Monday, December 9, 2013

Sometimes solving a problem isn't always what your partner needs.

Sometimes solving a problem isn't always what your partner needs.

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!

View the original article here

Pocket-Size Power Supply

I am a big fan of garage sales, flea markets, and thrift stores. They are great places to find used parts and materials for your next project. But one problem that I often run into is not being able to test battery powered electronics to see if they work. Because there are so many different combinations of batteries that are used in portable electronics, it isn't really practical to carry around batteries for testing. One device may need 6 AA's and another may require 4 D's. So I came up with this simple pocket-sized variable power supply. It can plug into either a 9V battery or a 12V battery pack. You can then adjust the output voltage to match the device that you want to test and attach the output wires to the end terminals on the device's battery connectors. This lets you power the device long enough to see if it works.Img_4133b.jpgMaterials
LM317 Adjustable Voltage Regulator
0.1 µF Capacitor
1 µF Capacitor
220 ohm Resistor
7 x 270 ohm Resistor (preferably 1/8 watt)
8-Position DIP Switch
Perf Board
9V Battery Connector
2 x Alligator Clip Wires

Note: All these parts are available at Radio Shack. I highly recommend using 1/8 watt resistor because they take up less space on the board which makes it easier to fit everything into a smaller space. Unfortunately I only had five 1/8 watt resistor so, I had to use two 1/4 watt resistors.

View the original article here

Insist On Seeing a Full Warranty Before Purchase

Insist On Seeing a Full Warranty Before Purchase

It's debatable whether warranties are useful, and it depends a lot on what you're buying and where you're buying it. If you're going to buy a warranty, Consumer Reports suggests you make sure you actually read the whole thing before you buy.

It sounds like common sense, but chances are most of us don't bother reading a warranty with the same amount of care we'd spend researching a product. It's a law that retailers have to show you a warranty, so take advantage of it. Consumer Reports explains:

If you're buying a costly item, don't rely on a vague reference to warranty coverage in an ad or on a store display. Read the complete warranty terms. You may find out that if the roduct breaks within the warranty period, you may be entitled to only a refurbished item, or perhaps that you're responsible for the cost of getting the product to the manufacturer or its authorized repair facility.

If the merchant balks at your request to see the warranty, explain that its failure to show it to you violates federal law. If the retailer still won't budge, you can try asking the manufacturer for a copy or looking on its website.

Case in point, a warranty is a purchase, so treat it like one. If you're just buying the warranty because you want the coverage, make sure you read the full warranty to ensure it's even going to be worth it in the long run.

Insist that stores show you the warranty before you buy | Consumer Reports

Photo by Eirik Solheim.

View the original article here

Make an iPad Mini book with storage compartment

IMG_3496.JPGI suppose I'm old enough to simply like the feel of a good book in my hand.  But I also love reading on my iPad mini and decided to make a hollow book to hold it.  This project applies some common bandsaw box techniques to hollowing books.  All the cuts are made using a bandsaw, however a scrollsaw could be used as well.  It's a fun project! 

List of materials: A hardback book Glues - Elmer's glue, superglue, kid's push-up stick glue.  You don't need all 3 but I found it easier to use different types in different places. Glue brush Wax paper Rubberband or masking tape Rare earth magnet and a 1/4" bolt washer (optional) Straightedge, pencil, ruler Exacto knife Bandsaw or scrollsaw 3/16 bandsaw blade A nail or staple gun Shellac Flocking kit including mini-flocker, adhesive & flocking felt IMG_0046.jpgThe selection of your book is a personal one and the options are virtually limitless.  Ideally it should be a hard cover book to protect your iPad screen and provide longer service.  I chose a thicker book because I wanted storage for my glasses, ear buds, cords, etc.  This book also fit nicely in my hand and is a comfortable size to carry.  WIthout the covers, the pages measure about an inch.  (This is not thick enough to store the white plug end for charging your iPad which is about an inch square.  If you want to include the plug you'll need a 1.25-1.5" book.)  

To fasten the book shut you can bury a magnet and metal washer prior to doing any gluing.  On the corner of the cover, peel back the liner and mark the location for the washer.  Make sure this will not interfere with your cut line as your magnet will be in the same spot within the books pages.  The center of the washer is roughly 1/2" from both edges.  Use an exacto knife to cut into the cardboard cover and glue the washer in place and then the liner.  

