Tag Archives: free

Doodling with website design

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Free website design tools and resources

MANY people maintain the belief that nothing is free in today’s world. While this may be true in the physical world, there is plenty of free stuff on the web (if you know where to look). This is particularly true with regard to creating and developing your very own website.

web wrenchSeveral web developers simply coin it by creating sites for individuals who don’t know any better. Granted there are several brilliant website designers who deserve to be paid well for their expertise. However, there are others who will charge a hand and a foot to create something that you could quite easily create yourself for free.

Blogging is the most free form of beginning a journey in website design and development. One is able to choose a ready-made design from a large library of templates, publish posts to your heart’s content and make use of a variety of free-to-use tools. Taking things to the next level, however, is a different story and often involves having to spend something.

There are several website builders that label themselves as “free” yet there is always a catch. Basically the beginning stages are free, but the hidden agenda becomes apparent once you become excited about website building and want to take things a little further.

Nevertheless, I have come across two website-building sites that I would like to share with anyone interested in self-taught web design. After all, teaching oneself a new skill, whatever that may be, should always result in the warm and fuzzy feelings of self-satisfaction.

Doodlekit - free, online website builder

Doodlekit - free, online website builder

DOODLEKIT
Doodlekit is a fully hosted free website builder and content management system that claims to be the quickest and most advanced website tool available. That is a mighty claim which is surely shared with several other website builders.

However, I would agree that Doodlekit is at least easy to use. First-timers may not be able to design a website “within minutes” yet can at least doodle with designing for as long as they please without any charge.

What’s also great is that the site doesn’t require the installation of any software – all aspects of it are done online via the Doodlekit website.

There are some great-looking examples of what some users have created using Doodlekit, such as www.ama-dojo.com

350pages

350 pages - the quick & easy website builder

350 PAGES
350 pages markets itself as the “quick and easy website builder” that is “fun and flexible”. They’re also convinced that us ‘ordinary’ folk can produce a professional-looking website in minutes, if not “seconds!”.

The site does have some great features though, despite being a little over-appealing (a typical tactic used to rope one in). It is a bit more professional than Doodlekit in the sense that it allows one to fully customise each heading, button bar, logo, divider, image and photo gallery, and even goes as far as allowing the customisation of fonts, styles and colours. Such stylistic changes are often deep in the realm of professional web design.

“If you want to build a web page, but are perhaps clueless when it comes to web design, you might benefit from paying a visit to 350 pages” – 350 pages user

What’s also great about both these design tools/websites above is they don’t require you to do any coding whatsoever. Specifically with 350 pages, layout is as simple as dragging and dropping content using your mouse.

It may be a sad reality for web developers who slogged away for years learning HTML, but a warm welcome to those who don’t know an “<a href>” from an “<align-left>” code.

A particularly pleasant feature of 350 pages is that it offers a library of video tutorials to get you started. The only catch (as the title suggests) is that you can only design up to 350 pages for free before having to pay anything.

Yet this isn’t really a catch, because if you get as far as 350 pages you should have built up enough confidence and web design skills to take things into your own hands. I wish you many hours of happy doodling.

** More online tips & tricks **

Google sounds the bugle!

GOOGLE WAVE: The clash of the computer titans is on. Google has taken on Microsoft by announcing that it’s launching its own operating system — free of charge. The war between the two software giants is likely to change the world of the Internet forever

Alistair Fairweather

IF business is war then two of the world’s biggest companies have finally stopped skirmishing on their borders and brought out the heavy artillery. On July 7, Google fired the first shell by announcing that they will begin offering their own operating system in mid 2010.

Bling bling babyThe warhead — called Chrome OS  — is aimed straight at the heart of Microsoft who have built their entire business around operating systems since the 70s, first with MS DOS and then the globally-dominating Windows series.

But while Microsoft have always charged for their software, Google plan to give theirs away free of charge. What’s more, Google are starting from a completely fresh perspective — one with the potential to undermine Microsoft’s entire business model and loosen their foothold on the software market.

