Make Tech Easier » Abhiroop Basu http://www.maketecheasier.com Uncomplicating the complicated, making life easier Thu, 07 Nov 2013 06:45:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.7.1 Meet Iris – The Android Alternative To Sirihttp://www.maketecheasier.com/meet-iris-the-android-alternative-to-siri/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/meet-iris-the-android-alternative-to-siri/#respond Tue, 01 Nov 2011 23:58:12 +0000 http://maketecheasier.com/?p=40269 Communication with an artificial intelligence through voice commands has been the holy grail of sci-fi nuts since the “Library Computer Access and Retrieval System” was first sighted on Star Trek: The Next Generation. It was only with the launch of Google Voice Actions, about a year ago, that voice commands became a reality. Despite being […]

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iris-logoCommunication with an artificial intelligence through voice commands has been the holy grail of sci-fi nuts since the “Library Computer Access and Retrieval System” was first sighted on Star Trek: The Next Generation. It was only with the launch of Google Voice Actions, about a year ago, that voice commands became a reality. Despite being first, Google’s Voice Actions did not receive any major improvements after its initial launch and now it looks as though Apple’s alternative “Siri” has taken the speech input crown away from Google. Unlike Voice Actions, which requires the user to say specific commands, Siri relies on natural language input allowing users to create their own commands, often with humorous responses.

Although Google dropped the ball with its Voice Actions app, an enterprising company by the name of Dexetra has taken it upon themselves to create their own Siri-like alternative. This app is called “Iris”, which is the opposite of Siri. At first test, the beta version was not all that impressive as the responses I got to the majority of my questions were simply humorous quips.

irisapp-beta

But, for an app that was developed in an 8-hour hackathon, it showed a lot of promise.

Shortly thereafter, they decided to release Iris to the Android Market and it became quite a hit. The responses are now actual answers to the questions and I have started to see less and less of the humour and more useful information. For example, when I asked the questions “what time is it?“, “where am I?“, and “what’s the weather today?“, I received fairly realistic responses (minus the location question – it can’t get everything correct).

irisapp-more-questions

Accompanying the text was an eerie female computer voice that read out all the text on the screen.

The responses became even better when I asked more specific, general knowledge questions, such as “what is the GDP of China?“, “tell me about Microsoft” or “square root of 567“.

irisapp-accurate-prediction

Finally, Iris, like Siri, lets you control your phone with just your voice. You can issue commands like, “please call John“, at which point Iris confirms that you wish to call John and the proceeds to place the call.

irisapp-making-calls

But, fear not, the humour still remains.

irisapp-humour

At this point, Iris is hardly a contender to Siri. Although Iris can answer the most basic and straightforward questions, it lacks context and so is unable to be truly useful in an everyday scenario. But, I look forward to its development. Kudos to Binil and the rest of the Dexetra team, what began as a fun project for them has turned into a potential game changing product for Android users.

Download Iris

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Celebrate Halloween With Android Apps, Themes And Gameshttp://www.maketecheasier.com/celebrate-halloween-with-android-apps-themes-and-games/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/celebrate-halloween-with-android-apps-themes-and-games/#respond Fri, 28 Oct 2011 14:58:28 +0000 http://maketecheasier.com/?p=40444 Halloween is a great holiday for all to enjoy and what’s a better way to celebrate than to trick out your Android phone in full orange attire. For this article I have found a number of apps, themes, and games that transform your phone into a Halloween-themed device. 1. Live Wallpaper: Free Halloween Live Wallpaper […]

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halloween-mainHalloween is a great holiday for all to enjoy and what’s a better way to celebrate than to trick out your Android phone in full orange attire. For this article I have found a number of apps, themes, and games that transform your phone into a Halloween-themed device.

Despite their lack of usefulness, live wallpapers are still extremely popular and this Halloween-themed wallpaper has added a great scanner effect.

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The wallpaper allows you to customise the scanner effect by letting you select the colour, structure, brightness and speed. Additionally, (it is indicated) that the wallpaper does not slow down your phone or excessively consumer your battery.

Check out the embedded video for the full effect.

This app gets you right into the Halloween spirit by letting you choose from a wide selection of high definition wallpapers.

halloween-wallpaper

According to some research, auditory cues are often more frightening than visual ones, and so I recommend checking out these awesome Halloween Ringtones and Halloween Spooky Sounds to really scare your friends. The ringtones app features a number of scary and creepy sounds that you can set as your ringtone, notification or alarm on your phone.
Android Apps, Themes And Games To Celebrate Halloween
halloween-ringtone

The Spooky Sounds app also has a number of scary sounds, including the sound of a bat, chainsaw, “death”, haunting, zombies, ghosts, screams, etc. The app also has a motion detector that automatically activates a sound when someone is near. Perfect for scaring a trick or treator as they come to your door.

halloween-sounds

What better way to enjoy Halloween on your device than to skin it completely with a dedicated orange and gloomy theme.

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To apply this theme you will need to install GO Launcher EX, which is easily one of the best custom launchers available, featuring a variety of customisation options.

There is no point skinning your phone but leaving your apps behind, so install the Halloween theme for the GO SMS Pro app to add that spooky touch to sending your messages.

halloween-gosms

GO SMS Pro is a great alternative to the stock messaging app that features an exciting user interface, a more fast and efficient SMS/MMS experience, and a number of other improvements and features.
Android Apps, Themes And Games To Celebrate Halloween

Adult: Contract Killer: Zombies

I love a good shoot ‘em up game, and the perfect theme for Halloween is shooting zombies! Contract Killer:Zombies is a sequel to the original Contract Killer game, an exciting first person shooter. In the sequel you face the apocalypse and have to save the remnants of humanity by slaughtering thousands of zombies.

halloween-contract

The graphics and gameplay are not spectacular, but it is a fun way to pass the time.

Puzzle: Bubble Blast Halloween

If you are more the thinking man, then check out the Halloween-themed version of the popular puzzle game Bubble Blast. The aim of the game is to trigger a chain reaction and this is done by bursting Halloween characters.

halloween-bubbleblast

I thoroughly enjoyed the original Bubble Blast and I am looking forward to trying out the new levels in the Halloween version of the game.

Let us know how you plan to celebrate this year’s Halloween and whether your Android device will play a part in it.

Image credit: BigStockPhoto

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Keep Track Of Everything With These Two Full Featured Note Taking Apps [Android]http://www.maketecheasier.com/full-featured-note-taking-apps/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/full-featured-note-taking-apps/#comments Tue, 18 Oct 2011 23:58:09 +0000 http://maketecheasier.com/?p=40079 Last week, I wrote about 3 simple note-taking apps that made it easy to keep your life in order. Those apps didn’t have very many features, but that was the whole point, the focus was on the note-taking. In this weeks article, let’s look at two competing note-taking apps, Evernote and Springpad which are bursting […]

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note-mainLast week, I wrote about 3 simple note-taking apps that made it easy to keep your life in order. Those apps didn’t have very many features, but that was the whole point, the focus was on the note-taking. In this weeks article, let’s look at two competing note-taking apps, Evernote and Springpad which are bursting with features and aim to completely reorganise your life.

Evernote’s greatest strength and feature, is that you can find it everywhere. I have it installed on both my Mac and my PC, I have an Evernote extension for Chrome, and I also have an Android app. It is also available for the iPhone, BlackBerry, WebOS, and the iPad, as well as all the major browsers. Unlike the note-taking apps I outlined in my previous article, taking notes in Evernote is not so simple. Of course, you can click on “New note” on the main page and start typing a short note, however this is just the tip of the iceberg.

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The note itself can be in a number of formats including: audio, video, photo, text, etc. The note can also be formatted in a number of colourful ways.

In addition to creating and customising the notes, you can organise the notes by using notebooks and tags.

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Once you have created your notes, formatted them, added a few tags and placed them in the appropriate notebooks, they should automatically sync to your other devices and to the Evernote website for easy access.

In addition to the basic task of creating and syncing notes, Evernote also allows you to do the following:

  • Record voice notes
  • Search for text inside images (using OCR)
  • Email notes and share them across various social media platforms
  • Save tweets as notes
  • Easily save notes from other apps using the “Share” function
  • Create a “to-do” list by creating checkboxes
  • Save and bookmark webpages to view later

Lastly, if you would rather sketch down your thoughts, then check out Skitch, which is a great scribbling app that integrates into Evernote.

note-skitch

Springpad works much the same way as Evernote, by giving you a variety of tools to sync with and create notes with, but in my opinion, it has a much nicer interface.

When you start Springpad, you see a list of your notes. The colourful interface really makes it a pleasure to use.

To create a note, simply hit the “+” button.

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Unlike Evernote, Springpad gives you a variety of things to add to “my stuff”. These include notes, tasks, searches, other media (photos, videos, audio), barcodes, and locations.

