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4 Extreme Ways People Protect Their Privacy - Mon, 09/15/2014 - 15:01

Edward Snowden may be old news as his leaks on the US National Security Agency (NSA) have just passed their one year mark. However, international relations have soured since then and changing the public’s damaged perception would be an uphill challenge.

The impact of the NSA leaks also affects us, the average citizen of today. We are more sensitive about our social media accounts’ privacy settings, as evident from our reactions when Facebook experimented on manipulating our timeline feeds. With this heightened sense that someone is always watching us, tech trends and our Internet habits have changed as well.

1. The rise of the anonymous and ephemeral apps. More people have started using Whisper, Secret and Snapchat especially teenagers. Younger people in general have a greater awareness in online privacy which lead them to change their Internet usage habits. Of course, there’s a slew of other reasons as to why they change their online behaviour and this is just one of them.

2. Major tech companies have beefed up their security. This came about when the Snowden revealed that Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Yahoo and Apple provided their users data to the NSA through the agency’s PRISM program. Tech companies initially denied this until the evidence showed that they did unwillingly in accordance to the law, to their horror. To date, Google and Yahoo have enabled encryption for email. Facebook encode the site and all its data in SSL whereas Microsoft took the legalistic route by demanding for a reform in the law.

3. People are more aware of anonymous browsing sites like DuckDuckGo and Tor. After the NSA and its PRISM program broke on Jun 6, 2013, DuckDuckGo saw an increase of traffic and search queries of 3 million a day. Tor’s usage undoubtedly increased too but the NSA knows when you are on the browser. Its security is top notch though as the NSA has repeatedly tried and failed to breach the browser.

4. The emergence of a new tech privacy market. This saw the creation of the Blackphone which was much touted as an NSA-proof phone. Besides the Blackphone, Boeing came up with a self-destruct phone and free Internet provider FreedomPop invented what it dubs as the Snowden Phone that has a feature to wipe out the phone’s contents.

The above are however relatively tamer measures compared to the extreme ones below:

1. Hiring a Digital bodyguard

Glenn Greenwald is among the first few journalist that Snowden leaked the documents to. His reports on the NSA leaks that were published in The Guardian have put him almost on the same pedestal as Snowden. It has also unwittingly, put Greenwald at high risk of the NSA (or other foreign spies) intercepting the top secret information that he still receives from Snowden.

(Image source: Mashable)

Enter Micah Lee, digital bodyguard and tech security extrodinaire. Lee was hired to join The Intercept, the media outlet Greenwald set up with fellow journalists, Jeremy Scahill and Laura Poitras, to help secure the journalists’ computers. To do that, Lee had to replace the operating system to Linux, install firewall, disk encryption and other various software.

(Image source: Mashable)

So good was Lee at his job that he ended up helping other journalists from other media outlets to secure their computers and brief them on computer security. No journalist is safe as there have been reports of the US Department of Justice demanding some to reveal their sources in the past as well as obtaining phone records from news wire Associated Press.

Although hiring a digital bodyguard for reporters is not widely practiced at other news outlets, it may soon be, as long as the NSA continues to poke around. So far, the only other media company that adopted The Intercept’s security modal is The Washington Post, which hired privacy and security researcher Ashkan Soltani to work alongside the other reporter working on the NSA leaks, Barton Gellman.

2. Going low tech

Among the countries that were spied on by the NSA, Germany felt the most insulted. Not only were their leaders spied on like chancellor Angela Merkel whose mobile phone was tapped for years, an agent in their intelligence services was found selling confidential documents to the US. The agent has since been arrested. This also led to the expulsion of another top CIA officer residing in Germany.

(Image source: Mashable)

International relations with the US, needless to say, worsened at this point. It got so bad that it brought about an increase in encryption services as well as a decline in technology use. Politicians eventually came up with the idea to invest in and communicate internally with typewriters. There are also talks to play classical music during parliament sessions to deter anyone from listening in.

Despite this extreme switch to low tech, Germany isn’t the first country to do so. Soviet state Russia quickly invested in some 20 units of typewriters following Snowden’s expose last year in a bid to avoid internal communications from being leaked. Each typewriter is said to have a unique signature in order for documents typed on it to be easily traced back to.

3. Using make-up

One of the revelations that was released over time was that the NSA collects images for facial recognition. The Atlantic associate editor Robinson Meyer was concerned about this fact and wondered if there’s a way to thwart the cameras that are probably tracking him down. Meyer eventually decided to apply an interesting make-up called CV Dazzle and wrote about his experience.

(Image source: Adam Harvey)

CV Dazzle was invented by then New York University student Adam Harvey for his Interactive Telecommunications Program in 2010. Inspired by WWI naval camouflage called Dazzle, the make-up includes obscuring tonal areas of the face such as the cheeks with paint and draping hair across the nose bridge. At the time of creation, Harvey merely wanted to get around Facebook’s newest feature which uses facial recognition algorithm for auto-tagging photos.

(Image source: The New York Times)

Wearing CV Dazzle while going about his everyday life, undoubtedly made Meyer stand out. He did however note that when he tested the make-up with his iPhone’s camera algorithm, it couldn’t register his face. How effective CV Dazzle has against facial recognition technology in the long run however remains to be seen.

4. Modifying clothes

Building on the work he has done with CV Dazzle, Adam Harvey went on to develop a range of clothing dubbed as Stealth Wear. The artist and privacy advocate collaborated with fashion designer Johanna Bloomfield to create the clothing whilst he was experimenting on metalized fabric. Stealth Wear is meant to hide the wearer from thermal imaging cameras and drones.

(Image source: Adam Harvey)

Harvey is not the only one to get into anti-surveillance clothes judging by the emerging popularity of wearable tech. Montreal fashion designer Ying Gao had came up with dresses in 2013 that will deconstruct when exposed to a camera’s flash. This year, Austrian architecture firm Coop-Himmelblau came up with the Jammer Coat which shields wireless signals from the wearer’s phone, rendering the person invisible to tracking software or search engines.

Related posts:

  1. 10 Free Crypto Apps To Help Protect Your Online Privacy
  2. 9 Tips For Internet Privacy [Infographic]
  3. 9 Tips To Help Safeguard Your Online Privacy
  4. 8 Best Cloud Storage Providers for Corporate Data Privacy

Getting Rich From Design? - Mon, 09/15/2014 - 12:01

Many people dream of becoming wealthy by doing the thing that they love. Designers, by and large, get into design because they simply love it. But eventually, the realities of making a living, paying the bills, feeding your family, etc. take precedence over your creative dreams, and you may find yourself taking on clients and projects you never thought you would just for the money.

via Aleksi Tappura

Most designers are under no illusions that their profession will lead to riches – that’s reserved for others who have more finance-oriented ambitions, after all. Or is it? How exactly would a designer make tons of money from design? Is that even a worthwhile or realistic goal? Let’s explore the idea of a designer making an outrageously comfortable living from design, and what that actually means.

Create A Runaway Hit

The majority of single designers who build empires of massive wealth and prestige have done so the hard way: they worked their way up and slowly mastered their craft, then they created a design solution that was so beautiful, elegant, and perfect that it garnered them praise from the entire design community and beyond. Consider the case of Massimo Vignelli and his famous New York City subway maps, or, more recently, Jonathan Ive and his revolutionary designs for Apple. When the whole world is clamoring for more of your work, they are inevitably going to start throwing lots and lots of money at you.

If you have a particular project – either a client project or a side project – that you become well known for, this is the first step towards building your own lucrative empire. Right now, you can challenge yourself to come up with the best ideas that you can, and implement them in ways that will not only please your client, but dazzle them and anyone who lays eyes on your work.

Scale Your Design Firm

Everyone knows that real money lies not in design, but in entrepreneurship. The designer is just part of a team that helps to create a winning product. If you enjoy design, but don’t mind assuming more of a creative director or CEO role, becoming a firm will help you earn much more money.

If your ambition is driving you to make a larger paycheck, then scaling your design services beyond just yourself is essential. There are several options here. Firstly, you could get a partner. A fellow designer to share the workload, or a more “business-type” person to do your bookkeeping, client negotiations, or anything else you might need a hand with, while you focus more of your time on design.

The other thing you could do is create your own brand, under which you manage several employees who handle all of the day to day aspects of providing design services to your clients. Again, it’s more about being an entrepreneur rather than simply a designer. This comes with its own challenges and risks, and, frankly, is a lot more work up front, but the benefits of being your own boss and having no cap on how much you can earn far outweigh any downsides, in my opinion.

Become A Founder At A Startup

This is another popular way to get rich as a designer, especially since the start of the new era of online and technology startups. Here’s how you do it: simply sign on at the ground floor of a startup, have a hand in creating the look and feel of the company’s website, brand, or merchandise, and wait for it to become a million dollar company. Easy, right?

Well, not exactly. Of course this method requires a lot of hard work, and also luck. If you’re serious about working in a founding capacity at a company, you’ll need to hone your Good Startup Detection skills to a fine edge. Look for warning signs and red flags when evaluating a startup. Particularly, pay attention to whether they are genuinely selling a product or service, or whether it’s all smoke and mirrors.

A lot of startup founders like to talk up their big plans, and if you’re not careful, they can bring you along for a ride that goes nowhere. You’ll invest months or even years of your time and effort into something that was only a pipe dream all along. Not exactly the best path to getting rich.

Create And License Your Work

This is an excellent way to become wealthy, and also one of the most lucrative once you learn the ropes. The way to license your designs is fairly straightforward: you approach a company that makes things, and offer them the rights to reproduce your work on whatever they make, in exchange for a royalty (usually around 7-10%). Then, you sit back, put your feet up, and wait for the checks to start rolling in while you work on a new design. There are no other clients or middlemen to deal with, and you don’t have to concern yourself with how the products will get made or distributed – that’s the licensee’s job.

Of course, licensing comes with its own set of challenges as well. For one thing, it’s exceedingly difficult to find a company who will:

  • give you a fair royalty percentage,
  • be appropriate for the type of work you do, and
  • be profitable enough to be able to license your work in the first place.

This becomes somewhat easier once you’ve built a platform around your brand and enough people know your work who will be willing to buy your licensed reproductions.

The best way you can improve your odds of success here is to create a formidable presence online. Interact with people who like your work, create cool side projects that will catch people’s attention, and don’t forget to share your ideas about design and what you do through blogging and social media. If you build a large enough brand on your own, you may not even have to worry about approaching companies for licensing – they’ll be coming to you.

What Do You Think?

Know any rich designers? How did they manage to pave their way to wealth? What are your thoughts on how to reach this elusive goal in this competitive industry?

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A Look Into: What Happens When Internet Freedom Is Threatened - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 17:01

Internet freedom is something that we value but take for granted on a day-to-day basis. So when the government or corporations try to limit it in some way or another, everyone sits up and pays attention. It was why some of your favorite websites recently on September 10th, 2014 displayed the dreaded loading sign as a GIF or some pop-up message that looks like this:

via Battle For The Net

Don’t worry, the Internet didn’t slow down. Technically. But it would definitely be irritating if your cat videos took longer to load because of some policy that benefits Internet providers, right?

This online protest wasn’t the first one of its kind though. There were similar online protests that took place when our freedom to browse the World Wide Web was at risk. And of course we would protest! We have heard enough horror stories about Iran blocking Twitter and China monitoring their own sanctioned social media. Therefore, here we’ve put together 4 major online protests in the name of Internet freedom.

