Friday, July 1, 2011 “Cool Websites and Tools [June 30th]” plus 13 more “Cool Websites and Tools [June 30th]” plus 13 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [June 30th]

Posted: 30 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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Cascader – Writing code for web development can be tough, but even tougher can be the effort to clean up code written by somebody else. Cascader is a tool that can help web developers clean up the code by separating inlines CSS code from provided HTML. Simply copy-paste the HTML code and Cascader will do the rest. Read more: Cascader: Generate CSS Classes For Inlined HTML Styles


Generate A Panorama – Many of us have wondered what the view would be like from a particular summit in a particular direction. Generate A Panorama lets you do just that by creating a panoramic view from any summit in any direction. You can choose your viewpoint on a map, pick it from a drop down list, or even pick it by entering specific data points. Read more: Generate A Panorama: Create Panoramic View For Any Location



Remember It App – Many people have at least once forgotten their credit cards at a store, left their tab open at the bar when they left, forgotten to collect their coats from the coats check section, etc. To help remember our things at stores, a location-based alarm application “Remember It App” was created. The app uses GPS settings in your device to set location-based alarms. You can set the alarm to ring when you move a certain distance from your present location. Read more: Remember It App: A Highly Useful Location Based Alarm App



FindiLike – Are you stuck looking for hotels or places to stay that is almost what you are looking for, but not quite there yet? If so, then you should check out Find I Like. This app is a search engine for hotels that relies on your preferences and personal tastes. Instead of the usual filters, you can type in words like clean, safe, etc. Read more: FindILike: Search & Find Hotels By Preferences



BookCountry – If writing fiction is one of your hobbies, you might want to share your works with others and obtain constructive feedback. Similarly you might want to read what other writers similar to yourself are writing and provide feedback to them. Such interaction with fiction writers and readers is facilitated by a web service called Book Country. Read more: BookCountry: An Online Community For Fiction Writers & Readers


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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Tumblr Users Warned About Large-Scale Phishing Attack [News]

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 07:31 PM PDT

Microblogging site Tumblr and its users have been targeted recently with a phishing attack that lures unsuspecting users into entering their login details only to have them stolen. The scam operates by offering users access to additional content after inputting login details, in this instance “adult content”.

What makes this phishing scam slightly more sophisticated than usual is the way in which many were affected via Tumblr pages which contained code designed to imitate the Tumblr login. Not all users fell foul via this method, with some being directed to new URLs containing the faked login form.

Many of the Tumblr blogs that hosted this phishing code had been compromised in previous attacks. A small number of sites appear to be at the centre of the phishing effort, including tumblriq[dot]com, tumblrlogin[dot]com and tumblrsecurity[dot]com.

The scam has prompted a few Tumblr users to set up their own anti-phishing sites in order to warn other users, including and These community-led efforts contain information pertaining to phishing (and what it means) as well as recovering your Tumblr account if it has been compromised.

Tumblr themselves have been answering a lot of emails related to this incident recently, so many that they’ve prepared an automatic reply (above) for new support requests. The pre-defined response includes information about undoing the damage done by a compromised account.

Do you use Tumblr? Has this affected you at all? Let us know in the comments.

Source: GFI LABS Blog

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North Korea Demystified: A Selection Of Online Resources To Learn About This Secretive Country

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 06:31 PM PDT

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), or North Korea as it is more commonly known, is regarded by many as the world’s most isolated country. The volatile, far left state operates a tightly organised single party military dictatorship with “The Glorious Leader” Kim Jong-Il at the helm.

North Korea is a fascinating country as we know so very little about how the population of around 24 million people (2009 estimate) conducts its daily life. Over the years, more and more information has trickled out of North Korea, both from official government channels and defectors who have fled the country.

Why not start with the horse’s mouth? is the official website of the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea. Despite seeing fairly regular news updates, much of it is the recycled happenings of 60 years ago or renewed promises from The Great Leader.

You can also find information regarding delegate visits to the country (more on that later) as well as photo galleries of foreign visitors enjoying a taste of kimchi and communism. Interestingly the Korean Friendship Association “forum area“ has received a WordPress revamp since the last time I visited, which makes it a blog and certainly not a forum.

Many of these “forum” posts have comments disabled, though make sure you read the FAQ, which answers many burning questions – including the obvious: where can I get a signed photograph of Kim Jong-Il?

At the KFA shop of course.


For anyone who has ever fantasized about actually visiting North Korea there’s Koryo Tours. What better way to learn about this fascinating country than by going there? This won’t be like any holiday you’ve ever taken before. You’ll be accompanied everywhere you go by guides and restricted to your hotel once your arranged activities are over. No exploring!

Koryo Tours aren’t the only company that offer trips, but they’ve been successfully taking groups to the country since 1989. One thing you’ll find on the Koryo Tours website that you’re unlikely to see the last time you booked a fortnight abroad are these rules, which urge you to bow in the presence of statues and leave your chewing gum at home.

If you don’t think you’ll be making it over there any time soon then be sure to take a look at this fantastic gallery from The Big Picture which features some stunning photographs of a country with gargantuan highways and very few cars.

Believe it or not The Lonely Planet also have a section dedicated to the country and North Korea has theme parks.


