Photography is an incredibly rewarding hobby, and with the wealth of digital cameras available nowadays, is one that’s well within most people’s reach. But as any budding photographer will tell you, there’s a lot more to good photos than having a nice camera. There’s a lot of skill and technical knowledge required to really succeed at photography, some of which you can’t learn just through trial and error. That’s where ebooks and tutorials come in.
The following is a list of 20 free ebooks that are prefect for beginner or intermediate-level photographers looking to take their photography to the next level. Whether you want to shoot better family photos, learn to appreciate landscape photography or start getting down and dirty with street photography, there’s probably an ebook here for you.
Recommended Reading: 20+ Cheatsheets & Infographics For Photographers
A great book for budding photographers or for anyone who’s starting to feel restricted by shooting on auto. Kat Sloma touches on basics such as capturing light, working with aperture and shutter speed as well as some intermediate-level photo editing.
Craft & Vision 1 is jam-packed with writing and photographs that will definitely inspire you to take your photography to the next level. The articles deal with topics such as making your images more dynamic, shooting stronger portraits and refining your composition.
Craft & Vision 2 is a collection of articles aimed at helping you improve your photography. The nine articles in Craft & Vision 2 touch on topics such as shooting in manual mode, experimenting with black & white photography and learning to develop your own style.
Ten is an ebook consisting of ten techniques and ideas that photographers can look into to improve their photography. Through these techniques, David duChemin tries to show that you can indeed take better photos without the latest and most expensive camera gear.
As the title suggests, this ebook contains ten more photography techniques, ideas and exercises that try and help you improve your photography without having to spend big money on top-shelf lenses, gadgets and accessories.
This ebook explores landscape photography from a somewhat different perspective. Instead of focusing on technical and equipment-related topics, the author takes you through a journey to discover the art, craft and passion that lies behind landscape photography.
There’s more to taking great travel photographs than just bringing a camera along during your next trip. Travel photography takes a lot of planning; from making sure you have a creative vision to planning your trip, give this ebook a read before you head on your next photography trip.
If you’re at all interested in bird photography, this ebook is for you. Over the course of 50 pages, Prathap touches on 15 general topics that beginners in bird photography should be aware of. The rule of thirds, camera settings and post-processing are all touched on in this ebook.
Sports photography can produce some striking images of athletes in action, but there’s more to it than just shooting randomly at a sporting event. This guide to sports photography by Adorama lets you in on some sports photography secrets, including tips and guides for specific sports.
If you’ve ever been interested in taking photos of abandoned or rarely-seen buildings and ruins but never knew how to get started, give this ebook a read. Neil Ta guides you through the basics of urban exploration photography, from suggested equipment to planning your exploration to composing and framing your shots.
Thomas Leuthard’s Going Candid is an exhaustive introduction to the world of street photography. This ebook features a great balance between technical discussion of equipment, workflow and post processing and other concerns such as traveling and making the most out of Flickr.
This ebook has a clear and definite focus on street photography, but here the author focuses more on issues related to mentality and motivation. Topics discussed in this ebook include how to handle criticism, the importance of passion and general street photography practice.
Eric Kim’s ebook is perfect for those of you who’ve always been fascinated by street photography but have always been too shy to try it out. The book is structured as a day-by-day guide aimed at helping you overcome common beginner issues and blossom into an awesome street photographer.
David Hobby’s Lighting 101 is probably the best place to start if you’re interested in using off-camera flash in your photography. From the most basic bare essentials all the way to advanced artificial lighting techniques, this ebook has got you covered.
Proper knowledge of lighting and studio backgrounds is essential if you’re interested in studio work, and this ebook is a great place to start. Topics discussed include selecting and using light sources, triggering strobes and choosing studio backgrounds.
Taking advantage of natural light can turn a good photo into a great one, and this ebook focuses on helping you do just that. From backlight to reflected light to twilight, Anne McKinnell describes each type of lighting and shows you how to take full advantage of these different types of natural light.
As the title implies, this ebook doesn’t concern itself with matters of equipment and technique. Instead, it focuses on how to build confidence in yourself and your photography, particularly when it comes to commercial photography. Essential read for new and experienced photographers alike.
There’s no better way to commemorate family events than photography, but bad family photos can ruin what should be good memories. From your baby’s first day to his or her first birthday party to family portraits, this ebook is packed with advice on taking better family photos.
This ebook is a step-by-step guide on blending multiple exposures to create perfectly-exposed photographs. Techniques and methods discussed include auto-bracketing on camera as well as basic and advanced exposure blending techinques in Adobe Photoshop.
Victoria Bampton’s Lightroom 5 Quick Start Guide is an essential ebook for digital photographers. It’s easy to get carried away by all the options available in Adobe Lightroom, so this ebook is a good place to start if you want to familiarize yourself with Adobe Lightroom 5.
The Onion Router aka TOR is a free software and open network that allows people to improve their privacy and security on the Internet. There is nothing better than Tor when the fear of ongoing large-scale surveillance by NSA haunts those concerned about the privacy of their digital communications. Tor secretly routes your system’s Internet traffic over several places on the Internet, thus hiding the real source of the communication, and securing your personal identity.
Tor itself can’t guarantee your privacy and security if you’re not concerned enough. It’s like carrying an umbrella. You can have it with you but there’s no protection from the rain if you don’t use it correctly. In the same manner, you need to know and understand Tor’s usage tips and guidelines to keep your privacy and security in complete control.
Recommended Reading: 9 Tips To Help Safeguard Your Online Privacy
Fortunately, we have compiled a list of tips and tricks for using Tor to strictly protect your online communications. Keep on reading to learn how to better protect your digital identity and information using Tor.
1. Do use Tor
Anyone concerned about online privacy should never trust the people at the back of the Internet such as internet service providers, government agencies, web service providers, etc. Tor network is well known for providing online anonymity, and that’s the biggest reason why you should use it.
Tor can be used for any and all kind of sensitive browsing including, but not limited to, reporting abuse or corruption; serious business activities; inter-state or inter-country communications; publishing anonymous posts; sharing personal secrets with family and friends, etc.
2. Don’t use Windows
Windows is simply not the best choice of platform to use Tor in an attempt to improve one’s Internet privacy because of the security bugs and vulnerabilities present in the system may compromise your privacy, even when using Tor.
(Image source: whonix.org)
That is why you shouldn’t be browsing websites through Tor on Windows systems. You should consider running Tor-configured Linux systems such as Tails and Whonix, or you can set up Tor on any of your favorite Linux distribution.
3. Do Update your System
Tor client is simply a software which runs on top of your operating system. That means Tor is only as safe and secure as the system running the Tor client. You must regularly, or preferably daily, update Tor client, Tor-secured applications (browsers, instant messaging clients, email clients, etc.), and the operating system of your computer.
If an attacker is able to get hold of your computer’s operating system, then even running Tor can’t protect you or your digital communications. Always keep your system up-to-date for Tor usage.
4. Don’t use HTTP Websites
The Onion Router, as the name suggests, is only a traffic router and not a tool to encrypt the network traffic throughout the Internet. That means Tor anonymizes the origin of your network traffic and encrypts everything inside the Tor network, but it doesn’t encrypt your Internet traffic outside the network.
Read Also: Introduction To Bitcoins And The Tor Network
This implies that the exit nodes of the Tor network can read your Internet traffic if it’s in the form of plain unencrypted data. That is why you should always use end-to-end encryption such as SSL or TLS when doing sensitive online communications, and that requires you to use HTTPS websites.
You should also consider using add-ons such as HTTPS Everywhere to automatically switch to HTTPS-mode browsing for supported websites.
5. Do Encrypt your Data Storage
Tor does anonymize your Internet traffic’s origin location but it does nothing in securing your digital data on your computer. Security of your data on your system can only be achieved when the information is encrypted using strong cryptographic algorithms.
LUKS or TrueCrypt can be used to encrypt your data to protect you from various threats. LUKS offers a reasonably safe data protection on Linux systems while TrueCrypt also proves to be handy in protecting your data.
6. Don’t use Tor Browser Bundle
Tor Browser Bundle should not be used to protect one’s online privacy and security. FBI’s recent takedown of Freedom Hosting (an anonymous web-hosting service running as a hidden service on the Tor network) was possible due to vulnerabilities in the Tor Browser Bundle.
That is why you shouldn’t use Tor Browser Bundle for browsing websites anonymously through Tor.
Moreover, they may also store cookies and site’s data separately from the browser and operating system, which may be hard to detect and delete. By disabling these technologies in your system using Tor, you can achieve a greater level of protection.
8. Don’t use P2P
P2P is unwanted in Tor network because it is simply not built for peer-to-peer file sharing. Exit nodes of the network are set up to block file sharing traffic. You abuse Tor network if you download torrents and it slows down other users’ browsing. Moreover, using Tor with BitTorrent is not secure and is a threat to your online anonymity.
Due to the insecure design of BitTorrent clients, using Tor with them doesn’t make you anonymous because those clients send your IP address directly to the tracker and other peers, thus compromising your anonymity.
9. Do delete Cookies and site’s Local Data
Tor does route your network traffic through many relays in order to protect you from traffic analysis. It hides your real identity from the websites using network packets to prevent them from gathering information about you. But websites may use workarounds such as cookies and local data storage to track your online activities, analyze your Internet usage, and detect your real identity.
That is why, you must always drop cookies and site local data while using Tor to protect your privacy. You can also consider using add-on such as Self-Destructing Cookies to automatically delete cookies.
10. Don’t use your Real Email
You should not use your real email on websites while using Tor. Tor is used to protect online privacy and hide real identity. How can you hide your real identity if you’re giving out your real email on the websites? It’s like going to a mask party but wearing your name tag on your costume.
If you’re really privacy-conscious and don’t want to leave your mark anywhere on the Internet while using Tor, then you must consider a virtual identity which includes no matching information from your original, real-world identity.
11. Don’t use Google
You should not use Google to search the Internet if you care for your privacy. Google is known for collecting information on users’ browsing and search data to facilitate the growth of its ads revenue.
You should consider using alternatives such as Startpage and DuckDuckGo. These services offer search results without logging your IP address and storing cookies on your computer. In simple words, these search engines are anonymity-compliant services, and that is why you should use them while using Tor instead of Google.
Read Also: 9 Tips For Internet Privacy [Infographic]
Anonymity is not easy when everyone is after your privacy. Tor, in spite of many known vulnerabilities and weaknesses, is still the best tool we have to protect us from malicious people and organizations. Tor can protect your digital privacy and you can browse the Internet without revealing the real you!
Technology itself can’t simply protect you if you’re not willing to strictly follow the rules and comply with the regulations. Human error may disable your identity protection and reveal your information to the outside world. What good is the alarm and CCTV system in your home if you forget to turn it on?
