NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, August 2012
Get Free Help, Tips, and Tricks from "MakeUseOf"
By Ira Wilsker, Radio Show Host,
Columnist, College Professor and deputy sheriff
(click to email author)


It never ceases to amaze me as to how much reliable and quality help is available on the internet. One of my favorite resources for tips, tricks, cheat sheets, and apps is the website at http://www.makeuseof.com. With an international staff, but hosted in the U.K., MakeUseOf has established a recognized reputation of excellence in terms of tips and tricks to improve our cyber lives, regardless of what operating system that we choose to use, or devices that we own. Windows, Android, Linux, Apple OS, and other operating systems are covered, as well as hints and help for smart devices and phones, tablets, laptops, netbooks, desktops, and other digital platforms. The menu bar at the top of the website somewhat says it all, indicating what type of information is available, with the simple headings linked to "How To & TIPS", "Best of APPS", "Ask Tech HELP", "Cheats and GUIDES", "Websites INDEX", and "Geeky FUN."

The front page of MakeUseOf.com, which I review on a daily basis, shows the latest articles posted, as well as a listing of the most popular articles referenced. Founded just six years ago, in July, 2006, MakeUseOf has 450,000 active subscribers, and 15 million page views each month. MakeUseOf is ranked as one of the top blogs on the web, and listed as one of the top 1000 websites by Amazon's Alexa. The heart of the MakeUseOf website is the collection of articles that it has posted; with about 10 article summaries per page, starting on the front page of the website, there are 1393 pages of article summaries, with each summary linking to the full article! As I type this, the most recent articles on the front page include such diverse items as, 3 Tools To Unleash Your Mac OS X Menu Bar, 10 Free MP3 Albums To Download (Sunday special, every Sunday), Why Im Done With Windows (Commentary), Cool Websites and Tools, Cool Tech Deals of the Week, and Create Your Very Own Operating System With Linux From Scratch [Linux].

While a comprehensive collection of nearly 14,000 catalogued and indexed articles is a wealth of useful information, these articles make up but one small part of the MakeUseOf website. Moving the cursor over the "How To & TIPS" part of the menu bar on the website opens a wide choice of options; here is where operating system help can be selected (Windows, MAC, iOS, Linux, Android), browser tips covering all of the major and most of the minor internet browsers (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Opera, Chrome, and many others), Facebook and Twitter help, Wordpress and blogging assistance, online music help, security information, gaming, hardware and gadget information, and a variety of other interesting topics. Being personally interested in cyber security issues, I clicked on the "Security" link on the pull-down "How To & TIPS" menu, where the latest person-level security articles were posted. Among the latest articles posted was an updated story about the 450,000 Yahoo! passwords that were compromised by hackers and posted online, an update on the FBI pulling the plug on internet servers that it had been running to mitigate the impact of the DNSChanger malware (see my April 27 column in the Examiner online archives), security risks on the Pinterest social media service, Trojans attacking Android and iOS devices, and a frightening prediction from Trend Micro that warns of a massive malware assault on Android devices, stating, "Trend Micro expects to find 138,000 malware samples in the fourth quarter of 2012 up dramatically from 5,000 at the start of 2012." Other contemporary security columns include articles on massive password thefts, gaming security, and online scams.

Under the "Best of APPS" banner is a directory of the best applications available, as determined by the MakeUseOf staff and broad community of contributors. The listing of categories of "Best APPS" is large and includes the best websites, as well as the best software, applications, and plug-ins for all of the major operating systems, portable devices (including smart phone and tablets, including the iPhone and iPad), browser extensions and add-ons, Wordpress plug-ins, portable applications (most run from a USB flash drive), and Linux distribution files. In this lengthy list, there is literally something for everyone.

With the widespread and increasing utilization of digital technology, it is inevitable that all of us will likely need some type of technical help or assistance; while there are many online sources of this technical help, including manufacturers' or publishers' websites, MakeUseOf has compiled an impressive collection of articles in its "Ask Tech HELP" section. Technical help and assistance is available for all of the major operating systems, hardware and software aid, networking solutions, Facebook help, Smartphone assistance (Android and iPhone), help with the many different web browsers currently available, and help for bloggers. Since I have an Android Smartphone, I decided to explore some of the more recent Android tech support issues, and I found several of use to me. In each of the tech support categories, the protocol is for someone to post a question, and then there may both expert and community responses. The number of possible solutions is posted adjacent to the inquiry, with the answer box color coded, which indicates if the problem has been resolved to the satisfaction of the person who originally posted the inquiry; red indicates unresolved, while green indicates satisfactorily resolved. Only registered users can post tech support questions on MakeUseOf, but registration is fast and free. MakeUseOf recognizes the users' registration on Facebook and other social media websites, which can be used to access all of the features and downloads on MakeUseOf; for those without social media membership, or those who prefer to register directly, they may do so directly from any page on the site.

I am not too proud to say that sometimes I need help with some of the most commonly used applications, and MakeUseOf offers about 75 full length guides, and about three dozen cheat sheets. The full length guides are available for free to registered users (password required, and is provided free to registered users). The free downloadable guides are available in the universal PDF format which can be downloaded or viewed online, or in ePub format which can be viewed on an iPad, Nook, Kobo, and most other e-readers. Kindle users will have to convert the ePub file to MOBI format in order to read it for free on the Kindle, or it can be purchased directly from Amazon for download to the Kindle. One of the guides that I use frequently is the 30 page long "Office 2010: Ultimate Tips and Tricks" which is exactly what the title says. Other guides include comprehensive guides to Windows Phones, Photoshop, Chrome, iPad, LinkedIn, social media marketing, Google+, Android, Ubuntu, a complete guide to malware removal, guides to backup and restore, and many other useful (and free) complete guides.

The free MakeUseOf cheat sheets are mostly one or two pages in length, and consist of keyboard shortcuts, hints, and other tips that may make applications faster to use and more enjoyable for the user. I regularly use several of these cheat sheets in some of the adult education classes that I teach, and have taught entire classes using only the appropriate cheat sheets as my instructional text. I routinely use several of the cheat sheets myself, including Windows, MAC OS X, Office 2010, Google Docs, Outlook, Gmail, Facebook, "Chat Smileys", and Firefox cheat sheets, which I store on my desktop in PDF format.

Some of us occasionally need a little light humor when online, and the "Geeky FUN" section may meet that need. Geeky FUN has two primary sections, pictures and videos. There are enough funny computer and technology related pictures and images to satisfy anyone's funny bone, as there are a dozen funny pictures on a page, and there are 233 pages of funny images (about 2800 images)! For those who like funny videos, Geeky FUN has 55 pages of videos, with a dozen thumbnails per page (660 total videos). For entertainment value, these images and videos are a fun way to burn many hours of online time.

If you would like to keep up with the latest materials from MakeUseOf, it offers a customized free email subscription of user selectable topics including a daily newsletter, articles, tech support answers, and the newest "Geeky FUN" images and videos. With all of its extensive free collection of articles, tech support assistance, cheat sheets, guides, and humorous content, it would be easy for any user to become a regular on the MakeUseOf website. Anyone who visits the site and explores its offerings will comprehend why it is a part of my daily online ritual.

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