For the rare earth magnet, start cutting your holes on approximately the 8th page.  A 1/8x1/2" magnet is enough.  Since the pages are smaller than the cover, the center of the magnet is 3/8" from both edges.  In my case, the book was so close to the size of the iPad that the magnet is quite close to the edge.  As long as the magnet is not in the way of the saw blade the magnet can be placed anywhere.  With the magnet in place, glue the corners of 3-4 pages over the top of the magnet to secure.  The sides of the book will be glued in the next step.

View the original article here

Make a LEGO Abrams Tank

This post will show you how to make your very own Abrams tank out of lego! This one is beige, but you could use black or grey and it would look just as awesome.

My brother has been working on a lego stop motion movie for about 3 years now. Its called P.A.I.R.D and I actually dont remember what it stands for, but it is really great. I spend several hours every week building the sets and props with him. We have built everything from the White House to outdoor markets in Egypt, and now the story is set in Libya. For one scene my brother needed a couple realistic looking tanks, so we did what we always do! First we pulled up a bunch of images on google, and then we started building, and rebuilding, and building some more. This design is based very closely off of the Abrams tank, and it took us about 3 hours to get just right. 

To build this tank, I would recommend enlarging the first photo and then using the "next photo" arrow to easily move through the pictures, this way you won't miss any of the annotations that tell you which pieces to put where, if the color of the piece matters, etc. 

Just a couple notes on the names I'll be using for the pieces:

Bricks are the regular stereotypical lego blocks
Plates are the think versions of bricks (3 stacked plates is as tall as a brick)
Beams are bricks with holes in them
Pegs go in the holes in beams
Slopes are the bricks with a slope on one side
Tiles are plates without studs


View the original article here

How to Build Your Own, More Powerful Version of Google Voice

Google hasn’t updated Voice in ages. Once heralded as the amazing service that would unify our phones, it now lags behind thanks to a lack of MMS support, decent voicemail transcripts, and a variety of usage quirks. With a few third-party apps and services, you can leave Voice behind, just like Google did, and have a better experience in the process.

Not only will this home-built option be more powerful than Google Voice, but all of these alternatives work outside the US, so international users can finally get the Voice features they've been wanting. It takes a bit of work to set up and there are a few differences, but overall it's an awesome way to manage all your calls and texts. Here's what you need to do.

How to Build Your Own, More Powerful Version of Google Voice

Google Voice syncs your text messages to all your devices, so you can get them anywhere. Well, unless you get a message with a picture or video or one sent to a group. You really only have one alternative depending on your mobile platform.

Android has a variety of options, but one stands out as the definite best alternative to Google Voice’s synchronized text messages: MightyText. While advertised as iMessage for Android, you won’t find that terribly accurate if you’ve used both services. MightyText actually works a little differently than iMessage, plus it does more.

Install the Android app, which listens for new messages and syncs them to the MightyText service, then visit the MightyText webapp on any computer. MightyText offers a variety of other apps, like a native tablet app, a Chrome extension, and a Gmail extension that integrates SMS right into the interface. Unlike Google Voice, MightyText supports MMS in all its forms so you can receive multimedia and group messages. You must keep your phone on and connected to the internet in some way for MightyText to function, but so long as you meet those two requirements the service provides a great multi-platform texting experience at no cost whatsoever.

If you have an iPhone and a Mac, you can really only use iMessage. While a great service in theory—much like Google Voice—Apple failed to fix a lot of bugs and it doesn’t always work perfectly. On top of that, you can only get messages from other Apple users so you’re not really receiving texts that sync everywhere.

Alternatively, you can turn to a number of “free” texting apps that solve part of the problem. Textfree provides apps for iOS, Android, and the web so you can essentially access your text and picture messages from any device, and your friends don't need Textfree to receive them—it works just like SMS. MySMS can do the same. Neither service has a native desktop app like iMessage, but they provide a reasonable alternative to iMessage and Google Voice.

How to Build Your Own, More Powerful Version of Google VoiceGoogle Voice truly handles one-to-many phone calling better than any other service. If you want people to call one number and have every phone you own ring all at the same time, you might want to simply stick with Google Voice for this feature then use MightyText (and any of the other services) alongside it. That said, you do have some alternatives.

