Wednesday, June 29, 2011 “Cool Websites and Tools [June 28th]” plus 11 more “Cool Websites and Tools [June 28th]” plus 11 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [June 28th]

Posted: 28 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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PhotoSync – is a simple web app that lets you transfer all of your Flickr photos to Facebook, and also keeps them in sync. It checks the Flickr account every hour so as you upload new pictures there, they'll automatically get copied to your Facebook account. Everything happens in the background. Read more: PhotoSync: Transfer & Sync Your Flickr Photos To Facebook


yaM – is a web based tool for planning and organizing meetings. What differentiates it from the other meeting planners out there is its list of advanced features. It provides the ability to capture data and information related to the meeting, collaborate with the attendees, analyze things using its built-in tools, etc. Read more: yaM: Online Meeting Organisation & Collaboration Tool



MegaVideo09 – MegaVideo is a popular video hosting website, but after a certain viewing time limit has been reached, you have to wait before you can view further videos. These time limits can be easily bypassed using a service called MegaVideo 9, a free to use web service that lets you bypass the time limits on MegaVideo videos. Read more: MegaVideo9: A Tool To Bypass Megavideo Time Limit



History Calendar – While Chrome is the favorite browser of many Internet users, its History page interface could use some major improvements such as browsing the history of a particular date. This improvement and a few others to Chrome's History page are added by a tool called History Calendar, a simple browser extension for Google Chrome. The extension adds a helpful side window to the History page. Read more: History Calendar: Easily View Chrome Browsing History By Date



Block-Disposable-Email – If you are running a web service you would not want users to create one-time accounts using disposable email addresses. This would contaminate your userbase and be counterproductive. A useful tool to check whether or not an email address is one-time or bogus, is a site called “Block Disposable Email”. Read more: Block-Disposable-Email: Easily Detect Fake & Disposable Email Addresses


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 14 Toughest Tech Questions [MakeUseOf Answers]

Posted: 28 Jun 2011 06:31 PM PDT

MakeUseOf AnswersMakeUseOf Answers can help you find solutions for your technology related questions. Since each and every one of us is only human and doesn’t know everything, we all need help now and then. What if it’s your turn to help because you know something we don’t? Besides, if you can answer some of the toughest questions, you could win a prize!

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

Please help us out with these questions:

For regular updates subscribe to the Answers RSS Feed.

Need help? Ask A Question at MakeUseOf Answers.

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Convert Videos & Export Them To iTunes Easily With Evom [Mac]

Posted: 28 Jun 2011 04:31 PM PDT

export videos to itunesAnyone who is a fan of converting and watching videos on their iPad or other iOS device will understand that this can be difficult at times. There are a lot of programs out there capable of getting the job done for you. So many, in fact, that one could argue that there are actually too many, which can make it even more confusing trying to find the right one.

Once you do find the right tool, you still have to face the task of getting your newly converted files over to iTunes and syncing them to your devices, which can be more difficult than it sounds.

With Evom for Mac, however, this whole process is extremely easy. Evom is a lightweight video converter and transfer tool that will export converted videos directly to iTunes for you. If that doesn’t tickle your fancy…it’s high speed!

What Is Evom?

Evom, a product of the Little App Factory, enables you to drag-and-drop and convert videos quickly and easily. It lets you enjoy online content without being tethered to the web and, like I stated in the introduction, it was built for speed. It is designed to convert movie files and Flash videos quickly, taking advantage of your Mac’s multi-core processor, allowing you to get content off of the web and onto your favorite devices.

With Evom, you can drag folders, individual files, or links into the program’s window to start, and your items will be converted for you and exported directly into iTunes or – optionally – saved to your desktop. Once converted, your videos will be compatible with your iPods, iPhones, iPads, and many other devices.

How Do I Use Evom?

Although I gave you a rough idea of how Evom works above, let’s take a closer look at the actual process from start to finish. The first thing you’ll need to do if you want to take advantage of Evom’s power is head over to the website and download the app.

export videos to itunes

Once you’re ready to go with Evom, just drag or specify the video folder you would like to convert video from. If you leave the iTunes option selected, your videos will go straight to your iTunes folder after conversion to be synced with your iOS devices.

