Thursday, June 23, 2011 “Cool Websites and Tools [June 22nd]” plus 11 more “Cool Websites and Tools [June 22nd]” plus 11 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [June 22nd]

Posted: 22 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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ChitterIM – Do you use Google Talk a lot? Did you know that you can actually use it for tweeting as well? is a GTalk Twitter bot that you can use to control your Twitter account from your Google Talk client, in Gmail or in the desktop application. With it, you can post tweets, receive timeline updates, and much more. Read more: ChitterIM: Gtalk Twitter Bot


QuickForget – Email and instant messaging are not suitable means to share private information online. What would be very helpful is a self-destructing message which expires after your contact views the information. This is precisely what QuickForget offers, a free to use web service that lets you securely share sensitive information online. Read more: QuickForget: Securely Share Private Information Online & Set Its Expiration



Spotlike – Every website or webpage has a Facebook Like button that you can click. Spotlike takes this feature to the real world by letting you print a QR code that will be linked to your Facebook page. Users can use their smartphones to scan the QR code and doing so will automatically take them to your Facebook page. Read more: Spotlike: Get A Printable QR Code For Your Facebook Page



Pythex – Regular Expressions or RegEx are a great way to query or parse data by matching strings of texts. It can save a lot of time in both software development and web development. Pythex is a web app that lets you test your Regular Expression statements online without worrying about setting up the required structure. Read more: Pythex: Test Your Regular Expression Statements Online



Cardnap – might turn out to be the site you check each time you decide to go shopping at a nearby department store. That's because it's a searchable repository of discounted gift cards for popular stores, both online and offline. That means you can find and purchase discounted gift cards for both Walmart and iTunes on this site. Read more: Cardnap: Purchase Discounted Gift Cards Online


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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BitCoin – Buy, Sell & Trade Using Anonymous Peer-To-Peer Currency

Posted: 22 Jun 2011 04:31 PM PDT

peer to peer currencyEarlier this month two prominent US politicians (Senators Charles Schumer of New York and Joe Manchin of West Virginia) wrote to US Attorney General Eric Holder to express concerns about the rise of a new online currency – BitCoin, abbreviated as BTC.

The anonymous, peer-to-peer currency has become very popular over the last few months, with websites popping up all over cyberspace enabling BitCoins to be exchanged or donated with nothing more than a unique, non-identifying public key.

What Is BitCoin?

In 2007 a supposedly Japanese programmer began working on BitCoin under the pseudonym “Satoshi Nakamoto” with the technology officially released in 2009. The currency is currently breaking new ground, and has already been heralded as one of the first working implementations of a crypto-currency.

By using cryptography (the act of hiding information) to both generate and transfer the currency, “Nakamoto” created a theoretically anonymous and self-contained economy. The idea was to cut out middlemen, denying a central authority the ability to issue currency or track transactions. Instead, these tasks are handled by the network of connected peers and no identifying information is recorded (try masking your IP for total peace of mind).

Here’s an example of how it all works – you want to send your friend (let’s call him Mark) a BitCoin. On your side, Mark’s public key is added to the coin and this is signed on your end via a personal private code. Mark now owns the BitCoin, and you’re prevented from using it again thanks to the BitCoin network, which records and verifies transactions.

Luckily none of this is done by hand, but by free software which handles your BitCoin banking. This software is available for Windows, OS X and Linux and only requires a user’s public key to make a payment. You can download a version for your operating system and learn about storing your BitCoins on the BitCoin website.

How Do I Get BitCoins?

There are a couple of ways to acquire BitCoins, with the easiest way being simply buying them. Using a BitCoin exchange like Mt. Gox or #bitcoin-otc on IRC or by finding a BitCoin trader on For asking prices you can check out how the BitCoin markets are doing on BitCoin Charts.

peer to peer currency

It may also surprise you that you can generate your own BitCoins – a process known as mining. This is essentially a way of processing and verifying transactions, by generating “blocks” which are permanent records of BitCoin activity on the network (a block includes all recent transactions, a random number and the preceding block’s hash) and new BitCoins.

These blocks are then added to the “block chain” in chronological order, and once added to the chain a block is very difficult to modify (making it hard to “double spend” your BTC) as each subsequent block must also be modified.

