Tuesday, June 21, 2011

MakeUseOf.com: “Latest Hilarious Picks [MakeUseOf Geeky Fun]” plus 10 more

MakeUseOf.com: “Latest Hilarious Picks [MakeUseOf Geeky Fun]” plus 10 more

Link to MakeUseOf

Latest Hilarious Picks [MakeUseOf Geeky Fun]

Posted: 20 Jun 2011 11:16 PM PDT

Check out the top picks from MakeUseOf Geeky Fun during the last couple of days.

  1. The Most Useless Desktop Shortcut Of All Time (Pic)
  2. Every 60 Seconds On The Internet… (Pic)
  3. Piracy For Dummies (Pic)
  4. The History Of Email (Pic)
  5. Hacking: Real Life Vs. Perception (Pic)
  6. On Chat Vs. In Person (Pic)
  7. Mario Meets With His Agent (Video)

If you would like to keep up with all latest Geeky Fun additions, please subscribe to the Geeky Fun feed here. You can also subscribe and get the latest additions via email.

Hey Facebookers, make sure to join MakeUseOf on Facebook and get access to some exclusve stuff. Over 105,000 fans already!

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Cool Websites and Tools [June 20th]

Posted: 20 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.

Add Your Website Here!


Super Google Reader – Google Reader, while a very useful service, could use some improvements to its interface. If you are looking for a better way to read your feeds within Google Reader while keeping the basic interface unchanged, check out Super Google Reader. It is a browser extension for Google Chrome. It provides readable content or iFraming of feed entries. Read more: Super Google Reader: Read Your Google Reader RSS Feeds In Full Form [Chrome]


Clipping Converter – Kindle users will know that there's a way to clip portions of the book they are reading for future reference. Those clippings get saved in "myclippings.txt" in the documents folder of your Kindle. Clippings converter is a simple tool that converts these clippings into Word, Excel or PDF files for better organization. Read more: Clippings Converter: Convert Kindle Clippings Into Word, Excel & PDF Files Online



Tube+ – When it comes to downloading movies and series, you often opt for torrent clients. But a new website, currently being promoted by The Pirate Bay, might help you find movies not only on torrents but also on file hosting services. Tube+ is a free to use web service that lets you find movies and series on torrent websites and file hosting services. Read more: Tube+: Free Full Length TV Shows & Movies to Watch Online or Download



Share Contacts – When you receive somebody's contact information via SMS, you probably note it down or copy it and then save it to your phone after accessing the Contacts section. Here to speed up the process is an app called Share Contacts. It is an Android application that lets you save contact information via SMS messages. Basically the app lets you create vCards of people in your contacts. Read more: Share Contacts: Easily Share & Receive Contacts Via Bluetooth, SMS & Email (Android)



FileStork – The elegant simplicity of Dropbox allows it to sit on our desktop, and save us the few seconds sharing files if otherwise done through IM or email. Now we have Filestork, a Dropbox-based app that adds a needed functionality by letting you request files and have friends send it straight to your Dropbox folder. Read more: FileStork: Request Files To Be Sent Straight To Your Dropbox


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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Buffer App For Firefox: The Easiest Way To Schedule Tweets From A Web Page

Posted: 20 Jun 2011 06:31 PM PDT

schedule tweetsWe have had numerous Tweet-scheduling apps reviewed and tips shared on MUO including this round-up of the best tools to schedule tweets. We have also profiled Buffer App as well. However it deserves a more thorough look because it does offer an innovative approach to updating your Twitter account.

I am sure for many people, your process looks similar to mine. I start working by going through all shared news, email subscriptions and updates from blogs I follow. This is the time when I actually want to tweet a lot. Then I start working and try not to get distracted by sharing anything on Twitter. Obviously, I don’t want to tweet dozens of good stories within an hour – that’s where various Twitter scheduling tools might come in handy. However scheduling takes more time than I usually have. Besides, it somehow makes tweeting less fun because you get distracted from the normal Twitter flow by the need to think about when you want the tweet to go live.

Buffer App offers a different approach: you drop your links into your Buffer account and the tool queues them for future publishing. This way you can still enjoy your spontaneous tweeting without stuffing your Twitter stream with multiple updates within a short period of time.

