site.

create iphone app

Next, you need to add a logo for your app. I borrowed one from MUO’s existing application. A professional looking logo is highly recommended for your app to have any chance of being purchased and downloaded from the App Store. As you can see, Buzztouch makes adding the icon very easy. In each step of the process, an iPhone simulation will show you the results of the content you provide.

create iphone app

As shown in the following control panel, you will need to add a homepage image and introductory information for your app. That’s very easy to do. Where it says “Manage this app’s menus & screens” is the core content of your app.

create iphone app

Clicking on that tool, you are provided with a set of tools for building your app. So far example, if you want to an RSS feed app for your blog site, you would add the RSS feed tool as one of your Home Screen Menu items.

create android apps

There are 20 other templates for adding items, such as a Streaming and/or YouTube video, an Email Us page, a multiple choice quiz, a single image, a PDF doc, and a share via Facebook tool.

create android apps

As with any professional looking website, you will want to have the content of your app polished and well edited.

Compiling Code

At any time during the process of building your app, you can have Buzztouch compile the code and send it over to Xcode to see the results. After Buzztouch prepares your code, it will download it to your computer. In the resulting folder, you will want to click on the file with the name of your app and the extension, “xcodeproj.” When you click the Run button in Xcode, it will open the iPhone simulator that is a part of the programmer.

create android apps

You really don’t need programming skills to produce your application, but you do need to be comfortable with using this sort of technology.

A few examples of apps developed by Buzztouch include Ian James’ Piano Live which is designed to keep his fans updated about  his live shows and other information;

create iphone app

and Thrifty Car Sales, a calculator produced by Thrifty Car Sales to calculate the interest rate on a car loan, as well as other tips for buying a car.

how to create iphone apps

Let us know what you think of Buzztouch. If you create an app and post it for free download on the App Store, let us know about it. We might consider reviewing it as a follow-up to this article.

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Diagramly – A Handy Tool For Creating Quick Flowcharts

Posted: 10 Jun 2011 03:31 PM PDT

creating flow chartsIn the age of infographics, flowcharts are a great tool for getting your point across without using too many words. If you routinely create flowcharts as part of your work, you may already be using a full-featured product such as Microsoft Visio. But if flowcharts aren’t yet a big part of your process, you may want to give Diagramly a look.

The best thing about Diagramly is how accessible it is. You just click a URL, and you’re in. There’s no download, no account registration, and you don’t even need Flash to use it. It really couldn’t be simpler to get started. The worst thing about Diagramly (I’ll just get this out of the way right now) is the utter lack of documentation. For example, check out this diagram I made for you, showing the ideal MakeUseOf reader’s workflow:

creating flow charts

Pretty easy to understand, right? It took about 45 seconds from the moment I first loaded Diagramly in my browser until I had this diagram. But did you notice how all steps use the same icons? That’s not because I think you guys are cogwheels in MakeUseOf’s giant machine – it’s because I simply couldn’t figure out how to change the icon! I clicked all over the interface, right-clicked the bubbles and did just about everything I could think of, and yet I was unable to change the icon. This is where you come in, by the way – feel free to leave a comment and tell me what I missed.

Let’s take a look at the UI:

create flow charts

I included Chrome’s address bar on purpose, so you’d see it really is a Web app. The border between web apps and desktop apps is growing ever fuzzier, and Diagramly is a good example. The interface is very snappy, too. You can drag a marquee around multiple elements to select them all (or Ctrl-click them one by one, if they’re not adjacent). You can adjust the zoom level, and select diagram components from a rich library of high-resolution icons.

Here are just a few samples I picked at random:

create flow charts

Why there is a Shield of David there, I have absolutely no idea. I think it’s just supposed to be a star, but it has six points for some reason. At any rate, you can see the icons are very detailed. I believe I’ve seen them before elsewhere. Diagramly’s creators must have obtained permission to use existing icon sets. Having such high-quality icons is very handy when you’re trying to get a visual message across quickly. You can just draw an arrow from the $ icon to the Mac icon — the message is clear.

