Blog Archives

Apple Finally Approved a Native Google Voice iPhone App (Again!) [IPhone Apps]

Ever since GV Mobile was pulled from the App Store, we’ve been hoping for its return. And while Apple has not approved that particular third-party app again, they did approve GV Connect. It’s three bucks, available now, and looks great. More »







Fring iPhone App Supports Video Calls Over 3G to Any Fring or Skype User [Videochat]

I just had a videochat over 3G and it was the most amazing thing I’ve experienced all day. There was some lag, voice quality wasn’t perfect, and video was sometimes jittery. But I loved every minute of it. More »









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From the Tips Box: Cable Organization, Cheap DIY Materials, and Gigantic Clocks [From The Tips Box]

Lifehacker readers show us how to organize occasionally used cables with coat hangers, where to find cheap materials for DIY projects, and how to repurpose old monitors into gigantic, easy to read clocks.

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Keep Rarely Used Cables Organized with a Coat Hanger

Christopher sent us a picture showing how he organizes his unused cables along with this note:

I came up with a way to organize any cables you don’t use on a daily basis but want easy/organized access to when you do need them. All that is required is one metal/cardboard coat hanger!

Looks like all you need is a coat hanger and some tape or cable ties to keep everything neat. Our only concern is whether some of the cables with heavy adapters would get damaged from hanging like that.

Get Cheap DIY Project Materials at Non-Profit Shops

Photo by brewbooks

Justin chimed in to point out that there are cheap ways to get materials for projects:

I just started getting back into DIY projects and was rekindling my love for building stuff. I noticed that while almost every project on sites like Instructables would save you a ton of money versus buying something already assembled, some projects still seemed a little too expensive too justify. However, I took a trip to my neighborhood Goodwill store and I found tons and tons of materials (looking at things from an engineers point of view) that can be used for different projects. You can test electronics right in the store to make sure that they work and haggling will usually work, but bear in mind that it is a charitable organization and prices are already about $1-$10 for most things in the store.

It’s so easy to overlook some of the places to get cheap materials. Where do you go before starting a new DIY project? Garage sales? Second hand shops? Regular home improvement stores? Do you take advantage of places like the Goodwill Outlet stores which sell things by the pound?

Repurpose an Old Monitor into an Easy to Read Clock

Nathan solved a nightly problem in a clever way:

Like many people, I used to have a difficult time reading my clock at night. I tried out many different clocks, but none of them met my needs. I finally decided to make my own clock. I had an old computer and monitor lying around. I started by installing Ubuntu on the computer. I then installed dclock, a customizable digital clock, from the repositories. I ran dclock with the following options:

dclock -nobell -nomiltime -tails -noscroll -noblink -nofade -date "%a %b %d, %Y" -noalarm -seconds -bd "black" -bg "black" -fg "red" -led_off "black" &

I then toggled the full screen option for the window so that it covered the entire screen. The result was a large digital clock that I was able to read at night. This clock did not cost me anything to make, and it is much easier to read than all of the clocks I found at the stores. dclock also has support for setting an alarm for the times that I need it.

It’s probably a bit of a waste to set up and run a computer only for the clock, but let’s assume Nathan’s Ubuntu clock has some other great uses we don’t know about.

Make Fluffy Scrambled Eggs in the Microwave

Photo by avlxyz

1112 described how he makes scrambled eggs in the microwave:

I like microwave scrambled eggs because they are so easy:

  • Scramble 1-2 eggs and a bit of milk in a microwave proof bowl.
  • Put in for 30 seconds, stir and put in for another 30 seconds. Repeat until finished. Be careful it will dry out quickly if you overheat it, so the last couple cycles might be 10-15 seconds. Enjoy!

Sometimes I put a separate glass of water in the microwave to moderate the power level (since the power level control is usually a very coarse duty cycle setting.)

Clean or at least fill the bowl with water when you’re done or the egg will harden and make it difficult to clean.

Keep Information Easily Accessible with Google Voice and SMS

Angelina tells us about how she keeps information easily accessible:

I’m the kind of person who is really lazy and doesn’t like typing stuff into her phone, so when I need stuff (like addresses or reminders) I use Google Voice’s SMS function. I just copy whatever I need from my email or browser, paste it into a blank SMS for my own number, and send it along, and I’ll have it for easy reference later!

This is particularly handy for people like me, who are too broke to afford data plans.

Curb Impulse Micro Purchases with Wishlists

Matt wrote in to tell us about how his fiancée cuts down on impulse micro purchases using a method similar to one we’ve mentioned before:

Every so often I see posts about making wishlists to curb impulse spending, and these are some of my favorite hacks.