When you drop video files that you want to convert, a configuration box will pop up asking you to specify the output format, as well as the output folder, title, and quality of video.

how to add videos to itunes

If you don't want Evom to convert videos for some specific device, you can always choose to convert video in a specific format. Evom supports the AVI, FLV, MP4, HTML5, MOV, MPG, and WMV formats. Also, you can extract audio out of a video file and convert it into OGG and MP3 format.

As a side note, Evom is also capable of converting selected videos directly to your Apple TV in a compatible format.

export videos to itunes

Once you’ve made all of your selections and set up Evom just the way you want it, you can go ahead and click Convert to transform your files into watchable ones.

If you’re a fan of video conversion, I also recommend you check out MacX Video Converter and Handbrake too. Will you be using Evom to convert your videos?  Or do you have another favorite?

Convert Videos & Export Them To iTunes Easily With Evom [Mac] is a post from: MakeUseOf

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5 More Cool Things To Do With An Old Computer

Posted: 28 Jun 2011 03:31 PM PDT

old computersDon’t chuck out your old computer, just yet. Though it may not seem like it, there are still some jobs it can serve. It’s not obsolete just yet, whatever the tech companies would rather have you believe. In the fast-moving world of technology, a year may seem like a decade. Gadgets are thrown out every year, sometimes with little consideration for whether they are still useful or not.

That 5-year old computer may seem like a snail, but even a snail can get to the other side.

1. Turn It Into A Web Server

Many of us here probably own a website. Well, if you’re up to the challenge, you can set up your own server to serve your websites from. Having your own server gives you the advantage of controlling what software to use, as well as the freedom to upgrade flexibly. Running out of server space? Just add another hard drive!  Are the pages loading too slowly? Just add more RAM!

old computers

Dave has previously detailed how to build a Linux web server in two parts.

2. Experiment With Viruses

things to do with an old computer

If you can’t turn it into a web server, you can use it as your torture machine. Abuse it anyway you want, install anything and everything. If you ever saw some free app you like the look of, but aren’t sure whether it’s a virus or not, you now have a sandbox to test it in. This is a real sandbox, not those fancy software sandbox techniques that are so common nowadays.

It doesn’t even have to be a virus. If you’re experimenting with dangerous software, you can do all your damage here. Just make sure to keep a Windows install disc handy.

3. Modify It

things to do with an old computer

The next thing to try is to turn it into art. At least you can appreciate the supple curves of your computer as it sits there collecting dust. There are many mods on the Internet, such as these ones here. Some mods also serve a purpose. For example, you can turn the computer into a photo frame. If it’s new enough to have a built-in WiFi card, you can also connect it to your Flickr feed, or something similar.

4. Destroy It

Failing any useful task that the computer can handle, you can enjoy watching it die. Why just throw it away? How about destroying it?

If you haven’t got a new computer yet, your old computer may help you raise the cost of the new one. It may not be worth the new one, but the amusement of blowing it up certainly is, as this YouTube user has proven.

5. Recycle it

old computers

For the more environmentally-conscious, there’s always the option to recycle it. First, make sure all the useful and surviving parts are out. This could be used later. You never know, your new computer’s RAM may fail and 2GB of working RAM is better than 8GB of non-working RAM. Before you attempt that though, make sure your new computer can take your older one’s RAM.  Also make sure that any personal sensitive information has been securely wiped from the hard drive.

There are many computer recycling programs around. You can go to a manufacturer or to your region’s local recycling program. Here’s Apple’s recycling page, which also holds a list for some US states. Saikat wrote a great post last year detailing 10 websites that help you recycle or reuse old stuff.

So do you know of any other possible uses for an old computer that we haven’t listed here?  Or have you tried one of the above?  If so, how did it go?

Image Credits: Monochrome, zdw, Enric Martinez, The Official CTBTO Photostream, SobControllers

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Velvet Brigade – Show Off Your Fashion Style With A Chance To Get Your Designs Made

Posted: 28 Jun 2011 02:31 PM PDT

get your designs madeWhat do you do if you’re an aspiring fashion designer, but you can’t afford to start your own product line? How will you ever get your name known if your clothes are never made? What about if you’ve got one or two great designs but no time to go into fashion design?

Well, here’s a way you can be in with a chance to get your designs made professionally and sold online. Velvet Brigade lets anyone submit their designs, then users vote on which designs are best and after 30 days Velvet Brigade will choose a winner for each week.

