Tuesday, July 5, 2011

MakeUseOf.com: “Cool Websites and Tools [July 4th]” plus 13 more

MakeUseOf.com: “Cool Websites and Tools [July 4th]” plus 13 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [July 4th]

Posted: 04 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.

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Web2Phone – At times you may want to save a website for later viewing on your smartphone. Previously you had to type the site's URL on your phone but you can now opt for a much better way thanks to a service called Web2Phone, a free to use web service that lets you send site bookmarks to your Android device. The usage of the tool is quite simple. Read more: Web2Phone: Quickly Send Bookmarks To Your Android Phone


SemiSilent – There are times when you don't want to be disturbed so you put your phone on silent, but there are a few calls you can't risk missing no matter how busy you are. SemiSilent is an Android app that lets you distinguish your “can't miss” calls from your “can miss” calls. Simply select the people you would like to receive a call from. Read more: SemiSilent: Set Up Ringtones For Specific Contacts, Silent For Others [Android]



Penzen – If writing is one of your hobbies then you probably often type up your work on your computer. But the various notifications and distractions from computer applications make it difficult to focus on your writing. Penzen aims to solve that issue by letting you type in a distraction-free environment. The site provides you with a plain white canvas that you can type on. Read more: Penzen: Conveniently Type In Distraction-Free Writing Environment



Cartoonatic – Video on the iPhone and the iPod touch could be partly blamed for the ditching of flip cameras, and with apps like Cartoonatic, it is easy to see why. This tool adds another zest to video recording by adding cartoonish effects to your videos. All videos that are configured with the right preset can turn to cartoons instantly, even while you are taking it live. You can choose from up to nine video effects. Read more: Cartoonatic: Cool App For Cartoonizing Videos (iOS)



OneDrum – While there is certainly a major push towards cloud office computing led by Google and their Docs suite, many still feel right at home with native desktop apps. For those who need an alternative to Microsoft Office's live online, then you should check out One Drum, a collaboration tool that works with major Office apps. Read more: OneDrum: Easy & Simple Collaboration On Microsoft Office Documents


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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3 Easy-to-Use Browser Extensions To Backup Your Open Tabs

Posted: 04 Jul 2011 06:30 PM PDT

save browser tabsIf you are a heavy Internet user, you are most likely to often have multiple tabs open simultaneously. We have shared quite a few tips on how to manage your tabs effectively in various browsers.

Here are 10 best extensions for Google chrome tab management as well as a few solid tips on dealing with the “Too Many Tabs" syndrome in Firefox.

Today’s post will help you secure your active tabs against any crashes as well as synchronize them among your various work places:

Sesh (Google Chrome)

(Backing up on request)

With Sesh for Google Chrome you can save a tab or an entire windrow with multiple active tabs.

  • To store a tab, click the extension icon and select “Store a tab”
  • To store a window, click the icon and select “Store the Window”

save browser tabs

You will need to name a tab or a window you are going to store:

browser tabs

Basically, it works similarly to “TooManyTabs” for FireFox we have reviewed earlier. When you store a tab or window, Sesh saves and closes it, and thus cleans up space for you to do other things. When you want to get back to a saved tab or window, click on it, and Sesh will open it and remove it from storage.

browser tabs

Additional feature to enjoy:

Sesh lets you synchronize active tabs among different computers, so you can continue working after coming home from work. For that, you will have to enable Chrome sync (here are the official instructions).

Note: The extension doesn’t store your cookies, so you’ll have to login everywhere once you start working on another computer.

Save My Tabs ( FireFox)

(Backup automatically)

Note: there seems to be a Google Chrome version as well.

Save My Tabs is a little addon that works in the background and saves your active tabs automatically. The addon regularly creates a new TSV text file, that contains info on all open tabs user had kept opened by the time the file was created. Each tab info is organized the following way (one line per tab):

  • Window index,
  • Tab index,
  • URL of the tab and it’s title.

browser tabs

In the addon preferences you can:

  • Set the time frame to create a new backup (default is 15 minutes);
  • Set the file path to store the TSV files in.

browser tabs saving

3. Tab Cloud (Google Chrome and FireFox)

(Backing up on request)

Here’s a detailed review of TabCloud by Jessica

TabCloud is a browser tab backup tool that offers a few very neat features:

  • Easily name and save any open window;
  • Quickly recognize any backup thanks to favicon support;
  • Synchronize active windows and tabs (Securely hosted by Google, login with your Google Account.)

Whenever you want to save the current tabs, click the extension icon. The same icon gives access to all previously saved sessions:

save browser tabs

You can also manage the currently saved sessions:

  • Reorganize your tabs by dragging and dropping (Currently Chrome only).
  • Middle-click (or CTRL + click) any tab icon to open just that tab.
  • Click on any windows name to rename at any time.

Additional feature to enjoy:

Synchronize your active tabs with your Android (through this Android app)

Are you using any fun addons to save your browser tabs and windows? Please share them in the comments!

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Join MakeUseOf On Twitter!

Posted: 04 Jul 2011 05:31 PM PDT

If you have discovered MakeUseOf just recently and are one of our 450,000+ subscribers, consider following us on Twitter as well.

You’ll be notified everytime there is a new post on the MakeUseOf Blog, a web app review on the MakeUseOf Directory or something new on Geeky Fun.

Plus, we would love it if you would re-tweet the posts and discuss them, so more people get to know about us and join our community.