You need to use Tor and duly comply with the usage rules to completely protect your online privacy. Just follow the above given Do’s and Don’ts of the Tor network for better personal security online.
Videos are an important part of marketing, and may just be one of the best ways to attract attention to your business, startup or crowdfunding initiative. But making a video that’s good enough to attract potential customers or backers is easier said than done. Coming up with an attractive video requires some level of skill, talent and expertise. If you’re just starting out, you probably don’t have the time to teach yourself, and don’t have the budget to hire professionals to do it for you. If this sounds like you, worry no more; say hello to Videolean.
Videolean is a service, currently in beta, that helps you create short promotional videos for your business without needing any video editing skills or having to record any footage yourself. Just choose a template, fill in the required information and get an eye-catching video in no time. Interested? Read on.
Recommended Reading: 19 Websites To Download Free Stock Video Intros & Footage
Getting Started with Videolean
You can use Videolean without registering or logging in, but if you want to keep track of all your videos then you’ll want to log in. You can create a new account or login using your Facebook account.
After logging in, you can start creating videos. Click on either the Start or Go To Gallery buttons. You’ll be taken to Videolean’s list of templates. You can either browse the whole list or browse by category.
Once you’ve found a template you like, just mouse over it and click on the Make your video button in the pop-up. The pop-up also has a video preview of the template, so you can see how it looks like.
Making Your Video With Videolean
Videolean’s video creation process differs depending on the type of video you want to make. But the process is fundamentally similar: you pick a template, fill in information and upload any required images, while Videolean will take care of the heavy lifting, including rendering the actual video. Here’s a quick run-through of the process with a tweet roundup template.
First, you start off with your video’s introduction. Usually, this is where you upload your company or website’s logo. In the case of this template, this is also where you include your Twitter handle.
Then, you move on to the content of your video. This differs from template to template; in this case, the content is a selection of five recent tweets that you want to show off in the video.
Once you’re satisfied with the content, you move on to the closing segment of the video; here, it’s just the intro segment repeated, to remind viewers of your logo and Twitter handle.
The final step for all templates is choosing your video’s soundtrack. Videolean lets you choose from a few different musical tracks, both electronic and instrumental. They’re perfect for adding that finishing touch to your video.
Exporting Your Video
After you select a soundtrack and press Save & Exit, you’ll be taken to what Videolean calls the Post Production Profile. This is where you can have Videolean render a low-quality preview and edit your video’s details such as title and description. This is also where you can download the full HD version for uploading onto your own website or onto YouTube. If you’ve used one of the paid templates, this is also where you pay for the template.
Videolean has a few free templates, but most of the templates are paid templates, ranging from US$15.00 to US$49.00. One good thing about Videolean’s model, though, is that you only have to pay at the end of the process. You aren’t charged for the video preview either, so you can put your video together and watch a preview before you decide whether the template is the right one for you.
All in all, Videolean is a great tool if you’re looking for a quick and easy way to create an eye-catching video for your website or blog. Startups, especially, will appreciate the multiple templates and ease of use. Sure, most of the templates are paid, but if you don’t have the ability, time or equipment to create your own videos, the pricing doesn’t look too bad.
Plenty of designers have a set pricing strategy when it comes to charging clients for their work. Many prefer to charge an hourly rate, which is specific and ensures that you won’t be undone by scope creep or other issues.
But what if you feel undervalued by your current clients, and hourly fees just aren’t cutting it anymore? Today, we’ll explore the sticky issue of properly valuing and pricing your design work, so that both you and your clients will be totally happy with every exchange.
Recommended Reading: 5 Smart Ways To Get Your Clients To Pay Your Rates
What Is Valuable?
Value is one of those things that has a different meaning for everyone. Some clients you work with will find your personal design aesthetic quite valuable and worth paying extra for, while others will value your flexibility and problem-solving skills and will pay you more for that.
Ask yourself what you value most about the work you do. This will serve as your guide in determining what type of client to go after.
A Difference Of Values
If the majority of clients you work with are primarily concerned with the functionality of your deliverables and don’t care about your other attributes as a designer, that may be a sign that you’re not hitting on a large enough pain point for them.
People value solutions to problems that really bother them. If you really care about visual aesthetics, for example, but your clients don’t, it’s time to either find new clients, or shift your priorities toward solving the problem that’s really keeping your current clients up at night.
Flat Rates Equal Higher Value
Obviously, there are pros and cons of both flat and hourly rates, and variations within different design industries. However, when you charge a flat fee, it tends to indicate a certain level of trust and confidence on your part, which is attractive to higher quality clients.
When you charge an hourly rate, it can often lead to disputes about times and other annoying “nickel and dime” minutia that can sour a relationship with a client.
Keeping Up With Yourself
An obvious problem more experienced designers still charging hourly rates tend to run into is maintaining the same value for their work as they increase their skill level, and thus their speed. When tasks start to take you significantly less time than they used to, how do you maintain your income? Do you lie and pretend you still require the same number of hours? Or is there a better solution to be had?
You could take on more clients to make up the difference, but that can be stressful and not worth the headache. You could raise your hourly price, but you can only charge so much per hour before you price yourself out of your market. Who’s going to hire a designer who charges $1000 per hour when they can find one who charges a reasonable flat fee?
$20K For A Website?
You may know you can get jobs done faster thanks to your greater experience, but your client doesn’t know that. They’re going to assume that the project will take a certain number of hours, and if they’ve never worked with you before, it’s going to be rather off-putting to see such a huge price tag.
Knowing what your work is worth in a global sense will help you give an accurate and fair quote every time.
Fishing In A Smaller Pool
The problem many designers have when deciding how to charge their clients is that they serve too many different markets. One client might own a small dental practice, and another might be a Fortune 500 company. This type of variety can be crucial to your survival during your first few years of freelancing, but it can wreak havoc on the way you value and price your own work.
Do you charge a small business the same rate you’d charge Coca-Cola or Microsoft? Of course not. It’s important to start specializing in a certain type of client as soon as possible. The more specific you can make your niche, the better.
Read Also: Handle These 9 Client Types Like A Pro
Focus On Design, Not Money
With flat rates, you have a payment expectation that’s reliable and hassle-free. Flat rate designers prefer to focus on providing the best solution for their clients, trusting that their clients value their work enough not to balk at the sum.
You may have heard the saying: “When you don’t need the money, people are eager to pay you.” Confidently charging a flat rate removes the edge of desperation and fussiness that can sometimes characterize the hourly designer.
When you perceive your work to be worth a certain amount no matter what, clients will translate that as higher value.
Everyone hates tests, scratch that, everyone hates studying for tests. When trying to justify that you had studied what was taught for the whole semester (or year), justified by that one last final examination, sometimes everything goes wrong. The mind going blank, partial recalls and tip-of-the-tongue phenomena, or freezing up at the most crucial moment are what students dread the most. If this describes you, you need all the help you can get.
We are going to go through some of the best ways to optimize your memory for academic excellence. Of course academics isn’te verything but so long as there are tests, you are probably going to need these tricks. Keep an open mind about the techniques, and who knows you might find a powerful tool to help sharpen your mind, and memory.
Recommended Reading: Getting A College Degree Or Self-Learning?
1. VARK Learning Styles
VARK learning styles is a model created by Neil Fleming. The gist of the learning theory is that we each have a preferred mode of learning, which can be capitalized to maximize our learning potential. The VARK model states that people learn best through four different styles:
- seeing (Visual)
- hearing (Aural)
- Reading and/or writing words
- touching or doing (Kinesthetic)
Check out this infographic for a visual guide.
Once you have identified your learning style, you can then adjust your study style. Note however that most people do not have only one exclusive preferred learning style; in most cases, they tend to be multimodal, their learning approach lying between two or more types – e.g. visual and aural.
How To Optimize This Style
Questionnaires have been developed to assess how you learn best, and many of these can be done online for free – you can try these two, Vark-Learn and Sports Coach UK. Once you have determined your style of learning, you can cater your note-taking in class, revisions for exams, test-taking strategies to suit your style.
For instance, if you have a visual affinity, highlighting texts or drawing figures or symbols will help you with the comprehension of the learning materials. Similarly, if you are an auditory type of learner, your learning strategies should include discussions will fellow students on topic covered during lectures (or paying more attention in class!).
Here’s a guide on how you can match your learning strategies to your VARK profile.
2. Mind Mapping / Concept Maps
Popularized by Tony Buzan in the 1970s, mind mapping is a way of transforming content into a visually appealing diagram using ideas, words and concepts linked to each other. It’s based on the notion that people learn by means of associating one idea to another.
How To Optimize This Style
Doing up a mind map is a very intuitive activity. Starting off with drawing a single topic or idea in the middle of a blank paper and expand on the subtopics with branches and sub-branches, keeping in mind to connect each of them with lines back to the centre.
When you draw the mind map with different colors representing categories or the levels of the categorizations, it is easier to differentiate and organize information into clusters. This enhances information comprehension.
(Image source: mindmapapart.com)
Draw as many images and use as many colours as possible to make it more interesting and fun. Unlike in most learning modes where the left part of your brain works overtime, the creative right portion of your brain is also applied! From goal-setting, brainstorming to revision notes, mind maps can be used in a variety of ways.
3. Flashcards (Practice Testing)
Apart from serving as your guide for presentations in tutorial classes, flashcards can be used to aid your learning, especially in memorization and the active recalling of facts. One side of the card can be used to put in a question while the other side with the answer.
It is especially effective when learning a new language – with the new word you’re learning placed on one side of the cards and the other side with the word in a familiar language. When you’re prompted with the latter, you are to produce the translation of the same word in the new language or vice versa.
How To Optimize This Style
How frequently should one be tested? Here, the principle of spaced repetition seems relevant, where one should take into account the spacing effect (where more items can be remembered better if they are studied across a longer span of time).
One strategy is to extend the review interval when these cards are recalled successfully. Specific systems that incorporate the spaced repetition approach have been developed, such as the popular Leitner system. If you rather learn on the go with your smartphone or tablet, there are also tons of apps out there to serve your flashcard needs.
4. Mental Imagery / Visualization
Research has shown that students who were asked to visualize content in science text perform better in comprehension tests than those who simply read the text. Images work better because they are more tangible than words, and thus easier to remember.
Memories of past events are stored in visual formats without conscious effort, indicating that our brain has a tendency to "learn" through images. The only problem with employing mental imagery to your learning materials is that they must first be imagery-friendly. The use of mental imagery is particularly helpful in learning vocabulary or a new language.
How To Optimize This Style
The key to visualization or mental imagery is exaggeration and elaboration. The more vivid, memorable and embroiled with emotions the image is, the easier it is to ‘peg’ and code into memory. It works even for remembering names or biological terms. There are no hard and fast rules as to how the images should appear in your mind; the key is a shift in your mindset to use your imagination. Let it run wild!