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The great thing about Springpad is that it can effectively be a dump for anything that comes to your mind, it need not be limited to a linear note-format. You can:

  • Create tasks, and to-do lists
  • Look up products, places, movies and more and get instantly enhanced information

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  • Scan a barcode
  • Take a photo or record a voice memo to save what you want to remember
  • Add widgets to the home screen to save and access everything even faster
  • Use the web clipper and Chrome extension to save web content

Once you have all the notes you want, everything is automatically categorized, synced and accessible everywhere. The categorization is based on medium and does not require you to manually create tags. You can also create notebooks and tags if you choose to do so.

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Finally, you can act on your notes by setting reminders and sending content from the web to your phone and vice versa.

An in-depth review of all the features and functions of Evernote and Springpad are beyond the scope of this article. However, the small glance I have provided at their various features should help you make up your mind on which app you want to use. I personally prefer Evernote, because I use a variety of devices and it syncs across everything beautifully. However, Springpad’s organisation and UI is much more appealing to first time users.

Image credit: @boetter

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Organise Your Life With These 3 Simple Note Taking Apps [Android]http://www.maketecheasier.com/organise-your-life-with-these-3-simple-note-taking-apps-android/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/organise-your-life-with-these-3-simple-note-taking-apps-android/#comments Fri, 07 Oct 2011 23:58:13 +0000 http://maketecheasier.com/?p=39566 They say that the best camera is the one you always have with you. Similarly, the best notebook is also the one always present with you. Although I prefer taking notes by hand, my Android phone is the device which I am always carrying with me and so, my default note-taking device is a combination […]

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notes-mainThey say that the best camera is the one you always have with you. Similarly, the best notebook is also the one always present with you. Although I prefer taking notes by hand, my Android phone is the device which I am always carrying with me and so, my default note-taking device is a combination of my Samsung Galaxy SII and a variety of different apps. In my experience, I have encountered two types of note-taking apps. Firstly, you have the “simple” note taking apps that are basically just barebones notepads. There are also more “advanced” types of notepad apps that include a greater number of features. In this article, I will outline three different “simple” note taking apps.

AK Notepad is a one of my favourite note-taking apps as it straddles the line between being simple and having a variety of features. When you first launch it, all you see is a blank screen with an obvious “add note” field.

notes-aknotepad (1)

Creating a note is a breeze and you can even add #hashtags if you wish to label your notes for better organisation.

notes-aknotepad-(3)

The note will then show up in your main list and the #hashtag you added will show up in the labels screen.

notes-aknotepad (4)

If you wish to have quick access to your notes you can also pin it to your home screen. This is a feature I use a lot when I want to be reminded of upcoming appointments and tasks.

notes-aknotepad-(2)

If you dive into the Settings menu, you will see a lot of customisation options where you can change the colour of the notepad, the font of the text, and its size. You also have the ability to add a password, and the option to import/export your notes.

notes-aknotepad-(5)

Finally, AK Notepad also has a feature that allows you to sync your notes to the cloud using Catch Sync. The service is fairly seamless, but for the purpose I use AK Notepad, i.e. taking a few short notes, it is not necessary for them to be synced.

If you are looking for something even simpler in a notepad, then you can’t go wrong with the aptly named Notepad. Like AK Notepad, it features a simple launch screen that prompts you to select “menu” to add a note. It would be easier if there was a big “add note” button, but this works as well.

notes-notepad (2)

Adding a note and saving it is painfully easy as well.

notes-notepad-(1)

Aside from a search option, that’s it! There aren’t any labels, folders, sync options or anything like that. This app is as basic and barebones as it gets.

However, you can customise the text size and note viewing options.

notes-notepad-(3)

InkPad Notepad is a newer app which focuses on syncing and backing up your notes, and with a fairly simple interface. Before you can start jotting down your thoughts, you must sign into InkPad using your Google Account.

notes-inkpad-(1)

Like the other two note-taking apps mentioned above, creating a note in InkPad is quite straightforward, simply hit the “+” sign to create a new note.

notes-inkpad-(4)

Once you have created your note, you will be prompted to sync it with the InkPad server.

notes-inkpad-(11)

You can now access the note online via inkpadnotepad.com (by logging in with your Google Account).

There are also a number of backup and sync options you can customise from the settings menu.

notes-inkpad-(5)

My all-time favourite note taking app is AK Notepad. I have been using it practically since I got my first Android phone in mid-2009. At the time, it was a simple app for jotting down my thoughts and in 2-years it has released numerous updates, but has not changed significantly (which is a good thing), despite being bought out by Catch.com. If you want something really simple, then give Notepad a shot. Lastly, if you need a stable method of syncing your notes, I would recommend InkPad Notepad.

Next week, we will discuss about the more “Advanced” note-taking apps for Android.

Which notepad app do you use for your Android phone?

Image credit: BigStockPhoto.com

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A Complete Guide to Facebook Timelinehttp://www.maketecheasier.com/a-complete-guide-to-facebook-timeline/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/a-complete-guide-to-facebook-timeline/#comments Mon, 03 Oct 2011 23:58:09 +0000 http://maketecheasier.com/?p=39302 Unless you were away for the past couple of weeks, you must have heard about Facebook launching its latest enhancement to the standard profile view, the Timeline. In short, Timeline, if you allow it, will be the new default view of your profile, allowing other users easy access to your past activity on Facebook. Once […]

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fb-timeline-mainUnless you were away for the past couple of weeks, you must have heard about Facebook launching its latest enhancement to the standard profile view, the Timeline. In short, Timeline, if you allow it, will be the new default view of your profile, allowing other users easy access to your past activity on Facebook. Once Facebook launches it to the public the only thing they will see when they navigate to your profile page is the Facebook Timeline view. There are a number of major changes that the new view brings to your profile. In this article, I will highlight some of them.

Facebook has stated that they intend to launch Timeline to the general public in a few weeks, however if you are eager, TechCrunch has outlined a (slightly complicated) method of activating Timeline right now. Although their method is not strictly a hack as it uses Facebook’s own developer tools, it is a risky process and bugs are expected. Having said that I have not experienced any issues after following their method.

Unlike the current profile, the Timeline view is separated into two distinct halves, top and bottom.

fb-timeline2

The top half features the following items:

  1. Your current profile picture which does not change
  2. A new “Cover image” which takes up the majority of the top half. This image is intended to serve as a sort of “cover” for the viewers of the your profile.
  3. The Timeline scrollbar allows you to jump to any point since you started using Facebook. As my scrollbar indicates, my earliest contact with Facebook was in 2006.
  4. The basic personal information remains the same.
  5. A collage of all your friends
  6. The most recent photo in which you have been tagged
  7. Your current location
  8. Your “likes”

The top half also features a customisable “favourite apps” section just below the items 5 to 8. Here you can dump whatever apps you wish to have quick access to.

fb-timeline5

The bottom half is a two-column interface dedicated to your activity on Facebook with top photos, status updates, wall posts from friends and basically everything you get up to on Facebook.

fb-timeline3

This half has the following sections:

1. The status update section has been revamped. In addition to adding a status, a photo, or a location, you can also identify the significance of the status itself by clicking on one of the five status indicators: work and education, family and relationships, living, health and wellness, and milestones and experiences. The idea is that in the future you can jump to significant milestones in your life if you indicate them. For example, when I originally set up my profile, I indicated that I had completed my high school in 2006. Scrolling down to 2006, there is a space for me to add a photo of my graduation.

fb-timeline4

Facebook has done a lot of work to ensure its algorithms pick up on these milestones. In fact, it looks like Facebook intends to become more like a scrapbook collecting your thoughts rather than simply a place for your friends to share wall posts and photos.

2. The recent activity feed shows what you have been up to by tracking everything that you do including the music you listen to, the articles you read, and the videos you watch.

3. Lastly, the main portion of your profile features all your status updates, your friends wall posts, links shared, and photos taken.

In addition to displaying all the content mentioned above the Timeline also groups together your most important updates.

Events

fb-timeline-event

Friends

fb-timeline-friends

Likes

fb-timeline-likes

Photo Album

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Photos

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In addition to the updated profile view, the new Timeline also brings with it a number of new features. These can all be accessed by clicking on one of the shortcuts (including items 5-8) in the top half of the page.

Activity Log

Clicking on the “View Activity” button on the main page takes you to the Activity Log page.

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This page features a comprehensive list of everything you have done on Facebook. This list is completely private and not visible to the public or your Friends.

The main feature of the Activity Log, aside from being able to view all your activity, is the ability to tweak whether a particular item is viewable on the Timeline or not. To make this change simply select the drop-down arrow on the right of the corresponding activity.

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You can either hide or allow the item or you can “feature” the item on the Timeline. When you “feature” an item on the Timeline it takes prominence by removing the two-column view and displaying only that item.

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Update Info

To change your personal information, simply hit “Update Info” on the main page.

Your information stays the same, however it is much easier to amend it as it is all viewable on one single page.

Friends’ List

The friends’ list has been completely revamped to display a never-ending scrollable list of all your friends.

Photos and Videos

The photos and videos page functions the same as before but looks completely different. The extraneous whitespace from the earlier profile view has been removed and it is now much faster to scroll through all your photos and videos as it is all on one page.