If the name “Chrome” sounds familiar, that’s because it’s also the name of Google’s web browser. And this isn’t just a case of lazy naming. By evolving Chrome into an operating system, Google are planning to turn the entire software world on its head and make browsing the centre of computing.

An Introduction to Google Wave
There is a full 1 hour 20min presentation on YouTube which Philc7753 has kindly and painstakingly edited down for our short attention spans  

Hang on, isn’t an operating system a lot more complicated that a browser? Doesn’t a browser need an operating system to, well, operate? That’s the whole genius of the plan. Google are betting that the centre of influence in computing is moving out of personal computers and into the massive computing power of the Internet, known as the “cloud”.

That means that in future, computers will be dumber and cheaper. They will rely on the enormous banks of computers that power the Internet to do much of their thinking for them.

This is already happening. One of the fastest growing sectors in computing is netbooks — smaller, cheaper, less powerful portable computers with speedy connections to the Internet that focus on tasks like e-mail and browsing the net.

The wave is coming...Currently, Microsoft is tussling with free operating systems such as Linux for ownership of this market, and Google wants its own share of the pie. So what? There’s nothing particularly revolutionary about a free operating system. They have been around for longer than Microsoft have been in existence, let alone Google. And some of them are backed by huge companies such as IBM and SAP.

Yet none of those other companies is as heavily invested in cloud computing as Google. And it’s cloud computing that poses the greatest risk to Microsoft’s dominance.

Microsoft’s bread and butter has always been its desktop applications —  programs such as Word, Outlook and PowerPoint. Operating systems are like plumbing — expensive but necessary — and Microsoft have lost money on them for years. This was justified because they knew that by owning the platform they would be able earn it all back on desktop applications.

Google Docs, on the other hand, is nearly as good as Microsoft’s Office but is free and requires no hard-drive space and much less power (and therefore can run on a cheaper computer). It’s a true “cloud” application  — its platform is the Internet.

So Google have, in effect, pulled Microsoft’s own trick on them but in reverse, and for free. And given how quickly Microsoft are losing market share in the browser market (it’s now just above 50%), they have real cause for concern. If Chrome OS takes off, Google will start to hurt more than Microsoft’s pride.

That’s still a big “if” though. For all their mistakes Microsoft are still the top dog of software. Despite the current media hyperbole about Chrome OS, Windows still commands 90% of the market share in operating systems. Even if Chrome lives up to the hype, it will still take years to get a foothold. Only one thing is certain about this battle — peace talks are unlikely to begin anytime soon.

We’re in for a long slog and I don’t think anyone can accurately predict a winner. What we can be sure of is that the conflict will change software (and the Internet) forever.

– Alistair Fairweather writes for The Witness
newspaper in Kwa-Zula Natal, South Africa

Yearbook Yourself 2009


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Yearbook yourself is a free-to-use, flash-animated website that allows you to create your own, stylish high school yearbook

THE popularity of the American high school yearbook never really took off in South Africa, at least not for my generation. We were simply squashed together according to grade by an overly-enthusiastic photographer with hairy nostrils, who had the habit of always taking the picture as you blinked or were caught looking slightly to the left.

The class photos in my collection are so small that you can’t even make out your classmates’ individual quirks, such as Cindy’s pimples or the naughty glint in Jason’s eye. Some of the pre-pubescent faces in my earlier class photos are so difficult to make out that I’m not even sure if they were my friends, or if I knew them at all. I certainly wouldn’t recognise them in the streets today.

If you feel that you missed out on an opportunity to be pasted in your fellow matriculants’ yearbooks and be remembered forever, you can now do it online. With a little imagination and creativity, you could digitally create an entire yearbook of all your former classmates, whether you matriculated in the ’50s or the ’90s. Here’s a little taste of what you can create:

Yearbookyourself 2008 Gallery

My yearbook

www.yearbookyourself.com is a free-to-use, flash-animated website that allows you to do just that. The site has pre-created portrait photographs in the style and taste of each particular decade. There is even a catchy tune that plays in the background of each era. All you have to do is paste your own face (or those of your ex-classmates) into the models provided!