5) Keyword Mnemonic
Keyword mnemonic works when learning a foreign-language vocabulary or new terminologies. Using word association with mental imagery helps you remember words better. What you do is find similar-sounding keywords that your are familiar with and create a mental image that connects it with the new word. This helps you encode the new word into your memory.
How To Optimize This Style
A simple example will be the word ‘pain‘ which means bread or loaf in French. Imagining a loaf of bread crying out in pain knowing it is going to be toast soon, gives you a mental image linking ‘pain’ with ‘bread’. When you need to recall the new vocabulary, the image will come to mind more easily.
Check out some useful information on how you can apply this if you need some help with your French or Spanish classes.
6) Speed Reading
There’s nothing as invaluable as speed reading when you have tons to read up on. The average person reads between 125 – 250 words per minute, because most of us intuitively read out "loud" in our minds, word-by-word, which ironically slows down our text comprehension. The idea behind speed reading is to unlearn that conventional way of reading and to allow our eyes to sweep through words, sentences and paragraphs for general understanding.
How To Optimize This Style
As this video demonstrates, one trick is to say ‘aeiou’ or ‘123′ aloud as we read, so that you won’t pronounce the words in your mind. This forces your eyes to glance across the words. Another technique is to use a pen to guide your eye movements across the text. You can start off with left-to-right movement for each line of text and let your eyes move along with the pen.
Once you’re comfortable, you can then experiment with various movements such as right-to-left, zig-zagging across the page or even moving the pen down the centre. You’ll reach a point where you don’t even need a pen or your finger as a guide.
With enough practice, you can actually read at an above-average rate of 500 – 1000 words per minute!
7) Method Of Loci
Otherwise known as Memory Palace, the Journey Method or the Roman Room technique, the Method of Loci can be your best ally when it comes to presentations. It was actually an ancient memory strategy used by the Romans to give long speeches without using any notes.
It’s involves quite a bit of visualization. It uses your spatial memory to link random items that you wish to remember to a physical environment you are familiar with. As you picture yourself walking through a path across your environment, the words, ideas or anything you wish to remember begin to unfold in your mind because you have ‘pegged’ them to those familiar landmarks you come across.
How To Optimize This Style
One way to apply this method to your presentations is to make a list of keypoints for all your slides and then tag each of them to specific furniture in your house or landmarks you see along the way from your dorm to your classroom.
During your rehearsal of the presentation, imagine yourself walking through these familiar places and have the points coming out to you in sequential order, like your slides. They flow easily into your mind, as you see yourself mentally walking through the environment during the actual presentation.
It can also be applied during exam revisions that require you to recall keypoints and ideas before you can start your essays. The more creative the visualization, the more memorable it becomes.
8) Rhymes & Songs
Music helps people remember better, I believe you can still remember songs, jingles and radio ads you’ve listened to a few years back even though you haven’t heard them recently. The secret is that it additionally encodes the things you need to memorize in auditory and rhythmic format and hence brings to use your auditory and musical memory.
This technique is not only favourable to the musically-inclined, but also works for us normal folks who learned ABCs by singing along to the “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” tune. Sure, it might help if you’re more of an auditory learner (see #1 on VARK Learning Styles), but it would certainly benefit anyone who has ever learned a song from listening to it constantly.
How To Optimize This Style
Academically, it would be especially helpful when memorizing facts, figures, formulas, dates, etc. You can choose from a few nursery rhymes like Jack and Jill, Humpty-Dumpty and Mary had a Little Lamb; fit the lyrics to the details you need to cram into your head before you actually sing it aloud.
Once again, be inventive. Make the new lyrics bizarre and comical like the YouTube songs featured on this site. If you’re good at this, consider rapping and even body movements. It would be a new and deeper layer of memory encoding. When you need to retrieve the details during tests, all you need to do is to sing the song in your head and voila!
9) Acronym / Acrostic Mnemonic
Besides sing-alongs to nursery rhymes, the use of acrostic mnemonic has also been a large part of our earliest learning experiences. This concept is based on remembering the first letters of the words you want to remember. Your earliest grade school teachers may have taught you some acronyms like Roy G. Biv for the color sequence of a rainbow or HOMES, which refers to the Great Lakes in North America.
How To Optimize This Style
The simplicity of this mnemonic is its greatest strength. Acronyms are found everywhere (e.g. "VARK" in #1) because they help us frame long words into single letters for easier recollection. Each letter of the newly formulated acronym acts as a cue for the entire word, so it requires less cognitive load to remember.
Here’s how to choose between an acronym or a acrostic phrase or sentence: If the first letters of each word to be memorized doesn’t form a meaningful or pronounceable acronym (e.g. EADGBE for the strings on a guitar), use an acrostic phrase instead that makes more sense (e.g. Eat all dead gophers before Easter).
10) Chunking & Grouping
Local telephone numbers have around 7 digits in most parts of the world because a majority of people have a short-term memory of up to 9 things at any moment. However, we can bypass this by means of chunking or grouping information.
Given that we can only memorize and recall from a range of 5 to 9 (magical number seven) items, what we can do is to consolidate a long list of things to remember into five to nine chunks and then break them down even further. For example, in remember a phone number like 2398741, we can break them up into 2 or 3 portions like 239-8741 or 23-98-741 because it’s a lot simpler to recall three chunks of two to three digits than to commit seven single digits to memory.
How To Optimize This Style
The key is to organize information you need to remember into a maximum of 9 concepts. This usually means listing all the critical terms and key ideas on a piece of paper. Next, you can put in the definitions for each term before assembling them under the umbrella of five to nine concepts (typically by chapters) that are covered in the exam or test.
Then, expand each of the terms or ideas into five or more sub-branches (then to more sub-sub branches). The end product will be 9 concepts by 9 sub-branches by 9 sub-sub-branches and so forth up to the ninth level! (Kinda reminds you of the mind-map technique, doesn’t it?) This can be likened to a very efficient filing system. Want more tips to chunk and cram? Check this.
A lot of these methods can be used not only for studies but also for discussions or presentations at work. It helps you harness your memory power and lets you organize your thoughts in a more systematic manner. Know of more methods to share with our readers? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Gone are the days when having moving images on your website meant having to use GIFs or Adobe Flash. The emergence of HTML 5 and its multimedia features has allowed designers to do without Adobe Flash or heavy, slow-loading GIF animations and, instead, use the native HTML5 video player. However, HTML5 only supports a few video formats, namely OGG, WebM and MP4.
If you’re keen on using HTML5 videos on your website, the most important step is, of course, converting the video files themselves into the right format. Here are 10 free apps that will help you do just that by taking all the hassle out of the conversion process.
Recommended Reading: HTML5 Videos: 10 Things Designers Need To Know
Miro Video Converter is an open-source video conversion tool capable of converting any video format to HTML5 video formats (OGG, WebM and MP4). Miro Video Converter can also convert videos to the proper sizes and formats for a number of popular smartphones, including most iPhones and iPads as well as Samsung Galaxy devices.
Miro Video Converter works on a simple drag-and-drop basis. Miro Video Converter also supports batch conversion and resizing. Miro Video Converter is available for Mac and Windows, with Linux source code also available.
Handbrake is a free and open-source video converter that is capable of converting videos to MP4 files. While itdoesn’t support any of the other HTML5 video formats, it makes up for this by having a number of extra features such as title and chapter selection, chapter marking, subtitle support and a number of video filters such as deinterlacing and grayscale.
Handbrake features queued encoding and live video preview. The app also supports both Constant Quality and Average Bitrate video encoding. Handbrake is available for Mac, Windows and Linux.
Freemake Video Converter supports a large number of different formats, from the common video formats to the less common formats such as MTS, BIK and RM. Freemake also has support for audio and image files and can even turn these into videos as well. As far as HTML5 goes, Freemake Video Converter supports WebM, OGG and MP4.
Freemake also has presets for converting to mobile devices. Freemake comes with support for both CUDA and DXVA technologies, which will speed up video conversion if you have a compatible graphics card. Freemake Video Converter is available for Windows only.
Easy HTML5 Video is an easy-to-use file converter to convert most video types into WebM, OGG or MP4 files. Easy HTML5 Video doesn’t provide a lot of quality customization options, only letting you set the video’s resolution and quality. You can choose whether to enable some HTML5-specific features such as autoplay, controls and whether the video loops.
Easy HTML5 Video’s publish tool exports your videos to a local folder or an FTP directory of your choice. You can also insert your video directly into a HTML file using the Insert to page export setting. Easy HTML5 Video is available for both Windows and Mac.
Sothink Video Converter supports most of the popular video and audio formats, including HD formats. The app supports WebM, OGG and MP4, and will even generate HTML5 video codes for you. Sothink Video Converter also has some video editing capabilities, such as the ability to trim video files, zoom in and change the quality of both the audio and video.
Sothink Video Converter supports batch converting. It also has support for multi-threaded video conversion, which will definitely help reduce the amount of time needed to convert videos. Sothink Video Converter is only available for Windows.
Any Video Converter is a video conversion tool with a significant amount of features. It supports many different file formats, including HTML5 video formats OGG, WebM and MP4. Any Video Converter also supports exporting videos for mobile devices. Any Video Converter also comes with the ability to download and save YouTube videos in multiple formats.
In addition to its conversion features, Any Video Converter also has some video editing features. These features include the ability to merge and split video files, add subtitles and special effects. Any Video Converter is available for both Windows and Mac.
DVDVideoSoft’s Free HTML5 Video Player and Converter is a simple tool designed specifically for converting video files into HTML5-compatible video files. The tool supports all the common file formats, and exports videos in both MP4 and OGV formats. There are multiple quality presets to choose from, and the tool also lets you customize and create your own presets.
The conversion process also generates a HTML file alongside your converted videos containing code for a HTML5 video player. The player has four themes and will choose whether to play the MP4 or OGV files depending on browser. HTML5 Video Player And Converter is only available for Windows.
Gfycat is a web-based application that can convert GIF files into HTML5 videos. The major benefit of HTML5 videos over GIFs is that the former are smaller in size, plus you can pause and rewind HTML5 videos. It’s not a full-fledged video conversion solution, though; instead, it’s both a converter and a hosting service for GIFs and videos.
Gfycat automatically converts your videos into the required formats, and even has its own GIF Format Yoker (gfy) which automatically chooses formats according to the browser being used. You can construct your own video player or use Gfycat’s embed code to embed a gfy object on your page.
Online-convert.com is a website with a large number of file conversion tools, including a healthy selection of video conversion tools. Amongst the video conversion tools on the site are tools for converting videos to OGG and WebM (VP8) format. The tools have a number of options that you can tweak, such as resolution and bitrate options, as well as the ability to change the audio quality and bitrate.