I’m not sure if it ever showed up on Lifehacker, but my fiancée showed me the neat little hack that led to this one. Whenever she wants to purchase a track or album in iTunes, she drags the clips from the iTunes store to a playlist called “Wishlist.” Every week or so, she checks out the playlist to see if she still wants whatever’s there. $.99 (or $1.29) for a single song doesn’t seem like much, but when you buy stuff without thinking about it, it really does add up. This was great for me, as I didn’t know you could actually add the snippets to a playlist, and I always wondered why iTunes didn’t have a wish list feature.

I use Things for OS X and am getting started with GTD, and I was trying to think of a way to integrate wishlists for other things I’d like to buy but don’t necessarily need. I recently made a new project called “Wishlist,” and whenever I see something I want to buy, I add it to the project as a new task with any relevant details (price, URL, reason I want it) and a due date. I typically set the due date to two weeks from the day that I add it to Things.

If it’s something that I really don’t need, chances are I won’t think about it for a while. When it shows up for review two weeks later, I can decide if I still really want it.

I’m sure this would work with any system where you review your tasks daily or weekly. Cubicle warriors are likely to have Outlook, which allows for appointments or to-dos, and there are plenty of free solutions out there for the smart phone crowd.






From the Tips Box: Pandora Workarounds, Ice Cube Plant Food, and Packing Tips [From The Tips Box]

Lifehacker readers show us how they work around Pandora’s 40-hour limit, refresh our plants with some ice cubes, and organize our packing.

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Get Around Pandora’s 40-Hour Limit

Bryce has a way of getting around Pandora’s time limitation:

Lifehacker readers might be interested to know that even though free Pandora in your browser stops working at 40 hours a month (unless you pay the $0.99), the iPhone app apparently continues to play for free past 40 hours. This is probably because of the terms and conditions of free apps in the App Store — once free, always free. So once Pandora hits 40 hours in your browser, just plug your iPhone into your speakers and keep playing.

Eighty also wrote in with advice from his blog:

If or when Pandora complains about the allotted time (40 hours) being used for the computer, just go find the .sol files on your system. On my Ubuntu system, they are located in ~/.macromedia/Flash_Player/#SharedObjects. These .sol files are called Local Shared Objects, essentially cookies for your flash player. Simply deleting them will clear the hours tracking for the computer

We don’t really think that a dollar is too much to pay to support web apps like Pandora, but the workarounds should work just fine for those who disagree.

Keep Your Succulents Alive with Ice Cubes

Cynthia made us smile with her method of keeping plants refreshed:

When I was in medical school and residency, my houseplants experienced Darwinian evolution due to neglect. By the time I entered practice, I was left with only the hardy plants, mostly succulents and cacti, which was fine by me since I love their sculptural style. While they don’t require much care, they do still need an occasional watering. Instead of puttering around with a watering can, I grab a bucket of ice cubes and drop them onto my plants. They dissolve slowly and it’s hard to overwater them with ice cubes. I’m sure gardening aficionados would cringe at this approach, but it’s worked for me. It’s also easier for house sitters instead of trying to assess just how much water to give each plant. I have 1, 2, and 3 cube plants.

And if they need more care than that, Darwin takes care of them for me.

Pack Efficiently for the School Break Visits

Photo by Betsssssy

Rupert has a ton of packing tips which apply to more than just students:

I find that one of the more annoying things about being a student is the amount of packing you have to do. Going back home for the Christmas, Easter and Summer holidays means that you have to pack up your stuff 6 times a year. Here are some tips to make the trial of packing a bit easier:

