Blog Archives

Ditch the Granny Knot to Tie Your Shoes More Efficiently [Knots]

The difference between shoes tied with a balanced, neat, and self-tightening knot versus those tied with an unbalanced, sloppy, and loose knot, is all in how you make your first loop.

Over at Runner’s World they’ve put together an instructional video to go along with an informative article on the difference between Granny Knots and Reef Knots. Well tied shoes are important to runners, but anyone can benefit from the simple change in knot tying-methodology outlined in the video below:

By simply altering the direction of the first loop you make when tying your shoes you can produce a neater knot that is less prone to coming untied. If the Reef Knot caught your eye, you may want to check out another interesting knot we’ve covered: the “world’s fastest shoelace knot, a.k.a. the Ian Knot. Have a bit of knot tying lore to share? Let’s hear about it in the comments.

Fit to be Tied [Runner’s World]






Most Popular DIY Projects of 2009 [Best Of 2009]

We love DIY projects here at Lifehacker. Whether we’re building computers, backyard projects, or turning office supplies into artillery, we’re always tinkering. Today we’re taking a peek at the most popular DIY projects of 2009.

Create Your Own Sun Jar: Lifehacker Edition


Inspired by a tutorial we posted last year, we decided to make our own DIY sun jars. The trendy summer time lighting accessory retails for $30+ but we were able to make ours for around $10 each. The sun jars proved to be our most popular non-computer DIY of the entire year and readers shared their own creations with us.

The First-Timer’s Guide to Building a Computer from Scratch


Building your own computer is a great way to get exactly what you want, the way you want it, without being constrained by the limits and high-prices of mass produced computers. We showed you how to build a computer from start to finish and have fun doing it.

Turn a Sharpie into a Liquid Fueled Rocket


What’s standing between you and some office mayhem? Certainly not a lack of Sharpie markers and keyboard dusting spray. Combine the two with this fun DIY project and you’ve got one of the most awesome pieces of office-machinery we’ve ever featured.

Properly Erase Your Physical Media


You need to be properly erasing your physical media: all the time, every time. Our guide will show you how to get the job done and done right whether you use software to scrub your disks or you send them to the great data mine in the sky with a 21-gun salute.

Turn an Old Laptop into a Wall-Mounted Computer

Why settle for a digital picture frame when, in the same wall space, you could mount an entirely functional computer/slideshow player/TV tuner? One Lifehacker reader turned an old laptop into a super-charged digital frame.

$8 DIY Aluminum Laptop Stand

We’ve always been keen on DIY laptop stands, but reader Aaron Kravitz—inspired by an attractive $50 stand—went above and beyond, creating one of the most attractive DIY laptop stands we've featured to date.

Build an IKEA NAS On the Cheap


If the Hive Five on best home server software got you excited about setting up a home server but you’re not keen on another unsightly PC in your home, check out this DIY IKEA NAS.

Build a DIY Portable Air Conditioner


We’ve shown you how to make an air conditioner (even for as low as $30), but what if you wanted something you can put in your car and take with you? While it’s no substitute for a fully-charged and factory-fresh AC system, it’ll keep you cool.

Turn a Bookshelf into a Secret Passage


Who hasn’t dreamed of having a mystery-story-style secret passageway? While a trick bookshelf is pretty awesome in itself, this secret passage hides a home office with clever style. One industrious Lifehacker reader and his girlfriend had grown tired of seeing their office from their living space, so they hid it behind a wall of books.

Wire Your House with Ethernet Cable

You’ve ripped a movie on your laptop, and now want it on that fancy new home theater PC next to your TV. If you’ve got the time, wiring your house with Cat-5e cable could make transfer times a distant memory.

Rain Gutters as Cable Management Tools


We’re all about creative cable management here at Lifehacker, so we were instantly drawn to reader Seandavid010‘s rain-gutter cable management setup. He was awesome enough to send detailed photos and step by step instructions to help other readers recreate his setup.