Internet Slowdown Day

We’ll start off with the one that’s currently making headlines: The purpose of the protest is to educate people on net neutrality, why it is in danger as well as telling the government why it matters. Known as Internet Slowdown Day, sites employed loading GIFs and pop-up messages to simulate what would happened if net neutrality is done away with.

Basically net neutrality is the only thing keeping Internet providers from charging extra for certain websites to load at normal speed. But the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is considering changing that. By doing away with net neutrality, you can say that the Internet would be divided into 2 lanes: a fast lane which is only accessible to those who can pay and a slow lane for everyone else.

If the rate of your Internet loading time doesn’t concern you, consider this: Are you able to pay extra for the same Internet speed you are using today on top of daily expenses in today’s economy? The protest is not over as September 15 is the last day for final comments on the act and a rally.

via Battle For The Net

Internet Blackout Day

This was a popular one back in 2012, as everyone couldn’t access their favorite sites for information. On January 18, 2012, major sites such as Reddit and Wikipedia either blacked out their content or closed down in protest of 2 proposed laws by the US Congress; Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA).

The acts were introduced as a way to combat online copyright infringement and the distribution of counterfeit goods. While it had good intentions, it threatened to rid the whole web of chunks of information and user-created content due to the acts’ broad wording.

The whole world paid attention when the blackout protest came into affect. As many sites are based in the US, users from the other end of the earth will lose out as well should the acts get passed. And do you know how frustrating it is to Wiki something but not have that information because it was blacked out? (see image below). The protest was a success as the acts were repealed.

via Wikipedia

Protests againsts ACTA

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) was considered Europe’s version of SOPA and PIPA. It had already been drafted in 2010 and signed in 2011 but has yet to take effect. Besides the European Union, signatories also include the United States, Japan, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, and South Korea.

ACTA only gained worldwide awareness after the SOPA and PIPA protests. European citizens were outraged when they found out that the act was negotiated in secret. DDoS attacks shut down government websites, online petitions were circulated and signed, and people all over Europe marched the streets on February 11 and June 9.

Public outcry was effective and on July 4, Members of the European rejected the treaty by a staggering 478 votes to 39 votes.

via Wikimedia

Restore The Fourth

Internet freedom includes the right to online privacy, which is what Restore the Fourth champions. The campaign came about after Edward Snowden leaked documents detailing how the NSA spied on US citizens. The name was chosen as the organizers, Fight For The Future, believed that the NSA’s actions violate the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution and set the protest date to take place on the 4th of July.

Not only did US citizens come out in droves to rally on Independence Day, prominent websites joined in the cause as well. Mozilla led the way with its online petition, Stop Watching Us. Further protests were held in subsequent months with the most prominent being the Stop Watching Us rally on October 26, 2013 and online protest The Day We Fight Back on February 11, 2014.

via Mashable

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5 Chrome Extensions To Enhance Your Steam Experience - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 15:01

If you’re a PC gamer, you probably use Steam to buy, play and manage some, if not all, of your video games. With all the sales and convenience that Steam brings, you’d probably be crazy not to. The Steam application is probably everyone’s first choice, but did you know that there are some Chrome extensions that can add a lot of functionality to the Steam website?

Between completely enhancing your Steam experience to handling your Steam Inventory with more ease, here are 5 of the best Chrome extensions that you can use to improve your Steam website experience. Who knows, these extensions might just make you give up the Steam app in favor of the browser view.

1. Enhanced Steam

Enhanced Steam adds a fair number of features and enhancements to the Steam browser interface that really makes the browser interface quite a pleasure to use. For instance, Enhanced Steam can highlight games that you own, that are on your wishlist and those which you have coupons for, amongst others, with customizable colours for each category. You can also show or hide additional information such as Metacritic scores, 3rd Party DRM Warnings and Widescreen Gaming Forum (WSGF) certification.

Enhanced Steam can also show price history on the game store, including the current and historical lowest prices for not just the game overall, but also individual bundles or special editions. This also includes a price comparison feature, with the ability for you to choose which stores are included in the comparison feature, which is handy. Enhanced Steam also has options such as adding the total amount you’ve spent on Steam into your account details page, as well as displaying a transaction summary for your Steam Marketplace transactions. [Get it here]

2. Steam Ninja

Steam Ninja is a Chrome extension that adds an extension icon to your Chrome navigation bar that brings a lot of Steam Market functionality into one quick popup. It helps to streamline and speed up managing inventory items. When on a game page, the popup will show all the inventory items that you can get for a game, including badge cards, booster packs and foil cards, including prices. The popup also has links to Market items and the Steam Store.

Steam Ninja will also add some extra functionality when you’re browsing one of your badge pages, namely a link that will buy all the remaining trading cards for you to complete the badge, as well as a a check box to enable auto-purchasing of trading cards for that particular badge. For regular Market sellers, Steam Ninja can help you by adding a price overview for historical and current prices to your inventory page. [Get it here]

3. Steam Inventory helper

For heavy buyers and sellers on the Steam Market, this Chrome extension adds a lot of functionality that will definitely help make the buying and selling process a lot quicker and smoother. For instance, Steam Inventory Helper lets you sell items in bulk, disable inventory reloading after selling an item, which even includes an auto accept function as well as the ability to automatically adjust your prices according to market value. In addition, the extension adds a Quick Buy button to item listings as well as the Newly Listed tab, replacing the default Buy Now button.

The extension will display a warning when an item in a listing has a custom name or description. It even lets you quickly pick and count items in trade offers and hover over items to see the price when on the offer page. The extension also extends the quick buying functionality to set items, complete with its own custom dialog. The extension has support for notifications as well and will show a Chrome popup when someone offers you a trade, which can be handy in certain situations. [Get it here]

4. Steam Store Filters

The Steam storefront is a veritable smorgasboard of information, showing you all the latest and greatest games on Steam, as well as some featured items, top sellers, recently updated games and so on. Having all this information immediately accessible is great, but sometimes it’s handy to be able to filter these lists a bit to get rid of some of the clutter and "noise". Steam Store Filters is an extension that does just that, by adding a Filtered Releases tab and letting you choose how games are filtered.

You can choose whether you want to show downloadable content or Early Access titles and whether you want to see old or brand new releases in the list. Interestingly, these old and new release filters go by the games’ original release date, and not the date the game was released on Steam. Furthermore, you can also blacklist developers or publishers, if you’re not interested in seeing their games in your list. [Get it here]

5. CheapShark

Steam is really well known for its sales. If you can’t stand waiting for sales but still want to get the best deal possible on a video game, the CheapShark extension is something you should consider installing. CheapShark is an extension, currently in beta, that adds a button to the Steam game store page that searches the CheapShark database for a better deal on the game you’re looking at on Steam. Pressing the Search CheapShark button on a game’s store page will bring up a list of prices for the game on other websites.

Sites displayed include Get Games, GameFly, Amazon and Gamers Gate, although the sites that display will depend on where the particular game is distributed. Of course, you could just keep track on all the other sites yourself, but if you’re primarily on Steam, this extension can be really handy to make sure you get the best deal possible. [Get it here]

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Hover.css – CSS3 Library With More Than 40 Hovering Effects - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 12:01

When dealing with the issue of trying to get a users attention, there are many ways for you to achieve this. For special cases, hover is a great way to draw attention to a link or button. Normally, hover works by changing the element color or gradient state when users move their cursors over it. But with a lot of features in CSS3, a lot of things can also be customized with the hover effect. One of them is applying animation. And Hover.css can make it happen with ease.

Hover.css is a free CSS library to easily apply animation using the hover effect. You can apply the hover in call to actions, buttons, logos, images and much more. This library comes with over 40 effects to choose from and they’re categorized according to the following: 2D transforms, border transitions, shadow and glow transitions, speech bubbles, and page curls.

Getting Started With Hover

To get started, you need to download Hover then put the hover.css file into your project folder. Or if you prefer, you may use hover-min.css, a more compact version, which is smaller and quicker to load. Lastly, link the file into your web page like so:

<head> .. <link href="css/hover.css" rel="stylesheet"> .. </head> Adding Hover Into An Element

To add a cool hover effect into your element, just include the effect name into the element class. You can see the live demo of all available effects in the Hover landing page. Make sure to only use lowercase letters and if it has space in between, simply replace it with a dash.

Let’s say, I have the following link markup:

<a href="#" class="btn">SUBMIT</a>

If styled properly, the link comes out like so:

The link has changed to look like a button. But when I move the cursor over it, the button won’t change and stays static. With one of Hover effect, Hover Shadow, I edit the markup and add it a class like so:

<a href="#" class="btn hover-shadow">SUBMIT</a>

Now the button has a cool hover effect floating with a shadow underneath it just like the following GIF demo.

Some Hack And Customisation

If you open hover.css with an editor, you’ll find that each effect comes with some default properties. These properties give the element the most desired result both for the display and the look. Below are the default properties, go ahead and customize them to meet your needs:

  • display : required for an effect to work.
  • transform : used for CSS3 transforms to improve the performance on mobile and tablet
  • box-shadow : give transparent box shadow causing edges of CSS3 transformed elements on mobile/tablet look smoother
Final Thought

Hover is another best practice of CSS3 implementation. But as most of the effects such as transitions, transforms and animations are using new CSS3 features, you will need to do some extra work on old browsers that don’t support these features to make sure that the fallback hover effect works well.

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20 Tech Knockoffs That Will Leave You Dumbfounded - Thu, 09/11/2014 - 15:01

Think of all the popular hardware brands in technology right now. The Apples and Sonys that have the distinct honor of being considered a luxury brand. Everyone wants one and anyone who’s anyone would buy and flaunt them to their peers, creating an appeal. Unfortunately, not everyone can afford them and that’s where knockoffs come to the rescue.

These knockoffs were made as a copy of the original, sometimes using the logo and design of the original. Sometimes they get it right and many might not notice. Often at times, they get it wrong. Very wrong, in fact, to the point of hilarity. Here are 20 of the most amusing knockoffs of popular tech brands that you may have seen. Spoiler alert: Apple gets ripped off a lot.

PolyStation. This Sony Playstation knockoff is actually a Famiclone, a hardware clone of the Nintendo Entertainment System. If you open the CD tray, you’ll actually get a cartridge slot.

(Image Source: Wikipedia)

Blueberry. Obviously this Blueberry is neither blue nor a berry.

(Image Source: College Humor)

PX 3600. A mad experiment to hybridize a PS3 and XBox 360, and it came out so very wrong. The controllers won’t vibrate. The disc tray won’t open, which doesn’t matter since there’s no disc drive in the thing. And worst of all it can only play pre-installed games. And not very good ones, I might add.

(Image Source: Buzzfeed)

Wiwi. If saying "I like playing with my Wii" makes you uncomfortable, how about the Wiwi for extra social awkwardness? Like many knockoff game consoles, it too still relies on cartridges.

(Image Source: Tom’s Hardware Italy)

Action Pad. If your iPad isn’t cutting it anymore, perhaps it’s time to look into the Action Pad. Don’t be fooled though as it runs on Android. And honestly, if the Taiwanese Steve Jobs with angel wings and halo can’t sell you this, I don’t think anyone can.

CECT m188. The eventual endgame for Apple and their fetish for miniaturization is to create a phone so small it might as well be called the iPhone Invisa. The Chinese, however, are beating them to it.