Once you’re done crafting your masterpiece, you can save it in one of a number of formats:

creating flow charts

Saving as an SVG is very handy if you have a desktop vector editing application (such as the free and open-source Inkscape). As I’ve already mentioned, documentation isn’t exactly Diagramly’s strong suit, so I have no idea what type of XML it saves. I’ve inspected the resulting XML and it lacks a DTD declaration, but you can certainly open it back using Diagramly (I’ve tested this).

Bottom Line

Should you use Diagramly for your multi-million dollar keynote? You can probably guess the answer by now. But if you have an idea you just want to lay down on screen very quickly, and without futzing about with a software download and installation, with opening an account, or with any of the other hassles most diagramming tools present, then Diagramly is the way to go. If you make anything interesting or funny, do share in the comments!

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Get The Inside Scoop On Your Potential Boss With Honestly

Posted: 10 Jun 2011 02:31 PM PDT

honestly people searchSince I spend a good amount of time on the Internet, I tend to sign up for a lot of websites and services. I do this when I’m searching for a topic to write about or if I want to snag my username on a fancy new website because, hey, you never know which sites are going to blow up and become popular.

One such site is Honestly, which is a community that helps users get the inside scoop on their potential bosses and business partners. Admittedly, I had forgotten about Honestly shortly after signing up, but I have since received enough emails from the company stating my Facebook friends were signing up that I decided to give it a second look. Honestly offers a unique angle on user reviews.

What Is Honestly?

Honestly helps you take control of and build your own professional reputation online. By contributing to Honestly reviews, you can share your knowledge of other professionals, giving credit where it is due and providing valuable feedback for others.

“ is an online resource for building, managing, and researching professional reputations, using community-contributed, professional reviews. reviews help you get the inside scoop on other business professionals, providing candid assessments of coworkers, potential hires, business partners, and more.”

Alternatively, you can create (or claim) your own profile on Honestly, where you can collect your own recognition for accomplishments and actively manage career growth.

honestly people search

Profiles are like a central hub for community-contributed reviews regarding an individual business professional. An Honestly profile can be created by you for yourself or by you for someone else, which could be a person you’d like to review.

honestly free people search

Reviews are community-contributed, business-focused assessments of professional performance. In case you were wondering, Honestly obscures the identity of review authors, so you can feel free to share your true feelings and opinions without being scared someone will find out what you’ve said about them. Isn’t that lovely?

Honestly also provides a suite of tools that allows the community to rate and moderate reviews, which also ensures that reviews are high quality and, well, honest.

How Do I Get Started Using Honestly?

To get started using Honestly to read and write reviews, head over to the homepage and connect via your Facebook account. Honestly requires a Facebook account because it helps to show that a) you are a real person, and b) that you are 21 or older, which is a requirement of using the service. Being that the network is for business professionals, I doubt you would find much use for the service if you were under 21 anyway.

honestly free people search

The quality of your submissions will be rated by other Honestly users, contributing to your Reviewer Authority score. Honestly also makes it easy to quickly find relevant people to review, whether they’re former colleagues of yours or present ones.

honestly people search

With an account, you’ll begin receiving notifications of new reviews, requests for reviews from trusted colleagues, and responses to your reviews. You can also add details about your resume and more to your profile.


I’m a big fan of review websites that shoot for honesty and integrity, and Honestly does that by hiding reviewers’ identities and instituting ratings that are monitored by the community itself. If Wikipedia has taught us anything, it’s that this type of model can work, and crowdsourcing information works well with sites like Quora as well.

What do you think of Honestly (honestly)?

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Hot Tech Deals – TomTom XXL 535T Portable GPS Navigation (5in, Lifetime Traffic) $108 + more

Posted: 10 Jun 2011 01:30 PM PDT

Today’s featured deal is the TomTom XXL 535T portable GPS navigation system with a large 5″ touchscreen display, maps of North America, text-to-speech capabilities and free lifetime traffic updates. All this for just $108 (retails at $199).

