Saturday, July 2, 2011 “Cool Websites and Tools [July 1st]” plus 12 more “Cool Websites and Tools [July 1st]” plus 12 more

Link to MakeUseOf

Cool Websites and Tools [July 1st]

Posted: 01 Jul 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!


Appsbar – Do you have a wonderful idea about a smartphone application but do not have the technical skills to code the app? If yes, then you will be pleased to know that a site called AppsBar lets build your own smartphone app for Android and iOS devices for free. You start by creating an account on the site and choosing between Android and iOS. Read more: Appsbar: Easily Build Smartphone Apps For iOS & Android Devices


Parcels – Being able to track a parcel over your phone is a convenient thing to do. Today, there are a number of Android apps that can track packages but unfortunately, not all of them have support for the majority of shipping services. So if you are looking for an Android app that offers an extensive number of shipping services, check out Parcels. Read more: Parcels: All In One Shipping Tracker For Android Device



Stolen Camera Finder – Modern digital cameras store their serial number in the metadata of pictures they take. If somebody who has stolen your digital camera shoots photos with it and uploads them to the web, you can use the serial number to track down the camera. An easy way you can do this is through is Stolen Camera Finder. Read more: Stolen Camera Finder: Get Help In Finding Your Lost & Stolen Digital Cameras



Weddar – Tools like and AccuWeather are all good when you want to see data, but they don't really tell you what the weather is like for people living in that location. For example, 80 degrees in Houston and 80 degrees in New York can be two totally different things. Read more: Weddar: A People Powered Weather App [iPhone]



Jedi-Concentrate – Working with multiple open windows can be very distracting, leading to a loss of productivity. Sometimes, all you need to do is focus on one window to get that one task done.. We have previously reviewed Hazeover. Now we have Jedi Concentrate, an equivalent Windows app that can help you focus on a window without having to minimize all of the other windows. Read more: Jedi-Concentrate: Darken Inactive Windows For Better Work Focus


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.

Cool Websites and Tools [July 1st] is a post from: MakeUseOf

More articles about:

Similar articles:

Hipmunk Flight Search Now Finds Planes With Wi-Fi [News]

Posted: 01 Jul 2011 07:31 PM PDT

Flight and hotel search engine Hipmunk updated its search results with wireless internet indicators on Tuesday, allowing prospective passengers to choose a flight with Wi-Fi on-board before they book.

Wireless availability is indicated by a small icon on each entry, with no need for additional clicks or searches. These indicators don’t necessarily mean that connecting is free however, as that is determined by the flight operators.

In a blog post announcing the feature, the Hipmunk team said:

At Hipmunk, we're travel nerds, but we're also nerd nerds. That means we like the Internet, especially on our flights. We've heard that many of you like wi-fi on your planes, too—either when you're traveling for work or when you just need some quality Facebook time. So we decided to build Wi-Fi right into our flight search results.

Hipmunk are also currently teaming up with in-flight wireless provider Gogo to dish out around 100 free in-flight wireless codes via their Twitter and Facebook pages.

The blog entry stated:

We'll be asking our fans and followers how they surf the web 35,000 feet in the air. Tell us at any point this week and be entered for your chance to win free wireless, courtesy of Hipmunk and Gogo.

Source: Hipmunk Blog

Follow MakeUseOf on Twitter. Includes cool extras.

Hipmunk Flight Search Now Finds Planes With Wi-Fi [News] is a post from: MakeUseOf

More articles about: , , , ,

Similar articles:

The 7 Best Questions From You [MakeUseOf Answers]

Posted: 01 Jul 2011 06:31 PM PDT

MakeUseOf AnswersEvery Friday MakeUseOf Answers honors the Best Answer of the Week. This is our opportunity to reward our reader’s expertise and time required to solve tough questions. Did you know that each and every comment is reviewed for the contest and that your feedback can help decide the winners? This is your time to shine and make someone’s day!

This week the winners are:

Best Answer of the Week – Christopher Royall

1st Runner Up – MrKimB

2nd Runner Up – Tim McCarble

Congratulations to the winners!

You may not have won this week, but I did notice your answer and I'm looking forward to more! Be next week's winner. Meanwhile, check out the best questions of the week:

For regular updates subscribe to the Answers RSS Feed.

Need help? Ask A Question at MakeUseOf Answers.

Need Assistance? Ask questions to MakeUseOf staff and thousands of other readers on MakeUseOf Answers!