Once a block has been created, a bounty (currently 50BTC) is awarded to the individual who created it. This bounty halves every 210,000 blocks, and it is estimated that by the year 2140 the maximum number of BitCoins – 20,999,999.9769 BTC – will have been generated. The fact that transaction “fees” can be added to BitCoin transactions means that mining can remain profitable, even when the maximum number has been reached.

peer to peer currency trading

If you’re thinking of mining for BTC then you’ll need the right hardware and the right software. Mining using your PC’s processor (CPU) is inefficient and likely to be removed from BitCoin altogether, according to the official wiki, so you won’t need to spend lots on a speedy quad core chip. Instead you’ll have more joy using a graphics processor (GPU) on a high-end graphics card. Why? The BitCoin wiki explains:

A CPU core can execute 4 32-bit instructions per clock (using a 128-bit SSE instruction) or 8 via AVX (256-Bit), whereas a GPU like the Radeon HD 5970 can execute 3200 32-bit instructions per clock (using its 3200 ALUs or shaders). This is a difference of 800 (or 400 in case of AVX) times more instructions per clock. As of 2011, the fastest CPUs have up to 6, 8, or 12 cores and a somewhat higher frequency clock (2000-3000 MHz vs. 725 MHz for the Radeon HD 5970), but one HD5970 is still more than five times faster than four 12-core CPUs at 2.3GHz.

You can find suitable software to become a BitCoin miner on this software page. If you have reduced grunt in your mining rig then you might want to consider pooled mining.

Silk Road, Spending & Safety

The two US Senators who initially raised the Attorney General’s attention to the BitCoin phenomena had noticed the popularity of a certain anonymous trading place called Silk Road. As BitCoins are also anonymous, they are currently Silk Road’s currency of choice for the sale and purchase of illicit drugs and other such illegal products.

The website requires Tor, a security tool which ensures visitors do not leave a trace on the website and uses BTC exclusively for all trades. It is likely that much of the negative press that has attached itself to BitCoin has come from Silk Road. The website operates both as a reputation system and as an internal escrow, though this doesn’t make it safe (all purchases are sent by snail mail, after all).

If you’d rather buy legal things with your BitCoins then check out the exhaustive list of merchants on the official BitCoin wiki. You might also want to visit, which has plenty of privacy and security advice for newbies interested in BitCoin.

peer to peer currency

If you are going to invest time, money and effort into BitCoin mining or trading then beware that much like any risky financial venture the markets can crash and lose you a lot of money. This has already happened once, with the value of a single BTC falling more than 30% in a day, eventually recovering by 15%.

Physical safety is also a concern, especially if you’re intending on buying a lot of mining rigs and leaving them on 24/7. BitCoin Mining Accidents is a tongue-in-cheek website dedicated to reports of injury from around the mining world. According to the website one anonymous miner now has a touch of permanent brain damage due to his mining operation, and he warns you not to make the same mistakes.

Oh, and your electricity bill is bound to suffer too!


It remains to be seen whether BitCoins will be a total success, though early signs suggest that merchants are at least receptive to the new currency. The BitCoin wiki has a Myths page that runs through many misconceptions and sceptical statements, though it is naturally weighted towards the currency and thus biased.  Only time will tell if BitCoin really is a viable, sustainable and usable decentralised currency.

What do you think of BitCoin? What do you think of Silk Road? Tried mining your own? Massive fad that’ll burn out? The future of online trade? Everyone’s got an opinion, and yours belongs in the comments box below this post.

Image Credits: BitCoin Miner PC

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Edit & Record Compressed MP3 Files Without Decompressing With MP3DirectCut

Posted: 22 Jun 2011 03:31 PM PDT

compress mp3 fileMP3 is a digital audio encoding format, in which audio files are compressed to reduce the amount of data (i.e. shrink the file size), without losing sound quality in the ears of most listeners. The standard procedure of editing an MP3 file involves several steps: decompression of the file, editing, and re-encoding to MP3. The decompression and re-encoding process typically results in a significant loss of quality.

mp3DirectCut is a freeware audio editor and recorder that can work with compressed MP3 files. It allows you to cut, copy, and paste audio bits or change the volume without decompressing the audio file. In other words, you can edit your MP3 files without a loss of quality. Moreover, you can record MP3s and auto-detect pauses to cut and ID3 tag a file.

