Category Archives: DIY, Customization, News, Stuff

Install Ceiling Fans to Lower AC Costs [Keeping Cool]

Install Ceiling Fans to Lower AC CostsPersonal finance weblog The Simple Dollar recently found that, on average, having a ceiling fan running in a room makes it feel around four degrees cooler. Australian government studies show that setting your air conditioning temperature 1.8 degrees higher can reduce its running time by 10%. Putting both of these factoids together posits that you can save around 23% of your air conditioning costs by using a ceiling fan and setting your thermostat at 78 instead of 74.

Furthermore, according to The Simple Dollar’s calculations, dropping the running time of your central air from 9 hours to 7 hours per day using this technique will save you around $34 a month. The cost of running a 48″ ceiling fan on high 18 hours a day will cost around $5.82 a month which means that unless you have more than five ceiling fans in your house running simultaneously you’ll be saving money on your energy bills. They estimate that if you put a ceiling fan in each of the rooms you spend a lot of time using that you can save around $100 a year on energy expenses. Well worth considering if you’re trying to lower your energy expenses, and also remember that you can run the fan in reverse in the Winter to heat your home more effectively. Photo by Steve Johnson

Install Ceiling Fans in Every Room You Spend Time In | The Simple Dollar

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Explore the Great Outdoors This Weekend [Weekendhacker]

Explore the Great Outdoors This WeekendGetting outdoors is good for your health, in more ways than one. Now that summer’s finally here, take some time and explore the great outdoors this weekend.

Enjoy Your Meals Outside

Explore the Great Outdoors This WeekendOne of the best parts about summer is loading up on fresh produce and hitting the grill. If you have the room, you should definitely take a crack at growing some of your own food, especially the stuff that’s cheaper to grow than it is to buy. Check out our #gardening tag for tons of ideas. For those of you that can’t put together your own garden, getting involved with a local CSA or food co-op can be great for finding cheap and high quality produce. When it comes to grilling, check out our guide to becoming the Memorial Day grill master—those tips last all year round, not to mention the other ones in our #grilling tag. If you’re going to grill those vegetables you grew in your garden, be sure you know where to put them on the grill for perfect, thorough cooking.

Lastly, don’t forget the drinks. Whether you’re just making a summer punch or something with a bit more kick, there’s a lot you can do to make it better, from using strongly-flavored ingredients right down to making better ice.

Get Some Exercise

Explore the Great Outdoors This WeekendIf you’ve been exercising indoors all winter, it’s time to get out in the sun. It doesn’t matter what it is; from the usual running and swimming to the outdoorsy hiking and biking or even extreme tree climbing, we’ve got you covered. While you do it, make sure you’ve checked out our favorite fitness tracking gadgets and apps to help keep you in shape. Just make sure you’re doing everything you can to stay cool in the summer heat while you’re exercising—remember that heat fatigue may not be as bad as you think, and make yourself a hydrating sports drink as soon as you get home. Photo by Jeff Wright.

Work In Some Relaxation

Explore the Great Outdoors This WeekendThat doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take some lazy time, too. Why not craft the perfect summer reading list and then kick back in one of your many DIY hammocks? Or, if you’re more of a movie buff, build an outdoor theater and invite the whole neighborhood over to roast marshmallows over a DIY fire pit. From turning scrap pipe into a lawn game and building your own DIY Slip ‘n Slide, there’s no shortage of cheap ways to relax in your own backyard.

Prepare for the Worst

Whether it’s simple things like bug bites and sunburn or more serious things like getting lost in the woods with nothing but a cellphone, be sure to brush up on all your summer survival skills. Learn to recognize the signs of drowning, polish your CPR chops, and build a small first aid kit to have on hand in case anything goes wrong.

We have more outdoor tips than you can shake a mashmallow-roasting stick at, so be sure to check out our #outdoors tag for even more summer fun. Got your own favorite outdoor summer activity? Share it with us in the comments.

Title photo remixed from

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What Is ‘The Zone’ Anyway? [Productivity]

What Is 'The Zone' Anyway? Recently I’ve been thinking more and more about “the zone.” Most often it’s described as being in a super productive state for short periods of time, but what causes this state in the first place? And why can’t we just enter it any time we like and have it last beyond the typical short bursts that most people experience it in? Well, I believe we can.

While there are lots of factors that affect our ability to get into (and stay in) the zone, I think there are fundamentally just two things need to be right for it to happen. Before getting to those two, let’s look at some of the others:

The zone is often said to be a state of intense focus, so focus is more of a synonym than an individual attribute, but in any case, it implies some of the other factors.

You’ll struggle to find someone falling to sleep while in the zone. In fact, the portrayed image of being in the zone is quite the opposite – someone alert and awake, passionately engaged in what they’re doing.

It’s really important to have energy. If you’re barely maintaining consciousness due to a late night of cocktails, bad chat-up lines, and a story you could never tell your mother, getting into the zone is going to be difficult.

No Distractions
Another approach for getting into the zone is to avoid all distractions. Some people are more sensitive to distraction than others, but we should always aim to minimise the kinds of distraction that pulls our mind out of what we’re currently doing. Avoiding the context switching cost is a big win.

Some people find that listening to music helps them get into the zone. I listen to music when I’m writing and I do think it can be distracting, but often much less distracting than the average office conversation. Music is a personal thing and I suspect it doesn’t affect our ability to get into the zone that much either way, although if it makes us comfortable, perhaps being comfortable does.