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4 Open Source Password Managers To Keep Your Passwords Safe

Posted: 04 Jul 2011 04:30 PM PDT

password manager

KeePass/KeePassX is a popular open source project that has won the hearts of thousands, with a myriad of plugins and extensions such as KeeFox and ChromelPass, that dramatically improve the user experience. However, KeePass isn't the only open source password manager out there. If you're looking for a simpler but still secure application where you can store your login credentials and important notes, why note check out additional open source programs?

Even if you're accustomed to your beloved and convenient commercial password manager, it's probably not a bad idea to try other ultra secure applications that offer some of the same features and risk less at your expense. If you're ready for some password manager goodness, read on!

Clipperz [Web-based]

Clipperz is a web-based password manager, not unlike LastPass, with a major difference in that it's open source. Jim reviewed it here a couple of years ago so be sure to check his review for more details.

password manager


  • Support for direct one-click logins (made with a special bookmarklet) so users can login automatically from the Clipperz website.
  • Provides an encrypted HTML copy for offline read-only use.
  • Login history is recorded.
  • Registration requires no email (just a username and passphrase) so users can maintain anonymity.
  • Works on any OS with a major browser (like Firefox or Opera) that has Javascript enabled.
  • Compact site for Firefox sidebar and Opera panel with access to direct one-click logins.
  • Clipperz can also store notes with sensitive content.
  • Password generator available.
  • password manager reviews

  • Users can import data from a number of password managers.
  • password manager reviews


  • Saving direct logins involves manually copy-pasting code onto Clipperz website,
  • Direct login codes don't seem to work for all sites. In my tests, Imageshack and Springpad couldn't create direct logins from the bookmarklet, but users can always create new "web passwords" or cards and specify the website URL manually.
  • No support for passphrase recovery since emails aren't required.
  • Cannot organize accounts in groups.

Yadabyte Passwords [Windows]

Yadabyte Passwords is like a tiny Keepass manager, except it carries fewer bells and whistles. Though it's a bit older, this portable password manager is absolutely a breeze to use. You simply create a master password and then type the usernames, passwords, and URLs for all the services you want included in your password database.


password manager reviews

  • Portable
  • Easy to use
  • free password manager


  • Might be too simple for some users as it doesn't have lots of features.
  • Cannot organize accounts in groups.

Password Gorilla [Cross-Platform]

Password Gorilla is a password manager and personal vault that can store login information and notes. The application consists of a single executable that allows you to create a database and save it to a specified location. The encrypted database can only be read in Password Gorilla of course, but the database is actually a different file, separate from the application, so you can create several databases if you wish.

free password manager


  • Portable
  • Can create groups and subgroups to organize passwords and sites.
  • Can import password databases saved in CSV format.
  • Automatically locks the database after a defined amount of minutes.
  • Can clear the clipboard after specified number of seconds.
  • Users can set what double-clicking a login does: open a browser directed to the URL, copy password to clipboard, edit login or do nothing.
  • free password manager

  • Can copy username and password to the clipboard with keyboard shortcuts.


  • Exported files are unencrypted plain text files.

Universal Password Manager [Cross-Platform; Android]

Universal Password Manager is a simple program that uses 128bit AES encryption and, like Password Gorilla, allows you to create databases once you've set a master password.


  • Databases can be exported and imported.
  • Android app available.
  • Can load and sync remote databases from URL.
  • Can copy username and password to clipboard with keyboard shortcuts.
  • password manager


  • Cannot organize accounts in groups though they are alphabetized. A workaround could be to create several databases.

From this list, I prefer Password Gorilla as it has robust features. There are, however, dozens of additional open source programs we couldn't possibly cover, so if you're eager to learn more, be sure to check out LockCrypt, Password Safe, SilverLock, OpenSimSim and Oubliette.

Do you use an open source password manager and have tips to share? Enlighten us  in the comments!

Image Credit: Shutterstock – Mario7

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The 3 Best Mobile Video Players For The iPhone

Posted: 04 Jul 2011 03:31 PM PDT

mobile video playerA few months ago, we covered the 8 Best Mobile Video Players For The Android Phone. It’s now time to cover 3 brilliant video players for the iPhone. Not as many as for the Android but these three iPhone players don’t just play video. Each one has at least one unique feature that makes them stand out so you may choose to install either one or all of them.

Here are the top three that you should consider, next time you want to watch a video file on your iOS device.

BUZZ Player

This is the basic player out of the three but don’t take that to mean that it’s not feature-rich. It just means that it doesn’t have a specialty, like the other two do. It has a lot of features, including :

  • Subtitles and subtitle offset.
  • A nice interface (yes, I consider that a feature).
  • Playlists.
  • Playing from network URL, SAMBA & FTP & uPnP sharing.
  • Choosing which side the sound comes out from and boosting the volume above 100%.
  • Changing the aspect ratio.
  • Built-in web browser.
  • Downloader & unzipper.
  • Support for a lot of formats, including FLV, full HD quality (1920 x 1080), QuickTime formats (mp4, mov, m4v, mpv), DV quality (720 x 576), other media files, and more.

This application costs a measly £1.79 ($2.88) for iPhone 3Gs+ and the iPod touch 3G+. For phones and touches below that, you can buy the classic version for £1.19 ($1.90). Sadly the app is not universal, so if you have an iPad, you will have to buy the HD version for £2.39 ($3.82).

mobile video player

video players for mobile phones

video players for mobile phones

Supported Container Formats

3GP, AVI, ASF, FLV, MKV, MOV, MP4, NUT, Ogg, OGM, RealMedia, Bink, WMV, Xvid and DivX.

