Today we stand with the rest of the internet to raise our voice and note that the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) And the Protect-IP Act (PIPA) are both extremely flawed legislation that would cripple, censor, and diminish the internet as we know it.
Make your voice heard, speak up, call your congressional representatives, and let them know they must not support these bills.
For more information on SOPA and PIPA, head over to Lifehacker here:
I’ll be the first person to tell you that I abhor blog posts about why bloggers haven’t been blogging. My philosophy is that if you have words to say, something for your readers to enjoy, just do it – don’t talk about doing it or not doing it or why you haven’t been doing it.
That said though, I think you guys deserve to know where I’ve been the past couple of weeks, and I hope the shot above gives you an idea. I’m moving! Not only that, but keeping things going with the gigs over at Geek.com, ExtremeTech, AppScout, and of course, Lifehacker all take their toll, but they pay the bills.
So don’t you worry. As soon as I’m moved (moving day is this weekend!) and into my new digs, things will get back to normal here at Gears and Widgets, I promise. Stay tuned, I’ve got plans, and I’ll make the wait worthwhile!
In the interim, why not follow me on Twitter? If you talk to me, I’ll talk back – promise.
Okay – this will be the last of these “Hey go read Lifehacker” posts, I promise – mostly because you all already know about the site, and you all probably already know that I write there, considering I’ve alerted you to my guest posting activity there the past two weeks. Well, I posted again this past weekend, but not because I was a guest, but because I’m officially the weekend writer for Lifehacker!
That mean you can find lots of great content over there from me every Saturday and Sunday, which of course will be very busy days for me. Gears and Widgets isn’t going anywhere, you’ll still get tons of tech articles, videos, and tidbits hand-picked by yours truly right here multiple times a week.
So, to that point, thank you for reading, thank you for your support, thank you for reading, and thank you for your feedback!
You know, I could get used to this.
And honestly, here’s hoping I have the opportunity. Apparently the weekend before last and the time before that were well enough received by the team at Lifehacker (and of course, the community,) that the crew there asked me back again, and I was more than happy to do it.
So I had the chance to take the reins again last Sunday and churn out content for Lifehacker, and I like to think this week was even better than the last. Here’s what you missed, if you weren’t paying attention:
- Simple Tips that Make Moving Easier
It helps that I’ll be moving soon, but I had to share some great tips that I stumbled on around how to make the moving process a little easier. I mean, it sucks no matter which way you go about it, but you can make it easier on yourself by preparing properly, making sure you keep the most important things available and identified so you can unpack them first, and organize things the way you want them when you get to the new place. Minimizing a bit also helps. As for me, I’m in the middle of doing all of those things.
- Say No Without Wrecking Your Career
If there’s anything I’ve learned in trying to navigate the corporate maze, it’s about how to let your supervisors and management know clearly that you’re pretty much tapped out – without, of course, being disrespectful and landing yourself in a position where someone questions your capability to work effectively. In this piece, I share how to go about doing it.
- Five Best Cheap Travel Booking Sites
This post and its predecessor where I called upon the readers to let us know what their favorite sites to book cheap travel with are part of the Hive Five series. The sites that made it into the roundup are pretty much the ones I expected, but there were still a few surprises. The ITA/Matrix site is a new one to me, but I’ll tell you here’s one thing I didn’t realize until I saw the votes: Kayak clearly has a posse.
- Family-Friendly Spring Exercise Tips
When I got the call to do another weekend, I knew I wanted to share an outdoors-y type exercise post. Sadly, they don’t seem to resonate quite so much with the LH readers, but I think it was well liked anyway – honestly, I think there’s still a strong “tech” element to the Lifehacker name, even if there have been more lifestyle posts lately. Still, I found a great article about how to encourage your friends and family to get out and get some exercise, and considering the weather is getting warmer, why not share it?
- Bridg.me Calls You When the Conference Starts
I actually stumbled on this one a bit late: the download I was thinking about writing about on Thursday got snapped up by another writer on Friday, so I had to adjust at the last minute. No worries though, this new service promises to call you when your conference call is supposed to begin instead of forcing you and your call participants to join a bridge line. With some more detail, I think it can get some real traction.
- One-Line Tips to Stay Creative
Sometimes, my friends are some of the best sources of inspiration for me, and I stumbled onto this piece at Tumblr thanks to one of my friends’ tweets. I took it to heart personally, seeing as I’m a writer by and large, and would like to be more of a writer if at all possible. Just because it’s my passion though doesn’t mean that I don’t have those times where I just can’t figure out what to write about. Now I have a little cheat sheet to help me stay motivated.
- Use Plasti Dip to Fix Stripped Headphone Wires
I almost didn’t expect this one to get the traction it got, but it did – I mean, the makers of the product started following me on Twitter and expressed their appreciation. All I did was write about it guys, the guy over at Instructables that originally posted the tip deserves the credit! Still – it does look like an awesome product and an awesome idea. I’ve lost several great headphones to separated wires like this, and I’m definitely going to try it next time one of my pair starts to go this way.