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

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  4. TODAY ONLY TP-Link TL-WN722N 802.11n USB 2.0 High Gain Wireless Adapter $15.99
  5. TODAY ONLY Buffalo MiniStation Stealth 1TB USB 3.0 Portable External Hard Drive $79.99
  6. Dell PowerEdge T310 Intel Xeon 2.4GHz Server Desktop Computer (4GB/250GB) $500
  7. TODAY ONLY Vizio M260MV 26in RazorLED LED LCD HDTV (REFURB, 1080p) $209.99 via code VDV33664 (Exp Soon)
  8. Staples Acer Monitor Sale (Acer G215HAbd 22in $89.98, Acer P236Hbd 23in $119.98 via code 69882 (Exp 6/20)
  9. TODAY ONLY TomTom XXL 535T Portable GPS Navigation (5in, Lifetime Traffic) $108

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Find Or Wipe Your Android Phone Remotely Using Android Lost [2.2+]

Posted: 10 Jun 2011 12:31 PM PDT

best android lost phone wipe freeI’m guessing you’ve thought about what might happen if you ever lost your Android phone. That, or maybe you have once lost your Android and you now wish to have a better plan in place to find it, erase things and disable it, if it happens again. Once you get thinking about these things you realise there’s a few good options out there, but it’s still worth knowing which ones are the best and why. Here’s one of the best I’ve seen yet.

Android Lost (for Android 2.2+) is an extremely well thought-out application. If your phone is lost, this will do the trick for all of your security needs: you can locate the phone by GPS, wipe your phone, erase your SD card, forward your calls, start an alarm, lock your phone, lock your SIM card and more. Basically, you get all the possible tools available to find your phone, secure it from prying eyes or wipe all data altogether. Top that with the fact that you can install this application from the Android Market and use most features AFTER you’ve lost the phone, makes this a killer application.

Get Started

Install Android Lost from the Android Market and then you’ll be able to control it from the Android Lost website by logging in with your Google login. This is a neat way to ensure the right phone is being controlled remotely.

best android lost phone wipe free

Register the phone by either starting the application on your phone or by sending an SMS with the message “androidlost register” to your phone. Once both of these steps are completed, you’ll see a “congratulations” message pop up on the website, letting you know you’re now remotely connected to your phone.

If you want to be able to do a remote lock or wipe your phone you must install this in advance and verify that you wish the application to “request administrator rights”. If you’re unsure of leaving this power in the hands of an application accessed by a Google login, there’s no reason to give it administrator rights. Just click “exit” here instead.

remotely wipe an android

Also note that Android Lost is still in beta and the website is working on function rather than form at this stage.

Find Your Phone

All of Android Lost’s features can be controlled with the Control page.

If you’ve just lost your phone, the first thing you’d want to check is if it’s nearby. If your phone’s on silent you’ll never hear it when you call, but using Android Lost you can start the alarm sounding, which will work even if the phone’s on silent. Handy!

remotely wipe an android

Next, you might try sending your phone’s GPS location to your phone. You can also toggle the GPS and WiFi settings on some handsets using this application, but these functions aren’t part of the official API and might not work on all phones. If your phone is one which can’t use remote GPS and Wi-Fi toggles, check out the SMS commands available in the security controls. You can also send the phone’s status to your email, including the battery level and IMEI number.

You might also decide it’s worth leaving a pop-up message for the person who has found your phone. This is perfect if you think you’re still fairly close nearby or it’s not likely to be left anywhere dangerous.

remotely wipe an android

Getting Your Messages & Calls While The Phone Is Lost

Another extremely useful feature is that you can get your last 10 SMS messages sent to your email. If you know your phone operator’s forwarding keys you can also set your phone up to forward your calls to another number. If you were planning to meet people or have something urgent you’ve been waiting for, this is a lifesaver.

Locking & Wiping Your Phone Remotely

The most paranoid security feature is the remote wipe. Paradoxically, if you’re going to be paranoid enough to remotely wipe your phone you’re probably also likely to be paranoid enough to have not given Android Lost the administrator rights to do so earlier on. It’s tough, but who do you trust least? Android Lost? People who might use Android Lost with your Google login? Or the people who have found or stolen your phone? Your choice. Decide before you lose your phone!

best android lost phone wipe free

More Android Tools For Lost Phones

If you want to try out some other great apps to help you when you’ve lost your phone, try these:

So, have you used Android Lost? Did you find your phone or wipe data remotely? How did it go?  Or maybe you use a better app which you’d like to tell us all about?