The Interface

mp3DirectCut has a clear interface, which provides easy access to all key features. Editing and playback buttons sit at the bottom of the window, navigation in the middle, topped by the MPEG audio data waveform.

compress mp3 file

Just underneath the menubar sits a list of smaller buttons that provide one-click access to further editing features, including ID3 tag editing or moving selection by frame. If you’re unsure what a button will do, hover with the mouse over it for a tooltip clue.

compressing mp3 files

A Closer Look

When you open, edit, or save files mp3DirectCut may show a note, such as the one below. Similar tips can be found throughout the program. This is a great feature for new users, as the notes highlight important points and guide the user.

compressing mp3 files

mp3DirectCut is very intuitive to use. You can edit mp3 files using the mouse, menu, buttons, or keyboard shortcuts. For several actions there is more than one way to get to the same result, making it easier to find it right away. As mentioned above, if you’re unsure what a button does, just have a peek at the tooltip.

compressing mp3 files

For example you can change the volume of an MP3 file or only a section by dragging the grey grips of a cue up or down or click the keyboard shortcut [CTRL] + [UP] or [DOWN]. The brown color indicates that the volume was adjusted. You can then jump to the next cue to the left or right using the respective key in the navigation window or by clicking the keyboard shortcut [CTRL] + [LEFT] or [RIGHT].

mp3 compression

To summarize, the program is straightforward and easy to learn using trial and error. If you’re stuck, there is always the user manual that you can consult. You can also find the link under > ? > Manual.

So to conclude, let me just highlight the…

3 Best Features

These are the best features as I see them.

Editing Several Files In Parallel

File > New program window will open an additional instance of mp3DirectCut, allowing you to edit several audio files in parallel.

High Speed Recording

With > Special > “High speed” recording you can record 33 rpm longplay records with 45 rpm playback and also set other grabbing speeds as needed.

Pause Detection… & Saving Split File

So you recorded an entire LP and now you want to split it up into single MP3 files? Go to > Special > Pause detection, and adjust the settings. When the tool is done adding the cues, close the Pause detection window.

You now need to change the cues to mark the end of a file. One after another, click each cue and go to > Edit > Names and part properties (or click the respective button), where you need to check > Cue. When you have done all cues, go to > File > Save split to save every region beginning with a cue to a new file.

compress mp3 file

If you need more help figuring out this program, know that mp3DirectCut comes with a good user manual, which also features a list of keyboard shortcuts and command line options.

Looking for more MP3 editing tools? Have a look at these articles:

What are your favorite features or what do you think is missing in mp3DirectCut editor? Please share your impressions in the comments.

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How To Turn Local Storage Into A Personal Online Drive With HomePipe

Posted: 22 Jun 2011 02:31 PM PDT

online driveWhen it comes to storage “in the cloud”, I have to admit that I never really jumped onto the bandwagon. Maybe it’ll be another one of those technologies, like each evolution of Windows, that I just take longer to adopt than most other people. Or maybe it’ll flop – who knows.

The one thing I don’t really like about a cloud storage solution, like Dropbox, is the fact that the architecture includes the online storage of your files. Yes, it can sync up with your laptops, desktops and mobile devices, but what if you really aren’t comfortable having those files stored somewhere other than your local PC?

For people that are a little bit wary about such a setup, I have an alternative for you. Instead of syncing your files with the online storage space that you’ve purchased and have to pay for, what if you could simply turn your local storage – like a USB stick, a directory on your computer, or a portable hard drive – into a storage unit in the “cloud”?

Turning Your Local Drive Into An Online Drive

What you’ll basically be doing is assigning part of your drive (or your entire USB memory card, if you like) to serve up files and media via the Internet.  The perfect service for this is an application Kaly covered briefly called HomePipe. In this article, I’d like to cover the application in a lot more detail, and show you how you can configure your own cloud storage network with this software. You’ll never have to buy another gigabyte of online storage again.

online drive

The beauty of this program is that you can install agents anywhere and everywhere you like. If you own a Linux computer, a Mac and a Windows desktop – you can install an agent on each of them and create an entire network of online storage – sharing out a directory from each device. When you install the agent, you’ll see that HopePipe will block your computer from “sleeping” so that it can continuously serve up the files to your new online drive in the “cloud”.

free online hard drive

You’ll see that the free version of the software allows for 10 “uses”. A use is basically a connection session. So, for free you can hook up to your cloud and use it for as long as you like – so long as you do not disconnect or go idle from the connection for longer than 30 minutes. If you do, you’ll have used up a single connection. For occasional users, this solution is a perfect way to access all of your systems from anywhere there’s an Internet connection. If you need to use it more often, there’s also a plan for under $25 a year, unlimited – which is nearly free!