That does it! Now all I have to do is see if anything else comes from this round of guest posts, and I certainly hope it does. I really enjoyed guest posting at LH, and I’m hoping they ask me back again soon!
Far be it from me to turn the lovely folks at Lifehacker away when they ask me to join them for a little guest posting action, but this time they had something special in store for me: a whole day on the weekend, Sunday, in fact, where it was all me, my ideas, and my posts at what’s very much one of the Web’s best tech and tip blogs.
It was a blast, and I don’t say that lightly. It was so much fun to do, and I’m glad to have had the opportunity to do it. In case you missed the work, here’s a roundup of the pieces I posted, complete with links:
- Get Spring Produce Early, Keep It Tasty All Summer
Here I share some tips I picked up on how to make sure that the delicious fresh spring and summer produce that you’re likely going to see on store shelves in the next couple of weeks manage to stay fresh, delicious, and available for you to enjoy well into the hot weather months, even when they’re not readily available anymore.
- How to Keep Your Task List Healthy and Focused
I’m a huge fan of the GTD philosophy, and I think I resonated with this article a bit more than some of the commenters did, but it’s authored by Amber Mac, who I can’t say I don’t adore, and her tips hit home with me. Of special note, I like how she pointed out that you should make sure to reward yourself for the work that you do, and make that a task on your to-do list. I could get used to that.
- Five Best Job Search Sites
This post and its predecessor where I called upon the readers to shout out the sites they wanted in the roundup, I was pretty busy. I’m still surprised some of my favorite job sites didn’t make it into the roundup, but I think we got a great roundup regardless. Best of all, it’s a great bookmark-able article for people who are out looking for work and need solid resources to do so.
- Add Ground Effects to Your Bed for Gentle Night Lighting
This one is one my favorite, I think. Partially because it’s just so cool, but partially because I had the opportunity to write about ground effects and pimping out beds on a site like Lifehacker. I think the readers loved it too, actually, and I’m seriously thinking about doing something like this when I move into my next apartment. After all, it’s so incredibly simple to do!
- Use Metal Hairpins to Easily Pit Cherries and Olives
This one is one of my favorites as well – I’m a huge fan of using things you already have in your home or have lying around to do uncommon tasks, and I’m an even bigger fan of using things that are cheap to replace expensive uni-taskers in your kitchen. I’ve talked about this before, but the idea of using a hairpin to pit an oliver or a cherry, or a baby food spoon to fill a deviled egg? Really resonates with me – and it should resonate with you, too!
- Greplin Adds Faster, As-You-Type Search to Gmail
Greplin was a fun little tool to use: it really does improve Gmail search as much as they say it does, and it’s a great super-search utility that can search everything across your online life, as long as it has access to those accounts and services. And there’s the rub: it has to know everything about you in order to index it. Yowch.
- How to Save Money on Warm-Weather Energy Bills
This one is a little early, but according to some of the commenters I might be a little late on the energy-saving tips for warm weather months. After all, I know that the biggest part of my electric bill in the spring and summer is air conditioning, and I’m always on the lookout for ways to keep my power costs down. It’s pretty likely that you are too, so I snagged some tips, wrote them up, and provided them to you. Enjoy!
The best part is that they’ve asked me back to post again this weekend! More on that later, but in the meantime, click on through and let me know what you think, either in the comments here or there. I’d love to hear what you have to say.
Thanks for reading!
No, no, I’m not going anywhere, but I am helping out over at Geek.com as a contributing writer! The fine folks at Geek.com have asked me to lend my words to them, and I’ve agreed happily. I’ve been a fan of the site for a long time and I’m thrilled to be an author over there.
So make sure to head over to Geek.com, sign up, leave a comment, and stick around – you’ll catch me over there if you can’t get enough of me here, and if you want keep up specifically with what I’m writing over there, check out my Geek.com Author Profile, which has links to all of my published stories on the site.
As always, thanks for reading!
It will take years for Japan to rebuild the infrastructure destroyed in the devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami they suffered last week. The damage pales in comparison to the lives lost and the livelihoods destroyed by the disaster.
The bar at the top of the page will take you to the Google Crisis Response page, where you can donate to aid relief efforts and help to bring fresh water and food to people who desperately need it on the ground in Japan. The Japanese government is one of the best prepared in the world for an event like this, and in comparison to what a similar disaster would look like elsewhere in the world – like here at home in the United States, for example, they’ve done remarkably well, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t dozens of thousands of lives shattered and people who desperately need aid.
In the video above, George Takei reaches out and asks for our help and our support. I’ve given mine, I hope you can give yours.
The fine folks at Lifehacker were kind enough to allow me to guest post for them last Friday, and now that the furor around it has died down a little bit and my nerves have calmed a bit, allow me to share those guest posts with you:
[ Lifehacker :: Roll a Powerful Media HTPC for Less than $500 ]
This piece was tons of fun to write – partially because of the speed with which I had to assemble the component build for the HTPC, and the fact that I had to stick to a budget. I wanted to stay under $500, but I wanted to make sure it was chock full of quality components that would get the job done. As usual, the comments are great for my piece, with lots of great critiques of some of the areas even I think are most flexible.
