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June 26 2013

00:30

8 Purrfect Cat Websites For Feline Lovers

Cats are everywhere online… as photos shared by friends on social networking sites, as cute pics on Reddit, on any of the cat-centric Tumblr sites, and even here on MakeUseOf. Oh, and then there’s Nyan Cat. There are even whole websites dedicated to our feline friends, eight of which are highlighted below.

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Read full article: 8 Purrfect Cat Websites For Feline Lovers

June 19 2013

00:30

Make(No)UseOf: 10 Peculiarly Pointless Websites That Exist For No Reason

We here at MakeUseOf specialize in directing our readers to websites they can make use of, hence the name. But that means we’re all missing out on a vast number of peculiarly pointless websites that offer nothing other than strange and simple diversions that will last no longer than 5 minutes. If that.

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Read full post: Make(No)UseOf: 10 Peculiarly Pointless Websites That Exist For No Reason

April 03 2013

21:01

8 April Fools’ Day Pranks You May Have Missed

April Fools’ Day is, depending on your individual point of view, either a pathetic waste of everyone’s time and energy that you try to avoid as much as possible or 24 hours of fun that marks a welcome break from the doom and gloom which dominates the rest of the year. The Web was once virtually free of April Fools’ Day pranks, but now it’s awash with them each time the calendar clicks over to the fourth month.

This year was no exception, with Google leading the way with Google Nose, Gmail Blue, and the end of YouTube. There were other high-profile entries too, from the likes of Twitter, Sony, and Nokia. However, for all of these well-known and oft-reported April Fools’ Day pranks there were ones that didn’t quite get the attention that they (perhaps) deserved.

What follows is a list of April Fools’ Day pranks with a tech twist that you may have missed.

Crowdfund The National Debt

The Pitch: Countries around the world are struggling to get their national debts under control, the United States included. Forget raising taxes, let’s all just pledge what we can to get it under control once and for all.

The Reality: This is a viral April Fools’ Day commercial for Crowdtilt, a crowd-funding service focused on making it easier for groups to band together to pay for something.

Revision3 Rebrand

The Pitch: With G4 being rebranded as the Esquire Network, Revision3 decided it would be a good idea to follow suit. So all of its shows are being rebranded as magazines from the days when old media ruled.

The Reality: This is nothing more than a dig at G4 for what some considered a backwards step. Print magazines are, after all, dying, with Web television surely one of the media replacing them.

Sprint Specs

The Pitch: Google Glass has many people excited about the future of mobile headsets, but until that becomes a reality you could instead use Sprint Specs to use your phone without appearing rude.

The Reality: This is actually a clever promotional effort from Sprint, a U.S,-based wireless provider. The company benefits from people using their mobiles as much as possible, hence the thinking here.

Twitter Vs. Tweeter

The Pitch: How dare Twitter assume control of the word tweet and talk about people tweeting when a bird named Woodstock is the original tweeter. Peanuts wants Twitter off the Internet, and fast.

The Reality: A nice way to draw attention to Peanuts, the comic strip produced by Charles M. Schulz for 50 years from 1950 to 2000.

Blue Jeans Sniff RTC

The Pitch: It’s all well and good being able to see and hear the people in a video meeting with you, but what you really want to do is smell them. No? Blue Jeans thinks so, and its Sniff RTC is the possible solution.

The Reality: Blue Jeans is, as already patently obvious from the video, a company dedicated to video conferencing. This April Fools’ Day prank was designed to promote the company, and clearly worked.

Vimeow

The Pitch: Vimeo is one of the many alternatives to YouTube, one which is home to some of the best short films from around the world. There’s just one thing missing… cats, and lots of them. Meet Vimeow.

The Reality: Don’t worry, Vimeo isn’t morphing into a video platform just for cats and the humans that love their feline friends. It did, but only for the 24 hours that together formed April 1, 2013.

Google Nigeria

The Pitch: Google is the undisputed master at creating April Fools’ Day pranks online, producing several each year, many of which are epic. This is one by Google Nigeria, poking fun at the country’s reputation.

The Reality: This hasn’t got anything to do with Google, instead being the brainchild of Shed Simove. All of the Google-esque links on the fake Google Nigeria page lead to his personal website.

The Cutest Viral Video Of All Time

The Pitch: A panda and a baby together? Now that is cute, so this is a must-see future viral video classic. Oh, stop with the commercials, I want to see the cuteness overload. Screw you, Google!

The Reality: There actually is no epic viral video featuring a panda and a baby. You can keep clicking to skip the ads all you want, but it won’t do you any good whatsoever. Suckers.

Conclusions

Hopefully these pranks are all still live as you read this, but the nature of April Fools’ Day pranks on the Web means some may have already disappeared from the sites responsible for them. In which case all that remains is the screenshot or video proving that someone, somewhere was once creative enough to concoct a clever concept for April Fools’ Day.

What do you think of the April Fools’ Day pranks listed above? Or the other ones that were played on the Web as a whole in 2013? What about those played in previous years? Do you love that Google spends so much time creating April Fools’ Day pranks or do you wish the company’s employees spent their time a little more sensibly? As always we’re keen to hear your thoughts on the matter, so please feel free to leave a comment below.

Image Credit: Eric Heunthep

The post 8 April Fools’ Day Pranks You May Have Missed appeared first on MakeUseOf.

Tags: Offbeat fun prank

September 05 2012

01:30

4 Hilarious Videos Of Water Balloon Pranks That You Can Try On Your Own

water balloonsThe Internet is a beautiful thing. It’s the only place where you can share embarrassing stories about yourself with people that you don’t know. You can even share embarrassing videos of your friends with people that you don’t know. However, what makes it really great is the ability to share the satisfaction of a good old-fashioned prank.

Thankfully, through the power of YouTube (and the Google machine), we are able to share these luscious videos of cringeworthy pranks with people from all over the world. Much like scientists, fellow pranksters often copy and repeat these shared pranks in their own environments, searching for different or similar results. With that said, I’d like just to focus on the water balloon prank, and I’d also really like to offer you four examples of these types of pranks that you can pull on your friends. Take a break, wind down, buy some balloons… let’s watch them all.

Water Balloon Window Prank

Warning! The language on this video is NSFW, but based on what the pranksters pulled on this gentleman, it’s slightly understandable. This is the classic water balloon prank that requires minimal set-up, at least one “dropper”, one “caller”, and of course, the victim. The particular prank is as simple as it can get, but for some reason, it gets funnier each time I watch it.

Basically, the dropper stays in a window right above a door, and the caller yells for the victim to come outside… through said door. As you might guess, this results in hilarity and an unfortunate end to the caller. (But strangely, not the dropper.) Again, I apologize for the reaction that comes from the victim, but at least the joke is funny even while playing the video with the sound turned off.

Trampoline Water Balloon Prank

Let me be honest with you – this video isn’t really exciting. However, the mechanics behind this water balloon prank are fantastic. Essentially, the dropper must find his or her victim on a trampoline. However, the catch is that this trampoline must have guards. In theory, this creates a cage around the victim(s), allowing for maximum accuracy for multiple balloon droppage.

Seeing that the victim is unable to run and only flail about, hurling insults at the dropper, there is an increased amount of opportunities to hit the target. Think back to when you were four-years-old and played tee-ball. Sure, you have to hit the ball like in baseball, but it’s not like it’s moving anywhere. This video demonstrates how the trampoline cage, a high altitude, and a easily-shut window can come together to create absolute mayhem.

Water Balloon Drive-By

This video is more of a warning as opposed to an example. Basically, if you want to do a water balloon drive-by, don’t. Instead, set the water balloons somewhere else, put the kids to sleep, and watch The Office on Netflix with your significant other for the remainder of the night. Maybe you could order pizza. I don’t know. But if you want to hit somebody with a water balloon, please make sure that it is someone you know. These hacks drove around hitting people that they didn’t know, and that’s just wrong.

Furthermore, it’s a bit cowardly, and the clip painstakingly suffers from vertical video syndrome. They also probably smell bad. Basically, if you do something like this after reading this article, I will find you, and I will write another article that badmouths you. Of course, it won’t be for MakeUseOf, for I would probably be fired because of that. Granted, if you happened to do a prank like this to someone you know… it might be funny.

12-Story High Water Balloon Drop

Much like the original window water balloon drop, this video involves releasing the ammunition from an elevated location. But just how elevated? Well… 12 stories. Yes, my friends, this video demonstrates the mechanics of dropping a water balloon on a particular person of interest from approximate 12 stories high. That’s pretty darn high, folks.

What really makes this video is the reaction of the victim. There is the instantaneous moment of, “What just hit me? Where did it come from?” That’s very, very good, ladies and gentlemen. You see, the perpetrators in this video made a rookie mistake. They were on a balcony, and they could have taken advantage of this by hiding immediately after the balloon struck the target, causing maximum confusion. As a matter of fact, they could have taken the opportunity to hit the target again while they were looking for the source. If you so choose to attempt this prank, please keep my words of wisdom in mind.