If you enjoy a good Wikipedia article then there are some exhaustive efforts available to you on the topic of North Korea. Here’s a selection of the best:

  • North Korea – A detailed overview of the country with plenty of statistics and history.
  • Juche – Meaning “main subject”, Juche is the political thesis of Kim Il-Sung the (now deceased) “Eternal President” of DPRK.
  • Korean Demilitarized Zone – A thoroughly interesting article about the 2.5 mile wide, 160 mile long area that makes up the most militarized border in the world. Attractions include mines, checkpoints and a fake North Korean town.
  • List of cities in North Korea – Learn more about capital city Pyongyang and pollution blackspot Chongjin amongst other large settlements. Only the luckiest citizens are allowed to live in the capital.
  • Korean Peoples Army – North Korea has a large army, as well as an interest in weapons of mass destruction.
  • Arirang Festival – Often known as the Mass Games, this finely-tuned stage show happens once a year with an incredible display of synchronized acrobatics.

Propaganda & Uriminzokkiri

Despite not receiving the updates it once did, NKNews is the place for archived North Korean propaganda in text form. Check out the hall of fame for some of the best stories over the last few years.

The California Literary Review hosts a decent collection of North Korea propaganda posters as well as commentary and insight into the motives behind the messages and art style. If your Korean is up to scratch then you might find the official North Korean news agency’s interesting, but the English version doesn’t seem to work too well. There’s always the Korean Central News Agency, which speaks to the people on behalf of the Korean Workers Party (this is essentially “the news” in DPRK).

North Korea (much like the rest of the world) has embraced a few other outlets – notably YouTube and Flickr. The news agency’s YouTube account tries as hard as possible to depict North Korea as a normal, happy and prosperous country (though it’s not that hard to see through the cracks).

Uriminzokkiri’s Flickr account does little more than to confirm that Photoshop (actually, make that GIMP) has landed in North Korea – and they’re not afraid to use it.

Economy & Cartography

It seems odd to mix the two, but a website called North Korean Economy Watch has done just that with up to date, detailed analysis of the economic situation in DPRK and a Google Maps project. As well as news relating to construction projects, foreign investment and the controversial topic of private trade in the country, the editor Curtis Melvin has previously visited in 2004 and 2005.

Also hosted on Melvin’s site is North Korea Uncovered, a Google Maps project that has been featured in the Wall Street Journal for its extensive mapping of North Korea’s economic, cultural, political and military infrastructures. This is apparently the most comprehensive map of its kind, though you’re going to need Google Earth to view it.


Hopefully these resources will help expand your knowledge of this mysterious country, and though the resources are limited there is still a considerable amount of information surrounding North Korea online. There are also some great documentaries on the subject. If you enjoyed this article, you might also enjoy learning about shortwave numbers stations, another mysterious topic that’s been covered well online.

Are you interested in North Korea?  Have you ever visited the country? Do you have any other North Korea-related links that we might be interested in looking at? Post your thoughts and links in the comments.

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Forecaster – A Portable App That Will Place The Weather At Your Fingertips

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 05:31 PM PDT

Living in Canada, especially in springtime, sends me constantly to look at the weather. When one day can be cold and dry and the next hot and rainy, I really need to know what's going on outside before I step out. I’ve tried several weather widgets and apps in the past, but there was always something wrong. Either they were too heavy, or they did too many things, or they gave me too much information. I could never hold on to one for more than a few hours.

Enter Forecaster. Forecaster is a weather application for Windows (if you’re a Mac user, you may want to check out our previous coverage of Meteo) that is portable, lightweight, and simply tells you the weather. Really, that's all it does. It doesn’t affect my computer's performance and it doesn’t stick any eye-sores on my desktop. In fact, unless I look at my tray icons, I don't even know it exists.

Forecaster places a small (yet cute) icon in the tray which reveals the current weather at a glance. So far I’ve seen a sun, a raindrop and a cloud, but it has several more in stock. Hovering over the icon reveals a tooltip with the current conditions in my hometown. Very quick, very simple.

Clicking on the icon reveals a small window which shows me the current weather conditions and the forecast for the next four days. I love the balance between graphics and text in this window. It's not boring – in fact, it's pretty nice to look at – but it's also not cluttered with unnecessary graphics.

If you click on the “Change weather settings…” link at the bottom, you get to play with the very few options Forecaster offers. In the “Local Forecast” tab, you can change your current location and tell Forecaster to notify you when current conditions change (and how often). It also reveals that the source of the information is World Weather Online. This is not a website I was using regularly before, but so far the information has been pretty accurate (as much as a weather forecast can be).

The other two tabs offer between them three more things you can play with, and that's it. If you're looking for something you can configure to death, this isn’t it.

When you change or add locations, you can either type in a name of a place or a zip code. Typing in either “Hamilton, Ontario” or my zip code both worked fine, except that when entering a zip code, it’s the zip code the was displayed in the window and not the actual name of the town. I am assured by the developer that this issue will be fixed in the next version. The zip code option did not work at all when I tried it with an Israeli zip code, so there might be some more limitations to the zip code option.

The feature that really hit the nail on the head for me is the option to add more locations. The free version of Forecaster allows you to add one additional location. For me, this is enough, but the premium version is offered for just a $2 donation, so if you need more than two locations, that might be the way to go. Adding a location is quick and easy, again, by entering a name or a zip code.

As I mentioned earlier, Forecaster boasts a “Settings” tab with all of two things you can actually change. You can have Forecaster automatically load at startup, and you can change the temperature units. If you get the premium version, this is also where you activate it. Very bare-bones, but this is exactly what I find so appealing.