With Buffer, you set your schedule once and then let all your tweets get published based on your schedule daily:

schedule tweets

The free Buffer App plan currently allows you to have 10 tweets in your Buffer queue which has proven more than enough for me – but I am not that heavy a Twitterer. This also means the free account has been considerably extended since it was first reviewed on MUO.

While the Buffer App itself lets you enjoy your genuine tweeting without thinking about how often the actual tweets get published, the newly developed Buffer for Firefox addon increases your Tweeting productivity.

As an active Twitter user, I’ve tried various ways to easily tweet any page (without repeated copy-pasting work) including the Bit.ly bookmarklet, HootSuite Hotlet and others but the Buffer App one seems the easiest to me. It offers 3 major ways to instantly tweet any page or “buffer” the update (for it to then get published on Twitter based on your set schedule):

1. Tweet / Buffer With Your Keyboard

I find this option a huge time saver – and that’s actually the main reason why I am sticking to the addon. What can be faster than tweeting with the key combination:

CTRL + ALT + b

The above combination will also let you tweet any text from the page. Just highlight it and use the shortcut to generate the tweet:

schedule tweets web

2. Tweet / Buffer Any Page Using The Status Bar Icon

Tip: If you have lost your status bar in FireFox 4, try Statusbar 4 Evar to get it back:

schedule tweets web

The same option is also accessible from the context (right-click) menu.

3. Buffer Your Retweets

Our retweeting tends to be as spontaneous as tweeting itself: you go through your timeline, click through links and retweet easily with one click of a mouse. However we tend to forget that our retweets get published to our stream and all our followers see them, so it’s a good idea to somehow schedule the retweets as well.

The Buffer extension adds a tiny icon to each update on your Twitter home page, which lets you quickly add retweets to your Buffer account:

schedule tweets

While I am using Buffer on FireFox, there seems to be extensions for other browsers as well.

Have you tried using the Buffer App yet? Any better alternatives? Let’s share our feedback in the comments.

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How To Download All Videos From A YouTube Playlist

Posted: 20 Jun 2011 04:30 PM PDT

youtube playlist downloaderA bit after I figured out that there is a wealth of programming tutorials on YouTube, I thought it might be a good idea to download them all so I can view them on the go on my mobile devices. Since the majority of these videos have been kindly organized into neat playlists, the question now seemed to be whether there is a way to download whole playlists. I certainly wasn't the only one to ask this question. In fact, our readers have also wondered the same thing on the Answers community.

Today, we'll go over two ways you can download entire playlists, one which should make Firefox users ecstatic, and another Windows program which presents some handy options for mass video downloaders.

BYTubeD – Bulk Youtube Video Downloader (Firefox Addon)

This Firefox 4-compatible add-on is a simple but fantastic little tool to help you find download links for multiple videos. Once you're in a playlist page, you can right-click and select the BYTubeD option. youtube playlist downloader The button can also be invoked from any YouTube pages with multiple videos, such as search results from a keyword.
download youtube playlist
After you click on the BYTubeD link, a window will appear with the list of video links it has found. Now this is the part that confused me at first, because I didn't quite read the instructions or the Help section. You have to select the videos you want to download by pressing Ctrl + A to select all videos or hold Ctrl while you click on the specific links you want.
download youtube playlistOnce you have a few neon green links, you can select the destination folder, whether you want the videos in FLV format or (MP4 if they're available), and whether to generate links or enqueue videos for download.
If you chose Enqueue for Download and pressed Start, the default Firefox download manager will popup and show the current downloads.
download youtube playlist
Since I have DownThemAll, I chose Generate Links, so BYTubeD will create a new HTML file with links to the videos I selected so I can use DownThemAll on the current page. Generate Links should work for other download managers as well.
download youtube audio
I have found BYTubeD to work flawlessly. If you don't use Firefox, you can still download multiple videos from a playlist with the following program.

DVDVideoSoft's Free Youtube Download [Windows]

DVDVideoSoft has a variety of converter software, but the one we are interested in is the YouTube Download 3.0.1. When you're installing the latest build, make sure to carefully choose what to install, because for older versions of other program files by DVDVideoSoft, there could be crapware offers sometimes.
Once you have installed the YouTube Download program, you can paste in any video or playlist URL and choose the video quality and video format, such as MP3, FLV and 3GP.

For AVI, you have to click on Edit, which will bring up the preset editor.