Conclusion

SMACK! That’s the end of this article, MUO-readers. We love to have a little bit of fun every now and then, so I hope these water balloons clips gave you some ideas or even made you laugh.

With that said, we’d love to see some of your favorite prank videos. Furthermore, if you’ve ever pulled a water balloon prank, it would be great to see it as well! Leave the links in the comments below.

Image Credit: kevin_p


Tags: Offbeat fun prank

August 23 2012

01:31

Use Pixel’d To Create Beautiful Pixel Art [iOS]

pixel artSometimes it is fun to sit back and create something new. If you have artistic ability, your options for creating are vast. For those of us who do not have any ability, our options are extremely limited. I have stumbled across this fantastic iPhone app called Pixel’d which allows users to create some beautiful pictures even if their artistic abilities are lacking. We can’t all be the next Michelangelo, but with the help of technology, we can certainly try.

The pixel art app was created with Disney, so there are plenty of Disney characters that you can use to create art. This application allows you to create pictures using pixel art. This grid-based system makes it much easier to make some really cool pictures. As everything is mapped to a grid, not as much freehand skill is required. For the more artistically inclined, this app will still work very well for you because you can push it to the limits and make some amazing pictures in that old school, 8-bit style.

Getting Started

To start creating, you simply need to tap the “Draw” button. From here, you will be presented with an empty canvas on which you can create your next masterpiece. You can also tap “Shop” to purchase more stamps to use in your creations. The last option on the main page is “Gallery.” This is where you can see all the masterpieces you have created.

pixel art

Once in the canvas screen, you can tap the “Canvas” button to change the number of pixels in your creation. You can go as small as 4X4 and as big as 1024X768. Depending on the type of drawing you are attempting, choosing the right canvas size is an important step.

The Tools

There are three main tools. The first is the pen, which is how you will actually draw your pieces. The second is the stamp, which lets you add pre-drawn Disney characters to your drawing. The last tool is the eraser, which, as you might guess, allows you to fix any mistakes you may make.

create pixel art

When you select a tool, the app will allow you to tweak it to your needs. For example, if you tap the pen or eraser, you will see a slider that allows you to choose how large you would like it to be. If you select the stamp tool, it will let you choose what you want to stamp.

create pixel art

You can also choose the color select tool. In here, you can fine-tune your color choice by choosing the hue and adjusting the brightness. You can go fully colored or almost all the way transparent, depending on the needs of that particular part of the picture.

The app also has layer support. You can have three layers per image and these can be moved and tweaked independently of each other.

create pixel art

You can also make brief animations using the bar at the bottom. You simply tap the frame you want to work on and create as you normally would. Obviously, this is going to be a time commitment to draw each frame, but the finished product comes out quite good if you put forth the effort.

In-App Purchases

beautiful pixel art

The in-app purchases are great for people who want to stick with using the stamps more than actually hand-drawing pictures. They allow you to load up on all kinds of characters and backgrounds. Of course, how much you love the app will determine if they are a worthwhile investment to you, but there are definitely some great options in there.

Sharing

pixel art

After you spend hours working on your masterpiece, you are going to want to show it to others. Do not worry, this app is integrated with most of the big social networks. By tapping the “Share” button the top of the canvas screen, you can share your creations on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, your Camera Roll and even Tumblr. If you want your friends to see your hard work, Pixel’d has you covered.

Conclusion

With this app, anyone from the unskilled artist to the professional can create awesome looking pictures. The results come out impressively and the 8-bit style gives them a different look and feel. The pixel art app is free, so there is no reason for any budding artist not to check it out.

iTunes Link


July 27 2012

21:30

Seaquence: Where Biology And Music Come Together In A Fun Online Simulation

They say that the most innovative ideas arise when someone takes two generally unrelated ideas and combines them into a cohesive and useful result. Is that really what innovation comes down to? Maybe, maybe not–I’m not exactly qualified to make that judgment. However, every once in a while we’ll see an idea come along that proves the statement to be true, and Seaquence is one of those ideas.

The Internet is home to a number of web-based sandbox games, like Falling Sand, where there is no particular winning condition. Instead, these sandbox games are aptly named because they are meant to be playgrounds for creativity and experimentation. Some sandbox games focus on physics and scientific experimentation, while others–like Seaquence–focus on musical creativity.

Never heard of Seaquence before? That’s okay because neither had I heard of it until just a few days ago. I’m not sure how I found it, but I’m definitely glad that I did find it because this is one idea that really deserves to be shared. Keep reading to learn more about Seaquence.

If I had to summarize Seaquence in a single tightly-wrapped sentence, I would say that it is an experiment in music composition that uses biological metaphors to present and modify the various components of a song. That may sound a bit confusing, but bear with me as I break it down piece by piece.

The world of Seaquence is a blank canvas upon which you can paint your musical creations. The world is broken down into individual organisms which serve as visual displays of their musical configuration. Each organism represents one layer and as you add multiple organisms to the world, they all come together to form a whole song.

By clicking on an organism, you can modify its attributes. What can you change? On first glance, you’ll see that you can alter an organism’s waveform sound (color of the organism), the notes that it plays (the big grid on the right), the octave that it plays at (the ‘+’ and ‘-‘ buttons), the scale of the notes (the 12 keys to the left of the octave control), and the envelope (changed with the three control points along its waveform).

When you’re on the main world screen, you can drag your organisms around. The closer they are to the central point, the louder they’ll be. As they move around, some parts of the song will fade and others will grow louder. Your song will be constantly flowing with life as the organisms move around on their own.

The coolest part about Seaquence is that you can share the work you create with other people. Once you click on the “Share” button and name your composition, it appears on a public list for all to see. You can view the public list by clicking on “Recent.” You can then share particular compositions by linking the URL directly.

Just browsing through the Recent list, I stumbled across this cool little composition. It’s a good example of why Seaquence is so awesome and why it’s not as awesome as it could be. If you want, you can listen to this Seaquence piece.

For one thing, the beat sounds like a real beat. The structure is all there: the bass, the melody, the rhythm, everything. It’s easy to see how this could be the backing track in a video game or even a short clip on Youtube. The way that the organisms all work together to bring this to life–very cool.

The downside is that the music is limited to repeated patterns. There’s no way you could compose a full song using Seaquence because the tools just aren’t there. It’s more about bringing different beats together to see how they interact with one another. This limitation can be frustrating for anyone that wants to do a little more than just fiddle with beats.

Still, it’s worth a try for anyone–yes, even those of you that aren’t music enthusiasts. At the very least it’s a fun way to take a break from an otherwise ordinary session on the Internet. Try it out and see what you think.


July 26 2012

12:30

Parrot AR Drone 2.0 Review and Giveaway

parrot ar drone 2 reviewThe Parrot AR Drone 2.0 is the most expensive remote control toy money can buy; it’s a smartphone controlled quadrocopter with a 720p HD camera, and it’s ridiculously fun, but quite temperamental. It’s an enthusiast level device with an affordable $300 price tag. There simply is no competition at a comparable price. It’s far from perfect, but it’s certainly fun! The device is remote controlled, but you will need a smartphone or tablet running either iOS or Android – there is no standalone remote supplied.

What follows is a review of the Parrot AR Drone 2.0 untainted. We purchased the review unit ourselves and will be giving it away to the MakeUseOf community. Read on to find out more about this $300 toy and how to be in the running to win it!

Initial Impressions

The box arrived unpackaged and as-is leaving no doubt as to what was inside – the mailman was quite intrigued. Inside is sparse, but here’s what’s included:

  • Outdoor hull
  • Indoor hull
  • Main unit
  • Battery charger and 4 different plugs
  • Battery
  • Quick start guide
  • Stickers

parrot ar drone 2

Initial impressions taking it out of the box: it’s a delicate product, and featherlight. I was quite shocked by the size of it actually – it was certainly larger than I imagined. Tiny motors drive the four blades; there’s exposed circuitry under each one, with a small LED to indicate status.

Snapping in the UK plug, I set it to charge while reading the quick start guide. The first thing you’ll need to do is download the controller application – FreeFlight 2.0 – to your iOS or Android device.

The Parrot AR Drone’s Design

The drone is incredibly lightweight, with the inevitable consequence of being nigh-impossible difficult to fly in the wind. Construction of the main unit is polystyrene and tough plastic - solid enough to protect the onboard computer – but the fact that replacement circuit boards, and motors are readily available imply it can break easily. I didn’t break this one yet though, you’ll be glad to hear.