Even if you’ve merely been looking for a new way to find stylish new outfits, The Velvet Brigade is for you. Create an account and start voting on your favourite designs, then when the time comes you can buy the winning designs straight from the store.

get your designs made


The voters are the fashionistas which make all the big decisions around Velvet Design. Create an account using Facebook or your own details and you can get straight into it. All your votes are collected on your profile so you can browse them whenever you like and show off your fantastic fashion sense to your friends.

get your designs out there


Designers are the life blood of Velvet Brigade. Without new designs there’d be nothing to vote on and no clothes to make. Anyone can become a designer – it simply requires you to submit a decent sketch of your garment. Winning designs are created for sale and the designer receives 5% of the sales proceeds via cheque or PayPal. Anyone worldwide can be a designer, so what are you waiting for?

get your designs out there

To become a designer, take a read of the designer guide and create your sketch, then submit to Velvet Design for approval. When your design is approved (within 3 days) you can promote it to your friends and networks. You’ll have 30 days to collect as many votes as you can for your design before the voting phase expires. Every week, Velvet Design explores the designs which have just finished their voting phase, then chooses a winner according to votes and self-promotion of the garment. If your design wins, they’ll make your design and sell it through the Velvet Design site.

get your designs out there

Ideas For The Future

Velvet Design is still in beta, so there’s plenty of room to play with ideas at this stage. My personal opinion is that Velvet Design should help users to promote their favourite designs a little more, by offering RSS feeds for each user. It would also be great for Velvet Design to suggest a more visual way of sharing designs with other social networks – at the moment they suggest sharing a simple link, whereas an option to share the picture on something like Tumblr would do more to share each design.

It would also be great to offer an HTML/Javascript badge showing a user’s most recent votes which users could promote on their own website. Basically, Velvet Design should attempt to do whatever it takes to keep the voters voting, and I think that allowing the voters to show off their great taste is an easy way to achieve this.

get your designs made

More Fashion

If you love your clothes, you’ll love these articles too:

So, will you be submitting a design to Velvet Brigade soon?

Velvet Brigade – Show Off Your Fashion Style With A Chance To Get Your Designs Made is a post from: MakeUseOf

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Hot Tech Deals – Samsung 24in LED-LCD Monitor w/ HDTV Tuner for $269.99 + more

Posted: 28 Jun 2011 01:30 PM PDT

Get $100 off the Samsung 24″ LED LCD monitor with a 1920×1080 resolution, HDTV capable (1080p); quick response time of 5ms; 1,000:1 contrast ratio; for just $270.

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

  1. SiliconDust HDHR3-US HDHomeRun Dual Networked Attached HD TV Tuner $114.99 via code EMCKDHB42 (Exp 7/4)
  2. TODAY ONLY Samsung Spinpoint m7 500GB/5400RPM 2.5in Hard Drive $49.99
  3. Apevia X-QBOII Micro ATX Mini Tower PC Case w/ 500W Power Supply $4.99AR via rebate
  4. Samsung T24A350 ToC 24in LED-LCD Monitor w/ HDTV Tuner $269.99 Free Shipping via code EMCKDHB73 (Exp 7/4)
  5. Yamaha Portable Player Dock PDX-30PI for iPod/iPhone $69.99 Free Shipping
  6. Tomtom GO 730 GPS (4.3in, Lane Guidance, Bluetooth) $89.99 Free Shipping
  7. LG 42LK450 42in LCD HDTV (1080p) $499 Free Shipping via code EMCKDHB65 (Exp 7/4)

Hot Tech Deals – Samsung 24in LED-LCD Monitor w/ HDTV Tuner for $269.99 + more is a post from: MakeUseOf

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7 Websites That Will Help Your Career With Company Information & Anonymous Job Reviews

Posted: 28 Jun 2011 12:31 PM PDT

company informationTime was when jumping into a job was very much like stepping into a dark alley. You really didn't know what you were getting into. Company information came in from the grapevine and hearsay. Getting a job was the prime need; work culture and the question – is this a great place to work – came much later.

But thanks to the information age, the web is the best career tool you can have at your disposal. Type in a company name and you are sure to get more than a few hits which will give you a peek into what a company is about. After all, there are people talking on the web: both disgruntled ex-employees and the contented ones. Take LinkedIn for example; it's a great tool to find out the raves and the rants.

