Saturday, October 5, 2013

Get the Most Out of Your Home Appliances (Without Taking Them Apart)

When was the last time you had to salt your perishables, got dishpan hands, or beat your laundry against a washboard? Chances are, not recently. Your home appliances do so much for you, shouldn't you return the love? Here's how to keep your domestic machine in peak condition without putting on a tool belt.

Refrigerators are pretty basic machines; there are really only about five major components to them. And to know how to take care of them, it helps to first know how they work.

Refrigerators utilize a compressor pump to condense hot refrigerant vapor, and cycle it through a series of heat-exchanging condenser coils on the exterior of the machine, where the lower ambient air temperature dissipates the heat and cools the vapor back to a liquid. The refrigerant then flows through a series of internal heat exchangers, known as evaporator coils, where it sucks up thermal energy, expands back into a gas, gets pumped back out to the condenser coils, and the process restarts.

Long story short: The longer and more often the compressor runs, the faster it will wear out, so maintaining the fridge's thermal integrity (aka "close the door, you're letting all the cold air out") is essential.

Every three months, give the door seals a scrubbing with some warm, soapy water. While you're washing them, inspect the gaskets for wear or cracking. Also, give the fridge a once-over to make sure it's still level, and run a vacuum with a brush attachment over the fan and condenser air inlets to prevent dust bunnies from accumulating. If your fridge has one of those fancy in-door water dispensers, be sure to swap out the filter twice a year to prevent it from clogging, and empty the ice bucket monthly to prevent old cubes from absorbing odors.

Dishwashers spare your hands from scrubbing by heating a small basin of water to about 130 degrees F, and shooting it from water jets attached to a spinning arm in the bottom of the machine. Hot, sudsy water blasts your flatware clean before rinsing it in the same matter.

Like the refrigerator, making sure everything remains watertight is key. Once every three months or so, give the door gasket a good cleaning with a bit of warm soapy water to remove any grit or grime that might prevent it from sealing. Also, check that the water jets in the spinning arms are clear of obstructions. If they're not, clean out the goop with a toothpick or needle-nose pliers. And while you've got your head in the dishwasher, check the wastewater drain grill (it's under the spinning arms, in the floor of the washer) for obstructions, clearing them as necessary.

While washing machines are great at getting dirt out of your clothes, they aren't so great at getting the dirt they got out of your clothes out of themselves. If your clothes come out dingy after a cycle, it may be time to clean your cleaner.

For older top-load washers, let the clothing-free tub fill with a full load's worth of hot water, add a quart of bleach, and let it agitate for a minute before pausing the cycle. Let the bleach solution soak in for about an hour before you complete the wash cycle. Next, repeat the process with a quart of white vinegar (which removes odors).

For front-loading washers, dissolve four tablespoons of baking soda in four cups of warm water (you can also use a quarter cup of vinegar in a quart of water if you prefer). Soak a washcloth in this solution and go to town on the tub to remove dirt residue from the inside of the tub. Then, run a rinse cycle to finish.

The hoses that carry water into and out of the washer may be constructed from heavy gauge rubber but they aren't indestructible. Check them occasionally for signs of wear—blisters, cracks, sponginess—and replace them as necessary. Or don't, and just wait for one to burst and shower you with scalding water.

Finally, give the washer a nudge now and again to make sure that all four feet are flat on the ground to eliminate vibration. Most washers are equipped with adjustable, front leveling legs—just rotate the leg to adjust its height and secure it using a lock nut. Many washers also have self adjusting rear legs—tilt the machine forward on its front legs to automatically extend the rears.

[Repair Clinic - Apartment Therapy - House Logic - Nat Geo - Top Image: Santiago Cornejo / Shutterstock]

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Gigabyte GeForce GTX 770 WindForce 3X 2GB Video Card Review

Legit Video Card Reviews

NVIDIA's reference design for the GeForce GTX 770 is solidly built, but most video card makers have opted to use their own PCB design and custom GPU coolers on the cards that they bring to market. Gigabyte has come out with a rather impressive NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770 2GB/4GB video card that has the company's WindForce 3X GPU Cooler and a custom designed PCB. This card stands out from the crowd due to the WindForce 3X GPU cooler that uses six copper heatpipes (2x 8mm and 4x 6mm) and three 75mm cooling fans to keep this factory overclocked card running smoothly. This beefy GPU cooler marketed as being able to handle thermal designs of up to 450 Watts.


That is complete overkill for the reference GeForce GTX 770 clock speeds, so Gigabyte overclocked this card with the highest frequencies that we have seen to date. A standard reference card comes at 1046MHz base clock with a 1085MHz boost clock, but the Gigabyte GTX 770 WindForce 3X comes clocked at 1137MHz core and 1189MHz boost. a nice 9-10% increase in clock speeds on the 1536 stream processors! The 2GB of GDDR5 memory runs on a 256-bit bus and is clocked at 1753MHz (7012MHz), which means that is has not been overclocked.