When you click on “configure shared folders“, you’ll have a chance to configure which folders on your local PC you want to share out to your personal online drive in the cloud.

free online hard drive

Once you’ve created the “hosted” drive with the local agents, you can access those drives anywhere on the web. Just log in at HomePipe and you’ll have instant access to all of your “online” storage. The beauty here is that you don’t have to pay extra for additional online drive space. Your drive space is only limited by the actual drive space of your local drive. Of course, the drawback is that you’ll need to leave these systems running all the time if you want to access them on the Internet. For people like me that leave their systems running all the time anyway, this isn’t a concern.

As you can see on the right side of the screen, you can easily upload and download files to and from your virtual online drive, and you can even instantly upload any of the photos you have directly to your Facebook account. Uploading files from your local machine to your “online” virtual storage drive is as simple as browsing to the local files and uploading them. This is one of the easiest ways to transfer files to any of your computers right over the Internet – no FTP or complicated remote logins required.

Clicking on “Settings“, at the top of your dashboard, you can see how many times you’ve accessed your online drive, and how many sessions you have left for the month.

Don’t forget, you also have access to the mobile HomePipe app as well – for either iPhone or Android phones. This app gives you access to your virtual online drive right from your mobile device. When you open HomePipe on your mobile phone, you’ll see all of the drives that you’ve added to your virtual cloud, as well as the local storage of your phone.

Exploring your virtual online drive (which is essentially exploring your remote drive), is as easy as using Explorer. Remember, all of this takes place right over the Internet. When you upload a file to the online drive, you’re basically uploading it to your remote system.

online drive

I love this setup, because it combines the concept of “cloud computing” with the safety and security of keeping those files stored on your own machines – not some server located who-knows-where. Only people with the password to your HomePipe account will have access to your files – no one else.

So give HomePipe a shot and try different setups, like hosting a portable USB drive to your new cloud network, or mounting your Android SD card and sharing that out to the cloud. You can be as creative as you want when you build your cloud network – it’s completely up to you!

Do you prefer this setup over traditional cloud computing? What do you like or dislike about it? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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Hot Tech Deals – HP Pavilion tm2t Intel Core i5-470UM ULV 12.1in Touchscreen Tablet Laptop for $699.99 + more

Posted: 22 Jun 2011 01:30 PM PDT

Today’s featured deal is the HP Pavilion tm2t Intel Core i5-470UM ULV 12.1in Touchscreen Tablet Laptop, going for $699.99. The TouchSmart tm2t features a capacitive touchscreen enabling touch control using your fingers or a digital pen. The screen twists 180-degrees and folds down for display only use.

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

  1. TODAY ONLY Brother HL-2220 Monochrome Laser Printer $49.99 Free Shipping
  2. Garmin nuvi 1690 GPS (4.3in, Bluetooth, 2yr nuLink Internet Service) $119.99
  3. Acer Aspire Intel Core i7-2630QM Quad-Core Sandy Bridge 15.6in Laptop (4GB/640GB) $695.99
  4. Alienware OptX 23in 3D-Capable LCD Monitor (1920×1080, 120Hz) $379.99 Free Shipping
  5. HP Pavilion tm2t Intel Core i5-470UM ULV 12.1in Touchscreen Tablet Laptop $699.99

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SimpleShare: A Cross-Platform Easy Sharing Tool With 5GB Free

Posted: 22 Jun 2011 12:31 PM PDT

online sharing toolsSimpleShare is a Mac and Windows based app for sharing files, screenshots and screencasts across the cloud storage system. We’ve shown you a simple hack for direct right-click in Windows uploading before, but this new free app makes the process even simpler. Best of all it’s available for both Windows and Mac, and it’s a joy to use.

Signup, Download & Install

If you don’t already have a account, you’ll need to sign up and confirm your email address first.  Then download the app from either the Mac App Store or the SimpleShare app page, and after signing in you’re done.

online sharing tools

What Can You With It?

sharing tools

ScreenCast & Screenshots

If you need to make a quick screencast or screenshot then SimpleShare couldn’t be easier. Just click on the icon, select the function and define the area to record from. Once you’re done, the file will upload and the link will be copied to the clipboard automatically.

Drag & Drop File Uploads

Just drag an item to the menu bar and it will upload ready to share with the world. This works in both Mac and Windows versions.


If you overwrite the link in the clipboard, then the Mac version of the app includes your most recent items one click away in the same menu. On Windows you’ll need to navigate to your online folder to view all your files, so it’s a shame the history feature is only available on Mac.

sharing tools


If you want to track how many people are accessing a certain file, email alerts are turned on by default, or simply view the access count on the file detail page.

Limitations & How It Compares

Free accounts come with 5GB storage and a 25MB file size limit, which should be more than enough for most people and the occasional share.