Another small glitch I’ve noticed is the lack of a moon tray icon. This means I get a sun icon in my tray in the middle of the night (notice the time in the screenshot). It's not the end of the world, as I don't really need a tray icon to tell me it's night, and this is another issue which is supposed to be fixed in the next version.

So I now have the weather for all these locations at my fingertips. Clicking on the little grey square switches from location to location so I can view all of them. Keep in mind that the last location you leave it on will be the one to be featured in your tray.

Forecaster is a fairly new application and, as you can gather, it is under constant development. Its website reveals it has been updated 3 times in the last two weeks and some of these were major updates. The developer is very active on the website, answers questions quickly and accepts fixes and feature requests, so even if you find a bug I didn’t encounter, chances are it will be fixed rather quickly.

All in all, Forecaster definitely delivers what it set out to – a no-frills weather forecast. Let us know in the comments if you know of something even better!

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3 Tools To Remind Yourself To Take A Break & Relax While Working At The Computer

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 04:31 PM PDT

relax at workWorking on the computer may not be very physical, nevertheless it’s tough on your body. Sitting all day can hurt your lower back and has a negative impact on your circulation. Extensive typing can stiffen the muscles in your upper back and neck, and finally staring at the screen for hours on end is very tiring and can cause serious problems, such as dry eyes. Moreover, office work has been associated with insomnia and anxiety. If you are damned to spend your working hours behind a desk, you had better find ways to do something good for your body.

The good news is that short breaks of relaxing and stretching can do wonders for your health and well being. And who doesn’t like to take breaks during work? In this article I will show you tools you can integrate into your workday to remind you that you need to take a break.


EVO is a website helper which runs your selection of a default or custom timer that will remind you of a 5 or 10 minute break. The setup is simplistic and not intrusive. During the screen, EVO can black out your screen and count down the time of your break.

take a break

EVO also provides instructions for eye gymnastics that you can go through during your break.

eye gymnastics

The creators of EVO have also launched a website that has information about the Computer Vision Syndrome.

Big Stretch Reminder (Windows)

Big Stretch Reminder is a reminder app designed to remind you to do regular stretches during your work day. It comes with a variety of options, including custom settings. You can select the time between breaks from a list of predefined options or create a custom setting.

stretch reminder

For the reminder mode you can choose between a non-intrusive balloon mode or an intrusive popup mode. The third option, the micro-break mode, is of the intrusive popup type. The message that is shown along with your break reminder can be a random tip or customized.

take a break

Breaker (Windows)

If you’re a workaholic who has no trouble getting lost in work and forgetting the time, then you should try Breaker. It’s a simple software that lets you set up breaks individually in a loop or pattern.

break reminder software

The app runs in the system tray and when you hover over it you can see the countdown to your next break. Once the time has run out, a quiet alarm and a little window in the bottom right of the screen reminds you that it’s time for a break or to get back to work.


Since Breaker allows the creation of custom patterns, it is also a great tool to easily remind yourself of meetings or appointments scattered throughout the day.

You can find more reminder apps here. For things to do during your breaks, check out the following articles:

MakeUseOf’s Web Developer James Bruce recently switched from a sitting to a standing desk - Take A Look At James' Home Setup [Show & Tell]

What is your desk setup? Do you have experience working at a standing desk or could you imagine doing it?

Image credits: AISPIX

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Mockup Builder Helps You Quickly Get Your Ideas On-Screen

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 03:31 PM PDT

So you have this incredible idea for a website. It’s kind of like LOLCats meets Star Wars, with a dash of Foursquare thrown in. It’s going to be bigger than Facebook. But when you try to pitch it to your friends or potential investors and show them how awesome it is, you run into lots of blank stares. What you need is a mockup, or a “dummy version” of your site, to help people understand your vision in clearer terms.

Another case where you may need a mockup is when re-designing an existing site, or extending it with a new section. Mockup Builder is a Silverlight-powered Web app that provides a very effective way to put those mockups together.

For this review, let’s start from the end. Here’s a mockup I made with Mockup Builder in a couple of minutes:


So we’ve got a headline, a subhead, a button and a video player. Anyone looking at this can see at a glance what these components are and where they sit on the screen in relation to each other. Now let’s see how I got them there:


So the interface looks a bit like the Ribbon in Office 2007/2010. It’s a horizontal menu up top, and then a row of large icons in every category. Not only is it similar to the ribbon, but it also gives a nod to Mac OS X’s dock:


See that zoom-in effect? Nice. Basically, all you have to do is go to the category of the item you’re looking for, find that item, and drag it onto the canvas. Removing an item is just as easy — just click it and hit Del. If that sounds basic, it’s because this is an app you’re supposed to be able to use instantly. Ideally, it should be as easy as drawing your mock-ups on paper.

Once you put your UI elements on the screen, you might want to align them. When you select more than one element, the sidebar changes to present a list of alignment commands:


Some of the icons are a bit similar, but if you hover over them, they show clear tooltips.

Next, let’s talk a little bit about the Screen Manager. You can use Mockup Builder to plan more than one screen. For instance, you can build a Wizard in an app, or a site registration process. Each step would take up one screen, and you can add as many screens as you need. But if it’s a Wizard interface, many elements repeat. The window always has to be in the same size, and you always have a Next and Back buttons. Mockup Builder’s developers thought about that, which is why you can create “Template Pages”.

A Template Page is just a basis for another page. You can create one page with your frame, and then use it as the template for all other pages. Here’s an example:


See how the background is greyed-out? That’s because I just created a new page, used my “main” page as the template, and added an alert box on top. That was easy!