(Image Source: Dvice)

Teso Blackbook Air. As far as knockoffs go, this one is drop dead gorgeous and could even be mistaken for the real thing. If it weren’t black or made of plastic, that is.

(Image Source: CIO)

Fake Apple Store. If you think China’s copycat machine weren’t blatant enough, here’s a fake Apple store that looks and feels exactly like the real thing. Spotted by a Westerner in Kunming, the whole store has everything down; from the layout, wood furniture to even the employee uniform. It’s not licensed by Apple but for most residents, if it looks and quacks like an overpriced computer, it is an overpriced computer.

(Image Source: Birdabroadblog)

Blockberry. It took a lot to convince President Obama to give up his Blackberry. Now he’s addicted to another type of berry, the Blockberry, as seen in this advertisement where his photo is used to promote the phone.

(Image Source: phoneArena)

PCP Station. This thing barely qualifies as a game console, with the ‘games’ being swappable LCD cartridges you add to the handheld.

(Image Source: Arcade Sushi)

Red Star OS. A software knockoff this time around. This North Korean Linux distro was made to look almost exactly like the Mac GUI. Kim Jong Un is obviously a Mac fan. You can even find pictures of him using a Mac online. Because Best Korea only copies from the best.

(Image Source: Wikipedia)

Sciphone A5. Looking like a hybrid of Apple’s Mighty Mouse and iPhone, it is neither mighty nor a mouse. It’s probably not even a very good phone, running some no-named OS.

(Image Source: Complex)

CoolK07. Remember the Palm Pre? I still haven’t forgiven HP for what they did to them but there’s no denying that they were never very popular compared to iOS and Android. That doesn’t mean that it didn’t get any love from the Chinese copy machine, as evident by the CoolK07, which copies the design of the Pre.

(Image Source: ChannelPartner)

MiniPolyStation3. Want to have a handheld console with the power of a PS3? Sorry to break it to you but that’s not going to happen. But you can settle for the next best thing with the MiniPolyStation3, a small, portable knockoff console that looks like a PS3, complete with LCD screen. And it only requires 3 AA batteries to operate.

(Image Source: Destructoid)

i-dong. The less we talk about the i-dong, the better. All joking aside, it’s actually a competent game console similar to the Wii, using infrared lights to detect the controller. You can even connect it to your PC. It does, however, look eerily similar to the Microsoft Kinect.

(Image Source: Nikkei Technology)

iPhoho6. Can’t wait for the latest iPhone to come out? Why not get the iPhoho6? It even has an Apple logo shaped home button for twice the Apple logo goodness.

(Image Source: TechCrunch)

HP Spectre One. Proving that the Americans are just as good at copying stuff, the HP Spectre One looks incredibly similar to the design language of a certain fruit company.

(Image Source: Apple Insider)

Chuwi PadMini. Like the look of the iPad Mini but detest Apple and iOS to the point that you won’t even look at an actual Apple product? Then the PadMini is for you! Except for a few differences, mainly a missing home button and extra ports, the PadMini looks incredibly similar to an iPad Mini, except for the fact it runs Android. And if you think this isn’t amusing enough, check out their website, which is a mishmash of Apple’s website design and hilariously broken English.

(Image Source: Chuwi)

Samsung. Samsung creates knockoff Apple products. Regardless of what the Android fanboys may lead you to believe, this is very obvious, with Samsung copying the user interface, advertising designs and hardware of Apple’s products. I can already hear the Samsung fanboys screaming at the top of their lungs at me, so here’s some proof to the claim.

(Image Source: Nicklazilla)

Xiaomi. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and that’s no more true than with Xiaomi. In fact, they’re more blatant than Samsung when copying Apple, even copying the presentation style, down to the black turtleneck and ‘one more thing’. Take a look at this TechCrunch article to see how hilariously similar the products are. And this Mi Pad commercial that looks like something Apple would make.

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How To Decide On The Best Way To Record Your Ideas - Thu, 09/11/2014 - 12:01

Ideas, ideas, ideas. Creative professionals are brimming with them. There are many ideas we have each day that we know we may never get to actually follow through on, yet we’d like to record them somehow just in case.

via Pixabay

Every designer has their own, special way to keep track of their design ideas. But which one is the most helpful for getting those ideas down and, eventually, turned into designs? Here are some of the most popular ways to record ideas, with the pros and cons of each.


The original method of recording ideas, before people had anything else to use. Using paper and pencil helps retain the immediacy of the idea you’re recording. There is no technology in between you and your design, which can be more cumbersome than you might think.

Using a computer or mobile device to take down notes often requires first turning it on, navigating to the proper app, and doing whatever necessary functions are required to get started. All of these actions can be a drain on your willpower, which, according to an increasing number of psychologists, is a finite resource that can evaporate much sooner than we wish.

On the downside, notebooks are cumbersome and not nearly as portable as a phone or tablet. They can also get lost or left behind just as easily as a mobile device (although you do have a greater chance of having them returned – just try getting your phone back if you leave it on a busy subway or in a shopping center).

Recording Apps

Apps are fast and convenient, not to mention sexy (and yes, this is important). With an app, you can quickly and easily record any idea you have and save it for later. Not only that, but you can transfer it almost immediately to your hard drive and plug it straight in to Photoshop or any other program you use. Whether it’s a sketching app, a note-typing device, or an elaborate productivity system, apps can take many different forms to suit your individual needs for the project you’re working no.

On the other hand, apps can be a psychological barrier to actually getting work done.You can waste a lot of time picking out the right app and figuring out how it works – without actually doing any work yourself. It can allow you to keep showing off to your friends how “productive” you are, when in reality, your ideas are simply going into an electronic vault to wither and die. You don’t have the immediacy of recording ideas “your” way, the way you would with a sketchbook. You have to utilize someone else’s method of recording ideas, and this can take away from your desire to actually access your ideas when you need them.

Voice recording

Vocal recording is easy and immediate. Technically, it can be an app as well, but there are still plenty of devices on the market that were created specifically to record your dictated notes. It’s like having your very own secretary in your pocket. All you need to do is pull it out, press a button, and voila: you’ve got your ideas down, in your own words, that you can pull out and use whenever you need them.

The downsides to voice recording, like recording apps, are subtle and mostly psychological. It may sound like a small thing, but many people are surprised to hear what their own voice sounds like in a recording. This can actually be a deterrent to using a voice recorder, since they have to switch over to listening to themselves speak. Also, you usually still need to transcribe your words or otherwise sketch out the idea in order to use it, so it can be a secondary step that can hinder your progress.

High Tech or Low Tech?

When you’re recording ideas, you want to use whatever method uses the least amount of brain power. Why? Because the energy you expend figuring out a new way to record your ideas is energy that is lost. You cannot use it to work on your actual project, and you’ll need to take a break in order to recover it.

Navigating through the apps on your phone or naming a file on a voice recording uses a particular part of the brain that involves your motor skills. That part of your brain gets worn out fairly quickly and can actually slow you down even when you use high-tech products which were supposed to help you save time.

So, what’s the final verdict? Ultimately, it’s up to you, but I and plenty of other designers will continue to swear by the good old, trusty pencil and paper sketchbook. There are so many creative and psychological benefits to writing things down and making sketches that, in my opinion, an electronic device just doesn’t compare.

Again, your mileage may vary, but if you find yourself getting tired easily from staring at a computer or mobile screen all day, go ahead and give the old notebook a try you may just find that the low tech option is all you need to create great designs.

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10 Handy Pinterest Tools For Business - Wed, 09/10/2014 - 15:01

Social media management tools are heaven-sent, especially when you are managing multiple social media accounts and platforms. The same goes for Pinterest. If you are using Pinterest for your business, you not only have to deal with posting to the image-based site but also juggle cross-posting to other social media, engaging with followers, and tracking your posts to name among other things.

But with the help of Pinterest tools, these tasks can be simplified. In fact, there are specific tools that cater for specific functions such as those that help you generate content or even track how many times people pin from your website. To that end, we have gathered here 10 tools to help you get started on making the most of Pinterest for your business.

LoveList App

This iOS app makes it easier to post your products on Pinterest. All you have to do is scan your product’s barcode with the app and it allows you to pin a picture of it on Pinterest. You can even use it to create a wishlist dedicated board for your followers.


Want an easy way of coming up with content for your Pinterest? Pinstamatic is the answer. Besides photos, you can also generate screenshots, audio, quotes, announcements, and maps into pins. Click on the top icons at Pinstamatic site to choose the content that you want to generate.


Previously known as Pinfluencer, Piqora provides analytics for both your website and Pinterest. It not only tracks your pins and board’s reach, Piqora also helps manage promotions and contests on Pinterest. Additionally, Piqora will track your Instagram and Tumblr as well, especially when you cross post your content on those platforms.


ViralTag not only offers analysis and the easy scheduling of pins. It allows you to manage multiple accounts and analysis from other platforms. As it partners with HootSuite, ViralTag even lets its Pro users schedule pins from the HootSuite dashboard.


Pinvolve makes cross posting across various social media a breeze. It primarily post your pins onto your Facebook page and lets you share content from Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram content from your Facebook page.

Pinterest’s Goodies

Pinterest calls them Goodies. Actually, they are the Pinterest apps for both iOS and Android. Which are helpful when you are pinning on the go. Included among its Goodies is the Pin It bookmarklet, which lets you pin things you see around the web just by clicking it.


This handy website takes a screenshot of a website when you enter the URL at its home page. Snapito renders the screenshot into a full-sized PNG file but you can choose to save your image in GIF or JPEG. It even has bookmarklet that will pin the screenshot you’ve taken to your Pinterest.

Pinterest Widgets

Pinterest has its own tools too. Although they are very basic, they are still useful. There’s a total of 5 widgets you can download for your site. Access them all from this link.

  • Pin It Button allows people to pin stuff from your website.
  • Follow Button invites people to follow you on Pinterest from your domain.
  • Pin Widget lets you embed the pin of your choice on your website.
  • Profile Widget displays 30 of your latest pins on your site.
  • Board Widget displays 30 of your favorite board’s latest pins.


ViralWoot, previously known as Pinwoot, helps you gain more followers for your Pinterest. It does this by referring your account to users in exchange for "Seeds". "Seeds" are sort of like ViralWoot’s currency which you can earn by following and repinning others. You then give out "Seeds" to followers for repinning a certain content from you.


PinAlerts is an interesting tool that tells you if someone has pinned something from your website and who that someone is. The service informs you of this through email as Pinterest only tells you what others have repinned from your account. This can help in engaging with other pinners as you get to thank them personally and follow them.

Did we miss out on any tools? Let us know in the comments below.

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&#8220;Overused&#8221; Typefaces: When Should You Say Goodbye To A Font? - Wed, 09/10/2014 - 12:30

Depending on your individual opinion, Helvetica is either a classic, truly neutral English typeface with universal appeal and functionality – or it’s an overused, bland set of letters with its own cultural and historical baggage that needs to hurry up and die already. Lettering artist Jessica Hische claims that the iconic font “only really looks good when paired with itself.”

via Pixabay

But I’m not here to talk only about Helvetica (personally I have no real qualms with it), but to talk about the idea of fonts that some designers consider to be “overused.” Who gets to decide when a font has “jumped the shark,” so to speak? Does using a so-called overused font diminish others’ perceptions of your creative abilities? Or does it signal that you know what current clients need and are actively looking for?

What If It’s Your Signature Font?

