Posts Tagged ‘how-to’

A few days ago the New York Times published a small slight presentation demonstrating a very effective and efficient way to pack travel cases, based on the way some people do it who certainly travel a lot: flight attendants.




Check these instructions for how to get the better result.

Just found that on some old Lifehacker post: a smart way to prevent headphone or earphone cables from becoming entangled.

  1. With your right hand make devil horns (third and fourth fingers tucked, second and fifth extended)
  2. Use your thumb to hold the earbuds against your palm
  3. Wrap the cable around your 2nd and 5th fingers using a figure-8. This is really the key part, the cris-crossing prevents it from knotting
  4. When you have 6 to 8 inches of cable left, wrap the remaining cable around the center of the figure-8 a few times
  5. Tuck remaining cable to taste. Somtimes I tuck it through one of the figure-8 loops, sometimes through the center wrapping, sometimes not at all.

Tightness of the wrapping determines how well it holds together, but if you use a loose wrap, you can just pull on the earbuds and the whole thing comes undone without a single knot.


There are times when I want to tie something onto my roof rack or my trailer and I wish I knew a few basic knots that make me feel safe in the knowledge that my stuff won’t get blown onto the car behind me . This little little double-sided diagram that can be folded to the size of a credit card and laminated seems to be just the right solution.

[Make via Lifehacker]


It’s a bit trivial but I couldn’t help wanting to find out 😉 , especially since Australia was and still is classified as the Antipodes by Eurocentrics. Well, Sydney certainly is. If I would be able to make the rather fiery journey through the centre of the Earth, I’d come out rather drenched of the Moroccan coast, 1/3 of the way the the US. There actually is no point on the Australian mainland that would be able to escape the Atlantic Ocean on the other side; so much for the European antipodean idea. And given that 2/3 of the planet’s surface consists of water, there isn’t much land on the other side from almost anywhere, except if you live in South America. There’s some trivia … 😉

To check out which spot is diametrically opposed to any location you are interested in go to

[Via Lifehacker]

Google Reader makes it easy to export your feeds into OPML in four simple steps:


Open Google Reader and go to Settings


In Settings select Import/Export tab


Click on the link Export your subscriptions as an OPML file


Check Save File option and click OK

How to Clean a Toilet With Coke

Posted: January 6, 2009 in how-to

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Well, we know about dissolving a nail in Coke; here’s a more useful tip: cleaning you toilet with coke:

  1. Pour a can or bottle of Coke into the bowl. Pour it around the rim so it flows over the stains around the inside of the bowl.
  2. Let it sit for an hour. The carbonic, citric, and phosphoric acids in the Coke will break down stains.[1][2] For extra cleaning power, let the Coke sit in the toilet overnight.
  3. Clean the toilet with a brush (optional). If there are lots of stubborn stains, you may need to use a brush to further loosen them before going to the next step.
  4. Flush. The stains will be gone!

This process certainly reminds me of all the reasons why I don’t drink Coke!

[via Wikihow via Lifehacker]

Photography Tips and Tricks

Posted: December 24, 2008 in how-to
Tags: ,


The New York Times’s technology columnist, David Pogue, shares:


Published: December 18, 2008

1. Half-pressing the shutter button (to prefocus) eliminates shutter lag.

Everyone hates shutter lag. That’s the half-second delay between the time you press the shutter button and the time the photo is actually snapped–during which your child, pet, or action photo slips away. (Pocket cams have shutter lag; S.L.R. cameras don’t.)

Shutter lag is the time it takes the camera to calculate focus and exposure. Thing is, you can make it calculate that stuff ahead of time. Aim the camera, anticipating where the subject will be, and half-press the shutter button. When you hear the beep, you’ve locked in the exposure and focus. Keep the button half-pressed; now you’re ready. When the subject appears, push the rest of the way down. Presto: no shutter lag!

2. For the blurred-background effect, back up and zoom in.

In technical terms, what you’re looking at is a limited depth of field. That’s a geek-shutterbug term meaning, “which part of the scene, front-to-back, is in focus.” Subject yes; background, no.

That beautiful, professional effect is easy to get if you have an S.L.R.; it practically happens automatically. (Dial up a wide aperture–a low f-stop number–to accentuate the effect.)

On a pocket cam, choose Portrait mode. Move your subjects away from the background–the farther, the better. Finally, use the back-up-and-zoom-in trick. That is, stand away from your subjects–the farther, the better–and then use the camera’s zoom to “bring you” back up close. Thanks to a quirk of optics, zooming in helps create a shallow depth of field.

You may look like a weirdo, backing way up like that. But it really works.

3. Force the flash outdoors.

It might not occur to you to use the flash when you’re taking pictures of people on a bright, sunny day. It certainly wouldn’t occur to the camera.

Problem is, the camera “reads” the scene and concludes that there’s tons of sunlight. But it’s not smart enough to recognize that the face you’re photographing is in shadow. You wind up with a dark, silhouetted face.

The solution is to force the flash on–a very common photographer’s trick. The flash can provide just the right amount of fill light to brighten your subject’s face–without affecting the exposure of the background.