The Gigabyte GTX 770 WindForce 3X 2GB video card is sold under part number GV-N770OC-2GD and retails for $409.99 shipped.  There is also a 4GB version of the same card that has part number GV-N770OC-4GD that sells for $449.99 shipped. It you are gaming on a triple panel setup it is advisable to spend the extra $40 to get twice as much frame buffer as many game titles use more than 2GB at a screen resolution of 5760x1080 and higher.

The Gigabyte GTX 770 WindForce 3X is a dual-slot card that measures 11-inches in length, which is half an inch longer than the reference design. This card has some weight to it and weighs just over two pounds!


The back side of the card is not covered by a back-plate and none of the GDDR5 memory chips are located on the back of the 2GB card that we are looking at today. Notice that the GPU cooler does extend past the PCB, so Gigabyte tried to make it as large as possible.


The Gigabyte GTX770 WindForce 3X video card looks sharp from the front, with a nice nameplate and all, but once installed in a case this is why you see.  It would have been nice if Gigabyte would have installed some branding on the back of the cards metal fan shroud that extends above the card.  It's just a blank piece of metal that is sticking out when installed in a traditional PC case.


The Gigabyte GeForce GTX 770 OC WindForce 3X 2GB GDDR5 graphics card has a total of four display connectors.  You have dual-link DVI-I, dual-link DVI-D, HDMI and DisplayPort outputs. All of the video outputs are standard size, so no adapters are needed, which is nice.  The only downside to using full size connectors is that the exhaust fan outlet is small, but due to the WindForce 3X GPU Cooler design most of the air is blown back into the chassis.


Here is a closer look at the bottom of the video card to show how the fan shroud is pretty much open all the way around the card. The fans push air down into the two large aluminum heatsinks and then the air pretty much goes out in every direction once it hits the PCB.


The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770 graphics card supports triple-SLI, so Gigabyte supports it as well and the card has a pair of SLI connectors along the top of the PCB for multi-GPU systems. Gigabyte ships the card with blue colors protectors on all the video outputs, PCIe slot and the SLI connectors.


Gigabyte went with 6-pin and 8-pin PCIe power connectors on the GeForce GTX770 WindForce 3X video card and recommends at least a 600 Watt power supply with a minimum +12V current rating of 42A. It should be noted that when we plugged in the PCIe power connectors that they made contact with the WindForce 3X GPU cooler, so it is a tight fit to get them on and really tricky to get them off! You just have to be gentle and finesse it!

Now that we have covered the basics of the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 770 WindForce 3X, let's move along and take a quick look at the retail packaging and accessory bundle for all those folks that like unboxing details.

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Still waiting for a perfect Reader replacement?

Still waiting for a perfect Reader replacement?

Great discussions are par for the course here on Lifehacker. Each day, we highlight a discussion that is particularly helpful or insightful, along with other great discussions and reader questions you may have missed. Check out these discussions and add your own thoughts to make them even more wonderful!

For great discussions any time, be sure check out our user-run blog, Hackerspace.

If you've got a cool project, inspiration, or just something fun to share, send us a message at

Happy Lifehacking, everybody!

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Upcycled Tshirt Market Bag (Easy and Super Low Sew!)

IMG_0485.PNGI have a pile of tees from various road races and have always said that I'll turn them into a tshirt quilt... but that may never happen, so I'm doing the next best thing and upcycling them into market bags to take to the farmer's market! 
This is an easy project that's so low sew that you could even do it by hand if you wanted to (or maybe "have to" because you don't have a machine).

P.S. If you're like me and hate to waste anything, check out my dog toy tutorial to use up the scraps from this project ;-)

IMG_0249.JPGA tshirt (it doesn't need to be heavy duty thick cotton, but I wouldn't use a super light weight shirt)
Scissors or rotary cutter
Cutting mat (optional but very helpful)

*Note: the size of the shirt will determine the size of the bag. If you only have a large shirt and want a smaller bag, then check out the alternate instructions on Steps 2 and 3. 

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Trick Yourself Into Saving Money with a Hard-to-Reach Bank Account

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How to Find Parking in the City When You Need It

Whether you're visiting friends downtown or headed to an event in the city, you may need to find parking if you're driving in from outside. Even if you live in another town where parking is scarce, your skills in your old town many not help you too much in the new one. Here's how to find a place to leave your ride, whether you're in town for a few hours or moving in.