One of the best parts about this downloader program is that you can preview the size of the individual videos and the playlist as a whole depending on the video format you choose. You can also select individual videos from a playlist that you want to download and which ones you want to skip.
youtube playlist downloader
The instructions for this program suggest that you can also use this program to download all of the videos from a channel as well.

For Linux users, youtube-dl is incredibly powerful and also supports playlist downloading. See this video for the how-to. Does anyone know if there's a good YouTube playlist downloader for Mac?

Now, let's hear from you. What do you use to download YouTube playlists? Enlighten us in the comments!

Image Credit: YouTube Playlist Downloader

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Kinect Fun Labs – Free Interactive Gadgets For Your Kinect & Xbox 360

Posted: 20 Jun 2011 02:30 PM PDT

kinect fun labsThe Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) comes and goes each year with new games, hardware, planned releases and the occasional freebie. This year Microsoft announced Kinect Fun Labs, a collection of "gadgets" that somewhat resemble highly polished Kinect hacks, free for your Xbox 360.

There’s only a few of these gadgets available at the moment, though Microsoft intends to keep adding new activities and mini games including the upcoming Avatar Kinect, a 3D chat innovation that can read facial expressions (and doesn’t require you to stand up!).

Kinect Fun Labs is downloadable from the 360′s in-built Marketplace and accessed via the Kinect Hub, so make sure you’ve plugged in your all-seeing-eye before you try and play.

Download & Play

You can grab Kinect Fun Labs from the Xbox Marketplace, either through the console or a web interface. To download via web, login with your Xbox credentials and add this download to your downloads list, then turn on your console and sign in to Live (the download will begin).

If you’re already in front of your Xbox you’ll find Kinect Fun Labs accessible from both the Game Marketplace menu and Kinect Hub menu. The download is around 700MB, and depending on the speed of your connection this could take a while.
kinect fun labs
At the time of reviewing, two Gadgets were included with Fun Labs (under the heading My Gadgets) – Kinect Me and Googly Eyes. In addition to these, a further two gadgets are available for download, Bobble Head and Build A Buddy weighing in at around 200MB and 250MB respectively, that’s around 1.2GB for the lot.

Rather frustratingly (and often a regular issue with Xbox 360 file transfers) I was unable to do anything else with my 360 whilst downloading these gadgets. Accidentally hit the "Xbox" button on your controller? Too bad, download cancelled, set it up again. This will annoy me until the end of time (or at least until Microsoft sort it out).

The Gadgets

I think I speak for a lot of Kinect owners when I say I’m both relieved and encouraged that Microsoft has finally taken the first steps towards putting Kinect "hacks" directly on its flagship console. We’ve all seen them by now: hand puppets projected on walls, balding blokes rotating "3D" images of their desks and some very intelligent arts, retail and live music integration.

Whilst there’s nothing quite so bold in this package, it is quite nice to finally try out some of the other Kinect capabilities on the console it was designed for. Were Microsoft encouraged by the community’s hacking efforts? Probably!

Kinect Me

kinect labs
The idea behind Kinect Me is to take images from the Kinect sensor of your face and turn it into an avatar. Unfortunately, there are two issues with this: you can’t export your created avatar to use in normal games or on the dashboard and it doesn’t work very well.

Now I’ve not got the biggest living room in the world, but games like Dance Central and Kinect Adventures work pretty well. I always stick a few extra lights on when I play (one directly above me, lighting my face well) but this didn’t seem to make any difference.

A close inspection of my avatar revealed some sort of nasal disfigurement I never realised I had, and some odd splotchy black bits (which I assume were my facial hair) that didn’t make me look particularly handsome.
kinect labs
And I’m not the only one. A thread on the official Xbox forums reveals a number of users have had issues. Comments include: "My avatar looked like it suffered acid burns to the mouth, cheeks and chin" (aarlin81), "Is there some sort of trick? My kinect me looks mexican and has a squashed face" (Right Wing Red) and "my face looked…well, scary. Blotchy, spotty. Nothing like the demo during E3" (Vinzter).

In fairness, I thought the way it handled my hair was pretty good and of course it might work just fine for you, especially if you don’t have a beard.