Supported Video Formats

Cinepak, DV, H.263, H.264/MPEG-4 AVC, HuffYUV, Indeo, MJPEG, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG 4 Part 2, RealVideo, Sorenson and Theora.

Supported Audio Formats

AAC, AC3, ALAC, AMR, DTS, FLAC, Intel Music Coder, Monkey’s Audio, MP3, Musepack, RealAudio, Shorten, Speex, Vorbis, WMA and Bink.

Video Stream

This app’s specialty is streaming from your computer. However, I find it to be much better than most other streaming programs as the developer has made a really powerful package. We’ve covered streaming videos to your iPhone and iPod touch before but this app’s REAL specialty, which distinguishes it from all the other streaming apps in the App Store, is conversion and downloading.

The server on the computer can not only stream the videos to the iPhone, it can also be put to work converting the videos on the computer and then pushing them for download directly onto the app. So even if you have forgotten to convert the files for streaming, the built-in converter means you never have to go to your computer directly.

The company used to offer a lite version which was ad-supported, but unfortunately, I could not find that anymore. It may have been temporarily pulled. The full version is £1.79 ($2.88), but unlike BUZZ Player, it’s universal, which means you only have to spend once to use the app on both the iPhone and the iPad.

video players for mobile phones

mobile video player for mobile

Video Safe

This is another app by the developers of Video Stream. This app’s specialty is secret videos and images. What makes it stand out from the rest of the App Store however, is the Snoop Stopper. This is a handy feature which makes you look completely innocent if someone happens to open this app. Sure, if you have a jailbroken phone, some apps can masquerade as innocent things, or you can hide them. But for those who prefer a smoother experience, while appearing innocent, Video Safe has you covered.

The Snoop Stopper is basically a feature which loads some fake videos and pictures. So if you have some torrented videos (or anything else you want kept secret), just enter Snoop Stopper mode by entering the incorrect passcode, add some home videos and the like, then exit the app. Close it by clicking the minus button. Launch it again and if anyone enters the incorrect passcode, they will enter the fake vault. You can also use a special Snoop Stopper passcode, which if used, leads users to the fake vault.

The luxury of this app will cost you £2.39 ($3.82) but it’s not universal. You can also purchase Video Stream as an In-App Purchase from within Video Safe too if you want, since they’re made by the same company.

mobile video player

We’ve also covered VLC and OPlayer on this site before, which are two other possibilities you can look at.

Are these apps unique enough from each other that you would consider installing any or all of them? Do you know of any alternatives that can do the same for a cheaper price or even free? What are your favourite mobile video players for iOS devices? Let us know in the comments below!

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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Kdenlive – A Stable & Versatile Free Cross-Platform Video Editor [Linux, Mac & Live CD]

Posted: 04 Jul 2011 02:30 PM PDT

cross platform video editingEditing video in Linux can be a right pain in the posterior. Most software is unstable or simply not powerful enough to get the job done, for example when editing HD video. Naturally a well-specified PC is your best friend when it comes to resource-intensive processes like video editing, but that’s not to say you’ll need a showroom model to get the job done.

Kdenlive is a free and cross-platform video editor that will probably mean more to your average Linux user than Windows or Mac types. The shortage of stable, usable and powerful editing suites on the Linux platform is the main reason for this.

If you’re searching for a decent, all-in-one solution for editing video on your Linux system then Kdenlive might just be the program you’re looking for.

Workspace & Features

If you’ve ever edited video before then you’ll probably feel instantly at home with Kdenlive, which is a typical non-linear video editor. If you’re a newcomer to the world of video editing then the interface shouldn’t put you off either.
cross platform video editing
The editor supports capture from a variety of devices, including Video4Linux compatibles and Firewire cameras as well as screen capture from the desktop. You can check if your device is supported on this compatibility list.

All the favourites are there – the timeline, a monitor window (with tabs for switching between individual clips and the whole production), file browser, transition window and a menu full of options and features. Overall the workspace is clean, attractive and responsive; if a little limited at times.
cross platform video editing software
The program has a fairly extensive range of features, including a very handy transcoder. Transcoding video is as simple as adding source files to your project with the Add Clip button, right clicking your selection in the file browser and choosing Transcode. Kdenlive can do transcode to the popular DNxHD editing codec in two clicks and completely removes the need to download additional converters or doing it manually via command line.
cross platform video editing software
Cutting up your freshly transcoded video into clips for arrangement on the timeline isn’t difficult, especially if you use the handy keyboard shortcuts. By default "I" is your in-point, "O" is your out-point and "Ctrl+I" creates a clip from your chosen area. Then it’s just a simple case of dragging your newly made clip onto the timeline.

Kdenlive also includes stop-motion capture, which by default worked using my laptop’s webcam. If you have a video device that is configured for use with Linux then there’s little reason you wouldn’t be able to use it for stop-motion here too.

Transitions, Effects & Usability

There’s a decent array of transitions and effects included with Kdenlive, and once you’ve read the how-to, adding them to the timeline is a fairly easy affair. Some users might find the naming and function of some effects and transitions confusing, as they don’t really give much clue as to what the selection does. This makes Kdenlive feel a little less user friendly than it could be at times.
cross platform video editing software
Another thing that makes the program seem slightly unintuitive are the effects, and their applications. Instead of being able to change the volume of a clip by default in your timeline, volume is instead an effect that needs to be selected and applied. Fortunately you can keyframe it, but it’s nowhere near as quick or straightforward as some of the more advanced (and admittedly costly) non-linear editors out there.