Were you using Helvetica before it was trendy? (Probably not, unless you were designing before 1960). Is there a particular type style that’s all the rage now, making your work look like it’s just one of the crowd? What do you do when people suddenly decide that the font you’ve been using for years is suddenly cool?

In my opinion, there are two main paths to take here. The first is to simply keep doing what you’ve been doing, and let the imitators move on to something else once the fad has faded. You know this typeface inside and out; it’s part of your work and your unique identity as a designer. As long as you are a master of your craft, you probably don’t have to worry about anyone lumping you in with those who came after you.

The other option – and I’m not picking sides here – is to update your font library a bit. Being a creative professional means changing and adapting to the current landscape and the expectations of your newest clients. If you feel like your style could use a face lift, then by all means start shopping around for some other fonts that would suit your purposes just as well, but be distinct from what you were using before. This is a good way to subtly evolve your style without going all out and possibly turning off previous fans of your work.

Details Matter

Type is all about details. It’s what makes different type applications different from each other. There are only 26 letters in the English alphabet, after all. How else are we going to get all the variety possible out of type and letterforms except through tiny details that go unnoticed by the majority of viewers, but that make a world of difference to the design?

Here’s the key takeaway: don’t worry about the font – worry about the details. Is the ascender of that d too high for the logo you’re designing? Does the bowl of the lowercase a curve just right, or is there something you would change? And what’s the deal with that ampersand?

Perhaps you should find another font that suits your needs better. There are hundreds of thousands of fonts out there, all incrementally different from one another in sometimes very subtle ways. There’s absolutely no reason to stick with something just because it’s popular or expected.

Design Is Like A Symphony And Type Is But One Instrument

Designers are like composers. Type, color, and composition all matter separately, and they can’t be discarded without a good reason. The audience sees the final product, but only the professional can see and appreciate the separate elements that went into the whole. In this way, design is like a symphony orchestra. All you, the layperson, hear is the harmony and beauty of the music, but the conductor and musicians are hearing something very different.

Or, to use one of my favorite analogies, design is like a harmonious plate of food served up at a restaurant by a master chef. You may not know all of the individual ingredients that went into creating it, but believe me, if the chef had left any one of them out, you’d be able to tell that something was wrong.

Your expectations of a high quality meal are the same regardless of how much training you have, and the same is true for users, clients, and anyone else who is looking at your design work. They can’t necessarily tell when your design is working, but they’ll certainly know when it’s not.

Pick The Best Font For The Job

Let’s face it – the most popular typefaces look good and work well in a lot of the most popular types of projects commissioned by clients today. Even if you feel it’s an “overused” font, or that too many people have jumped on the band wagon. If it works, use it. You’ll find that if you make the right choice, your design will hold up in the future while all those bandwagon hoppers fall by the wayside. After all…

There’s Usually A Reason They Are Used So Much

Certain typefaces have an elegance and internal structure that is hard to deny. That’s why people use them so much – because they’re well-designed. Their popularity may wax and wane, but the talent and thoughtfulness that went into their creation is forever. Nobody uses a poorly designed typeface over and over again in professional design work (so Comic Sans doesn’t count).

What Do You Think?

What typefaces do you think have earned the label of “overused” lately? Do you think the accusation is justified? Are any of your favorite or go-to fonts in danger of being slapped with this label?

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Top 15 News Worthy Selfies You Have To Know - Tue, 09/09/2014 - 15:01

The word ‘selfie’ is so popular these days that there’s even songs about it. After all, it was declared by Oxford Dictionaries as their International Word of the Year in 2013. Whether you love them or hate them, selfies are probably gonna be around for awhile.

There are even plenty of selfies that are making it into the news headlines for one reason or another. Here we’ve gathered 15 selfies that have made the news headline. From ones featuring celebrities to selfies that have managed to save lives, each one has a lesson that we can learn from.

1. The Wrong Place To Selfie

Breanna Mitchell posted a selfie of herself smiling in front of the Auschwitz concentration camp on Twitter in June, but suddenly she woke up early morning on July 20 to find hate retweets and mentions on her notification, thus resulting in #auschwitzselfie trending.

(Image Source: MTV)

Claiming that she felt glad to be at the place since it was her desire to be there with her late father since childhood; she battled against the haters and said she won’t regret posting the selfie on social media. Many people felt that it was distasteful but judging by her reaction at her fame, she was clearly enjoying the limelight.

2. Selfie Obsession

Danny Bowman, 19, left school and never went out of his house for 6 months in an attempt to take the best selfie of himself. He spent 10 hours taking up to 200 selfies per day using his iPhone and even became aggressive when his parents tried to stop him.

(Image Source: Mirror)

When he reached a point where he knew he was overly addicted, he tried to commit suicide by overdosing, but fortunately was rescued by his mum. Perhaps we should all bear in mind that a selfie addiction could be an indicator of something else.

3. Selfie To Combat Hair Pulling

This priceless selfie montage tells us about a young girl who is battling with a hair-pulling disorder. Taking a photo of herself everyday for six years is what she felt right in expressing how the sickness had affected her life.

(Image Source: BBC News)

Rebecca Brown from Essex, who is 21 this year, had been affected by trichotillomania – a mental disorder which gives her the compulsive urge to pull her hair out, leading to hair loss and depression. She claimed that she has been using social media to cope with her depression, specifically Youtube since 2007. She has almost 200,000 subscribers who are inspired by her, sending Brown letters as their way to express their feelings.

4. Just A Selfie With His Hommies

These days when you meet a celebrity, your first instinct is to probably take a selfie with them. But this young man did not just manage one celebrity but two. With the caption “Chillin with my hommies,” you know that this is as epic as it gets. With both Paul McCartney and Warren Buffett, how could it not be?

(Image Source: Dailydot)

Tom White knew that he’d be able to make fans of Paul McCartney and Warren Buffett jealous when he uploaded this selfie on Instagram. He did of course and hey, he even made it in the news headline.

5. under Arrest For Selfie Of Dress

Most people have the smarts not to upload anything incriminating up on Facebook. That’s not the case for this particular lady. An Illinois woman, Danielle Saxton, was arrested for shoplifting jewelery and clothing after she uploaded a selfie wearing a stolen dress.

(Image Source: The Gloss)

Just hours after the incident, co-owner of Mortie’s Boutique, Kert William posted about the loss on Facebook. The citizens of West Frankfort then found Saxton’s selfie online and helped to report it to the police. She then went to jail for her actions. Guess criminal isn’t her best color…

6. The Exam Selfie Gone Wrong

If you’re a student, you probably know that phones are never allowed in the exam hall and that it can get you in some serious trouble. Well, this joker brought in his mobile and took this selfie just before his GCSEs. It got retweeted over 30,000 times and trended worldwide, making it a news headline.

(Image Source: Mirror)

The one who caused the sensation, Karem then claimed that it was not him in the photo but instead it was someone else. Regardless of who the photo is actually of, this is a good lesson to all that you should never jeapordize your education for just a selfie.

7. Squirrel Attack!

Brian Genest, 17, was walking through John Chestnut Park near Tampa, Florida when he saw the squirrel and wanted to take a selfie with it because it looked friendly. His big mistake? Using the flash.

(Image Source: Centralmaine)

The squirrel was so startled by the flash and the noises made by his camera that it ducked for cover under his shirt. The squirrel attack left him unsettled but he wasn’t hurt. Well, at least he got a cool selfie and was even featured in the news.

8. Spider Photobomb

Here’s a seflie for a good laugh. What do you get when two girls try to take a selfie and a spider wants in on the action? A pretty epic and funny selfie.The girls were trying to shoot a video selfie when the itsy bitsy thing decided that it wanted to be famous too.

(Image Source: Metro)

This is just one of those great moments that would definitely be difficult to replicate. Thanks for uploading this priceless selfie, girls.

9. Selfie With The Dead

There’s always a right time and place for everything. And as this girl learned, taking a selfie with a cadaver to post on her Instagram account is not one of those moments. The selfie was taken by a senior of Clements High School, Alabama during a school trip to the University of Alabama, which was held to teach pupils about an anatomical donor program.

(Image Source: Independent)

There was a rule saying that mobile phones were banned during the tour, but it failed to stop this girl from taking this selfie. Her lack of respect for the deceased is evident and it angered a lot of people. She paid the price for it though, as after she uploaded the selfie on Instagram, the school later on took disciplinary action.

10. The ‘Accidental Kick To The Head’ Selfie

Jared Frank was just a regular guy who wanted a bit of fame till he got a selfie of himself being kicked in the head as train went by. One could say that he was being a bit of a daredevil as he was taking a selfie so close to the train tracks and a little bit of danger was just what he got.

(Image Source: CBC News)

This Canadian attempted to make an epic video of himself with a slow moving train in the background but it was then shortlived when he was suddenly kicked in the head by the train conductor (accidentally, of course) on the speeding locomotive. Well, this went viral and just goes to show that you better be careful about what you ask for.

11. Hey Stranger! How About A Selfie?

A Youtube Vlogger took over 50 selfies with complete strangers. He wanted to find a way to use the generation trend positively while walking through a mall.

(Image Source: ABC News)

With the intention of inspiring people to overcome fears of social interaction, this Seattle-based entertainer and musician, Jason Rodjanapanyakul (a.k.a JasonSoSilly2) took over 50 ‘self-explanatory’ video selfies with whoever he met while walking around Bellevue Square Mall in Bellevue, Wash. It was met with great response and continues to entertain.

12. ‘On Top Of The World’ Selfie

It’s not just another tourist selfie. This particular selfie is touted by many as possibly ‘the best sellfie ever taken’.

(Image Source: Al-Arabiya News)

According to Le Thompson, the photographer and the co-founder of The Flash Pack (a travel company), this was the first selfie he had ever taken. This magnificent selfie on top of Christ the Redeemer was taken after the photographer was given special privilege to climb the highest statue in the country where the World Cup was recently held this year.

13. In Case Of An Emergency, Selfie First

Most people would freak out in the case of an emergency but not this particular man. Nope. He used the opportunity to take a selfie. Fight TAP Portugal 668, en route to Amsterdam encountered an inflight emergency, due to a technical failure and was forced to divert to Paris.

(Image Source: All Things Aero)

But then this man onboard decided that it was the perfect time to take a selfie, despite the intensity of the situation. One has to admire his dedication to preserving the moment though.

14. Life-Saving Selfie

A woman called Stacey Yepes had experienced paralysis on her left side and went to the doctor’s to seek advice. They told her that it was just stress.

(Image Source: ABC13)

However, when it happened again while she was driving home, she took out her smartphone and recorded herself in video and picture and detailed her experience. After taking a look at the evidence and further examination, doctors told her that she had indeed suffered not one but three strokes.

15. Camera Returned With Bonus Mayor selfie

When an amateur photographer got back his camera, he probably never expected to get an extra bonus picture of the mayor. And what’s more, a selfie too. Gabriel Collins thought that his camera was gone forever when he lost the camera at a Calgary Folk Festival. But those worries didn’t last very long as he got his camera back from Mayor Naheed Nenshi.

(Image Source: Calgary Herald)

Half an hour later though as Collins was going through the photos, he found a selfie of the mayor. A good citizen always returns the belongings of others but a mayor with a sense of humor will take a selfie first.

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9 Women Who Changed How We Use The Internet - Mon, 09/08/2014 - 17:01

Diversity in tech companies is one of the hottest topics in cyberspace now and shows no sign of dying down. This is mainly prompted by the biggest tech corporations like Facebook, Twitter, and Google releasing their workers diversity data sparking fresh debate on why there aren’t more women working in tech. It has also sprouted new initiatives to spread awareness and educate more girls to code like Google’s Made With Code.