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Map

The map is an interesting feature that displays a geographical history of all the places you have visited. So, whenever you tag a status or photo with a geographical indicator, it will show up on the map. If you use this feature a lot, the map will eventually fill up and show you all the places you have visited throughout your life (or at least since you started using Facebook).

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Notes

Like the other updated pages, the new notes page is a single scrollable list of notes with an index of all your notes on the right side.

Likes

The “Likes” page displays icons of all the different pages you like, categorised according to the type of things they are (e.g. music, books, movies, television, games, etc).

The “Likes” page also displays the pages you have liked on a yearly basis:

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Subscribers

The new Facebook subscribe feature allows an asynchronous method of following users who do not “friend you”. Essentially, your public posts are viewable by anyone who “subscribes” to them, there is no need for you to approve these subscribers.

Facebook has updated a lot of its features but two things really stand out. Firstly, the Timeline view is probably the biggest change to the profile since Facebook originally launched. The view is much more dynamic and it acts like a time capsule all the way back to when you first joined. The second major change is that a lot of the pages which were cumbersome to navigate have been streamlined into long scrollable lists making it much easier to view your content.

What’s your views on the Facebook’s Timeline?

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Android Widget Series: Agenda Widgets To Keep Your Life On Track [Part 3]http://www.maketecheasier.com/android-widget-series-agenda-widgets-to-keep-your-life-on-track-part-3/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/android-widget-series-agenda-widgets-to-keep-your-life-on-track-part-3/#comments Fri, 23 Sep 2011 14:58:42 +0000 http://maketecheasier.com/?p=38877 In my previous article of the Android Widget Series, I gave a few examples of clock widgets that help keep you on time. In this weeks article, I will give examples of a few different “agenda” widgets. These widgets either place calendars, to do lists, or a variety of other organisational tools on your home […]

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agenda-mainIn my previous article of the Android Widget Series, I gave a few examples of clock widgets that help keep you on time. In this weeks article, I will give examples of a few different “agenda” widgets. These widgets either place calendars, to do lists, or a variety of other organisational tools on your home screen. This is useful if you wish to glance at your upcoming appointments and tasks.

For those of you who have missed the first and second part of this series, here are the links:

1. Great List of Android Widgets For Tweaking And Monitoring Your Device Settings [Part 1]

2. Android Widgets Series: Great List Of Clock Widgets To Help You Tell The Time [Part 2]

Firstly, the stock version of Android comes with a few widgets pre-installed. These widgets are not as nice or as feature-full as some of the other examples in this article, however if you simply wish to scan the month or your upcoming appointments then it is perfectly adequate.

agenda-default

The main problem with the above widgets is that it only shows the first event of the day and the remaining events are obscured. If you wish to have a scrollable list of widgets, you may wish to try the following widgets.

Although Android Agenda Widget does not have the slickest UI, it is still one of the more popular widget apps because it syncs appointments and tasks from a variety of sources including, Google, Activesync, Touchdown exchange, Astrid, SSI gTasks, Dato GTask, Google Task Organizer, Got To and Do.

agenda-androidagenda

If you wish to enable all the additional functions of this widget, then download the Plus version.

If you are not overly concerned about having a boat-load of functionality, but do want some nice eye candy, then Calendar GO Widget is highly recommended. There are three widgets to choose from, a month view, an agenda view, and a daily events view.

agenda-calendargo

According to the reviews, this widget displays all the calendars (from Google Calendar) and does not allow the user to select which calendars to view.

Calendar GO Widget requires the home screen replacement GO Launcher EX to be installed.

If you prefer a minimalist interface then Simple Calendar Widget is the best choice for you. This widget features a number of different styles, skins and other customisation options depending on whether you prefer a lighter or darker theme or whether you want to donate more or less screen real-estate.

agenda-simplecalendarwidget

Developer Laik makes a popular calendar widget which takes up very little space but at the same time displays a large portion of information. Additionally, unlike some of the other calendar widgets the different Google Calendars are colour coded. Just don’t expect a lot of customisation options from this widget.

agenda-laik

If you wish to support the developer, then consider opting for the donation version of the Laik Agenda Widget.

This calendar widget is ideal for those who do not want to sacrifice a lot of screen real-estate. You can customise the size, look, and feel of the widget to make it “smoothly” fit into your home screen.

agenda-smooth1

Which agenda widget is your favourite?

This is my last article in the Android Widget Series. Let us know in the comments what you thought of this series and if you wish to see similar series in the future.

Image credit: DafneCholet

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What You Need To Know About Facebook New Friend Lists Featurehttp://www.maketecheasier.com/what-you-need-to-know-about-facebook-new-friend-lists-feature/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/what-you-need-to-know-about-facebook-new-friend-lists-feature/#comments Wed, 14 Sep 2011 23:58:43 +0000 http://maketecheasier.com/?p=38562 Facebook officially launched its improved Friend Lists feature today, making it easier than ever to view and share relevant content with the appropriate individuals. In this article I will highlight the main uses of Facebook’s newest feature. What is Smart Lists One of Google+ main selling points, separating itself from Facebook, is the “Circles” feature, […]

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fb-smartlist-mainFacebook officially launched its improved Friend Lists feature today, making it easier than ever to view and share relevant content with the appropriate individuals. In this article I will highlight the main uses of Facebook’s newest feature.

One of Google+ main selling points, separating itself from Facebook, is the “Circles” feature, which allows the user to create “Circles”, or groups, of people to share content with. Unlike Facebook where you add a “friend” and then you are given the option of adding them to a “list” (which no-one ever does), Google+ requires you from the get-go to add the person to one or more “Circles”. Facebook’s top brass has realised that its users are unlikely to add people to lists, so they have solved the problem by developing an algorithm that automatically groups friends into “smart lists”. These lists will be automatically created and updated based on your profile and your friend’s profile. For example, Facebook will look at a variety of indicators, including the people in your family, your relationship status, your location, your place of study, and your place of work, in populating these “smart lists”.

fb-smartlist

Initially, your friends will be grouped into the following four “smart lists”:

  • Work – your place of employment
  • School – your place of study
  • Family – your family members
  • City – your location which you can customise by demarcating a particular radius

There’s basically nothing that you need to do. Later on, it is likely that Facebook will expand the lists based on other factors, such as common interests. For example, you may want to share a photo of a concert with all your friends who are fans of the band in question.

Facebook will also give you the option of adding and removing friends from the “smart lists” manually to ensure they remain accurate.

Facebook’s News Feed is an efficient method of keeping track of what your friends are up to. However, if you have a lot of friends, then the feed can become very busy and you may miss important updates from close friends. To solve this problem, Facebook allows you to add your closest friends to a “Close Friends list”. All updates from everyone in this list will appear on your Facebook News Feed and you can even receive notifications when new updates appear.

Conversely, you may have a group of friends, such as old classmates and business contacts, who you do not really keep in touch with and wish to see less of in the News Feed. You can add this group of individuals to the “Acquaintances list” and Facebook will filter out most of their updates, leaving only the important ones.

Finally, you can also create a “Restricted list” for people who you do not want seeing your posts. This is ideal for individuals who you have friended but do not really wish to share your content with, for example your boss. You can still continue sending messages to them and tagging them posts and photos.

fb-closefriends

Note, unlike the “smart lists”, the “Close Friends list”, the “Acquaintances list”, and the “Restricted list” are all manually created by the user.

Since the user probably knows the most appropriate list for a particular person, Facebook will provide better suggestions as to which list a potential friend should be added to and allow the user to make the choice.

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Every list you have, whether automatically generated or otherwise, will have its own dedicated News Feed enabling you to view only the updates from particular friends.

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Facebook should be applauded in taking a proactive approach (thanks to Google+) on creating the new Friend Lists features. It is very difficult in drawing a balance between ensuring users share content amongst their friends and ensuring that the said content remains private. However, there are a number of issues with the Friend Lists feature. Firstly it may be impossible to identify which group a particular friend belongs to. Unless you and your friend have provided accurate information in your profile, the “smart lists” will not work.

Secondly, sharing content is dynamic in nature and it is likely that a majority of it will be shared amongst multiple groups of friends, not limited to one particular group. This will make using lists difficult, especially if content has to be posted twice to two different lists. Finally, the fact a member of a list will know all the other members in that list may cause users some alarm and hinder adoption.

In any event, it is important to mention that Facebook is not shoving the Friends List down your throats, and all the features mentioned above are entirely optional

What is your thoughts on the new Facebook Friend Lists features?

The post What You Need To Know About Facebook New Friend Lists Feature appeared first on Make Tech Easier.