Build Your Own DTV Antenna

The lights went out on analog television this year and we were there with a guide to help you build a great DIY antenna for boosting your reception and getting that crisp digital picture you crave.

DIY Laptop Rack Hack Turns Your Monitor into an iMac


Lifehacker reader Matt Lumpkin saw our monitor stand from door stoppers post and thought we might like his laptop rack hack as another space-saving desktop solution for laptop-lovers. He was right.

Build Your Own Pizza Oven


Suppose you were inspired by the cheap DIY home pizza oven—but weren't so sure your home insurance would cover oven modifications. It's time to build a safer, more eye-pleasing oven, and we've got a thorough guide.

Crack a Master Combination Padlock Redux


Two years ago we highlighted how to crack a Master combination padlock for those of you who may have lost the combination to your bulletproof lock; now designer Mark Campos has turned the tried-and-true instructions into an easier-to-follow visual guide.

DIY Invisible Floating Bookshelves


We’ve covered the invisible floating bookshelf once or twice before, but if you liked the idea but weren’t keen on ruining a book in the process, weblog May December Home’s got you covered.

DIY Inverted Bookshelf


Instead of storing your books upright on top of the shelf, the inverted bookshelf holds all of your books in place using elastic webbing so you can hang them below the shelf—all the while allowing you to still take them out and put them back on as needed.

Build an Under-the-Cabinet Kitchen PC from an Old Laptop


Inspired by our guide to giving an old laptop new life with cheap or free projects, Lifehacker reader Brian turned his aging Dell laptop into an incredible under-the-cabinet kitchen PC.

Turn Storage Containers into Self Watering Tomato Planters


If you’d like to have delicious home-grown tomatoes but lack a garden to grow them in, you’ll definitely want to check out this ingenious and inexpensive self-watering system.

Deter Thieves by Uglifying Your Camera


A few years ago, blogger Jimmie Rodgers’s camera was stolen while volunteering in an impoverished Brazilian community, so he did what any sane person would do: He bought a new camera and made it ugly. With his uglified camera, Rodgers was able to snap pictures freely during the rest of his trip without worrying too much that his ostensibly crappy camera would end up stolen.

DIY TV or Monitor Stand from Door Stoppers


Nothing adds space to a desk or home theater setup like a simple monitor or TV stand, and weblog IKEA Hacker details how to build your own stand on-the-cheap with a few inexpensive items from IKEA.

Repurpose Your Analog Television


You don’t need to run out and buy a new TV because of the DTV switchover. If you did anyways, Make Magazine has put together quite a guide to giving old TVs new life.

Use Ping-Pong Balls to Create Diffused Party Lights


If you need some cheap and novel ambient lighting for your next party, you’re only a box of ping-pong balls and a string of lights away from solving your lighting worries.

Build a Custom-Made BoxeeBox


DeviceGuru blogger Rick Lehrbaum, inspired by the cheaper set-top boxes, made his own higher-powered “BoxeeBox” for the free, open-source media center. He posted all the parts, the how-to details, and lots of pictures.

Build a Sturdy Cardboard Laptop Stand


You already shelled out your hard earned cash for a swanky laptop, why drop more cash on an overpriced laptop stand? Cardboard alone can do the trick, as detailed in this step-by-step tutorial.

Install Snow Leopard on Your Hackintosh PC, No Hacking Required


Earlier this year we put together a wildly popular guide to building a Hackintosh with Snow Leopard, start to finish, and then followed it up with an even easier guide to install Snow Leopard on your Hackintosh PC, no hacking required. Computers + DIY is all sorts of geeky fun waiting to happen.


Which Is Your Favorite Lifehacker DIY Project of 2009?(polls)

Have a favorite DIY from 2009 that wasn’t highlighted here? Sound off in the comments with a link to your favorite project. Want to see more popular DIY guides courtesy of the ghost of Lifehacker past? Check out our huge DIY guide roundup from 2008.






From the Tips Box: Wood Chopping Tricks and How-To [Tips]

Last week we shared an ingenious hack for chopping firewood more efficiently and the tips box lit up with great tips from readers with wood-chopping experience.