But that doesn’t mean that the Internet is lacking in talented women. Generally found behind the screens, they’ve brought us the World Wide Web that we know today. Critics say that these women were not given enough recognition for their efforts unlike the men and in many instances, they are right. Not to say that all of them go unnoticed but you might not have heard of some or most of them. So we decided to do a little digging and found these 9 women who significantly contributed to how we use the Internet today.

1. Radia Perlman

This list wouldn’t be complete if we don’t revisit history and include Radia Perlman who is widely hailed as the Mother of the Internet. Perlman is most famous for creating the spanning-tree protocol (STP). STP bridges two computer networks so that they can exchange information. You can see its usage in Local Area Networks (LAN) where many computers are accessing one network and the Ethernet.

via Internet Hall of Fame

STP made the Internet possible, as it allows the Ethernet to handle large amounts of information being exchanged and stored which set the precedent of cloud computing. As a software designer and network engineer, Perlman is also credited with inventing the Transparent Interconnection of Lots of Links (TRILL) to make up for STP’s shortcomings.

2. Elizabeth Feinler

Wired described Elizabeth Feinler as the person “before Google and GoDaddy”. Feinler is considered the pioneer of the Internet when she was the Director of the Network Information Center (NIC) at the Standford Research Institute (SRI) from 1972 to 1989. She also managed the ARPANET, the network that connected various research centers across the country, which was seen as the predecessor to the Internet.

via Wired

Feinler was more commonly known as Jake, a nickname given by her sister that stuck. In managing the NIC, Feinler oversaw the creation and registration of Internet addresses or URLs. It first started out manually with Feinler and her team maintaining and publishing directories of people. The resources were distributed via snail mail and was also available through a telephone hotline the team set up.

Over time as the Internet evolved, the NIC came up with the Dormain Name System (DNS). DNS maintains the naming scheme of URLs such as .com, .edu, .gov, .mil, .net, .org as well as translating domain names into IP adresses. Needless to say, these contributions of hers are still in use today.

3. Caterina Fake

Caterina Fake co-founded with her husband Stewart Butterfield popular photo-sharing site Flickr in 2004. Yahoo! then acquired Flickr in 2005. Before Flickr came about, photo-sharing meant sending your pictures through email. And you know how sending photos via email was years ago when emails couldn’t handle attaching photos in bulk.

via FamousWiki

Additionally, the existence of Flickr also brought about the advent of many of Web 2.0′s features like social networking, tagging, algorithms that bring up popular content, and community open APIs. Interestingly the site was meant to be a multi-player gaming site until lack of funds spurred Fake and her husband to change tack.

4. Mitchell Baker

If it weren’t for Mitchell Baker, most of us would still be browsing the Web with Internet Explorer. As Executive Chairwoman of the Mozilla Foundation and Mozilla Corporation, Baker led part of Netscapes team on the Mozilla project. The project, as you can tell from the name, birthed the open source web browser, Mozilla Firefox, which made the Internet experience safe and stable.

via Wired

Trained as a lawyer, Baker used her expertise to create Netscape’s open source license, making it free as well as the basis of Mozilla’s public license. It helped pave an era of open source software and inspired open source projects such as GitHub, HTML5 and Android.

5. Rashmi Sinha

If it wasn’t for India-born Rashmi Sinha, there wouldn’t be SlideShare. Sinha caught the Web bug when she was researching on how search engine optimization as well as algorithms work to help push recommended content at the University of California, Berkeley. After her research, she went on to start a user-experience consultancy Uzanto which provided services to companies such as eBay, AAA, and Blue Shield.


In 2006, Sinha and her husband Jon Boutelle co-founded SlideShare. She became its CEO while her husband is the CTO. As you know, the site makes it possible to share PowerPoint slides online without the need of a presenter. SlideShare’s user-based community and user-friendliness draws people to discover new content as well as generates its own traffic. In 2012, LinkedIn acquired the presentation-sharing site for over $100 million.

6. Leah Culver

You may not have heard of social networking site Pownce, as it met its early demise in 2008. Many attributed it to the acquisition by software company Six Apart, who was after the talented staff of Pownce, which was then Twitter’s biggest competitor. What almost nobody focused on is that it’s possibly the reason why Facebook and Twitter is now able to share and attach links, files, photos and videos on their platforms. And the women behind it is Leah Culver.

via Wikimedia

Interestingly Culver switched her art major for computer programming when studying at the University of Minnesota. A year after she graduated in 2006, she launched Pownce with Kevin Rose and Daniel Burka. Culver is the lead developer for Pownce having created the site from scratch using the Python programming language.

7. Marissa Mayer

Currently, Marissa Mayer is the president and CEO of Yahoo!. Before that however, everyone knew her as Google’s employee number 20 in 1999 and the search engine’s first female engineer. Anyone who is tech news savvy will know that Mayer worked on a slew of Google services that we all use. Among them are Google Search, Google News, Google Images, and Google Chrome.

via The Drum

Her attention to detail and user-first mindset contributed to the look and feel of these products. She was so good at her job that she became Vice President of Search Products and User Experience. In her final two years at Google, she was made Vice President of Local, Maps, and Location Services. In this division, she oversaw the engineering and design of Google Maps, Google Earth, Street View and local search for both web and mobile.

8. Mena Trott

Mena Trott made it possible for us aspiring writers to start out by blogging. In fact, she made it easy to blog. Trott co-founded Six Apart with now former husband Benjamin in 2001 that specializes in developing blogging software. The company came up with Movable Type in 2001, a blogging software that is similar to and precedes WordPress.

via Bloomberg Businessweek

Before Six Apart and Movable Type, blogging meant hard-coding your own online diary. In 2003, Trott and her team came up with blog hosting service, TypePad, based on Movable Type’s software and features easy-to-use blogging tools. Some of the tools include multiple author support, photo albums and mobile blogging. Six Apart eventually came up with blogging platform Vox and acquired Livejournal before it finally joined forces with VideoEgg to become SAY Media in 2010.

9. Susan Wojcicki

Another Google employee, Susan Wojcicki was responsible for selling ads on the search engine giant. Recently made the CEO of YouTube in February 2014, Wojcicki used to lead Google’s Advertising and Commerce division. She first started out as Google employee number 16 as its Marketing Manager and if it weren’t for her renting out her garage to Sergey Brin and Larry Page in 1998, there would be no Google.

via Ad Age

During her tenure as Vice President of Advertising and Commerce, Wojcicki came up with AdWords and AdSense. The 2 advertising services are why you see ads on websites and blogs today which contributed 96% to Google’s revenue. Wojcicki is also the person responsible for acquiring YouTube and DoubleClick as well as developing the doodles on Google’s home page.

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Why Proper Brand Design Is Important - Mon, 09/08/2014 - 15:01

Some people think that traditional branding design is becoming irrelevant in the age of social networking, new media, and the “personal brand.” I say that’s ridiculous. Of course, I may be biased, being a branding designer myself. But large, corporate brand strategies cost millions of dollars to create, and no CEO would ever spend that much money on something that yielded no results or dividends.

via jingoba

If you work in-house for a design or advertising agency, or if you’ve ever had a large freelance client in the corporate world, you know that a lot of work goes into creating those so-called ubiquitous brand presences. Today, we’re going to look at why brand design is so important to the success of a business, for the little guys as well as the big players.

Brands Only Appear Irrelevant…

Because companies work so hard to make them ubiquitous. Big brands spend billions in advertising every year to make sure you never forget about them. But trust me, if they stopped doing that, you would see their market share go way down. The truth is that brands are always communicating a message. Whether it’s Coca-Cola or Joe’s Shoe Store down the street. Branding is about building relationships that the everyday person doesn’t even realize have been made. Ever get a jingle stuck in your head from some commercial, or unconsciously gravitate toward a particular brand of some item at the store? That’s the power of branding at work.

It’s up to you and your client to decide on what the message will be for the audience you are serving, and how exactly you will build those vital relationships with them to keep them coming back as customers. When people see the logo or website you designed, they will associate it with whatever your client’s predominant message is. So be careful with what you choose to associate with a brand. The big corporations have entire departments devoted to keeping the company “on brand” and connecting well with their target markets. When they make a misstep, it can cost millions of dollars.

People Pay More For Branded Products

We all do it, even when we know there’s no difference in product quality. You will pay more for a T-shirt with a cool design on it than one without, because the brand is important to you. Sometimes a lot more – even if you know that the two shirts are exactly the same otherwise. They could have been made by the same manufacturer, in the same factory, by the same worker. But one has far more value than the other.

In fact, an item with a compelling design on it has so much more value that it can sometimes gain worldwide recognition for the entire company simply from that one design. The apparel brand Paul Frank, with its famous monkey mascot, is a good example of this phenomenon. When artist Paul Frank Sunich started printing Julius the Monkey on plastic wallets in his garage, he had no idea that his little character was going to be such a worldwide success. Perhaps if he had realized it, he would have been better able to protect his intellectual property when things turned ugly between himself and his business partners (I recommend reading the full story if you have the time – it’s a sad cautionary tale for any creative with strong branding potential).

Manufactured Goods Are Practically Worthless

On their own, that is. It’s only through brands that the myriad of cheap, plastic stuff made in China has any value at all. Think about it – the process of manufacturing products has been automated literally to death. Actual human beings are required very little – the rest of the work is done by machines. That’s why the profit markup is so high on manufactured goods – you’re literally only paying for the brand. Think of the T-shirt example above. The T-shirt itself is practically worthless. It might have cost a few cents to make, at the most. Yet, a retail outlet will sell it to you for hundreds of times that amount, simply because the brand is valuable.

The most successful businesses understand the true power of their brands, and they work tirelessly to protect them at all costs. Disney is infamous for extending the copyright laws themselves in order to retain its hold on old works that would have otherwise gone into the public domain decades ago. John Stuart, the former CEO of Quaker Oats, famously remarked: “If this business were to split up, I would be glad to take the brands, trademarks and goodwill and you could have all the bricks and mortar – and I would fare better than you.”

Know What Your Audience Really Wants

Recently, I went with my family to a much-lauded restaurant (if you’re curious, it was an upscale fusion place). We had a blast; as a Busy Person™, I don’t get nearly enough time to spend with my family – even working from home – and it was nice to have the down time. The décor was lovely and really showed off the blending of American and Polynesian cuisines we were being served. The service was top-notch, and our server even gave us a mini-history of the founding chef and how passionate he and his team were about their work. There were no long delays waiting for our food, the staff was attentive and entertaining, and the restrooms were spotless (a huge plus for me).

There was just one problem: the food. It was just not good – utterly bland and uninteresting. Not at all what we had been set up to expect. My family and I kept making faces at one another as we all realized that this perfect restaurant had one fatal flaw. But – and we’re getting to the point here, I promise – not one of us sent our dishes back to the kitchen. We were having so much fun, and the ambience of the place was so nice, that the food was almost an afterthought. And, in case you don’t know, this is a HUGE statement for a foodie like me.

This, designers, is the power of branding. It’s what allows people to enjoy a mediocre product, whether it’s food, or a concert, or an airline flight, and still have fond memories of our experience.

In Conclusion

Brands are like prisms – they collect and focus light to a single, refined point. They help businesses cut through the chatter and make a lasting impression on the consumer. Exploring and understanding the science of good branding is what will help you set your or your client’s business apart from the competition, so that your users will be raving about their experience, no matter what.