The 7 Best Questions From You [MakeUseOf Answers] is a post from: MakeUseOf

More articles about: , , ,

Similar articles:

Start Your Own Peer-To-Peer Online Educational Course For Free

Posted: 01 Jul 2011 04:31 PM PDT

In past articles we have shared a wealth of free online college courses, as well as courses for free download in iTunes U, hosted by popular universities around the country. But if you have the skills and dedication for sharing your knowledge and collaborating with others online, the newly revamped grassroots website, Peer 2 Peer University allows anyone to start and offer an online course on any subject.

P2PU was started two years ago by five people and has grown into a community of about 1,000 students and teachers, teaching or participating in a variety of six-week long and continuously running online classes. The goal of P2PU is to make learning and knowledge available to everyone through the use of online technology and resources. Much of the project is run by volunteers, but P2PU has also received support from the Hewlett Foundation, the Shuttleworth Foundation, and the University of Irvine.


Courses Offered

P2PU currently has over two dozen courses on subjects including PHP Programming, Introduction to Linux, Formal Reasoning in Computer Science, Microeconomics, Blogging and Writing for the Web, Mathematics on Computers, Javascript, and HTML 5.


After registering on the site, you can follow or participate in any listed course. Participants in a course are allowed to post messages and comments on the “course wall” and participate in the class activities and tasks.


P2PU also includes three ongoing schools - School of Social Innovation, School of the Mathematical Future and School of Webcraft, the last of which is a project developed in partnership with the Mozilla Foundation to teach the skills of web development and standards. Courses can also be created for these particular schools.

Create A Course

Most of the current P2PU courses are technical or skills-oriented, but the original pilot of P2PU is to allow for courses and study groups on any subject of interest, e.g., cyberpunk literature, philosophy, movie criticism, personal finance literacy, a foreign language and music theory.


To start a course, first update your membership profile and then select Dashboard  > Create New Topic, under your Profile. You can create a new course from scratch, clone an existing study or import a course from the old P2PU site.


As you might expect, you will need a name and brief description of your course, and the type of class it will be, e.g. study group, seminar, workshop, or working group. In your profile you will want to state your own background and expertise for teaching the course.


Next, you will need to outline your course content, which mainly consists of a series of tasks for participants. Tasks can include an overview of the course, posted readings or links to documents, activity assignments, planned online presentations and discussions, multimedia presentations and the like. Additional information on creating a course can be learned from this video tutorial.

Finally, you will probably need to promote your course or study group on social networking sites, as well as blogging sites related to your topic. You could for example write a press release announcing the course and send it out to related media sites and bloggers. P2PU also promotes all courses on its homepage and blog.


A few P2PU courses are geared toward instructors and methods for teaching, such as the P2PU Handbook course, Collaborative Lesson Planning, and Introduction to Contributing to Lernanta, which is the open source platform that P2PU runs on.

P2PU doesn't offer official credentials for teaching and successful completion of a course, but instructors and organizers of a course can provide certificates and other forms of acknowledgements for participation and completion of assignments.

While P2PU is still in the experimental stage, the project is the type of innovation that demonstrates how the Internet can be used to broaden educational opportunities, based on the foundations of openness, community, and peer learning.

Let us know what you think of P2PU. Have you ever participated in an online course? Share your experiences!

Image Credit:

Start Your Own Peer-To-Peer Online Educational Course For Free is a post from: MakeUseOf

More articles about: , ,

Similar articles:

Two Chrome Browser Add-ons For A Better YouTube Viewing Experience

Posted: 01 Jul 2011 03:31 PM PDT

Few things online can be as fun as YouTube. I can lose myself for hours watching videos. But the basic YouTube experience could use some improvement. Wouldn’t it be nice if videos could buffer as soon as a tab opened, and did so at exactly the quality I liked (or which worked with my connection)?

And wouldn't it be refreshing if YouTube was a tad less cluttered with widgets, doodads, comments, related videos and other bits of text?

A Cleaner YouTube

A Cleaner YouTube is an add-on available for Chrome, Firefox and Safari. In fact, we've covered the Safari version before. It may not be for everyone; but if you're a minimalist at heart, this is one add-on you're going to like. Here's what YouTube looks like with this add-on installed:


I intentionally captured my entire browser window, so you would see just how uncluttered it is. A Cleaner YouTube somehow manages to distill YouTube down to just the bare essentials, while still leaving everything you need in reach.

The top bar contains a search bar, Browse and Upload buttons, your user menu (if you're logged on) and a Sign Out link. Under the video you can see this:


So you can easily access comments and other information. Here's what happens when you click that link:


The comments open up instantly and seamlessly, and you can do all of the “social” things Google so very much wants you to do.  But if you're more of an “I just want to watch this video and move on with life” kind of person, you may appreciate how the comments stay out of the way.