Two hulls are supplied – the indoor one offers complete protection for the blades, and is made entirely of polystyrene to absorb the shock of crashing. The outdoor hull offers zero protection for the blades, and just serves to cover the battery pack. Both are hooked over the front of drone and secured via magnet in the back. Removing and replacing it is easy, as you need to do it everytime in order to charge the battery. In all the photo’s here you’ll see the indoor hull being used.

parrot ar drone 2

Underneath the device you can see ultrasonic sensors and an additional camera – these aid with detecting the ground level, but you can record or view that video feed too if you wish (it’s not HD). On the front of the drone, pointing forwards is the main 720p HD camera – which is surprisingly great quality.

ar drone 2 review

Review

This is not a pickup-and-play toy by any accounts; it takes a good amount of practice to really get a hang of flying. There are going to many bumps and scrapes along the way before you’re soaring over canyons and producing the next “BBC Natural World” masterpiece. My inaugural flight was very unadventurous, in the only bit of unused space in my tiny backyard:

The manual recommends not flying in wind speeds of 15km/h or more, but I found even a light breeze could play havoc with controlling the lightweight drone. Im my part of the UK, a day without any wind at all is virtually non-existant, so my other test flight in the park was marred somewhat. You can see how the wind badly affected control in this video:

When the wind completely dropped, the drone was a joy to fly, and after a little practice, I soon got the hang of cornering properly.

ar drone 2 review

It’s just a shame that every minute or so, despite the best efforts of onboard stabilization algorithms, a slight gust would either send it crashing to the ground or just refuse to go the direction I told it; sometimes it was possible to land safely when this happened, sometimes not.

parrot ar drone 2 review

The indoor hull – which I kept on all at all times in order to protect the blades and motors – does get damaged easily. I apologise in advance for some slight chips that occurred during testing. Replacement hulls are available, but at $40 (or even £40, if you’re in the UK) they seem a little expensive. Either way, I wouldn’t dare flying with the outdoor hull.

Another test flight:

I’m just one guy though; if you want a good idea of how successful others have flown their AR Drones, check out the best of selection from real user videos.

Interface

When inserting the battery, the device creates it’s own ad-hoc WiFi network to which you must connect. You’re then free to launch the FreeFlight software.

parrot ar drone 2 review

The main screen of the software is a little deceptive; the Academy hasn’t even been implemented yet, and instead takes you to a sign up form to be notifed when the feature is available. Other buttons offer web integration to user videos or the (also non-existant) games apps, and quick access to your own media. The main part of the app you’ll be concerned with is Piloting, which is where you fly the thing!

Open up Piloting, and you’ll immediately see a video feed of the device:

parrot ar drone 2 review

Takeoff and landing is done by simply tapping the green button in the bottom centre. I suggest you adjust the options before taking off for the first time though. There are two control sticks on the left and right of the screen. The left one controls pitch and roll and is used in conjunction with tilting your smartphone or tablet – so you need to push the stick forward, and tilt your device forward – in order to move in that direction. I found this to be counter-intuitive, but its stick movement only can be enabled with Joypad mode from the options screen. The right stick controls altitude, and yaw (lateral rotation). If you’ve ever tried to control a helicopter in Battlefield, it’s a similar concept, but a lot more forgiving; without your input, the device hovers, so you’re free to take things slowly and explore the controls.

Absolute Control is a beginner friendly mode that adjusts the steering to be from your perspective rather than the drone itself. In the default mode, if the drone is facing you, pushing left on the control will move the drone it’s left – your right – so you either need to navigate using the camera feed on-screen, or imagine yourself from the device’s perspective. In Absolute Control mode, pushing back will always bring the drone back to where you are; pushing left will always move it left; regardless of what direction it’s pointing currently.

Flip is a new feature for the Ar Drone 2.0 as well; a double tap on the right control stick will make the drone instantly do a mid-air somersault. It’s a crowd pleaser, basically – though I did find that even flipping from a height of about 3m, the drone would drop down to the floor and bump the ground at the end, which you can see in the videos.

The flight options are incredibly customizable – there are default settings for indoor and outdoor flights, but you can adjust everything from altitude to tilt angle and rotation speed.

parrot ar drone 2 review

With the device is placed flat in front of you, Flat Trim from the options screen resets the on-board sensors, so you should always run this before a flight, especially if you’ve just had a knock.

Though the box indicates that additional “games” are available to download, these are not configured to work with the AR Drone 2.0 yet. Expect compatible games to be released over the coming months. Interestingly, the device has a full SDK available, which means enhanced flight controllers are also available; though I haven’t tried this, check out the demo video of Drone Ace 2.0, which adds tons of features.

Battery and specs

The stated battery time is 12 minutes, which I found was accurate. This is undoubtedly a limiting factor, and could really be a downer if you’ve driven a long way to a special location just to film. It takes 1.5 hours to fully charge, but you can purchase additional battery packs for $40 each to get the most enjoyment, as I suspect most owners do.

When the battery falls really low, the emergency cut off will kick in, which is supposed to land itself to avoid damage. In practice I found that with about 10% battery left, the drone would refuse to take off again; running longer flights is the only way to use up the last ebbs of battery power.

The WiFi has a 50m range, but interference will occur in built up areas can occur; if you fly out of range, the link will be cut and the auto-pilot will stabilize the drone in place, waiting until you come back into range.

Crashing

This is going to happen a lot at first, but an emergency cut out will occur at the first signs of a motor jam or full on crash; this avoids the motors trying to continue spinning and burning out or damaging themselves. Recovery is usually as simple as placing it flat and taking-off again, but one on occasion it refused to take off again due to “angle error” and a full reset was required – here’s a guide from the AR Drone flyers forum on how to do that.

Recording

As well as relaying the video feed to your controller, there are two options for recording.

First, you can stream video and record directly to your mobile device; this is by far the easiest option – just hit record and you’re sorted. However, the video quality as you can see from the sample flights can be sketchy at times when WiFi signal isn’t ideal.

parrot ar drone 2 review

For best recording quality, you can attach a USB stick directly to the drone, just above the battery. This is difficult to get working though, and there’s no way to check if it worked correctly until the recording is completed. The USB stick needs to be formatted as FAT32, shielded with a metal case, and furthermore the case needs to be grounded to the correct pin on; one forum user tried 5 different metal-cased USB sticks, and only one of them worked correctly. You also need to allow time for the on-board embedded computer to save the video file – this takes roughly as long as the video itself. During this time you can continue flying, but just not be recording any longer. Ideally therefore, you want to take your video for the first 5 or 6 minutes, then turn off recording, and continue flying until the battery dies. None of the sticks I tried worked correctly, if you’re going to take professional quality films with the drone, you’ll need to seek a memory stick that’s proven to work.

Should you buy the Parrot AR Drone 2.0?

Despite having an indoor hull, you’d be hard pressed to find a house big enough to fly this in. A hall or hangar perhaps, but the average family home won’t suffice. I also can’t suggest flying with the outdoor hull at all – with all the blade protection removed, you may quickly find the motor gears are broken.

The ideal environment for flying this is a windless desert, but honestly you’re going to have a great time with it and be turning heads anywhere you fly. As long as you avoid windy days, and give yourself plenty of space, you should be fine. Take things slowly and don’t assume the onboard flight assistance is going to mean you never crash. You’re going to have a lot of fun with the AR Drone 2.0; if you can stop worrying about breaking the most expensive toy you’ve ever owned, that is.

MakeUseOf recommends: Buy it, but be careful!

We’re giving this review unit away to one fortunate MakeUseOf reader! If you enjoy high-flying, join the giveaway to win this Parrot AR Drone 2.0!

How do I win the Parrot AR Drone 2.0?

It’s simple, just follow the instructions. Exchange your MakeUseOf points for an entry into the competition. It’s really simple: create a MakeUseOf account, earn points and exchange your points for an entry! Learn more about our Game system and Rewards program.

To exchange your points for quick entry, you must be logged in

This giveaway begins now and ends Friday, August 10th. The winners will be selected at random and informed via email.

Spread the word to your friends and have fun!

Interested in sponsoring a giveaway? We’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with us via the form at the bottom of this page.


May 03 2012

12:50

Egofly Hawkspy LT-712 Helicopter with Spy Camera Review and Giveaway

Geeks will go crazy over anything that can be remotely controlled. So I am fairly certain that this is up a geek’s alley. Today, we’ll be taking a look at the Egofly Hawkspy radio-controlled helicopter (LT-712) from Xenon Project which retails for $69.99. They also carry an entire line of remote control helicopters which is worth a look. What sets the Hawkspy apart from other RC helicopters is the addition of an onboard camera that can be triggered from the transmitter.

I have to be honest here, I haven’t reviewed many RC helicopters — none, in fact. But if you’ll bear with me, I’ll try my best to go over the Hawkspy. We’ll also be giving this review unit away to a MakeUseOf reader so be sure to join the giveaway and be in the running to win it.

hawkspy review

For $70, you’ll get the Hawkspy, its remote control (transmitter), a 1GB MicroSD card, a (very bright orange) MicroSD card reader, a spare tail blade, 4 landing skid rubbers, a wall charger and the user manual. The first I did was throw away the user manual — it was most probably written and printed in China and therefore extremely confusing. I learnt more about flying an RC helicopter by browsing on YouTube for instructional videos. There was however, one important fact about the Hawkspy that did come through the user manual — it shouldn’t be charged any longer than an hour to 75 minutes. That was about it.

The helicopter unit is smaller than I had anticipated; measuring at 12.5 inches, which is roughly the distance from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger on an average human. It’s also extremely light, being made out of mostly plastic trim and an aluminium frame.