You also have the choice of creating a female yearbook – with the most popular women’s styles and clothing representative of each decade of white, middle-class American popular culture.

The site re-launched this year with new “Student Life” and “Student photos” sections. So it’s finally time to get stuck back in and get creative with our photographs. Yearbook yourself 2009 really is a great resource for creating birthday cards, fun posters and cool Facebook profile pictures.

That’s www.yearbookyourself.com

Related posts: PhotoFunia Photo Fun

Digital Blasphemy wallpapers

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DB: Because everyone loves a cool desktop background

Digital Blasphemy is by far one of the best places on the web to find incredible pc wallpapers. Ryan Bliss has made a career of creating digital desktop backgrounds that are simply amazing. He is also quite the generous type and offers a few of his digital artworks for free. I have collected several of these over the years and wanted to share my top 10 with anyone who appreciates such talent. You can read more about Digital Blasphemy here.

Ice Man

Ice Man

Sunset Forest

Sunset Forest

Swamped

Swamped

Neon Anenomy

Neon Anenomy

Cloud Canyon

Cloud Canyon

Solitude

Solitude

Desert Snow

Desert Snow

November Snow

November Snow

Paradise Island

Paradise Island

Antartica

Antartica

That’s www.digitalblasphemy.com

Would you get with GetMo?

GetMo South Africa — SA’s newly formed multimedia platform, is being dubbed as the country’s first all-in-one online digital entertainment service.

A nationwide live music launch tour (to promote GetMo) was held in August, and saw leading South African artists perform 34 free shows at schools, universities and venues in seven cities across the country.

According to company director, Jehan Mackay, “GetMo offers South Africa a wide range of entertainment including music, movies, mobile content and more. The service is available to both mobile and PC users, making it South Africa’s first multi-platform all-in-one digital entertainment service.”

Getmo logo

There is no doubt that the digital entertainment landscape is changing fast, as are users of mobile and PC products. What GetMo aims to accomplish, according to Mackay, is to give South African’s fast and reliable access to value-for-money digital entertainment anywhere at anytime.

In addition to music and movies, GetMo offers consumers online access to ringtones, graphics, video clips, music videos, games and more, all from the same online service, says Klaus Renkl, GetMo Country Manager for SA.

Yet how good is this service in comparison to existing ones? Although there may not be many others that are uniquely South African and offer as much, who gets to decide who SA’s top artists are? I’m a big appreciator of local content, yet truthfully GetMo just didn’t seem to offer much that excited me.

*The following is from a Q+A with the peeps behind GetMo

CONTENT & QUALITY:
The content available on getmo.com is aggregated from the major music labels, as well other major or independent entertainment content owners and game developers. GetMo claims to be able to support all content types and encourages independent filmmakers, designers, creators and the like to make their content available.

The developers aim to set the highest quality standards, especially when it comes to mobile content. According to Mackay, “we demand the highest technical complexity to ensure that each content item works on each mobile handset”.

PRICING:
Whereas most other digital entertainment services offer a pay-as-you-use model, GetMo includes a unique all-you-can-eat service, which allows customers limitless amounts of entertainment on any device they choose for a constant monthly fee.

Consumers can either look out for various GetMo Club Card options (available free of charge and bundled with other products), purchase items directly via credit card on an item-by-item basis, or purchase GetMo Club Cards which allows unlimited access to content for one or more months.

UNIQUENESS:
What is rather appealing about the GetMo product site is that it offers pre-listening sessions, previews, movie trailers, descriptions and other metadata around the items available. This really helps make informed choices and helps ensure that consumers get exactly what they want.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of GetMo is its use of peer-to-peer distribution technologies, which allows users to share files between each other legally. According to Mackay:

“Our legal P2P (peer-to-peer) technology also allows us to use the individual hard drives of PC owners to help distribute large files more effectively (known as the bittorrent principle). This advanced technology has often been misused for illegal file sharing. However, we have designed and approved a platform that enables a legal service without losing any of the benefits.”