As an added bonus, A Cleaner YouTube also cleans out Amazon. Here's what Amazon looks like after the Cleaner treatment:


Okay, that stripped-down Amazon is just a bit too 1990′s for me, but for YouTube, A Cleaner YouTube is almost perfect. The only feature I would like them to add is a dark background. Being able to “turn off the lights” on YouTube with this add-on would make it a perfect ten in my book.

But now that we've got everything around the video taken care of, what can we do about the video itself?

SmartVideo For YouTube

SmartVideo For YouTube is a great deal more complex than A Cleaner YouTube, but it lets you exert uncompromising control over every aspect of your video experience. Check out the options panel:


Just a little bit scary, right? Who knew there could be so many options for just one video?

The configuration you see above is the one I use day to day. SmartVideo buffers the video for me as soon as the page loads. Once it's ready to play, it pops up a Chrome desktop notification, so even if I'm in another tab or another application. I know the video is ready to play. When I watch videos on YouTube itself, SmartVideo makes sure I get the highest quality possible (see Video Quality on the left pane). When I watch embedded videos in other websites, SmartVideo stays out of the way and lets Google decide what quality I should be watching.

This way, embedded videos stay fast and don't slow me down on other websites. When I want to really enjoy a video, I just click it to go to its YouTube page and enjoy it in maximum quality (and minimalist, see above).

By default, SmartVideo also shows a pop-up interface below every video, which looks like this:


To me, this is a fairly annoying feature. The pop-up often gets in the way and overlays other things I'm trying to click, and generally feels messy. Fortunately, it can easily be disabled within SmartVideo's preferences (“Hide player settings popup“).

Bottom Line

These two lovely add-ons can make your life on YouTube much simpler. I've been using SmartVideo for over a month now, and have been loving it. I've only just found A Cleaner YouTube, but it looks like a keeper.

What are your must-have YouTube add-ons and tricks?

Two Chrome Browser Add-ons For A Better YouTube Viewing Experience is a post from: MakeUseOf

More articles about: , , , , ,

Similar articles:

SongSprite – A SUPER Simple Way to Create & Share Audio Playlists From YouTube

Posted: 01 Jul 2011 02:31 PM PDT

In an article I wrote back in February entitled, The 4 Best Websites To Check Out New Music Releases First, I pointed out that YouTube is a great place to find new music. Simply put, there are lots of music videos on the site and no matter what you’re into I guarantee they’ve got it.

But do you know what the problem is with YouTube as a music-listening platform? It wasn’t really built for that, and because it wasn’t, it lacks a few key things that a typical music platform would have, like the ability to save music playlists. Okay, so YouTube does technically have a playlist feature for music, but you still have to wait for the video to load in order to listen to your song, and sometimes that can be a pain. I’ve found a simpler way to do things, and it’s called SongSprite.

What Is SongSprite?

SongSprite (directory app) pulls the audio from YouTube videos and lets you make your favorite tracks into a playable playlist that you can share with others. You simply get the URLs of the YouTube videos you’d like to play or share, paste them into SongSprite and then you will be able to listen to them or send a link to your newly created playlist to whoever you like.

SongSprite allows you to connect, collaborate and share playlists in real time with your friends.

The process of creating a playlist is SongSprite is extremely simple.

How Do I Use SongSprite?

The first place you need to go is YouTube and start browsing for music you would like to add to your new playlist.

Once you find a song that you like, just go up and copy the URL for it. Shortened links won’t work, so make sure the URL you grab is of normal length. Paste the link into the box on SongSprite and click the Add button to the right. If you’re using Google Chrome as your browser, the Split Screen extension would be great for this. Check it out.

You’ll know you entered the information correctly because it will place the name of the song into your list below. You can keep adding songs in this way until you are happy with the playlist you’ve created.

To share your playlist once it is done, just copy the URL below the player and paste it in an email or IM, or click the Share icon to send the link to Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, or StumbleUpon.


While having the ability to take content from YouTube and listen to it via a site like SongSprite is extremely convenient for all of us, I doubt that YouTube would really take kindly to this type of “extension”, seeing as none of YouTube’s ads or copyright permissions seem to come with the music you’re getting with the service. Having said that, I do think SongSprite is a great resource and a site that I could see myself using again and again. I invite you all to check it out and let me know what you think.