  • Get plastic boxes that are slightly smaller than the drawers in your dorm room and then put one in each drawer. Make sure the boxes have removable lids. Then when it comes to going home, just take out the box (with all your stuff in it), put the lid on and you are good to go. As a bonus, if you have a drawer with an annoyingly low back, stuff won’t fall down the back anymore.
  • Have two wash baskets: 1 for dirty clothes and 1 for clothes that are just off the line. If you are too lazy to put the clean stuff away immediately (and who isn’t??) then the dirty basket makes sure dirty clothes don’t pile up on the floor. When it comes to going home, you’ll find your floor far cleaner than usual. Plus if you time your washing right, you might end up with most of your clothes in one of either of these baskets allowing you to just pick them up and put them in the car.
  • Keep empty plastic boxes for packing but don’t just stuff things in there randomly. Designate each box for either an area of your room or a type of stuff. For example, you might want a box for everything on a particular shelf or surface. Alternatively, you might want a box for just your notes and another for just your toiletries.
  • Have a single “random” box for those things that just won’t be put anywhere useful. Don’t allow yourself any more than this and make sure you just use it to clear up any leftover stuff in the final 5 minutes of packing. Try not to use it.
  • Make sure you keep your empty boxes somewhere in your room, but out of the way, such as under the bed or at the bottom of your wardrobe. Don’t keep them in the attic or you won’t be bothered to get them.
  • Whilst having beautifully packed wires is great for permanent setups, they are the bane of frequent movers. Get 4-way or 6-way adapters plugged into the wall sockets so that all of your appliances can be unplugged without having to go behind your bed or desk etc. Don’t feed wires around the back of desks but instead feed them to the side or front. It will look messy but you won’t have to spend ages taking out wires this way.
  • Don’t leave stuff in shared areas. This will probably make your flat mates happier but it will also mean you don’t run around the house looking for things that you can’t find. For example, keep your shoes in your room, not in the hallway.
  • Use the landing pad method where you have a completely bare surface that takes only the objects you keep in your pockets on a day to day basis. This also means you are less likely to forget your keys when you go out!
  • Finally, if you are tight for space in your car, ensure you take out the largest objects first to make your packing more efficient.

Avoid Confusion With Creative Drive Mapping

Paul figured out how to deal with a network annoyance:

Something that had been bothering me for a while is that I had a folder on my desktop (E:Projects) that I had synchronized with my laptop as Y:. I always was getting myself confused about typing in Y:Web Projects or E:ProjectsWeb Projects, and just found a solution. I can map a network drive (Y:) on my desktop as \localhoste$Projects, saving me from having to remember which machine I’m on. I’d also suggest it to people who want to have what I might call “Virtual Partitions” for music and games, whatever, without having to reformat the drive and partition it

Massacre Ads Without Murder Charges

Hunter found a way to improve on one of our tricks:

A week or two ago, you all did a post on getting rid of Gmail ads by including a sentence at the bottom of your email. I have been using this method, but I didn’t like putting a sentence that didn’t quite make sense at the bottom of all my mail for everyone to see and possible be confused by. A more aesthetic, but equally effective way of doing it is including it your signature in white text. Since Gmail doesn’t allow HTML in signatures, I use the Blank Canvas Gmail Signature Firefox extension. This way, no one ever knows that the sentence is there, and whenever anyone gets an email from me, they don’t have any ads.

Label Your Messages to Yourself and Outgoing Messages in Gmail

Nicholas’ tip is fantastic, especially for those of us prone to sending quick “notes to self”:

How many of you email yourself in Gmail? And has it ever bothered you that you can’t add labels to outgoing messages? You have to label them once they drop into your inbox, which is tedious.

Well, I got tired of this, and realized I could get around it using Gmail’s “plus-addressing.” This has been mentioned on Lifehacker before – you can append your email address, after your username, with “+anytexthere@gmail.com“. So joe.schmoe@gmail.com will receive email from “joe.schmoe+example@gmail.com” in his regular inbox. You can also filter your mail by the “to” line, which becomes very handy.

Next, create filters for plus-addresses corresponding to each of the labels you want to be able to add to outgoing messages. For example, I have a filter that adds the “Home” label to any emails sent to joe.schmoe+home@gmail.com; adds “Work” to any emails sent to joe.schmoe+work@gmail.com, etc.

Finally, I create contacts corresponding to each label: A contact named “Home” with the email address joe.schmoe+home@gmail.com, etc., for all the emails I just created filters for.

Now, when I send a message to myself, if I want it labeled with “Home”, I just type “Home” in the To field of the email. I’m emailing it to myself, but to the particular plus-address that will get filtered into my Home label.

What’s better, is that you can add multiple labels by sending it to multiple plus-addresses of yours, without getting multiple emails in your inbox. If you send it to “Home”, “Taxes”, and “Urgent” (3 plus-addresses you’ve created for yourself), only one email will come into your inbox, with the three labels attached (or with whatever actions your filters perform).

One more cool use I’ve found: Suppose you email someone, and you want their response to come back with a particular label (or you want a particular action performed). For example, I email my girlfriend about a movie we’re seeing later tonight, and I want to make sure her email comes back labeled “Urgent”. I can’t just create a filter for all emails coming from her, because despite being my girlfriend, she sends me a lot of stuff that, frankly, isn’t urgent. But this one email is. So I email her my question, and also copy myself in, to my “Urgent” plus-address. So the To line looks like this: “Jo Blow” , “Urgent”

Now I’ll get a message from myself, labeled Urgent. (I can archive this, or whatever.) When she replies, her message will be included in the same conversation as the email I sent myself, and both are labeled “Urgent”. Voila!