The tools also let you change the framerate of your video, as well as flip and rotate the video if needed. Another useful feature is the fact that the tools can work with files that are already online as well as files that are stored on Dropbox.
Apowersoft Free Online Video Converter is another online video conversion service. It supports converting to MP4, OGG, WebM as well as other common video formats such as MKV and AVI. It can also convert videos into audio formats such as MP3, WAV and even lossless FLAC. The tool offers a few video and audio conversion settings such as resolution and audio bitrate.
Apowersoft Free Online Video Converter also has some advanced options such as the ability to make the converted video slow-motion, create clips, flip and rotate the video, as well as add your own watermark.
In previous posts, we have gone through some WordPress customization that involve code addition in
functions.php. These additions enhance the functionality of our theme.
Take our WordPress Login Page tutorial for example, we are able to redirect users from the default WordPress login page,
wp-login.php, to our new customized login page, and also redirect them to another page upon logout.
However, after a while, the list of codes that we’ve added in the
functions.php could pile up and get very messy. If you are experiencing this problem, we’ve got some tips here to help you tackle this.
Recommended Reading: Beginner’s Guide To WordPress Plugin Development
Creating Multiple Files
The first thing we can do to manage our codes is by separating a set of codes into different files. Say, we have a couple of new functions that alter the Login Page. We could store these codes in a new file rather than putting it in the
Create a new file,
custom-login.php (as an example), and put all the codes in it. Then, in function.php, refer to this file with
require_once, like so.
require_once get_template_directory() . '/inc/custom-login.php';
And that’s it. Note that this method requires you to be careful when separating the codes, otherwise you could break the site. You should also be very clear in naming the files, so that people who work on your theme – particularly, if you are working in a team – can quickly figure out the relationship between each file.
However, if you are not that familiar with PHP or are afraid of ruining the site when altering the files, try the next tip instead.
Code Snippet Plugin
Code Snippets is a plugin created by Shea Bunge. It provides a native WordPress GUI to add your code snippets, and run them on your site. In other words, instead of adding the code in
functions.php, you can do it through the WordPress back-end administration.
Once it is installed and activated, you will find a new side-menu below the Plugins.
You can create a new code snippet, just as you would create a new post and page.
Click on the Activate button to use the code in your site. So with this, we not only store the codes but can activate them to function within the site.
You can also hit the Export button to download the code in a PHP file.
One of the advantages of using Code Snippets is that instead of having to input all the codes in the
functions.php of the theme once again, the functionality of the codes will still be able to run, even if we have changed the theme.
Alright, those are the two tips that we’ve got. It is now up to you to decide on which one best fits your requirements. We hope you find these tips useful. If you know of any other methods, let us know in the comments.
The barcode is one of the most unexplored designs right after QR code, due to the misconception that the design is immutable and just plain boring to look at. Fact of the matter is, not only can their lines be twisted for creative purposes, but when it’s treated equally with other design subjects, the barcode has the capability to highlight and make the product stand out from the rest.
(Image Source: Steve Simpson)
Don’t take our word for it. Some design visionaries have gone ahead and breathed life into barcodes in ways neither you nor I can imagine. Here are 15 unique barcode designs (that work!). Get ready to be impressed and tell us your favorite one!
BBQ Sauce. Fun and charming and best of all, it works. (Image Source: Steve Simpson)
Inferno Sauce. A well-illustrated barcode draws a serious amount of attention from such limited space. (Image Source: Steve Simpson)
Snappy Flossers. Running out of ideas? Just integrate the product into the barcode design! (Image Source: Steve Simpson)
3 Cows 2 Cats. Sometimes, you don’t need to change anything, just add an amusing cat and the barcode is now an attention-grabber! (Image Source: Olga Mosina)
Cordel. Barcodes can be fun if you want them to be, although it’s better for the bottom part to be flat for higher scannability. (Image Source: Vanessa G. Ferreira, Juliane Cristelle, Rodolfo Rodrigo Oliveira Pinto, Lilianne Marcondes)
Faber Castell. And with some color, the barcode fine art is born! You would need a brilliant mind like Filipe Daniel’s to pull this off though. (Image Source: Filipe Daniel)
Boer & Brit. A majestic barcode for a noble brand? Not a problem, sir. (Image Source: Fanakalo)
Tree Root. Just something simplistic with smart execution is enough for a win with most barcodes. (Image Source: Fanakalo)
Electric Guitar. As long as the bottom part is flat, anything could be a perfect subject for a barcode design! (Image Source: Fanakalo)
Tuna. Who says you can’t express motion in barcode? (Image Source: Penélope Lira)
City. You wouldn’t think an artwork like this could be scanned like a normal barcode, but yes, it is possible. (Image Source: Christian Usher)
We’re more conscious of our health now more than ever and one of the best way to get some exercise into our lives is to take the bike out for a spin. Grab your bicycle out from the garage, go for a leisurely cycle and enjoy the wonderful things that mother nature has to offer. If you cycle often there are a few things that can make the cycling experience more pleasant and convenient, and today’s post is all about cool biking gadgets to help you do that.
Ranging from a mounted bottle opener to disco ball helmet, you’d be amazed at some of the things you can take along on your bicycle ride. Who needs a car when riding a tech-equiped bike is much more interesting?
Recommended Reading: 10 Cool Biking Gadgets For The Avid Cyclist
The Bikepod by Photojojo. Did you ever think that your bike’s handlebars could be an amazing tripod? With this awesome bikepod from Photojojo, now you can shoot videos and take pictures as you ride along. [$25 - $30]
FIXA Bike Shelf by Chrome. If you’re an avid cyclist who is looking for a good way to store your bike, then this bike shelf is just perfect. You can even put your necessities (keys, wallet) on the top shelf. [$400]
LA FLÈCHE Handlebars. This vintage bike accessory will add a touch of personality to your bike. Made with wood, aluminum, and brass, it not only looks classic but would last forever. [$140]
Bike Frame Storage by Yeongkeun Jeong. This handy attachment transforms the main triangle of the bike frame to help store your belongings. Even better, the flexibility of the band allows it to mold into the shape of your storage.
Bluetooth Bike Speaker by SleekSpeak. These speakers were made for cyclists who love music. Combine two of your favourite things into one, and listen to your tunes on the go. Just put them anywhere on your bike and then connect it to your phone using Bluetooth. [$69]
The InCog Biketool by Joshua Brassé. This bike multitool with stylish finishing is made to be hidden in the handlebar. Best of all, it’s designed to fit almost any type of handlebar. [$60]
Bike Umbrella by Uberhood. With the tagline “Be cool, Stay dry, Keep riding!”, this umbrella will do just that. It may look a little funny, but this umbrella for bicycles will shield you from rain or sun. [$59]
Foldnfix Mudguard by Full Windsor. This quick fix mudguard can be clipped on or taken off with ease. It protects the rider from dirt or raindrops. The fenders are available in black, red, blue, or yellow to fit your bicycle perfectly. [£13.49]
Quad Lock iPhone Bike Mount Kit. It’s the lightest and strongest iPhone bike mount on the market. Now, you don’t have to worry about where to put your iPhone when you’re going on your trip. Just don’t touch it on the go, keep your eyes on the road, and cycle safe! [$64]
6 PACK BIKE BAG by DONKEY. Keep your bottles silent and protected on the way home from the store with this awesome 6 pack bike bag. [€39.95]
Fuuvi Charly Bicycle Bell. Who said that bike bells should only be silver? This stylishly vivid bike bell will give you the feel of being in an old French film. [$24]
Disco Ball Bike Helmet by Natalie Walsh. With this disco ball inspired helmet, you can turn each bike ride into a super groovy event.
USB LIGHT by Bookman. Safety on the road is extremely important, especially at night. This compact bike USB light is easy to attach to the bicycle, is really bright and fits any model. [€39]
Bicycle Can Cage. This bicycle can cage will keep your beverage safe while riding, so you can quench your thirst anywhere and anytime. [$72]
Num Lock by Dong Young Seo, Ho Sun Kim & Yea Jin Kang. This is a really cool locking system where the bike itself becomes the lock. With this attachment, you can leave your ride on the street without the fear of it being stolen.
Bicycle Mounted Bottle Opener by Duo Chromoly. The Road Popper can pop the cap off your beverage anytime, even while you’re cruising on your bike. The design attaches directly to the rails on the underside of the saddle to help keep your bicycle looking crisp. [$38.58 - $42]
Bike Planters. Both bike riding and planting a garden are eco-friendly. With these awesome bike planters, you can now plant your favourite flowers on the go! [$45]
Helmet Hero Wide Camera by GoPro. GoPro Hero3 is a new flagship that houses the GoPro Hero3 (+ Black Edition). It is 20% smaller than its predecessor, and the battery life has been increased by 30%. [$399.99]
PUBLIC Bell. One more cool bike bell in this collection! This bell is available in different candy color schemes such as pink, blue, orange, and more. [$10]
Grip Rings. Here’s another fun way to make your precious bicycle more personal. These colored grip rings are available in various colors, which can be mixed and matched to create unique custom combinations. Each set has 7 rings that are secured with a locking bar-end plug. [$32]
Have you wondered why, even after doing everything “right” — having a website, circulating through all the social media channels — you’re just not getting as much notice as a designer as you feel you should be? It probably has something to do with the approach you’ve been using to market yourself and your work.
Today, we’re skewering each of the bad, ineffective ways designers try to market themselves, and looking at alternatives to try instead that have a much higher success rate.
Recommended Reading: Who Should Care More About Your Design: You Or Your Client?
What Doesn’t Work: Endless Social Media Followers
Yes, it’s true. While social media can be a great way to connect with other designers and professionals in and around your industry, it usually provides pretty dismal returns when compared with other methods of getting yourself out there. There are many popular designers with thousands following them on Twitter or Facebook, yet the majority of their business comes from elsewhere.
Sure, you may get a few clients trickling in through social media. In fact, I’d say it’s likely if you have any kind of substantial following. But if you really want your pick of the most ideal clients that are best suited to your business, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
What Works: Email (And Snail Mail) Marketing
You have to go to where your clients are. These days, there is no better place to reach potential clients than in their inbox. Creative, opt-in email marketing is an easy and effective way to promote just about any type of business, freelance design included. If you’re courting brick and mortar businesses, this tactic can even extend to snail mail.
An interesting mailer showcasing your abilities, even if you do strictly web or digital design, can catch the attention of whoever sorts the mail at the company. And if you think mail room employees don’t share interesting things with the rest of the office… um, have you ever worked in an office? Trust me, they live for that stuff.
Read Also: Email Marketing: Tips To Do It Well
What Doesn’t Work: Guest Posting About Design
Guest posting can be an effective way for you to get noticed by the design world. But, like with social media, its effect is severely limited when trying to reach actual clients — people who want to pay you for your services.