SongSprite – A SUPER Simple Way to Create & Share Audio Playlists From YouTube is a post from: MakeUseOf

More articles about: , , , , , ,

Similar articles:

Hot Tech Deals – Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 10.1MP 3.8X Digital Camera for $384.99+ more

Posted: 01 Jul 2011 01:30 PM PDT

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 10.1MP 3.8X Digital Camera (f/2.0, 720p HD Recording) $384.99

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

  1. Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 10.1MP 3.8X Digital Camera (f/2.0, 720p HD Recording) $384.99 via code JULY4 (Exp 7/5)
  2. Logitech K800 Wireless Slim Illuminated Keyboard (New in Dented Box) $53.99 via code logi_k800_7111 (Exp 7/4)
  3. TODAY ONLY Patriot Signature 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3-1600 Desktop Memory $64.99
  4. Wintec FileMate 8GB SDHC Flash Card (Class 10) $9.99 Free Shipping
  5. Invicta 5511 Black Dial Flame Fusion Crystal 500M Mens Watch $176 via code Techbargains3
  6. TODAY ONLY Buffalo MiniStation 500GB Portable External Hard Drive $54.99 Free Shipping
  7. TODAY ONLY Scosche IALM3 Alarm Clock for iPod $18.20 Free Shipping via code AFL4COUPON
  8. Asus RT-N10+ EZ 802.11n 150Mbps Wireless N Router $14.99AR Free Shipping via rebate

Hot Tech Deals – Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 10.1MP 3.8X Digital Camera for $384.99+ more is a post from: MakeUseOf

More articles about:

Similar articles:

Instantly Connect Idea Makers & Entrepreneurs Using OpenInvo

Posted: 01 Jul 2011 12:31 PM PDT

Had a great idea lately? Done anything with it? If you’re an smart type who is always coming up with great ideas, you may have noticed that most of them go by the wayside because you just don’t have time to do them all. Meanwhile, some entrepreneurial types have exactly the opposite problem – they’re keen to make a great idea blossom, but they’re not big on the ideas.

OpenInvo is working to fill the gap in the idea market by connecting ideas with the sorts of people who want to work on great ideas. It’s completely free for users to list their ideas and have them valued for sale to companies who want to use them.

The fact that the right people are being connected to great ideas is the key to OpenInvo. Research and development departments of big corporations are able to browse relevant ideas which they might be able to implement in their business, while entrepreneurs can search for the idea spark they need to create something from scratch.

Generating Ideas

Idea generators are able to protect the privacy of their ideas using different privacy levels within the OpenInvo system. It is possible to patent-protect an idea before selling it on OpenInvo, however it’s also possible to offer an unpatented idea for sale within a closed system which is tracked closely by OpenInvo staff. If your idea might be of use for the greater good, you can list it as a public idea for general use.

Some public ideas revolve around serious things like social change, others focus on gift ideas and silly things no-one will ever implement. What could you add to the mix?

It’s possible to list an idea in OpenInvo and develop on it at a later date. You can also join forces with other idea-generators in the system and collaborate on the idea.

When listing ideas in the OpenInvo system, there’s a handy wizard to guide you through the steps and ensure you’ve given enough information.

Buying Ideas

Innovators searching for ideas are under strict guidelines not to steal ideas from the system. Idea seekers must sign an agreement before viewing the ideas and if they view any ideas that coincide with things they’re already working on, they must be able to prove that those ideas were already in development.

Sales of Ideas

OpenInvo will calculate the value of each idea as it is listed in their system. This will depend on how much work has gone into the idea so far in terms of development and detail. Since OpenInvo acts as the agent in between they will take a 20% cut from the sale of each idea, taken from the proceeds.

Obviously, the sale of ideas is a tricky business and no system will ever be 100% secure from idea theft. Since it is possible to patent your idea before sale via OpenInvo, consider that route seriously if your idea is that important. If however, you’re always coming up with great ideas and you’re willing to trust that the OpenInvo system won’t let you down, you could be looking at a nice little way to earn some easy cash.

Read On

If you’re into generating and collecting your ideas, read on:

Will you try selling an idea through OpenInvo? Or are you more likely to offer a public idea for the greater good? Let us know in the comments!

Instantly Connect Idea Makers & Entrepreneurs Using OpenInvo is a post from: MakeUseOf

More articles about: , , , , ,

Similar articles:

8 More Word Games You Can Play To Sharpen Your Language Skills

Posted: 01 Jul 2011 11:31 AM PDT

As a writer and blogger, words are what I am surrounded with in my waking hours. Putting them together into coherent sentences is my daily fix. But every wordsmith also needs to sharpen his axe from time to time. I have always found the best grindstone for that to be the numerous word games that can be played online for free. They not only let me play with letters, words, and sentences – but also give me a break from the occasional tedium. Word games also serve as an antidote to what befalls us all – the stumble of the writer's block.