Going beyond LinkedIn, let's check out seven more career websites that collect company information and job reviews.

company information

It is one of the preeminent career websites on the web but unfortunately it is not totally free. The free Basic membership gives you company and job overviews; access to discussions and newsletters; and job listings. The topic specific blog is a nice place to do some career related reading especially the Career Advice blog. The discussion boards are a mine of information and you can pick up some valuable pointers thanks to the comprehensive filters the site provides to sift through the messages. Even the Basic account gives you enough hints with its overviews and company rankings.

Ping My Company

looking up company information

The career related website's 'disclaimer' reveals its true purpose (as you can see on the screenshot). Just a scroll down the comments gives you an idea of the companies that are doing well in the employee's eyes and the ones that aren't. As a 'Pinger' you do not need to get registered and can contribute anonymously your feedback on the company you are working for or never want to work for. Green colored comments show approvals and the red ones augur disapprovals. It's also a forum for companies to respond to the issues raised by the community.


looking up company information

It was difficult for me to gauge the popularity of the site, but at least it's pretty much updated with rants against the guy who is above you on the job ladder. This site does not require a log-in and you can browse or read comments on quite a few jobs and bosses. Of course, the comments are bound to be majorly subjective.


looking up company information

You can use the alphabetical listing or the search bar to dive into the index of companies and learn about their work cultures. Each company gets a salary rating along with an organizational one on this plain Jane website.


learning about a company

Wovox says it in photos and pictures. It is an assemblage of workplace photos and reviews that enables you to get a good idea of the workplace you might be employed in. Snoop around the site and look at pictures, watch videos, and read reviews. Discover a company and its culture.

Career Leak

learning about a company

This website lets you research employers, job description, and companies. Find out salary information, and get interview tips. The job reviews and salary information are first person accounts by people who are (or were) employed in the companies.


company information

Glassdoor is a salary comparison website but alongside all that anonymous sharing you also get an idea of the job and company. You can trawl through the job listings or narrow down to the company of your choice. The site has a U.S. focus for now, but it could start covering international workplaces soon. The number of reviews stacked up for the popular names is quite impressive and that really makes for accurate ratings on the site.

Job aspirants can also look through JobVent to see if anyone is blowing steam over their prospective employers there. Then there are the good 'old fashioned' social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn that you can use for some serious company research. We have covered quite a few job and career tools in the past. From job search to job tips, the web gives more power to the guy who is beating a path through the corporate hallways. Have you ever researched a company on the web before signing on the dotted line?

Image Credit: Shutterstock

7 Websites That Will Help Your Career With Company Information & Anonymous Job Reviews is a post from: MakeUseOf

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NoLED – Shows Notifications Even If Your Device Has No LED [Android 2.1+]

Posted: 28 Jun 2011 11:31 AM PDT

no led appSome Android devices don’t have dedicated notification LEDs. My own Acer Liquid E does have them, but the Samsung Galaxy S (for example) doesn’t. So if you leave the device for a few moments and want to see if anyone tried to contact you while you were away, you need to unlock it and check Android’s notifications. If you do that several times every day, it can become a bit of a hassle. But if you use NoLED, you may not have to.

For such a simple app, NoLED’s configuration interface is surprisingly rich. But before we delve into the configuration, let me show you what the notifications look like:

no led app

The icons are self-explanatory. What the screenshot doesn’t show, though, is that they keep moving around all over the screen, to prevent screen burn. So it looks more like a colorful screen saver than a bunch of static notification icons. Still, since each icon is colored so differently, it’s easy to spot if you’ve received a new email or GTalk message.

If the icons seem a bit large, don’t worry – you can also have NoLED look like this:

device notification

And even like this:

device notification

Yup, just a black screen with a bunch of tiny colored squares, each taking up just a few pixels. In this mode, the pixels still move around but only in the top-left corner of the device (or top-right, configurable). It does require a very good memory for colors, though, so it’s a good thing you can configure each color to your liking:

device notification

This brings us to the configuration interface. So let’s do a whirlwind tour of some of its features, starting with the main screen:

notification app

That first setting isn’t the only thing you need to do to switch NoLED on. You also need to put a widget on your homescreen and activate it, or reboot your phone (NoLED launches on startup by default).