Never Miss a Rebate with Gmail and the Trusted Trio [Rebates]

Mail-in rebates are wicked beasts, teasing and tempting you into making purchases, then slipping from your mind so easily. No more of that! With this combo of the trusted trio and Gmail’s plus-addressing, you’ll never miss another rebate.

Photo by LaCabeza Grande

Reader Evan Fredericks wrote that, thanks to our post about printing rebate forms immediately, he was able to get a rebate which was removed from the store’s website. While he was glad to save money, he also felt the need to improve on our suggestion, using the trusted trio and Gmail’s plus-addressing feature:

Printing a rebate days before I would actually be able to fill it out seemed like more of a hassle and like a bad combination with my paper-losing habit. Thus, I decided I would need a quick way to get a digital copy of rebate forms that would be easy to keep track of:

  • Create a filter for emails to johndoe+rebates@gmail.com (replacing “john.doe” with your own email address) that skips the inbox and labels messages with “rebate” and “hold” if you’re using the trusted trio. (Adding the “plus” address as a contact named “rebates” will allow for quicker sending.)
  • Before you purchase the item, open the rebate form. Most PDF readers that can open in a browser have an emailing feature (I use foxit); select this and your email client will open with the rebate form as an attachment. (Affixia can allow this to work with Gmail’s web client). Put johndoe+rebates@gmail.com as the recipient (or just start typing rebates until it pops up if you added it as a contact). Then put the item to be purchased as the subject.

That’s it! Now, when the item comes, you’ll have easy access to the rebate form. If you forget about the form when the item comes, you’ll be reminded when you do your routine checkup of your “hold”/”follow up” labels, or if you want to be super safe, you could add a step after emailing the form to create a to-do in whatever task-managing strategy you use.

Do you have a system in place to streamline rebates and avoid the high price of financial laziness? Do you prefer hard copies or straight-to-PDF printing? How do you keep track of what’s due to you after you send them out? Tell us all about it in the comments.






From the Tips Box: Tire Patches, Itch Relief, and Underwear Firestarters [From The Tips Box]

Lifehacker readers teach us how to patch our bike tires in a pinch, how we can relieve itching with meat tenderizer, and that burning bras could save our lives.

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Fix a Bike Tire without a Repair Kit

Vigleik shared a way to fix a flat bike tire in a pinch:

My friend and I went biking in the mountains, and his tire went flat.. it was a three hours walk back to civilization. No repair kit or spare tube in reach. Just a strap on my buddy’s sunglasses. I tied lots of knots around and besides the hole in the tube, put it back in the tire and we were on our bikes in no time. Completely air tight for two hours!

dizzytired followed up with another way:

A friend of mine got a flat on his mountain bike once and also without tube, patch kit or anything, yanked the tube out and stuffed the tire with leaves from the side of the trail. Rode on it for another hour, no problems. Although he never said anything about the mess afterward.

Use Underwear as a Firestarter in the Wild

Photo by midorisyu

Terry points out that undies are a great survival tool:

On starting a fire – I read somewhere that many hunters found frozen to death have matches in their pocket. The problem is that they couldn’t get any wood burning (usually because it’s too wet). The point being that [it] isn’t getting a spark that’s difficult, it’s getting the spark to ignite your fuel. The solution? Burn your underwear. They say it goes up fast, and burns hot enough and long enough to ignite even wet tinder.

Print PDFs Straight to Dropbox to Save Time

Sara’s got a clever way of saving a step when she needs to stick something into Dropbox:

I have just set up this combination of Mac’s Print to PDF function and Dropbox. I thought of this because I always seem to be saving PDFs to the web receipts folder (Order confirmations, boarding passes etc.). I’ve been using Dropbox, and thought I should be able to print a PDF to my Dropbox instantly. And it is real easy to set up:

  • Make an Automator script that just uses the Copy Finder Items and select Dropbox (or an underlying folder) as the destination.
  • Save this script in the folder Library/PDF-Services. Whatever you name it will be the option in the menu.

Now when you print this script will be one of the options.

Relieve Mosquito Bite Itching with Meat Tenderizer

Photo by Dano

This weekend MacGyver taught us a few ways to relive itchy bug bites with uncommon materials. Now reader dafairlie shares another way of curing that frustrating mosquito bite itch:

My wife is a pediatrician and to [relieve] itchiness from insect bites she always recommends meat tenderizer instead of any other over-the-counter medicine.