If you're in for something specific, finding parking can be bad but there are usually options near your venue. If you're just in town to see friends or try a new night spot, you might have a tougher time. If you're moving in and still need the option of driving, you'll need longer-term parking for your car in a safe place. All of those things are challenges, but they're not without solutions. Here's how to find short and long-term parking when you need it, in just about any town.

How to Find Parking in the City When You Need It

If you're headed into a city for a special event, you may have the parking situation well in hand. Staying at a hotel? Ask the hotel if they have parking. Going in for a concert or a major event? The website for the event or venue probably has parking tips. Those things are useful, and you should definitely check before you leave, but if you're already on the way or headed to a place that's not likely to have parking, you need more options:

ParkoPedia is your best friend if you haven't left yet. Even if your event has parking nearby, Parkopedia can show you lots or garages that are closer, and if you're visiting friends or going to a market or concert, you can see all of the nearby paid lots in the vicinity of your friend's place on a top-down Google Map. There are mobile apps for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone, and there's even a price calculator to help you estimate how much you'll pay in a given lot for the time you need to be in town.Parkmobile partners with cities large and small around the country (you can see a full map with locations here) to manage electronic payment for parking. If it's available to you, it's the best thing in the world for finding city parking. Load the iOS or Android app on your phone, and then find a parking space, garage, or lot. Once you park there, you'll see a code you can enter into the app to start a parking session. Type in the code, select how long you'd like to park, and start your session. Your credit card will automatically be billed, your car will be legally parked, and you can walk away—if your session ends, just open the app and extend it or start a new session. No running out to feed the meter, no moving your car every few hours to beat a time limit. Best of all, the app will guide you back to where you parked if you forgot, or help you find supported lots and open spaces if you're on the hunt.Parker is another parking service that also works with cities and municipalities to make paying for parking and finding legal spaces easier on drivers. You'll definitely need the mobile apps to make this service work (available for iOS and Android) but once you have them, a quick search using your destination address or your current GPS location will turn up meters, lots, and garages near you, along with how much they cost. The service even differentiates between ADA compliant parking spaces, EV charging stations, and other speciifc types of parking. Once you find a spot, you can pay with your phone and make a note of where you parked so you can get back easily or renew your parking session if you'll be longer than expected.Robin is a great parking assistant for Android users, and it's hands-free so you can use it in the car while you're driving around looking for a place to park. Just get Robin's attention by tapping the screen or waving your hand on front of it, and then ask for parking in your area. The app will show you available locations, and you can navigate to any one of them. Robin generally supports garages, paid lots, and centralized street parking, and will even tell you how many spots are available if the information is available. If you're looking for the cheapest available parking, just ask Robin to show you something cheaper, and the app will display more affordable alternatives.Technology can only get you so far, of course. It can help, but sometimes you just have to go and see. You could always try to be sneaky and do things like park in a lot for a nearby store and walk to the concert or your friends' house, or park in a hotel garage pretending you're checking in for the night, but doing that you run the risk of getting found out and coming back to find a parking ticket, or worse, that your car's been towed. Do your homework ahead of time if you can, but even if you can't, a few handy apps will help you find an affordable, legal place to park. Unless the risk is really worth it (or you'll only be gone a short time), try not to tempt fate—or parking enforcement officials. They can swoop in, write a ticket, tow a vehicle, and be long gone in the time it takes you to run in and grab a bite to eat at a 24-hour burger joint.

How to Find Parking in the City When You Need It

If you'll be parking for longer than a few hours—as in you'll be visiting for a few days or you're moving downtown but don't want to give up your car—you'll need some long-term options. Feeding a meter every single day doesn't sound like fun. Even so, fewer and fewer communities in cities offer garages or parking spaces to their residents, and fewer and fewer cities are letting new residents park on the streets in their neighborhoods. Here are some ways to get around that crunch:

Parkopedia is useful here as well. It's great for short-term parking, but the service also displays lots that have daily, monthly, or yearly permit options, again on a top-down Google Map. Search for your future home or your new office, and then look around the area. Odds are there's a garage or a parking deck nearby that you can get a permit to park in. It may cost you a pretty penny (if you're parking for work, you should check with your company about being reimbursed for that) but you'll have options. Since they're mostly garages and company-owned lots, expect to pay more for spaces there—but at least you'll have reliable parking.BestParking is another service that collects and organizes available parking spaces in an area on a Google Map. If your parking needs take you near an Airport, or if Parkopedia doesn't have options for you, it's worth a look.ParkingSpotter, a service we've mentioned before, has a track record for being on-again-off-again in terms of the reliability of its listings, but the service does have the benefit of hosting Craiglist and independent parking space listings as well as commercial lots. That means that if someone in a nearby building is leasing a garage space in their building and has posted it to Craigslist, ParkingSpotter will show it to you so you can get in touch with the owner. Your mileage may vary though—like we mentioned, some cities and some listings are old and out of date, while others are bustling and active.Craigslist is another great way to find long-term spaces, garage spaces, or even people looking to make a little money by filling up the garage next to their home. Independent owners or people who are leasing apartments with parking to tenants without a car all use Craigslist to try and make a little extra money on their unused parking spaces—and they know that people in the community will bite, especially if parking is limited anyway. Don't overlook Craigslist as an option, especially to find the cheapest available parking. Often individual owners will lease below garage prices just to get people into their spots.How to Find Parking in the City When You Need It