Inevitably the service must be compared to DropBox, but the services are very different. For a start, SimpleShare is built from the ground up to be about sharing files – the most common share task being one-off files, screenshots and quick screencasts. Dropbox doesn’t include that functionality out of the box, though various apps can interface with it for the same effect.

Previously I also used Jing from TechSmith as a free way to share quick screencast videos, but the interface is appalling so I’m happy to switch to SimpleShare. I was disappointed to find I couldn’t embed the video screencast though – it seems you can only view them using the interface or by simply sharing a link.

The storage limitations are much the same, though Dropbox does have various ways to increase your limit while only offers a simple 2-tier free and premium pricing plan.

I noticed the app also hooks into the standard Mac shortcuts (not sure about Windows though) for screenshots, which is a nice touch but a little alarming if you’re concerned about privacy. You can disable this by using the disable uploads option on the menu, and it won’t affect drag and drop or user invoked actions.

More Apps

SimpleShare is a fantastic desktop app to use with, but there’s also numerous other ways to access your files. With the iPad / iPhone app you can access your shared folder on the move, but unfortunately there’s no way to play your screencast videos (since they are Flash video file format) or upload, as yet. There’s also an Android app available which I’m going to assume *can* play screencasts. While the majority of the other apps appear to be built with business users in mind, there are some browser and CMS plugins that make sharing content quickly even easier.

online sharing tools


Personally I think SimpleShare sets itself apart from DropBox enough to warrant using both. Dropbox for me is for private sharing and syncing of files with myself or maybe a close friend or business associate – to sync draft articles across devices for instance. SimpleShare I’ll be keeping for public shares, as the one-click / drag and drop interface is fantastic and just so easy to use. I would suggest you turn off email notifications if you plan on sharing something popular though, and concerns for privacy mean I’ll be disabling automatic screenshot uploads, as I use the built-in Mac OSX screenshot functions a lot and would rather not share everything I take with the world. The lack of a Linux version may put off some power users too.

Let us know in the comments if you like the SimpleShare app or know of something similar for DropBox or other services.

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After The Deadline – Check Your Grammar & Polish Your Writing

Posted: 22 Jun 2011 11:31 AM PDT

grammar checking toolsThe World Wide Web is a world of writing. Most web content is still written text despite the growing popularity of web video, and because statistics say that English is the most used language in the virtual world, you definitely need good English writing skills to earn a decent living online.

The problem is, most English users in the world use the language as a second or foreign language. Plus English writing is not easy, even for English speaking people. To improve the quality of our English writing, we can use the help from a grammar and spelling checker.

Even though some word processors come with their own grammar and spelling checker, the quality of these built-in tools is usually less than mediocre. Dedicated grammar checking tools are good, but they come with a steep price. One of the best free tools that we can use to check our grammar and polish our writing is After the Deadline (AtD).

Using The Online Tool

The tool is available as both an online tool and plugins for various applications. The online version is available at its own dedicated address. You can also access it from the AtD site by clicking the “Demonstration” link at the top of the page.

To check writing mistakes in a piece of text, paste the text inside the writing field and click the “Check Writing” button below. After processing the text, AtD will underline parts that it thinks contain mistakes. Click the underlined text to see the suggested correction(s) and/or read the explanation.

grammar checking tools

There are three elements of writing that will be evaluated by AtD: spelling (red underline), style (green underline), and grammar (blue underline).

grammar check free

Choosing “Explain” from the pop-up window will bring you to a new webpage with a further explanation about the subject.

grammar check free

Downloading Additional Tools

Going back and forth to the online checking tool page is not always practical. That’s why AtD also comes in various flavors, as plugins for several other writing tools.

WordPress users should be familiar with the tool as it comes standard in and as part of the JetPack plugin package for self-hosted WordPress blogs.  I previously wrote about the WordPress plugin here, as well as the bookmarklet.

You can see support for other tools by clicking the “Download” link on the page menu. One of them is a bookmarklet that you can easily install in any browser (except Chrome) by dragging and dropping it to your browser’s bookmark bar.

grammar check free

You can assign any name to your bookmarklet then it will be ready to use. You can click the bookmarklet to add a proofread button above the textbox. Then click on the proofread button to find spelling mistakes, misused words, and grammar errors.

grammar check tool

There are a few limitations, though. For example, you can’t use it for text that exceeds 7,000 characters, you can’t use it on WYSIWYG editors, and there’s no style suggestion.