The two main issues with NoLED, for me, are that I usually don’t use a lock screen (I don’t need it on my device), and that using the LCD for notifications can drain the battery quite quickly. While there’s not much to be done about the first issue (NoLED does require a lock screen), let’s see what battery saving features we can use:

notification app

This is one clever app! It can cycle power to the screen in user-defined intervals (for example, 500ms on, then 8 seconds off), and use your phone’s proximity sensor to figure out when it’s in your pocket or face-down on the table, where you’re not likely to see the screen.

Another battery-saving feature is Sleep mode:

no led app

You can set NoLED to stop working during the night, and switch itself back on in the morning. That means that during the night it won’t turn on your phone’s screen and won’t waste your battery.

I could go on and on, but I don’t want to bore you with a laundry list of everything NoLED lets you configure. Suffice it to say this app lets you configure everything — even its interface language, which has been localized to over a dozen different languages.

This is one of the most powerful free Android apps I reviewed in recent memory, and it took me by surprise. Its basic function is so simple, I did not realize how customizable it can be made until I dug in. I expected the configuration interface to consist of a couple of basic settings, and was blown away by all of the options. If your device doesn’t have notification LEDs, this looks like the definitive solution.

NoLED – Shows Notifications Even If Your Device Has No LED [Android 2.1+] is a post from: MakeUseOf

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Customize Your Browser’s Start Page To Look Like The Windows 8 Theme

Posted: 28 Jun 2011 10:31 AM PDT

windows 8 start pageFrom a design point of view, I think Microsoft took a bold move by creating their own mobile user interface instead of trying to blatantly copy the iOS look and feel like everybody else. We will still have to wait and see whether or not the UI will help Windows Mobile survive the competitive phone market, but many people think this new design is unique and good looking. Microsoft also takes the design one step further by implementing it as “Metro” – the UI of the future Windows 8.

If you like Windows’ new user interface design, you can implement that look on your browser’s start page with the help of Eight. It’s a Windows 8 start page theme which will give you more than just eye candy. Eight allows you to customize its elements to suit your needs. The last update of Eight is compatible with Firefox 4.0.1, Chrome 12, Opera 11.11, and Internet Explorer 8.

Using Eight

The concept of the start page has become popular for the past several years in the browser world. Every time a user opens a new tab, they will see a graphical list of the sites they visited the most. So instead of repeatedly typing in the URLs of those favorite sites, users can just click on the sites on the start page.

For the following walkthrough, I used Firefox. But the steps should be more or less the same under any other compatible browser.

  • Replacing your browser’s default Windows 8 start page with Eight is easy. First, you have to download the 2.5MB theme package (top right of the page under “Add To Favorites“) and extract it to a folder in your computer. Please make sure that this folder will not be moved or changed in the future, since doing so will break the file path used by your browser.

windows 8 start page

  • Then, use the “File – Open File” menu in your browser to navigate to and open the “index.htm” inside Eight’s folder. Close all other opened tabs before you continue.

browser start page

  • To set Eight as the default start page, go to “Preferences – General” (under Tools menu in Windows or the Firefox menu in Mac) and choose “Show my home page” from “Startup – When Firefox starts“.

browser start page

  • Then, click the “Use current pages” button, and close the Preferences window. If you have other open tabs while doing this, other tabs will also be recorded as the home page.  So make sure they are closed.

browser start page

Now, every time you open your browser, Eight will show up. You can click on one of the links to open the URL destination.

Customizing Eight

Eight comes with twelve default pre-set links: YouTube, Yahoo!, Facebook, BBC News, CNN, Grooveshark,, DeviantArt, Twitter, Wikipedia, iTunes, and Google. Users can quickly go to those sites by clicking on the visual links. But everybody has their own preferences, and luckily Eight is fully customizable. You can change the destination links, logos, and even the background color of each visual link according to your preferences.

If you want to customize Eight, you can find a very short explanation in the Readme.txt file inside Eight’s folder. But let’s now replace one of the visual links (thumbnails) with MakeUseOf’s link, so we can fully understand how the process works.

