Monthly Archives: August 2007

Microsoft Outlook: Getting Things Done with Outlook and OneNote 2007Lifehacker

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GTDer Rob documents how he captures and manages his projects and next actions using Microsoft Outlook and OneNote.

I continue to collect & process my inputs in OneNote. When I identify a next action now I use the Outlook flag CTRL+SHIFT+5 to flag it as an action and have it show up in my Outlook to-do list. I then set a context for it using Outlook. I then can filter my contexts in Outlook as needed.

Rob goes on to explain how he color-codes his various products and how that helps him do his weekly review, too. Overall it’s a nice look at how an MS Office user can get on the GTD wagon.

Home Carbonation SystemCool Tools

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I drink a lot of seltzer. So much that my fiancee says I couldn’t survive without bubbles in my water. After trying a SodaClub home soda maker (picture above right) and realizing it would cost $70 to buy a special part for it, I found a really detailed resource for building my own, simple home carbonation system for under a $100 using a CO2 tank, regulator, hose and a carbonator cap (details below). It took ten minutes to build. I love having very good homemade soda on the cheap and not having to lug around seltzer bottles or worry about it going flat. With a scuba-like tank in the kitchen, guests always ask “What is that?!” and I really love demonstrating. When one friend of mine said he didn’t like soda, I whipped him up a mango soda from this special puree of mango I had. He absolutely loved it! And a by-product of the cost of producing low cost seltzer water is that I can experiment with different flavored sodas. I mean some really wacky stuff, like lychee-tangerine or coconut-lucima. If I don’t like it, or it tastes weird, I don’t feel guilty about draining the entire liter or two-liter bottle.

My 20lb system makes over 1133 liters of carbonated water. In practice, efficiency is not perfect, with unavoidable losses in the hose and headspace. But at current prices of $20 per 20lb tank-fill, the cost to convert tap water to seltzer is under $0.02 cents per liter. A single fill of a 20lb tank charges over 500 bottles, which will keep you supplied for 1.5 years if you consume an average of one bottle daily. In terms of break even, assuming that you can find liter bottles of seltzer water for $0.99 per bottle, then it’ll take roughly 100 bottles for the system to break even. I definitely drink a liter a day, so it only took about 3 months for me to break even — not to mention all of the labor and space that it saves to lug in and store 8.3 dozen liter bottles of seltzer water.

I found a CO2 tank on eBay for about $30 bucks, including shipping. I use a dual gauge CO2 regulator; a single gauge one for CO2 output would work also, but I prefer the dual as it also tells you the amount of gas in the CO2 canister ($20 on eBay). You also need a hose (or “gas fitting tube”). To avoid the site’s detailed instructions on how to fit the CO2 hose onto a 2 liter bottle of soda, I bought a special carbonator cap that lets you easily insert the hose ($11 from Northern Brewer). You can’t refill a CO2 tank in NYC, as it violates several ordinances. However, you can exchange your empty tank for a full one for $20 at a local welding supply place (other spots include keg brewers and anywhere that refills fire extinguishers).

The operating instructions are fairly straightforward. On a dual gauge tank there are two gauges and two valves, one for the main tank and one for the output. The valve between the CO2 tank and the regulator, I’ll call the CO2 valve and the valve between the regulator and the carbonator cap, I’ll call the output valve:

1) Fill up a one- or two-liter bottle.
2) Screw on the carbonator cap fairly tight (it’s a ball release
cap, so you simply push the entire cap to release it from the hose afterwards)
3) Make sure the Output valve is completely shut off
4) Turn on the CO2 valve and watch the CO2 tank gauge shoot up (this will be
the remaining pressure in your tank)
5) Slowly turn the Output valve open until the pressure reaches about 50 PSI
(I’ve been experimenting with various PSI’s — 50 PSI works best for me)
6) As you feel the bottle get full (don’t worry, I read recently
that two-liter soda bottles are rated to handle 200 PSI), pick it up and start
shaking vigorously as you would a bar drink (this helps carbonate the water).
7) Turn off the CO2 valve and then the Output valve
8) Remove the carbonator cap

Incidentally, it was a SodaClub home soda maker I bought on eBay that inspired me ultimately to build my own home carbonation unit. The SodaClub unit has a proprietary design whereby it is nearly impossible to refill without a special adapter and the adapters I found online cost $70 bucks (more than I paid for the SodaClub). So rather than spend $70 to fix an inherent problem with the SodaClub (and I would still need a 20lb canister sitting somewhere in my house), I did some research and found this site. For about $95 bucks — less than the cost of a new SodaClub (they retail new for about $100) — I have more than 10 times the soda making capacity (SodaClub claims you can get 110 liters of soda). I should add that I’ve seen plans on eBay for $5 or $10 bucks for how to construct your own soda fountain gun that spurts out bubbly water on demand. With mine, the end result is the same, but the carbonator unit I built is so much simpler and cheaper and it doesn’t require a heat sink or a refrigeration unit.