Googly Eyes

kinect labs
Much like Kinect Me, this one is daring yet somewhat flawed though there’s no denying that the technology is impressive. Googly Eyes allows you to "scan" in an object (both the front and the back), add a pair of googly eyes and then lets you to control it much like a puppet show.

It can be pretty fiddly getting things to scan without having your hand or arm in the picture, and my Xbox constantly told me items were too small, too close or too far away – making it pretty fiddly to use.

Once you’ve scanned in your item, adjusted the eyes and jumped around stage you’re invited to record a skit to share with your friends. It’s a nice idea, but somewhat pointless and not very rewarding.

Bobble Head

kinect gadgets
I honestly can’t see the point in this one. It’s Kinect Me, only instead of creating an avatar you create a "bobble head" and record a message. You can then share this bobble head and message with your friends, not that you’d want to.

The process involved in getting a picture for the bobble head was a long, drawn out affair of the scanner telling me to move forwards, then telling me I was too close, then telling me I was too far away… you get the picture.

The most satisfying part? You can repeatedly slap your brand new bobble head across the face afterwards. This went some way towards making me feel better about the 10 minutes I spent on my knees in front of the TV trying to capture an acceptable Bobble Head image.

Build A Buddy

kinect fun labs
So far, it’s not been great. The other gadgets are all a bit poor, with little to no longevity and overly fiddly image capture. I had far less issues with Build A Buddy, even down to using the Kinect to scan in images.

This Gadget allows you to scan in two sides of an object (much like Googly Eyes) and then apply different personality traits. Your creation is then brought to life for you to interact with on screen. In a highly unoriginal twist I used a teddy bear and despite being a bit low-resolution (and diseased looking, mostly due to shadows) the software did a remarkable job.

Thus far I’d mark this as the best gadget, mainly because there’s a reason to play again with different objects (applying different personalities). I’d also hazard a guess that kids will enjoy this one the most as there are virtually endless "characters" to create with every day objects.


It’s a shame that these gadgets, thus far, are a bit of a disappointment. Conversely, it’s awesome that Microsoft have put the effort into expanding the free Kinect experience, and hopefully future creations will be more effective.

Avatar Kinect already looks quite fun, and there’s another gadget in the pipeline called Sparkler. If you’ve got a Kinect then you might as well give these a go, and don’t forget to keep an eye on the Kinect Fun Labs additions over the next few years.

Have you tried Kinect Fun Labs? Any favorites? Did the technology fail you? Report your findings in the comments below.

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Hot Tech Deals – Canon imageCLASS MF4350d Laser Multifunction Printer for $99.99+ more

Posted: 20 Jun 2011 01:30 PM PDT

Today’s feature deal is definitely the Canon imageCLASS MF4350d Laser multifunction printer which is going for $99.99 ($200 off the suggested retail price).

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

  1. Enermax NAXN 80+ ENP600AWT 600W ATX Power Supply (80PLUS) $29.99AR Free Ship via rebate
  2. Hanns-G HZ194APB 19in Widescreen LCD Monitor w/ Speakers $79.99 Free Shipping
  3. Canon imageCLASS MF4350d Laser Multifunction Printer (Duplex, 35-Sheet ADF) $99.99 via code CANLSR30435 (Exp 6/26)
  4. Samsung SpinPoint F3 1TB Internal SATA Hard Drive $69.99 Free Shipping via code EMCYTZT548 (Exp 6/21)
  5. Seagate Expansion 1TB Portable External Hard Drive $89.99 Free Shipping
  6. Western Digital Caviar Green 750GB Internal SATA Hard Drive $39.99 Free Shipping

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Feeling All Hot & Sweaty? Then Check Out The MakeUseOf T-Shirt Store!

Posted: 20 Jun 2011 12:31 PM PDT

Summer is fast approaching! The birds are tweeting, the flowers are blooming, and you may be considering overhauling your wardrobe, in anticipation of the warm weather to come. If that’s the case, can we interest you in a cool geeky MakeUseOf T-shirt?

Our selection has steadily grown since our T-shirt store first got started last year. From an initial selection of 6 designs, we now have 10 designs, including some in baby tee size. Some Mac OSX-related designs are currently being developed and we’ll be sure to let you know about them as soon as they become available!

The price for each T-shirt is $16.95 and shipping to anywhere in the world. Each shirt is made of very high quality material and is well worth the money! Why not buy in bulk and save on shipping costs? Just head on over to the store and see if anything strikes your fancy.