The main attraction of the Hawkspy is most definitely its onboard “spy” camera which is mounted at the bottom of the unit. The fixed forward-facing camera is activated by a button on the transmitter and once enabled, it records video only at a resolution of 720×480 in MJPEG format directly into the MicroSD card.

hawkspy review

Where the MicroSD card slots into the camera unit is pictured below. There’s also an LED light to indicate when recording is in progress. Although the camera isn’t capable of recording in high definition, I found the quality of the video to be acceptable even in low light conditions. There are quite a lot of videos recorded by the Hawkspy on YouTube so I won’t bore you with any of my test footages. The only thing that’s missing from the entire setup is a way to remotely view the captured video without actually having to remove the MicroSD card and inserting it into the reader. It would have been nice to actually see what’s being recorded in real-time. But then again, for a $70 toy, that is probably asking too much.

hawkspy review

Now, operation. The mode-2-ish transmitter requires a whopping 6 AA batteries to operate. The retractable antenna is able to control the helicopter up to 90 meters away. On the left, you’ll find the throttle control (makes the helicopter fly higher or lower). The rudder and the forward/backwards flying directions are controlled on the right. The power slider is smack right in the middle, which an LED indicator right above it. RC helicopter hobbyists will probably point out that the cyclic controls are sort of inadequate — the right/left cyclic controls are missing so the helicopter isn’t able to pitch to the left or right.

There is also an additional slider below each control toggle. The one of the right is the ST trim slider, which needs to be adjusted if the helicopter spins to the right or left on its own while in the air. Unfortunately, the slider on the left is a dud and the transmitter is missing throttle and pitch trims.

The two additional buttons on the left and right of the power slider controls the landing and rudder LED lights on the helicopter and the 2-speed mode (which didn’t make any difference during testing) respectively.

hawkspy review

On a full charge, the Egofly Hawkspy provides you with 10-15 minutes of flying fun. The included 1GB MicroSD card is more than sufficient to record your entire flight session.

Conclusion

The Hawkspy is a novelty toy with the added capability of recording video. It’s certainly a fun toy to have around. It’s small, light and pretty durable. If the flight time could be improved, I’d easily recommend it.

We’re giving one away this week! Join the giveaway below to be in the running to win a free Egofly Hawkspy.

How do I win it?

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 our Facebook page, our Twitter stream and Google+ page.

Fill out my online form.

Step 2: Share!

You’re almost done. Now, all that’s left to do is to share the post!

Like it

Tweet it

+1 on Google

This giveaway begins now and ends Friday, May 11th. The winner will be selected at random and informed via email.

Spread the word to your friends and have fun!

Interested in sponsoring a giveaway? We’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with us via the form at the bottom of this page.


April 30 2012

20:01

Say Anything To Anyone With Say Anything – An Unusual App For iOS

say anything appDo you remember sitting in school next to your friend and writing to each other on pieces of paper? I sure do. It was fun, yet time consuming, but I never imagined a different way to communicate when silence was required. So when I first discovered Say Anything, I finally had to believe in Apple’s “there’s an app for that” slogan.

Unless I knew it existed, I wouldn’t dream of anyone making such an app, and yet its simplicity and endless possibilities make it so incredibly useful. It’s actually amazing no one has thought of it before. So what does Say Anything do? Simple – it lets you say anything to anyone; get any message across to a person near you or far away, by using one iOS device.

The free version of Say Anything is usable, yet limited, and if you truly want to enjoy it, you can purchase the full app for a very affordable $1.99. If you’re after one specific feature, you can buy one of those for $0.99. More on those later.

What You Get For Free

say anything app

This is what Say Something looks like. It’s basically a banner app with the words of your choice moving on it from right to left. Remember those scrolling marquee screensavers everyone used to have? This is the same thing. The free version comes with 3 presets, which you can fill with any text you want. Start by tapping the text balloon at the top.

say anything apple

Now you can change the text to say whatever you want. You can swipe up and down to switch between your three different messages, or use the right-most button on the bottom icon bar.

say anything apple

From here you can also delete and add presets (but remember, you’re limited to 3 with the free version). The free version does provide some formatting, and you can change both the text and background color of your messages. Once you change the formatting for one message, all your messages change.

say anything apple

This is pretty much it for the free version. It’s entirely usable, although I find the letters to be a bit large, but it’s very useful for getting messages across a room on your iPad when you don’t want to shout.

Now that your message is ready, you can swipe from right to left to control its speed, and tap the screen to stop it. You can have it move across very slowly, or zap across blazingly fast. You can keep changing speeds according to your audience, your message and the distance.

The Full Version

If you like the Say Anything idea enough to shell out $1.99 for it, you’ll get access to the full list of features the app has to offer. These include a wide choice of fonts, scaling, mirror flipping and unlimited presets. This is an in-app purchase, and you’ll have no problem finding it. It pops up every time you try to use a premium feature.

The first feature I jumped on after buying the full version is the scaling. The free version’s scaling is just too big for most uses, at least on the iPad. Tap the magnifying glass icon to change the scaling. There is no pinch to zoom, although it’s very much called for.

say anything iphone

Another cool feature the full version offers is texture or image backgrounds. The texture backgrounds are downloaded as you tap them, so switching between them takes several seconds. You can also use images from your photo library as backgrounds by tapping on “Image” in the background changer.

say anything iphone

You can now move on to playing with fonts. There are dozens of those to choose from, and although it doesn’t make any difference to your message, it’s still nice to communicate in style.

say anything app

Tap the mirror flip icon the get a mirror image of your message. This is useful if you need to get a message across through a rear-view mirror, for example. Note that when your message is reversed, so are the gestures you need to use in order to move it around!

If you’re only interested in one feature, you can save a full dollar. Instead of unlocking all the features, you can buy scaling, fonts, backgrounds, mirror flip or unlimited presets for 99 cents each. You can purchase any of them from within the free app.

In the age of unlimited texts, multiple IM apps and a smartphone in every pocket, Say Anything might be more of a gimmick than a means to communicate, but as unusual as it is, I’m sure I’m going to find a creative use for it on my iPad. Here is Say Anything in action on my first generation iPad. Sorry for the low quality and background noise, but the action is what counts!

So next time you need to get a message across but can’t say it out loud, or you want to relay text in a presentable way, try Say Anything. I guarantee you will at least have some fun.

Do you know of any similar apps? Or other apps which are hard to believe are real? Can you think of creative ways to use Say Anything? Share your suggestions in the comments!


April 20 2012

19:01

8 Gory Sites To Get Your Dose Of Cheesy Horror

Let me start this post with a fair warning – if you have a weak stomach get out while you can. The word “cheesy” in the title could prove to be a bit misleading by the time you reach the end of this post. “Cheesy” is synonymous with kitschy, soppy, flimsy, unnecessarily emotional…and a few more words. This post is going to be close and truer to the spirit of the word – gory. You can add gruesome and morbid to it.

The web is not sanitized. You might scream at any of the Top 8 Scary Websites To Spook Yourself & Your Friends. But there’s worse, much worse that goes within the dark portals of the web. So, close the doors, draw the curtains, and click the mouse as I try giving you a dose of the gore at  eight “cheesy” horror sites.

BME: Body Modification Ezine

From the streets of New York to the bylanes of Nanjing, tattoo art is pretty much a 21st Century subcultural trend. But some people can take it really far and turn their bodies into walking canvasses. BME has curated 1.3 million photos and more than 6000 videos on how to turn your body over to pins, needles, and ink. It is a definitive tattoo, scarification, and ritualistic piercing resource.

As the site says – they are the uncommon subculture and community built by and for modified people. The multimedia bytes on the site may be tame stuff for some, but for a person who hates the sight of needles, the tattoo detailing and body modifications (read, mutilation) could be a bit gruesome. Some parts of the site require a subscription.

Celebrity Morgue

Okay, we are getting bit serious now. The Celebrity Morgue is fact and not fiction. It has a short by historically significant list of famous people and their last photos when they were assassinated, murdered, or died of natural causes. Some photos are very disturbing because we know these famous names (e.g. Marilyn Monroe and JFK) only from photos where they presented their best sides to the world…not the worst. One might consider it as tasteless…but it’s there.

The Damaged Corpse

The site is in French, but the images speak the universal language of ‘holy creeps!’ Françoise Duvivier is a wonderfully (and ghoulishly) creative artist who uses mixed media like collages, masks, and dolls to give life to her artistic expression. Here’s a brief profile on her, but follow the title link to glimpse her unique but scary work.

Best Gore

This is a site which can give the well-known Rotten.com a run for its unpleasantness. This is a site that strictly for 18+ audiences. The site has graphic images and videos of bloody, gut wrenching, teeth grinding, offensive and upsetting human conditions. Take the domain name for what it means.

The Blood Factory

The first thing that makes you tingle is the background music. It’s a scare site for sure. And brought to you by none other than Danny DeVito, himself a fan of horror films. The Blood Factory features horror shorts called “Splattercuts”. There are about 16 horror shorts on the site now. You can watch them in the ‘darkened theater’ and vote for them.  The site was launched in 2009, but I am not sure how frequently it is getting updated.