On the Ubuntu 10.10 system I’m currently using, Kdenlive was incredibly stable. I’ve not actually enjoyed this level of stability from a Linux video editor ever, and I’ve tried nearly all of them. Whilst editing together a 7 minute 720p video with effects, transitions, images, additional audio and a lot of source videos the program crashed once in the entire editing process (don’t hit Save whilst you’re previewing your creation).

The only "major" problem I had were my sub-clips (selections of video within other files) somehow hid themselves and there was no clear way of getting them back. Eventually I worked out that creating a new sub-clip from the same source video reveals them again, but it’s annoying all the same.
cross platform video editor
When it comes to rendering you’ve got plenty of pre-defined output options, so choose carefully before you commit. Rendering always takes a while, and the more grunt your PC has the less time you’ll have to wait.

There’s also a decent community sharing custom creations including render profiles and transitions, though these can be downloaded within Kdenlive from the drop-down Settings menu.
cross platform video editing


If you like the look of Kdenlive then you can download the following versions:


I really like Kdenlive, even though it doesn’t feel quite user-friendly enough for everyone. Whilst it does have its bugs, quirks and annoyances it is still the most stable video editor I’ve yet to use on the Linux platform. For this reason (and its decent array of features) I’d recommend Kdenlive as a very workable solution, though if you are thinking of undertaking a project then don’t forget the software’s limitations.

If you’re looking for alternative Linux video editors, Kdenlive was featured alongside 6 others in this article.

Have you tried Kdenlive? Did you like it? Any better editors out there? Anything nearly as stable around?

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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Hot Tech Deals – Boston Acoustics 5.1ch Classic Home Theater Speakers for $224.88+ more

Posted: 04 Jul 2011 01:30 PM PDT

Today’s featured deal is the Boston Acoustics 5.1ch Classic Home Theater Speakers which features Boston Acoustics’ Deep Channel Design graphite injected polymers and includes the CSSUB10 100W 10″ subwoofer. All for $225!

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

  1. TODAY ONLY Boston Acoustics 5.1ch Classic Home Theater Speakers $224.88 Free Ship
  2. Dell Vostro 230 Mini Intel Dual-Core E5800 3.2GHz Mini Tower Desktop w/ 22in LCD $399
  3. Dell Vostro 260 Intel Core i3-2100 3.1GHz Dual-Core Sandy Bridge Desktop $399
  4. Dell Vostro 460 Intel Core i5-2400 Quad-Core SandyBridge Desktop w/ 20in LCD $599
  5. TODAY ONLY Ultra ULT31502 Xfinity 1000VA 600w UPS w/ AVR $89.99
  6. TODAY ONLY Cougar 1000W ATX Power Supply (80PLUS, Modular) $109AR Free Ship
  7. Invicta 9094 Automatic Blue Dial Exhibition Back 200M Mens Watch $72
  8. Hype Universal USB Power Bank w/ 1200mAh Battery $12.99 Free Shipping
  9. ZyXel GS105B 5-Port Gigabit Network Switch $19.99 Free Shipping

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

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Tired Of Watching Videos Alone? Here Are The Best 3 Ways To Watch YouTube With Friends.

Posted: 04 Jul 2011 12:30 PM PDT

watch youtube with friends

YouTube videos have become a big part of our lives. There isn’t a day that goes by without me getting at least one link for the next viral video. But how many videos can you watch? Then, what if a friend sends you a link right in the middle of a chat? Do you stop the conversation for 5 minutes just to watch a video? But if you don’t watch it now, it will just get drowned in the sea of links you get and you’re likely to forget about it.

Maybe you’re like me, and you just don’t like sitting alone and watching all these videos. Having some friends along to share your thoughts and reactions with is so much more fun.

There are many ways to watch YouTube videos collaboratively. Here are the easiest and simplest ways I found out there.

YouTube Social

watch youtube with friends

YouTube Social has one feature over its competitors — you can use it directly from YouTube. If you’re browsing YouTube and find a video you’d like to watch with your friends, all you have to do is add the word “social” after the words “www.youtube” in your address bar, and voila! You’re re-directed to YouTube Social and can invite friends to watch the video with you.

As for the interface, YouTube Social is quite friendly. Once you get to the main page, it’s very easy to search for more videos and create a playlist simply by adding them to the queue. You can invite friends either by a short URL or through Facebook. You can also chat to your friends while you watch, which works well, but I couldn’t find a way to change my nick. I guess this only works when you log in using Facebook.

watch youtube with friends online

Another cool feature is the option to give someone else the remote. As a default, the person who created the room has the remote and he alone can control the video. But if you want someone else to take control, you can simply pass the remote! There isn’t a way for more than one person to have the remote that I could see, but this is probably for the best.

watch youtube with friends online


When you first enter the SynchTube website, you don’t immediately get a room into which you can invite people. The main page includes many existing public rooms you can join, and a big button that lets you create your own room. Once you click it, you enter your room and can start looking for videos and inviting people.

watch youtube with friends online

At first glance, I was kind of at a loss as to how to add videos. Good thing they have some instructions on the blank video screen. It said I should search for videos, which drew my attention to the search option hidden on the bottom right side. After you look for videos, you can’t just click on them as I expected, you need to choose from a menu if you’d like to play them now, add them to the playlist, etc.

watch youtube together

SynchTube allows you to change your nickname easily on the chat window, and when your friends join, in addition to chatting to them, you can choose to put them in charge, and also kick, ban or mute them! I sure hope it doesn’t come to that, but these options are probably there because the rooms on SynchTube can be public. You can change this using the settings button, as well as some other things such as enabling voting on the video.

watch youtube together

I must say I found SyncTube’s interface to be a bit less intuitive, but it generally did the job. On one occurrence when I tried it, it just didn’t work, but it did work on other times.