But how can you switch between screens? Well, I’m glad you asked! Turns out you can select any element (button, label, whatever) and just link it to a screen. Here’s an example:


In this case, I linked a button to Screen 3, which is the Alert screen. So when you click that button, the presentation will jump to screen 3. That’s right – I said presentation, and that’s what we’ll look at next. After all, when the time comes to share your brilliant idea, you’ll want a nice way to show your mockup. Mockup Builder provides a Presentation View just for this purpose. It looks like this:


So your mock-up looks exactly the same, only it’s “static”, so to speak. In presentation mode, links work (so if I click Boom!, I get an alert box). Also, you can’t drag elements around just by clicking them. You get a host of other tools useful for talking about your creation (rather than directly changing it). Here’s the presentation-mode toolbar:


The first button exits presentation mode – they could have made this clearer. But the others are quite clear. You can point at things on the screen, doodle around them, erase other marks (not the mockup itself), add text, etc. Here’s my interface after I played with some of the presentation tools:


This is fantastic for showing things on-screen in a presentation, or even in a Skype screen-sharing session. Speaking of which, you can also invite other people to look at your mock-up:


The resulting email contains a simple link. In fact, let me share it with all of you right now: — simply click that, and you’ll be transported right into this cutting-edge self-destruct interface, which you can tweak and improve to your heart’s content.

Bottom Line

As a web designer/content author, I am often called upon to come up with new layout ideas. I have no doubt I will be using Mockup Builder for this in the future — it is a very capable, fast and free tool. Lovely.  Have a go at it yourself and let us know what you think of it in the comments.

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How To Turn Off GPS In Private Places Using Tasker [Android]

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 02:31 PM PDT

With the plethora of amazing gadgets people own these days, it’s really easy to overlook privacy concerns which, upon reflection, are quite obvious. One of the simplest of these is geotagging photos. While it’s an incredibly handy tool for sight-seeing and worldwide data collection, it can be a pretty serious privacy threat.

Privacy issues in mind, one realises that while GPS settings on cameras need to be controlled manually, devices such as smartphones can be automated. Android users with the Tasker program can automatically turn GPS settings on and off according to a set of rules like, for instance, how close they are to their house.

Where Would I Want To Turn Off GPS?

With camera geotagging and other location-based applications running on your phone, there can be many instances where you’d like to turn off GPS settings:

  • At home.
  • When visiting friends.
  • Schools.
  • Parks you frequent with your kids.
  • Your office.
  • Favourite cafés.

Think about it – where would you like to keep as a sanctuary for your family and friends? Free from stalkers?

What’s Tasker?

Tasker is a very versatile program which allows users to automate almost everything on their Android device. It’s not free (currently it’s sold for €4.32), but you can get a 7-day free trial by visiting the Tasker website.

Managing GPS Settings On Android Using Tasker

There are a number of ways to obtain GPS privacy on your phone using Tasker. Tasker allows you to use a variety of triggers to change your settings, so you can set up many different things at once.

  • Turn on GPS when you open certain apps (and close it afterwards).
  • Turn off GPS when you connect to a certain Wi-Fi network.
  • Turn off GPS at certain times of day (perhaps regularly in order to ensure GPS is usually off).
  • Turn off GPS when a calendar event indicates you will be at a certain location.
  • Turn off GPS when you are near a certain location.

We’re going to show you how to set up a location-based trigger using Tasker.

Setting Up A Location-Based Trigger

Head into Tasker and you’ll see a list of current profiles – think of profiles as the triggers for your tasks. Press “New” and choose the type “Location” from the list of options.

Zoom in and out on the map until you can find the location which you’d like to use to trigger Tasker into action. Click on the exact location and choose what sort of radius you’d like around that location. In this case, I’ve decided that 500 meters of privacy around my work location will be fine. You can choose whether to use GPS location data or network data to determine whether you’re in that area – stick with both for now. Tasker will ask you to choose a name for the context – just choose a name which will remind you of the location you’ve chosen.

Then Tasker will ask you to add or create a task for this Profile. If you’ve already created a task for turning off GPS settings, by all means re-use that. If not, click on “Add new” and choose a name for the task.

In the task, click on the + symbol to add a new entry. Choose “Misc” from the list of options and then choose “GPS“. Ensure it’s set to turn OFF and click “Done“. You’ll be back in the task now. Since there’s nothing you need to add to this, click “Done” to save.

Now it’s ready and working, and the GPS will be turned off whenever you reach that location.

Turning GPS Back On Again

You may wish to play it safe and use a GPS toggle on your dashboard to turn GPS on again manually. Or you can set up any number of Tasker tasks to turn it back on, including one which turns the GPS on at a certain time or when you’re in another location. Note that if GPS is turned on while you’re still in that location it will trigger Tasker to turn it off again.

The easiest way to turn GPS back on again is to use an exit task on your original profile. When viewing your profile, the task it triggers is shown with a green arrow. Click on that and choose the option to “Add an exit task“. Create your task exactly as before, only this time toggle the GPS to ON.

It may seem counter-intuitive to have a location-based trigger to turn on the tool which finds out your location, but the network location (which I told you to leave on for this profile) will soon be able to tell if you’re near that location or not. Be aware though, that this will result in your phone having GPS enabled whenever you leave that location. That might be too often for some people, so consider some of the other options offered earlier.