We have featured quite a few posts on word games and ways to have fun with language. For that head below where I have mentioned the links. For now, go right down and take a look at a few more word games I found while scouring the web. Let your creativity flow with these eight online word games while you take a break from your day job.


The How to Play section of this word game describes it simply – Verbotomy is about creating words. Everyday a definition along with a cartoon is there for you to create a 'new' word. That's a 'verboticism'. After you create your verboticism, you can vote for other authors’s words to help select the winning verboticism for the definition. It's a simple four step process – read the definition; create a new word; save your word; and vote for your favorite word. The screenshot above shows how the daily challenges are played out.

Word Association

On first look, this game does not seem to have any practical utility you can think of, apart from jogging your grey cells. You play the game by associating a new word to the word displayed on the screen. The challenge is to not break the chain of related words for as long as possible. The statistics page reveals the strong and weak word associations as the database gets built up around the words. Try it, the game progressively gets difficult and you will soon find yourself approaching the limits of your vocabulary.


This is a game even kids can play. You are given a picture (or pictures) that stand in place of common English words, phrases, proverbs, or sayings. You have to guess what it is and enter it in the white box underneath the pictures. Solve each word puzzle and move on to the next picture in the series.  As you play, you will earn points for solving each puzzle. If you get flummoxed, you can use the 'Hint' button to discover one of the hidden words. Of course each hint reduces the points you get when this particular puzzle is solved.


Crickler is a not so easy game that can break you out of your language lull. What can you say when the instructions are themselves in the form of a letter puzzle. Clicker News Puzzles takes it cues from news items. You have to guess the words from the clues and fill up the boxes. The game has its own 'artificial intelligence' which adapts to your skill level. Each Crickler also works with a handicap system – just like golf – the lower your handicap; the more difficult will be the puzzle.


Clockwords is Flash game that takes you into Victorian London. As a brainiac inventor you have just made a machine that runs on the power of language. Just then your lab is broken into by mechanical insects sent by a rival inventor that have come to steal your secrets! You must think and type quickly to fend off the invaders. Just type in the right words and zap the pests.

The Enigma Device

The main site WordZap is filled with word games of different types, but I think you would like to try out this classic game based on the famous coding decoding device from WWII. The Java based game displays a histogram showing letter frequencies and a scrambled humorous quotation on top. Your task is to use one-letter substitutions to unscramble the code. It  hasn’t been updated for a while but is still fun to play.

Retail Alphabet Game

This is not exactly a word game in that sense, but it's great fun because it will test if you have been watching all those ads carefully. You will be given 26 alphabet letterforms, taken from product and corporate logos from well-known brands within the United States. Your job is to figure out the source of each. There are five to play so far.

Word Games

Word Games is an online Flash games site that focuses completely on games built around words. Word Games makes it easy to play games by organizing them into channels like Word Search games, Typing games, Crosswords games, Sudoku games, Mahjong games, Puzzles games and some more. The games are of the time-water variety and you go quickly in and out of them in a space of a few minutes.

If you have still some time to kill and words to fill try out our previous word and language related tool from the links below:

Do you know of any other word game we can try out? Let us know in a few words.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

8 More Word Games You Can Play To Sharpen Your Language Skills is a post from: MakeUseOf

More articles about: , , , ,

Similar articles:

How To Backup Your Mac With A Homemade Time Capsule

Posted: 01 Jul 2011 10:31 AM PDT

After losing some fairly important accounting files recently, I realised that my backup strategy is quite flawed. Although I take a weekly bootable backup of my Mac, that doesn’t really help when I deleted the file I want a few weeks ago. To do that, I would need to make use of Apple’s built-in Time Machine functionality, but I don’t really want another drive attached on my beautiful zen desk space – and I’m certainly going to pay Apple £200-300 for a glorified router with built-in hard drive.

No, instead I’d like to just throw another 1TB into my home server and be done with it. Unfortunately, this isn't entirely supported by Apple, so it's going to need a little hacking together.

What You'll Need

  • A spare hard disk, obviously. At least as large as your Mac primary hard disk.
  • A network file server of some sort that you can add the drive to.

I'll be showing you specifically how to set this up for Windows Home Server or any regular Windows 7 machine that you use to share files on, but you should be able to do this using any form of networked file system. If you have no idea what Time Machine or a Time Capsule is, read this first.

