Blog Archives

Google Translate Adds As-You-Type Translations, Phonetic Pronunciation [Languages]

Google Translate added a few features to its main web home, including instant translations as you type. What’s really helpful is a bit more tucked away: phonetic pronunciations for non-Roman alphabets, like Chinese, and text-to-speech pronunciations for translating to English.

Heading to a country with an alphabet nothing like yours is intimidating, so Google’s Roman-ized pronunciation guides are certainly helpful. For those translating to Arabic, Persian or Hindi, there’s also an option to type out the way words sound and have Google guess at what word you’re trying to enter when you lack the specific keyboard.

Google runs down its latest improvements in this quick video overview:

What features would make Translate more helpful for the way you use it? Share the suggestions in the comments.

DIY Sliding Chandelier Stays Clear of Projectors [DIY]

So you bought yourself a brand new projector, but there's one not-so-tiny problem—your ceiling-mounted lighting is in the way. Check out the DIY, sliding solution that Swedish designer Linus Åkesson has implemented in his own living room.

Although some of us might have taken the chandelier in question out of the room and headed to our local big box store for a few extra lamps, Linus, who can be found at his blog linusakesson, went a different direction. Determined not to block the view of his projection screen he used a FAC kit, some steel rods and a wooden door jam to make some modifications.

The chandelier now slides back and forth freely when needs be. It's a simple solution that could have cost hundreds of dollars for new lighting, plus it's far more entertaining than standard lighting—that is, unless you have The Clapper.

The Lamp Slide [linusakesson via Make]

Make an Emergency Fire Starter from a T-Shirt [Outdoors]

It’s important to have a backup plan in the great outdoors. An extra pair of clean underwear is nice, but fire-starting tools are essential. DIY weblog Make details how to make a no-fail fire source from a few pieces of old t-shirt.

Although most carry a lighter to get things fired up in the great outdoors, it’s still smart to have a backup source for fire-starting like char cloth just in case. A few cut pieces of cotton jersey and an Altoids tin will give you just that.

After charring the squares of cut t-shirt (check out the video above) and things have cooled off 100%, make sure to transfer your Char Cloth pieces to a water safe container like a film canister or the like. Also keep in mind that an upside down fire is still one of our favorite ways to keep your campfire burning bright once the char cloth has served its purpose.

As winter approaches and we’re putting together our winter emergency kits, char cloth doesn’t seem like a terrible thing to have handy, either. What do you carry with you when you head out into nature? Do you have a favorite way to light up the night? Let us know in the comments.

Two-Minute Video Makes a Lot of Sense of Google Wave [Google Wave]

If you’re still struggling to understand how you might use Google Wave despite our in-depth first look, this quick video offers an excellent explanation of just one use case for how Wave can outshine email as a collaboration tool.

If you’re one of the eager Wavers, whether you’ve got an invite or not, let’s hear what you’re looking forward to using Wave for in the comments.

Todoist Anywhere Turns Gmail Messages, Web Sites Into Tasks [To-do Lists]

Web-based to-do manager Todoist already integrates with Gmail forwards and opens from Launchy, but a “Todoist Anywhere” bookmarklet makes the service easy to integrate with Gmail labels or individual messages, as detailed in this video.

As noted in the video, you can sign up directly from the pop-open bookmarklet, and clicking the bookmarklet while an email message or search/tag results page is open gives Todoist a little special context for your tasks and sub-tasks. Got another tool to integrate Todoist, or another task manager, with your Gmail? We’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Stock Up on the Right Amount of Alcohol for a Party with a Simple Formula [Friday Fun]

Alcohol can cost a pretty penny, especially if you’re stocking up for a party. Next shindig, keep the liquid refreshments flowing with a simple formula.

Video site Howcast says that, as a rule of thumb, you should allow two drinks per guest for the first hour of your party and one drink for each additional hour. It’s also important to keep in mind the kind of party you’re throwing because an evening cocktail party will likely require more spirits than a lunch get-together. The post says that if you allow four drinks per guest, you should be amply covered.

Howcast also says that a guideline for a large party (which they don’t define beyond that label) is 50 percent beer, 25 percent wine, and 25 percent liquor, which you should then adjust depending on if your party guests drink more wine than beer and so on.

BYOB not withstanding, check out the above video for the entire alcohol buying tips—then take a peek at our previous guide to stocking your bar for $100.

Ditch Your Cellphone Contract with Attention to the Fine Print [Cellphones]

Being locked into a less-than-favorable cellphone contract doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t worm your way out. If more conventional methods like trading out of a contract don’t do the trick, video site Howcast offers other more extreme ways to duck out.