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Android Widgets Series: Great List Of Clock Widgets To Help You Tell The Time [Part 2]http://www.maketecheasier.com/android-widgets-series-great-list-of-clock-widgets-to-help-you-tell-the-time-part-2/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/android-widgets-series-great-list-of-clock-widgets-to-help-you-tell-the-time-part-2/#comments Fri, 09 Sep 2011 14:58:40 +0000 http://maketecheasier.com/?p=38179 In my article last week, I provided examples of a number of Android widgets that help users monitor and toggle their settings (including WiFi, battery, brightness, data, gps, etc.). In this weeks installment of Android widgets, I will highlight a number of useful clock widgets that assist you in telling the time. Depending on which […]

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clock-mickey-smallIn my article last week, I provided examples of a number of Android widgets that help users monitor and toggle their settings (including WiFi, battery, brightness, data, gps, etc.). In this weeks installment of Android widgets, I will highlight a number of useful clock widgets that assist you in telling the time. Depending on which Android device you purchase, you may already have a clock widget. However, the vanilla version of Android does not come with any and this article will help fill that gap.

The following list of widgets are simple ones that display the date and time on your device’s home screen.

1. Retro Clock Widget: This widget is based on the classic mechanical flipping clocks often seen in train stations.

clock-retro

2. SiMi Clock Widget: This is another minimalist clock widget that displays the date and time on the home screen, but unlike the retro clock widget, it is purely textual.

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3. Digital Clock Widget: This widget is quite simplistic and made to resemble the one from the iOS lock screen. However, it does have a few additional features including the ability to customise its look.

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This list of widgets include ones that have additional information alongside the date and time. Such information could include the battery or network status and the weather.

1. Advanced Clock Widget: This is a simple text based widget (i.e. without fancy graphics) that displays a lot of useful information including your phone’s battery status, the network operator, the Wi-Fi network name, multiple world clocks with time zone support, current location, weather data, next alarm and total uptime.

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2. Make Your Clock Widget Beta: This widget is quite different from the rest. Although it has most of the features of the other clock widgets, it is unique because it allows you to customise its look in an infinite number of ways from a simple minimalistic text-based clock widget to a full-blown one with weather, battery, and other information.

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3. Animated Weather Widget, Clock: This popular widget displays the time alongside the weather forecast with live wallpapers. The video effects feature cloudiness, rain and snow which provide a vivid sensation of current and/or future weather conditions.

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4. Fancy Widgets: This is a beautiful and highly customisable set of widgets that displays the clock, date, weather, moon phase calculation and alarm settings.

clock-fancywidgets

This list of widgets are useful if you travel between multiple time zones or have to keep track of the time from different places around the world.

1. World Clock & Widget: This widget is no frills and simply displays the time and location of the places you select in an unobtrusive manner.

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2. World Weather Clock Widget: If you need to know the weather in addition to the time of different locations then use this widget.

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3. Perfect World Clock: In addition to displaying the times of different places, the widgets in this app switch between a black and chrome colour to differentiate between pm and am, respectively. Hence, this widget makes it easy to keep track of what time it is in other parts of the world.

clock-perfectworldclock

This final list of widgets are like screensavers, fun to look at but not terribly useful.

1. Mickey Mouse Clock Widget: This is a cute little widget that features Mickey Mouse on the face of an analogue clock.

clock-mickey

2. Pixel Art Clock Widget: This widget is a decorative clock displayed in a pixelated form.

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3. Art Clock: This widget is for the artistic folk, but it looks great on most home screens.

clock-art

Which type of clock widget do you have on your home screen?

In next week’s edition of the Android Widgets series I will be looking at a variety of calendar and agenda widgets.

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Great List of Android Widgets For Tweaking And Monitoring Your Device Settings [Part 1]http://www.maketecheasier.com/android-widgets-for-tweaking-device-settings/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/android-widgets-for-tweaking-device-settings/#comments Fri, 02 Sep 2011 14:58:10 +0000 http://maketecheasier.com/?p=37719 With the growth of apps, the various smartphone platforms are all becoming similar. What makes Google’s Android stands out from the rest is the ability to add “widgets” on the home screen and offer the user a unique experience. For those of you who are not sure what widget is, they are essentially interactive icons […]

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widget-mainWith the growth of apps, the various smartphone platforms are all becoming similar. What makes Google’s Android stands out from the rest is the ability to add “widgets” on the home screen and offer the user a unique experience. For those of you who are not sure what widget is, they are essentially interactive icons on the home screen which update with information or change the settings of your device. There are thousands of widgets in the Android Market and unfortunately there is no effective way of searching for them except to simply search for “widgets”.

In this series of articles, I will highlight groups of widgets that are useful for different tasks. This first article in the series features widgets that are useful for monitoring or tweaking Android settings.

Note: Most of these widgets also have “pro” or “extended” versions with more features, but which also costs money.

To add a widget to your Android device, simply long press anywhere on your home screen and select “widget”.

widget-add

A smartphone has a number of features that are not always necessary. For example, unless you are in an area with WiFi, having your WiFi radio turned on is a waste of battery as it will constantly try and find a new network. On the other hand, it is a pain to have to constantly dig through menus to disable selected radios. Therefore, putting toggle widgets (widgets that activate or deactivate particular functions) on your home screen alleviates this pain.

1. Free Power Widget: This puts a widget bar on your home screen that allows you to monitor and toggle a multitude of settings, including the following:

  • USB
  • Airplane
  • WiFi
  • Bluetooth (only Android 2.x)
  • Silent
  • Lock Pattern (Only Android 2.2 or lower)
  • Brightness Toggle
  • Brightness Slider
  • Sync (only Android 2.x)
  • Orientation
  • GPS
  • 2G/3G
  • Stay awake
  • Always On
  • Screen Timeout
  • WiFi Lock

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2. Toggle Widgets Pack: This pack of widgets places individual icons on your home screen (unlike the above widget bar) and it allows you to toggle the following settings:

  • Airplane mode
  • Bluetooth
  • GPS (Not one click since Android API does not support this)
  • Reboot (Requires root access)
  • Silent mode
  • Vibrate
  • WiFi

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3. CurveFish Widgets: The developer CurveFish has created individual widgets for toggling the following settings:

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SilentMode, WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, AutoRotate, Brightness Level, 2G to 3G, APN (data), AutoSync and LockPattern

You can also download the OnOff Widgets Pack (from the same developer) which features a collection of the following toggle widgets:

  • Airplane mode
  • APN (data)
  • AutoRotate
  • AutoSync
  • Bluetooth
  • Brightness
  • GPS
  • LockScreen
  • Network 2G/3G
  • Screen timeout
  • Silent mode
  • WiFi

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It is strange that Google does not provide an adequate application for monitoring the battery level of your Android handset. There is a battery icon in the notification bar, however it is not very precise. Fortunately, there are a number of widgets that display the battery level of your device on your home screen:

  1. BatteryLife
    widget-batterylife
  2. Circle Battery Widget
    widget-batterycircle
  3. Battery Watcher Widget
    widget-batterywatcher
  4. Battery Widget
    widget-batterywidget
  5. Battery Solo Widget
    widget-batterysolo
  6. Battery Monitor Widget: The above widgets are all fairly basic as they merely display the current battery level. In contrast, this widget gives you complete battery monitoring through a notification icon, battery history, graphs, and alarms.

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In the next part of this Android widget series, we will discuss the various clock widgets in the market.

Image credit: Johan Larsson

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6 More Exciting Android Live Wallpapershttp://www.maketecheasier.com/6-more-exciting-android-live-wallpapers/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/6-more-exciting-android-live-wallpapers/#comments Fri, 26 Aug 2011 14:58:42 +0000 http://maketecheasier.com/?p=37336 A little over a year ago, I did a post on Live Wallpapers on Android which became popular as new Android users wanted to push their devices to the limit. Today, the Android platform has matured significantly and with better hardware comes improved support for live wallpapers. This article will feature some of the newer […]

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android-figurineA little over a year ago, I did a post on Live Wallpapers on Android which became popular as new Android users wanted to push their devices to the limit. Today, the Android platform has matured significantly and with better hardware comes improved support for live wallpapers. This article will feature some of the newer live wallpapers available in the market.

Most live wallpapers are like screensavers, pleasing to look at but otherwise useless. In contrast, the Bubbleator Live Wallpaper aims to provide both form and function by streaming useful content from a variety of sources, including Facebook posts, Twitter tweets, SMS messages, incoming phone calls, and upcoming events straight to your home screen. You can customise these “bubbles” of information to suit your specific needs and have them displayed alongside your other widgets and icons.

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Android Market

Nightfall Live Wallpaper features a night time landscape scene with twinkling stars, drifting nebulas, and a glowing moon. You can set the silhouette, the type of moon, and whether the stars should twinkle or not.

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Android Market (Free) | Android Market (Paid $1.49)

This is an interesting live wallpaper which provides an unique look at the planet Earth from orbiting satellites. The app gives you a number of options, including the ability to adjust the rotation speed, the satellite view, and settings to align the view of the Earth on your home screen.