For example, a lot of commenters suggested going AMD instead of Intel to save money – great idea, I just went Intel because it was tried and true and proven to me, and frankly I’m not as familiar with the AMD chipset and its current-gen processors. A number of others suggested going with less RAM (something I don’t agree with at all) or with an Atom/Ion processor/chipset combo (skeptical, but open to the idea,) but if you’re planning on building an HTPC anytime in the future, this is a good guide and parts list.
Alternatively, you can accomplish much of the same by installing XBMC on your Apple TV 2, but the article was really targeted at people who wanted the ability to have complete and utter control over their home media solution – and who could drop the media management software anytime they chose to stream Hulu and Netflix even if those two services block the set-top software they’re using.
[ Should I Go Back to School? ]
This “Ask Lifehacker” column was partially torn from the pages of my own life: back in 2002 I was debating the same thing. I was stuck in a job where I didn’t think there was much career growth for me, and I had to make the decision whether I wanted to go to grad school or stick it out in my current job and hope for the best.
I decided to go back to school, get a Master’s, and stick it out in the job at the same time – partially for tuition benefits from my employer but partially because I didn’t want to just quit my job wholesale and go back to school full time. I had an apartment I had to keep and bills I had to pay, and while the tuition assistance was great, it wasn’t everything. When I did graduate though, it was clear that my current employer at the time still didn’t have any growth opportunities for me, so I left in favor of an employer who did. Best decision of my life.
But it may not be the best decision for everyone – and that’s what I point out in the Ask Lifehacker piece: weigh your options, your pros and cons, and whether you’re actually going back to school for something that will make a difference in your career. Discuss with your family and determine whether you can pay for it or get help from your employer to pay for it. Then make your decision.
[ IRS2Go Tracks Your Tax Return from Your Phone ]
A simple little piece on a handy mobile app that – even though it has some pros and cons – allows you to track your tax return from your smartphone and get tax tips and updates from the IRS…if you actually want them. Handy!
And that does it! I’m incredibly grateful to the Lifehacker team for allowing me to guest post for them, and hope I’ll have the opportunity to do it again soon. In the meantime though, enjoy! It was a huge accomplishment for me as a writer, and hopefully it can help you out in the process.
Let me set the stage: a few months ago I got a semi-threatening e-mail claiming that someone – someone I didn’t know – knew my Web host’s security hardware and what’s installed on it, and that they knew how to exploit it. They implied they had already exploited it, and that it was my fault for not knowing or understanding “IT Security.” Now – I’ve worked in IT since I was an undergrad in college, so I know a thing or two – I’m no subject matter expert in security and intrusion prevention, but I know a thing or two. The e-mail came off a little ranty, and when they spammed all of my e-mail addresses with it, I just set up a mail rule to trash it before it hit my inbox and called it a day.
Then today, I got word from an anonymous tipper to my Gears and Widgets account (which isn’t really a secret, I’m email@example.com – drop me a line!) that someone was masquerading as me over at the ZDNet blogs, and that they just wanted to give me a heads up.
Sure enough, one Google search later, I found someone over there with the same name I was accused of having in that threatening e-mail (which my Web host, by the way, described as “pure fiction,”) and then someone else posting under my name, “Alan Henry,” with their own freshly registered account, where they were busily trolling other commenters. In their attempt to track down who the troll in their midst was, a few people there found my bio information at PC Mag, my LinkedIn profile, and deduced that their troll must be Alan Henry, the freelance writer, technology blogger, and author of sites like TechTV Forever, The Classy Geek, and of course, Gears and Widgets.
Sadly, they’re horribly mistaken, and in their fervor to take down their “Alan Henry,” made light at my experience, my blogs, my work, just about everything – so sure that I was who they hated. It hurt, a lot, and sure enough I both registered my own account to try and refute the claims and reclaim my identity, and submitted a ticket to ZDNet Support to take note of the issue and see what they could do.
Admittedly, I don’t have too much faith that they’ll be able to do anything although I hope they can. It’s difficult to try and moderate so closely any comments on the Internet, but it’s disheartening that this could happen. All I, the real Alan Henry, can do is sit back, hope it plays out, and hope that the issue doesn’t get worse or spread elsewhere.
Still, I make this post partially because I want to make it clear I’m not this person, but partially because I’m curious about other people’s opinions and experiences. This isn’t identity theft – nothing of tangible value is being taken from me – but it’s definitely annoying personally, and while professionally – as a writer – I don’t think it’s serious it does introduce some negative connotations of me on the Web that someone could find.
All I can do is wait for it to blow over, but what about you? Have you experienced anything like this – just having your name hijacked so someone can troll or comment on the Web either just because your name is convenient or because your name has some gravity behind it? How did you deal with it? Let me know what you think.
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And thank you! Thanks to all of the fans who already like Gears and Widgets on Facebook, and if we can start to grow a community over there, we’ll do some interesting things there like gear giveaways and special Facebook-only discussions, maybe even some live-blogs!