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6 Chrome Extensions That Check The Validity & Safety Of Webpage Links With A Click

Posted: 10 Jun 2011 11:31 AM PDT

check safe linkIt is URLs or links as we like to call them that make the web go around. Links form the strands of the web (quite literally).But more often than not, you cannot see beyond them. Links could be broken; links could point to the wrong page; even worse, links could be an open door to phishing scams or malware downloads. That's why it helps to keep at least one link checker in your browser.

I have found that link checkers also are great assistants when it comes to checking a bunch of download links from file sharing websites like Rapidshare. It's a really painful experience to find a broken link after you have downloaded the major part of a file with the working ones above it.

Just so you know, Chrome Web Store has these (few) link checkers to help you out in different ways.

Link Checker

check safe link

A really simple link checker extension that works quietly with color codes. The Chrome extension with the broken image necklace icon (in case you are wondering about the icon) works by color coding the links. A small percentage counter shows the stage of completion. Errors are shown in red, Successful returns are shown by green, timed out links are shown by blue, and failed links dumped with a red highlight. It doesn't return perfect results always, but do recheck the links displayed in red.

Check My Links

check link safety

This link verifying Chrome extension also works on the principle of color codes. It highlights broken links in red with the error code displayed next to it. Status of links is displayed as shown in the screenshot. Mailto and JavaScript links are ignored and the number of links passed or failed is published in the Link Check Report with colored tags. Sometimes the link checker does time out.

WGTools Link Checker

check link safety

This link checking extension checks the validity of links from different file sharing websites like Rapidshare and displays a summary report. It works from the toolbar as well as from the right-click context menu. It basically is like a shortcut that takes you to the WGTools link checking page.

RapidShare Link Validator

check link safety

The Rapidshare Validator acts automatically when you land on a page that has links from the file sharing website. The icon on the address bar changes color when it detects a page with Rapidshare links. Valid links get the green icon. Invalid links are stroked out and the icon is shown in red.


check valid links

Try out this Chrome extension on the test page and you will get the utility. This extension automatically detects a misleading link which attempts to take you to a different domain than the one intended by the link text. The warning could help you protect your browser from phishing attacks and other malicious websites.

SafeLinks FREE

check safe link

Just like the earlier extension, SafeLinks FREE also tries to protect you from unsafe links. It works on the current webpage or any link you explicitly select. Use SafeLinks with a right-click on the current page or on a selected link. The extension uses the feedback from web safety rating websites like McAfee, Norton, and Trend Micro to return safe or unsafe results. The only little grouse I found with this extension was that the feedback from the three above mentioned services was slow on some webpages.

Checking links for malicious intent is a much more vital use of link checkers. But I was also surprised by the relative lack of extensions available for the purpose. Did I miss any? What are your thoughts on link checkers? Do you use one or any other URL tools in your Chrome browser?

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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Anokimobi e-pouch iPhone 4 Case Product Review and Giveaway

Posted: 10 Jun 2011 11:00 AM PDT

Presently in the world that we live in, we have to consider the environment in just about every decision we make; shopping included. In one of our recently published articles, we asked our readers if they shop for themselves or if they “shop for the environment” as well — do you think about recyclability and how the product was made when you make your purchase? Personally, I often think about the consequences of my purchase and how it affects the environment — but that’s just me.

About a half a year ago, we wrote about a company in the UK called Anokimobi which specialises in making products out of organic material. Today, we’ll be looking at some additions to their product line. Plus, we’re giving away a couple of prizes so stick around.

Anokimobi released their e-pouch product line after we reviewed their antibacterial iPhone 4 case in December and I learnt that it was doing quite well and gaining popularity in Europe. The e-pouch line consists of 3 ranges and they are defined by the type of material used to construct the cases: the recycled plastic range, the organic cotton range, and the recycled leather/eco-leather range. All three ranges are interiorly lined with organic cotton, PET or fabrics made out of bamboo. In addition to the iPhone 4, these cases can accomodate a variety of products like MP3 players, cameras and other mobile phones.

Recycled plastic e-pouch range


It’s hard to believe that this pouch was made out of recycled PET. The outer construction is tough and durable yet it feels completely refined. The inner lining is made out of organic cotton and is incredibly soft. There’s a small pouch at the front to store earphones or cards and you’ve got a detachable wrist strap at the side. The top of the pouch seals itself shut with the help of a small strip of velcro. At the top, you’ll find a small loop where you can attach a lanyard to the case.

