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    September 2, 2014
    Ten Awesome Tricks Your Phone Can Do

    Smartphones are everywhere, and it seems that most people have them these days, leaving only old-timers and hold-outs like myself bucking against the current for awesome phones that do every trick in the book.  However, just because you have a smartphone, that doesn’t mean you’re using it to the fullest of its abilities.  After all, not everyone is a master with the smartphone, most people are just users.  Time to step up your game.  USA Today has a list of helpful tricks your phone can do that most people don’t know about.

    None of these are game-breakers, but the option to block calls and texts just might change some lives, particularly if you get hassled by robo-calls or other nefarious folks who tend to interrupt your sleep with trivial matters.  For the more visually-challenged set, the tip on how to make the text bigger on the phone just might spare a few headaches.  And, let’s be honest, custom vibration settings would be perfect for call-screening without having to take your phone out of your pocket and risk accidentally answering a call from someone you don’t want to talk to.

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    October 28, 2010
    How To Carve A Pumpkin

    So, you’ve got a big orange gourd, and you want to carve that pumpkin into something.  I don’t blame you; this is a great time of year for it, and you’ll still have a great-looking pumpkin come Halloween if you do it here within the next few days.  YouTuber Hickok45 has some expert advice on how to carve your pumpkin with a minimum of effort and a maximum body count:  he carves pumpkins using a semiautomatic Glock pistol!

    YouTube Preview Image

    It’s kind of a waste of ammo, but it’s really impressive nonetheless.  Kids, don’t try this at home.  Get your parents to help you, especially if they’re lifetime NRA members with incredible grouping on their shots.  This kind of work is best left to the professionals (because this looks insanely difficult, even at such close range).

    If you don’t have a gun, don’t worry.  You can always turn to your friendly neighborhood chainsaw to get your pumpkin carving done.  It’s even more impressive than the gun!

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    May 13, 2010
    Computer Monitor Kitty Beds

    I’m lucky.  I have a massive desk with lots of empty space.  At one point, it was a school desk for like a principal or administrator that we picked up at the surplus auction, so it’s both wide (about 7 feet from left to right) and deep (probably 4 feet deep).  So when it’s time for my cat to get nosy and investigate what I’m doing, she’s got plenty of room to roam around or flop down.

    Still, it’d be nice if she had a place to go where she could watch me work and not be in the way, so I’ve been thinking about picking up one of these PC Cat Beds from Etsy crafter alpinebutterfly.  It’s expensive (to me), but it’s made from low impact, high-quality materials, features a very cute paint job, and all the hazardous and/or pointy stuff from the inside of the monitor’s hard plastic casing has been removed (which is worth the cost of purchase alone, as the guts of any TV/monitor are always kind of unpleasant).

    If I knew for sure my cat would go for it, I’d turn one of my old monitors into a cat bed for her.  I think she prefers to be in the way, though!  Generally, cats love to be in the way whenever possible, because that means you can’t ignore them.

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    January 6, 2010
    Twinkling Fiber Optic Stars

    When I was in college, there wasn’t much you could do to decorate your dorm room.  A lot of people put up posters, but the really impressive decorations were things like Christmas lights and, if you really wanted to show off, glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling.  The only downfall was that the stars weren’t permanent, and if the glue gave way, you’d be picking stars up off the floor for ages.

    These days, with extreme home makeovers being all the rage, a must-have feature for any home theater is a starry sky made out of fiber optic lights.  If you want to make one yourself, but don’t have the budget for a theater makeover, then perhaps these Instructibles directions (complete with pictures) will help you replicate the effect for pennies on the dollar!

    It’s a pretty cool effect, but I’d want it to be an actual star map of my area, so that way I could look up at my bedroom ceiling and see the same lights that’d be overhead on a summer night.  Still, it’s great for a kid’s room as a nightlight replacement, isn’t it?

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    December 24, 2009
    Following Santa’s Trail via NORAD

    Want to know where Santa is right now?  Just use the official the official NORAD Santa Tracker, powered by Google Earth!  Right now Santa is over Russia, and he seems to be making good time.

    The tradition of NORAD tracking Santa Claus’s flight over the Earth dates back to 1955, according to this BBC article.  Due to a misprint in a Colorado advertisement, people phoning a Santa hotline were actually calling the Continental Air Defense Command, the predecessor to NORAD.  An official at CONAD took the calls and pretended to be Santa Claus, and the tradition took off from there!