This is the bare-bones option, for all those of you who just want something that does what it says and that’s it. Watch2gether doesn’t have playlists, doesn’t have options, doesn’t let you pass control over to other people — you can invite people and watch a video. That’s pretty much it.

watch youtube together

The first thing you need to do when you load Watch2gether is choose a nickname, this is in stark contrast to YouTube Social where I couldn’t even find where to change my nickname. After you do that, you can either paste a YouTube link or search for a video within the room. And, of course, invite friends and chat with them. The chat is a bit old-looking, and every time I selected a new video it shoved a big red notice about it into the chat. Quite distracting.

watch youtube with friends

It’s important to note that the first time I invited a friend, Watch2gether didn’t work for him. Only after he disabled a specific YouTube addon he had in Chrome did this start working, and then it worked without any problems.


All these options let you watch YouTube videos with friends. So which should you choose? Let me make it easy for you:

For the polished, feature-rich experience, choose YouTube Social.

For the option to have a public room, to which anyone can join, choose SynchTube.

For a bare-bones, no-nonsense experience, choose Watch2gether.

Any more good options out there? Something that combines the best of all worlds? Let us know in the comments!

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Magician Monitor Gives A Diagnostic Check Of Your Mac

Posted: 04 Jul 2011 11:30 AM PDT

mac diagnostic scanner

Months after you purchase and use a Mac—or any computer for that matter—it may stop performing at a rapid speed like it did fresh out of the box. We stuff our machines with applications; hundreds, if not thousands, of bookmarks; all manner of documents, photos, music files—plus all the little unknown items that get thrown into the Home Library folder. Leave 5-10 applications running at the same, and you may experience the beach ball of death, or you may have to get a cup of coffee while you wait for Microsoft Word to fully launch.

There are things that contribute to a Mac's performance, but according to Joe Kissell, author Taking Control of Speeding Up Your Mac, three of the most important contributors to a Mac's slow performance include, CPU power (the computer's brain where all the calculations happen), RAM (random-access memory—in which "program code and data is stored and retrieved during use"), and disk speed (the hard drive or solid-state drive that stores all your software, preferences and files.) Checking these items can sometimes help you understand why your Mac is running slow.

We've covered briefly 4 Methods to Monitor Running Processes on Mac, including the Activities Monitor that comes installed with OS X. The latter built-in application is helpful (here's how to use it), but you probably will not want to keep Activity Monitor open all the time to monitor's your Mac performance—the window for the monitor it too big. This is where Magician Monitor comes. It's a little Mac diagnostic scanner application that you can park anywhere on your desktop and click on it to get an overall view of how your Mac is running.

Main Features

Magician Monitor shows the bandwidth speed, memory usage, the amount of free space on your internal hard drive, fan speed, CPU, GPU, and Disk temperature, and batter level, if applicable.
mac diagnostic scanner
Click on the menu bar of Magician Monitor and you can see all the indicators, or you can minimize them individually and hide the ones you don’t need.

Preferences Features

As you might expect, you can make various changes for how you want Magician Monitor data to appear, including the refresh intervals for your computer's memory, network, and hard drive.
diagnostic test for mac
You can change the color settings for various displays, and you can configure Magician Monitor's paster settings to appear in the dock and/or menu bar.

Optimizing Your Mac's Performance

Of course just having Magician Monitor provide you performance data will not improve the speed of your Mac. You will need to try different methods for optimizing your Mac's performance. In general, to get your Mac up to speed, you may need to reduce the number of startup items that open when you restart your Mac.

diagnostic test for mac

If Magician Monitor reports that your CPU, GPU or Disk temperature is too high, it may mean that you need to close your Mac and give it some rest, and/or quit many of your unused applications.

diagnostic test for mac

If Magician Monitor shows that your memory usage is full, you may need bump up your Mac's memory from 2gigs of RAM to 4.
mac diagnostic scanner
And if you're running low on hard drive, you may need to clean it out or move items off to an external drive. You can read about other suggestions for optimizing your Mac on the Magician Monitor website. Magician Monitor can only run Intel-based Macs, OS 10.6 or higher.

Let us know what you think of Magician Monitor, and about any other performance monitoring tools you use on your Mac.

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Several Tips To Help You Get Started With Google Plus

Posted: 04 Jul 2011 11:05 AM PDT

Google’s latest attempt to get into social networking has started to slowly get off the ground and so far, the reception has been overwhelmingly positive. That is, if you have managed to snag a beta invite to get in. With invites currently being sold on eBay (289 at time of writing this), demand to get into Google Plus is currently very high and as critical acclaim grows, the number of people clamoring to get through the door will only increase.  

The question currently being asked though is “will Plus survive in the long term or will it go the way of Wave and wither at the hands of Facebook?” (ironically Mark Zuckerberg is the most popular person on Plus right now in terms of followers).

MakeUseOf’s usual policy is not to write about closed betas unless we have invites to hand out.  But with Google Plus, people are slowly being let in, a few at a time. So I’ve decided to make an exception and let you know some of the things you should know about Google’s new social network, so when you finally manage to enter, you’ll have a broad overview of how it all works.