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Android Market

This realistic live wallpaper is for the aquatic fauna lover and features numerous sharks and other sea creatures swimming around your phone against a backdrop of beautiful coral reefs. The free version is quite limited and features small exotic fishes, coral, and a number of sharks. If you upgrade to the paid version, you can choose between three themes (The Sunken Ship, The Bermuda Triangle, and The Atlantis), a number of additional sharks (Bull Shark, Black Tip Shark, Tiger Shark, Great White Shark, Nurse Shark, Whale Shark, Zebra Shark, Hammerhead Shark), and a number of species of fishes. This particular live wallpaper also supports both horizontal and vertical orientations of the phone.

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live-shark

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Android Market (Free) | Android Market (Paid $1.55)

Since the release of the Captain America film, this particular live wallpaper has become very popular. In fact it is quite a cool wallpaper featuring the Cap’s trademark shield that can be bombarded with bullets.

live-capam2

live-capam

Android Market

The flip clock is a popular Android app which displays a retro version of a clock flipping down cards as the minutes and hours change. The  flip clock live wallpaper is a similar concept except the flipping clock is part of your wallpaper. The wallpaper also shows you additional information such as weather data (forecasts and temperature data) and information about your device (such as the CPU temp, the battery level and the next alarm). The paid version of the live wallpaper allows you to customise the weather data provider.

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live-clock

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Android Market (Free) | Android Market (Paid $2.00)

Now that you have seen our selection, let’s have a poll: Are you willing to pay for a live wallpaper for your Android device?

Image credit: MJ/TR (´???)

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More Google Chrome Omnibox Tips and Trickshttp://www.maketecheasier.com/more-google-chrome-omnibox-tips-and-tricks/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/more-google-chrome-omnibox-tips-and-tricks/#comments Mon, 22 Aug 2011 14:58:06 +0000 http://maketecheasier.com/?p=37174 Shortly after Google Chrome launched, we came out with a guide outlining a few of its features and some useful tips and tricks. Now almost 3 years later, Chrome has grabbed a sizeable portion of the browser market share and has become the default browser for many users. During its growth, Chrome has matured greatly […]

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chrome-search-mainShortly after Google Chrome launched, we came out with a guide outlining a few of its features and some useful tips and tricks. Now almost 3 years later, Chrome has grabbed a sizeable portion of the browser market share and has become the default browser for many users. During its growth, Chrome has matured greatly and especially its address bar (commonly known as the “Omnibox“) has become a playground for useful features. In this article, I will highlight some of those useful features.

It is fairly simple to use the Omnibox to perform a search. Key in the query and hit Enter. However, often when you type in a query, a website shows up in the results list.

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If instead, you wish to do a pure Google Search, simply put a “?” before your query.

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This will perform a Google search rather than loading the URL.

The Omnibox is almost like an extension of Google Search so if you wish to perform some type of calculation or unit conversion, simply input it into the Omnibox.

chrome-calc

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The result will be displayed right there in the drop-down list.

The Omnibox allows you to add search engines to it so that you can perform searches of various websites directly from the Omnibox. To do so, right click on the Omnibox and select “Edit search engines…”. 

chrome-search1

This will pop-open the Chrome preferences tab allowing you to add the name of the external website you wish to search.

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Enter the name of the search engine (e.g. “Make Tech Easier”) enter the keyword (e.g. “maketecheasier.com”) and finally enter the URL (e.g. “http://maketecheasier.com/about/search-result/?cx=012219648382774935931%3A71v9_lruh3c&cof=FORID%3A11&q=%s”). It is important to put a memorable keyword as this is what you have to type into the Omnibox before starting the search. So, if you want to search for articles on Google Chrome on Make Tech Easier, you can type in “maketecheasier.com”, hit the “TAB” key and start searching.

chrome-search2

A few months ago, Google released the Omnibox API to allow enterprising developers to create extensions that would enhance the functionality of the Omnibox. Here are a couple of my favourite extensions:

Switch to Tab: With this extension you can search your open tabs and switch between them. Simply type in “sw<tab>” followed by the query you wish to search. After hitting Enter, you will automatically switch to the tab with the query.

Currently, there are no other popular extensions, however I am sure more will be released soon.

When you type in something in the Chrome Omnibox, a variety of results pop out.

chrome-omnibox

These results all fall into the following five categories with differing icons:

  • The bookmark icon appears next to bookmarked sites.
  • The history icon appears next to sites from your browsing history.
  • The search icon appears next to searches, including related searches if you have the prediction service turned on.
  • The predicted sites icon appears next to related sites when you have the prediction service turned on.
  • The App icon appears next to web apps you’ve installed from Chrome Web Store.

Google Chrome’s Omnibox is a powerful tool that negates the use of many extensions simply because it can do anything and everything. Chrome and the Omnibox are evolving everyday and to keep track of its new features head over to the Google Chrome and find more information here.

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5 Alternative Android Music Players To Listen To Your Tuneshttp://www.maketecheasier.com/5-alternative-android-music-players-to-listen-to-your-tunes-2/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/5-alternative-android-music-players-to-listen-to-your-tunes-2/#comments Fri, 12 Aug 2011 14:58:41 +0000 http://maketecheasier.com/?p=36621 Android devices from different manufacturers all have their own default Android music players. However, as I have learnt the default app does not always provide all the features I need and in some cases they do not read all my music files. Hence, I have tried a number of alternative apps which I will outline […]

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music-android-mainAndroid devices from different manufacturers all have their own default Android music players. However, as I have learnt the default app does not always provide all the features I need and in some cases they do not read all my music files. Hence, I have tried a number of alternative apps which I will outline in this article.

music-playerpro

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PlayerPro Music Player is a powerful music and video playing app for Android. The app has a wide variety of features including:

  • different options to browse your music
  • automatic download of album artwork
  • read album and artist reviews
  • download song lyrics
  • change user interface and player skin
  • alternate between grid or list views
  • audio effects using 5 band graphics equaliser (DSP plugin for older devices)
  • display music stats including ratings, play counts, last played, and last added
  • create smart playlists
  • a variety of lock screen and home screen widgets

Additionally, the music formats supported by PlayerPro include mp3, ogg, flac, wma, wav, m4a, mp4.

This is a solid app that has worked flawlessly for me. Sound quality is perfect and this can even be changed using the equaliser settings.

Unfortunately, you need to upgrade to the full version of PlayerPro after the initial 5 day trial period.

PlayerPro

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PowerAMP is one of the most popular alternative music playing apps for Android users. It plays a wide variety of audio formats including, mp3, mp4/m4a (including alac), ogg, wma, flac, wav, ape, wv, and tta and it has an extensive feature set including:

  • 10 band optimized graphical equalizer
  • crossfade and gapless playback (something not available in all the other players)
  • auto-download of missing album art
  • lock-screen and home-screen widgets
  • tag editor
  • visualiser
  • granular customisation options.

Many users like this player because it is powerful with a number of customisation options and the sound quality is impressive. However, I personally find the UI a little too cluttered.

The free version is only valid for 15 days.

PowerAMP

music-winamp

music-winamp2

Winamp has been around on desktops since the 90s and now this veteran music playing app is available on Android. In addition to the standard features of all the music players such as artist information, playlist support, lock-screen and home-screen widgets, this app has a number of advanced features including:

  • streaming from desktop Winamp player
  • multi-language support
  • wireless & wired sync with the desktop Winamp app
  • free music downloads

This is a free app that has a lot of great features and wireless sync is an especially useful option if you already have Winamp on your computer. However, unless you already use the desktop version of Winamp, a lot of the apps advanced features may not be particularly useful.

Winamp

music-mixzing3

music-mixzing

MixZing has all the features of the the other music apps, including a graphic equaliser, a tag editor, lock-screen and home-screen widgets, and playlist support. In addition, this app records the music you are listening to and provides you with relevant recommendations. Unfortunately, the app does not have a queuing feature and continuous feature which limits its usefulness.

To use MixZing without ads, install the upgrader app.

MixZing

music-google

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The Google Music player is not like the other apps I have mentioned in this list. It has all the standard features of the other players and can play most of the music files on your device, however it is a music streaming service which streams music uploaded to the Google Music Beta service. Hence, this app lacks a lot of the advanced features of some of the other apps, but if you have stored your music on the Google Music servers this app is essential to stream your songs to your Android device. Of course you should keep in mind that streaming requires an active data (3G or wifi) connection and if your connection is weak sound quality may suffer.

Google Music

I find that PlayerPro strikes the best balance between simplicity, feature-set, and sound quality. Hence, it is my music playing app of choice. However, if you want easy music management and syncing I would recommend the Winamp Android app and desktop app combination. Lastly, do you have music stored on Google Music? Well in that case you should also install the Google Music app in addition to whichever other music playing app you choose to use.