Related posts:

  1. When Does Brand Design Actually Matter?
  2. 5 Things Your Brand Must Have Besides A Logo
  3. 5 Brand Engagement Tips For Pinterest
  4. International Marketing: Why Cultural Awareness Is Important

5 Useful Tools For Online Group Study - Mon, 09/08/2014 - 12:01

At some point when you’re studying, you’re bound to run into some group work. Yes, this mean being able to work with others. Sometimes, it’s hard enough communicating with your peers but having the right tools when dealing with group work can help a great deal.

In today’s digital age, online communication has become second nature to most of us and this means online group work also comes very naturally. Whether you meet with your group in the classroom, or communicate digitally, we’ve gathered here 5 amazing tools that can aid you in your group studies. With features like Flashcards and even a Study Planner, you can not only use this in group work but also in your daily studies as well.


OpenStudy is a free community of groups created by students from all around the globe. OpenStudy allows members to get live help for homework assignments or class tests from other members who are studying the same thing. By answering questions other members may have, one is able to earn credentials, which can lead to them becoming an OpenStudy Ambassador. Any member of the site can create a group related to a particular topic or subject and invite others who are studying the same thing to join it.

Students can sign up for OpenStudy using their email addresses or by connecting through their Facebook accounts. Even those that aren’t registered can view the content (queries and solutions) posted on OpenStudy groups. However, a student cannot post a question or query without registering through Facebook. At the time of writing, around 190 active study groups and 1 million students from 160 countries are registered members of OpenStudy community. If you’re worried about how fast you’ll get the answers to your question, OpenStudy claims that around 75% questions are answered within 5 minutes. [Visit site]


StudyBlue is a free service for students to learn collaboratively. It is a flashcard based service. It allows students to create and share their own flashcards related to a subject or topic. One of the features of the service under the tab ‘Study Tools’ is the ability to create and customize their own flashcards using either text, audio or images. These come with different study modes and students can even complete self-assessments through quizzes. They can also review work sheets and flashcards and even create study guides by including flash cards for a particular subject, which will be updated automatically when new flashcards are added.

Teachers can create their own virtual classes and add students to these classes. This allows the teacher to keep track of the students. Students themselves can store and organize their notes, flashcards and other items in their own digital backpack. StudyBlue can be synchronized easily with Evernote as well. Since its launch, more than 4.5 million people have joined StudyBlue and more than 200 million pieces of content have been shared by members. A student can register with StudyBlue by using his/her email address or by linking their Facebook or Google+ address to StudyBlue. [Visit site]


ThinkBinder is another helpful tool for students working in groups. Students can start their own study groups for free. ThinkBinder provides a focused and simple set of tools that allows the students to work more efficiently. When you sign up for a free account, you get to participate in group dicussions, which means being able to ask the group questions as well as other features like being able to upload videos, among other things. You can also engage in live chat and even work on a problem together using the Whiteboard feature on ThinkBinder. If you’re worried about coordination, you can organize your files and group calendar here too.

If you’re an interested student, you can either register via email or by linking your Facebook account to ThinkBinder. Do take note that you have to be at least 13 years of age to register for an account. [Visit site]


ExamTime provides a learning environment that allows students and teachers to create, construct, share and discover the learning resources. It helps in the creation of study groups for sharing, collaborating and discussing ideas with other students studying the same thing. Other notable features of ExamTime are creating Mind Maps and Flashcards, making your own notes and taking quizzes to evaluate yourself. Another unique and helpful feature ExamTime has is it allows you to create your own study plan using their Study Planner. The Study Planner can help students keep their proper pace while they’re studying and also helps to boost their motivation.

You can sign up for ExamTime by using your email address or by linking your Facebook account to ExamTime. It is really important to complete the user profile information because it will help you by searching for content that would interest you. ExamTime is a web application, which means you can use it on a browser but you won’t be able to access it through an app. All of the tools are free but they have some premium plans as well to help you maximize your use of ExamTime. [Visit site]


Wiggio is one of the easiest online web tools for working in groups. At the time of writing, Wiggio is being used by approximately 100,000 groups and boasts around 1.1 million users of Wiggio from around the world. These groups range from Academic Groups and Social Groups to Non-Profit and Charitable Organizations. The features offered by Wiggio include mass messaging (emails, voice mails, text messages), file sharing, scheduling, editing, conference calling, polling, project management and video conferencing. Wiggio is really useful for groups of students who are working on a semester project.

To create a group, you are required to enter a group name, password and the purpose of the group. Once the group is created, you can add members by using their email address to send an invitation, by sharing the link of the group with your potential members or by choosing them from your Facebook friends list and inviting them. You can sign up for a Wiggio account either via your email address or through your Facebook account. Wiggio is a free to use service but it offers some advance premium features as well. [Visit site]

For more handy tools for students

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  4. 10 Free Online Tools To Create Professional Resumes

Wallpapers Of The Earth That Captivate You - Sun, 09/07/2014 - 12:01

Space is something wonderous isn’t it? And with the possibility of space travel being made commercial in the future, there are various things that we as humans could potentially experience and gaze upon. You wouldn’t really believe it but one of the most amazing things that you could ever look at is our planet Earth. After all, even Frank Borman, an astronaut aboard the Apollo 8, had this to say, "[The Moon] was a sobering sight, but it didn’t have the impact on me, at least, as the view of the Earth did."

It is really something worth marvelling at and since going to space may take awhile, why not take a look at our beautiful planet as a wallpaper? Here we’ve put together a collection of gorgeous wallpapers for you to have a look at. Based on actual photographs captured in space, they are a reminder that we are but small human beings inhabiting a mighty planet.

Western Hemisphere. Available in: 1600×1200, 1280×1024, 1024×768 and 800×600.[This is actually for the third entry and the links to all different sizes don't seem to be working.]

Wake Up Sleepy World. Available in: 1024×640, 1280×800, 1440×900, 1600×1000 and 1920×1200.

View of Earth. Available in 1680×1050.

The new iMac 27 wallpaper. Available in 3032×1986.

Earth At Night. Available in: 1920×1080.

Earth 2210. Available in: 1920×1200, 1920×1080, 1600×1200, 1440×900 and 1280×1024.

Earth Horizon. Available in: 1287×804.

Earth Wallpaper. Available in 1920×1080.

Earth Wallpaper Pack. Available in: 1920×1200, 1680×1050, 1440×900, 1280×800, 1600×1200, 1280×1024 and 1024×768.

Earth Space. Available in: 1280×800.

Mass Effect 3 Earth Dreamscene. Available in: 1920×1080.

Maya: Earth WP. Available in: 1280×1024.

On Orbit. Available in: 2560×1200, 1920×1200, 1440×900, 1920×1080 and 1280×720.

Rainmeter wallpaper. Available in: 1920×1080.

Related posts:

  1. 15 Stunning Supernova Wallpapers [Wallpaper Wednesday]
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  3. Space and Galaxy Wallpapers [Wallpaper Wednesday]
  4. Falling Stars & Meteors Wallpapers [Wallpaper Wednesday]

Stunning Drawings That Come Alive Before Your Eyes - Sat, 09/06/2014 - 12:01

Good art can conjure up a various range of emotions but great art does something more. Ramon Bruin, who hails from the Netherlands, is a remarkably talented artist who creates optical illusions on paper. He’s even got a name for it, ‘Optical Illusionism.’ It is a combination of drawing, photography, and the right camera angle that manages to give it the effect that he desires.

His mischiveous masterpieces cover a wide variety of subject matters but each one of them is a unique and beautiful creation. From sharks that come at you from the ocean to the iconic depiction of Neo dodging a bullet from ‘The Matrix‘, take a look at some of his art that will leave you speechless. If you’re curious to see more of his work, head over to his website.

Related posts:

  1. 30 Stunning Whiteboard Art That Impress
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10 Most Destructive Computer Viruses - Fri, 09/05/2014 - 17:01

Getting a computer virus has happened to many users in some fashion or another. To most, it is simply a mild inconvenience, requiring a cleanup and then installing that antivirus program that you’ve been meaning to install but never got around to. But in other cases, it can be a complete disaster, with your computer turning into a very expensive brick which which no amount of antivirus can protect.

In this list, we will highlight some of the worst and notorious computer viruses that have caused a lot of damage in real life. And since people usually equate general malware like worms and trojan horses as viruses, we’re including them as well. These malware have caused tremendous harm, amounting to billions of dollars and disrupting critical real life infrastructure. Here are the 10 most famous and malicious computer viruses.


The ILOVEYOU virus is considered one of the most virulent computer virus ever created and it’s not hard to see why. The virus managed to wreck havoc on computer systems all over the world, causing damages totaling in at an estimate of $10 billion. 10% of the world’s Internet-connected computers were believed to have been infected. It was so bad that governments and large corporations took their mailing system offline to prevent infection.

via BBC

The virus was created by two Filipino programers, Reonel Ramones and Onel de Guzman. What it did was use social engineering to get people to click on the attachment; in this case, a love confession. The attachment was actually a script that poses as a TXT file, due to Windows at the time hiding the actual extension of the file. Once clicked, it will send itself to everyone in the user’s mailing list and proceed to overwrite files with itself, making the computer unbootable. The two were never charged, as there were no laws about malware. This led to the enactment of the E-Commerce Law to address the problem.

2. Code Red

Code Red first surfaced on 2001 and was discovered by two eEye Digital Security employees. It was named Code Red because the the pair were drinking Code Red Mountain Dew at the time of discovery. The worm targeted computers with Microsoft IIS web server installed, exploiting a buffer overflow problem in the system. It leaves very little trace on the hard disk as it is able to run entirely on memory, with a size of 3,569 bytes. Once infected, it will proceed to make a hundred copies of itself but due to a bug in the programming, it will duplicate even more and ends up eating a lot of the systems resources.

via F-Secure

It will then launch a denial of service attack on several IP address, famous among them the website of the White House. It also allows backdoor access to the server, allowing for remote access to the machine. The most memorable symptom is the message it leaves behind on affected web pages, "Hacked By Chinese!", which has become a meme itself. A patch was later released and it was estimate that it caused $2 billion in lost productivity. A total of 1-2 million servers were affected, which is amazing when you consider there were 6 million IIS servers at the time.

3. Melissa

Named after an exotic dancer from Florida, it was created by David L. Smith in 1999. It started as an infected Word document that was posted up on the usenet group, claiming to be a list of passwords for pornographic sites. This got people curious and when it was downloaded and opened, it would trigger the macro inside and unleash its payload. The virus will mail itself to the top 50 people in the user’s email address book and this caused an increase of email traffic, disrupting the email services of governments and corporations. It also sometimes corrupted documents by inserting a Simpsons reference into them.

via MSN Canada

Smith was eventually caught when they traced the Word document to him. The file was uploaded using a stolen AOL account and with their help, law enforcement was able to arrest him less than a week since the outbreak began. He cooperated with the FBI in capturing other virus creators, famous among them the creator of the Anna Kournikova virus. For his cooperation, he served only 20 months and paid a fine of $5000 of his 10 year sentence. The virus reportedly caused $80 million in damages.

