Blog Archives

Librophile Makes Quick Work of Finding Free Audio and Ebooks [Books]

There are loads of free audio and ebooks available online for the taking, but tracking them down across their many sources can be tough. Web-based search tool Librophile makes the job a lot easier. More »

GoPetFriendly Finds Pet-Friendly Hotels, Campgrounds, and Much More [Travel]

We love traveling with our pets, but we don’t like gambling on whether the hotel where we want to stay allows animals. Web site GoPetFriendly helps figure out where to rest your head without leaving Rover behind. More »

Buy the Right Fire Extinguisher by Knowing the Codes [Safety]

Every home should have at least one fire extinguisher, but there are many kinds with different purposes. Home improvement blog This Old House deciphers what label codes mean, so you can buy the right kind for each room. More »

What’s the Best Way to (and Why Should I) Create a Home Inventory? [Ask Lifehacker]

Dear Lifehacker,
In light of all the natural disasters wreaking havoc across the globe, I’ve realized I should take a home inventory to document everything I own for insurance purposes. What’s the best way to do this?

Happy Homeowner

Hi Happy,
You’re smart to want to document your possessions in case of burglary, damage, or fire. The short answer to your question: The best tool for the job is the one you’ll actually use.

Taking a home inventory isn’t really hard, it’s just time consuming. It’s also extremely important; a good inventory will speed up the insurance claims process and ensure your insurance takes care of everything you lost. (You do, of course, need the insurance.)

Many tools can guide you through taking your inventory and storing it (we’ll list some below), but the basics are pretty simple. You’ll want to take pictures of all your stuff. (It’s also a good idea to snap pictures of serial numbers of your gadgetry.) If you’ve got a video camera, you can simply walk through your home and film every room for a good and simple start.

It’s also very important that you store your inventory outside your home in some form. You could store it at your office or somewhere else outside of your home. If it’s digital, upload it to a server somewhere. Videos can go to YouTube or Vimeo (marked as private), images can be uploaded to Flickr, synced with Dropbox, or emailed to yourself. Of course, that’s sort of the minimum.

We’ve covered a lot of home inventory software, tips, and ideas at Lifehacker, so let’s take a look at some of your options for managing your inventory.

  • Know Your Stuff Inventories Your Home – This free Windows/Mac download from the Insurance Information Institute not only keeps a database of all your stuff, it also lets you export the file for offsite storage.
  • Inventory Your Home or Office with StuffSafe – A free web site that stores pictures, descriptions, and other vital information about the stuff you own. It’s web-based, so you don’t have to worry about losing your inventory if something happens to your home.
  • Photo Inventory Your Stuff – At the very minimum, free online photo storage sites like Flickr make great safehouses for photo documentation of your belongings. Just take some pics and make a “home inventory” set; it’s better than nothing.
  • Declutter Your Home with a Detailed Inventory – A nice side benefit of a thorough home inventory is that you can declutter and get rid of things you don’t need along the way.
  • ManageMyHome – Reader wjglenn recommends checking out for tracking home inventory and managing home projects.

Readers, we’d love to know how you manage the monumental task of documenting your possessions. Share your ideas in the comments.


Thanks, Lauren!

Push Doctor Fixes Push Notification Issues on Unlocked iPhones [Downloads]

iPhone only: Those of us with unlocked iPhones don’t always have the best luck with push notifications. Push Doctor is a new solution that provides the genuine activation certificates your phone needs for push to work properly.

To get this solution, you’ll need to add its source:

…to Cydia. Then do a search for Push Doctor to locate the package, install, and confirm. From weblog Addictive Tips:

Once the package is installed, you’re done. It won’t show up as any app on your springboard or under the Settings app. What this package does is simply adding the valid, unique certificates for your hacktivated iPhone. Try any application with push notification support to ensure working of the package.

You can use Push Doctor on any unlocked iPhone running firmware 3.1.3 or 3.1.2.

What the Numbers on Your Credit Card Mean [The More You Know]

The string of numbers on you credit card houses a batch of information. For instance, the first number tells you what kind of card it is—4 for Visa, 5 for MasterCard, and so on. Visa cards are always 16 digits long and have other identifying characteristics:

When looking at the balance of the numbers, the 2nd through 6th digits are the bank number, and the 7th-15th numbers are your account number. The remaining digit is known as the “check digit,” which is used to help determine whether or not the overall number is legitimate.

[Five Cent Nickel]

Unofficial Better Gmail for Chrome Bends Gmail to Your Will [Downloads]

Chrome: We love Gina’s Better Gmail Firefox extension, a bundle of user scripts that improves the Gmail experience. Now that Google’s beefed up support for Chrome extensions, reader Dimitar Gruev has taken a shot at bringing an unofficial Better Gmail to Chrome.

Almost a year ago our own How-To Geek put together a version of Better Gmail for Chrome, but that was way back when Chrome didn’t even have extensions (his were all bundled into a single user script). This new Chrome extension is an unofficial Better Gmail for Chrome that was inspired by Gina’s Firefox extension and our earlier Better Gmail for Chrome bag o’scripts.