Chrome users can use the AtD extension instead. Click on the link to go to the Chrome extension page and click install.

grammar check tool

The AtD icon will be visible on the address bar whenever it can act on the current page.

grammar check tool

A browser extension is also available for Firefox users.

If you use Windows Live Writer to blog, you will be happy to know that there’s a plugin you can download and install to add a “Grammar Checker” option to WLW. This function will utilize the AtD server to check your writing, so the 7,000 character limitation is applied and your computer has to be online to use the service.

If you want an offline solution, you can install the AtD plugin for OpenOffice‘s word processor. The plugin will contact the AtD server to check the writing, but you can download, install, and enable AtD server software on your computer and re-route the proofreading service to the local address. You can find the complete instructions on AtD’s OpenOffice plugin page.

grammar checking tools

Even though there’s nothing better than the assistance of a real live language editor, I’ve found AtD to be a great solution for those who want to improve the quality of their English writing but can’t afford commercial grammar checking tools.

Have you tried AtD? What do you think about it? Any better alternatives? Share your opinions using the comment below,

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5 Model iPhone Apps You Can Create With No Coding Skills Required

Posted: 22 Jun 2011 10:31 AM PDT

how to create iphone appsLast week we ran an article about How to Create an iPhone or Android App Without Any Coding Skills, which is an introduction to a fairly easy-to-use online web application program called Buzztouch. It works sort of like putting together a website in which you use templates and plug-ins as a basis for your iPhone or Android app. With a little imagination and of course media content, you can create your own application using Buzztouch, and have it exported to the respective software development kit – Xcode for Mac or Android SDK – for final coding production. Buzztouch could also be used as the building block for learning more advanced coding.

In this follow-up article, I will share five model iPhone applications developed using Buzztouch. While these apps are not at the top of any iTunes Store List, you will see how they are useful for niche markets, organizations, clients, and the like. Imagine not only handing your clients your business card but also a portfolio mobile app of your work. Or what about turning your business PDF guide or ebook into an app? It’s really simple with Buzztouch.

All the following apps make use of over a dozen Buzztouch tools and templates for app creation. Let’s examine how these developers used these tools.

how to create iphone apps

101 Keyboard Shortcuts For Mac

101 Keyboard Shortcuts makes creative use of nearly all the Buzztouch tools, including a quiz game, custom HTML pages for the shortcut instructions, and the sharing tool properties for the social networking menu items.

create iphone apps

The developer includes sub-menu properties that include a simple Email Us template that generates a pre-written email about the app that users can send and share with others.

create iphone apps

Similar menus are built in for Twitter and Facebook sharing, with a pre-written message about the app for easy user sharing. Finally, there’s a handy little quiz – a fun review tool for what users learned about Mac shortcuts.


Josh Mularella created a basic information app for medical students. The homepage begins with a set of icons, each linking to medical review information first laid out in Microsoft Word or perhaps saved as a PDF. Buzztouch includes template properties for both Word and PDF content.

create iphone apps without code

Some menu items are links to webpages. Though this app was written specifically for students at the Albert Einstein Medical Center, it’s a useful model for creating similar information review applications for any organization or large business in which you may need to routinely update information and distribute it to users.


Top 10 Best Places of Las Vegas is a great model app for travel destination businesses or tourist sites. This app opens with a location notification request followed by icons for each of the sub-menus in the app.

create iphone apps without code

Each club, casino, restaurant, and show icon links to a sub-menu of items, including Google map directions for specific places (using the Buzztouch location tool). The Call Us tool was used to include a pre-typed phone number to a specified place. When that menu item is tapped, a confirmation box pops up for users to okay the direct call. Finally, a custom RSS feed is used that links app users to an RSS feed of tweets posted about a designated place in Las Vegas.

Light Travel eBook

Light Travel eBook is an ebook about digital photography. The developer used the PDF Doc properties tool, which enables you to add up to 8MB of text document to your application.


If you have already produced an ebook for downloading, it would probably take less than 20 minutes to create an app of it using Buzztouch.

Jim On Light

Finally, developer Jim Hutchison created an app, Jim On Light, that includes all the features of his website, which is about lighting, light and art, lighting devices, lighting fixtures, etc.

how to create iphone apps

It looks as if Jim used nearly all the Buzztouch tools, including custom webpages for articles, the YouTube tool which simply requires the URL of the video you want users to view, a quiz about lighting, a gallery of photos from his stream, using probably the RSS Reader properties tool, a Resource Map using the Map Location tool, and a RSS feed to Jim’s Twitter and Vimeo video feeds.

The app is very well designed and a great model for how the content of a website can be used for a mobile app.