If you want to pay business prices for enterprise level call forwarding, you can with RingCentral. While the service offers plenty of features, you probably don’t want to pay $25 per month for this when you can get it for free with Google Voice. You do get SMS messages with your number, along with plenty of other features, so this may appeal to people with deep pockets and a need for RingCentral’s other options.

Some services can forward from one number to another, which may prove sufficient for people who just want to receive out-of-state or international calls like local ones. Skype and Vonage both provide this option at a small cost. With Skype, you can even forward in the other direction by calling a number local to you that then dials any number around the world at Skype rates instead of your carrier’s much higher rates.

How to Build Your Own, More Powerful Version of Google VoiceS

Google Voice has a hard time transcribing your voicemails. It may seem like it just can’t manage with poor call quality, but more often it creates ridiculous transcripts regardless of speech clarity. Let’s look at an example from a listener who called into the Ask Lifehacker Podcast:

Hey Lifehacker, I'm calling for a question My question is. You guys are going to poor your tutorial orange sources where I can look up at ability, Yes to wi-fi Network for like large public area, for example, let's see how hospital.

The message should’ve been:

Hey Lifehacker, I’m calling in with a question. My question is, do you guys have any tutorials or sources on how to build a guest Wi-Fi network in a large, public area? For example, a hospital.

To some extent, this isn’t Google’s fault. Computers can’t understand human voice very well. In fact, humans can’t understand human voice very well. We can, however, piece together the meaning of a sentence more easily when we don’t hear many of the words in it because we formulate similar sentences ourselves. As a result, you don’t want your voicemails transcribed by a computer but rather a service that uses actual humans.

Human-based voicemail transcription services cost money, but if you don’t receive a ton of voicemails you won’t pay very much each month. Personally, I only get about 10 messages per month since most people will just hang up and/or text nowadays. If you fall into the same category, you can use a service called CellScribe to get more accurate human transcriptions for $2 per month (up to 15 messages, and your first month is free). If you need more messages, you’ll pay $0.30 for each additional one or you can upgrade to a higher volume account for a greater monthly fee.

For the most part, you just need to sign up for an account to start using CellScribe. The page will ask you a few questions about your phone, provider, and how you want to receive messages. After you sign up, CellScribe will provide a page of specific instructions to set up your phone to receive voicemail transcripts. It will include a code you need to enter to configure your phone so CellScribe can intercept the messages. After that, you just need to record your voicemail greeting and you’re all set.

CellScribe provides more accurate transcriptions than Google Voice, but most any service will even without humans to help. If you don’t like CellScribe for whatever reason, try PhoneTag instead. Humans won’t transcribe your messages, but you’ll get better transcriptions than Google Voice currently provides.

How to Build Your Own, More Powerful Version of Google VoiceS

All the apps and services mentioned in this post don’t fully replace Google Voice on their own. They replace most features in bits and pieces and improve upon them, but you might still wish for an all-in-one option. If you do, you have to make one sacrifice: your money. If you don’t mind paying a little bit for better service, you can sign up for a solution designed for businesses.

While you have a variety of options that handle most of the functions of Google Voice, only SendHub replaces just about every feature and adds a few. You can make calls via VOIP, send and receive text messages, get your voicemails transcribed pretty accurately (I confused the system by saying “onomatopoeia” but it understood everything else), choose your own number, and download apps for both Android and iOS (including tablets). SendHub currently does not support MMS messaging, but unlike Google Voice they have plans to add it and you can get notified when they do.

If you want to use SendHub instead of Google Voice, you can for free with some limitations. The basic account only allows 60 VOIP minutes and 500 text messages to non-SendHub numbers. You can upgrade and get much more, but it’ll cost you $25 per month at minimum. We think this option may work for some, but so long as SendHub doesn’t offer MMS you might as well stick with Google Voice and just outsource your voicemail transcriptions. Nevertheless, it provides a solid alternative for some.

Although a piecemeal option can feel a little like a poorly made chimera of third-party services, it provides you with options. If a better app or service comes along, you can replace what you currently use. If you still want to use Google Voice and just want one specific feature, you can implement just that feature. Hopefully someday Google will update Voice, rather than abandon it officially, but until then you can patch together a bunch of third-party options and make your own upgrade a reality.

Bananaphone by LEGEN -wait for it- DARY (Shutterstock).

View the original article here