Photo by sunpig.

Lifehacker reader Peter has been heating his home with wood for over 40 years. He wrote in with this tip:

An added bonus is to have a heavy solid base of concrete, pavement or a huge flat stone under the log, and a 2′ x 2′ square of 3/4″ plywood over that.

The concrete gives a solid non-bouncing base, and the plywood protects the splitting maul edge. No axe is involved in splitting. Axes are thin, lighter than a maul (2-3 lb.), and sharp for cutting across wood grain when felling a tree or cutting off branches. A maul is much heavier (6-10 lb.), duller, and designed to split along the wood’s grain. The heavy base under the log puts all of the maul’s splitting energy into the splitting, with virtually no bounce.

Mark enjoys chopping wood as a break from life in the office and is full of tips:

When splitting smaller logs than those in the bungee demo, if you get your axe stuck in, rather than struggle to get it out, lift the log up, still on the axe, to full height, flip it round and bring the axe back to your chopping block, axe back (rear) down. This forces the stuck log down onto the axe and usually splits it first time.

I notice the bungee demo was splitting rounds which were on the ground. I always split on a block, usually a large trunk, bedded on some hardcore which is then covered in a good layer of sawdust and chips. Reckon his rounds were too big for this but it is worth a note for smaller rounds.

For twisty logs that won’t split, I use a thing called a Wood Grenade. This is a cone shaped device with a clever, slight twist to the cone that, when driven into a log will split it.

You can find the “Wood Grenade” or variations at most hardware stores or order it online. Check out this example to get an idea of what to look for when you’re shopping.

John writes in with some tips on storing your firewood properly:

If you're a veteran to using a wood burning stove, this won't be much of a lesson but for the greenwoods out there—ha!—this'll save 'em some headaches. You need to store wood for at least a year to season it (or pay a premium when you buy wood for seasoned wood.)

Everyone talks about creosote [Ed. Note: unburnt particulate that can clog up your chimney and cause fires] and how one wood is better than the other but the real issue is drying. Wood needs to be bone dry. Store it so that it’s not sitting on the ground and cover it so that it doesn’t get rained or snowed on, but make sure the sides are open. Throwing a tarp over the whole pile won’t help you a bit, it’ll just turn your wood pile into a little greenhouse and make the drying time longer than it needs to be.

If you can place the woodpile [where] it’ll get a nice breeze most of the year, that’ll help things along. Everything you do when stacking and storing wood should be focused on drying it faster and keeping it dry. Don’t wrap it up in plastic! Don’t let it get rained on all year! You’ll have a big stinking pile of rotten wood and not a huge pile of home-heating magic.

All excellent tips, thanks for writing in guys! If you have a wood chopping or storing trick of your own to share, let’s hear about it in the comments.






Use a Bungee Cord to Chop Wood More Efficiently [MacGyver Tip]

Chopping wood is a satisfying, yet laborious, task. Give yourself an efficiency boost with this simple bungee cord organization video tip.

Photo by Muffet.

When chopping large diameter logs into more manageable and fireplace-friendly sizes, it can be a pain to keep all the pieces upright as you split them. Check out the video below to see how the simple addition of a bungee cord means you’ll spend more time chopping and less time setting up logs to be split.

Bungee cord or not, that guy is a wood-chopping machine. Have a tip or trick related to chopping wood or heating your home with it? Let’s hear about it in the comments.






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.






Goby Helps You Find Fun Things To Do [Entertainment]

If you have an idea what you want to do and where you’re going to be but you want someone else to figure out the rest, Goby can take care of the searching for you.

Skydiving in Las Vegas? Rock climbing in New York City? Sailing in Bar Harbor? Give Goby a rough idea what you want to do and it scours calendars, event listings, directories, and more to bring you relevant information about everything from extreme sports to theater listings.

You can sort the results by relevance, distance, date, and even the name of the event or activity. You can also filter the results via categories. If you wanted a dinner theater experience, you can easily drill down through the results for theater to include only dining experiences.

