Sunday, June 19, 2011 “Cool Websites and Tools [June 18th]” plus 4 more “Cool Websites and Tools [June 18th]” plus 4 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [June 18th]

Posted: 18 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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Otomata – The Internet has numerous interesting music generation tools to offer. Many of these tools offer complicated interfaces that require familiarization before good music can be made. But Otomata is an exception. It’s a free to use musical sounds generation web app. Read more: Otomata: Generate Cool Music Tones & Share


Eat With Me – Eating together is one of the easiest ways to break the ice and get to know somebody. Eat With Me is a web tool that lets you create events centered around quality meals. Simply create an event, fill in the details of where and when, and describe what kind of meal it will be (vegetarian, kosher, etc). Read more: Eat With Me: Connect With People Over Meals



Book Buzzes – If you are always eager to read a new book from that favorite author of yours, Book Buzzes is a tool you will love. When you sign up for a free account and specify your favorite authors, the tool will send you an email any time that author releases a new book. You can further customize your alerts by choosing your location. Read more: Book Buzzes: Receive Alerts For New Book Releases



htaccess Tester – htaccess or hypertext access is the default name of a directory level configuration file for Apache servers. These files are used to specify security restrictions for a specific directory so a greater control can be implied. If you want to test your htaccess rules but don't want to go through an elaborate effort, htaccess Tester provides a quick alternative. Read more: htaccess Tester: Test htaccess Rules Online



BBC Brief History Of Timezones – The Internet has been made a knowledgeable place thanks to numerous developers and companies creating educational tools. Adding to this list of informative apps is “A Brief History of Time-Zones” by the BBC, a collection of different tools that educate the visitor about time and timezones. An interactive globe lets you view time in different parts of the world. Read more: BBC A Brief History Of Timezones: An Informative Site About Time & Timezones


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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2Lingual: Search Google & Twitter By Voice In Multiple Languages [Google Chrome]

Posted: 18 Jun 2011 06:31 PM PDT

search google languageA couple of months ago, Google added a notable feature to their browser: support for the HTML speech input API which enabled developers to allow web applications to transcribe users’ voice to text. This basically means that the site owners can now add voice recognition features to their websites (which will only be available to Google Chrome users, obviously). When a webpage has this feature, the users can speak into their computer's microphone and the recorded audio is then sent to speech servers for transcription, and then the text is typed out.

The 2Lingual developers have incorporated the new browser feature into their multilingual search tools and have now provided us with Google Multilingual Voice Search and Twitter Multilingual Voice Search. Both the tools support 51 Speech-to-Text Languages including various regional variations. For example, for English, there’s American English, British English, Canadian English, Australian English, Indian English and South African English.

Obviously, both tools work only in Google Chrome. In other browsers you simply won’t see the microphone icon to speak. Voice Search requires a Speech-to-Text capable browser like Google Chrome version 11.0.696. You’ll also obviously need a headset and microphone to speak into.

1. Search Google By Voice

  • To search, click the tiny microphone icon in the search field and say out loud what you want to search for:

search google language

  • If the tool couldn’t hear you, you will be offered the option to check your microphone settings:

search google language tools

  • If what you said wasn’t clear enough, the tool will suggest other possible phrases you were probably going to search for:

search google language tools

If you don’t select any of the suggested alternative search queries, they will disappear in a few seconds.

  • If you want to speak any other language, just select it from the drop-down:

search google language tools

  • And keep searching:

Voice search

The tool works surprisingly fast fetching results almost instantly. It does look like a huge time-saver for multi-lingual search engine users.

2. Search Twitter By Voice

Twitter multilingual voice search is a later addition to the tool that lets you search Twitter by voice. Similarly, just click a microphone icon in the search field and speak your search term:

search google language

More tools from the same developer which were previously reviewed on MUO:

Other Voice Search & Speech Recognition Tools:

The tools look both fun and useful and they may come in handy for heavy search users. What do you think of them?

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Similar articles: – Manage Email Expectations & Inform People When They Can Expect A Reply

Posted: 18 Jun 2011 12:31 PM PDT

email expectations etiquetteHave more emails than you can answer? Let your contacts know. It’s only courteous., a new service provided by the University of Georgia, gives you a link you can add to your email signature. Anyone who clicks this link will be told, in brief, how heavy your current email load is. The idea is that people will understand if you don’t respond to an email instantly.

For many, email is central to workflow. In some ways this makes people more productive, but an overflowing inbox can frequently feel like a burden. Web apps like The Email Game can help make responding to emails more fun, but unless you actually use it regularly people will still be waiting for you to get back to them. won’t get back to them for you, but it just might help some people understand why your responses aren’t automatic. It works with Gmail accounts, including Google Apps.

What It’s For

This video sums up quite well:

As depicted in the video, people perceive you as busy if your desk is messy. A full email box is another sign of business, but other people cannot tell how full your inbox is.

For example, writing for MakeUseOf means that dozens of comments show up in my inbox every day, usually while I’m sleeping. Combine this with my other job and personal emails and I’ve typically got about 30 emails to respond to every morning when I wake up.

But not everyone knows about my email volume. gives me an opportunity to share that information, so people can get a rough idea of whether they can expect a message soon.

How To Use It

Getting started with this service is very easy. Just head over to to begin what may be the simplest sign-up for a service ever:

email expectations etiquette

Once you’ve done that you’ll have to tell Gmail to authorize the service, ideally after you’ve read the consent form. This being a research project, anonymous information will be utilized for academic purposes, but the privacy promises are solid.

All signed up? You’ll be given your link, which you should place in your email signature. People who click this link will see your current email load described:

email expectations

Note that no personal information whatsoever is shared, so your contacts have nothing to worry about. You can change the rationale for this message however, in the settings:

email expectations etiquette

An optional message, alerting people to the kinds of emails you’re likely to respond to quickly, can also be added. This is good, because it can teach people proper email etiquette: basically, be brief and to the point if you expect a quick response.