4. Sasser

A Windows worm first discovered in 2004, it was created by computer science student Sven Jaschan, who also created the Netsky worm. While the payload itself may be seen as simply annoying (it slows down and crashes the computer, while making it hard to reset without cutting the power), the effects were incredibly disruptive, with millions of computers being infected, and important, critical infrastructure affected. The worm took advantage of a buffer overflow vulnerability in Local Security Authority Subsystem Service (LSASS), which controls the security policy of local accounts causing crashes to the computer. It will also use the system resources to propagate itself to other machines through the Internet and infect others automatically.

via HP

The effects of the virus were widespread as while the exploit was already patched, many computers haven’t updated. This led to more than a million infections, taking out critical infrastructures, such as airlines, news agencies, public transportation, hospitals, public transport, etc. Overall, the damage was estimated to have cost $18 billion. Jaschen was tried as a minor and received a 21 month suspended sentence.

5. Zeus

Zeus is a Trojan horse made to infect Windows computers so that it will perform various criminal tasks. The most common of these tasks are usually man-in-the-browser keylogging and form grabbing. The majority of computers were infected either through drive-by downloads or phishing scams. First identified in 2009, it managed to compromise thousands of FTP accounts and computers from large multinational corporations and banks such as Amazon, Oracle, Bank of America, Cisco, etc. Controllers of the Zeus botnet used it to steal the login credentials of social network, email and banking accounts.


In the US alone, it was estimated that more than 1 million computers were infected, with 25% in the US. The entire operation was sophisticated, involving people from around the world to act as money mules to smuggle and transfer cash to the ringleaders in Eastern Europe. About $70 million were stolen and in possession of the ring. 100 people were arrested in connection of the operation. In late 2010, the creator of Zeus announced his retirement but many experts believe this to be false.

6. Conficker

Also known as Downup or Downadup, Conficker is a worm of unknown authorship for Windows that made its first appearance in 2008. The name comes form the English word, configure and a German pejorative.It infects computers using flaws in the OS to create a botnet. The malware was able to infect more than 9 millions computers all around the world, affecting governments, businesses and individuals. It was one of the largest known worm infections to ever surface causing an estimate damage of $9 billion.

via Wikipedia

The worm works by exploiting a network service vulnerability that was present and unpatched in Windows. Once infected, the worm will then reset account lockout policies, block access to Windows update and antivirus sites, turn off certain services and lock out user accounts among many. Then, it proceeds to install software that will turn the computer into a botnet slave and scareware to scam money off the user. Microsoft later provided a fix and patch with many antivirus vendors providing updates to their definitions.

7. Stuxnet

Believed to have been created by the Israeli Defence Force together with the American Government, Stuxnet is an example of a virus created for the purpose of cyberwarfare, as it was intended to disrupt the nuclear efforts of the Iranians. It was estimated that Stuxnet has managed to ruin one fifth of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges and that nearly 60% of infections were concentrated in Iran.

via IEEE

The computer worm was designed to attack industrial Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC), which allows for automation of processes in machinery. It specifically aimed at those created by Siemens and was spread through infected USB drives. If the infected computer didn’t contain Siemens software, it would lay dormant and infect others in a limited fashion as to not give itself away. If the software is there, it will then proceed to alter the speed of the machinery, causing it to tear apart. Siemens eventually found a way to remove the malware from their software.

8. Mydoom

Surfacing in 2004, Mydoom was a worm for Windows that became one of the fastest spreading email worm since ILOVEYOU. The author is unknown and it is believed that the creator was paid to create it since it contains the text message, “andy; I’m just doing my job, nothing personal, sorry,”. It was named by McAfee employee Craig Schmugar, one of the people who had originally discovered it. ‘mydom’ was a line of text in the program’s code (my domain) and sensing this was going to be big, added ‘doom’ into it.


The worm spreads itself by appearing as an email transmission error and contains an attachment of itself. Once executed, it will send itself to email addresses that are in a user’s address book and copies itself to any P2P program’s folder to propagate itself through that network. The payload itself is twofold: first it opens up a backdoor to allow remote access and second it launches a denial of service attack on the controversial SCO Group. It was believed that the worm was created to disrupt SCO due to conflict over ownership of some Linux code. It caused an estimate of $38.5 billion in damages and the worm is still active in some form today.

9. CryptoLocker

CryptoLocker is a form of Trojan horse ransomware targeted at computers running Windows. It uses several methods to spread itself, such as email, and once a computer is infected, it will proceed to encrypt certain files on the hard drive and any mounted storage connected to it with RSA public key cryptography. While it is easy enough to remove the malware from the computer, the files will still remain encrypted. The only way to unlock the files is to pay a ransom by a deadline. If the deadline is not met, the ransom will increase significantly or the decryption keys deleted. The ransom usually amount to $400 in prepaid cash or bitcoin.


The ransom operation was eventually stopped when law enforcement agencies and security companies managed to take control part of the botnet operating CryptoLocker and Zeus. Evgeniy Bogachev, the ring leader, was charged and the encryption keys were released to the affected computers. From data collected from the raid, the number of infections is estimated to be 500,000, with the number of those who paid the ransom to be at 1.3%, amounting to $3 million.

10. Flashback

Though not as damaging as the rest of the malware on this list, this is one of the few Mac malware to have gain notoriety as it showed that Macs are not immune. The Trojan was first discovered in 2011 by antivirus company Intego as a fake Flash install. In its newer incarnation, a user simply needs to have Java enabled (which is likely the majority of us). It propagates itself by using compromised websites containing JavaScript code that will download the payload. Once installed, the Mac becomes part of a botnet of other infected Macs.

via CNET

The good news is that if it is infected, it is simply localized to that specific user’s account. The bad news is that more than 600,000 Macs were infected, including 274 Macs in the Cupertino area, the headquarters of Apple. Oracle published a fix for the exploit with Apple releasing an update to remove Flashback from people’s Mac. It is still out in the wild, with an estimate of 22,000 Macs still infected as of 2014.

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Designers: How Being Opinionated Can Increase Your Visibility - Fri, 09/05/2014 - 15:01

As a designer, I have a lot of opinions on design, both as a user and as a creator of design content. And if you’re a designer, I’m sure you do as well. It’s part of our profession. What we think about design and the world around us greatly influences the choices we make and the ways in which we go about solving our clients’ problems.

via Mario Calvo

Designers who have strong, interesting opinions about design not only have more prominence in the design community; they have more opportunities for truly inspiring and valuable work. Let’s explore some reason why your opinions about design should be shared far and wide with designers the world over.

Use Social Media To Crowdsource

When most designers hear the word “crowdsourcing,” they think of sleazy, backdoor sites that try to con inexperienced designers into doing free or vastly underpriced work. But I’m not talking about that kind of crowdsourcing.

I mean that designers can use social media platforms for a different kind of crowdsourcing, one that doesn’t ask for free work and that only adds to their career. The kind of crowdsourcing that gets you opinions, conversation, communication, and industry connections.

Your social media followers can often hook you up with the information you need to advance your career, market yourself properly, or meet that awesome client you’ve been dying to work for. The only thing they ask in return is an interesting stream of opinions and ideas from you which add value to their own lives and careers.

Blogging Gives Your Design More Credibility, And Vice Versa

If you have something to say about the industry, you will generate interest in your work. Many people got to know designer Jessica Hische through her famous infographic “Should I Work For Free?” which went viral several years ago. I know I did.

The content was relevant and useful to me as a freelance designer (not to mention hilarious). This got me interested in her design work, and that’s when I discovered her talent for lettering.

The other side of the equation is actually being good at what you do. If you have great work to show off, people will take your opinions more seriously. If you say nice things, but don’t have the design chops to back it up, designers are going to dismiss you very quickly.

The Industry Needs Controversy

Controversial ideas get people talking, which in turn sparks creativity and helps us all grow as designers. Don’t be afraid to get vocal about things that are bothering you about the industry. Do you think designers are going about something all wrong? Tell them so, and then tell them what they can do differently.

When I write these sorts of posts about design, I try to point out a problem that I’ve noticed with a number of designers, as well as some simple fixes that will help them correct course. The feedback I’ve gotten has rarely been negative, even when I’m at my most strident and obnoxious.

Engage and challenge people, and you will be rewarded with notoriety (the good kind, of course).

Clients Are Listening

That’s right. Clients who want to hire you for design work will most certainly be checking out your blog or social media stream to get a feel for how you think and who you are as an individual. Depending on what they find, they’ll decide whether you’ll a good fit for their project and vice versa.

You never know who will stumble across your work or your words, decide that you are the best thing they’ve ever seen, and make you an offer for an insane amount of money for a dream gig with all the creative freedom you’ve ever wanted. Don’t think it can happen? Trust me, it can and does every day.

This is absolutely not a call to censor yourself, by the way. Notice I said that clients will evaluate you based on whether they think you’re a good fit for their project, and also whether their project is a good fit for you as an individual. If you censor what you say because you don’t want to “offend” anyone, you’re only hurting your chances to land that really amazing client you’ve always known you’d be a perfect match for.

Maybe that client was looking for someone with a little more “bite” to their content, and they’ve completely passed you over because they thought you were a little too tame. How sad would that be?

Sharing Is Caring

Don’t forget to share links to other blogs and tell people what you think about them. It’s not just all about you – other designers have things to say as well. There’s a reason the design community is called that: we’re all in this together, and we all need to be helping each other be as successful in our field as possible.

It can only result in a stronger industry for us all, as clients and businesses take note and give us the respect and rates we deserve as professionals.

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How to Register Custom Taxonomy For WordPress Users [WordPress Tip] - Fri, 09/05/2014 - 12:56

The Custom Taxonomy feature has been introduced since WordPress 2.9. It allows you to create custom groups for Post, Page as well as Custom Post Types.

Say that you are building a book directory website, and you have created a Custom Post Type for posting the Books. By using Custom Taxonomy, you can create a custom taxonomy for it, called Genre. Within this Genre taxonomy, you can create a number of items (which technically is called terms) such as Fiction, Kids, or Biography for grouping the Books.

Unfortunately, at this point, we can’t register Custom Taxonomy to Users; at least not in a straightforward way as we would register it in the other Post Types. One perfect application that we could foresee from this idea is that we can use it to assign additional user attributes, such as their occupation, profession or organizational position, in place of registering a new set of User Roles. It also opens the possibility to query the users based upon the assigned taxonomy terms.

If this idea is something that may benefit your website, take a look at this tip.

Getting Started

First, we will install a plugin named User Taxonomies to simplify our job.

Once the plugin is activated. Go to GenerateWP to generate the Taxonomy codes. Put the code output in the functions.php file of your theme. This code snippet below is an example. Though, it has been stripped out to make this article look shorter. You can follow this link to see the full code.

if ( ! function_exists( 'user_staff_position' ) ) { function user_staff_position() { register_taxonomy( 'staff_position', 'post', $args ); } add_action( 'init', 'user_staff_position', 0 ); }

Now, change the Post Type parameter in the following line:

register_taxonomy( 'staff_position', 'post', $args );

…from post to user, like so:

register_taxonomy( 'staff_position', 'user', $args );

Now, go to the WP-Admin, and you should find a new menu added under the Users menu, as seen below.

Assigning the Custom Taxonomy

Navigate to the new menu and create a few terms. For this example, we created two items: CEO and Managers.

Then go to user editing screen and assign one item from the taxonomy to the user.

Query the Users

We are going to display the users in the theme based on the given term (of the taxonomy). But before going further, let’s create a new page template. We are going add the codes throughout the following section within this new template.