Once installed, access Better Gmail's options by clicking the wrench -> Extensions -> Better Gmail Options. Tick the boxes of the features you want activated and you're good to go. You can choose to hide little used fields like "Invite Friends," remove ads, show the number of unread emails in the favicon, and more.

Gruev says future versions of Better Gmail will hide spam count, move to next message on delete or archive, and include support for POP3 email. A big round of applause goes to Gruev for putting this together. What kinds of features do you hope for in future versions of Better Gmail? Share your ideas in the comments.

Better Gmail for Chrome [Chrome Extensions Gallery]

Make Sure You’re Not De-Motivating Your Team [Career]

It should come as no surprise that money is a pretty powerful motivator for workers, but an article by researchers at Harvard Business School says it takes more than cash to keep employees happy and productive.

Photo by crschmidt.

The article suggests that managers spend too much time trying to figure out how to motivate employees—something most workers are perfectly capable of doing themselves. Instead, team leaders need to get out of the way and stop de-motivating employees with mindless policies and poor management strategies.

The authors say people have three main goals at work: 1) to be treated with respect and equity, 2) to take pride in a job well done, and 3) to have good relationships with fellow employees. If even one of these factors are missing, workers are three times as likely to be unhappy at work. Surprisingly, not even a better paycheck will make up for the loss of one of the three biggest motivators.

Inane company policies and procedures often do the most damage to employee motivation, and there’s often little middle managers can do about it:

Satisfying the three goals depends both on organizational policies and on the everyday practices of individual managers. If the company has a solid approach to talent management, a bad manager can undermine it in his unit. On the flip side, smart and empathetic managers can overcome a great deal of corporate mismanagement while creating enthusiasm and commitment within their units. While individual managers can’t control all leadership decisions, they can still have a profound influence on employee motivation.

The most important thing is to provide employees with a sense of security, one in which they do not fear that their jobs will be in jeopardy if their performance is not perfect and one in which layoffs are considered an extreme last resort, not just another option for dealing with hard times.

Check out the article for a list of ways managers can help workers achieve their goals, feel a sense of pride in their work, and build camaraderie with fellow workers. What keeps you motivated at work? Is it the companionship of your colleagues; cold, hard cash; or something else? Share what revs your motivational motor in the comments.

Sweet Home 3D Models Your Home, Rearranges Your Furniture Without Breaking a Sweat [Downloads]

Windows/Mac/Linux: Next time you get the urge to rearrange your furniture, don’t strain your back randomly shoving your sofa around the room. Download Sweet Home 3D and do the heavy lifting on your computer screen before moving a stick of furniture.

This slick free interior design app recreates the dimensions of a room, and displays the furniture you add in 3D. Drag and drop tables, chairs, and plants around the room until you find an arrangement you like. Drop in windows, doors, and even change the color of the walls to replicate your room as closely as possible.

If you happen to have a blueprint available of the room you're redecorating, Sweet Home 3D will accept an import of the file in BMP, JPEG, GIF or PNG formats. Sorting through the furniture is easy—it's arranged in a tree view, just select the room you're decorating and drag what you like onto the 2D room grid. The app displays a 3D representation in real-time in a pane directly underneath. Check out an overhead view, or walk through the room as a virtual visitor for another perspective.

If you want to try out Sweet Home 3D before you download, there’s an online version you can try out for free. Register to save any plans you create, or play with the app without signing up. Check out the video below to see Sweet Home 3D in action.

Re-Create a Fancy Steakhouse Dinner at Home On the Cheap [Dining]

While it’s true that sometimes nothing beats the atmosphere and personal attention of dinner at a fine restaurant, it can also set you back $100 or more. Try re-creating the experience at home for less than half that amount.

Family advice blogger Amy Clark had to give up dining out after a decrease in income and the birth of her two children. Now she and her husband indulge themselves in a great steak dinner by hauling out the fine china, pouring wine into fancy stemware, and cooking up some prime cuts of beef right in their own kitchen.

Clark did some digging and put together a great menu (complete with instructions) of marinated, grilled steak, roasted red potatoes, and pan-friend asparagus that rivals just about any steak joint out there. If you're not into grilling outdoors in the middle of a blizzard, she's got you covered there, too—just use a heavy, cast iron grill pan right on the stove top.

The toughest part of getting your steak cooked to perfection is knowing how long to grill it. The ideal length of time depends on what cut of meat you start with and how rare you want it, but Clark offers a general timetable to get you started:

Filet: 13-18 minutes

Ribeye, Boneless: 6-8 minutes

Ribeye, Bone-In: 9-12 minutes

T-Bone /Porterhouse: 14-16 minutes

Top Sirloin: 13-16 minutes

Strip, Boneless: 10-12 minutes

You can also determine the doneness of a steak by how it feels when you press on it. Check out the post to grab recipes for Clark’s potato and asparagus side dishes. Add a salad and a good bottle of wine, and you’re all set.

To cut even more corners while still enjoying a tasty dinner, be sure to check our previous tip for making a $5 steak taste more like a $50 steak.

How do you re-create your favorite aspect of dining out when you’re actually staying in? Fresh flowers on the table? Special music? Appetizers? Shoot us your ideas in the comments.

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