If you have already bought a MakeUseOf T-shirt, what did you think of it? Are you happy with your purchase?

Why not send us a photo of you wearing it and we may post it here on the site for all to see!

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Some Advanced Tips For Those Starting Out Building A Tumblr Blog

Posted: 20 Jun 2011 11:30 AM PDT

About a week after I wrote my first list of Tumblr tips, the site made changes to its all pervasive Dashboard. The re-design was a welcome facelift for many members, while others lodged some major complaints. Nevertheless, the features of the Dashboard remain basically the same with a few enhancements.

If you’re hopping onto the Tumblr bandwagon—I recommend you do—here are some additional—perhaps advanced—tips you might be interested in after having set up your Tumblr blog and built a following. And don’t worry, none of these tips require that you get your hands dirty with code.

Oh, and by the way, if you haven’t set up your Tumblr blog yet, this article will show you how.

Pages and Tags

Let’s return to Tumblr’s Dashboard Preferences, for there are other little tools you might want to enable in there to enhance your blog. I covered few other Preferences features in the previous article.


Similar to the WordPress.com, you can add stagnate pages in your Tumblr site. You’re not limited to just your home page. On the Dashboard page, click on the Customize button and select Pages > Add a page. You can add three types of pages: Standard, Custom Layout, and Redirect.

tumblr blogs

You can pretty much add anything you like to these pages. Here’s one idea you might find useful.

Tagged Post:

If you get in the habit in tagging your Tumblr blog posts, as discussed in the last article, you can create a page that will show all your posts with a specified tag. So for instance, you might want to highlight all your posts that are mini “essays.” Here’s how to set it up.

tumblr personal blogs

Select the “Redirect” page. Now copy and paste the URL for one of the tagged posts that you want inserted into your new page. It should look this—with the name of your blog, followed by “tagged,” and ending with exact name of the tagged posts you want filtered on the page.


Finally, be sure to select “Show a link to this page,” and type a name for it, which will show up in the menu bar of your homepage. When the page is clicked, it will show all your posts with that designated tag.

More Appearances

While we’re in Tumblr Preferences, let’s click on the Appearance tab and see a few other features that are not turned on by default.

tumblr personal blogs

Show Streampad

If you want to add some musical ambiance to your Tumblr homepage, click the Streampad box, and essentially the plug-in will play songs that have been uploaded to your Dashboard.

tumblr blog ideas

Depending on your Tumblr theme, the player should show up at the end of your homepage. If you want to further customize the player, click over to this Streampad page and follow the directions for making changes and adding the code.

Fixed Sidebar

If keeping visitors and readers focused on the sidebar content of your homepage is important to you, then check this box. It will keep the sidebar in a fixed position, even when readers scroll further down your page to browse all your awesome Tumblr posts.

Small Follow Box

When the “People I Follow” icons get long and unwieldy, clicking this box will put them into a smaller scrolling box for you.

tumblr blog ideas

Ask Me Widget

If you’re fairly new to Tumblr, you might often see the people you’re following posting a question to others on their Dashboard—in the form of a text box for responding to the question. It’s a great little feature, but it’s not quite obvious how to set it up.

tumblr blog ideas

To do so, simply create a Text post, and then type the question you want to ask. Be sure that the question ends in a “? “mark. When you do this, a little box, “Let people answer this”, will appear on the right side of the Dashboard. Click it and add your post like you normally would. The responses will show up in your Inbox. The checkbox will not appear until you put the question mark at the end of your question.

Mobile App

If you’re an iPhone, Android, or BlackBerry user, and a Tumblr addict, you will no doubt want to download the Tumblr app for your mobile device. I find the iPhone version (iTunes Store link) super easy to use. It allows you to both browse your Dashboard as well post Tumblr blogs.

tumblr personal blogs

Other third-party apps like Instagram include Tumblr support as well.

Well, that’s it for these round of tips. Tumblr is taking the lead as the fastest growing microblogging site, so many more features and upgrades are sure to be arrive in the coming months.

tumblr blogs

Let us know about other Tumblr tips that new bloggers should know about.