Bloody Fingernail

You always wanted to write on the walls with blood. Here’s your chance. You can use your mouse to stand-in for your chopped finger and write a message on the “Flash” wall. You can then send forth the unique message via email, to whomsoever you want to spook. This is less of a horror site and more of a cheesy prank site.

Programming Language Inventor Or Serial Killer

Turn your thirst for cheesy horror into a chance to bump up your general knowledge. The above screenshot says it all. Play the quiz and find out if you know your serial hacker from your code hacker.

Death And Dementia

If you still haven’t had your fill of gore and horror, maybe the link bank here will lead you towards fulfillment. According to the stats on the site, there are 2600 links of all types, from paranormal anomalies to horror and blood. You have to sift through a lot of links, but they are alphabetically arranged. Such a large directory of links will lead to some sites with broken links, sites which have expired, and also sites which pre-date Web 2.0.

I decided to stop while I was ahead. These eight are just a whiff of the gore you can find on the web, and to be frank these sites are relatively tame. The dark side of the web is definitely not for the squeamish. There are websites that wouldn’t have passed muster with the most liberal censor. It just opens the debate on the dangers of sickening gore being left open on the web. Do your tastes for horror veer towards the macabre? Which is the worst (or the best) cheesy horror site you have come across?

Also, dim the lights and catch these previous posts from our house of the unusual:

Image Credit: u-JU (Flickr)


March 09 2012

21:30

10 Of The Funniest 5 Second Films That Will Get You Laughing

Did you know that taking breaks is an essential aspect of maintaining your productivity levels?

According to Tony Schwartz, the key to productivity is taking more breaks. “The more you ’re feeling under the gun, the more important it is that you get a lot done today, the more important it is that you take time for yourself,” he says.

While you shouldn’t use his advice as an excuse to procrastinate, you should definitely take a rest from work when you feel your energy levels dropping. For some, that may entail browsing Facebook and Twitter feeds. For others, maybe browsing funny pictures and videos.

If you’re part of that latter group, this article is for you. If you’re just sitting around, bored with nothing else to do, this article is for you, too.

I’ve compiled a list of ten of the funniest 5 Second Films for you to enjoy. They are quick, they’re clever, and they pack a punch. At 5 seconds per clip, you can watch these, have a laugh, and get back to work in record time!

Planking

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about and seen a recent trend called “planking.” If you haven’t, then do yourself a favor and learn all about it on Know Your Meme.

Done? Good. Now that you know about this strange phenomenon, you know just how stupid it can be–and now you can enjoy this video as much as I did!

Courteous Driver

We’ve all been there, patiently waiting at the crosswalk for mindless pedestrians to get to the other side. Well, in this clip, the “courteous” driver plays out one of our biggest roadside fantasies.

Father & Son

A particularly hilarious twist on an unsurprisingly common issue: falling out with our parents. After your laughs have been had, be sure to phone your folks and let them know you still care.

Haircut

Person A: “Hey, did you get a haircut?”

Person B: “No, I got them all cut!”

Ever hear this joke before? It’s one of those jokes that you first hear in grade school, and every subsequent time only makes you want to destroy the not-so-clever joker–just like in this clip.

Absence of the Towels

Warning: NSFW imagery and language.

The whole sideways-walking, tucked-in movement evoked a chuckle out of me. How ridiculous.

Never Switch a Switcher

I love the top comment on this video: “Did I just watch Inception?”

Meaning, of course, that this clip will blow your mind. Perhaps not to the same degree as a movie like Inception would, but it will blow your mind nonetheless.

The ending was completely unexpected for me, which is why I love it that much more.

Late For Work

Warning: NSFW language.

A perfect way to describe “one of those days.” That is all.

Sexism Saves

Some people–even some of MUO’s very own writers–would argue that there are topics that shouldn’t be joked about. These topics can be very sensitive for some, and we’d never want to offend any of our readers. Sexism might be one of those topics.

We don’t condone sexism, but we do like to laugh. Take this particular clip with a grain of salt.

Digging to China

I love the cute kid. I love the surprise ending even more. The mixture of innocence and culpability in this clip is just bizarre and strangely humorous.

Just Because

A funny way to approach a (presumably) common problem for relationships. Laugh-out-loud hilarious, in my opinion.

Do you frequent 5 Second Films? If so, share with us some of your favorite clips. If not, they’ve got hundreds of clips in their archive, so why not check them out? There’s bound to be one that will make you explode into a shower of laughter.


March 08 2012

02:30

Review and Giveaway: Zen Magnets

If you’re into magnetic toys, abstract art, or fidgeting, read on because I have an awesome giveaway for you today!

Zen Magnets (the same company behind Neoballs.com) sent me two sets of rare-earth magnetic balls – one to play with, and one to give away to a lucky reader. Each set contains 216 incredibly strong magnets, plus some accessories and six spare balls. If you want to win a free set worth $38.24, continue reading and join the giveaway.

What’s In The Box

The Zen Magnets come in two different sets: the Original (Low Packaged) Zen Set and the Gift/Retail Packed Zen Set. The latter is slightly more expensive because it comes with a couple of extras like a laser-etched stainless steel building platform, a microfiber cloth and a hard case. And that’s what I got.

Zen Magnets

This is a top view of what’s in the box. It’s a very cool magnet set, and comes with lots of accessories, but not everything is perfect: As you can see above, the box is very flimsy, and actually arrived broken; the lid just fell off – there’s no metal hinge, just a thin strip of coating. The good news is that this was the only problem, and everything the box contained arrived in top-notch condition. Next to the box (clockwise) you can see the Zen Magnets, lying on top of a PVC card that can be used for separating and manipulating them. Then there’s a nice bag for storing the magnets or carrying them around, an instruction sheet with some construction ideas, and a heavy metal plate that the magnets just love to stick to. Let’s check some of the more interesting parts of the kit:

The Magnetic Balls

ZenMagnets[8]

Obviously, this is the most important part of the whole kit. Above you can see Zen Magnets next to the 900lbs gorilla of the toy magnet market, Buckyballs. As you can see, they look virtually identical. Since the Zen Magnets are newer, they feel stronger than the Buckyballs, but there’s no telling if this strength would keep over the next few months of intensive playing, construction and fidgeting. Here’s a closer look at the magnets:

ZenMagnets[10]

Very smooth and shiny, and lots of fun to play with.

The Instruction Sheet

ZenMagnets[12]

This instruction sheet is jam-packed with ideas an explanations. It’s just one sheet of paper so it can fit in the box, but the text is tiny and there’s a ton of information and ideas, not to mention buzzwords like “octahedron” and “9-Tri-Icosa”. It’s all explained with pretty pictures.

The Heavy Metal Plate

This is something that doesn’t ship with Buckyballs, and I was surprised by how useful and fun it was. Here’s something I could never do without the plate:

ZenMagnets[18]

The magnets really grip onto the plate, so it’s easy to construct domes:

image

Even a simple structure composed of three hexagons looks impressive when mounted on the plate:

ZenMagnets[16]

These are far from the peak of engineering possible using Zen Magnets (or any other high-quality magnetic toy, for that matter). To see what the real pros can do, check out the Zen Magnets gallery on Flickr or watch this video:

That’s about it! Zen Magnets are as fun to play with as they look, and I look forward to making one MakeUseOf reader happy with their very own set. Join the giveaway below to be in the running to win it!

How do I win it?

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 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 March 15th. The winner will be selected at random and informed via email.

Spread the word to your friends and have fun!

Interested in sponsoring a giveaway? We’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with us via the form at the bottom of this page.


February 29 2012

00:31

5 Hilarious Anti-Apple Videos You Must Watch

I don’t have any love for Apple. I don’t have any hate either. In fact, I find it odd that anyone would express such strong emotions, whether positive or negative, for a technology company. Or any company for that matter, whatever business it happens to be in. This means that while I don’t hate Apple, I can’t abide Apple fanboys.

Thankfully I’m not alone. Although Apple would like to think (and would like us to think) everyone and their mothers love the company and its products, fanboys are still a minority. Which means the rest of us, those I generally like to refer to as the sane ones, can laugh at Apple and its legion of cultish zealots. And some, if they’re that way inclined, can even make videos aimed in the direction of the aforementioned.

Futurama eyePhone

Mom has replaced Apple and the eyePhone has replaced the iPhone in this clip from Futurama. But then this is an animated series set in the 31st-century, so who knows whether this will be reality or not by then. Regardless, the mocking of Apple is in plain view for all to see.

We have the distant and smug Apple Store employee, the supply and demand issues that are always well-engineered (although robots have now taken the place of poor Chinese production line workers), the extortionate price being charged despite the issues, and the fanboy demanding he be “allowed” to purchase one.

There are also references to the wider evils of smartphones – getting distracted while walking along, stalking people online, and losing touch of real social interactions. And all in the space of under a minute.