Image credit: chanelcoco872

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5 Android Video Players To Watch That Obscure Videohttp://www.maketecheasier.com/5-android-video-players-to-watch-video/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/5-android-video-players-to-watch-video/#comments Sun, 07 Aug 2011 23:58:38 +0000 http://maketecheasier.com/?p=36580 Android’s default video player is an efficient, but spartan app. It is simple to use, but it only plays a limited number of formats. Hence, most users will want to download a third-party app that fills in the gaps and plays those videos that the stock video app cannot handle. Additionally, third-party apps will also […]

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video-mainAndroid’s default video player is an efficient, but spartan app. It is simple to use, but it only plays a limited number of formats. Hence, most users will want to download a third-party app that fills in the gaps and plays those videos that the stock video app cannot handle. Additionally, third-party apps will also have some other useful features such as subtitle support, streaming functions, and more. In this article I have highlighted five popular video playing apps for Android.

video-vplayer2

VPlayer is a solid video playing app that plays a number of video formats including DivX/xvid, wmv, m4v, flv, rmvb, avi, mkv, mov, mp4, 3gp, ts, and tp. Additionally, it supports most common streaming formats including http, rtsp, mms, and m3u. Furthermore, this app is fairly basic and straightforward to use. So, if all you want to do is watch your video files then this is probably the best choice. On the other hand the quality of some video files were lacking

Unfortunately, the free version of VPlayer lasts for 7 days before you must purchase the unlocker to be able to use the app beyond that period.

VPlayer

video-rockplayer

In the past few months, RockPlayer has become the de facto alternative Android video playing app. It does not perform one function extremely well, however it has enough bells and whistles to ensure that the user is satisfied. It plays virtually every video format possible and it also supports external .srt subtitle files. The only problem I have noticed is that the player sometimes hangs when I attempt to stream a video over the internet. However, if I wait long enough, it starts playing.

The free version of RockPlayer displays a bright red “R” in the top left corner of your screen whenever you are viewing a video. To remove the “R” you must pay USD 9.99 and upgrade to the full version from the RockPlayer website.

RockPlayer

video-moboplayer4

MoboPlayer, like the others, plays almost all video and audio formats and supports external subtitles. What sets this app apart is its slick playlist support and continuous playback of similar files. This makes it easier to queue up multiple videos. Additionally, videos on your SD card are displayed with their thumbnails making it easier for you to pick one to watch.

In some cases, MoboPlayer requires you to download additional codecs. These can all be found in the Android Market and you will be prompted to download them if the need arises.

MoboPlayer

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This is the newest video playing app. In addition to supporting the standard video formats, it also supports Google’s .webm format which may become useful in the future. It also supports a wide range of external subtitle files including .srt .ssa .ass .sub .smi .mpl .txt .psb and Matroska subtitle track. In fact, if you watch a lot of foreign films or films with subtitles, I would recommend this app simply because the subtitles look the best on screen due to the way they are displayed. Lastly, the app automatically optimises its performance according to the CPU of your device which makes playback a lot smoother. However, I have noticed some problems playing .mkv files, such as jerky playback and artefacts appearing on the screen.

You may be prompted to download additional codecs from the Android Market should the need arise.

MX VideoPlayer

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This app is probably the weakest app in the list as it only plays the video codecs that are already supported by your device. Hence, it just brings a better UI and other enhancements to your default Android video player. I would only recommend paying for this app if any of its features are particularly useful, otherwise skip it.

mVideoPlayer

Android provides a plethora of choices. After trying all the video players above, I have decided to use RockPlayer Lite for the simple reason that it has given me the least number of problems and it has worked with every video without any issues. It does not have the best looking UI, and if that is important, then I would recommend MX VideoPlayer, but if you just want to watch a video without any issues, RockPlayer is the best choice.

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How to Export Facebook Events to Google Calendarhttp://www.maketecheasier.com/export-facebook-events-to-google-calendar/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/export-facebook-events-to-google-calendar/#comments Fri, 29 Jul 2011 14:58:40 +0000 http://maketecheasier.com/?p=36020 Facebook has become a really useful platform to organise parties and other events. Most, if not all, of your friends, family and acquaintances are on this social media platform, so organising an event simply involves filling in the relevant information and inviting people. Although Facebook is a great platform for creating parties and sending out […]

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fb-event-mainFacebook has become a really useful platform to organise parties and other events. Most, if not all, of your friends, family and acquaintances are on this social media platform, so organising an event simply involves filling in the relevant information and inviting people. Although Facebook is a great platform for creating parties and sending out invites, it is not my first choice as a “calendar” or “agenda” application. Personally, I prefer to use Google Calendar as it integrates well with my Android phone. Hence, I often accept invites to events on Facebook and then end up manually adding these events into Google Calendar. This process is tedious. If you are like me, here is an automated method to export your events from Facebook into Google Calendar.

First, head over to Facebook and find your “Events” section. On your Facebook homepage, this is usually one of the items on the left-hand column.

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On the “Events” page, you should see all your events listed. On this page, you should also see an “Export” link.

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If you click on “Export”, a popup will open with a webcal URL.

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This URL exports all your events on Facebook as and when they are added by you. The URL by itself is sufficient to view all your Facebook events on any other external calendar (e.g. Apple iCal, Microsoft Outlook, and Google Calendar). Even if the event is changed or updated on Facebook, those changes and updates will be reflected on your external calendar automatically. So, for example, if you accept an invitation to a friend’s birthday party, your external calendar will automatically become populated with the new event and subsequent changes will be reflected on your external calendar.

Although this URL is sufficient to view your Facebook events, there is a bug in Google Calendar that hides events marked as “private”. So, if a friend invites a select group of people to a birthday party and makes the event “private”, this event will be marked “private” by Google Calendar. Unfortunately, all events marked “private” in Google Calendar are displayed as “busy”.

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This is an odd bug as you should be allowed to view your own events. Fortunately, an enterprising user has developed a workaround for this bug.

I have tested this workaround and it works. However it does involve sending your private webcal URL to a third-party and it entails you using the third-party’s auto-generated link. If you are comfortable doing this, then continue reading this guide.

Once you have obtained the webcal URL from Facebook, head over to http://eventbusyfix.info/ and paste the URL into the available box.

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Hit the “Generate your new event url” button. This will generate a custom URL for you to use in Google Calendar.

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Once you have created the custom URL, add it to your Google Calendar.

Head over to Google Calendar and select the “Add” menu which appears under the “Other calendars” list. This will reveal a drop-down menu with a number of options. Select “Add by URL”.

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Then simply paste in the custom URL you obtained from the eventbusyfix website.

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That’s it! All the Facebook events you are attending will now show up in your Google Calendar!

Image credit: Joe Lanman

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How to Migrate Images from Facebook To Google Plushttp://www.maketecheasier.com/migrate-images-from-facebook-to-google-plus/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/migrate-images-from-facebook-to-google-plus/#comments Fri, 22 Jul 2011 14:58:55 +0000 http://maketecheasier.com/?p=35845 Google+ (or Google Plus) is the hot new thing in social networking. Everyone and their little sister have been clamouring for invites to set up their account in this new playground. Unfortunately, users are having to start from scratch without any of their connections, posts or other media cultivated from other social media sites. For […]

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gplus-logoGoogle+ (or Google Plus) is the hot new thing in social networking. Everyone and their little sister have been clamouring for invites to set up their account in this new playground. Unfortunately, users are having to start from scratch without any of their connections, posts or other media cultivated from other social media sites. For example, Facebook is one of the most popular photo sharing websites and so it is likely that users have a lot of photos on it. Unfortunately, it is difficult to quickly export these photos from Facebook to Google Plus as Facebook does not have any automated tool to do so. Fortunately, enterprising users have created a Google Chrome extension that automatically transfers your Facebook photos to Google Plus.

I am confident there are a number of different methods to transfer your photos, however as I am an ardent Google Chrome user, in this article, I have described the method of exporting all your photos using the dedicated Google Chrome extension.

Firstly, head over to the Move Your Photos extension page and install it.

picasa-extension

Once the extension is installed, you will notice a small Picasa icon to the right of the Chrome address bar, near the wrench. Click on this icon and you will be presented with a link to login to your Facebook account. This will grant the extension access to the photos on your Facebook account.

picasa-fblogin

After you have logged in, the extension will start fetching all your Facebook photos. If you have any empty albums on Picasa, the extension will also notify you of this and allow you to delete them.

picasa-fetch photos

Once the pictures have been fetched, you can select which albums or individual photos to upload to your Picasa account.

Note the guide used to indicate which photos have been uploaded (green border), which photos are in the queue (yellow border), which photos are not to be uploaded (grey border) and which images are altogether unavailable (red border).

picasa-upload

Unfortunately, the extension appears to be limited to fetching the photos you have uploaded within specific albums. So, all your albums, mobile uploads, profile pictures, and wall photos are included. However, tagged photos are not included.

Once you have decided which photos to upload, select “Upload” from the bottom of the page. You may have to scroll down if you have a lot of photos.

The upload process will take some time depending on the number of photos you have selected.

picasa-uploading

Once all the photos have been uploaded, they will appear in segregated albums on your Web Picasa account.

picasa-albums

The album is set to private by default and only those with a link to the album will be able to view the photos.

You can now choose which of your circles to share the photos with.