Technology is great, and can help you solve your parking problem, but you wouldn't be the first person paying a meter to park or moving your car every four hours to avoid getting a ticket because all of these options failed you. Here are some less digital but still valuable ways to find a long-term space:

Get familiar with your local neighborhood parking cartels. Odds are there are maybe two or three companies that handle the vast majority of lot, garage, and street parking in your city. In some cases, one of those companies may be an absolute juggernaut. If that's the case, call them up directly and let them know where you're interested in parking. They may have their own application process to get you into a space near your home, and even if they don't have spaces there, they may be able to offer you something else. Similarly, don't forget the little guys—smaller companies that only have one or two lots may be thrilled to squeeze you into one of their garages if it means you'll be a monthly paying customer.If there's nothing in your building or on your block, ask other buildings instead. When I moved into the city, only to find there were no resident spaces in the garage under my building, our property manager gave me the number of a friend of his who was the property manager for another condo building about a block away. He explained that her building wasn't full yet and had plenty of units—and spaces in her garage—for sale. He explained that until her building was full, she'd be happy to rent out a space in the garage to me, or even let me park there for free until someone needed it. Be careful with this option though; while garages have set costs, renting spaces from individuals can cost more because you're paying for the convenience of parking near your home. Don't hesitate to ask around, shop around, and try to make a connection with a neighbor in another building. Check with your local housing/parking/motor vehicle authority. In my community, people living in condos and apartment buildings don't qualify for residential parking rights—the people who own and rent townhomes a block away do, though. You may be able to arrange a swap with someone further down the block who doesn't need their parking tag or sticker, or you may be able to swing something if you call your local department of motor vehicles or your nearby parking authority and ask. Similarly, you can ask what it would take to be able to legally park if for some reason your home isn't zoned for it. In my building, for example, a few residents got together and organized a petition to get our block zoned for residential parking, and they're pulling out all the stops to get local government to listen to them. You may need to do the same, especially if you'd rather not pay to park in the same place you live.Sometimes the soft touch is the best way to go about finding long-term parking in a city. When I moved downtown, I started off with a pretty steady parking space in the garage below the building I lived in, but eventually I had to give it up because the owner of the space got a tenant in their own apartment who had a car. Be prepared to make that switch several times if you have to, and don't get too comfortable with any one space—you can have a great relationship with a "parking landlord," but if they need the space because their own apartment is advertised as having one, they'll ask for it back from you and you'll have to start your search again. Try to have a fallback option available.

Also, remember that sometimes reliable, safe, and secure parking is better than closer, more convenient parking. I eventually wound up paying for a spot in a lot about two blocks away over the garage below my building just because I could get a solid monthly contract for the lot, as opposed to renting a space in the garage under my building and worrying every month whether they would email me needing their space back. It's less convenient, but it's cheaper, and at least I always know there's a place for my car.

How to Find Parking in the City When You Need It

Even though up to this point we've talked about how to find great parking options in a city, remember that sometimes the best parking options are no parking options. Many communities are going out of their way to discourage people from moving downtown and bringing their cars with them, and instead are encouraging people to take mass transit, use bikeshare programs, or use car-share programs with communal parking spaces if you need them. If those programs are convenient for you to get around town, then you may be better off just ditching your car and using them instead.

Similarly, you may consider renting a long-term space in a lot or garage far from your home but accessible via transit, and leaving your car on the outskirts of town, somewhere safe but accessible on the rare occasions you do need a car. That way you can take the train to your car when you need it, but you don't have to pay ridiculous parking fees to have it downtown close to your home. The same rule applies if you're headed into a city for a short term event, like a concert or a night on the town. You may be better off parking for free at a transit station and taking the train downtown, or driving close enough to park easily and then grabbing a taxi or an Uber or Hailo driver instead to get you around town, and then back to your car when the night winds down. If you need help navigating your city's transit options, we have some tips to help you.

In any event, parking in the city doesn't have to be a nightmare. It's almost never easy, but with these tools hopefully it'll be a little easier, and finding a safe, secure, and affordable place for your vehicle won't take up more time or money than it's really worth.

Photo by thienzieyung, Anthony Easton, xlibber, and Nikodemus Siivola.

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