The Internet Is Saving Me a Fortune in Appliance Repairs

Fixing the dishwasher

I often tend to think of the Internet as a time and money suck. I don’t even do the Facebook thing, but far too much of my day seems to involve being online. And too much of that time is taking advantage of the one-click, delivery-to-the-door shopping experience. It’s just way too easy to buy another hard drive, a better keyboard or — while we’re at it — a new computer, thanks to Amazon and others. However, much as the Internet has drained my time and resources, it also gives back. For example, I’ve saved a small fortune in appliance repairs. Continue reading

When the World Ends, You’ll Need The Knowledge

The Knowledge

I’m not a sky-is-falling kind of guy. I don’t have a bunker behind my house and a decade’s worth of food stocked away for my family (although I do sometimes think about it). Every generation has had its concerns about the world ending, but I’m one of those optimists that hopes we’ll be able to solve our problems — water shortages, global warming, pandemics — and not be despised by our great-great-grandkids.

But who really knows? Asteroids are flying around our universe with sufficient mass and speed. New and scarier viruses seem to pop up every few years. So many countries seem to want their own nuclear bombs these days. Experts seem to think a major financial collapse lurks around the corner. Just how prepared are we if the world we know it stopped functioning normally for an extended period of time? How long would we last without the modern conveniences of electricity, medicine, clothing, food, and clean water? Continue reading

Tired of Cheap iPhone Holsters? Blacksmith-Labs Has Some Solutions

Blacksmith-Labs iPhone Bruno holster

I’ve had a few weeks to try out the Blacksmith-Labs iPhone holsters, and I may have found my new iPhone case. I’ve wanted a holster for a while now: I’m tired of my phone jangling around from pocket to pocket, so that I never know which one to look in. The Horween Signature holsters solve that problem, although not as perfectly as I would have liked. Continue reading

6 Things MIT’s Media Lab Knows – So You Should, Too

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 1.25.34 PM

MIT’s Media Lab in Cambridge is a powerhouse of innovation and is home to the origin stories for Lego Mindstorms, Guitar Hero, the XO One Laptop, the Kindle’s E Ink and many others. Housing a collection of self-described misfits and drop-outs, this eclectic band of designers, programmers, engineers, scientists, artists, and researchers remain on the forefront of new technology. Continue reading

One Rock, Two Birds — The TP-LINK WiFi Range Extender With HomePlug

HomePlug - WiFi Range Extender

I have a basement that is not wired for Ethernet, and I’m no mood to run any more cable. The WiFi signal strength down there has never been good, and I’ve had no luck with range extenders. My sons like to play video games and watch Netflix (on the Smart TV) down there, and I frequently join them and bring along my MacBook Air (with no Ethernet port) to do some writing. For my boys, I had previously installed an older TP-Link HomePlug system that worked great… but my laptop wasn’t able to take advantage of the connection. Fortunately, TP-Link has a new solution. Continue reading

10 Reasons the History of Science Matters

Camille Flammarion, L'Atmosphere, Meteorologie Populaire, Paris 1888  (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Studying the history of science allows you to have a glimpse into both the history of the world and into just how we discovered everything we know about the world. Those moments of discovery may seem anti-climactic to us now, but imagine not having discovered them at all. Imagine living without that knowledge. Continue reading

Yuri’s Night Is a Time to Celebrate and Reflect on Why We Must Go Into Space

Yuri's Night 2014

Fifty-three years ago today, Yuri Gagarin pierced the veil of Earth’s fragile atmosphere in his Vostok 1 space capsule, becoming the first human being to enter “outer space.” His trip was barely even dipping the tip of a toe into the ocean, but what he began should always be remembered in the annals of human history. In 2001 George and Loretta Whitesides (nee Hidalgo) threw a party to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Yuri’s flight. That party has grown into a yearly event, with over 300 parties around the world being held today and this weekend. Continue reading

An Update on the MacGyvered Treadmill Desk

A home-made treadmill desk

About a year and a half ago, I decided to take the treadmill in my office and make use of some extra Ikea wooden shelving I had lying around, along with judicious applications of Velcro to MacGyver a treadmill desk. It actually worked pretty well, but fell by the wayside when something shiny distracted me and I moved on to the next project. However, a growing pile of articles about the health hazards of sitting all day, combined with a back injury (likely from sitting all day — despite having an excellent, ergonomic chair) drive me to revisit my jury-rigged treadmill desk. I have to say, the results have been encouraging. Continue reading

Acer C720P Chromebook Review: Worth Paying a Premium For

Acer C720P Chromebook in Moonstone White

Chromebooks have become a thing of late — they’re about the only segment of the computer industry that’s seeing growth these days — and it’s easy to see why. Attraction number one is that they’re cheap without having to deal with the tiny display of a netbook or the hassle of using a Bluetooth keyboard with a tablet. But cheap means compromises and I haven’t been a big Chromebook fan. I think they could make a good choice for a student, a second home PC and some business applications, but the inability to run desktop software plus some hardware choices (in the name of keeping costs down) have left me feeling pretty “meh” about using them. However, I just wrapped up a week with an Acer C720P Chromebook and I think these devices are finally starting to gel. Continue reading

Second Chance: Austin Grossman’s YOU — Paperback Edition

YOU Hardback

On April 8, 2014, Austin Grossman’s novel, YOU, will be released in paperback. I’m very excited about this news because I’m such a fan of the book, and now many more readers will be able to enjoy Grossman’s fictional account of Black Arts Games and its Realms of Gold computer game series (with major nods to Ultima and other famous 90s titles). For anyone who grew up in the 80s and 90s when computers and computer games were making some incredible strides in music, graphics, and storytelling, the book is likely to fire up some fun memories of a dozen or more games that you likely played or encountered. It’s a fictional tale, yes, but the games and characters in the story could easily have been as real as Zork or Rogue or Ultima and the game designers behind those famous titles. Continue reading

Help for Crowdfunding Addicts

Kickstarter profile

Do you spend money on things and then forget that you’ve purchased them until they arrive on your doorstep? Do you frequently pester your family, friends, and even total strangers to patronize the arts? Does your heart beat a little faster at the mention of unfinished prototypes?

If you answered “yes” to these questions, you may be suffering from turbafiscitis. Fortunately, there’s a solution! Continue reading

Turning Off The Conair CD108 Infiniti Curling Iron Via Email

Problem - Solution

My wife sometimes leaves things plugged in and turned on. Dangerous things. Like her curling iron. It’s not unheard-of for her to be a couple miles down the road, heading out to run some errands with the boys in the back seat all buckled in. “Did I leave the curling iron on?” she wonders. This problem called for a drastic solution. A solution that would justify four years of engineering school. A problem that so many of us geek spouses wait 20, 30, or even 40 years of marriage to encounter… and then take down with extreme prejudice. Continue reading

How to Bring Deadly Poison into the Classroom

Design: Rick Pinchera, Copyright WGBH 2014

Much as I’ve been writing here about other people, I also make stuff for kids so I’m sharing one of those projects today. I just produced a digital graphic novel, Tales from the Poisoner’s Handbook. It’s an adaptation of Deborah Blum’s book about poison that WGBH recently turned into an American Experience film. In other words, it’s a comic of the film of the book, and this version is designed to engage teenagers in forensic chemistry. Continue reading