Other Buzztouch model apps include a wedding information app, Best Man; a math tutorial program, The Christian Mathematician; Ohio Evidence, a law review app; RCEMS Field Guide, a menu app of medical treatment protocols; and a study guide app for web designers, Basics of Web Design Review.

Have you tried Buzztouch yet? If so, let us know what you think about it.

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Encrypt & Protect Your Computer Files With CryptKeeper [Linux]

Posted: 22 Jun 2011 09:31 AM PDT

encrypt folders linuxEasily add encrypted folders to your Linux computer. Locking down your files doesn’t get any easier than CryptKeeper, a shockingly simple piece of encryption software that locks down individual folders. Just tell CryptKeeper where you’d like your new encrypted folder to be and what password you’d like to protect it with.

In the past we’ve covered Truecrypt, which makes encrypted folders others cannot view. That’s a great program for Linux, Mac and Windows computers – there’s even an upcoming MakeUseOf manual with in-depth coverage of all its features. Stay tuned for that.

CryptKeeper has its own advantages, however. It does one thing and does it very well. If all you want is a specific folder on your computer to be protected from prying eyes, CryptKeeper has you covered. Since this is all CryptKeeper does, it’s simpler in many ways than Truecrypt.

Encrypting Your Files

CryptKeeper runs in your system tray. Click the icon and you’ll see your encrypted drives:

encrypt folders linux

The first time you click this you’ll see the preferences. Take a look at them and you’ll have the options above. If you already have a EncFS file, you can import it easily. If you don’t know what that means, simply click “New Encrypted Folder” to get started.

You’ll see a window for creating your folder:

encrypt files linux

Figure out where you want your encrypted folder to be, and what you want it to be called. Then you’ll have to pick a password for the encrypted folder. Remember that if you forget this password, you’ve basically deleted your encrypted folders. Be sure to create a strong password that you won’t forget.

Once you’ve created your encrypted folder, you’ll see it in your file browser:

encrypt folders linux

As you can see, the system mounts the encrypted folder as a “drive”. You can easily move files in and out of this drive just as you would with any other. Moving large files into this folder may be a slow process; encryption takes a while. Still, the security is worth it.


Installing software on Linux is easy. Just fire up your system’s package manager and install the “cryptkeeper” package. If you’re on Ubuntu it’s even easier: simply click here to install CryptKeeper.

Once you’ve installed CryptKeeper you’ll find the software in your menu. Fire it up!

Get It Working In Unity

Fire it up in Ubunty 11.04, however, and you’ll notice that nothing happens. This is because Unity abandoned the old system tray in favour of indicator applets. Never fear, though; there is a fix. Simply type these two commands:

gsettings set com.canonical.Unity.Panel systray-whitelist "['JavaEmbeddedFrame', 'Wine', 'Skype', 'Cryptkeeper']"
setsid unity

The first command allows certain programs to show up in the system tray; the second restarts Unity. Hopefully, with future versions of CryptKeeper, this will not be necessary.

If you’re interested, I found the above commands in a bug report about this issue.


Encrypting files is essential if you want to ensure they’re safe. Losing your computer to a thief is bad enough. Having people access your personal files could be even worse. This is a great way to protect yourself.

Do you have any additional safety tips? Share them in the comments below, along with any alternative programs for this process.

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Dropbox Accidently Drops Passwords For Four Hours [News]

Posted: 22 Jun 2011 08:52 AM PDT

Online storage service Dropbox recently confirmed that an error made it possible for users to access accounts without the correct password. All a user needed to know was the email address tied to the account he or she wanted to access, as any password – including a blank one – would allow access. The security flaw was introduced at 1:54 PM pacific daylight time and was live for nearly four hours before being patched at 5:46 PM. According to Dropbox, the problem was introduced into the authentication system during a code update.

The company stated that only 1% of its accounts were accessed during the security vulnerability's window and that an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the error is now underway. Although the 1% figure doesn't sound serious, Dropbox has about 25 million users, so this means that about 250,000 accounts were accessed while the issue was live.

Flaws of this nature are a serious problem for Dropbox, as the service is used by many organizations (including MakeUseOf) to share information related to ongoing projects. The service has come under fire in recent months for a number of security related issues, including misleading statements about file encryption that eventually resulted in a formal complaint by the FTC.

There are a couple of things you can check to make sure that your Dropbox account was not compromised during those critical 4 hours.