It’s All About The Circles

The thing that people love the most about Plus is that you can categorise your contacts into different circles and then only post your status messages to the circles of people who you want to inform.  So for example, you can keep your family in one circle, your work colleagues in another circle, and your friends in another.  Then, for example, you can discuss your drunken night out that culminated in a stay in a police cell with a traffic cone, and only tell your trusted friends about it, safe in the knowledge that your boss or your mother will never see that status update if you don’t want them to.

When you first start using Plus, your Gmail contacts will be scanned and “suggestions” will be given to you as to who you should follow.  A little envelope beside their picture means they haven’t been allowed into Plus yet but they will get status messages via email, if you want that.  When you have found someone you want to add, just drag them with your mouse to the circle you want them to be in. Is there not a circle there suitable for a particular contact?  Then make a new circle!  Make as many as you want.  Go on, go wild and make loads of circles.  Live life on the edge.

Start Updating Your Stream

When you have some circles set up, you can then start to update your stream with status messages.   You will soon realise that Google Plus is basically a Facebook clone but much cleaner and more minimalist.  No crappy Farmville or Mafia Wars games and “what is your horoscope today?” apps. It’s just people interacting with one another.  As it should be.

When you have written your status update, you have the option of attaching a photo, a video clip, a link or your geo-location.  Photos can be taken from Picasa Web or your phone (more on that later) and videos from either your phone or YouTube.   Then click “add circles or people to share with“, choose the circles you want to send your status update to, then click “share“.

As you can see from the screenshot above, replies are “threaded”, just like Gmail messages.  So posts are easy to navigate and you can shrink / collapse posts to read the comments then move on.

Watch The Privacy Settings!

When you post a status update, you have the option of posting to one or more circles.   In this case, when you publish the status, you will see “limited” at the top, meaning it is limited to the circles you have sent it to.

But you can also choose to dispense with circles altogether and publish your post to anyone who visits your public profile. This setting is called “public” and will probably be indexed on the web.

The moral of the story is, when publishing something, take extra care to ensure you are giving the post the correct privacy setting!  Otherwise that hilarious tale of you and the traffic cone in the police cell will suddenly go global and you’ll find yourself a viral hit – as well as probably unemployed and disowned by your mother!

Update your Google Profile

Obviously you would like people to follow you so you have a few people to talk to. So for them to find you, you need your profile properly filled out. Here’s mine. If you already have a Google Profile, then it automatically becomes your Plus Profile when you sign up for Plus.  Make sure you have a good photograph, fill out your bio, your about page and link your Picasa Web account, if you have one.  If not, make one because it will quickly become invaluable.

Uploading Your Photos To Picasa Web & Your Plus Stream

There are two ways you can upload photos to Picasa Web and your stream. Either through your phone (those with an Android mobile phone, with at least the 2.1 OS, can get the Plus app )  or you can upload the photo via the Plus website when you are writing your status update.  But what makes Plus cool is that it offers on-the-fly online image editing.

So if you want to edit a photo that is perhaps too dark, just click on it once it’s been uploaded, then underneath the photo, you will see a small menu button called “Actions“.  Drop that down and choose “edit photo“.   This opens up some basic image editing tools.

Changes are shown in real time and can be undone if you don’t like any of it.  Click “done editing” when you’re finished to see your revamped photo.  It isn’t Photoshop but it isn’t that bad either.  It makes my crappy Android camera phone look cool all of a sudden.

All Your Notification Messages On One Toolbar

You have probably already seen the black toolbar that Google has now put at the top of every one of their pages (a bit hard to miss, isn’t it?).   But when you start using Plus, that toolbar becomes an instant notification area where you can see how many stream updates there are waiting for you.  You can drop down the menu to see what the update is so you know whether or not you have to visit the Plus webpage at that precise moment.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of what Plus has to offer.  I haven’t mentioned Hangouts for instance, which allow you to have webcam chats with your circles, or Huddles where you can do group text messaging with the Android app.  But MakeUseOf will be covering all of these features in due course.  The purpose of this article is just to show you the basics.

Please don’t ask in the comments for an invite because currently Google has suspended all invites.  But if you are already in, please let us know what you think of Plus in the comments.  Is this a Facebook killer or will Plus go the way of Wave? Is Buzz also likely to be killed off as a result of Plus?

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7 Free Online News Games That Are Based On World Affairs & News Events

Posted: 04 Jul 2011 10:30 AM PDT

free online news gamesTucked away in the smorgasbord of online games is a genre called news games. Yes, you read it right. News games take any past or present global happening and turn into an interactive game. Newspapers and television inform and educate; so do games. Come to think of it, if news and games come together, they can really make us appreciate how events are panning out around the world.

Free news based online games are also important educational tools. We have seen how history can be spiced up with interactivity. The same holds true for teaching kids about current affairs and world events through a fun tool like news games.

The games may not reflect news as it is happening right now, but they are still fun to play. You can relive an alternate reality and again understand a bit of why an event became newsworthy in the first place. Here are seven news games for you to try out right now.