This app is useful if all your photos are stored on Facebook but you feel like switching your allegiance to Google+. It would be a lot more useful, however, if it was possible to upload all your photos (including tagged images) from Facebook to Google+. It is likely, that there are privacy settings that is blocking this type of functionality.

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How To Make Ringtones From Your MP3 Files On Android Using Ringdroidhttp://www.maketecheasier.com/make-ringtones-from-mp3-files-on-android/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/make-ringtones-from-mp3-files-on-android/#respond Fri, 15 Jul 2011 14:58:40 +0000 http://maketecheasier.com/?p=35314 Smartphones have brought a lot of useful functionality to mobile devices and one of the less touted ones is the ability to have ringtones made directly from your MP3 music files. Unlike older generation phones which often had a preset limit of tunes, newer smartphones allow for a limitless number of audio files to act […]

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ringdroid-mainSmartphones have brought a lot of useful functionality to mobile devices and one of the less touted ones is the ability to have ringtones made directly from your MP3 music files. Unlike older generation phones which often had a preset limit of tunes, newer smartphones allow for a limitless number of audio files to act as ringtones, notifications, and alarm sounds. However, even though it is possible to use virtually any audio file as a ringtone, some smartphones refuse to recognize standard audio files and must first be converted into a ringtone format. In this guide I will explain how to convert a standard MP3 music file into a ringtone file on your Android phone using Ringdroid.

Before we begin, first head over to the Android Market and download the ringtone maker “Ringdroid” (market link).

After you have installed the app, launch it and you will see a list of all the audio files on your device (SD card and internal storage).

ringdroid 1

All the files on my device are fairly standard MP3 files so I can view all of them, however according to the FAQ, Ringdroid only supports MP3, WAV, AAC, MP4, 3GPP, and AMR files. Ensure the audio file you wish to use as a ringtone is in one of the acceptable formats before copying it over.

If you have a long list of files, you can use the search option. Alternatively, you can make a recording and use it as a ringtone by clicking the “Record New” button.

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Simply record whatever you wish by hitting the “Record” button and then save it.

Once you have selected (or recorded) your audio file, you will be able to select the portion of the file to use as a ringtone.

ringdroid 2

You can manipulate the sliders to select the portion of the audio file you wish to use as a ringtone. You can pause/play the track to ensure that you have selected the appropriate position. Once you have decided the portion of the song you want, tap the floppy disc icon to save your creation.

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You will have the option to choose the name of the ringtone and also select the type of audio file you wish to save as.

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Here you can decide what type of file you want to use your creation as.

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Once you hit “Save” you will have the option to assign the ringtone to a specific contact, make the ringtone the default ringtone or just exit the menu.

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That is all, your ringtone will now be ready to use.

To set the ringtone, navigate to the “Sound” preference in the main settings of your device and select “Phone ringtone“. You should be able to see your newly created ringtone.

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To delete a ringtone, simply head back to Ringdroid and find the ringtone you wish to delete. Then select the down arrow.

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This will pop open a menu giving you the option to delete the ringtone.

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That’s it you can now make custom ringtones on Android!

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8 Apps For Android Lovers In Singaporehttp://www.maketecheasier.com/8-apps-for-android-lovers-in-singapore/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/8-apps-for-android-lovers-in-singapore/#comments Fri, 08 Jul 2011 14:58:42 +0000 http://maketecheasier.com/?p=34971 Let me preface this article by saying that unless you live in Singapore or plan on travelling to this fair island, what follows may not be particularly relevant to you. Nevertheless, the apps I am going to discuss are innovative concepts that could be implemented in any major city. Read on for 8 of my […]

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sg-androidLet me preface this article by saying that unless you live in Singapore or plan on travelling to this fair island, what follows may not be particularly relevant to you. Nevertheless, the apps I am going to discuss are innovative concepts that could be implemented in any major city. Read on for 8 of my favourite apps (and one bonus) that help me to get around in Singapore.

As an avid movie-goer, this app is essential in ensuring that I am able to arrive on time for films and secure the best possible seats.

Firstly, the app displays all the films playing around Singapore for the next few days.

sg-showtimezz1

Secondly, you can choose which movie theatres you want to visit. My favourite aspect of this app is that it is not limited to particular theatres. It scrapes films from Cathay, Shaw, Golden Village, Eng Wah and Filmgarde and shows you the nearest theatre.

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Finally, you can book your ticket straight through the app. The booking portion for Shaw appears to be native, however for Cathay and GV it is merely a wrapper for the booking website. Nevertheless, the process is a quick way to book a film.

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Showtimezz (market link)

Online banking has made it incredibly easy to transfer large and small amounts between individuals and to pay bills. If you bank with DBS, then I would recommend signing up for their iBanking facility (www.dbs.com/sg/personal/ibanking) and download the DBS mBanking app. The app makes it very easy to transfer money into a friend’s account on-the-fly. This app also allows you to check your account balance, view your transaction history, pay your bills, and locate nearby ATM branches.

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There’s also a similar app for POSB customers.

DBS mBanking (market link)

It is often said that we tend not to discover the place we live in. To ensure you do not fall into this trap, download the app ShowNearby to discover places of interest and amenities around you. For example, the app helps you locate shopping malls, MRT stations, ATMs, eateries, bus stops, car parks, movie theatres, petrol pumps, and other places of interest. Additionally, you can find out more information about the place including bus times, movie show times and car park rates.

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This app can be very handy in an unfamiliar area, however the GPS locator is not always accurate so I found myself having to manually set my location. Also the app can take some time to load.

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ShowNearby (market link)

iChangi is an app dedicated to Singapore Changi Airport. Although, the app displays a variety of information, including dining and shopping areas, I find the most useful option to be the flight arrival and departure schedules. You are even able to set it to automatically push live updates to your home screen.

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iChangi (market link)

SGNumbers is the modern day phone directory that has numbers for virtually every service in Singapore. It’s a fairly simple and easy to use service, but a search feature would be useful.

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SGNumbers (market link)

Another simple app that is immensely useful if you get lost in the Singapore MRT. The app displays a zoom-able version of the MRT map as well as an index of all the stations. That’s it, no train timings or anything else.

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Android Web (market link)

This app finds nearby bus stops and then displays their arrival times. At times it is almost uncannily good at predicting when the next bus will arrive. However, it is not always a 100% accurate.

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And the interface is really beautiful!

SG Buses (market link)

This app simply displays all the numbers for the different taxi companies in Singapore. At first I though this app was a little pointless, but when you are waiting in the taxi queue at Clarke Quay for over 40 mins. and you don’t have the number of the cab company, you realise you cannot live without this app. The app also has a automatic SMS booking feature which can be handy if you cannot get through on the phone.

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Cab@SG (market link)

The previous app only has the numbers for cab companies, this is a dedicated app for ComfortDelGro taxis. You can place bookings for taxis through the app by selecting your location and time of pickup (i.e. current or advance booking). You can also bookmark your favourite locations and view your previous locations. Finally, you can cancel bookings straight from the app. After you have placed a booking you will receive a SMS confirming it. This is rather strange considering you can do everything else straight through the app itself.

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The app is useful in principle, but during peak hours it is often unusable.

ComfortDelGro Taxi Booking (market link)

This is a bonus for the clandestine traffic voyeur in all of us.

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SG Traffic Cam (market link)

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7 Gmail Gadgets Make Your Inbox More Usefulhttp://www.maketecheasier.com/7-gmail-gadgets-make-your-inbox-more-useful/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/7-gmail-gadgets-make-your-inbox-more-useful/#comments Fri, 01 Jul 2011 14:58:46 +0000 http://maketecheasier.com/?p=34726 Gmail’s offering is one of the best available. Its simplicity coupled with its minimal interface make it a favorite amongst geeks and newbies alike. However, users need not feel constrained by Gmail’s simplistic interface as they can easily enable enhanced features provided by Google through “Google Labs” or from third-party sources through “Gadgets“. In this […]

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gg-gmail-mainGmail’s offering is one of the best available. Its simplicity coupled with its minimal interface make it a favorite amongst geeks and newbies alike. However, users need not feel constrained by Gmail’s simplistic interface as they can easily enable enhanced features provided by Google through “Google Labs” or from third-party sources through “Gadgets“. In this article I will outline some of my favourite Gadgets.

On a default Gmail account, Gadgets will be disabled. To enable it first select “Settings” from the Gmail home page after you have logged in.

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This opens up Gmail’s settings page, here select “Labs“.

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Finally, check the enable box alongside the “Add any gadget by URL” box and then select “Save Changes“.

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To add a gadget, head over to the “Gadgets” tab and paste the URL of the gadget into the box.

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Now let us add some fun and useful third-party gadgets.

Twitter users can be fanatical about keeping up with their tweets. In this respect the TwitterGadget is ideal because it takes up little space and simply displays the latest tweets from those you follow.

gg-TwitterGadget

Gadget URL: http://www.twittergadget.com/gadget_gmail.xml

If you prefer Facebook, then be sure to add the gBook Facebook gadget which helps you keep track of all the status updates and notifications.