On the Mac

This is the trickiest bit, so we'll start with that. Open a new Terminal window (you can find this in your Applications -> Utilities folder) and follow the steps outlined below.

Copy and paste the following command into your Terminal window and hit enter. This is a quick little hack that tells your system "I want you to show me unsupported Time Machine volumes".

>defaults write TMShowUnsupportedNetworkVolumes 1

Next, you need to note some information about both your machine name and your network ID. Your machine name is easy – just open System Preferences -> Sharing, and your Computer Name will be listed at the top. I suggest you change this to be something without spaces to avoid random errors later on, then note this down somewhere.

Go back to the terminal Window and type:


You need to find the ETHER hardware address associated with the en0 network device (the network port on your mac). This is used as a unique identifier, and must be the address from en0 if you actually connect to the Internet using your wireless device. Find the section that details the en0 device, and write down or copy the 6 hexadecimal digit number that's next to the word ether. Delete all the :'s to obtain your machines unique 16 alphanumeric code. You'll need it for the next step.

The following command will create what is called a SparseBundle. This is a single file that acts as a kind of disk image for your machine’s backups. When you use TimeMachine, it writes everything inside of this file. Remember to replace the appropriate parts of the command with your machine name, ethernet ID and hard disk size (don't write the square bracket – look at my example below first).

sudo hdiutil create -size [Your hard disk size here]G -fs HFS+J -volname "[Your Machine Name here] Backup" [Your machine name here]_[Your 16 digit alphanumeric hardware ID here].sparsebundle

Here's the example command that I used for my iMac which has a hard disk size of about 950GB and is creatively named “iMac”.

sudo hdiutil create -size 950G -fs HFS+J -volname "iMac Backup" iMac_d49a20d16b79.sparsebundle

A word of warning: Make sure your TYPE THE COMMAND on your own machine – if you try to copy and paste from this site, the character encoding will result in some kind of error, similar to the following:

On Your Network Server

Installing the hard disk in your machine is a little out of the scope of this article, so I suggest you check out my previous article on how to add a second hard drive. As many drives come pre-formatted in FAT32 format, you’ll also want to reformat or partition your drive to NTFS. Next we’ll set up the network share itself.

Windows 7

To share a drive or folder in Windows 7, right click and select Share With -> Advanced Sharing.

Click Advanced Sharing again, and in the following dialog check Share this Folder, and give it a name you'll remember (like TimeMachineBackup).

It's also essential you set the permissions, as by default users can only READ from the share. Select the user or group you wish to give access to – EVERYONE is the easiest option here – and change the permission at the bottom of the dialog to FULL CONTROL.

Windows Home Server

I already run a Windows Home Server for downloading and streaming videos, so it makes sense to add the Time Machine backup drive there. After adding the physical drive to the machine, restarting your server and formatting the drive as NTFS, open up your Home Server Dashboard. On the Server Folders and Hard Drives tab, click the button on the right sidebar that says "Add a Folder".

Follow the Wizard to create your TimeMachineBackup folder. Make sure you choose to place the folder on your new drive, but if you forgot to do so then no worries as you can easily use the Move Folder function later. Set up permission as you wish, but skip the step about creating backups – you don't really need a backup of your backup (technically, you probably should, but there's a limit to how much backing up is humanely possible or worthwhile).

On Your Mac

Finally, head back to your Mac and find the SpareBundle file you created before. If you used the command I showed you, it should be located in the root of your user home directory.

Open up the network share you just created – I sometimes have trouble seeing my homeserver in the automatic network discovery, in which case you'll need to press COMMAND-K and type in the address smb://HOMESERVER (or whatever your homeserver is called). You can also use the IP address of the machine if you know that instead.

Copy the SpareBundle file you created into your network Time Machine Backup shared folder, and open up the Time Machine system preferences screen.

Turn on Time Machine, and click Select Disk. If everything's gone right, you should now see your backup listed there with the name you gave it when creating the SparseBundle. Select it, and proceed to backup to your new homemade Time Capsule!

I can’t tell you if having a Time Machine has saved my bacon yet, because it’s still backing up – but I’m pretty confident it’s going to be incredibly useful in the future when I least expect it.

Do you have a real Time Capsule, or managed to get your homemade one working? Share your experiences and problems in the comments, or head over to our tech support community site.