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7 Websites That Give You Nutritional Information To Eat Smarter

Posted: 20 Jun 2011 10:30 AM PDT

nutritional informationThere are a thousand and one yummy food and recipe websites on the web that are helping us to cook right. By 'right' I of course mean that we are learning how to dish out palatable stuff. But cooking doesn't start from the kitchen. It starts from the grocery store or the neighborhood supermarket.

We look at the brands, the product labels, and our grocery list…and start ticking off the items from the list. But are we ticking off the right nutrients to bolster our health and diet plans? Or are we merely swayed by the need to 'cook something' quickly?

Nutritional information is crucial for understanding diets especially if you afflicted with lifestyle diseases like diabetes, hypertension, obesity etc. Nutritional guides help us to choose healthy foods. So, let these seven online nutritional guides help you cook up (or choose) just the right dish.

Nutrition Data

nutritional information

This site is one of the broadest sources for nutrition data. All the food content information in Nutrition Data’s database is sourced from the USDA’s National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference and is supported by listings provided by restaurants and food manufacturers. The source for each individual food item is listed in the footnotes of that food’s Nutrition Facts page. In addition to food composition data, Nutrition Data also has a set of proprietary nutrition management tools to analyze and understand that data.

USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference

nutritional information websites

This is the definitive resource that a lot of nutrition websites tap for information. It is a veritable search engine for looking up nutrient information for over 7500 different foods, though it is US specific. You can search using keywords like trade names, company names, food groups etc. The information is constantly updated as new research adds to the data.

Calorie Count

nutritional information websites

Love bagful of bagels? It could take you a round of jogging just to burn down the 100+ calories from a single large bagel. That's what this nutritional and health website tells me as I look up Nutrition Facts food labels to find nutrition data for more than 220,000 foods. The site is also a thriving community of the health conscious as they make use of tools like food journals, exercise logs, weight trackers, nutrition data, and diet aids.

Calorie Lab

nutritional information websites

Here's another nutritional and food database that also covers health news and fitness information. The Calorie Counter covers nutritional content of generic foodstuffs packaged brands, and also a whole lineup of US restaurants and eating joints. You can use the search box to go through 70,000 foods and 500 restaurant menus.


nutritional information site

Just like the above site, this nutritional information website also gives you the inside track on what restaurants are serving us. There's an iPhone app too if you want to get the nutritional information right from the table. Some familiar names are there, but I am still not sure if they are adding new ones to the list regularly. (See Directory mention)

What's On My Food

nutritional information site

This 'alarming' website is not about nutrients in food, but it's about something that's far unhealthier and toxic – pesticides. The site is a searchable information resource on food items and the pesticides associated with them. You can also search by pesticide. In both cases, you can find out the toxic effects on our health. The data on the site is collected from trusted sources such as United Stated Department of Agriculture (USDA) Pesticide Data Program (PDP), U.S. EPA and PesticideInfo website. (See Directory mention)

Two Foods

nutritional information

The above sites all need you to do a little digging. It's not so with this one where you can face off one food item with another. You can enter two food items to compare and see the calorific and nutrient values for both – side by side. It's simple enough to settle a few arguments. (See Directory mention)

Today, thanks to smartphones and web access it has become easier to consciously go for a healthier lifestyle; which usually starts with food. iPhone apps like Fooducate and MealSnap make that decision as easy as a click. Keeping tabs on your health has never been easier. But are you aware?

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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How To Encrypt Your Dropbox Data With ENCFS [Linux]

Posted: 20 Jun 2011 09:30 AM PDT

encrypt dropbox dataDropbox is arguably one of the best online file sync tools around. In fact, I do not have any geek friends that don’t use Dropbox, but instead use it heavily. However, if you’ve been skimming through the tech news lately, you’ll see that Dropbox is having some privacy issues as of late (here‘s one out of many).

Aside from the never-diminishing threat of a break-in by hackers, Dropbox has also said that it will turn over your data to the government if requested. This implies that, even if the data on their servers is encrypted (and not just the connection), they have a way to decrypt it and see what you’re storing. Although I’m sure most of you don’t have anything to hide, we feel more comfortable with some privacy. Therefore, encrypting the files before they are sent to the Dropbox servers is the way to go in order to keep eyes away.