Other Uses for a Location-Based Tasker Trigger

There are so many great uses for a location-based Tasker trigger. Personally, I use location triggers to control several things, such as:

  • Disabling 3G access when travelling internationally.
  • Popping up a shopping list when I visit my local grocery store.
  • Turn off GPS at certain locations.

More Android Automation

If you’re into automating your Android phone, you’ll love these articles:

What do you think of Tasker? If we write more articles on Tasker in the future, what features would you like us to go through in more detail? Let us know in the comments!

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Eclipse TV: A Web-Based Media Center For Online Streaming

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 12:31 PM PDT

Find a wide variety of online television right now, from your browser. Perfect for exploring for things to watch, Eclipse TV is a great way to find something to watch online right now. Whether you’re looking for live news or free movies, you’ll be surprised at what you can find on the web with this tool.

At first glance, Eclipse TV may look like little more than a compilation of bookmarks. That’s not too far from the truth, but it is also a really good list of bookmarks. There’s not much you can’t find here, and everything linked to takes you to a page that’s easily browsable from your television.

I spend a lot of time looking for things to watch online, and I discovered one really good live news stream and a few collections of movies I’d never heard of previously here. Odds are you’ll find something new too.

Quality Videos From Around The Web

You can use Eclipse TV in two ways – either by installing the Chrome app or by simply visiting the Eclipse website. Once you get everything working you’ll see a simple interface:

You can use your mouse to browse things of course, but it’s worth noting that your keyboard will also work. This means that most remotes can work with this service out of the box.

As seen above, there are four main buttons at the top that allow you to browse content – On Demand, Live/Streams, TV Apps and Launchpad. Each of these sections are divided into other categories, which you’ll see in the above screenshot. Using this organizational system, Eclipse TV links to over 100 sources for video.

The on demand sources range from the familar – YouTube and Hulu – to sites I’d never heard of, including the seemingly amazing Crackle. Every link will take you to the most TV friendly version of a given site, which is very nice. Some of these streams won’t work outside of the US which is sad, but perhaps future versions of the site will work in different regions.

The live streams section gives you access to various real-time broadcasts. I was particularly impressed by the news selection:

The TV Apps section is a collection of games and other things that might be useful or fun to browse from a TV, including the new Angry Birds for your browser.

Finally, there is the Launchpad. This is where you can put your own, custom bookmarks.

Log in with your Google account and these passwords will be saved.

It’s worth noting that the entire Eclipse project is open source. Find the source code here if you’re interested.

What It’s For

So what’s this piece of software for? According to the software’s creator, K.L. Thompson, it’s meant to make finding stuff to watch easier regardless of platform:

Eclipse TV is not an alternative to Boxee or Google TV, it has primarily been designed to compliment these and other internet television systems. Though it may be used as a lightweight variant to such services on TV connected PCs.

So this is not intended as a replacement for the likes of Boxee, Google TV or XBMC. Could is work as a replacement, though? I think so. Boxee’s main appeal is its apps, but most of the best services are right here in Eclipse. Best of all, because you can use it from a standard browser, there’s no way for Hulu and the like to block you from using it.

Could you see yourself using a web service like Eclipse to power your media center? Let us know in the comments below.

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10 Apps To Make Your Old Windows Mobile Phone Useful

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 11:31 AM PDT

A few years ago, I covered a list of Windows Mobile apps, like the 4 spy apps or the 6 useful apps for college kids. Karl also hit on a number of cool apps for Windows Mobile, like the full PDF guide, and his list of sites to get the best freeware for WM6. But I’ve now switched to a Motorola Droid. The Cingular 8125 running Windows Mobile 5 has been stored away in my bedside drawer since 2010.

Recently, I’ve been building a home web server that I have running in my office without a keyboard or monitor attached. I connect to it via VNC from my laptop whenever I want to work on it. The other night, I stumbled upon my old Windows Mobile phone and at that moment, my brain started turning. Why do I have this great device stashed away in a drawer, when it could be put to good use? Even though there’s no cellular service, it still has Wi-Fi capability, so it can still serve as a little mobile computer.

Realizing that there are probably a lot of other people out there with devices like this collecting dust, I decided to transform this seemingly useless phone into a highly-useful, productive mobile network device.

Accessing Music & Information

Basically, I wanted to transform this device into a bedside tool that I could use to get instant access to news, music, and of course the time and calendar. I also wanted the device to have constant connectivity to my home network, for troubleshooting and working on the server.

The first order of business was to load up useful Internet-ready content apps. The first choice I went with was OPENweb Radio. This application gives you access to streaming content from local radio stations all around the world. After installing the app and launching it, I found a few stations around here.

When you click to listen to the station, the streaming audio comes up in Windows Media Player. If you want to use the device as a bedside clock, having a radio is an obvious feature that it really needs.

I also wanted to make sure that the mobile device could also stream podcasts from around the web. I have a number of NPR (National Public Radio) podcasts that I really like, and being able to plug my headphones into my old WM5 phone and listen to them while lying in bed would be very cool. The best app for that is PPC Podcast.

You can choose podcasts from the list of categories included with the app, or you can do like I do and just manually type in the RSS link for your favorite podcast feeds from throughout the Internet.

Just like OpenWeb Radio, the content streaming takes place in Windows Media Player on the device.

Finally, I wanted to load the highest quality bedside clock app as possible on the WM5 device, and I discovered a pretty cool full-screen alarm clock app called WolfClock that works on Windows Mobile 5 just fine.