Although the case was made to fit most phones and not the iPhone specifically, it managed to accomodate my iPhone 3G quite well. The Fusion pouch is sleek, isn’t too bulky, has a super soft interior and seals itself shut at the top and most importantly, it’s made out of recycled materials.


The Edge e-pouch is also made out of recycled materials, plastic bottles to be exact but its overall construction and feel is very different from the Fusion pouch. Whereas the Fusion pouch has a soft and sleek feel to it, the Edge is bulkier and more protective. It has a velcro flap which lifts up to reveal a pull cord to help remove your iPhone from the slip case easily.

On the other side (not pictured), you’ll a more secure, zipped compartment for your necessities e.g. coins, earphones, credit cards, etc. Overall, the Edge is bulkier but it does have that added protection. Like the Fusion pouch, the Edge also has a loop which can be used to attach a lanyard at the top.

Organic cotton e-pouch range


The Luna pouch is almost the same as the Fusion but it’s made out of organic cotton, stuffed with recycled filler material. As a result, it feels softer and more flexible. It’s also slightly shorter than the Fusion, which I found a little odd because the velcro strips weren’t able to meet and seal the pouch shut.

I preferred the feel of the organic cotton, compared to the recycled PET exterior of the Fusion but unfortunately, not being able to seal the case shut was a slight disappointment. Like both pouches shown before, it has a wrist strap at the side and a small loop to attach it to a lanyard.

Eco-leather range

Eco imitation leather Slip

Most of us probably like leather a lot but realistically, purchasing a leather iPhone case just isn’t economical. Plus, why would you want to spend so much money on something as common as an iPhone cover? Anokimobi’s eco imitation leather slip is a great “greener” alternative. It’s made with water-based production methods so there aren’t any toxic chemicals involved in its creation. It uses recycled card stiffeners for added strength and rigidity and there’s a strip of organic cotton down the middle for some style. The interior is lined with organic cotton so, like the pouches above, it’s incredibly soft.

In order words, this eco imitation leather slip is an environmentally-friendly iPhone sleeve which looks great and even though it’s made out of recycled materials, it still manages to pull it off in style.

Velcro Slip

The Velcro Slip is a product which is made out of a combination of recycled PET and eco imitation leather, filled with recycled material. Im in opinion, it’s probably design for the more business-minded user. Unlike the rest of the pouches featured above, the Velcro slip is completely lined with recycled PET on both the exterior and interior. In addition to that, there’s a cross-shaped section of eco leather on both the front and the rear. The pouch features a velcro flap which starts at the rear and swings over to the front, securing your phone in place — this actually helps to accomodate a variety of phone sizes.

Over at the rear, you’ll find a belt loop for those who prefer to wear their phones on their hips. On top of that, the Velcro Slip takes a page out of Anokimobi’s antibacterial iPhone cases and injected the same Biomaster antibacterial silver in the eco leather.

Overall, the pouches from Anokimobi reviewed here were pretty decent. The material used were recycled and organic. All of their packaging used to ship the pouches are recyclable. And so their effect to the environment is a positive one. If you’re thinking of getting a new pouch for your iPhone or iPod touch, think green.

We’ve got 5 Velcro Slips to give away to MakeUseOf readers around the globe!

How do I win one?

It’s simple, just follow the instructions.

Step 1: Fill in the giveaway form

Please fill in the form with your real name and email address so that we can get in touch if you are chosen as a winner. Click here if you can’t view the form.

The giveaway code required to activate the form is available from our Facebook page.

Step 2: Share!

You’re almost done. Now, all that’s left to do is to share the post. There are 2 options to choose from or you can do both!

Like it on Facebook

Or share it on Twitter

This giveaway begins now and ends Friday, June 17th at 2100hrs PDT. The winners will be selected at random and informed via email.

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Security Issues Revealed In iPhone And Android Apps [News]

Posted: 10 Jun 2011 10:33 AM PDT

Yet another report, this time from the security firm ViaForensics, which has revealed security flaws in apps running on iPhone and Android devices.

The study takes a look at a variety of popular apps including Foursquare, Netflix, Skype and more.  Both Android and iPhone's pre-packaged email apps scored poorly, as well. These apps failed the study because of poor data storage including, among other things, unencrypted personal data and passwords.