Among their suggestions is to take advantage of the “material adverse change” clause in your contract. In laymen terms, this means looking for even the slightest change to your original signed contract, then using that as collateral to get out of your current one. Alternatively (and potentially less effectively and kind of shady), you can resort to bombarding customer service with calls detailing your dissatisfaction with their service. It’s not the method we’d suggest.

Check out the above video for other last ditch effort ways to rid yourself of your phone contract. If you prefer more fool proof tactics, check out previously mentioned cellphone swapping services Celltrade and Flipswap.

Maximize Firefox 3.5’s Viewing Area for Your Netbook [NetBooks]

Your netbook’s screen is tiny and processor less than mighty, so you want to maximize the web page viewing area without any performance-killing Firefox extensions. Here’s how to consolidate Firefox 3.5’s chrome for your Windows or Linux-based netbook.

Even if you don’t have a netbook, these modifications still work if you want to consolidate Firefox 3.5’s chrome on your regular PC.

(This whole Firefox consolidation undertaking sound familiar? For longtime readers, it should be. Way before netbooks got hot, we consolidated Firefox 2 back in 2006, and then Firefox 3 with the help of Stylish in 2008. This version addresses a few Firefox 3.5-specific items and clears out the clutter sans add-ons.)

Here’s what Firefox 3.5 looks like by default (on my Eee PC running Windows XP). Click to view actual size.

There’s quite a bit of whitespace on Firefox’s chrome just asking to get utilized more efficiently. You can trim the highlighted areas in the image below from Firefox 3.5’s interface:

After a little toolbar rearrangement and interface decluttering, here’s what consolidated Firefox 3.5 looks like. You can see that a whole other Lifehacker post fits into the viewport after the consolidation. Click to view actual size.

Here’s how to maximize your web page viewing area and declutter Firefox’s chrome.

Relocate the navigation toolbar, buttons, and search box to the menu bar. To get this done, right-click on Firefox 3.5’s toolbar and choose Customize. From there, drag and drop elements on the lower toolbars to the menu bar, and check off “Use small icons.” (That will flatten the fat “keyhole” back button.) Hit play for a 30-second demonstration of the process (featuring old-school Lifehacker design).

Trim unnecessary interface doodads with userChrome.css. Just like you can style web pages with CSS, you can also style Firefox’s chrome. In order to modify certain aspects of Firefox’s chrome without using an add-on like Stylish, you edit a file called userChrome.css, which is stored in your Firefox profile directory. This file is user-specific and you can easily copy it from one Firefox installation to another. Here’s where Windows and Linux netbook users can find userChrome.css.

Windows XP
C:Documents and Settings[User Name]Application DataMozillaFirefoxProfilesxxxxxxxx.defaultchrome
where xxxxxxxx is a random string of 8 characters.


With Firefox closed, open the userChrome.css file and append whatever CSS bits listed in this article you want to apply. If a userChrome.css file doesn’t exist, save userChrome-example.css as userChrome.css.

Got your userChrome.css file open and ready for modifications? Let’s declutter.

Remove Firefox 3.5’s new tab button. Tab bar space is at a premium on your netbook, and you already use the Ctrl+T keyboard shortcut to open a new tab—so you don't need the new (and kind of annoying) Firefox 3.5 new tab button. Add this bit to userChrome.css to kill that button and make room for more open tabs.

/* remove new tab button next to last tab */
.tabs-newtab-button {display: none !important}

Remove the search box’s magnifying glass. You can just hit the Enter key to execute a search from Firefox’s search box, so the magnifying glass “go” button is just unnecessary eye candy. With your address bar up on the same level as the menus, you want as much horizontal space for typing search terms and web site addresses, so it makes sense to kill the magnifying glass. Here’s the userChrome.css bit that will do just that.

/* remove magnifying glass from search box */
.search-go-button { display: none !important}

Remove and combine disabled buttons. When there's no page to go back to or forward to, nothing loading to stop, or nothing loaded to refresh, all those buttons—back, forward, stop, and reload—just sit there, greyed out, doing nothing but taking up space. You want as much horizontal space as possible, so you can hide disabled (useless) back and forward buttons, and even combine the stop and reload button to make a dual-use single button. Here's the userChrome.css code that will do just that.

/* combine stop and reload buttons */
#stop-button[disabled] { display: none }
#stop-button:not([disabled]) + #reload-button { display: none }

/* don't show back or forward buttons if there's nothing to go back or forward to */
#back-button[disabled="true"] { display: none }
#forward-button[disabled="true"] { display: none }

Optional: Hide bookmarks bar. A lot of my web work depends on easily-accessible bookmarklets, so I did not hide my bookmarks bar, but others who don’t feel the same can gain more vertical space by doing just that. From the View menu, Toolbars, uncheck “Bookmarks Toolbar.”