Have your own favorite service or tool for finding things to do? Let’s hear about it in the comments.






Properly Prune a Tree [Outdoors]

Pruning a tree may not be the most glamorous DIY project, but doing it properly is critical to the health of the trees in your yard. Protect your trees by properly pruning them.

Photo by ruralgold.

Why is trimming a tree properly so important? The most immediate reason is that improperly trimming a tree can injure you. The long term reason is the health of the tree: if you do a poor job trimming a tree, you can open up the tree to diseases and damage from the elements. Healthy trees add value to a yard and replacing old growth trees is difficult both from a cost and time standpoint.

The guide at the aptly named Tree-Pruning.com covers the basics, including how to make a cut to protect the bark of the tree and how to trim branches so that the tree will heal and seal over the wound. Check out the guide at the link below for some step by step advice.






Build a Beneficial Bug House [Gardening]

Although you may not be a fan of things that creep and crawl outside your home, many bugs have a beneficial role in the ecosystem of your yard. This project encourages the good ones to set up shop.

The goal in encouraging bugs to take up residence in your yard and garden is to host bugs which don’t bother you, don’t do any harm to your garden, and perform some beneficial function like pollinating your flowers, eating nuisance bugs, and keeping other bugs from destroying your plants.

Ground beetles, for example, eat hundreds of gypsy moth caterpillars—caterpillars which would otherwise be slowly stripping your trees bare.

By using some simple tools and scrapwood—most of the material needed could be found around the house or the rubbish pile at a construction site—you can build a house for the beneficial bugs you want to encourage to take up home in your yard. The house is divided into two distinct parts and provides shelter for a variety of creates like solitary bees, beetles, and lady bugs.

Have your own trick for using the forces of Mother Nature to protect your garden? Let’s hear about it in the comments.






Top 10 DIY Projects that Harness the Power of the Sun [Lifehacker Top 10]

Cheap, powerful, and available almost everywhere—solar energy is a truly great thing. With these 10 sun-powered projects, you can turn a sunny day off into some brag-worthy, possibly money-saving backyard tech.

Photo by david.nikonvscanon.

10. Engrave wood with a “sun laser”

Leave them alone long enough, and nearly every kid will investigate, or at least hear about, the devastating effects of magnifying glasses and clear, sunny weather on insects. Route that fascination with concentrated sunlight into some wood engraving. Aluminum foil (or, preferably, foil tape), sunglasses, a razor blade, and a magnifying glass are all you need to get creative with an old piece of wood or other dark objects. You’ll need to provide supervision, lest bad aim turn into a kindling incident, but it’s a great project for kids, as well as a unique way to leave your mark with style. (Original post)

9. Heat water in your backyard

It’s not an efficient way to keep your hot tub filled, but the kind of solar-powered water heater detailed at the Instructables link above can get a big batch of water up to 170F without requiring any work from your water heater, and the kit costs around $5 with the right parts suppliers. Even if you pay a bit more, think about how often the backyard grill, deck, or pool could use a little cleaning with some hot, soapy water. This project gets you a free source of ever-ready cleaning water, and at a pretty neat price. (Original post)

8. Start a fire with a soda can and chocolate

This little project is the most reliant on a strong bit of sunlight, but totally worth the effort when you pull it off. The chocolate polishes the bottom of a soda can, which better focuses and intensifies sunlight reflections, creating a cone of fire-starting power that leaves your fellow campers impressed—or the other attendees at the park picnic grateful you were there when they forgot the matches. (Original post)

7. Convert a lawnmower to solar power

If you’ve got a small-ish lawn, a battery-powered mower is much easier on your and your neighbors’ ears, and it saves you the hassle and cost of gas refills. Take those eco-benefits to the next level by converting a gas-guzzling push mower to use a solar-charged battery. Appropedia’s version is a definite weekend project for an older model, but if you’ve got a newer battery mower, it’s not too hard to simply start charging it with a solar panel instead of your wall socket, and this guide will help get you there. (Original post)