  • First, let’s open the “Sketch.jpg” file for our guidance. We can see the reference number, location, and maximum icon size for each thumbnail.

internet start page

  • Let’s pick one square as the location for the MakeUseOf visual link. I picked box number 10 because I want the largest possible size but I don’t want to replace Google (box number 6). This means I should put the logo inside a 420 x 205 pixel image area with a transparent background. You can use any decent image application to prepare the thumbnail. The instructions suggest that you use a white logo for clarity, but you can use any kind of color for your logo. Give a name to your thumbnail logo and put the image file inside the thumbs folder.
  • The next step is to open the “source.xml” file using a simple text editor to edit the source parameters.

internet start page

  • Find the entry that you want to edit and change the name, URL, and image name. You’ll see the new thumbnail after refreshing the page. You can repeat the process to change the other thumbnails. Please note that the numbering in the source starts with 0 while in the sketch, it starts with 1.

windows 8 start page

Customizing thumbnails in Eight is not difficult, but the setting up could take up to a couple of hours, especially the image editing process. However, once everything is set up, all of your favorite sites will be on the tip of your mouse.

Do you use a start page? Would you try Eight? Do you know any other similar tools? Tell us what you think and share your opinions using the comments below.

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Test Your Computer For Security Misconfigurations With Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer

Posted: 28 Jun 2011 09:31 AM PDT

security misconfigurationMicrosoft Baseline Security Analyzer (MBSA) is a free tool, designed for IT professionals of small and medium-sized businesses. Given its clear graphical user interface however, it also serves as a great security tool for personal use. MBSA analyzes the security setup of local and networked Windows computers and can identify common security misconfigurations or missing updates.

You can download MBSA 2.2 from the Microsoft Download Center. It is available for 64-bit (x64) and 32-bit (x86) Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, Windows 7, and Windows Server 2008 R2. Moreover, it comes in four different languages: German (DE), English (EN), French (FR), and Japanese (JA).

Getting Started

The startup interface of MBSA is very simple and basically offers only three options: scan a computer, scan multiple computers, or view existing security scan reports. The sidebar also offers links to the program documentation and the Microsoft security website.

security misconfiguration

Note that you require Administrator rights for all machines that you wish to scan. You can scan a single or multiple systems based on the computer name or IP address. If you select to scan multiple computers, you need to enter a domain name or a range of IP addresses.

For this demonstration I went with scanning a single computer.

security configuration

The scanning options are straightforward, although not necessarily clear for the inexperienced user. If you don’t understand what some of the options mean, click the > Scanning Options link at the bottom for detailed explanations. The information will load in a separate Internet Explorer window.

security configuration

The scan merely takes a few seconds and returns an overview of issues found in different categories. Each item is scored and a summary of the result is provided, along with links to further information material.

security configuration

Checks that were passed receive a green score, items that could not be checked are marked with a grey minus, room for improvements is highlighted by a blue score, a yellow score indicates a non-critical vulnerability and a red score alerts the user to a failed check and thus a critical security issue. Follow the respective links for detailed information about what was scanned or instructions on how an issue can be corrected.

All reports are saved and can be accessed at a later time for reference. You can also print or copy your report to the clipboard.

security misconfiguration


Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer is a very good tool to quickly get an overview of security-related settings on your Windows machine. Instructions for correcting detected security misconfigurations are very clear and should therefore be easy to follow for the average user. Overall, the documentation is surprisingly detailed and well done, almost as if Microsoft expected non-IT folks to use this tool.

It must be said though that fixing most configurations does require some basic understanding of how Windows works. For example an issue with the file system is not necessarily security relevant and the instructions do not provide information on how to find the drive that doesn’t run NTFS. Moreover, some issues require advanced knowledge and should be left to the experts to be fixed, for example setting a password expiration.

For more information, also have a look at this article from Microsoft Patterns & Practices: How To Use the Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer.

What is your opinion? Do you think this is a useful tool? Please share your thoughts!

Image credits: beboy

Test Your Computer For Security Misconfigurations With Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer is a post from: MakeUseOf

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Does The Duracell myGrid Really Charge As Well As A Power Cord?

Posted: 28 Jun 2011 08:31 AM PDT

duracell mygridPower cords are an increasingly antiquated concept in today's wireless world, but so far they remain a necessity. No one wants to be forced to tie down their electronics to a rat's nest of cords – that's why wireless Internet is so great – but there's not much choice.

One potential solution is Duracell's myGrid, a wireless charging solution for mobile phones. But does this product really work, or is it not quite ready for prime time?

