Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Keychain Pocket Hook

My toolbox is fairly simple, so this can be done by just about anybody. 

-Pliers.  You'll need two pair.  I found that it was really handy to have both a regular and a needle-nose.
-Wire cutters.  My pliers have integrated wire cutters.
-File/Sandpaper.  If you don't have, you could use any rough, hard surface you don't mind scratching up.
-Hammer.  Not absolutely necessary, but could come in handy if your wire is particularly thick or hard.

-Coat hanger.  That's it.  Any one will do, with any kind of finish.  Mine was old and rusty, yours could be new and shiny, but know that it will probably get a bit scratched by the pliers unless you're really careful.  Edit: My cousin gave me a good idea to wrap the ends of the pliers in electrical tape.  Doing that will avoid scratching, and might make slipping less likely as well.

-Safety glasses.  Very important.  You don't want a sharp piece of metal flying into your eye.
-Gloves.  Also very important.  Pinching your skin in pliers could be nasty.

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Lasercut BraceLED bracelet

In 2011 I made a bracelet with ducttape and LED's (I named it BraceLED. Duh.) The bracelet's clasp is a small magnet that also acts as a switch, so the leds only light up when you're wearing the bracelet.

This spring (2013) a few things happened: I did a workshop with high school kids, making BraceLEDs. And they really, really liked doing that. That day I also met a man called Leen. He was there doing workshops with a 3D printer and... a lasercutter.
Two weeks ago, I did a nighttime workshop (from 8 pm to 1 am...) with adults this time, again making BraceLEDs. And them too really, really liked doing that.

Funny thing: Although "bracelet" sounds like "for women", braceLEDs are equally popular with men and women, boys and girls. Being able to design your own helps with that, I guess.

So: Many people enjoy making BraceLEDs and Leen has a lasercutter: Last week Leen and me joined forces and made a new version of the BraceLED, with the aid of Leen's lasercutter. We'll be doing try-out workshop with kids on June 22nd. I hope to have some nice pics of kids' results by then.

If you have access to a lasercutter *), making the BraceLED will take 30 mins to 1 hour. Costs are around €2,00 per BraceLED, but there is a catch: Although you need only 30 cm of coppertape, you must buy a 15ft roll if you don't have it lying around. And that will set you back around €8 (US$10).

*) If you think you _don't_ have acces to a lasercutter: Lasercutters tend to nest in FabLabs, Maker Spaces, Hacker spaces or Tech Shops. Look for them in in your area. 

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Know the Difference Between the Most Common Arduino Boards

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Facebook Is Fine: Just Hide the Noise

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Slow Browsers, Auto-Updating Apps, and Sick Children

Readers offer their best tips for fixing slow browsers in Android, automatically updating your phone's apps, and dealing with sick toddlers.

Every day we receive boatloads of great reader tips in our inbox, but for various reasons—maybe they're a bit too niche, maybe we couldn't find a good way to present it, or maybe we just couldn't fit it in—the tip didn't make the front page. From the Tips Box is where we round up some of our favorites for your buffet-style consumption. Got a tip of your own to share? Add it in the comments, email it to tips at, or share it over at our user-run blog, Hackerspace.

Slow Browsers, Auto-Updating Apps, and Sick Children

I haven't used the stock Android browser since I realized third-party browsers existed, and I recently switched to Chrome. It was very slow on my Galaxy Nexus, however, and for the longest time I thought my phone was just too slow and there was nothing I could do. On a whim, however, I tried ye olde stock browser, and it worked phenomenally well. It's fast, easy, and I actually like the interface better. Just goes to show you: sometimes stock isn't so bad!

Slow Browsers, Auto-Updating Apps, and Sick Children

Kyle shows us why auto app updates aren't always the best idea:

Sometimes, auto-update is a bad idea. This happened to me a while back—see the above image. Thought I would share.

Of course, the occasional issue may still be worth it, but it's an interesting counterpoint to the feature we're always asking for.

Slow Browsers, Auto-Updating Apps, and Sick Children

BradLTL saves himself from trouble at 3 am:

Layer your infants / toddler bed in sheets and mattress protectors. This way, when they wet the bed (or get sick) all you have to do is clean them up and pull off a layer and put them right back to bed. Layering goes like this: Mattress> Pad > Sheet > Pad > Sheet > Pad > Sheet > Baby.

Trust me, at 3 am, you'll thank me for that one.

Gizmo1975 also mentions that Clouds and Stars QuickZip sheets are designed for just such issues, which is an alternative. Photo by Nathan & Jenny.

Slow Browsers, Auto-Updating Apps, and Sick Children

Yurteboy notes that private Facebook posts have one annoying "feature":

So I just found out that if you set a post to a very limited audience (as in 2 people), those people can tell they're the only ones who can see it by clicking the "cog" wheel. This means that people can see from my lists who i share some things and who I don't, which is the equivalent to knowing what secrets you're in on. I want to know when this happened and how to change it, if possible. I don't like my lists being obvious.

Luckily, this only happens if you create a small list of people who can see the post. If you exclude a few people from seeing the post, it won't show they've been excluded.

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Everything You Didn't Know You Could Do with Google's Voice Commands

Voice search is one of those features that seems silly, but is awesome once you start using it. Not convinced? Here are a few ways to turn voice search from a silly gimmick into a useful productivity tool.