Data storage is a concern on all mobile devices. If data on a smartphone is not properly secured, it can be easily accessed by anyone who has the phone. Given the portability of these devices, that's an obvious risk. Accidently leaving your phone at a cash register or dropping it at work could give a stranger access to private information including your emails and social contacts.

Foursquare responded quickly by pushing an update patching the vulnerabilities found and Netflix stated that a security update is in the works.

What did score well? All of the banking apps tested passed, as did Paypal's Android app, although the iPhone app earned a “warn” rating because potentially compromising information was stored. The Google Gmail App on iPhone (not to be confused with Gmail accessed via iPhone Mail) also passed, making it the most secure email app in the study.

Source: CNET

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How To Make Your Own CinemaGraph In Photoshop CS5

Posted: 10 Jun 2011 10:31 AM PDT

how to cinemagraphsCinemagraphs are small animated GIF files created from a movie, that capture a tiny moving section of that movie in a forever looping sequence. See the sample to the right if you have no idea what I’m talking about, or check out Tim’s upcoming article on the 5 best blogs to find Cinemagraphs. Today I’m going to show you how to make your own from a movie file, using Photoshop CS5 Extended, and you can see my final product on the right!

Note: You’ll need the Extended version of Photoshop to do this, as it includes the Animation components. You’ll also need a very basic working knowledge of Photoshop, as I’m not going to explain key concepts such as layers, or how to trash them or make them invisible. Windows users, replace CMD with CTRL, and OPTION with ALT keys in the tutorial.

Movies, Timelines & QuickMasks

Go ahead and open up a video file as you would any other file. If the animation window doesn’t automatically load, turn it on from the Windows menu. Here I’ve chosen a little video I took on my iPhone of a squirrel in St James Park, London.

how to cinemagraphs

Find the small icon for the animation drop down menu in the top right of the timeline, as we’re going to be using it a lot. Click it, and find the Document Settings. Change the frame rate to about 15 if it’s higher. Generally, videos will start out at about 30 frames per seconds, which is too high for simple animations.

how to make a cinemagraph gif

Next, get familiar with the timeline a little more. Along the top of the timeline is a blue pointer which indicates the current frame in the sequence. Drag it to scrub back and forth through your movie. There are also play controls in the bottom right.

how to make a cinemagraph gif

Drag the pointer to where you want your movie to start. Now, drag the blue rectangle that marks the start of the movie to where your pointer has moved to. Hold down the shift key to have it snap onto your pointer location. If you hit play again, you should notice that the movie now begins where you set it to.

Drag the marker again to where you want the movie to end, and do the same with the small blue end marker from the right hand side. Now preview again, and you should see the basic loop of your movie taking place. If everything is good, select Trim Document Duration to Work Area from the timeline menu again in the top right.

Next, you need to find your master frame – this is the one frame of video that will be the backdrop – the bit of your animation that doesn’t move. Scrub the marker until you see the desired frame, then hit CMD-A to select all and CMD-C to copy, then CMD-V to paste. This should create a new layer with your selected keyframe.

Next, hit the Q key to open QuickMask mode. Select the paintbrush tool and a suitable size brush, and begin to paint the areas of your movie that you wish to remain static. In QuickMask mode, you should see them highlighted red when you paint (if not, you’re not in quick mask mode, so undo and try again). Leave the areas which have the moving element of the movie that you want to retain.

how to make a cinemagraph gif

Having highlighted all the bits of the scene that you want to stay still, hit Q again to exit the QuickMask mode, then hold ALT and click the Add Layer Mask button on the layer palette. That’s the button on the bottom that’s a rectangle with a circle in it.


This should create a new layer mask on the still image keyframe layer, like below.


At this point you should be able to preview your animation if both layers are visible, just hit play in the animation window. You can also still crop the animation if you wish, as I did in this case. This is now a good indication of what your final Cinemagraph is going to look like – the rest of the steps are simply how to export this into an animated GIF.

Export The Animation

Click the animation menu again and select Flatten Frames Into Layers. This will create a bunch of layers, each a single frame in the movie. Delete the original keyframe image, and the movie layer, leaving only the animation frame layers you just created.