I Hate The Smugness Of Apple

Baratunde Thurston is a comedian who likes Apple and uses their products. But he cannot stand the smugness the company exudes or the absolute religious fervor displayed by the most-venomous Apple fanboys. So when he has trouble installing something on his Mac he lets rip in a blog post. This shows him recounting the ensuing fallout from the blog post in a multimedia performance to an audience.

Baratunde has another video on YouTube showing him walking out of an Apple Store holding up his backpack pretending to have just bought an iPad. The Apple Store employees applaud him like a herd of performing sea lions. The poor saps.

Jason Calacanis On Apple Fanboys

Jason Calacanis is a well-known blogger and Internet entrepreneur responsible for Weblogs, Inc. and Mahalo. But he’s also prone to foul-mouthed rants against certain sections of the tech community. On this occasion Apple fanboys get it, and get it good. Not so much an anti-Apple rant but an anti-Apple fanboy rant. Which suits me even better.

I’d love to hear some responses to his arguments in this video, the main thrust of which is him taking the side of the open platform, the open Internet, and people being able to do what they want with products they’ve spent a small fortune purchasing.

The point about the infamous 1984 Super Bowl ad and how Apple has now become the Big Brother figure it once railed against is one that I have been making for years. If Apple fanboys were to think about this logically for just a moment they would realize the truth of the assertion.

Charlie Brooker On Apple iPad

If you want to drink the Apple Kool-Aid then feel free. Sit around watching each new slightly-better-than-the-last product launch like a fanboy full of glee. And then head down to your nearest Apple Store two months later and hand over money you can barely afford to part with for the aforementioned emperor’s new clothes. The rest of us will laugh along with Charlie Brooker.

Charlie Brooker has probably bought an iPad since recording this. He’s a media type, and it’s expected of him. But that doesn’t lessen the comic genius he uses to rip apart Apple, its legion of dedicated fanboys, and the presentation style of its dear-departed leader Steve Jobs.

Apple Sucks [NSFW]

There’s no foul-mouthed rant here, or intelligent look at the mindset of an Apple fanboy on the cusp of creaming over his latest purchase. This is just a downright mocking of an Apple convert waxing lyrical on the blue screen of death. And it’s absolutely hilarious thanks to the prompt screens and their running commentary of what this guy really means when he opens his mouth.

This video cuts through all the Apple baloney which insists Macs are superior in every way, shape, and form to Windows-based PCs. They never crash, they never get malware, they’re perfect in every way. Apparently. No, no, and thrice no. They’re good, but they’re far from perfect. Otherwise the Genius Bar would be completely unnecessary.

Conclusions

There will be two distinct reactions to these videos: laughing at Apple getting taken down a peg or two or sitting there scowling with unappeased rage at the ignorance of these non-believers. I’m in the former camp, but I suspect many of you reading this won’t be. You laughed at at least one of them though, didn’t you. No? That means you must be a fanboy. Just admit it, you know you want to come out.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to anti-Apple videos on the Web. And I’d like to watch more. So feel free to let us know in the comments of any others you have seen and loved. Parodies of Apple commercials are another genre altogether, so look out for a list of the best of those coming to a MakeUseOf near you soon. Though there is only one.

Image Credit: Ed Yourdon


January 24 2012

20:01

Stifle The Yawns & Get Rid Of Boredom With A Little Alchemy

play free alchemy gameWhat sort of games do you like – The massively popular server based multiplayer skirmishes, or the ones which are uncomplicated and rarely need a help file before play? Well, both have their places in the grand scheme of boring days. But in my experience, a boring day brings on a disabling lethargy that somehow doesn’t make you feel like playing brain-jangling strategy games or the massively multiplayer games we usually talk about a lot here.

The web gives us quite a few little games which are boredom killers in their own right. That perhaps explains the success of games like Angry Birds. Little Alchemy is a little gem tucked away in the Chrome Web Store. So, let’s install the Chrome app and play this free Alchemy game.

A Game for the Entire Family

An uncomplicated game has the advantage that it can be enjoyed by the entire family. How easy is Little Alchemy? It’s as simple as mixing four basic elements to create something new. The four elements that one starts off with are water, fire, earth, and air. You have to combine them by dragging and dropping them (only two at a time) to produce new surprising new forms.

But if you think that this simple game is unsophisticated, then you are wrong because it gets pretty addictive.

Mix, Match, and Create

Gameplay is so simple that a child can pick it up without hitting the ‘help’ icon on the left. In fact, your child should definitely play this game as it is educational to a degree too.

The screen is divided into two areas – the one on the right has four elements that you are supposed to mix-match and combine in order to create some interesting combos. The mixing and matching happens on the workspace that lies on the left of the screen.

play free alchemy game

Combine any two elements. One way of making this more interesting would be to guess what the resulting mix would be. Some combinations (especially the earlier ones) are dead simple. For instance, water + fire = steam.

You can then take the resulting ‘element’ (for instance, steam) and combine it further with another element from the library of elements. For e.g. steam + air = cloud. You can in fact, right click on any formed element and check the combinations again. Remember, not all elements with combine. The combinations are all logical. You can in fact use a form (click the bulb) to suggest combos of your own.

alchemy game

The combinations keep getting more intricate and increasingly difficult to predict. In the third or fourth try, I got ‘gunpowder’ by combining fire and dust. Your library of elements on the right that you can use to build more elements also starts stacking up. Click on Type to Search is your library is choc-a-bloc and you need to search for an element.

play free alchemy game

The Challenge – Score of 230

Your target is the possible 230 combinations that can be created from four basic elements. The early stages of Little Alchemy do not give away signs that the game will be addictive, but it gradually gets challenging and the target of 230 or at least the maximum possible number could soon get to you. So, as the notification above says – stay positive. Oh, there is an official cheats page too.

Little Alchemy is a nice addition to Chrome’s lineup of games. Which is your favorite Chrome browser game? What do you think of Little Alchemy…did it help to ward off the boredom?


January 18 2012

01:31

5 Best Websites With Fun Activities For Toddlers

fun activities for toddlersIf you’re looking online for fun activities for toddlers, you’ve probably realised that there’s a lot of garbage out there. So many sites have found their way to the top of the Google results which are so busy being SEO-friendly that they’ve managed to fail to have any useful content on their page. It’s a nightmare to sort through!

So, today we’ve pulled together this list of blogs and websites for fun toddler activities for you. Some sites made the list because of how fun and usable their content is, while others have made the list by having a good variety of content for toddlers on hand. This list should have something for you, whether you’re looking for educational fun, outdoor activities, printable pages, crafts or recipes.

1. Quirky Momma Kids Activities Blog

The Quirky Momma Kids Activities blog is a vibrant, interesting blog of kids activities and they make sure to dedicate sections of the blog to showcasing the best activities for each age group, making it easy to find things for your toddler to do.

fun activities for toddlers

These writers know exactly how to make up activities designed for the precise needs of growing kids. The toddler games focus on sensory activities, fine motor control, discovery, sorting games and building toys.

2. Play Based Learning

Play Based Learning is written by an Australian duo of early childhood educators, hoping to inspire parents and preschool teachers alike. Their colourful site is full of great ideas for toddler play which can be used by families or groups with more resources.

activities for toddlers

3. Today Is Fun

Two dads have come together to create Today Is Fun, making the site easy to search or browse by age so it’s easy to find something for your toddler or their older siblings to do. The activity ideas are quite creative and educational and they are colourfully displayed. It’s also possible to browse by handy categories such as “No Props Needed” and “Good For Bathtime”.

activities for toddlers

4. The Crafty Crow

The Crafty Crow is an aggregator site of children’s crafts with browsable categorising and a decent amount of toddler ideas. They feature and link to great ideas by smaller bloggers. While aggregators have a little less personality than a dedicated blog, they are certainly good at delivering exposure to numerous bloggers and ideas that may otherwise have not been seen by the reader.

activities for toddlers

5. Filth Wizardry

Filth Wizardry is a one-writer blog, so will never compete with the bigger blogs on the number or frequency of posts, yet it has a lot to give in quality. The charm of this blog is in the belief that kids are messy and that messy fun is great. There are some lovely art and craft ideas and ways to get involved with nature in this blog and it’s possible to browse by useful labels such as “at the kitchen table”.

fun activities for toddlers

More Reading For Toddler Fun

These articles might also come in handy for your children:

These websites will offer you a wealth of fun activities for toddlers between them, ensuring you’ve always got a few easy, educational ideas for play up your sleeve. Have fun!

Since there are a great many fantastic blogs and websites for toddler activities out there, we do encourage you to link to your favourites in the comments and tell us why they are the best.


January 11 2012

00:31

Have A Few Laughs & Try The Metro User Interface With Windows 8 Beta Simulator

Windows 8 is fast approaching, expected to arrive sometime in 2012. Not everyone is going to want to download the developer preview version of Windows 8 currently being hawked by Microsoft. Or the Windows 8 beta due to be made available shortly. Thankfully you don’t have to do so in order to get a basic feel for how the latest – and if you believe the hype, greatest – OS from Microsoft will shape up.