Google's been pushing voice actions for awhile, adding tons of new features and trying to make it seem more appealing. I, like many of you, thought the whole thing was pretty silly until I actually started using it. Now, I realize that it actually solves my biggest cellphone annoyance: typing on phones sucks.

Voice search, on the other hand, is fast. Really fast. On Android, all it takes is a quick swipe up from the bottom of your screen to access Google Now, after which you can just say what you want and be on your way (iPhone users have to do a bit more work, unless they're jailbroken). No tapping, no correcting typos (as long as you're in a reasonably quiet room, of course), and no scrolling through menus for contacts if you're trying to call a friend. You can do everything nearly instantaneously—and it's more than just search.

Everything You Didn't Know You Could Do with Google's Voice Commands

Obviously, searching the web is one of Voice Actions' biggest features, but it's more than just a faster way to type a search query. The more Google's "Knowledge Graph" grows, the more voice search actually becomes worthwhile, since it gives you a very straightforward answer to the things you ask. Here are some of the cooler things you can ask:

How many quarts are in a gallon? Everybody knows Google can make calculations and perform conversions, but boy, it's a lot faster to ask it than it is to type it in. This is especially handy when you're in the kitchen and just need a quick answer, when you want to convert Fahrenheit to Celsius, or...anything having to do with the imperial and metric systems, really.Define "bellwether." My friend and I didn't know what this word actually meant, so I just asked Google.Show me a video of how to peel garlic. If you specify that you want a video, Google will ensure videos show up at the top of your search results. The same works for images, too: Show me pictures of the Playstation 4 will push image search results right to the top. You can even give it more detail, like Show me pictures of the Lincoln Memorial at sunset.When does Whole Foods close? This is way faster than looking it up on Yelp or Google yourself.What's the weather like this weekend? Weather apps are usually just a tap away, but this is nice if you want to see the weather for a specific day without having to scroll through a bunch of information, I suppose.When is Father's Day? I hate holidays that change every year.What's a good Thai restaurant near me? It'll search nearby Thai restaurants. If you change your mind, you can then ask How about Mexican? It'll understand you're still searching for restaurants nearby and act accordingly.How long is The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey? As if you didn't already know the answer was "too long."What is area code 909? This is awesome for when you get those unnamed calls.Who is the CEO of Ford Motor Company? Google knows who a lot of people are.When is the next Red Wings game? You can also ask for the score of the last game, and other such things.What time is it in Tokyo? Never try to convert time zones in your head again.What is the status of US Airways flight 200? There are already a lot of other apps that deal with stuff like this (and can do more), but it's good to know that Google can do it too.What's the theme song to Firefly? Shocker: it's not called "You can't take the sky from me."You get the idea. It knows a lot more than you probably think it does, and anything you can ask, it can probably answer. Of course, if you're doing real research, this isn't helpful—but it's great for that quick stuff that you just need an answer to right away.

Everything You Didn't Know You Could Do with Google's Voice Commands

That's all fine and dandy, but if you're on Android, voice actions also integrate with a lot of apps on your system—and not just the built-in apps, either. Here are some really cool uses for it:

Text Kathleen "when are you coming home?" Okay, you probably already knew about this one—it's been around forever. But, did you know you can give your contacts "phonetic names" so Google can understand the more complicated ones? Just head into your address book, edit that contact, and add the phonetic name field to help it out. You can use a similar command to make calls, too.Create new calendar event, lunch with Zach at 12:30 pm. Creating calendar events is a lot faster than it used to be on your phone, but it's still one of the slowest, most annoying processes I've come across. This is so much faster.Note to self: I'm parked on level C3. This used to just make a draft in Gmail with that text, but now you can use it to add a note to Google Keep, Evernote, or Catch, which is awesome.Set alarm for 30 minutes from now, label, get laundry. This is much faster than opening up the clock app and setting it manually.Remind me to call Mom tomorrow at 2 pm. We've talked about this one before, but no list of productive voice commands would be complete without it.Navigate me to The Alibi Room. This immediately starts navigation to my favorite taco restaurant, no searching or addresses necessary. You can also add phrases like "on foot" if you want walking navigation.Call the Culver Hotel. Similar to the above, if it can find what you're talking about, it'll help you skip the search step and get straight to your call.Listen to Never Gonna Give You Up. This will start searching your music library for that song, but you can also pull it up on YouTube if you don't have it on your phone, which is pretty cool.What's this song? No need for Shazam anymore. This trick will work for finding out what's playing wherever you are. (You can also just tap the mic, then tap the music note icon instead of saying "What's this song?")Integrate it with tons of web services. If you have an app that doesn't integrate with voice actions, you can usually work around this. If it integrates with SMS or email, then you can make it work with voice actions by adding its SMS code or email to your contacts. For example, you could add your Facebook email address to your contacts, call it "Facebook Post," and say something like Send email to Facebook Post: I'm using Google Voice search! and it'll post that status to your Facebook.Do voice commands work perfectly every time? Absolutely not. It doesn't really work in loud rooms, and sometimes it just doesn't understand you (I tried to look up what a "morel" was the other day, but it just kept telling me what "morals" were). But, once you start using it, you'll get the hang of which stuff it does well and which stuff it doesn't. After that small initial learning curve, you'll realize you can save a ton of time with it over opening your browser and typing.