WolfClock is a fully customizable alarm clock application. You can completely change the color scheme and background of the display, and you can also modify how and when the clock runs, and what the alarm sounds like when it goes off. You can even set it to start the alarm soft and then increase the volume over time.

Network Monitoring Device

Even more than using the old device as a bedside clock and media device, I also wanted the ability to pick up the device and use it to access remote systems on my home network. One very useful app, particularly in a bedroom where you might have a computer running a video display across the room as a television, is PPC Remote Control.

As you can see from the image above, you can use this app to control just about everything the computer can do. This includes launching and controlling PowerPoint presentations, controlling Windows Media Player, and even remotely controlling the PC mouse and keyboard.

Surprisingly, mouse and keyboard control is very intuitive and easy to use, even on an old Windows Mobile 5 device with an old-style touchscreen that requires a little more pressure than today’s touchscreens.

The app that I was really looking forward to using was the VNC Viewer. All I needed to do was install a VNC Viewer on this old WM5 phone and I can connect to my web server just like I’m sitting in front of it.

Of course, when you’re network troubleshooting, you want the ability to quickly check out the integrity of your connections. Ping is required for that, and the perfect app to perform ping with your old WM phone is PingBox.

Just type in the IP to check, click on “Ping“, and the app takes care of the rest.

Finally, the last monitoring tool that I find nice to have handy is the PPC Interface tool which provides a graphical display of all traffic in and out of the Windows Mobile device.

As you can see, it seems silly to store away a perfectly good smartphone in the back of a drawer, when there are so many cool things you can still do with that device. The fact that it can still access the Internet through Wi-Fi means that it can become a fully-functioning mobile computer. All you have to do is install the apps above, and you’re in business.

Do you have any old mobile devices hanging around the house? Have you reused them as useful wireless devices on your home network? Share some of your own ideas and experiences in the comments section below.

Image Credit: Stephen Davies

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How To Install Arch Linux On Your Computer [Part 1]

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 10:31 AM PDT

During my couple of months here at MakeUseOf, I’ve mentioned Arch Linux (hereafter simply called “Arch”) a couple of times. However, Arch has never really been covered here, so people may still be a little bit confused as to the purpose of Arch, and more importantly, how to get it installed and running on their computer. No need to worry folks, as I’ve got you covered with a clear path to getting an Arch system with GNOME running on your system.

About Arch

Arch is a distribution that concentrates on the KISS principle (Keep It Short and Simple). Therefore, the entire distribution is very minimalistic and values code correctness. Arch has no defaults. As a warning, Arch focuses a lot on the terminal. So go ahead and boot it up, log into it, and run the setup script, which will begin your journey.

Once you’ve successfully installed Arch’s base onto your hard drive, you’ll boot from that and start with the installation of the graphical server, sound server, and eventually work up to the desktop environment. In other words, you build up your own personalized system from almost (but not quite) scratch so there isn’t any “fat”. You could install any of the desktop environments that it has to offer, or you could skip all that and use your Arch box as a server. What you do with it is up to you.

Getting Started

So, as I said, you first have to download the base ISO from their website. For my test installation, I’ll be using VirtualBox, and because the emulated hardware of VirtualBox will require a few different packages than raw hardware, a few parts of this series won’t work word for word. Whenever such a moment arises, I’ll let you know and try to give clear directions for what is possible for your raw hardware.

Once the download completes, you’ll need to burn it onto a CD or USB stick. Once that completes, go ahead and boot your computer from that media and it’ll load onto the login screen with instructions on what to do next. The screen will tell you what the root and user logins are, so go ahead and use the root login because you’ll want as many permissions as possible to perform an installation.


When you successfully log in, the next screen will tell you that you need to run /arch/setup to launch the setup script. It will then welcome you to the installation and continue.

You’ll first have to select the source. Unless you downloaded the netinstall ISO, I’d recommend installing from the CD. Next you’ll need to set the clock, which should be straightforward. You’ll also need to choose whether it should set the BIOS time as UTC or localtime. Unless you have a Windows partition on your hard drive, I’d recommend using UTC.

The next step is to partition your hard drive. You can do this automatically, where you can specify the sizes of the /boot, swap, and /, where /home will take up the rest of the hard drive. You’ll also need to select the file system you wish to use, and accept one last confirmation before changes take place.

Going on, selecting packages is the next step. It’ll first ask you if you wish to install the base and base-devel, but unless you specifically need base-devel, I’d just install base. Next you’ll get a list of other possible packages to install. The first ones that are all marked belong to the base group, so you need to keep those. Below that are some other packages. You should look through this to see what you might need, such as sudo, tzdata, openssh, kernel headers, and possibly WiFi tools. You can select packages that you want with the spacebar, and hitting enter will continue to the next screen.

After selecting the packages to install, the next step is to actually install them.

In only a couple of minutes you’ll get a screen that says that the installation has completed. Hit enter to leave that stage, and you’ll again be greeted by the menu.

Next you have to configure your system for anything that is configurable at this time. First you need to edit /etc/rc.conf. Select that file, then scroll down until you find hostname. Between the quotation marks, change myhost to something else that will identify your computer. The rest of the defaults should be fine. Hit Ctrl + X and Y to save, then head over to /etc/pacman.d/mirrorlist. Here you’ll need to go through the list and choose some servers you’d like to pull updates from.