Windows 8 Beta Simulator is a fun program available for Windows 2000, XP, Vista, and Windows 7 that is designed to give those who are interested a feel for the new Metro UI. True geeks definitely won’t be impressed, but mainstream Windows users will be. The rest of us can laugh at the humor included in Windows 8 Beta Simulator.

Start Menu

Open the Windows 8 Beta Simulator program and you will get a very typical Windows startup animation. You’re then invited to ‘Drag Up To Unlock‘. This simulates the touch capabilities Windows 8 will possess, but isn’t very realistic. The real Windows 8 will use an (optional) picture password system whereby you draw a pre-determined pattern on the screen.

On the next page, bypass the startup screen by clicking ‘Submit‘. There is no need to enter a password and I wouldn’t recommend it just in case there is nefarious reasoning behind the request. To be frank I wouldn’t enter any passwords or sensitive information into Windows 8 Beta Simulator, but then I could just be an over-cynical, untrusting type.

Apps

You’re then taken to the faux Metro UI page where you can explore in a not-very-realistic Windows 8 style.

It’s from here you can access apps in a similar way as you will with the real Windows 8. There is Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and The Weather Channel, essentially just mobile versions of the sites which open up in Google Chrome within the Windows 8 Beta Simulator.

There is also a Piano app (pictured above), a calculator, and other elements which are present in every version of Windows. To be honest none of them are particularly well implemented here, but that’s excusable as they are, after all, only for preview purposes.

Humor

One thing Windows 8 Beta Simulator has in spades is humor. And some of it is actually quite funny. Click on the wrong icon and you’ll get an error message full of typos.

Click through to the next screen and it’s suggested you download Linux, with Bill Gates happily recommending Ubuntu. Many people wouldn’t do so after the latest versions of the Linux distro failed to impress.

Click on ‘Pictures‘ and you’ll find that the images are all plays on Microsoft vs. Apple, with Linux clearly being touted as the best OS. What is an attempt at mimicking the Windows 8 Metro UI was clearly built by Linux advocates.

Lame?

Is Windows 8 Beta Simulator a little lame? In a word, yes. But it’s a small (9MB) unobtrusive download which can easily be uninstalled. It will offer five minutes of fun for anyone keen to get more of a feel for Windows 8 ahead of its release than they can by merely looking at pictures or watching videos.

Windows 8 Beta Simulator isn’t all that useful. It won’t give you a true sense of how it will be to use Windows 8. Anyone wanting to do that will have to download the real beta once Microsoft deems fit to release it. Only people confident and experienced need apply. Which leaves Windows 8 Beta Simulator as a viable though not-very-thrilling alternative for those who don’t fit into that category.

Conclusion

Windows 8 Beta Simulator is for those who don’t want to mess around installing a pre-beta or beta version of an operating system. And for Linux fans looking for a few easy laughs at the saps (of which I am one) who persevere with Windows.

If you have tried Windows 8 Beta Simulator, what did you think of it? Are you looking forward to the real Windows 8 beta and are willing to wait until Microsoft deems its new operating system as being ready for public scrutiny? Does anyone even care about Microsoft any more?

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January 10 2012

20:01

7 Offbeat & Almost Useless Chrome Extensions That Are Still Worth An Installation

In the world of web apps, the “offbeat” swings between the ‘interesting’ and the ‘almost useless’. It just boils down to the way we perceive it. For the time they exist, offbeat apps give us a few moments of fun and take us away from the humdrum.

I tried to have the same outlook while searching for a few good offbeat (but almost useless) Chrome extensions inside the Chrome Web Store. Searching for these hidden ‘gems’ is an exercise in fun, because you never know what you will come across. After all, didn’t they say that Twitter was useless as a communication tool?

So, tag alone and do your own digging. In the meantime, tell me what you think of these seven offbeat Chrome extensions.

Jimmy Wales

You would be living in a digital la-la land if you don’t know who Jimmy Wales is. Well, he is the nice guy who co-founded Wikipedia. You owe it to him when the encyclopedia tells you everything that you throw at it. Some days you see a banner asking for a donation or making a personal appeal when you visit Wikipedia. With the Jimmy Wales Chrome extension, you can get his handsome mug shot beam down at you from every page you visit on Google Chrome.

Use: Serves as a gentle reminder of what we wouldn’t be able to do if Wikipedia sinks.

Look of Disapproval

A good enough social and communication Chrome extension, but the only communicating you would be doing is showing your dislike. Look of Disapproval is a set of expressive emoticons mostly composed of Unicode characters. You can use them to show your disapproval on any website, social forum, or discussion board.

Use: I am taking it to Facebook ???????

Mustachio

Groucho Marx or Tom Selleck, I don’t know which one you prefer. Me, I hate moustaches; but that doesn’t stop me from playing around with this extension on any image that’s over 300px X 150px. Adding moustaches to photos is childish play, but fun for a child.

Use: Minimal, because you will go crazy finding the right image to add a moustache too. Try it on your girlfriend’s photo when she is not around.

Jailbreak the Patriarchy

This offbeat Chrome extension swaps the gender anywhere you encounter it on the web. Male turns into female and vice-versa. For example: “he loved his mother very much” would read as “she loved her father very much”, “the patriarchy also hurts men” would read as “the matriarchy also hurts women”. It works on Google search results too. You can toggle between male and female gender swaps.

Use: Makes for fun reading, but does very little for the Battle of the Sexes as everything is equally swapped.

2012 Countdown

The Mayan’s aren’t here anymore, and they damn well made sure that come 2012 no one else will. As the description of this offbeat but fun Chrome extension puts it – A simple countdown to keep track of time when the world will end (December 21, 2012). Meant for fun, not to make you depressed.

Use: Meant for fun, not to make you depressed.

AutoRage

This offbeat extension replaces faces in an image with rage faces. This extension is just an extension of a pop culture.

Use: For those who are heavily into Rage comics.

Nothing

Precisely! This extension does nothing. Perhaps, it was someone’s idea of a passing the time when he had nothing left to code. Do read the reviews. As someone puts it – There is pretty small number of things that working one hundred percent perfectly… this extension is one of them.

Use: 3500+ users…did they find something in the nothing?

These seven Chrome extensions serve to while away a lazy afternoon. It certainly helped me do exactly that. Did it do the same thing for you? Did I miss some great Chrome extensions that are useless, offbeat…but still interesting? Send us the mentions in the comments and tell us about your favorite ones.

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January 05 2012

17:01

20 Fun Things To Do Online When You’re Bored At Work

fun things to do onlineWe all love working, don’t we? I’m sure none of you reading this would have it any other way than to sit at a desk for hours with little to show for it other than a meager wage. Those long hours spent in an office working on a computer never get tiresome, dull, or frustrating, do they? Or am I wrong in this assumption?

Yes, yes I am. Even the best jobs have their bad points, those moments when boredom sets in and there is nothing you’d like more in the world than head home and drop into bed. Or possibly out for a few beers. Thankfully there are alternative ways to relieve the boredom at times such as these. As long as you have access to the Internet and a way of bypassing the firewalls and filters your company has likely installed.

What follows are 20 (and many more besides) fun things to do online when you’re bored at work. Just don’t get caught by the boss.

Read

The Onion

fun things to do online

The Onion labels itself as America’s Finest News Source. And it is, assuming you like your news to be funny yet wholly inaccurate.

The Daily Mash

fun stuff to do online

The Daily Mash is the British version of The Onion, providing laughs and made-up news with a UK bias.

Literally Unbelievable

fun stuff to do online

Literally Unbelievable exists because some people are too dumb to realize stories from the above sites aren’t based on the truth. Society is screwed.

Damn You Auto Correct!

fun stuff to do online

Damn You Auto Correct! logs all those times when your smartphone auto-corrects your messages to make you look like a fool. Intentionally, of course.

You could also read comic eBooks.

Look

Garfield Minus Garfield

things to do online

Garfield Minus Garfield does what it says on the tin – removes Garfield from the old Garfield cartoon strips. Which leaves Jon Arbuckle talking to himself. And looking slightly deranged as a result.

People Of Walmart

things to do online

People of Walmart is a site dedicated to the store everyone shops in but no one wants to be spotted in. The sights on offer will leave you permanently scarred but laughing like a drain at the same time.

Awkward Family Photos

things to do online

Awkward Family Photos captures those moments most of us would like forgotten. It was bad enough having these images locked away in an album under lock and key. Now they’re on the Web for all to see.

Scrolldit

Scrolldit pares Reddit down to just the images people are sharing. In other words, the good stuff you don’t want to miss. Perfect fodder for sharing on social networks when you’re bored.

You could also play picture games based on Flickr.

Watch

Talking Animals

Talking Animals is a YouTube channel which anthropomorphizes household pets. Your cat or dog isn’t as dumb as it may sometimes appear to be. At least if you believe these guys.

Quirkology

Quirkology is the perfect YouTube channel for those bored out of their minds at work. These are experiments anyone can do, most without any kind of special equipment.