Breaking News Games

free online news games

The name of this online Flash based game site reveals the purpose. We know that Hillary didn't make it to the grand throne of the Presidency, but you can still help her along her campaign by collecting points as she marks her campaign trail. This game is really simple and in the genre of what we call 'time-wasters'. All games are arranged under heads like – Politics, Business, Sports & Entertainment, and World. You can turn to a shooter game like Celebrity Hitman: Terrorist Alert and win brownie points for world peace.


online news games play

The news gaming site has only two games on its roster but they are worth a few clicks of the mouse. Play MADRID reflects the attacks in Madrid on March 11th, 2004. September 12th. It's a simple game that pays homage to the victims. September 12th is the other game – a game without a result – that is simply a simulation on urban terror and the civilian casualties that it inflicts. You have to pick out and shoot the terrorists who are moving around a crowded city sprawl.

Darfur is Dying

online news games play

Darfur is Dying is a viral video game that was released in 2006. The very popular game promotes change and action for the benefit of the 2.5 million refugees in the Darfur region of Sudan. Players role-play a Darfurian refugee who must survive and keep the refugee camp functioning in the face of attacks by Janjaweed militias. Players also can understand the genocide in Darfur that had taken more than five million lives before the cease fire was signed. The Darfur genocide may have slackened off, but there are similar conflicts brewing around the world. The game gives a glimpse into history and encourages critical thinking.


online news games play

This game on American unemployment remains topical, because joblessness continues under Obama's presidency. Get a peek into what it really means and how prepared are you for the daily costs of living when you get the pink slip through this excellently designed game. I won't go into the details of it because Angela did a great review as recently as three months back. Read up on – SPENT – An Online Game Designed To See If You Can Avoid Homelessness. As she recommends – I'd personally love to see high school students playing this before they leave home, go to college, get jobs and try to manage their own financial lives. It could prevent a few bad decisions along the way.

You Shall Know The Truth

current events game

If you are for free journalism then you will like this darkly satirical game about the attacks on Wikileaks. It's a role-playing game and you play the spy tasked with the mission of retrieving leaked documents and biometric data among other things from a Wikileaks employee's apartment. The game is like a treasure hunt where you have to click on every object and find clues. You are also up against a clock (timed at 999 seconds).

Leaky World

current events game

Let's continue with Wikileaks and its socio-political impact with this slightly offbeat game that is an interactive version of the essay “Conspiracy as Governance” by Julian Assange. It's difficult to understand at first, but gradually you can make out that the red dots on the world map are cities and your goal is to create a network interconnecting all these cities in a limited amount of time. Basically, you are connecting the dots and rendering the idea of conspiratorial interactions among the political elite on the map. The backdrop of the game is the essay by Assange and it is also interspersed with Wikileaks news items which you can pause to read.

Cutthroat Capitalism

free online news games

This game is embedded on Wired.com's site which is traditionally not a gaming site. The theme of the game is on high sea piracy around the Gulf of Aden which continues to this day. You play for the 'other side' as a pirate commander who has to capture a ship and successfully negotiate a ransom. The game is nicely designed and very addictive.

As online games go, news games are definitely not news reporting but they can fall under edutainment for children which is an ever growing genre these days. For us adults it is just entertainment because we can turn to regular news channels to get the scoop. What do you think of free online news games? Do you know any more cool ones that are newsworthy?

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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How To Install KDE Trunk On openSUSE [Linux]

Posted: 04 Jul 2011 09:31 AM PDT

install kde opensuseThe open source world moves at a very fast pace, and although there are a lot of regular releases, the time between releases can already offer features that you may need. Using the trunk version of a piece of software (like the Linux kernel) will let you try out the very latest code that hasn’t officially been released yet.

Please note that although the trunk version of anything can lead to more features, the chances that the program won’t even start because of bugs are also increased. Running trunk takes some risks, but some people would still like to do it anyway on non-production machines.

About KDE Trunk

It’s fine if people want to run the trunk version of certain programs, but who would want to run the trunk version of KDE? Although technically it poses even more risks, running the trunk version of KDE provides the latest and greatest code for features and performance. Some people just happen to want to run the absolute latest stuff.  As for myself, I am currently interested in running KDE Trunk because the current version (which will later become KDE 4.7) can finally sync to all the Google calendars that I have via CalDAV.

Setting Up Repositories

Normally to run KDE Trunk, you’d have to pull the latest code from their servers and compile it yourself. Not only is it hard, but it is very time consuming, and more than likely there will already be newer code before you even finish compiling. openSUSE makes this a lot easier by offering a repository that updates every week with the latest code from KDE Trunk. You can then install these packages like any other.

To add the repository, you’ll need to open up YaST as if you’re installing a program, then go up to the menu Configuration, and choose Repositories. After the repositories load, you’ll need to click on Add, then choose HTTP, and then enter the URL for “Core packages” listed here for your system. Then just add it, and let YaST update the repositories.

If it asks, go ahead and import the GPG key for the repository. Repeat this process for “Released applications” and “Extra“. If you really desire, you can also add “Unstable:Playground“; though I wouldn’t recommend it, as I didn’t add it myself.

install kde opensuse

Disable Vendor Stickiness

If you check for updates now, nothing will happen. Why? openSUSE implements a feature called “Vendor Stickiness”. Basically, this means that after a package is installed, the system will only check for updates in the same repository that it was installed from. Even if a different repository has the same package in a newer version, YaST won’t accept that as a viable update. This feature is simply meant to keep the system stable.

I learned, however, that there are two ways you can update. First, you can still keep vendor stickiness on and run zypper dup –from <repoName> –from <repoName2> to update the system using the two repositories we added (don’t forget to actually replace <repoName> and <repoName2> with the actual names), or you can go ahead and just disable vendor stickiness. Be warned though that it’s not recommended to disable it.