Preferably you should enable servers that are geographically close to you. To enable a server, you need to delete the # in front of the line. Once you’ve done doing that to all servers you would like to check, save with Ctrl + X and Y. Finally, you need to set your root password, which is self explanatory. Now you can scroll to the bottom of the menu and hit Done.

Final Stretch

Finally, install GRUB. If you have other operating systems, you will need to add them into the configuration. It asks you to confirm. Choose where to install, let it install, hit OK, and type reboot to restart. You’re finally done!

If you’re following this article, how did your installation go? Anything that needs improvement? If you haven’t tried yet, are you going to? Let us know in the comments!

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DOWNLOAD Laptop Buying Guide 2011

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 09:51 AM PDT

Computer hardware is constantly changing, but it’s not entirely unpredictable. There are often distinct trends, and today’s laptop market is no different.

Not sure where to start? You should read our “2011 Laptop Buying Guide”, from MakeUseOf writer Matt Smith. This guide lets you know what specs matter on a modern computer, which brands to look out for and more.

Advancing computer hardware is always great for consumers. This guide is not just about hardware, however, and for good reason. It’s easy to become sucked up in technical mumbo-jumbo. Some retail outlets depend on it. The next thing you know, you’ve spent $200 more than you’d budgeted and have a laptop that’s twice as powerful as you need with a keyboard you don’t want to spend more than five minutes typing on.

Educate yourself before you spend any money. Read this guide.

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This guide outlines:

  • Discovering your personal needs.
  • Which specs matter on a modern computer.
  • The hardware that makes up a laptop.
  • The importance of screens and keyboards.
  • Whether a netbook is right for you.
  • The difference between the major laptop brands, from Acer to Toshiba.
  • What to look for in a warranty, if you want one at all.

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Transfer Files Wirelessly Between Computers & iOS Devices With The Help Of FileApp

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 09:31 AM PDT

One of the biggest complaints from iOS users is how tied up their devices are to their computer and iTunes. A user has to cable-connect their iDevice(s) to a computer and sync with iTunes to get files in and out of the device. Apple has already addressed this issue in the upcoming iOS 5, but we have to wait until the autumn to apply the solution.

In the meantime, there is an iOS app called FileApp which will help users transfer files wirelessly between computers and iOS devices.

The iDevice Side

FileApp is not only a file manager, but also a universal file viewer. You can use it to open almost any kind of file, from common documents like TXT, DOC, and PDF, to multimedia files such as images, audio, and video. You can find the list of supported files on FileApp’s features page.

  • The first time you open FileApp, you will see the “Start Here” folder. Tap the folder to find the “FileApp Getting Started” PDF guide.

01a get startb

  • Open the PDF to see a quick walkthrough on using FileApp. Opening the guide also demonstrates FileApp’s ability to handle PDF documents. But you can also open the document using other supporting apps. Just tap the “Open In…” and you can choose what app you want to use to open the document.

01b open with

The file viewer also gives you the ability to share, adjust the zoom level, and delete the viewed file.

  • To start a wireless file transfer between a computer and an iOS device, tap the WiFi button at the top of the page.

03z sharing button b

  • The “Sharing” page will open. You will see the green indicator light alongside the “Sharing is On” label. This means you can start transferring files. To turn sharing on or off, press the white “Stop Sharing” button. FileApp also supports file sharing via USB, but the process requires iTunes or DiskAid (a paid app).
  • To connect your computer to your iDevice, you’ll need the FTP address of the device. Tap the WiFi button to get the address.

02a start sharing

The Computer Side

Now it’s time to set up the connection on the computer side.


Setting up under Windows is very easy and doesn’t require any additional applications.

  • First, open Windows Explorer (either by clicking the icon or by using the Windows + E shortcut key combination). Then type in the FTP address that you got from the iOS app into the address bar of Explorer. Hit “Enter” and you will be able to see the content of the FileApp folder.

07z win explorer

  • You can treat the FTP location as if it were another location on your computer’s hard drive. Transferring files between the two devices is as easy as dragging and dropping the items from one location to another.

07zz copying

Mac OS X

The situation is a little bit different under Mac OS X. I tried to use Finder to open the FTP location but failed. You’ll need a little help from an FTP client to get the job done. There are a number of good clients you can use. One of the recommended names is CyberDuck.

  • Start by opening a new connection and choose FTP from the connection type. Put the iOS FTP address into the server address field, and choose to log in anonymously. Then click “Connect”.

04a open connection

  • You can transfer files by dragging and dropping them between Finder and Cyberduck. If you use an FTP client that supports local file browsing, the process would be simpler.

04d share files

  • The transfer speed will depend on the file size and the speed of your WiFi connection.

04e transfers

  • The transfer process on the iOS device is indicated by rotating bars around the green indicator. After the transfer process is finished, the file will appear on FileApp’s main display.

07a file transferred

  • FileApp allows you to sort the transferred files by folder, name, date, file type, and last opened. You can also use the search function to look for the file that you need.

07b sort by

The free version of FileApp only supports file viewing and not file editing. You can’t create folders on the iOS interface either. However, you can create folders on your computer while the devices are connected.

Have you tried FileApp? What do you think about it? Do you know or use other similar alternatives? Share your opinions using the comments below.

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Google+ Circles, Sparks & All The Rest: What’s To Know? [News]

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 08:59 AM PDT

Google have just announced their Google+ project, which integrates social networking features with mobile technology, video chat, easy sharing and things which make everyday life easier. It’s a huge step forward for Google, having previously failed at social networking attempts. This time however, it looks like they’re offering an extremely useful service with some important features users will like and find easy to use.