The Gregory Brothers

The Gregory Brothers are a walking YouTube video factory. Thanks to Autotune The News and Songify This, this comedy troupe have become insanely popular. The Bed Intruder Song is still a must-see.

Jonathan Mann

Jonathan Mann is the man of just one voice, but 1,000 songs (and counting). Most of us would struggle to write even one song, while this guy has managed to write a new one every day for the past three years.

You could also visit video sites better than YouTube.

Play

Google Pacman

Google Pacman is perfect to play for five minutes when you’re bored at work. This is Pacman built around the Google logo. It started out as a Google Doodle before being archived to its own domain.

Bastion

Bastion is a perfect slice of indie gaming that is now available to play directly in Google Chrome. The full game needs to be bought but the Chrome extension offers a highly-playable demo.

Minecraft Classic

Minecraft Classic is free to play directly in the browser. And it’s well worth doing so, as Danny discovered last month.

Zynga

Zynga is the current leader in the social games sector. Its website therefore offers a portal which will offer simple pleasures for those with five minutes to spare.

You could also play Facebook Games and/or Google+ Games.

Laugh

Animals Being Dicks

Animals Being Dicks features gifs of animals being, well, dicks. Updated daily, this Tumblr-powered site is pretty much guaranteed to make you laugh. Unless you’ve had a sense of humor bypass.

Fail Blog

Fail Blog features videos, images, and stories all with one thing in common – someone, somewhere has failed in an epic manner. Part of the Cheezburger Network so more laughs can be had with very few clicks.

Criggo

Criggo is an online compendium of mistakes found in newspapers and magazines. Unlike with their online versions, these will remain forever, haunting some editor or another.

Dilbert

fun things to do online

Dilbert is Dilbert, the same comic strip that has been appearing in multiple publications since 1989. Corporate culture and the technology which shapes it has changed, but Dilbert remains as funny as ever.

You could also laugh at these geeky websites.

Lest We Forget…

And finally let’s not forget MakeUseOf.com itself. Need I say more? OK, just a little. As you’re already here and reading this article you will know MakeUseOf is the best place on the Web to find things to make use of. And that includes links to websites and apps which will prevent boredom setting in whether at work or at home.  Also, don’t forget our Geeky Fun section if you want a few laughs.

Conclusion

With many of us being connected to the Internet most of our waking lives, there is really no need to ever be bored. There are roughly 200 million websites online at this moment in time. At least a few (million) of them will appeal to you personally and help to kill time at work.

The ones outlined above are just the tip of the iceberg. Explore! And then come back and let us know what you found. Just keep it clean, please.

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December 27 2011

20:01

Relax While Working On The Computer With These 6 Google Chrome Extensions

Nothing has us beat as a hard day’s work at the office. Taking the evening off to relax and release all that stress is not an option for those with a bits and bytes lifestyle. When Friday seems a long way off and the computer screen the only companion, where do you go for a bit of relaxation? The online world of course!

Tina showed you just how when she looked at The 5 Best Ways To Relax Using Online Tools. Music, videos, games, social chats, and just lazy browsing are nice.

Then if you working in your Chrome browser, the next best thing to shutting it down is to play around with these six relaxing Chrome extensions and let the stress ebb away.

Pulsate

Music is one the best stress relievers. Random music could be cacophonic or oddly pleasing. Pulsate is a Chrome app that lets you create musical patterns from randomly colliding circles. While the music plays on, the patterns on the screen are hypnotic. The more circles you create with a click of your mouse on the black background, greater will be the randomness of the music. As the screen shows, you can configure a few of the settings. Try out this simple app and see if it reduces your stress just a little bit.

Announcify

The trouble with digital lives is that despite your best efforts, you have to connect yourself to the computer. It’s either to read a mail or check out something on the web. As the extension description says – This is a handy extension that will let you rest your tired eyes and at the same time, let you learn new stuff. This text-to-speech extension can be carefully calibrated with volume, voice, speed, and pitch. You don’t need to select any text; the test-to-speech extension reads the whole page with playback controls. The neat feature is that the extension focuses on the text that’s being read while blurring the rest.

Focus

Our eyes are constantly strained by the flood of information. You can reduce the bombardment with the help of this simple extension that helps you focus on the part that you are reading right now, rather than get distracted by neighboring content. Just place your mouse on the paragraph you are reading (you don’t even have to click) and the extension blots out the rest.

Relaxpls

Okay, you get beautiful vista and sounds of nature right inside your Chrome browser with the help of this extension, and that’s very relaxing. The changing scenery helps of course. But I hope the developer does something about removing the Facebook like button from the scenery…it’s the only little thing that mars this simple relaxation inducing Chrome extension.

Bonomo

Remember the absolute joy of splashing colors on a white page with abandon? Bonomo brings you the same fun but in a geeky way with this cool abstract drawing app built on HTML5. It can be creatively used of course, but I just like to go a bit wild on it watching the different styles merge together in colorful patterns. The HTML5 app also allows you to save your creations in case you are artistically inclined.

Divvr is another similar abstract drawing app you can try out.

20 Cubed

Okay, if you are reading this rather lengthy piece of prose, then it’s time to relax your eyes for a bit. Looking away from the monitor at a distant object is an advice computer users should take quite seriously. This Chrome extension serves as a reminder tool that prompts you to look away every 20 minutes. Look away…focus on something else for a change…and then come back to what you are doing on screen. You can’t be that busy!

These 6 apps have helped me relax while working on the compute. I have avoided Chrome games extensions and music app and looked at other ways to relax while working. Are you a digital citizen? How do snatch a few moments of rest while working on the computer? Let us also know about your favorite Google Chrome fun extension.

And, if you are looking for some other cool stress-reducing tips, look here:

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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September 26 2011

16:00

14 Most Popular YouTube Pranks You Can Play On Your Friends

youtube pranksDon’t you just love playing pranks on other people? I sure do, as long as I know that it won’t result in the other person(s) wanting to kill me. Keeping things funny helps build connections with friends (please, be sensible about what’s over the top), maintains a less-serious atmosphere, and simply makes everyone laugh. After all, we all know that laughter is the best medicine out there.

Today I’ve found 5 YouTube videos that contain a total of 14 pranks that you could play on your friends. These videos were among the top videos on search results when using different keywords, so they are indeed popular.

Office Pranks

Everyone loves a good office prank, right? Well here are five of them to help you come up with some ideas. Personally, I like the YouTube prank with the car, and the scary image popping up on the woman’s monitor while she was slacking. It’s a great way to poke some fun at them while reminding them that they need to go back to work. As for the other pranks in this video, I’ll just let you watch them.

The Hand-in-Warm-Water Prank

If you haven’t yet heard of the hand in warm water prank, you’ve definitely been missing out on some YouTube goodness. While the validity of this type of prank is still disputed, that doesn’t stop more videos from appearing. This video isn’t an amateur video but instead somewhat professionally made in terms of YouTube videos, but you should still understand the jist of the joke, aside from the pants side-story. Simply put, it is believed that if you fill a bowl with warm water (not hot, not cold) and place a sleeping person’s hand into the water-filled bowl, that person will then being to urinate themselves. Personally, I doubt that it really works, but it’s fun to watch and you could always try it out yourself and then tell the whole world the truth.

Scary Login Sound

For some reason, I like this one a lot despite it’s simplicity. Maybe because of how unsuspecting the person is, but I still like it. To sum it up, while someone else is logged into their computer but are actually someplace else, you go into their settings and change the login sound to something much more frightening than the default. Then save, turn up the volume wherever you can, and log out. Now just wait until your prey returns to their computer, and wha la!

Random Public Pranks

In this video, 6 total pranks that people do in public are presented. I do have to admit that some of them are quite nasty, and I highly recommend that you don’t do that for simple reasons of hygiene. I actually don’t have much to say about this video except to “watch and learn”, I suppose. Oh, and do pay attention to the person making all the comments, for he does make things a lot funnier than the video itself.

Win $500,000!

youtube pranks

Remember when I said that you can play any of these pranks on your friends? Well, I lied. Unless you have some pretty awesome connections, I highly doubt you’ll be able to pull this one off, but if you can, then congratulations! Even if you can’t, you can still laugh over what did happen in the video, and maybe you can adjust some of the ideas in this prank to make one of your own. I’m sure your creative side will make you proud.

As always, there are much more pranks out there on YouTube that may just not be that popular but still funny to you and your friends. Just keep searching until you find the perfect one. If you need something anyone can do, here’s my favorite that I did during April Fool’s Day many years ago:

If your kitchen sink has one of those extra hoses that you can pull out and more efficiently wash dishes with, then simply put a rubber band around it so that the handle is pressed in. Then, whenever someone comes to use the sink, instead of water coming from the faucet onto the dishes, it’ll be sprayed directly towards the person you’re tricking out. I’m absolutely sure they’ll be happy with a wet shirt or face.

For more ideas, you can also check out our long list of articles, all about pranks!

What’s your favorite YouTube prank? What do you like most about it? Let us know in the comments!

Image Credit: Shutterstock


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