Think for a minute about who usually reads written blogs about design. That’s right: other designers. In other words, your competition. Unless your services include writing about design, doing guest post after guest post probably won’t do much for you in the client acquisition department.
What Works: Getting Seen On Prominent Design Sites & Curated Lists
Design clients, by and large, don’t spend much time reading up on the industry through blogs. They do, however, spend plenty of time looking through examples of beautiful design work. Sites like Dribbble and Behance, as well as top curated lists on Tumblr and Ffffound, draw in potential clients in huge numbers.
If your work is out there, getting seen in the best places, you have a much better chance of someone finding you and offering you work.
What Doesn’t Work: Blogging For Other Designers
If you have your own website, it normally follows these days that you have a blog as well. Blogging is one of those things that can either help or hurt you in the search for clients. It depends on the type of services you offer, and more importantly, what you choose to blog about.
If you blog mostly about new developments in the design industry, or if you offer tutorials and other tips to help your fellow designers, you won’t really be speaking to potential clients all that much. Again, these types of topics are of less use to clients as they are to other designers.
What Works: Blogging For Your Actual Clients
If you really want to capture clients’ attention through your blog, you’ll have to write about subjects that are of interest to them, not to designers like yourself. How to hire a designer, what to look out for when negotiating your first contract with a freelancer — these are the types of things potential design clients want to read about.
They also want to read about the impact of design on their own industry, which is another reason why it’s so important to have a niche to cater to.
What Doesn’t Work: Business Card Free-For-Alls
Think about this: how many business cards have you accumulated over the years? Now, ask yourself how many you’ve actually used. That’s what I thought.
99% of the time, business cards do nothing but sit at the bottom of someone’s drawer, or languish in their wallet, bag, or pocket until they’re cleared out 6 months later and dumped in the trash. You’d think that such a waste of paper would be more effective at getting people work, but alas. It’s typically just a waste, period.
What Works: Being More Selective
The business cards that do get used are those that have a real relationship attached to them. They weren’t just handed out willy-nilly to anyone who asked for one, or forced on people who didn’t care either way. It’s important to make people eager to have your contact information. People value information much more if they are the ones seeking it out.
What Do You Think?
What methods of marketing yourself have been most effective for you? Got any interesting experiences or counter-examples you’d like to share? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
One of the main problems in starting up your own business is in how to start off and then stay afloat financially. There are essentially two ways to do this: fund the business yourself or get investors to fund it for you.
Many startup entrepreneurs believe that it is wise to get investors who will take interest in your project, rather than push your own funds into it. Venture capitalist funding will lead to tax savings, and more importantly, it exerts less pressure on entrepreneurs. However, it takes a lot of effort to get someone else to trust in your business skills and bet on you with their money.
Recommended Reading: 7 Successful Entrepreneurs Who Began As Freelancers
Plans And Pressure
For an investor to part with their own hard-earned money, you have to know your plans inside out and convince them that they will get returns even when that is out of your control. If one resorts to self-funding, they are pushing their own money into a startup project, which could lead to a pressure cooker situation, diverting their focus from doing a good job with the business.
Entrepreneurs, like the rest of us, perform best when their mind is clear, so they can make business decisions clearly. Self financing might hamper optimum functioning of entrepreneurs, although there are people who thrive under pressure. Let’s look at some of the factors you have to consider before determining the best route to take when it comes to financing your new business venture.
Going with Investor Funding
For what it’s worth, it is never easy to get investors to take risk with your startup, even though sometimes it could be the only choice you have to get your business off the ground. Investors are never willing to part with their money. And they will ask a lot of questions, and investigate your claims and facts before unlocking their reserves.
However, if you have a good idea with great potential and can convince them that they should invest on you than on another business opportunity, there’s no reason why they would turn you away. It all boils down to your business pitch.
Read Also: 6 Ingredients To A Successful Pitch
Pitching the idea to a potential investor involves a long and tedious preparation process. You will need a business plan and a perfect outline on how you will eventually run your business, break even and eventually profit in order to get investor funding.
Once a startup is launched, a lot of work goes into carrying out the duties as the decision-maker. Having one less thing to worry about – finances being no less important than the other aspects of a business – will help entrepreneurs be more organized and mindful of their business responsibilities.
There is also the push from the expectations of your stakeholders, and always having to live up to those expectations. It helps power the thirst for success and for growth.
Read Also: Entrepreneurs: 5 Startup Mistakes To Avoid
Going with self-Financing
Self-financing on the other hand can make you laidback, and at times allows you to stay in a stagnant position where you expect things to happen on its own. You don’t have to answer to anyone. You are your own boss, and therefore are more likely to take it easy.
Although, you might be very eager to achieve success, it’s harder to maintain the level of motivation for a longer period of time, unless you are extremely disciplined.
That said, self financing can work for some startup entrepreneurs, if they know how to make it work for their business, and if they have strong backup plans. It also allows them more freedom to make their own choices, without having to go through or answer to their stakeholders.
Ways To Self-Finance
Self-financing can come in many different forms. If you want to embark on a family business, you can partner up with your family members, which is the usual choice to go with because if you can’t trust your family members, who can you trust?
Alternatively, you can find business partners and split the business (and the capital) a certain way that is mutually accepted by all parties. There are also options to get business loans from financial institutions or startup grants by the government.
Current funding trends
The arrival of venture capitalists and other investors in the form of banks and financial institutions have led even those with enough initial funds to seek investors. It is not just because self financing can be risky, but because investor funding can now come without any form of collateral.
All they need from the entrepreneurs is an in-depth look into the background of the fund seeker and of course, the winning business idea.
Read Also: Ultimate Guide To Crowdfunding Success
This kind of funding could be seen in offers by top business management schools, sometimes extended to undergraduates who have yet to break out into the working world. These funds are dispatched because the investors – the schools themselves – have full faith in their academic success, and they believe that with the proper motivation, these ideas can lead to great entrepreneurial success.
The best option
While the best option to go with is still to get an external party to invest in your business idea, getting an investor to say yes to your idea is about as hard as getting your busniess off the ground. The determining factor lies on the entrepreneurs themselves.
Can you find investors who share the same vision as yours? Can you convince your investors to appreciate the potential that is in your idea? Or would you prefer to have the freedom to experiment with your company direction and succeed, as well as fail, on your own dime?
As the current most-used CMS, WordPress has numerous plugins that enhances its capabilities. To name a few, there is a very popular plugin called WooCommerce that turns WordPress into a full-fledged e-commerce platform, and bbPress that allows one to run a forum on the site.
Apart from the plugins for general users, WordPress has quite a number that are aimed at developers too. If you are a developer looking to develop either a plugin or theme for WordPress, we have put together some essential and handy plugins that will help make the job much easier.
Recommended Reading: 50 Essential WordPress Plugins You Should Know
1. Debug Bar
Debug Bar adds a new menu called Debug at the admin bar. Click on the menu, and it will neatly display information like cache, total queries, total queried time, and memory usage that will be very useful in the debugging process. In addition, you may also see some PHP Warnings and Notices that occur when you enable
Some functions in WordPress have been deprecated, meaning they are no longer recommended for usage. Log Deprecated Notices is a plugin that will list all these functions as they are found in the plugin or theme and even show us alternatives.
Monster Widget is designed for WordPress theme developers. It contains all the 13 WordPress Core widgets – such as Text Widget, Category Widget, and Tag Cloud – in a single widget. It’s convenient, saves a lot of time and ensures that they are presented nicely in the theme.
If you often set a new size of image thumbnails, whether in your theme or plugin, you may find Regenerate Thumbnails useful. It allows you to regenerate all the thumbnail images in the library in the new size you want, with a single click. The process, however, may take a while depending on the amount of images – especially when you run it in a live site.
5. RTL Tester
Since there are many WordPress users out there who read and write from right-to-left (RTL), you might need to test your theme or plugin in RTL mode as well. Install RTL Tester, and a new button is added to the admin bar that enables you to switch between the right and left text direction.
This plugin adds a new column at the right side of the WordPress table that displays entry IDs. This way you can easily grab the ID for each entry including Posts, Pages, Categories, Media, Links, and Tags.
7. Theme Check
Theme Check is a must-install plugin for every WordPress theme developer. It measures the WordPress theme against the current WordPress coding standards and best practices. It also checks for required elements that need to be present in the theme such as the theme screenshot, licenses, and author information.
With User Switching, you can switch between registered users without having to repeatedly enter usernames and passwords. Once activated, you will see a new menu called Switch off in the admin bar, as you can see from the following screenshot. If you need a plugin that creates a new role with a set of new capabilities, this plugin will certainly come in handy.
This plugin allows you to reset WordPress to its initial state. It will remove the previous contents, additions, and customizations from the database. However, it does not remove the files that have been uploaded previously.
10. Beta Tester
Beta Tester lets you update to WordPress Beta, Release Candidate (RC), or Nightly version easily, which is useful to test the compatibility of your theme or plugin with the upcoming version.
11. Query Monitor
Query Monitor adds a new toolbar at the WordPress admin bar and shows query data along with a bunch of other features that have not yet been seen in other debugging plugins, and would be very helpful in the process. These include showing HTTP Requests, Transients, Redirects, Ajax Call, Hooks, and PHP Errors.
This plugin provides references for developing WordPress Admin UI. It includes references for jQuery UI Components, Forms, Helper Classes, and Dashicons, which is the new icon set used in MP6.
While Mt. Gox imploded recently, losing 750,000 Bitcoins and filing for bankruptcy, the Bitcoin ecosystem seems to have weathered the storm quite well. The price of Bitcoins recovered in the wake of the Mt. Gox fiasco, hitting a high of $701.32 per coin. It seems that reports of Bitcoin’s death have been greatly exaggerated after all. Mt. Gox may have been the largest Bitcoin exchange right before it went under, but that doesn’t mean that it was the only game in town.
The nature of the Bitcoin marketplace means that there are a lot of other exchanges out there where you can trade Bitcoins with national currencies as well as other cryptocurrencies. Some of these exchanges claim to do things differently from first-generation services such as Mt. Gox, and some, like Coinbase, have even received funding from venture capitalists. There’s no guarantee that there won’t be a repat of Mt. Gox, so tread wisely, but if you want to start buying and selling Bitcoins, here’s 10 exchanges you should take a look at.
Recommended Reading: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly Of Bitcoin Security
Kraken is a feature-rich cryptocurrency trading platform. It combines Forex trading and Bitcoin exchanges into one comprehensive service. Kraken has advanced order forms such as Stop-Loss, Trailing Stop and Take Profit, meaning that you can trade exactly how you want. To match these trading features, Kraken has big-picture security, including full reserves, extensive legal council and strong relationships with banks.
Kraken supports USD and EUR. However, trading with national currencies requires level 2 verification. There are four tiers of verification on Kraken. The amount Kraken charges for deposits and withdrawals depends on the currency. Transaction times also differ. Full lists are available in the FAQ. Kraken also supports Litecoin, Namecoin and Ripple.