How To Backup Your Mac With A Homemade Time Capsule is a post from: MakeUseOf

More articles about: , , ,

Similar articles:

Employee Monitor – Spyware Software You Can Actually Make Use Of [Windows]

Posted: 01 Jul 2011 09:31 AM PDT

For most computer users, the word “spyware” is a bad word. The last thing most computer users want when they are surfing the web or doing their banking is someone “spying” on them. However, there are times when spyware can be a good thing. Technically, most companies today use what many people would call “spyware” to monitor employee Internet usage and overall productivity.

Parents of young children and teens often look for ways to ensure that their kids don’t get into trouble on the Internet, and many of those products are technically “spyware” as well. Sometimes the ability to monitor computer usage provides peace of mind and security that no level of antivirus software can offer. I’ve dealt with countless parents that come to me complaining that their teen did something to the computer that completely destroyed it. They have no idea what their own child did.

Using ExtraSpy to Monitor Your Home Computers

Here at MUO, we’ve covered a lot of ways to block spyware, such as MalwareBytes, Spyware Terminator, and other tools.  However, finding free spyware apps that you actually want to install is a whole other story.

It isn’t easy to find remote monitoring software for free these days. Most companies use highly technical network monitoring software that not only has the ability to track and log how employees use the computer systems, but also include port scanning and other network analysis tools that go far beyond the needs of the home or small business user.

For your home network, you many only want to “spy” on a few computers to make sure that your kids aren’t getting themselves into trouble. One of the few, full-featured, free applications available that can do this is called ExtraSpy Employee Monitor.

When you install and run this software, just click on “settings” and you’ll see how fast and easy it is to set it up to connect to your clients automatically, or to constantly scan for newly installed clients.

The software comes with two simple executables – no installation required. To run the server, launch the server EXE file. To install a client, copy the client EXE to the client PC and run it.

In less than a minute, you’ll see the following window, which tells you that the client is running, and the IP address you can use to connect to it from the server app.

Go back to the server and click on the “Add Client” button. If it doesn’t show up automatically, just type the IP address into the right pane.

If the server is able to locate and connect to the client, it’ll show up on the main server window. It’ll also show the network name of the computer, as well as the IP and the connection status. If you’re having problems getting a good connection, make sure to check the firewall and antivirus software on the client PC to make sure that you’ve enabled an exception for the client software that’s running on that PC. To test if the antivirus is the problem, temporarily disable it to see if you get a connection.

Once you have a connection to your client PCs, there’s a whole lot of really cool stuff you can do. First, if you look at the bottom of the main window when you’ve selected a client PC, you’ll see all of the applications that the current user has open. This information also includes when the app was launched and whether the window is active.

If you want to see the user’s computer screen, just click on the screenshot icon, and a pop-up window will appear with a real-time snapshot of the client window.

If you want to watch action on the screen, you can get frequent screen updates by clicking on “Refresh Periodically” and enabling timed updates of the screenshot.

If you right click on the client in the list, you’ll see that you can also do some remote administration on these computers. These tools include remotely restarting, resetting or turning off each system.

The nice thing about the software is that you don’t have to sit there and monitor all of your clients manually. You can configure “Tasks” that send you activity reports via email at whatever interval you like.

The reports are fairly high quality reports that break down application usage by group, such as Internet browsers, instant messengers, productivity apps and more.  You’ll also see a list of all of these groups and the associated time the user spent using each one.

One cool feature of the software is that you can send off messages to the client. This comes in handy for parents that want to impress on their kids that just because you’re not standing in the room, you’re still keeping an eye on computer use.

In past articles, when I’ve suggested that parents should monitor their kids’ Internet usage, a few readers took issue with the idea of the invasion of privacy. I think this can be true in some cases, and it’s important to use tools like this just do a quick spot check every now and then to ensure that kids are doing the right thing, for their own online safety. Privacy is important, but protecting your kids as well as your computer systems are important issues too. Checking in every now and then is perfectly okay.

So take the free ExtraSpy Employee Monitor software for a test drive and experience how easy it can be to monitor and manage all of your home client machines. Let us know what you like and don’t like about the software in the comments section below.

Employee Monitor – Spyware Software You Can Actually Make Use Of [Windows] is a post from: MakeUseOf

More articles about: , ,

Similar articles:

3 Great Free Alternative Apps To Replace The Default Android SMS & MMS App

Posted: 01 Jul 2011 08:31 AM PDT

As you might expect, all Android phones come with a stock messaging app that handles SMS and MMS messages. This app provides basic functionality, and may be modified in different ways based on the phone you're using. It works well enough, but just well enough.

If you're looking for more options, however, you'll need a third-party SMS app. Fortunately, there are several great alternatives to the stock messaging app available, and best of all, they're free.