But What Matters More…
While having a sharp focus through being energized and avoiding all distractions can really help us get into the zone, we’re still treating the zone as though it’s some magical, random state that we don’t truly understand.

It’s not.

Stop worrying about what type of music you’re going to listen to, or what the view out of the window should be. We get into the zone because we want to, and above all, there are two things that make us want to.

First, we really need to give a shit about what we’re doing. This is so often ignored when talking about productivity in general. Remember back to the days of high school when the nerdy kids would get awesome grades at difficult subjects? They got awesome grades because they enjoyed it. People rock way more at things they enjoy, and enjoyment is much easier and far more effective than discipline. We need to be excited about the problem and feel like all we want to do is work on it right this minute.

Second, we need to know how to do it. The overwhelming desire to start work is useless if we can’t because we don’t even know where to start. We’ll jump into the work and be idle 10 minutes later as we uncover many of the finer details we skimmed over when thinking at a much higher level earlier.

Concentration and having clear goals are key components of maintaining flow, and that’s exactly what the zone is. When we’re in the zone, a set of well understood achievable goals enables us to make continuous progress. Seeing constant progress is an amazing motivator, making the zone a sustainable state.

I rarely find myself coming out of the zone because the view out of the window just isn’t working or because the music isn’t just right. I come out of the zone once I don’t know what needs doing next or how to achieve it. I come out of it because I’m blocked from making progress.

Too many people treat the zone like it’s a mysterious state that eludes us for intangible reasons. I don’t think it is. We just need to think about the problem well enough to see potential solutions. We need to be excited about it. The zone comes pretty naturally after that.

So let’s stop convincing ourselves that we’re going to become one with the zone once we buy those $300 noise-cancelling headphones. You’re not going to get into the zone if you don’t understand what you’re trying to achieve or don’t enjoy trying to achieve it.

What Is The Zone Anyway? | Martin Rue

Martin Rue is a software developer from Manchester, England and co-founder of Twocial. He enjoys building software with a focus on simplicity and user experience and likes to share his thoughts on his blog here.

Image remixed from Shutterstock

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How to Fix Movies that Are Really Quiet, then REALLY LOUD [Video]

How to Fix Movies that Are Really Quiet, then REALLY LOUDHow to Fix Movies that Are Really Quiet, then REALLY LOUD Have you ever watched a movie where the dialogue was almost inaudible, but then all of a sudden an action scene comes in and shakes your house with noise? Here’s how to fix that problem in VLC.

While these volume changes exist to make the movie more immersive, they can be really annoying if you have sleeping kids, or neighbors that like to file noise complaints against you all the time. The fix is something called dynamic range compression, and it’s available in VLC. You may have to play around with the settings a bit, but in general, here are some good settings to tweak (courtesy of some fellows over at Reddit):

  1. Head to Tools Effects and Filters and click on the Compressor tab.
  2. Without changing your TV’s volume from its usual spot, find a quiet scene in the movie and raise the Makeup Gain slider until the volume is at a comfortable level. This will boost the volume of the entire movie so you don’t have to change your TV or computer’s volume from its usual setting.
  3. Raise the Ratio slider all the way up. This will ensure that any sound over a certain volume threshold will be turned down to a level you set.
  4. Without changing the volume, find a loud scene in the movie and start playing it. Lower the Threshold slider until the sound is at a non-earthquake-inducing level.
  5. Lastly, move “Attack” up to about 50ms, and “Release” up to about 300ms. This makes everything a bit more fluid, so your movie will change volumes when necessary but it will happen a bit more gradually.

Now try watching your movie. You should notice that, without changing your volume from its usual spot, the dialogue is much easier to hear, but the action scenes stay at an appropriate level. You may have to go back and fiddle with the settings to get everything just right, but it’s an invaluable feature for those of us that want to keep the noise level down. Check out the video above for a demonstration using The Matrix, one of the worst offenders of this phenomenon, or hit the link to read more.

Update: It looks like XBMC has a version of this feature as well, for you home theater PC geeks. Huzzah! Thanks to @theediguy for sending this in.

[LPT] Watching a movie and the dialogue is too quiet and the action too loud? | Reddit

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Yardsale Is the Fastest Way to Post an Item for Sale on Craigslist [IPhone Downloads]

Yardsale Is the Fastest Way to Post an Item for Sale on CraigslistiOS: Yardsale is an app that helps you rapidly list items on Craigslist. You simply snap a few photos, provide a short description, and it handles the rest.

We’ve seen a number of quick-listing apps that use their own proprietary service, but those all have the downside of a small user base. Craigslist has plenty of people scoping out deals on various items and so we’d always hoped an app would come along that helps you list things quickly and post them there instead. Yardsale is that app—and it’s free. It guides you through the process of taking your four product photos (although you can include fewer than four if you prefer), coming up with a description, and putting the actual post together. It shouldn’t take you more than 30 seconds to actually complete all the tasks. It’s pretty great. And if you want to buy, you can use Yardsale for that, too. It’ll show you stuff for sale that’s nearby. It’s basically the way Craigslist ought to work on your mobile device.

Yard Sale (Free) | iTunes App Store

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Powdered Drinks, iPhone Shortcuts, and Exploding Laundry Detergent [From The Tips Box]

Readers offer their best tips for making powdered drinks like Gatorade, using the Shortcuts feature in iOS, and avoiding a soapy disaster with your laundry.

Don’t like the gallery layout? Click here to view everything on one page.

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 on our tips and expert pages.

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