Bitstamp is a Slovenian-based Bitcoin exchange, previously the second-largest exchange behind Mt. Gox. It doesn’t offer a lot of advanced buying or selling order forms. Bitstamp has an instant buy/sell order that buys and sells your coins at the lowest and highest offered price respectively, as well as a limit order that limits maximum purchase and minimum selling prices.
Bitstamp only supports USD. The site charges a nominal fee per transaction, with the size of the fee changing based on a 30 day trading history. Withdrawals are also charged a fee, ranging from 0.90 Euro if you’re part of the Single Euro Payment Area (SEPA) to a $15.00 minimum fee for those outside of the SEPA.
Bitfinex is second only to Bitstamp in terms of transaction volume, and is definitely one of the most advanced Bitcoin exchanges currently operating. You can go short or long, exchange and even trade Bitcoins with leverage, if you so desire. All Bitcoins are stored in a cold wallet and the database is backed up once a day. In addition, Bitfinex works with security company Arcui to detect and prevent intrusions.
Bitfinex only supports USD. It has a relatively complex fee structure, with different fees based on the amount of Bitcoin you’ve traded over a 30-day period. These fees start at 0.15% and can go as low as 0.1%. Withdrawals in Bitcoin and Litecoin are both free, with a $10 fee charged for international wire withdrawals.
BTC-e is one of the larger Bitcoin exchanges on the Internet, behind only Bitstamp and Bitfinex. BTC-e is shrouded in anonymity, with no clues regarding the identities of the individuals behind it and where the exchange is truly based. BTC-e is built on the MetaTrader 4 platform and intends to start publishing audited financial statements in the near future.
BTC-e supports USD, EUR and Russian Rubles. BTC-e charges a 0.2% fee for every transaction conducted on the site, although the site does mention that this fee may be different for each individual account. Aside from Bitcoin, BTC-e also trades in Litecoin, Namecoin, Peercoin and Primecoin.
Justcoin is a Bitcoin exchange from Norway. It positions itself as an easy-to-use exchange, and so doesn’t have any advanced trading or exchange features. Security-wise, Justcoin stores its bitcoins in encrypted offline wallets, which are then stored in secure bank vaults. Justcoin also provides two-factor authentication.
Justcoin supports USD, EUR and Norwegian Kroner, and charges a 0.5% trading fee for all transactions. It also supports Litecoin and Ripple, although you can’t buy these currencies directly. Instead, you’ll have to buy Bitcoins first and then exchange for either of the two currencies.
Coinbase is more than just a Bitcoin exchange; it’s a comprehensive digital wallet that can be used to store, spend, buy and accept Bitcoins. In a sense, Coinbase is trying to be the PayPal of Bitcoin, letting merchants accept Bitcoin as well as helping users buy, use and store the currency. It claims to offer bank level security and the payment industry best practices, including two-factor authentication.
Coinbase only supports USD and is only for users in the United States. It charges a flat 1% fee on all transfers to and from USD, but doesn’t charge for Bitcoin to Bitcoin transactions. Coinbase also has a mobile wallet app for Android as well as an SMS-based mobile wallet.
BTCChina is China’s leading Bitcoin exchange, both in terms of trading volumes and the amount of liquidity. BTCChina has a number of notable security features going for it, including its new Picasso service, which offers offline storage of Bitcoins. Since BTCChina focuses on a specific country, it also provides SMS verification for added security.
BTCChina only supports Chinese Yuan. The exchange charges a 0.1% trading commission fee. However, limit orders not executed immediately get a 0.1% rebate upon completion. In addition, "market-makers" that add to market liquidity are exempted from trading commission and get a 0.1% market-maker rebate.
CampBX is a United States-based Bitcoin exchange with a number of advanced trading features. Some of these features include Spend-X trades, short selling and margin trading, although the latter two are not yet active. CampBX promises 99.99% uptime and is audited daily by security auditor McAfee. CampBX also has Google TOTP two-factor authentication.
CampBX only accepts USD at the moment, but they are working on accepting EUR. Fees for both quick and advanced orders are 0.55%, with bulk discounts available. CampBX also has its own Testnet version, which lets users practice trading with easily-obtained coins akin to play money.
Cryptsy is the exchange to go to for trading between different cryptocurrencies. Cryptsy lets you trade over 60 different types of cryptocurrencies, from the more popular cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Litecoin to less-popular cryptocurrencies such as QuarkCoin, ZetaCoin and, yes, Dogecoin. As of now, Cryptsy focuses on coin-to-coin trading, but it intends to allow users to trade in USD soon.
Cryptsy also plans to expand its service offerings and establish escrow services, further establishing itself as a service for merchants looking to start accepting cryptocurrencies. Cryptsy charges a 0.2% fee on purchases and a 0.3% fee on sales.
Bter is a lot like Cryptsy in that it’s more of a large altcoin exchange rather than a place to buy and sell Bitcoins. Bter was one of the first altcoin exchanges to support Primecoin. Unlike Cryptsy, Bter also enables you to buy and sell coins using Chinese Yuan. Bter includes security provisions such as manual withdrawal confirmation and Google TOTP two-factor authentication.
Bter only supports Chinese Yuan. It also developed its own desktop cryptocurrency trading software, BterTrader. The software lets you track trading values, Moving Average indicators and market depth, all from your desktop. Bter charges a 0.2% fee for both sales and purchases.
We have previously covered some of the cool aspects of owning an Android device, for instance, apps you can use for easier app-switching, cool Android homescreens you can DIY, apps you can use to connect to a computer, Xposed modules you can use to bypass flashing, and how to block ads in apps and browsers running on Android.
Today’s topic: notification features on Android, more precisely, what you can play around with on the notification bar or Quick Settings Panel.
From managing your notifications in bulk, putting your profile picture to display on the notification bar to interacting with your apps straight from the bar, here are 10 features you can run on your Android notification bar. Think we missed anything? Let us know in the comments.
Recommended Reading: 10 Hidden Features You Can Find In Android Developer Options
1. Display 24-Hour Clock In Notification Bar
Some people might be interested in changing their default time format into a 24-hour format rather than sticking to the 12-hour format. If you love shouting out 1700 hours instead of 5 pm, then you might like to know how to switch your clock to display in the 24-hour format.
- Head to Settings > Date & time.
- Then tick on Use 24-Hour format.
2. How To Put Up profile Picture In Notification Bar
Did you know that you can put your profile picture in the quick settings panel? It is the same picture from your Google+ page so you will need to add your Google+ account to your Android.
- Head to Settings > + Add Account.
- Choose Google.
- Choose Existing or New.
Make sure your Google account is the one you used for your Google+ page and you already have a display picture uploaded there.
3. Hide WiFi Notifications
When your Wi-Fi is on, but no Wi-Fi networks are available, you will keep receiving notiications on available networks. To remove this:
- Head to Settings > WiFi.
- Press your device menu button or look for the options menu (…) then tap on it.
- Tap on Advanced.
- Untick Network Notification.
4. Manage Quick Settings Panel
From Jelly Bean you will notice that there are two types of Android notification bar, one with your usual notifications and the other with a settings shortcut also known as the Quick Settings Panel. To manage your Quick Settings Panel:
- Head to Settings > Toolbars.
- Tap on Quick Settings Panels > Tiles and Layout.
- Tap on Add to add more tiles or hold down the current tiles and drag it to the add button to remove it.
5. Change Default Notification Sound
If the default notification sound is not to your liking, you can easily change it in the settings app. Follow the steps below to change default notification sounds.
- Head to Settings > Sound.
- Tap on Default notification sound.
- Choose your preferred default notification sound.
6. Expand And Contract Notification
In Jelly Bean 4.1.2 onwards you can expand and contract (select) app notifications. This way you can see more information regarding the notifications, or you may interact with the notification without having to open the app first.
To expand the notification all you need is just to swipe downwards to expand it and swipe upwards to contract that notification.
7. Dismiss All Notifications
Android notification can be cleared easily via this button (see image) available at the top right side of your Android notification bar. Simply tap on the dimiss all notification button to clear all of your notifications immediately. (Do note that notifications that require you to open them such as email, hangouts, whatsapp, etc will re-appear after a while even after dismissal).
8. How To Look For Dismissed Notifications
If you have Android Kit Kat and you accidentally dismissed notifications, you can look for your dismissed notifications via these steps.
- Long press home screen and select Widgets.
- Choose Shortcuts > Notifications.
9. Interact From Within Notifications
If you have Android Jelly Bean 4.1.2, you can interact immediately with your apps from the notification bar. For example, if you’re using Gmail, the moment you receive an email in your notification bar, you will be able to expand it, tap on the reply button, or choose to archive that email. Note that this is limited to only a few apps.
10. Disable Notifications About Updates
Hate receiving notifications about updates? You can ask the app to not send you one. To disable notifications about updates to apps or games follow these steps.
- Go to Settings > Play Store.
- Head to Play Store settings by tapping on the navicon.
- Untick Notifications.
Do take note that this does not disable automatic updates of apps. For instructions on that, check out this post on Android tips and tricks instead.
You probably can’t live without your smartphone, or to a lesser degree, your smartphone has to be within reach at all times, but did you know that the apps and services you run on your phone track your behavior in order to give you "better search results"? If you value the privacy of your search queries, your content preferences, and pretty much what you do on your smartphone, you need to take a look at this infographic by whoishostingthis.com.
Want to know how to search smarter, without your search queries being tracked by any third party? Do you know which browsers respect your privacy more than the mainstream choices? And do you also know that there are plenty of better and safer alternatives for just about any online activity you carry out: video, chat, file storage, even social networking?
Find the answers to all these questions and tell us what you think about the current state of Internet privacy.
Credit: Megan Barnes
Having kids is one of the many life-changing experiences in a person’s life, and for many new parents, it triggers the video-taking, photo-snapping instinct in their body and lo and behold you are looking at pictures of bums, "accidents" and baby drool all over your Facebook wall. And then, you get these photographers who take awesome and creative photos of their kids that you actually wouldn’t mind to look at, over and over again.
Some of them are taken in a natural setting, others have props and scenery set up to create funny and endearing situations, but they are all very creative, inspiring and fun to look at. Here’s a look at the kind of photographs that parents should be taking more of.
Recommended Reading: 24 Absolutely Creative Family Portraits You Can Shoot
It takes lots of talent to be able to capture photos like how Elena Shumilova takes them. Her picture seem to be magical retellings of a fairy tale. She usually takes picture of her children and their pets, locking in the natural elegance (and innocence), which betrays itself the moment you lay eyes on the picutres.
For more: Visit Elena Shumilova’s 500px.