Next, turn the movie into a Frame Animation by clicking this button in the bottom right of the animation timeline window. When you do this, only one frame will be created, but don’t worry.

Next, back to the animation menu and select Make Frames From Layers. This will convert all your animation layers into Frames.

Finally, your frame animation has a long pause at the beginning. Click on the first frame to bring up the delay menu. You can either remove it completely, or start adding different delays on various frames if you want a particular timing effect.

Finally, you want the animation to loop forever, not just play once, so just beneath the initial frame click the drop-down that says ONCE and change it to FOREVER.

how to cinemagraph

Now you’r ready to save. From the File menu, select Save for The Web & Devices. Choose the file-type GIF, and reduce the physical size if necessary. Remember there’s a indication of final file size in the bottom left, so play around with the settings to get this as low as possible. I suggest using a pattern dither, and reducing the number of colours to around 32 or 64, with a Selective colour selection.


Obviously, if your camera was shaking in the original movie like mine was then the effect is going to be a little odd, and it’s also best if it’s able to loop seamlessly. I’m sure you can do better though. If you’ve made your own Cinemagraph, feel free to share a link to it in the comments, and we’ll see who’s the best. You can also read all our other Photoshop articles and tutorials here.

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Customize Your Windows 7 Desktop With Emerge, Enigma & Rainmeter

Posted: 10 Jun 2011 09:31 AM PDT

windows 7 desktopHaving followed the progression of the Windows operating system all the way from Windows 3.1 to today, I can comfortably say that Windows 7 is probably the most well polished version of this constantly evolving operating system. With that said, watching cool new operating systems enter the fray, like the lightweight Chrome OS or the open source and free operating systems that Tim listed, it seems pretty clear that people are starting to look for something different.

I think the main thing that drove me to go out in search of something new wasn’t so much a desire to change operating systems, but to change the appearance of my desktop. Other than subtle changes and new features, the Windows desktop hasn’t really changed dramatically over the years. The same is not true for Linux, where users have so many cool desktop OS’s to choose from – like Mint, Unity or Gnome.

Creating Your Own Cool Desktop Environment

I could always transition to Linux, but being so embedded into the Windows culture and not having a whole lot of extra time on my hands to learn a new operating system, I decided to strike out in search of apps that could really transform the Windows 7 desktop experience so that it is no longer recognizable.

windows 7 desktop

The first app that you’ll need to install in this Emerge/Enigma/Rainmeter configuration is Emerge Desktop. I spotted some pretty amazing Emerge setups on the web and decided that it would make the best platform to customize my desktop. Once you install Emerge, you’ll always have the option to switch back to Windows Explorer as the Shell if you don’t like Emerge.

windows 7 desktop themes

When you switch your shell setting over to Emerge and then reboot the computer, you’ll notice that your Windows start menu, taskbar and apps tray looks very different. You’ve got the tray where you can “pin” commonly used apps, but to the right of this you also have what I call a “quick-access” tray, which displays all open apps. No more alt-tab or searching for the window – the app icon is always displayed on this bar if there is a window open for it.

windows 7 desktop themes

Then you’ve got the start menu, which is almost 100% customizable. The default setup is shown below, but using the configuration settings, you can add or remove apps, folders, shortcuts, scripts and anything else you can think of.

windows 7 desktop themes

You can do this in the Workspace Configuration section of the settings area.  As you can see below, adding and removing apps and formatting it is about as easy as it gets.

Above all, the coolest thing about Emerge is the fact that you can hold down the control key and then drag each part of the toolbar anywhere on the screen where you want to anchor it. Want active apps shown at the top of the screen – just drag them there. Want the start menu on the right side instead of the left? Not a problem!

Integrating Rainmeter & The Enigma Skin

Aside from having the ability to move sections of the toolbar anywhere on the screen, I also wanted the ability to transform the desktop itself into an environment that looks nothing like Windows. Yes, maybe even a little more like a Linux desktop.

After hunting around various forums and blogs for ideas, I decided to give Rainmeter a spin, and utilize the Enigma skin for a cool look.  Rainmeter is a desktop customization platform. It allows you to add widgets, themes and other elements to your Windows Desktop that just blows things like Windows 7 gadgets completely out of the water. Here’s Rainmeter installed with the Enigma Skin on my desktop.

windows 7 desktop wallpaper

Along the right side of the screen (or anywhere else), you can customize RSS feeds, Twitter feeds, various apps and other tools that actually make your desktop useful, rather than just cluttered.