There are a couple different ways of achieving this, as of late. My favorite method in the past has been to use Truecrypt, but having to create containers that store the encrypted information isn’t the best for Dropbox, which constantly syncs changes. If I have to make 50MB+ containers, and changing anything in one of them means that I have to re-upload 50MB of encrypted info, then that is a little waste of time and resources. Instead, I need to encrypt files individually, and in a serious, not-cheesy way. ENCFS is the perfect solution for this kind of problem.

The Idea

The technologies behind ENCFS are a pretty tricky to explain, so I’ll let you do that on your own time if you are interested. However, the principle of what it does is easy enough, so we’ll dive right into that. The idea is that ENCFS creates two folders. One is for unencrypted data, and the other is for encrypted data. You’ll want to have the unencrypted folder somewhere in your Home folder, while the encrypted folder should obviously be inside your Dropbox folder. Whenever you put something into the unencrypted folder, ENCFS goes to work and spews out the encrypted version into the encrypted folder, which Dropbox then syncs. If you do the same on a different computer, ENCFS will take the encrypted file and decrypt it, sending it to your unencrypted folder. It’s simpler than it sounds.


To get started, you’ll first need to install ENCFS. You’ll need to look around in your package manager for the exact package name, but for Fedora it’s fuse-encfs and in Ubuntu it’s simply called encfs. Next, you’ll need to head over to this site, download the contents, unzip, and copy the “gnome-encfs” file to an easy to access location. Then, switch to root if needed, and use (sudo) install /path/to/gnome-encfs /usr/local/bin. This program will help with automatically mounting this setup each time you boot up your computer. Alright, everything is now installed.

Create your Encryption Setup

Next, we’ll need to actually create the setup. To do this, you’ll need to run encfs ~/Dropbox/.encrypted ~/Private. You can change the actual paths if you like. Just know that the path represented by ~/Dropbox/.encrypted is the folder where the encrypted data goes, and ~/Private is the folder where you put your unencrypted files into. The tilda represents your home folder and the period in front of folder names sets the folders to hidden (Hit CTRL+H in Nautilus to see hidden folders).

encrypt dropbox data

ENCFS will ask you a couple questions about your setup, such as whether to create the folders you specified if they don’t already exist, what kind of encryption you would like (if you want an easy and very secure setup, hit p), and the password for your setup.

encrypt dropbox files

Next we need to automatically mount this setup. Type in gnome-encfs -a ~/Dropbox/.encrypted ~/Private and hit enter. You’ll be asked for the password that you set earlier, and then whether to automatically mount the setup. Say yes, and you’re done!

encrypt dropbox files


Congratulations! You’re ready to go! You can start copying files into the Private (or unencrypted folder if you chose a different name/location), and see that encrypted files are being made in your specified Dropbox folder.

encrypt dropbox data

You’ll also notice that there is an .xml file, which contains some information about the key. No, it isn’t the key itself, so you’re still safe if you sync that with Dropbox. However, if you feel extra paranoid, you can copy the .xml file to a different location, type dropbox exclude add ~/Dropbox/.encrypted/.encfs6.xml into your Terminal, and then delete the file (and make sure it’s also purged via the Dropbox website). Note that, as far as I know of, it may be possible to use this setup with Macs as well, but Windows is currently not in the game. Therefore, this setup is most effective for people who use only Linux and want to encrypt files they know they only need between computers, and not on the go where Windows may appear.

Is encrypting your Dropbox data a high priority for you? Are you starting to think more about encryption now that some very good consumer options exist? Let us know in the comments!

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How To Encrypt Your Dropbox Data With ENCFS [Linux] is a post from: MakeUseOf

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Nominate Your Favorite Android Apps and WIN a MakeUseOf T-Shirt!

Posted: 20 Jun 2011 08:30 AM PDT

Have an Android device? Don’t have enough t-shirts? Sounds like a winning combination!

We’re putting together a Best of Android page, much like our Best of Windows and Best of Linux pages. The page will list the 100 absolute best Android applications, neatly divided into categories.

And this is where you come in: I would like to know what are your absolute must-have, “so much better than iOS” applications for Android. What are the apps you use every day, the apps you love your device for? They don’t necessarily have to be free, either. Just don’t submit an app you developed yourself! If it’s awesome, I’m sure other users will submit it for you

Oh, and about that t-shirt: Not one, but five MakeUseOf t-shirts will be given out to lucky commenters for nominating their favorite apps. Let the recommendations flow forth!

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