Adrian Sommeling is a skilled photographer and photo manipulator. He puts kids in creative situations which defy logic, the laws of physics and sometimes, nature itself. His photos are very vibrant and you can see the emotion shine through in the faces of his children.
For more: Visit Adrian Sommeling’s website
Just like any father, Bill Gekas enjoys taking pictures of his daughter. However, he takes a unique approach by using his daughter as a subject to recreate classic paintings, pictures and movie scenes that some of you might have come across.
For More: Visit Bill Gekas’ website
Photographer Toyokazu Nagano and father of Kanna portrays his daughter’s loud expressions by putting her in creative and fun poses. With the use of clever props, the photos are hardly average and you’re even sure if it is the father who is a talented photographer or his daughter who is an amazing model.
For More: Visit Toyokazu Nagano’s Flickr
You must have seen some of Dave Engledow’s work. A photo artist, and self-proclaimed "World’s Best Father" (we have to agree on that one), Dave puts his adorable daughter, Alice in humorous and fun situations that parents can only call "their worst nightmare".
For More: Visit Dave Engledow’s Fotoblur
Michelle is like any other mother who enjoys blogging about life with her family and children at Burgh Baby. Once in a while, she posts unique street drawings drawn with chalk with her daughter as the subject. The effect is mystical.
For More: Visit Michelle’s blog
Jason Lee became an Internet sensation when the photographs of his 2 daughters in unique situations began circulating around the Web. He puts them in physics-defying, levitating, mind-boggling situations but in all of them, the sisters are as happy as can be.
For More: Visit Jason Lee’s blog
For a kid, the home is a playground, with a bit of help from their imagination. Tim MacPherson recreates outdoor scenes adventures from every day household items like bedsheets, pails and cardboards to make waves, motorcyle wheels and a horse.
For more: Visit Tim MacPherson’s website
Editor’s note: This is a contributed post by Sara Duane-Gladden, Editor for Smartpress.com, an online printing service based in Minnesota, and a contributor to the Smarptress.com blog. She also works as a freelance copywriter and photographer in her spare time.
It takes a lot of tinkering to get your ebook designs to look just right. From the cover art to the text within the interior pages, you want everything to look perfect in the digital space. But do you also consider how your ebook will look when it is printed out? Digital books are becoming more and more mainstream, but printed publications are still the norm. Though you strive to make your digital file flawless in the virtual world, some of that effort may be lost once ink has been applied to paper.
There are distinct benefits to ensuring that your ebook translates well when it is printed. You’ll know that whatever form your ebook takes, it will look good, whether the reader is viewing the file on their ereader, a hard copy printed off the home printer or the professionally printed version created by you or your publisher.
With a versatile design that works in both forms, you can distribute your publication in more ways, raising the prospects of greater message reach and potentially more profits.
Recommended Reading: Beginner’s Guide To Book Cover Design
With a few adjustments to your ebook design, it will look great when it makes the transition from the virtual to the physical world. Though nothing is foolproof, keep the following points in mind when designing your ebook project.
Your word count isn’t as important with an ebook, but every extraneous word in your text adds up to extra pages in the printed version. Carefully review your work to make it as concise as possible. This exercise may even improve your writing. Additionally, spellcheckers are unreliable.
Read every word in the piece several times to make sure the words you’re using are the right spelling and grammatical tense.
2. Design and Layout
During the editing process when you’re moving, adding and subtracting ebook design elements to see what looks good, it can be easy to leave out something important. Mistakes are often made with consistency of fonts, colors, heading sizes, shadows and other small details that might have changed in some area, but not others.
This might be easier to miss in the digital space but when several pages of an ebook are printed out and the fonts change in size or consistency, it can be quite obvious. Double-check these points to ensure you’ve been consistent throughout.
3. Color Replication
Getting the colors on the paper to match the colors you see on the screen can be difficult. Different color model settings in the design program, digital file, professional printer and home/office printer will affect the final results.
While most graphic designers and photographers like to work in RGB, digital printers and home printers mostly use CMYK. To address this, you can convert the design to CMYK yourself, though it may take some tinkering to get the colors to look correct.
Monitor calibration may also make the colors of your design look different. Printing a test image and comparing it to what’s on your screen can give you a decent idea of how your monitor is impacting your design – and what people will see if they print your ebook at home.
4. Image Resolution
It’s recommended that you save your ebook PDF at 300 DPI. Though you can get away with lower resolutions in the digital space, every pixel is important for producing the best printed results. This is particularly true if your ebook is filled with photographs, intricate illustrations or other imagery.
When in doubt, always save your file with the highest resolution possible. You can scale it down if you need to, but there’s no way to add pixels later.
5. Limitations of Home & Office Printers
Home and office printers have big limitations. They aren’t like professional printing presses, which can accommodate papers of varied sizes. Home and office printers are often restricted to the most common types of paper on hand: Usually inkjet or laser printer paper, bright white in letter or legal sizes.
Additionally, home and office printers don’t lay down ink all the way to the edges of the paper, as there’s usually a minimum requirement of a 1/2" margin. Keep these home and office printing limitations in mind when creating your ebook design file.
6. Bleeds, Crop Marks & Cutting Tolerance
Digital designs become more complicated when you consider professional printing. Digital printers expect you to have knowledge of bleeds, crop marks and cutting tolerance when you create your design file.
- Crop marks tell the printer where to cut the pages to size.
- A bleed is printing that extends beyond the edge of the crop marks, and is cut off in the finishing process.
- Cutting tolerance is the slight variation that occurs when sheets are cut down to size.
Knowing your print provider’s cutting tolerance and having the correct bleeds and crop mark settings is essential to getting the final printed design you want. Bleed and crop mark requirements can vary depending on your printer, but many request 1/8” bleeds and quality printers have a cutting tolerance no greater than 1/16”.
7. Paper & Binding Options
When you print your ebook, how the final results look will depend on the paper and binding options you choose. Coated paper is smooth, has a satin-like finish, and is more resistant to dirt, moisture and wear. Coatings restrict how the paper absorbs the ink, which is desirable when printing sharp images. Uncoated paper is generally not as smooth and tends to be more porous, which can cause ink to spread on the paper.
As for binding options, most printers offer saddle stitch, wire coil and spiral binding, though each may have restrictions on how many pages can be bound together. Work with your printer to find the right paper and binding options.
8. Don’t work Alone
Check your work, make corrections, recheck it, and then have someone else review it. When working really closely on a project, your brain can fill in letters and words where they don’t exist. Having another pair of eyes check it over can eliminate these mistakes. Be sure to have them look at both the digital and the printed versions for best results.
9. Print It Out
As mentioned before, printing your ebook can help you see how it will look. This applies to professional printing too. Before submitting your file, print the ebook out with standard paper, cut it down, and do any expected folding, as may be required by a saddle stitched book. This will give you a good idea of how your project looks and, if needed, you can refine your design.
Once you’ve sent your ebook design file to the printer, you will also likely get a digital proof to approve. Print the digital proof and cut it down to size, too. Although this won’t show the final colors or paper, it will give you a clear sense of how it looks printed to size.
Look really close because once you’ve received a proof, you’re approaching the point of no return as far as changing the final design.
10. Get a Hard Proof
When you have your ebook professionally printed, digital proofs are great for a quick turnaround and low cost, but if you really want to ensure print quality, get a hard proof. This is especially true if the paper you’ve chosen has unique properties, such as synthetic materials, or it’s the first time printing your ebook.
You may also want a hard proof if you have very specific brand colors that need to be precise. Because the printer has to set up the press for your proof, there is often a fee for each one, but the nominal fee is worth it if you want to see what to expect.
Once you or your client is happy with how the ebook looks, the only thing left to do is get it printed. You’ve done what you can to make sure it looks good if someone prints it on a home computer and you’ve done everything within your power to ensure that you’ll be happy with what a professional printer produces. Barring any unusual glitches, the tips above should help you get the finished printed ebook you desire.
Internet browsers have come a long way since the days of Netscape Navigator, but the way we browse and manage our bookmarks hasn’t really changed much over the years. There’s nothing really wrong with the classic folder view, but what if there were a better-looking way to manage bookmarks, complete with smarter search features and support for tagging? Well, there is, and it is called Dewey.
Dewey is a Chrome application that provides a better way to manage your Chrome bookmarks. Not only does it have a great-looking minimal interface with website thumbnails, it also offers some extra features such as more robust searching, tagging and a few sorting options. If you’ve been yearning for a new take on bookmark management, Dewey might just be it.
Recommended Reading: 8 Chrome Extensions To Supercharge Your Omnibox Searches
Getting Started With Dewey
First, of course, install Dewey from the Chrome Web Store. Since Dewey is a Chrome App you’ll have to launch it from either the Chrome App Launcher or the Apps view accessible from the New Tab page. When you launch Dewey, it’ll open as a new tab in your Chrome window.
There’s no registration or extra setup required with Dewey, since all it does is access your bookmarks and present them in a different way. So, once you have Dewey installed, you’re good to go.
Dewey takes the grid layout you’re probably familiar with from Chrome’s New Tab page and applies it to your bookmarks. Dewey doesn’t show thumbnails by default, though; to turn them on, you need to go into the Settings menu ( gear icon in the top right).
Here, you can enable or disable thumbnails (Show thumbnails) and determine whether Dewey ‘sees’ Chrome’s top-level bookmarks folders Bookmarks Bar, Other Bookmarks and Mobile Bookmarks (Hide top-level folders).
That second option is particularly handy because tag support. To be more specific, Dewey automatically tags your bookmarks according to your bookmark folders. So, if you don’t want your bookmarks to be taggged with Bookmarks Bar or Mobile Bookmarks, then you’ll want to enable Hide top-level folders.
Of course, you can also add your own tags to bookmarks. Just click on the Edit button and a window will pop up allowing you to edit the bookmark’s title, URL and tags. This pop up window is also where you delete bookmarks from within Dewey.
Dewey also includes comprehensive search capabilities accessible from the search bar at the top of the Dewey bookmark view. By default, Dewey searches for your selected keyword in your bookmarks’ tags, titles and URLs.
However, you can also limit your search to tags, titles or URLs.
- Adding tag: before a keyword will limit the search to tags.
- Adding title: before a keyword will limit the search to titles.
- Adding url: before a keyword will limit the search to URLs.
Clicking on any particular tag will also filter your bookmarks to only show bookmarks with that particular tag.
Dewey lets you navigate through your bookmarks with your keyboard. Use the Tab and arrow keys to navigate the bookmarks grid, and press Enter to open the selected bookmark. In addition, you can sort your bookmarks according to date added, title and URL.
Dewey is definitely an interesting new take on the tired old bookmarks display. If you have a lot of bookmarks and wish there was an easier way to search through them, or you’re just looking for a prettier way to manage your bookmarks, Dewey is definitely something you should try out.