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Gadget URL: http://www.francesco-castaldo.com/fb-gadget/gBook.xml

Remember the Milk is a useful web service to help keep your life in order. There are mobile and desktop apps and now you can even add a RTM gadget to Gmail itself to ensure you don’t miss an important appointment.gg-rtm

The gadget allows you to add tasks, view your upcoming tasks, and delete completed tasks.

Gadget URL: http://www.rememberthemilk.com/services/modules/gmail/rtm.xml

Wikipedia holds the collective knowledge of virtually every person on the internet and now you can tap this database of information straight from Gmail by adding the Official Wikipedia Gadget.

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Gadget URL: http://www.google.com/ig/modules/wikipedia.xml

I have lost count of the number of times I have received an email from someone with an address that I need to look-up on Google Maps. With the Google Map Search gadget you do not have to navigate away from Gmail when doing your location search.

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The gadget is a very basic version of Maps, lacking some of its newer features.

Gadget URL: www.google.com/uds/modules/elements/localsearch/localsearch.xml

At times some of the links friends share with us become too unwieldy to forward. In these cases simply shorten the link using the Bit.ly URL shortener gadget.

gg-bitly

Gadget URL: http://hosting.gmodules.com/ig/gadgets/file/107368512201818821991/bitly-shortener.xml

No-one really has a physical calculator on their person, but it is often necessary to resort to one when large figures are involved. The Calculator gadget is a simple one that gets the job done.

gg-calc

Gadget URL: http://www.poturi.net/gadgets/calc/calc.xml

There are hundreds of different gadgets around the web. Some web services (such as Remember the Milk) have created their own and supply you with a URL. If you want other gadgets have a look at the iGoogle gadgets directory. To add a gadget from the iGoogle gadgets directory navigate to a gadget of your choice and copy everything after the “url=” tag in the address bar. For example, the Official Wikipedia Gadget for iGoogle has the following URL:

http://www.google.com/ig/directory?type=gadgets&url=www.google.com/ig/modules/wikipedia.xml

To add this gadget to Gmail simply copy the portion after “url=”, i.e.:

www.google.com/ig/modules/wikipedia.xml

And paste it into the gadget URL box in Gmail.

Image credit: Claude

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5 Essential Google Chrome Extensions You Don’t Want to Misshttp://www.maketecheasier.com/5-essential-google-chrome-extensions/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/5-essential-google-chrome-extensions/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2011 23:58:16 +0000 http://maketecheasier.com/?p=34362 Google launched its Chrome browser in 2008. At the time it was fast, secure, stable and a minimalistic alternative to Microsoft’s beleaguered Internet Explorer and Mozilla’s bloated Firefox. However, Chrome was also criticised for lacking any extensions or customisation options. So, slowly Google rolled out extensions, theme support, and even Web Apps. Although we have […]

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extension-chrome-wheelGoogle launched its Chrome browser in 2008. At the time it was fast, secure, stable and a minimalistic alternative to Microsoft’s beleaguered Internet Explorer and Mozilla’s bloated Firefox. However, Chrome was also criticised for lacking any extensions or customisation options. So, slowly Google rolled out extensions, theme support, and even Web Apps. Although we have covered extensions in the past, in this article I will focus primarily on those that help make your browsing experience smoother.

AdBlock Plus was for the longest time one of the most installed extensions for Mozilla Firefox. When Google finally started allowing extensions for Chrome, many users cried out for AdBlock Plus to port an extension over to Chrome.

extension-adblock

The extension is fairly simple to use: install it, pick a “filter list“, add any whitelisted domains and you are good to go.

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Ads are blocked on every website that is not listed in your whitelist and it even blocks ads within YouTube videos.

I will leave it to your judgment to decide whether it is appropriate to use ad blockers on the web.

Most websites and blogs have a Twitter “Tweet” button or a Facebook “Like” button, however what happens if you want to post the contents of that site to a Tumblr blog or Reddit it? If you find yourself in a situation like this, I would recommend installing the Shareaholic extension.

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This extension places an icon on your Chrome toolbar that lists your chosen social media and other links allowing you to share, email, print and save the blog post or article that you are reading.

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You can login to your own Shareaholic account and tweak the services that are visible on your Chrome browser.

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A large majority of Chrome’s features are buried within the about:plugins, about:flags, about:extensions and other pages. The Mega Button extension places a large green button on your Chrome toolbar that allows easy access to all these and more features.

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While the extension is useful, unless you know what each icon refers to, it can be a little difficult to find the right link.

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The links (in order) refer to the following features:

  • Download
  • Extensions
  • History
  • Bookmarks
  • Plugins
  • DNS
  • Memory
  • Cache
  • Flags

This extension simply converts “unclickable” URLs and Email addresses into clickable ones.

extension-link

Websites and blogs will often post links such as:

www.google.com

In some cases, they decide not to turn the link into a hyperlink. This extension automatically generates a hyperlink out of the unclickable links. Simply install it and restart your browser for it to work.

This is another extension that is very simple but immensely useful.

extension-gmail

Some sites have Email addresses to contact the sites owner, usually these are in the format:

abhiroopb@maketecheasier.com

If you click on the Email address it automatically opens a compose window within your default Email client. Unfortunately, most computers have their default Email client set to their desktop client, such as Outlook. After installing this extension, when you click on an Email link, it will automatically open your default email account.

On Firefox, Greasemonkey is an extension that allows users to install scripts that make on-the-fly changes to the HTML content of a web page immediately after it has loaded. Unfortunately, Greasemonkey is a Firefox only extension, however most of the scripts that work with Greasemonkey on Firefox also work on Chrome. Furthermore, there is no need to install the Greasemonkey extension. All you have to do, is head over to http://userscripts.org/ and click “Install” on any script you wish to install in Chrome. Some of the scripts will not work correctly, but most do.

Image credit: shauser

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How To Configure Facebook Two-Factor Authenticationhttp://www.maketecheasier.com/configure-facebook-two-factor-authentication/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/configure-facebook-two-factor-authentication/#comments Fri, 17 Jun 2011 14:58:13 +0000 http://maketecheasier.com/?p=34109 Earlier this year we described how to secure your Gmail account with 2-step verification. Facebook has recently launched a similar security feature called Login Approvals and in this article I will describe how to enable it. Introduction Login Approvals is a security feature that requires two-factor authentication from the user before access is permitted. This […]

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fb-logoEarlier this year we described how to secure your Gmail account with 2-step verification. Facebook has recently launched a similar security feature called Login Approvals and in this article I will describe how to enable it.

Login Approvals is a security feature that requires two-factor authentication from the user before access is permitted. This is a type of security feature which requires two separate steps to identify a user. In short, instead of just using a password, the user must input some other information. In this case that other information is a code sent to an authenticated mobile phone.

To set-up two-factor authentication, you have to enable the option in Facebook.

Once you have logged into Facebook, click the Account link at the top of the page and select Account Settings.

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This will open up your general Facebook Account Settings page. Here, click the “change” link next to the “Account Security” option.

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This will open up a drop-down below the “Account Security” section.

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Firstly, you have the option to enable “Secure Browsing” which automatically switches your Facebook session over to a secure HTTPS connection.

Secondly, you can enable “Login Notifications” which notifies you via email and text messages whenever someone logs in to your Facebook account.

Finally, you have the option to enable “Login Approvals“. Check the box next to “Require me to enter a security code sent to my phone” to activate this feature.

After you do so, a pop-up will open which will guide you through the process of enabling this security option.

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After selecting Next you should receive a text message on your phone which will be in the following format:

“Please use the code 12345 to confirm access to your phone for login approvals.”

Keep the code in mind and enter it into the box to confirm your phone.

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If the phone number displayed is incorrect, select “Change my phone” to enter the mobile number you wish to associate with your Facebook account.

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You have to confirm this number through a text message. Once you have added your number, you are directed back to the original page to continue setting up the two-factor authentication.

Once you have confirmed access to your phone, you will have to name your computer to add it to a list of recognized devices. Essentially, this computer will not require authentication after it is “recognized”.

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That’s it! Two-factor authentication is now enabled for your Facebook account.

When logging into your Facebook account from a new device, a code will be sent to your phone which you will have to enter before you are granted access to your Facebook Account.

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Once you enter the code, you will have to name your new device and add it to the list of “recognized devices”.

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If you don’t have your phone, you will not be able to login to your Facebook account from a new computer. However, you can still login to your account from a computer that has already been authorised.

The two-step login verification function is a useful feature implemented by Facebook. However, it can become a problem if your phone is lost or for some reason you are not able to see the code on it. For example, if you travel to an area with no mobile reception, you will not be able to receive the code that allows you access to your Facebook account. On one hand this feature is useful if you are abroad and you want to ensure that your account is protected. On the other hand, you would not be able to use the two-step verification because your phone may not have roaming enabled. Although mobile phones are generally within easy reach, there will be plenty of times when login may become impossible simply because your mobile phone is not at hand. Hence, we suggest considering whether the benefits outweigh the difficulties of using the service.

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