The explanation goes something like this:

Insect bites itch because their saliva (an anti-coagulant) causes an allergic reaction on the “victim”. The meat tenderizer breaks down protein in order to soften the meat, but the insect’s saliva is also a protein. So, if you break down the saliva protein, the itch will stop.

Identify Unused Junk with a Two Box System

Photo by allygirl520

Andrew shares his way of identifying which ol’ junk should be tossed out:

When I read your article about 30 Day Lists it reminded me of my own system of how I keep junk down in the house. I have a box, all these miscellaneous things I cannot find a place for go in that box, the rubix cube, presents from grandma, etc. I have another box along side of it, if I use something from the first box, it moves into box number two. About twice a year, anything that has not made it into box two is thrown out, and the cycle repeats. Just saw it as an interesting method for all the other organizers out there.

Better Butter Stays Fresh Twice as Long

Photo by iLoveButter

Sandwich found a great way to keep butter fresh longer (and we love the name of the recipe!):

There’s an easy way to get butter that goes twice as far, stays spreadable when refrigerated, and is healthier for you: Better Butter! My mother taught me this (and made sure we grew up on it), but a quick Google search shows that we’re not the only ones who know about it – from USA Weekend:

Better Butter

  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup canola oil or olive oil

Put butter and oil in a blender or food processor and blend until thoroughly combined. This “Better Butter” will be the consistency of yogurt or thick cream. Spoon it into a bowl, or mold. Cover and put in the refrigerator to firm. Makes 1 cup.

Variations: Add herbs or fresh crushed (not powdered) garlic.

“Better Butter” has half the saturated fat of regular butter and, unlike most margarines, negligible amounts of hazardous trans-fatty acids. Another advantage: It spreads well at refrigerator temperature.

Per teaspoon: 37 calories, 5mg cholesterol, 4g fat (1g saturated fat when made with canola oil, 2g when made with olive oil).

I have to say though that adding canola oil is more seemly than olive oil… unless you like your butter to have a greenish hue, Sam I Am. :)

Also, you don’t have to waste a perfectly clean blender for this… just soften the stick of butter on a warmish surface, like on top of the fridge, in the sun, etc, whip it up until it’s liquidy, and then gently whip in the canola/olive oil.






Massacre Gmail Ads with These Two Sentences (and Some Tragic Words) [Annoyances]

Those “Sponsored Ads” in e-mails are an annoyance to both sender and recipient and they seem to escape blocking. Until now. These two (so far) fail-proof sentences at the end of an email will let you enjoy e-mailed rants, ad-free.

(Click the images above and below for a closer look at the before and after effect.)

In his personal blog, Joe McKay writes about his experience in blocking Gmail’s sponsored ads using words referencing tragic or catastrophic events (which Google bans from their ads) as well as words from George Carlin’s infamous list of seven words you can’t say on TV.

That’s great news, but how on Earth do you send an email to your boss that’s littered with f-bombs and talk of murder? After finding a few victims and experimenting with various potential ad-blocking words, here’s the relatively kindly signature we came up with:

I enjoy the massacre of ads. This sentence will slaughter ads without a messy bloodbath.

Result:

Those two simple (and innocent) sentences at the end of an e-mail appear to consistently block Gmail’s sponsored ads for us. We’ve tested e-mails of varying lengths because Joe remarked that he found that there needs to be a ratio of one ad-blocking word for every 167 normal words, but so far, we haven’t seen those sentences fail.

Got your own methods of avoiding the extra ads in Gmail? Maybe you’ve put together a better ad-blocking signature sentence? (Remember, we’re aiming for something workplace safe.) Let’s hear about it in the comments.





Use Gmail Drafts to Sync Text on Your Phone [IPhone Tip]

You need to sync text between your iPhone and computer, but you’re not willing to shell out $99 for a MobileMe subscription and you’re not really keen on something like Evernote? No worries: email drafts will do the trick in a pinch.

The AppleBlog’s Mark Crump came up with a simple method for syncing and editing text between his computers and his iPhone using Gmail. The trick: Type up your text as a draft on either the iPhone or in the web interface and ta da! Gmail does the rest by keeping the two synced allowing for fully editable text.

This could be handy for quick on-the-go drafts or to-do lists and could be particularly handy if combined with a Gmail GTD system.

What’s your preferred method of text syncing between your iPhone (or other smartphone) and your computers? How well does it work? Let’s hear about it in the comments.





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