    Tracking Santa is high tech.  You can ask questions of NORAD volunteers by emailing, check the Santa tracking Facebook page, browse the Picasa photo album, install a browser plugin to keep tabs on St. Nick, subscrube to the official NORAD Santa Twitter feed to track of his progress and give interesting facts about the stops along the way, and even get SMS updates of Santa’s progress sent to your cell phone!

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    October 13, 2009
    The Ultimate Zombie Makeup Guide

    I can tell you, right now, what the hot costume this year is going to be.  That, my friends, is the zombie.  Zombies are back, thanks to the excellent Zombieland, and zombie walks and zombie-themed everything has been all over the place lately.  So don’t get left out in the cold, get some grease paint and latex, and make yourself a zombie, too!

    There are a lot of zombie makeup guides out there, but I’m terribly partial to’s excellent How to Zombie Makeup.  It’s easy to do, has a LOT of great pictures of the process, takes things slowly, and the results are… well, you can see the results up there.  It’s pretty stellar.

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    October 8, 2009
    Printable Tech Cheat Sheets

    We live in a world increasingly in need of step-by-step directions.  Rarely are things simple, one-button accomplishments.  No, these days, everything needs a flow chart and thankfully, Popgadget passed along a great place to find those flow charts.

    No matter what you might be having difficulties with, TechPosters has a flow chart poster for it.  Can’t remember your keyboard shortcuts for FrontPage 2003?  No problem!  Need a little help navigating Apple Word 2008 or Photoshop Elements?  You got it!

    This is quite possibly one of the more useful thing I’ve ever seen, because as a power user of Word, sometimes even I forget those mouse-saving keyboard commands if I don’t use them for awhile.  When it comes to trying to learn new programs, there’s nothing quite as helpful as tricks from the professionals and a quick reference guide!

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    July 10, 2009
    Let’s Play Password!

    Passwords are an awful fact of modern life.  You need passwords for everything.  Log into Amazon?  Password.  Email?  Password.  Post to your well-loved electronics blog?  Password.  Everything and everywhere (even pizza ordering!) requires you to have a password.

    I’m about out of password ideas.  Fortunately, Macworld has some password tips, just in time to aid me in my hour of need.  For example, you can always lean on a password manager if you’re like me and can’t remember what password you made for which password slot.  This is why my next laptop is going to have one of those thumbprint identification pads on it.  I can forget passwords all day long, but odds are I won’t forget my thumbs.

    At least I hope I won’t forget my thumb!

    Image: MacWorld

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    April 13, 2009
    Protect Yourself From The Twitter Worm

    If you’re a Twitter user, I have little doubt you’ve seen the ominous warnings about the first of what will be many worms targeting the service.  The StalkDaily or Mikeyy worm is currently making the rounds on the service for the fourth day in a row.  Twitter is fighting the good fight, but the worm keeps mutating.  How do you protect yourself?  PC World has some good tips and specific instructions on removing the worm if you are infected.

    As for avoiding Mikeyy?  Most of those directions are common sense.  Don’t click on any links related to StalkDaily or retweet any suspicious messages.  Using a third party Twitter client (like TweetDeck) will help protect you.  DIsable JavaScript if you have to.  Change your passwords regularly.  You know the drill by now.  Twitter is just like anything else, and it requires the same precautions that every other web-based anything recommends.

    It’s a shame that Mike Mooney couldn’t just let us all have one thing that wasn’t constantly putting us at risk of viruses, isn’t it?

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    April 6, 2009
    Clean Up PC Noise Pollution

    One of the issues that anyone with a computer can attest to is the constant droning of the multitude of cooling fans that our machines need to keep functioning.  The more powerful your machine, the more cooling fans you need.  Given that they make individual cooling fans for video cards and processors in addition to the power fan in the back and, in some cases, an additional fan located in the side of the tower, you’re dealing with a lot of ambient noise.  That’s before you get into the clicking and whirring of drives!

    My computer has four fans in various locations and two DVD/CD drives.  It’s a constant source of background noise.  I even turn my computer on at nights to act as a white noise machine if I can’t sleep.  Some computers are as loud as a washing machine or electric toothbrush!

    Obviously, the noise doesn’t bother me.  My computer, thanks to its large case and massive side cooling grate, very rarely kicks on during normal usage.  When I’m playing a game, I wouldn’t notice the noise anyway.  However, if you want to build your own extra-quiet computer, CNet UK has a great ten-step guide, complete with pictures.  It’s pretty much fool-proof.

    If you’re just looking to reduce the noise on your current machine, CNet’s steps will help with that, too.  If you need more tips, MAKE has a bunch of great links on how to first quiet things down and then maintain the precious silence.

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