If you're looking for a simple, quick SMS app that can replace the default app, chompSMS may be your best bet. This app in default form comes bare-bones, lacking even the portraits of the people you're texting (the app does fully support this, but it's not turned on by default). The result is a quick SMS experience that should work well on most Android phones.

Some of chompSMS's most interesting features include support for sending SMS via what is called “SMS credits” which can be purchased through the app. This makes it possible to buy additional text messaging beyond what your carrier’s plan allows. The app also has integrated support for a service called TextFreak, which sends texts using your data plan instead of counting them against your plan's text message allotment.

My main gripe with chompSMS is the very obvious ad support. While I have nothing against developers getting paid, it is rather distracting considering the nature of the app. I also would like to see security via PIN – right now, it only offers security via a touch pattern.

chompSMS requires Android 1.5 or newer.

Go SMS Pro

Despite the Pro name, which usually indicates a paid app, Go SMS Pro is entirely free and is one of the best looking SMS apps available anywhere. This is thanks to clear, easy to use theming support that is paired with customization that offers a live preview (this feature is also found on chompSMS and Handcent, to be fair). While you can trick out the other apps here, Go SMS Pro is the one I found easiest to customize. Within a few minutes I had downloaded a cool theme that looks great.

There's plenty of features to be found here, including a message scheduler, a Facebook chat plugin and security via both PIN and pattern input. I also found the ability to swipe between different messaging screens – the folders, messages and plugins sections – refreshing. Why don't more SMS apps do this?

Clarity is the only problem I found with Go SMS Pro. The interface buttons at the bottom aren't self-explanatory and a bit small. The menu options are also clunky and confusing. These issues are minor, however – overall, Go SMS Pro is a good choice.

Go SMS Pro requires Android 1.6 or newer.

Handcent SMS

I've saved what is, in my opinion, the best for last. That's not to say everyone will prefer Handcent, but it is the SMS app I've chosen to use on my own Android phone.

The interface of Handcent provides an excellent compromise between beauty and simplicity. Although the basic theme is based off the iPhone, it's not exactly identical, and it does a good job of walking the line between performance and functionality. The menu options, when displayed, are sensible and easy to navigate. There are interface buttons on the messaging menu, but I found them more intuitive, and they're slightly larger which makes them easier to use.

Handcent also has a lot of features including built-in skins, security via PIN or pattern, and a great message scheduler. In addition to this, it's possible to access “Handcent services” – special features including e-cards, group SMS and an online inbox to which you can save messages.

Handcent requires Android 1.5 or newer.


All of these SMS apps are quite popular and will serve users well. Generally speaking, I've found them to be better than the default apps that come with most Android phones. As usual, feel free to weigh in if you have a favorite app that's not listed here!

3 Great Free Alternative Apps To Replace The Default Android SMS & MMS App is a post from: MakeUseOf

More articles about: , , , , ,

Similar articles:

Apple Is Refunding Dissatisfied Final Cut Pro X Customers [News]

Posted: 01 Jul 2011 07:31 AM PDT

Last week, Apple released a revamped and much cheaper version of its leading video editing program Final Cut Pro. The new version Final Cut Pro X sells for just $300, down from $1,300 – although the previous version included a suite of other movie production applications. Despite the cheaper price and overhaul of the program however, many veteran users are dissatisfied because Final Cut Pro X does meet their expectations, and it looks as though Apple may be refunding many of those disgruntled customers.

In the App Store, customer's negative comments (with an average app rating of 3.5 stars) criticized Final Cut Pro X for – among other things – its inability to import FCP 7 projects, not being able to view imported clips on an external video monitor, and missing many other professional features that were part of the older version.

Apple has responded to many of the criticisms, but some customers have reported getting a refund for their purchase.  Sample letters like this one have shown up in the Apple Final Cut Pro X Support Discussion board.

Typically, Apple’s refund policy maintains that all sales coming through the Mac and iTunes App Stores are final, but clearly in this case they are making an exception.

Though Apple will over time work out the kinks and problems with Final Cut Pro X, these problems may signal that Apple needs to reconsider allowing App Store customers to download trial versions of apps in App Store before they are fully purchased. What do you think?

Source: AppleInsider

Need Assistance? Ask questions to MakeUseOf staff and thousands of other readers on MakeUseOf Answers!

Apple Is Refunding Dissatisfied Final Cut Pro X Customers [News] is a post from: MakeUseOf

More articles about: , ,

Similar articles:

No comments:

Post a Comment