People can even use a simple subject tag, “[whenever]“, to have messages only reach you once your email load is back to normal.


As previously mentioned: this project is part of academic research. The purpose is, in essence, to see if increased information about the way email works can reduce frustration. To quote the project’s stated rationale:

The purpose of this study is to understand if exposing hidden aspects of social media makes the media better. We also want to investigate whether makes an impact on the overall amount of email participants receive. We will enroll as many people as come to our site in this study.

Eric Gilbert, Ph.D, is on to something here, I think. I cannot wait to see the results of his study, and hope he shares it with his users. I also hope this service continues to work after the research is done, because there’s something brilliant about it.

But what do you think? Let me know how useful you think this is in the comments below, along with any recommendations for alternative services.


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Top 5 Gnome Shell Themes For You To Install [Linux]

Posted: 18 Jun 2011 10:31 AM PDT

gnome shell themesEven since before Gnome Shell‘s official release, people have been hard at work creating some interesting themes for the new desktop environment. Changing themes in Gnome Shell isn’t hard thanks to some nice configuration tools you can install. With plenty of people sporting the new desktop environment in Linux thanks to releases such as Fedora 15, which has Gnome Shell by default, applying themes is quickly becoming a more desired action.

Be Ready For Themes

There are two ways for you to install themes. One way is the hard, manual way of copying and pasting files into a specific folder (/usr/share/themes to be exact), while the easy way allows you to choose your theme package using a graphical tool and be done with it. Therefore, I highly recommend that you install gnome-tweak-tool and “gnome-shell-extensions-user-theme” if you haven’t already. Those package names are from Fedora, so check your package manager in case the package names are different for your distribution.

You can then launch Gnome Tweak Tool, head over to the Shell category, and find a nice little place for Shell themes along with a box to pick out new ones for installation.


Now that we have a way to install our themes, let’s check out my top 5.


gnome shell themes

Atolm is a great choice for those who would like to have a soft, dark Shell theme to have something different to look at aside from the default Awaita theme. There is also a nice touch of blue for highlighted, clicked, and active items. The combination is great on the eyes, and the theme as a whole gets some simplicity points as well.

There is also a GTK theme that can go along with it, though personally I find that the pane backgrounds are too dark for me. However, that doesn’t mean that the theme is excellent.

Smooth Inset

linux gnome themes

In case Atolm is too dark for you, Smooth Inset may be a great alternative. It offers much of the same simplicity as Atolm does, yet the lighter colors might brighten your mood when you turn your computer on. There’s really not a whole lot to it, just different shades and opacity levels of white, along with a little light blue. The theme, though simple, still keeps it interesting.

There is also a version available for smaller screens. The main difference presented by the small screen version is that the application icons are smaller, so more fit into view at one time. The panel at the top is also smaller to allow more screen space for applications.

Dark Glass

linux gnome themes

Another one in the simplicity pool is Dark Glass. This theme represents exactly what it’s called – dark glass. Again, there’s not a whole lot to it, just shades of gray and black, along some glassy effects. Another great choice if you want a crisper look than Atolm.


Orta comes in two variations, which you will discover if you open up the original .zip folder. One contains almost all white while the other one contains a mix of white and black/gray colors.

linux gnome themes

The themes represents the original GTK2 theme very well and the combination of the two works great. The Orta theme contains a couple more curves, so it doesn’t have the full simplicity as the previously mentioned choices.


linux themes

Gaia is yet another theme that doesn’t really fit in the simplicity pool. Although it isn’t necessarily as fancy as Orta, the combination of white and green colors creates an interesting appeal that may not always work with every GTK theme or wallpaper. But if you have a wallpaper and GTK theme that work with this Shell theme, you’re in for a treat.

Honorable Mention

gnome shell themes

Finally, I can’t finish this article without giving an honorable mention to the Tron Shell theme. It is a superbly made theme that makes your computer about ten times cooler, instantly. It would top the list, but sadly it is too specialized compared to the others, so it isn’t exactly something everyone can use (or is a fan of). However, you should at least look at the screenshots to decide for yourself if you would like to use it.


Gnome Shell is a great desktop environment that still has plenty of potential, as one can see in the quality of themes. As the Shell gains more features in future releases, the potential will increase even more, and we’ll really see what kind of customizations we can make.

Do you like to theme your Gnome Shell? How much better do you think the themes are compared to Gnome’s default “Awaita”? Let us know in the comments!

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Facebook One-Ups Send Button, Adds Send Dialog [News]

Posted: 18 Jun 2011 10:00 AM PDT

Facebook developers now have another tool with which they can encourage users to share their apps and websites. Called the Send dialog, this prompt can now be added to the site's content to encourage users to share with friends.

If this sounds familiar, it's probably because Facebook implemented a Send button approximately two months ago. However, the Send button was a very simple and direct way of sharing information privately. The dialog will still serve the purpose of sharing content that a user likes, but will also give that user the opportunity to attach their own message when they share.

Developers now have access to this feature, and it's already available on a handful of sites like Airbnb, Keespy and Jetsetter. Facebook's own documentation about the feature suggests that it will be particularly useful for sites containing information that users want to share, but only with specific individuals. This includes eCommerce, travel and local events.

Keespy's quick implantation of the Send dialog is one of the better current examples of how it will be used by sites in the future. The company allows for users to create photo albums that can be printed and shipped. The new dialog lets Keespy users to share a photo album they've created with friends and family who may be interested in ordering. The creative uses of this new functionality will be interesting to see as more sites and apps implement it.

Source: The Next Web


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