In this particular case, we won’t be able to query the users with get_users or WP_User_Query; when you create a new WP_User_Query class, it does not output the Custom Taxonomy that is assigned to the users. Justin Tadlock, in his tutorial, shows us how to use the get_objects_in_term function, instead.

This function outputs the object ID (which in our case the object means the user) that are tied with the term. To use it, we need two parameters: the Term ID and the Taxonomy name. You can spot the Term ID at the Browser URL bar when you edit it as shown below.

Once you’ve found the ID, put it within the function, like so.

$users = get_objects_in_term(3, 'user_position');

You can use var_dump() to display the object IDs that have been retrieved; In my case, it returns the users with the ID of 1 and 3.

Using these IDs, we can also retrieve, for example, the user name and avatar.

<ul> <?php if ( !empty( $users ) ) : ?> <?php foreach ( $users as $id ) : ?> <li class="user-entry"> <figure><?php echo get_avatar( get_the_author_meta('email', $id), '40' ); ?></figure> <h4 class="user-title"><a href="<?php echo esc_url( get_author_posts_url( $id ) ); ?>"><?php the_author_meta( 'display_name', $id ); ?></a></h4> </li> <?php endforeach; ?> <?php endif; ?> </ul>

…and, finally, here is the result.

That’s it. You can freely modify the above codes to meet your requirement.

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Everything You Need To Know About CyanogenMod - Thu, 09/04/2014 - 17:01

If you have heard about CyanogenMod but aren’t really sure what it is, then this is the post you should be checking out. To start off, CyanogenMod may feel different from an Android but is essentially built on Android. Sometimes known as CM, it has a cleaner interface, reeks of innovation, and is a free and open source aftermarket firmware for smartphones based on the Android platform.

The word ‘CyanogenMod’ is formed from two words – ‘Cyanogen’, after its creator Steve Kondik who is also known as Cyanogen; and ‘Mod’, which means to modify. Hence the word ‘CyanogenMod’ means the modified firmware (of Android) developed by the Cyanogen (Steve Kondik).

What Is CyanogenMod?

CyanogenMod is built upon the source code of the open source release of Google’s Android, which is also known as Android Open Source Project or AOSP for short. Its development started back in 2009 in a quest to make a modified Android which can be installed on rooted devices, and provide users with better or extra features, which are not found in the original or stock versions of Android.

It soon grew in popularity and a small group of developers, called the ‘CyanogenMod Team’, started pushing code contributions.

Steve Kondik started ‘Cyanogen Inc.’ in 2013 with a goal to commercialize his operating system. The objective behind his company is “to grow the open source project and to work with partners to share the freedom of user choice with the world”, as stated by its website –

CyanogenMod is the most popular custom ROM for Android devices, available for 350+ devices combining both of its official and unofficial ports. It is one of the oldest firmwares for Android, still in active development.

So What makes CyanogenMod so special?

Let me count the ways.

1. It is the base for many other custom ROMs such as CarbonRom, PAC ROM, etc.

2. It comes with numerous built-in features which are not found in Google’s version of Android or in stock versions created by various mobile phone manufacturers and carriers.

3. Also absent are the unnecessary bloatware you are stuck with in stock versions.

4. CyanogenMod’s ultimate feature is its lightweight code which accounts for the stable and fast operating system.

5. It comes with built-in root access for getting super-user privileges in the system. This also means that you can remove any system app if you find it of zero use.

6. It also comes with various customization and privacy features which helps you to better manage and use your mobile device (more on that below).

Let’s Talk About Customization

CyanogenMod is one of the more customizable Android firmware’s available on the market. Its theme engine lets you modify the look and feel of the entire operating system, and it works completely as you want as you can change either individual items or none or all of them.

Some of CyanogenMod’s best customization features are Navbar and Button configurations, Themes, Profiles, Status Bar and Quick Settings configuration.

Profiles lets you control and change sound, connectivity and additional options as per the time and environment. There are many, easy-to-use and easy-to-modify configuration options for many other visual elements like navigation bar, hardware buttons, status bar, quick settings tiles, etc.

Keeping Things Private

CyanogenMod, being “open” and supported by a certain community, is concerned about your privacy and takes the extra step of providing you with the right tools to better manage and control it. CyanogenMod also comes with great privacy features such as Privacy Guard, Global Blacklist and CM Account.

  • Privacy Guard lets you control which applications can get information about you and your contacts.
  • Global Blacklist, which is integrated into the operating system itself, lets you block messages and calls from unwanted contacts.
  • CM Account offers you a secure and encrypted account which can be used to find and wipe your device remotely.

An “Open source operating system”?

CyanogenMod is a free and open source software. This means its source code is freely available to any person, and this offers you the freedom to personalize it according to your own needs – it’s not about just changing the design or the theme, but anyone can take this software and modify it entirely. This also provides you the power to view the source code and catch any bugs or loopholes or backdoors in the software.

Being an open source software, it’s developed not only by the official CyanogenMod team but also by the large open source community of enthusiasts and developers who love this software. Anyone – even you – can push a bug-fix or a feature update, which can then be added to CyanogenMod after getting verified and tested by the official team. This also means there are more developers to catch and fix bugs as well.

The Relationship Between CyanogenMod And Android

CyanogenMod is built over Android. CyanogenMod is only a different flavor or version of Google’s smartphone operating system. It’s like making the same dish using different recipes – this gives you various choices and you may end up favoring one recipe over another. That’s the same situation as with CyanogenMod, vanilla Android (AOSP) and various other ROMs.

This is the result of Android being an open source operating system. The open source Apache license lets anyone release his/her own flavor or version. This is the case with CyanogenMod – it’s essentially Android but wrapped up in a whole new package with simple looks and better features. People like to make choices, and that’s why CyanogenMod was developed. To provide Android users with a new, better and community-driven choice.

Is CyanogenMod The better choice?

CyanogenMod provides you with extra and better features which don’t cost you a dime. Stock ROMs which come built-in with Android phones are mostly large in size, have heavy user interface and lots of bloatware, eat lots of memory; and thus provide a bad end-user experience such as constant lags and slow responses.

CyanogenMod helps eliminate all those redundancies and provides a better, more fluid and ever-responsive experience. Moreover, apps crash less and it offers better features. Maybe your phone’s manufacturer or carrier have stopped providing updates for your phone but you wish to use the updated or latest version of Android? The good news is that you can still try the latest Android on your old or legacy smartphone by installing CyanogenMod.

There are other reasons too – it is an Android firmware with built-in root access, advance performance features and useful developer options. Moreover, you can customize the complete look and feel of the operating system and make it your very own using its theme engine.

How does CyanogenMod improve My end-user experience?

CyanogenMod delivers an experience very near to Android. Its experience is much closer to the vanilla Android (AOSP) experience – the experience that is created by the search giant for its mobile operating system – with the addition of some tweaks and features to make it better and more responsive.

Its lightweight code provide a fast and lag-free experience while browsing the apps and widgets. No bloatware accounts for zero unnecessary apps and services, and thus you get more memory for running your own apps and games. Moreover, it also saves you from wastage of unnecessary resources like mobile data and battery.

The theme engine lets you customize things like sounds, fonts, icons, boot animations, etc. And you can choose specifically what to modify. This allows you to change the look of each element using a different theme.

Does It Come With advanced options?

CyanogenMod comes with many advanced options for power users and developers. First of all, it comes with built-in root access. This allows you to gain privileged access in your device and do administrative tasks such as uninstalling system apps, editing system configuration, browsing root file system with write permissions, etc.

Superuser – another built-in feature gives you the power to control which of your installed applications can gain root privileges and to check logs. Performance options allows you to modify settings related to your device’s performance and battery life such as processor speed, input/output scheduler, graphics and memory management options, etc.

Developer options – a section especially for developers – also adds some extra features, such as ‘Root access‘ option lets you permit root access for apps, adb or both. ‘Device hostname‘ option lets you change the hostname of your device; ‘Kill app back button‘ option lets you kill apps by long-pressing the back button; and many more.

Statistically Speaking…

CyanogenMod is the most downloaded custom firmware on this planet with more than 10 million downloads. This number does not include many more who don’t opt-in to report the statistics. It’s distributed officially for 225+ devices and additional 125+ devices get this ROM in the form of unofficial ports by enthusiastic developers.

Cyanogen Inc. – the company behind CM – has brought this ROM to new heights. Its efforts combined with the work of CM Community have made CyanogenMod as the first custom ROM to become the officially-released firmware for a smartphone. Oppo N1 is the first phone to officially come with CyanogenMod pre-installed; and OnePlus One is the second phone to do the same.

Should I switch To CyanogenMod?

Why not? Actually yes, but it’s your choice.

You have got options and you can consider anyone of them – maybe your stock ROM, or CyanogenMod or any other custom ROM. It all depends on your choice and preferences.

If you enjoy your current ROM, or if you’re dependent on some of its features, then you hardly have an option. But…

If you’re unhappy with your current stock or custom ROM, or are looking for a better and simpler ROM, or want to try a new ROM, then simply switch to CyanogenMod.

What’s your selection? Are you going to switch to CyanogenMod? Let us know via comments.

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How To Sync OneNote Notebook Across OS X And Windows Phone - Thu, 09/04/2014 - 15:01

Before Evernote, I was a long time user of OneNote, Microsoft note-taking application. OneNote is part of Office Suite and inherits the same tastes and features from its sister apps such as Word, in particular. OneNote is more flexible in terms of content management. Content can be placed freely anywhere in the working area of OneNote without restriction. We can insert bullets, checkboxes, and other complement marks to put across your notes, ideas, or thoughts more clearly.

Generally, OneNote works sufficiently well. My only disappointment is on the synchronization between the web app and the desktop app – at that time, there was no OneNote mobile app. Sometimes it worked, but often it did not. Connecting the Notebook that was created in the web app to desktop app was kind of tricky.

Now it seems OneNote is getting better. It’s available in different platforms outside Windows including OS X, Android, and iOS. Regardless of what your favorite platform is, you can use OneNote. In this post, I’m going to share my experience on how to synchronize OneNote notebooks across OS X and Windows Phone. Let’s get started.

Getting Started

To begin with, make sure that you have OneNote installed and a registered Microsoft Account. Once they are set, launch OneNote and connect to the cloud through the OneNote > Sign in menu.

Sign in with your Microsoft account.

Creating a Notebook

Now let’s create a Notebook that we aim to sync to Windows Phone (as well as other devices with OneNote). To create a new notebook, go to File > New Notebook.

OneNote provides a number of colors to choose for the new notebook. Pick your favorite color and name the notebook – as an example, I will name my new notebook as “Hongkiat Notebook”.

The notebook in OneNote feels and looks similar to a real physical notebook. You can create sections in it and pages in each section. As mentioned, creating content in OneNote is fluid and flexible; for further information, see the following video.

One last thing. Ensure that the notebook has been successfully synced. To verify it, click the Notebook option and hover over the new notebook. And click the arrow icon, residing at the right side of the notebook list as shown below. Therein, you will see when the notebook was last synced.

Sync the Notebook

We have created a new notebook. But when you open the OneNote app in your Windows Phone, you won’t find that new notebook (yet). To add it, open the Office app. You will see a list of places to find your documents.

Then, navigate to the Documents folder where all the OneNote notebooks reside. Tap the new notebook. This will open the notebook in the OneNote app.

Slide up the menu bar at the bottom, and tap the Sync menu.

That’s all, now you can have your note synced in two different devices and platforms. We hope you find this little tip useful.

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