It’s probably safe to assume that Bitcoin is here to stay. Yes, it’s a bit volatile and yes, other cryptocurrencies are a lot easier to mine and a lot cheaper to buy, but the ever-growing number of ways to spend bitcoins – plus the fact that it’s still around after being proclaimed dead numerous times over the past few years – is a testimony of the resilience of the world’s most popular, and polarizing, cryptocurrency.
Thing is though, this doesn’t mean that you should blindly jump into Bitcoin. Aside from the high price of entry, a string of events over the past year have shown that while the Bitcoin protocol itself may be secure, the wallets and services used to store and exchange Bitcoin may not.
Here’s a quick look into the security of the bitcoin protocol itself as well as some notable instances of large-scale bitcoin theft.
Recommended Reading: 10 Things You Need To Know About Bitcoins
Encryption And the Blockchain
Bitcoin is one of many cryptocurrencies available today. Cryptocurrencies are digital currencies that implement cryptography as a central part of the protocol, in order to establish pseudonymous (or anonymous) and decentralized currencies.
Bitcoin uses SHA-256 encryption for both its Proof-of-Work (PoW) system and transaction verification. The security of the bitcoin protocol lies in one of its fundamental characteristics, the transaction blockchain.
The blockchain is basically a chain of multiple "blocks" containing transaction history. The blockchain starts with the initial block, known as the genesis block. Transactions and solved hashes add new blocks after this genesis block, creating a blockchain.
The image below shows a visualisation of the blockchain, with the genesis block in green and the longest blockchain in black:
(Image Source: Wikipedia)
Within the bitcoin protocol, the blockchain that has seen the most work put into it is considered to be the best blockchain and the one that the entire protocol refers to when verifying transactions. Bitcoins are considered spent once a transaction has been verified.
It’s possible (despite belief in the contrary) to trick the blockchain and spend the same bitcoins twice, an action known as double spending.
There are a number of ways this can be done. If a merchant doesn’t wait for transaction confirmation, bitcoins can be double spent by attacker(s) quickly sending two conflicting transactions into the network. Another way is to pre-mine one transaction into a block and then spend the same coins, before releasing the block into the blockchain.
However the amount of computing power required to succeed at this renders it less productive than just to mine bitcoins legitimately.
Bitcoins are stored in wallets, but unlike, say, a PayPal account, these "wallets" don’t actually store the bitcoins themselves. Despite a number of different implementations and formats, generally wallets will contain a public key that is used to receive bitcoins (similar to a bank account number). It also contains a private key that is used to verify that you are indeed the owner of the bitcoins you’re trying to spend.
Storing Bitcoins Offline
Wallets are usually stored digitally, either locally or online, but there are more secure ways to store bitcoins. Your bitcoin "wallets" can be printed out and stored on paper. A paper wallet is a slip of paper with both your private and public keys printed on it.
There are also hardware wallets, which store key information in offline hardware. The advantage of hardware wallets is in the fact that the key data is stored in a protected area of a microcontroller and that they are immune to software and viruses that can steal wallets stored on normal computers.
The bitcoins stored in hardware wallets can also be used directly, unlike paper wallets, which need to be keyed in or imported to software. Pi-Wallet (pictured below) is one of the few currently available hardware wallets. You can even build your own Pi-Wallet.
As mentioned earlier, the bitcoin protocol itself may be secure enough, but this does not extend to all the sites and services that deal in bitcoin. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the more notable instances of security-related issues over the past year or two.
October 2013, online Bitcoin wallet service inputs.io was hacked twice. A total of 4,100 Bitcoins, worth about $1.2 million at the time were stolen via a social engineering attack, gaining access to inputs.io’s systems hosted on Linode, a cloud-hosting provider.
By compromising a series of email accounts, beginning with an email account that the inputs.io founder had set up six years prior to the attack, the hacker managed to gain access to the site’s account on Linode and reset the site’s account password.
Mt. Gox, which used to be one of the leading Bitcoin exchange services, has filed for bankruptcy protection, having lost a staggering amount of bitcoins: $468 million worth!
Mt. Gox’s demise began in early February when it, alongside other Bitcoin exchange sites such as BTC-e, froze Bitcoin withdrawals citing heavy Distributed Denial of Service (DoS) attacks aimed at taking advantage of bitcoin’s transaction malleability.
Simply put, transaction malleability means that it’s possible for valid transactions to be modified so that the transactions appear to not have gone through, when in reality it was succesful.
(Image Source: Businessweek)
However, transaction malleability is not a new issue. Neither is it one that is impossible to solve, as Bitcoin developer Greg Maxwell has pointed out.
In fact, other Bitcoin exchanges such as Bitstamp and BTC-E are still operational, having resolved the issues on their side and resumed processing transactions within days after initially freezing transactions. Most damning of all, though, is the aforementioned lost bitcoins and poor security and accounting in Mt Gox, as detailed in a leaked series of slides. There might have been more going on behind the scenes than just issues with transaction malleability.
Silk Road 2.0
In February this year, $2.7 million worth of bitcoins were stolen from Silk Road 2.0‘s escrow account. This heist occured at roughly the same time as the aforementioned DoS attacks on bitcoin exchanges such as Mt. Gox, and exploited the same transaction malleability in the bitcoin protocol.
However, unlike the bitcoin exchanges, which shut themselves down as a precautionary measure, Silk Road 2.0 did not shut itself down and was attacked during a re-launch phase when all bitcoins were stored in hot storage.
However, some users, such as those on Reddit’s DarkNetMarkets, believe that the hacking story was a cover-up – and that Silk Road 2.0 was a scam from the start.
The idea is that the new Dread Pirate Roberts set up the site expressly to steal users’ bitcoins, leveraging on the trust present in the Silk Road name. The illicit nature of the goods bought and sold on Silk Road 2.0 would help such an endeavour, since it would make victims think twice about seeking aid from law enforcement.
Over the course of 5 months (Sept 2013 – Jan 2014), criminals used a botnet known as Pony to infect a large number of computers, stealing up to $220,000 worth of bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies. Pony was the same botnet that was found to have stolen more than two million passwords and stored them on a server owned by the hackers.
Pony infected computers and stole bitcoin wallets stored locally on the infected machines., effectively showing the dangers of storing bitcoin wallets on Internet-connected devices.
This isn’t a security breach per se, but it is one of the bitcoin network’s most dangerous weaknesses. When an individual or a group of individuals owns more than 50% of the computing power within the bitcoin network, the network is opened up to the possibility of a 51% attack – the advantage in computing power can be used to fork the main transaction blockchain and commit fraud, including the double spending discussed earlier.
While this may seem far-fetched, the bitcoin network was nearly exposed to such an attack earlier this year. In January, panic spread when Ghash.io, a mining pool, began approaching that 50% limit. The situation was resolved without incident, due to miners leaving Ghash.io for smaller pools, as well as the pool’s own decision to stop accepting new miners.
While the reaction shows that the bitcoin network can self-regulate, having to rely on miners and pool owners doing the right thing is problematic, to say the least. The distribution of mining power has become less concentrated, but the possibility remains that a 51% attack can still happen.
(Image Source: Blockchain.info)
It’s hard to deny that there are indeed security issues with bitcoin. However, a recurring theme is the fact that these security breaches and issues have less to do with the protocol itself, and a lot more to do with the people and services handling and storing these bitcoins.
For instance, the inputs.io bitcoin heist and the Pony botnet took advantage of wallets stored online and on Internet-connected computers. Simply storing Bitcoins in an offline savings wallet, such as a paper or hardware wallet, should eliminate the risk of having bitcoin wallets stolen over the Internet. While some of the money lost in the Mt. Gox fiasco was indeed from offline wallets, there is conjecture that this was a direct result of how Mt. Gox implemented an automated system which pulled from offline wallets when needed.
The dangers of once-trusted sites and exchanges such as Mt. Gox and Silk Road 2.0 either being hacked or imploding and going offline are not so easily dismissed, though. The lack of a central authority that regulates bitcoin can be seen as a strength, but it’s also a weakness. For one, it may be a lot more difficult to hold individuals or companies accountable through legal channels.
More importantly, though, the unregulated bitcoin ecosystem means that there’s no way to ensure that services and exchanges comply to standards of trustworthiness and security. We trust banks because we know that they’re heavily regulated and can’t be established on a whim. This plainly hasn’t been the case with bitcoin exchanges.
Interestingly enough, the fallout from Mt. Gox may just be good for bitcoin. In a joint statement issued by 5 leading bitcoin exchanges, the need for appropriate and independently audited safety measures for custodians, alongside more transparency and accountability, is brought up.
It’s conceivable that such measures are exactly what bitcoin needs if it wants to survive recent events and reestablish its credibility and security. Ironically however, these forms of regulation and auditing may end up going against the original spirit of bitcoin. How this paradox will resolve itself, though, remains to be seen.
We have been covering this series for almost two years now. But it seems that the resources for developers and designers are infinite; every month, there will always be a new list, and we’re going to keep this coming as long as developers keep making really awesome resources to share with web users.
This round, we’ve put together a number of tools that are not only useful but also great time savers, such as a tool that helps you in synchronized browser testing, one to grab screenshots off multiple screen sizes, and a color scheme collection of top brands in CSS, SCSS, and LESS format. Let’s check them out.
Recommended Reading: More Fresh Resources For Developers & Designer
Sachen is a collection of Sass and Compass extensions. You can find responsive frameworks, font icons, common design patterns, as well as Mixin libraries. If you build websites with Sass and Compass, save Sanchen in Bookmark for your reference later.
LaunchRocket is an OS X Preference Pane to manage services that has been installed through Homebrew. Homebrew is an OS X utility that allows you to install tools, packages, or services like PHP, Nginx, and MySQL in OS X. With LaunchRocket, you can turn them on or off through OS X System Preference instead of using Terminal.
Building a responsive website means that you have to test the website on multiple browsers; both on desktop, and mobile browsers. BrowserSync is a tool that allows you to sync website testing on multiple browsers. So changes as well as actions that occur (scroll, click, and refresh) will automatically be reflected in all the browsers.
Pageres is a Terminal command line that allows you to grab web screenshots in multiple sizes at once. It is perfect fit for testing responsive websites. Or, if you are like me who frequently cover about web tools, Pageres could be a very handy tool to accommodate your job.
WPGear is a collections of tools and resources for WordPress plugin and theme developers. You can find a number of debugging tools, plugins, frameworks, boilerplates for starting off your WordPress-base projects.
Are you a designer looking for patterns? Visit the Pattern Library. You can find a collections of beautiful and striking patterns that are designed by several designers.
BrandColors is a collections of color schemes used by top brands in tech industry like Facebook, Twitter, Adobe, eBay, Stripe, SaleForce, RedHat, and many more. You can download the colors in CSS, SCSS, and LESS format.