  • First of all, check this page which goes into detail about all the recent activity in your Dropbox account. It will show you if someone has removed or added any files to your account without your knowledge and permission, as well as if any of your files were shared with anyone.
  • This page shows all the computers and mobile devices which are currently linked to your account.  See a computer or device you don’t recognize?  Or has one of your computers or mobile devices been removed? Then someone has probably accessed your account.  Boot them off and change your password immediately.

Source: CNET

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Put Your Digital, Social & Technical Skills To The Test With Smarterer

Posted: 22 Jun 2011 08:31 AM PDT

skill assessment testSuccess in the modern job market is underlined by one simple fact – the skills you bring to the table. The fresh web service called Smarterer aims to shake our inertia about learning skills and make smarter workers out of us all. Smarterer pits us against the technology, digital, and social tools we use every day and tells us if we are able or inept with them.

Smarterer's mission is to put a number (or a score) on the skills we write about in our resumes. If you have the smarts, let's head below and see how Smarterer and its battery of tests validate your digital savvy.

What Is Smarterer?

Smarterer tests your skill level and knowledge in the digital apps you use every day. The web app has developed a proprietary system and algorithm that can benchmark anyone's skill in just 10 questions and 60 seconds.

The Smarterer blog says – Smarterer's scoring algorithm validates and quantifies skills using an 800 point scale, similar to the GMAT or SAT, and provides users labels such as "smart", "smarter," and "smarterer" to describe their skill level at a glance. Only 5 percent of users score in the top level, which reflects the adaptive nature of the algorithm and their rank against the community of users.

More importantly, the blog also says that Smarterer is designed for professionals within the first 10 years of their careers — college students who have little experience (but a broad set of skills that make them employable) and individuals who are making their first or second career move and need to show skills to get the next great job.

skill assessment test

Bring On The Tests…

Register and log into Smarterer. Smarterer allows us to take as well as create skill assessment tests. Just to get a feel of things, I think I will take a few tests and see how I score. There are nearly 70+ tests with the likes of Facebook, Gmail, LinkedIn interspersed in the midst of tests like Dog Training and Literature for Children.

computer skill test

Some of these tests are of course user-created but it goes to show that as the variety starts piling up, you can really put all facets of your personality under the scanner.

Here's a screen from the Google Search test I opened with:

computer skill test

You can try out the single test question just to get a feel of things and how the system times you through each question. Correct responses are indicated by green, incorrect ones get emblazoned in red.

computer skill test

The tests are rapid and each question needs to be answered in 20 seconds or less. The screenshot below shows how I fared with Facebook (the results from my Google Search test weren't red hot!):

skill test

Your 'smartness' gets measured on an 800 point scale. As the screen shows, I am merely 'smart' so far, not the smartest one around. You can share your score via Twitter or Facebook. But I think I will make an attempt at improving them before I let the whole world in. You can answer a few more questions to improve your score and graduate up the smartness scale. There are some things which influence the final score. This is where the 'intelligence' of the site kicks in.

skill assessment test

Smarterer not only allows you to add your own questions to existing tests, but also create a brand new skill assessment test on a topic. You can create the tests, write the questions, and design the answers. If all goes well with the tests and your answers, you can see yourself on the leader board. Moreover, you can 'show off' you score with an embedded badge on your blog, website, or email.

There's lot to like about Smarterer: from its very user-friendly and clean design to the speed of the tests. I liked the scoring system which made picking up the points not just a case of answering correctly. Do you have the smarts? Take a test on Smarterer and let us know your score for this quiz and learning app.

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The British Library & Google To Make 250,000 Books Free Online [News]

Posted: 22 Jun 2011 07:31 AM PDT

Google announced on Monday that it is soon to begin digitizing 250,000 books from The British Library, making them free to view online. The works, which span 170 years of history, will be carefully selected historical out-of-copyright publications, with Google responsible for handling and scanning costs.

Once complete, users will be able to peruse the collection on Google Books and The British Library’s website, with Google providing downloadable versions and the ability to conduct full text searches. The materials include pamphlets, books and periodicals from 1700-1870 in a variety of European languages.

Chief Executive of The British Library, Dame Lynne Brindley said in a press release:

In the nineteenth century it was an ambition of our predecessors to give everybody access to as much of the world's information as possible, to ensure that knowledge was not restricted to those who could afford private libraries. We are delighted to be partnering with Google on this project and through this partnership believe that we are building on this proud tradition of giving access to anyone, anywhere and at any time.

Over the process of the digitization, around 40 million pages will have to be scanned. Unsurprisingly, we’ve had no sniff of an estimated completion date.

Source: The British Library

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