But since what we’re technically doing is making it unstable, we can if we want. In order to do that, use your favorite graphical or terminal text editor to edit the file /etc/zypp/zypp.conf. In there, you need to set solver.allowVendorChange from false to true. Save the file, and open up YaST again to check for updates. You should now have a lot more KDE updates to install.

install kde opensuse

Words Of Wisdom

One last thing you need to be careful about. It is possible that some packages that you will update don’t have perfect dependencies. Many of the conflicts occur because the packages request specific versions of a package, even though you’re updating the package to a newer version than what is requested. Since it is very rare that a newer package will have lost some functionality that another package needs from it, I’d recommend telling YaST to ignore the conflicts and install all packages anyways. The problem came up for me once, and I had no problems after I did that. Any minor problems I did have after the update came from the instability of KDE Trunk.


openSUSE is a great distro with a stable working environment. However, the ability to install bleeding edge packages is also worth a lot to many people, and KDE Trunk definitely satisfies. No matter what the reason, it is a great choice to have for installation.

Do you run openSUSE? Do you think KDE Trunk may benefit you? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments!

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Spoil The Digital Artist In You With Procreate For iPad [Giveaway]

Posted: 04 Jul 2011 08:30 AM PDT

While the tech world is still trying to constrain the iPad into a particular category, users have already found many cool uses for the gadget. Although the iPad is known for consuming media like news, books, music, and movies; it is also a great tool for creative individuals.

Digital graphic artists are one of the many groups of talents to see the iPad as a new medium to express their creativity. This enthusiasm resulted in the availability of many great drawing apps for iPad. One of the latest names to enter the game is Procreate.

We’re giving away 25 copies of Procreate for iPad this week. Find out more about it and how to join the giveaway below.

Between 16 and 100

If you think you will see “just another” drawing tool for iPad, you’ll be surprised. The first thing that you’ll notice just how fast it is. Procreate is a snap even on the first generation iPad. This is because the creator of this app spent over a year to create their own non-GPU reliant painting engine called Silica.

01a main interface

Other great features of this app are the number of layers and undo that users can utilize. Procreate supports up to 16 layers – with the ability to blend the layers – and 100 undos (which will definitely come in handy).

04a layers

The app comes with more brushes than any inspiring new artist would ever need. But it doesn’t stop there, you can edit the existing brushes, import more brushes, and even create your own sets of brushes if you wanted to.

03a customizing brush

A Quick Encounter

The best way to know how a drawing app performs is by trying it out, so I tried to draw using Procreate. Since I’m not a professional artist, I don’t expect to produce a beautiful and realistic photo-like painting. Yet, I was able to do amazing things during my first 30 minutes.

To cut a long story short, I created several layers: for sketching, for line drawing, for coloring, for shading, and for background toning. I constantly switched between the layers to add different elements to my drawing. I start drawing the general sketch, then I “cheated” by zooming into drawing to add details.

05a drawing

As someone who always draws traditionally using a pencil and paper, I was amazed at how cool digital drawing is and how lucky we are to live in a time where you can create beautiful paintings easily on a multi-touch digital drawing board.

There are many more things that you can do with Procreate, and you can learn about them by reading the downloadable user guide or watching the introductory video. But the best way is to find out by yourself. If you want to try out Procreate, it’s available at iTunes App Store for $4.99. But you can get it for free because we are giving away the app to 25 lucky readers.

How do I win a copy?

It’s simple, just follow the instructions.

Step 1: Fill in the giveaway form

Please fill in the form with your real name and email address so that we can get in touch if you are chosen as a winner. Click here if you can’t view the form.

The giveaway code required to activate the form is available from Friday’s newsletter or on our Facebook page.

Step 2: Share!

You’re almost done. Now, all that’s left to do is to share the post. There are 2 options to choose from or you can do both!

Like it on Facebook

Or share it on Twitter

This giveaway begins now and ends Friday, July 8th at 2100hrs PDT. The winners will be selected at random and informed via email.

Spread the word to your friends and have fun!

MakeUseOf would like to thank Savage Interactive for their generosity while participating in this giveaway. Interesting in sponsoring? We’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with us via email.

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World of Fourcraft Transforms New York City Into A Boardgame Battleground [News]

Posted: 04 Jul 2011 07:31 AM PDT

Tired of becoming mayor, and looking instead to become a conqueror? If you live in New York City, that's now possible thanks to a site called World of Fourcraft.

By combining Foursquare with Google Maps, this game has managed to turn the Big Apple into a real-life boardgame. Anyone who'd like to participate can do so by selecting their team – Brooklyn, Manhatten, Bronx, Queens, Staten Island or The Waste Land (for those who live outside the city) – and then checking into the neighborhoods he or she visits. After a little mathematical wizardry calculates the number and timeliness of the check-ins, a winner is determined.

The rules are simple. The check-in tally adds up over time, unlike Foursquare, which wipes the data on a weekly basis. There are no restrictions on who can take what, as is readily apparent by viewing the game map. At the time of this writing, Manhattan has taken numerous boroughs deep in Queens, and Brooklyn has taken a territory deep in the northern reaches of the Bronx. It's a free for all!

World of Fourcraft can potentially be accessed on any device with a GPS or other location service, as it's a website rather than an app. The game is the result of a weekend hackathon, but it may receive some more development as time goes on. Robert Robinett, one of the developers, has stated that he'd like to add leveling features to the game.

It's not clear what happens if one side manages to conquer the others – so if you're in NYC, sign up and join the fight to find out!

Source: Mashable

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