6. Estimate your home’s solar potential

A solar-powered house sounds like a neat idea in abstract, but how would you know if your house’s roof could really sustain worthwhile energy? Luckily, a big search company has overhead images of just about every house out there, and mashup tool RoofRay can use that image, plus your location’s average sunlight and some roof details, to get a starting estimate on whether you can use the sun to push back on your power meter a bit. (Original post)

5. Extend Wi-Fi to your backyard

Probably the least practical and most expensive of the projects listed here, the solar-powered Wi-Fi extender is definitely the most rewarding from a geek cred and green power perspective. Popular Science explains in great detail how to solder and network together a semi-standard Linksys Wi-Fi router, range extender, solar panel, battery, and higher-powered antenna, and then set it up to grab Wi-Fi from your household's main network and expand it to the great outdoors—or, at least, the outdoors behind your house. That leaves you with regular web access anywhere around your property, without having to worry about running cables across the lawn. (Original post)

4. Cook with a cardboard box

There’s an entire realm of recipes and cookbooks that purport to help you get cooking done in the summer without turning on your oven. Skip the gazpacho and the house-warming heat with an oven built from aluminum foil, construction paper, plastic, and a few other household items, including a firm cardboard box. It’s great for saving energy, saving time, and feeling like you really made the most of a warm, sunny day. Want to get a bit more efficient and physics-y with your outdoor oven? Try a parabolic solar cooker. Photo by thescarletmanuka. (Original post)

3. Build a greenhouse for $50

If you're lucky enough to live where plants and food grow all year, you already know the power of photosynthesis. For those who could use a little more prep time for their seedlings, a longer growing season, or just a buffer against the occasional plant-punching dry spell, The Door Garden explains how to take some light construction materials—$50 if you happen to have most of it lying around, about $150 purchased new—and build a greenhouse that will withstand most winters and thrive in every other season. Just got a few plants you want to get started with condensed solar power? Try the mini-greenhouse made from a window. (Original post)

2. Charge an iPhone/iPod with the sun

We’re big fans of the MintyBoost DIY USB charger kit, a great project for electronic beginners and pros alike. It was only a matter of time, then, until someone switched the power source from AA batteries in an Altoids case to a lithium-ion battery with solar charging capabilities. Completing the modified kit isn’t a great leap more difficult than the original, and once you do, you’ll be glad to get a lot more use out of your windowsills, and hand over a lot less money at the grocery store every few weeks. It’s not necessarily the most effective method of charging, but it’s undeniably cool. (Original post)

1. Sun jar garden light

The solar-powered outdoor lights they sell at your local garden/home improvement store can be subtle or original-looking—if you want to pay a premium. Otherwise, you're stuck with painted plastic and models that hold a pretty weak charge. The sun jars constructed by our own Jason, on the other hand, cost only about $11 each—less if you have jars or batteries on hand—and give off a pretty neat glow, powered entirely by solar energy from earlier that day.


What sun-powered projects are in your mental queue for some sunny weekend? What great solar hacks have you pulled off already? Tell us all about them in the comments.



Make Natural Insect Repellent with Essential Oils [Outdoors]

If you live in a climate without many summer pests, well, lucky you. For the rest of us, these essential oil repellents will make patio life less insect-filled. Photo by mccun934.

How-to-guide repository wikiHow explains the crafting of simple pest-banishing pots for your home and garden. You take a small rag or sponge, soak it with a diluted concentration of essential oils, then leave it in a small container like a glass jar. When you want to drive away mosquitoes, horse flies, and other annoying summer pests, you simply open the jar and place it near you to keep them away.

If you don't have any small jars on hand, this is also a great project for the versatile Altoids tin. For details on the project, including which oils to use—mosquitoes hate peppermint apparently—check out the guide at the link below. If you find that a dose of peppermint isn't driving away the mosquitoes as quickly as you'd like, lure them away from you with a DIY mosquito trap.





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