Random Tips

Longtime Ars Technica member Emkorial recently posted a thread in the Ars Lounge entitled “Giving Back: little tips you’re discovered to make life. work or projects easier”. In it, he posited the following advice:

How to perfectly install a power strip – or any device where there are 2 mounting holes – onto a vertical surface:

1. Take power strip. Turn it over.
2. Tear off a piece of masking tape the length of the strip. Apply it to the back of the strip.
3. Using a pencil\pen\poking instrument of choice, poke a hole through the tape where the two mounting holes are.
4. Remove tape from back of power strip and apply tape to mounting surface.
5. Screw in mounting screws where the holes on the tape are.

Viola! Perfectly aligned and spaced mounting screws, with no guesswork involved.

He then asked for other Ars readers to contribute their own tips… and behold, a slew of helpful tips came forth. What follows are a load of random tips that will hopefully make your life a little easier. The tips are divided into two sections: my own tips and tips from other Ars readers.

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My Favorite Things!

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens,
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens;
Brown paper packages tied up with strings,
These are a few of my favorite things!

Sometimes when I have trouble falling asleep, I’ll lie in bed and make lists. Lists of anything. My “Top 10 Favorite Movies”… “Top 10 Favorite Italian Restaurants”… “Top 10 Favorite Office Supply Retailers”… “Top 10 Favorite Belgians”… anything. As I’ve been having a lot of trouble falling asleep lately, I’ve found that I’m doing this often. But rather than just letting them slip away into the mists of dreamland, I decided to put them together on a web page. As best as I can, I’ve tried remembering the lists and copying them down as soon as I get up. After awhile, the lists started to become an interesting read… sort of like those emails you get from friends where you’re supposed to fill in crap like this and forward it on to other people. I never forward those things, but as a sort of act of contrition for that, I present you with a “small” list of some of my favorite things! There’s also some of my “least favorite things” and some other funny stuff mixed in there. Lastly, please note that anything in a list is listed in order of preference, unless otherwise noted.

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RANT: Movie Reviewers

This rant is about movie reviewers. Don’t get me wrong – I like them as a whole and value their opinions. But on a person-by-person basis. I hate each and every single one of them. Why?

Well, the first reason I hate them is because many of them seem to have “movie envy”. Many reviewers seem to be bitter film school failures. For some reason or the other, us “plebs” just didn’t “get” their “vision” and instead of being the next Steven Spielberg, these poor schlubs are writing reviews for the Des Moines Register. You can see them same bitterness with music reviewers, too. Many must have had dreams of being the biggest rock star on the planet, only to fail miserably and be stuck writing for some rag. So that’s something that’s not unique to movie reviewers.

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RANT: “The Da Vinci Code”

Allow me to preface this rant with a clarification: I have no problem with The Da Vinci Code as a work of fiction. My problem stems from the fact that so many people apparently think it’s based on fact, either because they’re stupid or because Dan Brown wrote a convincing book. Either way, it is the source of my rage.

As you know, the movie based on the wildly popular book The Da Vinci Code hit theatres last Friday. That’s fine. Enjoy the film! Hell, I’d even go see it myself, but the missus has no interest in seeing it and lately I just haven’t been in the mood to go to the movies by myself. Anyway, there apparently are hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of people out there that seem to think Dan Brown’s work is real… as in “based on fact”. If you’re one of those people, this rant is for you:

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RANT: California

I really freakin’ hate California.

The other day Miss Lisa was watching Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello. There’s a running argument between Lisa and myself over whether Michael Chiarello is gay (my position) or whether he’s just “from California” (Lisa’s position). But for some reason, I just kept getting more and more angry as I watched his show last Sunday. Why does California have to ruin everything? Why would someone in California take something as magnificent and glorious as the New York pizza and think “Hmmmmm.. what this needs is goat cheese, Thai-flavored chicken and organic Crimini mushrooms!” Blech! And why would they take something as unhealthy for you (yet delicious) as French fries and coat them with “a fine, light extra virgin olive oil” and bake them? Dude, newsflash: French fries are supposed to be bad for you. The rest of us still rue the day that McDonalds stopped cooking their fries in beef tallow… ‘cos that’s what made them so damn tasty!