How It Works

duracell mygrid

The Duracell myGrid's concept is simple. Rather than plugging in your mobile phone to charge it, the myGrid lets you charge the device by placing it on the pad's surface. Your phone will then begin to charge automatically.

It's like magic, right? Well, not quite. Although the convenience is the driving force behind this concept, you can't just plop any old phone on the pad. That's because you need to have a connection between the myGrid and your phone, and that can only be provided by an appropriate adapter.

These adapters plug in via the phone's mini-USB port and extend around the rear of the phone. Alternatively, you can use what Duracell calls a “power sleeve”.  This is simply a phone case with contacts on the rear side which negate the need for the adapter.

Does It Work?

Yes, usually. The technology here isn't complex or unheard of. Some brands of electric toothbrushes, for example, have used it for some time in order to charge the built-in batteries via a stand.

However, you'll may notice that your phone doesn't charge as quickly with the myGrid as it does with a normal power adapter if you're charging multiple phones at once. Some reviews also noted that bumping the pad or touching it with a metal object would interrupt charging, which could be a real problem if you wanted to put it on a busy desktop.

Far From Perfect

duracell mygrid charger

The Duracell myGrid can handle charging up to four phones at once, so it could ideally let you toss aside four separate power adapters. That's an impressive reduction in clutter, but there's a catch – several, actually.

Convenience is supposed to be the greatest advantage of this device, but the adapters themselves can be a pain. Since they take up the phone's mini-USB port, which in most cases is also used to transfer data between PCs and the device, you'll have to remove it frequently. In fact, its general bulk and unattractive appearance makes it unlikely you'll want to leave the house with the adapter attached.

duracell mygrid

Some phones, like the iPhone, have the “power sleeve” case available – but it is also bulky and unattractive.

These problems are due to the fact that the myGrid uses conductive, rather than inductive, charging. With conductive charging, an actual connection between metal contacts is required to charge a device, which is why the adapters are required.

Oh, and about those four phones at once. While the technology may be capable of pushing power to all of those devices, the mat itself will have trouble fitting them if they’re large. The mat is about 9 inches by 9 inches, so you'll realistically fit two or three smartphones on there depending on their sizes.


So does the Duracell myGrid charge as well as a power cord? Yes, it does. It will charge your phone just like a power cord. Only you don't need the cord, which is nice.

But the problem is the price. Duracell's myGrid costs around fifty dollars, which isn't a huge sum, but still worth some thought before parting ways. And that's just for the starter kit. If you want to use the pad with numerous phones you'll need to buy more adapters or sleeves.

Is gaining the ability to place your phone on a charging pad rather than connecting it to a cord worth the price? Perhaps in a few limited cases, but for most people that's a lot of money to spend for a different way to charge their phone.

What do you think?  Worth the money or just a passing fad?  Would you seriously consider buying one?

Does The Duracell myGrid Really Charge As Well As A Power Cord? is a post from: MakeUseOf

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BranchOut Business Networking Rivals LinkedIn [News]

Posted: 28 Jun 2011 07:31 AM PDT

The BranchOut application for Facebook is gaining popularity so quickly that it has become an instant rival for LinkedIn. The application has become an instant hit with job seekers and employers alike due to its simplicity and extensive networking capabilities.

Users of BranchOut can sign up through Facebook in an instant, then link their LinkedIn profiles immediately. This gives BranchOut readily accessible work history information within seconds, allowing the users to get headhunted and start looking for jobs straight away.

BranchOut’s social capabilities revolve around making it easy to post job openings via their system. The BranchOut home page asks all users “Is Your Company Hiring?” and making it easy for any user to post basic details of job openings in their workplace. BranchOut even fills out most of the details for you from your Facebook information, meaning you can tell your friends about the position in seconds.

Businesses can also use BranchOut to advertise job openings, by using the BranchOut application on their Facebook page. Jobs will be displayed both on the Facebook page and in the BranchOut system.

Jobs are also incorporated into the system via the Indeed network, ensuring there are many open positions ready to consider.

Viewing a job opening will also display to you friends who have connections with that workplace, making it easy for you to arrange an interview via your social network.

Source: BusinessInsider

BranchOut Business Networking Rivals LinkedIn [News] is a post from: MakeUseOf

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