To sign up with Google+ users will need an invitation, however Google has already exceeded capacity and will only allow users to show interest for now. Once users have signed up, they’ll also be able to access Google social networks via a dedicated Android phone application.

Google Circles is the primary focus of the big announcement and heralds Google’s most successful attempt at social networking so far. It looks a lot like Facebook, but it is designed to make it easy to share information with just the right combination of friends. Here’s a video showing Google Circles in action.

Hangouts are an attempt to make online video chats more serendipitous. Users let their circles know that they’re free to hangout and people can drop into the chat as they’re available. It’s a lot like hanging out in real life.

Live photo updates allow users to choose to automatically put photos taken on their phone into private storage in the cloud as they’re taken. This makes it far easier for users to share them from other devices later.

Google has also integrated location features in an effort to make interactions via phones lead to more meaningful real-life interactions. In essence, sharing location information means that friends will know if someone is nearby or in other noteworthy locations. Google have also taken precautions to ensure privacy is protected and users can choose whether to share location data.

Huddle allows users to put together an instant group for messaging, meaning everyone is informed of updates at the same time.

Sparks is an easy way to keep track of tags that interest you, and is integrated into Google Circles so that users find it easy to share interesting things they find online. Take a look at this video of Google Sparks in action.

Do you think Google+ has a chance over Facebook? Will you use it? Let us know in the comments!

Source: Google System Blog

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The Three Best 3D Tower Defense Games For The PC

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 08:31 AM PDT

Tower Defense is one of the most popular game genres today, and it's easy to see why. The basic idea – mowing down enemies as they approach your fortifications – is both satisfying and easy to learn. Yet, on the other hand, this formula can be twisted to create extremely complex gameplay.

However, many Tower Defense games are low-budget and/or browser-based efforts. There's nothing wrong with that, but if you have a PC capable of beautiful 3D graphics, why not put that power to work? Let's have a look at some 3D tower defense games that go beyond the basics.

Defense Grid: The Awakening

Launched all the way back in 2008 for the PC, Defense Grid is far from the newest title that's available for tower defense gamers. Yet it is, in my opinion, still the definitive tower defense title. If you're interested in this genre, you owe it to yourself to play this game.

Defense Grid isn't particularly unique, nor does it twist the genre in new or surprising ways. Instead, this game builds itself on a backbone of solid level design, great pacing, and good tower selection. The basics which are there are executed with masterful precision. Although most of the turrets and opponents are simple at first glance, the level design combines these elements in clever ways to create steadily more difficult challenges.

The game looks good even on old hardware, so you don't have to fret much about system requirements. Any discrete GPU made within the last three years should run it, as will many integrated solutions.

Defense Grid is $9.99 on Steam.


Tower Defense is a genre that's mature, and as a result it's becoming more difficult for games to stand out, particularly when titles like Defense Grid are already available. Simply slapping together some levels, turrets and enemies isn't enough.

Sanctum, a new 3D tower defense game released just this year, twists the concept by putting you in the first person perspective and handing you a gun. Now fighting off the bad guys isn't just a matter of running them through your maze of turrets, but also shooting them yourself. Some of the opponents are designed in ways that make player intervention a necessity for success, and the included co-op mode is a real blast if you and a partner want to go toe-to-toe with the alien hoards.

As it's new, Sanctum does require relatively new hardware to run well. A dual-core processor with a clock speed of 2GHz is recommended, and a discrete GPU will probably be required for smooth gameplay.

Sanctum is $14.99 on Steam.

Sol Survivor

Released in 2009, Sol Survivor is an indie tower defense game that came first to consoles but then hit the PC in 2010. In many ways, Sol Survivor is a basic but well executed tower defense game similar to Defense Grid. The single-player campaign offers a wide variety of turrets and opponents, and the challenge of the game comes from how these basic tools are combined to create challenging scenarios.

What sets Sol Survivor apart, however, is the wealth of multiplayer content. There are several co-op modes available including campaign and survival. There's also a “wars” mode in which players send out their own creeps against enemy players while also defending against the creeps sent by everyone else.

Sol Survivor is the least attractive game on this list in my opinion, but it's still not bad to look at. The system requirements only ask for a 2GHz single-core processor along with a video card on par with a Nvidia GeForce 8800 GS, which is ancient by modern standards. Most computers with a discrete GPU won't have a problem with this game.

Sol Survivor is $9.99 on Steam.

Honorable Mention – Anomaly: Warzone Earth

Of the 3D tower defense games I've played recently, Anomaly: Warzone Earth is the best. So why does it only receive an “honorable mention”?

That's because it's a reverse tower defense game. In Anomaly you play as a group of soldiers trying to penetrate heavily defended alien anomalies. You use your commander's various powers to keep your units from harm and destroy enemy turrets. It's the traditional formula flipped on its head.

The gameplay is excellent, the graphics are astounding, and it is easily the best among 3D tower defense games.  You do need a recent system with a modern video card to play the game at the highest detail settings, however.

Anomaly: Warzone Earth is $9.99 on Steam.


These games are all stand-outs in the genre, and should be picked up eventually by anyone who's a fan. Even those who don't consider themselves veterans of tower defense should have a look at Defense Grid and Anomaly: Warzone Earth – they're both excellent games.

Let us know if you have a favorite of your own that we haven’t mentioned here.

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