It eliminates the silhouette effect. Better yet, it provides very flattering front light. It softens smile lines and wrinkles, and it puts a nice twinkle in the subject’s eyes. (It also means that you can ignore the old “rule” about taking photos on a sunny day–the one that tells the photographer to “Stand with the sun behind you.”)

4. Exploit the magic hour.

Hate to break it to you, but serious photographers don’t get a lot of sleep. Show me an award-winning, breathtaking landscape–a pond shimmering in the woods, golden clouds surrounding a mountain peak–and I’ll show you someone who got up at 4:40 am to be ready with a tripod as the sun rose.

That hour after sunrise, and the hour before sunset, is known as the magic hour. The lower angle of the sun and the slightly denser atmosphere create rich, saturated tones, plus what photographers call sweet light. It’s an amazing, golden glow that makes everybody look beautiful, every building look enchanted, and every landscape look breathtaking.

It’s a far cry from the midday sun, which creates much harsher shadows and much more severe highlights. Landscape shooting is more difficult when the sun is high overhead on a bright, cloudless day.

5. Use a lampshade socket as a tripod.

Another chronic problem with pocket cams is getting blur when you don’t want it–which is just about any time you’re indoors without the flash. Yeah, yeah, we know: “Use a tripod.” But come on: for the average person on vacation or at school events, buying, hauling around, and setting up a tripod is a preposterous burden.

Often, there’s a wall, parked car, bureau, tree, pillar, door frame, or some other big, stationary object you can use instead, to prop up either the camera or your arms.

But here’s my favorite trick: It turns out that the threads at the top of just about any lamp–the place where the lampshade screws on–are precisely the same diameter as a tripod mount! In a pinch, you can whip off the lampshade, screw on the camera, and presto: You’ve got a rock-steady indoor tripod.

People might think you’re a genius, a nutcase, or a genius nutcase, but never mind. It works.

Adding to Davids tricks is Lifehacker, chipping in some tips they’ve collected over the years:

  • photo_takingExhale and pull elbows in for steady shots: Especially if you’re not rocking a vibration-control lens on a DSLR rig, this body-steadying practice can make all the difference for no-flash shots.
  • Use the Unsharp Mask/Smart Sharpen for crisper shots: Photojojo explains how to use Photoshop (and similar photo editing tools) to get finer contrast on digital camera pics. Our commenters wisely point out, however, that the Smart Sharpen tool in Photoshop CS1 and later is the way to go.
  • Deal with shooting in direct light: Because you, and your subjects, can’t always get up at the hour just after dawn, Digital Photography School explains how to work with, and around, a hard sun.
  • Get behind something to shoot more candidly: As commenter Rick pointed out (taken from Digital Photography School’s tips), it’s hard to walk around with a lens pointed and not be noticed. For more candid shots, try shooting over someone’s shoulder, or shooting through or around something that you don’t mind being in the actual photograph for a voyeuristic effect—tree branches, window frames, and the like.
  • Get a cheap, DIY lens hood or flash filter: A lens hood—like the kind you can print yourself—prevents glare, flare, and other light tricks beaming in from just around your lens edges. Similarly, a piece of white coffee filter can work wonders for diffusing your flash, giving bar shots and other low-light situations a much mellower light.

Free language courses

Posted: April 18, 2008 in how-to

This site, which I fund at looked quite interesting, offering a number of free foreign language courses. I checked its two top-ranked offerings for German.

The BBC (ranked number two) offers more or less only a tourist crash course. They do have what they call an intermediate level consisting of a list of slang words titles “Cool German” that can be read and listened to, and a section on “German for Work” with a bit of cultural information and a few phrases used to go shopping, talk to colleagues, etc.. Having not lived in the German language space for 25 years, I did learn a few new slang words in “Cool German”, but overall its a pretty mediocre offering that doesn’t even get you to a beginner level.

The MIT course (ranked as number one!) is worse. After downloading and attempting to run the course module, I found its user interface is just one step up from command line access. Worse was to follow: I couldn’t even get it working at all when following the readme file.

So, I guess, it’s back to the traditional multimdiea learning forms – cds’ videos, etc.

Something not so trivial when you really need it … as i have done in the past without this solution: Lifehacker today posted a suggestion on how to get rid of permanent marker stains on any surface (watch the video). Toothpaste with baking soda apparently can do wonders when a permanent marker runs amok in your home, according to the Public Reality Blog. Your mileage will likely vary depending on the color and type of surface you’re removing the marker from, but a quick dance with lady Google shows that the same method has worked for others as well. If baking soda toothpaste works even half as well as Liferhacker’s favorite method for removing permanent marker from a dry erase board, they and I be impressed … not that I necessarily wait with a bated breath for that to happen.

Perfect or good enough?

Posted: March 22, 2008 in how-to

20080321-chippedcup.png has a nice little article on the difference between creating the perfect result and one that is good enough. Good enough is not half-assed, as the author Dustin Wax calls it – it’s about producing a result by not spending the same time on gaining another 1-2% by polishing it as you have spent on getting to the point in the first place of wanting to polish it. Some suggestions for being realistic why successful: good planning, good self-confidence, embracing mistakes and ‘putting your best foot forward’. Nothing earth-shattering, just good reminders and therefore worthwhile quickly brushing up on them.

[via Lifehacker]