Along the bottom of the desktop, you’ll see a ribbon where you can configure quick launching for your favorite apps. With Emerge installed, this ribbon rests just above the toolbar.

windows 7 desktop wallpaper

This setup, of course, is just default. You can completely customize either Emerge or the Enigma setup to lay out your desktop however you like. The limit here is only your own creativity – just about anything you want to do is possible.

Enigma is easy to configure – just right click on the left side of the ribbon strip and choose configuration. On the Enigma Configure screen you’ll see every element of the skin that you can customize, like the apps that display on the ribbon, or the username and password for the Twitter RSS feed.

windows 7 desktop wallpaper

In fact, right clicking and searching through the “Enigma” menu system, you’ll see just how many awesome apps and features are available to add to your desktop.

windows 7 desktop

What I like most about this particular setup is that Enigma is very subdued and uncluttered. Rainmeter offers just unbelievable flexibility, and the Emerge desktop shell gives you the start menu/explorer sort of access that you’re used to as a Windows user. You do need to download Rainmeter before downloading the Enigma skin, but enabling the skin is just a matter of selecting it from inside Rainmeter.

So go ahead and give these three programs a try and see how much it transforms your Windows experience. Do you like the flexibility and the available features? Are there any other skins for Rainmeter that you like better? Share your insight in the comments section below!

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LifeDropper – An Eyedropper Tool For Reality [Android]

Posted: 10 Jun 2011 08:31 AM PDT

eyedropper programThe eyedropper is one of the most useful tools in any full-featured image editing software. With this one little gadget it's possible to pick up the color from one image and use it elsewhere. This makes matching the color of new images with those of older images easy, and is also helpful as a way of experimenting with color to see what works and what doesn't.

Of course, the tool only works within the confines of the software offering it. But what if you could go beyond that, instead extracting color directly from your surroundings? LifeDropper makes that possible.

Augmented Reality Comes To Image Editing

eyedropper program

LifeDropper is a creative eyedropper program, but easy to explain. It simply uses your phone's camera as a means of extracting information about a targeted object's color.

When you open the app you're presented with a camera view devoid of any buttons. Most of the image is shaded, indicating that it is not being used, but in the middle of the screen you'll find a transparent square with a targeting reticule. LifeDropper will extract color information only from what's inside that square. When you've lined up the object you want to sample from, just tap on the display. Presto!

eyedropper tool

The color that you've sampled will appear on a new screen, along with information that will help you input that color into whatever image editing software you prefer. This includes the color translated into red/green/blue numerals, hexadecimal, and more.

In addition to this, you can save any color you sample. Saved colors can be reviewed later by accessing the app's menu and then opening the Tag Gallery. There is also a Share feature, but as far as I can tell, this only lets you share the app – it does not appear to share the color that you've sampled as well.

Solid Colors Only, Please

eyedropper program

LifeDropper is an incredibly useful tool, but it does have one notable limitation – an inability to extract colors from objects that have a pattern or otherwise are not a solid color. The developer cites jeans as one example, but I also found that most patterned fabrics share this problem, and I also couldn't extract color from my pets!

Although this seems like an odd problem, it's actually quite sensible. LifeDropper performs some mathematical magic to convert color information from the real world into something digitally usable, and an objective with extreme color variations will throw that algorithm for a loop.

You can combat this limitation by decreasing the active area from which a color is sampled. Open the menu, go to settings, and then open the Number of Pixels option. There are number of choices, including as little as one pixel. This seems to reduce the problem, but does not entirely solve it (even at a sample of one pixel, jeans remain an elusive subject).


The uses for the LifeDropper eyedropper program are clever. Let's say, for example, that you were a business owner and you wanted to create a website. Instead of relying on a graphics or web designer to come up with a digital approximation of the colors that represent your business, you could take color information directly from reality.

Graphics designers will also enjoy the save feature of the app, since you'll be able to add to your color palette everywhere you go. If you see something that looks cool, you can whip out your phone and sample color from it on the spot.

Do you have an idea for a creative way to use this app? Let us know in the comments.

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