All the CSS in one shot

To get all these changes in one fell copy-and-paste swoop, grab them from here and drop them into your userChrome.css, and restart Firefox.

/* remove new tab button next to last tab */
.tabs-newtab-button {display: none !important}

/* remove magnifying glass from search box */
.search-go-button { display: none !important}

/* combine stop and reload buttons */
#stop-button[disabled] { display: none }
#stop-button:not([disabled]) + #reload-button { display: none }

/* don't show back or forward buttons if there's nothing to go back or forward to */
#back-button[disabled="true"] { display: none }
#forward-button[disabled="true"] { display: none }

How do you customize Firefox—or any other app, for that matter—on your netbook? Let this newbie netbooker know in the comments. (For more userChrome.css fun, see our list of functional Firefox user styles.)

Gina Trapani, Lifehacker’s founding editor, likes her Firefox pared down on her netbook. Her weekly feature, Smarterware, appears every Wednesday on Lifehacker. Subscribe to the Smarterware tag feed to get new installments in your newsreader.

Install Snow Leopard on Your Hackintosh PC, No Hacking Required [How To]

Two weeks ago I detailed how to build a Hackintosh with Snow Leopard, start to finish, with a little Terminal work. If you’re not comfortable with command-line hacking, you can now install Snow Leopard on your Hackintosh with just a few point-and-clicks.

So what’s changed between my last guide and this one? In short, one of the incredibly helpful and generous people who helped walk me through the installation process last time was kind enough to wrap all the tedious Terminal work into one dead simple installer. Where two weeks ago I showed you how to prepare your thumb drive (and after that, hard drive) with a custom bootloader that allows you to boot into OS X on regular old PC hardware, now all you have to do is run a package, point it at the drive you want to prepare, and then let it take care of all the nitty gritty. It could not be more simple.

Now onto the revised process!

NOTE: Just like the last post, this guide is focused specifically on the hardware I suggested in the previous guide—specifically the motherboard. If you try following this guide on other hardware, there's a very good chance it won't work as advertised.

What You’ll Need

  • Supported hardware. I laid out my list of supported hardware in my previous post here. It’s not the only hardware that will work with OS X, but it’s the only hardware that’s guaranteed to work with this guide.
  • A USB thumb drive that’s at least 8GB in size (I’m using this 16GB Corsair drive, but obviously any sufficiently sized thumb drive should do just fine.)
  • A copy of the Snow Leopard Install DVD. You can use the $29 “Upgrade” disc to install, even though this is a fresh installation. Note: If you feel like being completely honest, go ahead and buy the Mac Box Set-though, honestly, Apple’s practically made it hard *not* to buy the fully functional install disc.
  • Another Mac to prepare your thumb drive. (You’ll only need this other Mac for a few steps. I used my MacBook Pro, but you could also borrow a friend’s for an hour or so, too.)
  • The EP45UD3P Snow Leopard install package. This package allows you to skip all the command line work in my last guide, and you can download it here.

Step One: Prepare Your Thumb Drive

In this step, you’re going to format your thumb drive and then restore the Snow Leopard DVD image to the thumb drive because later we’ll be installing Snow Leopard to your hard drive using this thumb drive rather than the DVD. “Why?” you ask. Because in order to boot the installer, we need to customize the disk image with some special helper files of our own.

I went into great detail on this process last time, so this time I’m just going to include the step-by-step video below (made by the same generous man who created the EP45UD3P Snow Leopard installer package). If you want to read the very detailed version for a thorough explanation of how to rip the Snow Leopard install DVD to a disk image and then restore that image to your thumb drive, go here. (Come back when you get to the “Semi-heavy Terminal work” warning. That’s when you’re ready for the new and improved easy part.)

Note: Watch the video in HD and fullscreen to get a closer look at everything that’s happening.

As you can see in the video, after you restore the Snow Leopard install DVD to your thumb drive, all you’ve got to do is fire up the EP45UD3P Snow Leopard.pkg file (if you haven’t already downloaded and unzipped it, you can grab it here), select your thumb drive, and, let the installer take care of all the dirty work that you previously had to do one line at a time in Terminal.

Once you’ve finished there, you’re ready to set your BIOS and install Snow Leopard.