If you have ever heard of a nifty file-sharing program called Bearshare, GetMo uses pretty much the same principle. One is able to choose what files on their PC to share across the internet and is able to download zillions of files from others. It used to be entirely illegal and several existing loopholes allow it to remain so. How GetMo manages (or will mange) to keep it all kosher is something I’m waiting to see.

GRIPES:
I’ve been in possession of a Zen Vision mp4 player for about two weeks now. It comes with an introduction CD which includes a Britney Spears music video and some idea on what the games (which are considered as “mobile”) are like, but has no software. One needs to visit their site to download the required software (i.e. the GetMo media suite), which is a 47 meg download required if one wants to share media files with others across an internet network.

To be honest I haven’t felt the urge to use my GetMo media suite or download anything off the website. I am quite keen to get a few movies though. Unfortunately all the videos available so far are cheap Bollywood productions, which is possibly due to the fact that GetMo South Africa is owned by Arvato Middle East Sales (AMES). I’m not much of a fan of Bollywood.

Otherwise if music videos, ‘mobile’ games, wallpapers and ringtones are what you want, there is quite a good collection of those. I’ve been quite content with using my Zen vision as an mp3 player, flash stick and alarm clock (no software required! It’s all a matter of copy and paste).

I’ve also tried converting my favorite shows and movies into mp4 files to see how those tickle my fancy on the tiny screen without too much success. One can download trial versions of several mp4 converters, but these either only convert the first few minutes of a video file or bomb out after a couple of weeks. The full versions of such converters go for between $25 – $30.

Does anyone know of a free, full-version mp4 converter available for download?? Otherwise I guess it’s back to illegal file-sharing!

For more information visit www.getmo.com

PS: if your in the market for an mp4 player, and have some cash to spend, go for the ipod nano – you won’t regret it!

Digital Blasphemy

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DIGITAL BLASPHEMY: Digital wallpapers to blow your socks off

IF you’re a fan of fantasy and an appreciator of digital art, then there is something you need to see. Images that allow you to immerse yourself and get lost in a fantasy place where all the worries in this world are forgotten (if only for a short while) are at your fingertips.

For those who don’t know: Over the course of the last 13 years Ryan Bliss, a self-taught 3D artist, has created the most incredible digital artwork.

His website www.digitalblasphemy.com, which began in 1997, offers original hi-res 3D-rendered desktop wallpapers, as well as links to some of the best computer art sites on the web.

Updated fairly regularly, it currently features over 650 images (including Widescreen, Dual-Monitor, and Triple-Monitor versions of some wallpapers), iPhone wallpapers, Pocket PC themes, and PSP wallpapers.

“Glowing Shrooms”

Digital Blasphemy

Glowing shrooms

Members are able to download new wallpapers once created and have unrestricted access to the entire collection of 3D wallpapers, which can be downloaded after paying a membership fee ($99 for a life-time membership).

There is also a free gallery available for non-members which hosts 20 wallpapers that can be downloaded free of charge.

To date, over 180 mobile wallpapers have also been posted inside the Members Gallery, which have been pre-formatted to fit Blackberry and other mobile handsets.

Apart from 3D wallpapers, other products available are full-sized posters, T-shirts, and digital blasphemy mouse pads.

The desktop wallpapers are designed large and look their best at the maximum comfortable resolution on any PC. They are designed to look decent at 1024 x 768 resolution but can be scaled down to suit any desktop resolution setting.

Digital Blasphemy is by far the best digital art website that I have come across on the web. Unfortunately, the steep exchange rate between the US dollar and South African Rand prevents me from signing up as member.

However, if you’re in the same pickle jar as myself, yet would still like to keep up to date with new blissful creations at Digital Blasphemy, there is a Facebook group available where all are welcome!

***Check out these top 10 Digital Blasphemy wallpapers***

Links: • Digital Blasphemy Interview with Ryan Bliss (2001)