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RANT: Lost Stuff

You know what really pisses me off? Two things this week:

For starters, don’t you hate when one simple organizing task blows up into a 14-hour cleaning marathon? You see, Lisa once kept her CDs in a nice wire rack in a corner of the living room. One Christmas, she decided that she’d rather keep her discs in DJ cases instead, so I got her a nice case from Sam Ash. And so – the wire rack just kind of sat there for a while looking for a home. Now me, I’ve kept my CDs in some stolen Dr Pepper flats, the heavy plastic kind that the 20oz. drinks used to come in. And while the flats are functional and cheap (free, even!)… they’re just not that pretty to look at. So I decided to move the now-unused wire rack to my room and put my CDs in there. The only problem with that is that I have far too many CDs for the rack. “No problem”, I’m thinkin’, “just put your 100 favorite ones in the rack and stash the rest in the closet”. Which is a great plan, only my closet is the greatest example of entropy there is. There was junk crammed all over the place. Hell, I once sent a team of Swiss hikers into my closet to find something, and I never heard from them again. So – just to make my room look a little nicer, I pulled the 14,591,278 items I had on the closet’s floor out and trashed half of it and reorganized the rest. It needed to be done, sure… but what a pain in the ass! What should have been a nice little gesture took me all day and part of the night.

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RANT: NFL Officiating

Is it just me, or did the NFL games this past weekend showcase the worst officiating in the history of the league?

As you probably know, I am a diehard Pittsburgh Steelers fan. As such, I was over the moon when Troy Polamalu picked off a Peyton Manning pass with 5:26 left in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game. The game was all but over – the Steelers were going to the AFC Championship! But then the Colts challenged the interception ruling. Hell, I can’t say that I blame them – were I Tony Dungy, I’d have done the same thing. Referee Pete Morelli trotted over to the replay booth and watched the replays for what seemed like a half-hour before coming back out onto the field and stunning everyone in the RCA Dome, the television audience and even the space aliens that will some day pick up the broadcast on their home planet. The call was reversed: incomplete pass.

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RANT: Old People Writing Checks

Here’s this week’s rant: who the hell still writes checks?

I own a Windows Smartphone – a Samsung i600 phone – and enjoy using it as a portable media player thanks to The Core Pocket Media Player. I have a 512MB SD card, and usually have several albums as well as a few podcasts on the card. The problem is, the phone doesn’t have a very powerful speaker (compared to a car stereo) and I usually have to listen through headphones. Wouldn’t it be more fun to listen via the AUX input of my car stereo or the cassette adapter of Lisa’s stereo?

And so – earlier this week I went to Radio Shack to buy an adapter that would allow me to connect a 3.5mm input to the standard 2.5mm output on my phone. It’s a simple piece of plastic and wires that I would normally buy online if I weren’t so hesitant to pay $6.99 in shipping for a $1.99 part.

And so – I walked into the empty store, and within five seconds I made a grievous mistake: the saleslady asked me if I needed any help, and like an idiot I told her I’d be fine on my own. Of course, I had no idea where the specific adapter was located, so whilst I was searching the store’s cramped racks, an elderly gentleman walked in. The poor guy was as old as the hills and has some sort of ailment that rendered his thick Southern accent almost unintelligible. If you wish, imagine Boomhauer from King of the Hill with a nasty case of emphysema.

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RANT: People Who Call Outlook Express “Outlook”

This week’s rant – or, more accurately, “this month’s rant” or even “this quarter’s rant” – is an old one to IT support folks. Part of it is Microsoft’s fault and part of it is your fault. But whatever the case may be, it’s worthy of a rant, even if it’s an old complaint.

Microsoft makes two programs for getting email. One is Microsoft Outlook. The other is Microsoft Outlook Express. Outlook was created by the Office team; Outlook Express was created by the Internet Explorer team. Outlook is part of Office and costs money; Outlook Express is included with Windows and doesn’t cost extra. Outlook has many features that businesses like, such as task lists, calendars and sticky notes; Outlook Express is mostly for home users that just need to get email. Outlook can connect to Microsoft Exchange servers; Outlook Express cannot.

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RANT: Crappy Grammar on the Internet

OK, so this week’s rant is hardly new, but it still gets my craw anyway. Lately I’ve been completely disgusted with the state what passes for English grammar and usage in Internet communications. How often have you been on an Internet message board and seen sentences such as this: “The MPAA can take all there DVD’s and PC’s and cram ’em up you’re ass! I will hate them until my dying breathe!”

My God! If the Queen were dead, she’d be rolling over in her grave!

So let’s review some basic English grammar rules, OK?

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