— Alastair Ong

Home Carbonation System
Info available from Richard J. Kinch

Soda Supplies & Parts
$5+ (extracts)
$11 (carbonator cap)
Available from Northern Brewer


Related items previously reviewed in Cool Tools:

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The Complete Joy of Homebrewing

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ProMash

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Thermos Beverage Bottle Insulator

Google Maps: Position Your Satellite Dish with the Alignment CalculatorLifehacker

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Perfectly aim your satellite dish or antenna using Google maps mashup, Satellite Alignment Calculator (SAC). With SAC you choose your satellite provider (DirectTV, XM, Sirius, etc.), enter your address and SAC will show you the exact direction you need to position your satellite for the best signal. Since I’m dish-less I can’t test SAC’s accuracy. Can anyone out there confirm SAC’s usefulness? Share in the comments.

Google Maps: Now With More EmbeddingLifehacker

embed-maps.pngGoogle Maps has (finally) added the ability to embed maps into blogs or web sites. All you do is click on the “link to this page” link, copy and paste, and you’re all set.
Not all maps can be embedded; Traffic maps, Street View imagery, and Mapplets are exempt. However, this is a great way to instantly share maps you’ve created with the world at large.

Firefox Tip: Resize Firefox with a BookmarkletLifehacker

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You can quickly change the size of the Firefox window by clicking a bookmarklet. Reader Domen writes in and explains how to set up the bookmarklet, which is perfect for users with extra screen estate. Create an empty bookmark in your Bookmarks Toolbar and enter the following as the location:

javascript:window.resizeTo(1280,1050);

Substitute 1280 and 1050 with values appropriate for your monitor size. Clicking the bookmark will instantly resize your window. You will need to make sure JavaScript is enabled in the Firefox preferences. Thanks, Domen!

Featured Windows Download: Speed Up Adobe Reader with Adobe Reader SpeedUpLifehacker

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Windows only: Freeware application Adobe Reader SpeedUp selectively removes Reader plug-ins to speed up load times of the notoriously slow PDF application. Granted, most of us left Adobe Reader long ago in favor of Foxit Reader, or even the keyboard-navigator Sumatra, but for those of you who need Adobe Reader for whatever reason, Adobe Reader SpeedUp should go a long way toward a faster Reader. You can either choose one of SpeedUp’s suggested tweaks (like Fast or Turbo) or do some experimentation on your part as to what you can and can’t disable. Adobe Reader SpeedUp is freeware, Windows only.

Lifehacker Top 10: Top 10 Gnome Desktop TweaksLifehacker

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The desktop environment for many Linux users, Gnome, is fast, organized and very easy to learn. But Gnome is also very powerful and highly customizable. Today’s top 10 lists the various ways you can tweak Nautilus and the Gnome desktop to turn Linux into a productivity powerhouse.

Sometimes, 10 is just barely enough. A couple of items from the Top 10 Gnome desktop tweaks list’s cutting room floor include:

What is your favorite Gnome tweak? What did I miss? Tell all in the comments.

Linux: A GUI front-end for xorg.conf is in the works …Lifehacker

A GUI front-end for xorg.conf is in the works and set to be bundled in Ubuntu Gutsy. Say farewell to manually editing this file from the terminal! Thanks, Arsgeek!

Windows: Disable Windows Update restart nagLifehacker


Windows installed another round of updates and now it’s asking you to restart. Again. One simple command line entry can disable this obnoxious reminder. Reader Jack writes in with the trick:

To stop this service, open [Command Prompt] (Start>Run>cmd>Enter) and type the following command sc stop wuauserv. This will not prevent Automatic Updates from starting at the next boot. So don’t worry, you’ll keep getting Windows updates. Just don’t forget to restart eventually.

Afraid of the command line? Here’s how you can disable Automatic Update restart prompts using Windows Computer Policy. Thanks, Jack!

Energy Conservation: Save money and energy with Energy Star @ homeLifehacker

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Get room-by-room tips for saving money and energy during the dog days of summer with the interactive Energy Star @ home web site. We’ve seen a lot of the tips suggested by Energy Star @ home before, but this interactive tour offers a great way to analyze and improve your home’s energy efficiency one room at a time. Just follow the Launch Energy Star @ home link to get started saving energy and money, and to keep your home cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.

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