Step 2: Set Your BIOS

Before you can boot into or install OS X on your Hackintosh, you’ve got to make some small adjustments to your system BIOS (press Delete at system startup to tweak your BIOS settings). Rather than taking you step by step through every change you need to make, I’ve simply snapped a picture of the relevant BIOS screens and added some notes. Just click through these images and make sure your BIOS settings match up.

Step 3: Install Snow Leopard

If you've made it this far, the hard part is over. Now it's time to install Snow Leopard, which—unlike what we've done so far—is extremely easy.

Make sure you’ve set the boot priority in your BIOS to boot from your thumb drive (you can see how in this pic), then simply plug your prepared thumb drive into your Hackintosh and power it up. Since screenshots aren't really an option—and since it's a fairly easy process—my install instructions come in video format:

The quick version goes like this: Boot into the Snow Leopard installer, format the hard drive you want to install Snow Leopard to (go to Utilities -> Disk Utility, then click on the drive, select 1 Partition, Mac OS X Journaled (Case-Sensitive Update: Several readers have suggested that case-sensitive formatting can cause problems with some applications, like Adobe’s Creative Suite, so you may be better off sticking with plain old Mac OS X Journaled.), give it a name, and make sure GUID Partition Table is set in the Options. After you Apply the new partition, go back to the installer and install like normal to that drive. When you reboot after the install completes, press the arrow keys at the graphical boot menu and select the drive you just installed Snow Leopard to.

Two Last Tweaks

You could just stop there and be pretty happy at your new Hackintosh, but there are two little, easily performed tweaks you’ll want to tackle to get everything in tip top shape: The first will get your sound fully working, and the second will allow you to boot into Snow Leopard without your thumb drive.

Tweak One: Snow Leopard should be up and running on your Hackintosh like a dream—with one exception: Sound isn't entirely working yet. You may notice that sound actually does work in some instances, but not all. In the old guide, you needed to install a custom audio kext (your Mac’s equivalent to a driver); the setup has been slightly tweaked in this new method, so all you should actually need to do is open up the Sound preference pane in System Preferences (/Applications/System Preferences), click the Output tab, and change the output device to Built-in Line output (I haven’t tested with digital out, but it should work fine in theory).

Tweak Two: At this point, in order to boot to your newly installed Snow Leopard installation, you need to have your thumb drive plugged in so it loads the custom bootloader, from which you can select your new Snow Leopard hard drive. To install the custom bootloader to your hard drive (so you no longer need the thumb drive to boot), again download the EP45UD3P Snow Leopard.pkg zip file and run it, but this time, instead of choosing to install the package to your thumb drive, select the hard drive you’ve installed Snow Leopard to. Once the installer completes, you’ll no longer need your thumb drive plugged in to boot into Snow Leopard.

Congratulations! You've Got a Fully Functional Hackintosh—the Easy Way

Where the method I covered previously required a good amount of time and care in Terminal, this new and improved method is a breeze, and it works even better. (Sound works out of the box without any custom kexts, for example.)

It’s also worth noting that you can go ahead and upgrade to OS X 10.6.1 without any problems.

If you’ve given the Hackintosh route a try since my first post, let’s hear how it’s been working out for you in the comments. If this extra ease-of-installation was just what the doctor ordered, go grab the parts listed in the last post and get ready for a fun weekend.

Adam Pash is the editor of Lifehacker; he loves a good hack, enjoys his Macintosh, and craves the power of a Mac Pro, so building a Hack Pro was a perfect fit. His special feature Hack Attack appears on Lifehacker. Subscribe to the Hack Attack RSS feed to get new installments in your newsreader.

Choose the Right Sized TV for Your Space with a Simple Formula [Television]

So you’re in the market for a new HDTV, but don’t know what size screen to buy. You could go with the “bigger is better” adage, or you can precisely calculate a more suitable size by applying the following formula.

Gadgetwise blogger J.D. Biersdorfer and NYT personal tech editor Sam Grobart demonstrate how to determine the right television size using one simple formula.

According to the duo, the process involves taking the viewing distance from the screen (in inches) and dividing that by the number two. Why two? According to Jude, salespeople will tell you to divide the distance by 1.5 because they want you to buy a bigger set, whereas non-salespersons typically suggest 2.5 as a benchmark. The “pragmatic thing” to do, she says, is to split the difference between these numbers and divide by two instead, which should provide you with a proper screen size.

Check out the above video clip to see the simple calculation in action. If you don’t want to hassle yourself with all that inconvenient math (or you just want a more forgiving scale of sizes within maximum and minimum viewing distances (not everyone is sitting exactly the same distance from the TV, after all), this previously covered TV-to-space chart can do the trick, too.

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