Article, September 2010
By Steve Bass,
Publisher and Self-appointed Chief Content Officer, TechBite
stevebass (at) techbite.com
I spend lots of time patrolling the Internet, looking for sites that can help me with my life. Some are pin-pointed to something I might need right away, like Contact Help, a way to get the phone number of a company. Others are spots I know I'll need someday, such as instructions for recovering a ring from a drainpipe or how to wrap an extension cord like a pro.
I've got a stack of these places for you; some may hit your nail on the head, so to speak; others won't do a thing for you.
Get Me Some Help
I used to rely solely on GetHuman to find a company phone number and get the skinny on the menu prompts for quick navigation. Now GetHuman has an ally: Contact Help , a relatively new site with contacts GetHuman doesn't list. http://www.gethuman.com http://www.contacthelp.com
Imagine you're trying to choose between two companies, say, satellite TV services, or maybe banks. Consult with CustomerService Scoreboard and get some background before you sign up. http://www.customerservicescoreboard.com
Photo Retouching You Won't Believe
This video of the upcoming Adobe Photoshop upgrade's Content Aware Fill feature is something you have to watch. Even if you don't use Photoshop, you'll be blown away by what it does. It's a long video -- but stay until the end when you'll see a spectacular modification of a panoramic image. http://tinyurl.com/ydoa2od
You might never ever consider buying Photoshop. Even though it can work miracles on photos, it's a PITA to learn. Instead you might want to send some of your photos to Master Photo Repair and let my buddy Chuck Hazendl, a professional, have a go at them. For instance, he can remove people from photos -- or seamlessly add them. http://www.masterphotorepair.com/
I love to cook. It lets the creative part of me play around in the kitchen. Now I know it's April, and carving a turkey has nothing to do with technology. Yet, here's something I found incredibly useful: A video with a professional showing the right way to carve a turkey. http://tinyurl.com/383kujy With the turkey in the fridge, there's one question that always seems to come up: How long we can keep things in the fridge before they go bad. As a confirmed cheapskate, I often argue with my wife about whether something's still edible if there's fur growing on it. StillTasty has the answer. (That ground turkey? You have two days, pal.) http://www.stilltasty.com
If you're traveling and need restaurant advice, or need a second opinion on a recipe, log on to Chowhound. Select a location on the forum board and browse around -- or fire off a question. Who knows, you may bump into me (I use my real name) or Judy (as Judybird). http://chowhound.chow.com/boards
Take Charge of Your Household
Besides cooking, I enjoy my role as Bass International handyman. (Since graduate school, I've also been the Laundry Queen, finding ways to remove spots and stains like you'll never believe.)
I was looking for some I'm-going-to-save-thousands-and-paint-the-house-myself advice when I ran across the household section of Family Hack . Oh, is it cool. The first video I spotted was Something Down The Drain? Retrieve it Without a Wrench. Absolutely brilliant for retrieving a ring, but a contact lens? I dunno... http://www.familyhack.com/category/household/
Just as valuable is WonderHowTo.
I built a clay pot fountain (and found a bigger project: an outdoor fountain) and learned how to adjust the sprinklers. http://www.wonderhowto.com/
One big thrill was discovering how to wrap a power extension cord without it getting tangled or squirrelly. (I've got to get a life, I know.) I watched what felt like hundreds of videos. This first video -- No Tangle Extension Cord Storage -- is the best of the bunch. This next technique is a favorite of roadies, people who handle sound equipment and cables for performers on the road. Here's another roadie technique. http://tinyurl.com/lz8q7y
He asked his readers to send him Web sites that give a boost to the quality of your life. Here are some that he forgot to put in his column and a few that readers sent in.
Last week I offered you bunches of Web spots I found useful, many of them having little to do with technology. The feedback was amazingly positive -- and many of you sent your favs. One site I forgot to mention was Appliance Junk , a site that doles out repair advice. The forum members -- most of them repair people -- helped me resurrect my 23-year-old dishwasher and fix an icemaker. (It doesn't help the economy, sure, but I'll still try to get another 20 years out of them...) http://appliancejunk.com/forums/
Another favorite is Ask the Builder , with a slew of videos. One of the many I found useful was a house gutter issue -- whether to protect gutters or clean them. (I'm the guy on the ladder -- still cleaning.) http://www.askthebuilder.com
One more site: The Power Wash Network lets you eavesdrop (okay, lurk ) on professional cleaners -- window washers and wooden deck restorers, for instance -- and get their insider tips. (I got a terrific formula for a window washing solution.) http://www.powerwashnetwork.com
After reading last week's TechBite, subscriber Rob Carpenter said, "I didn't realize you were a do-it-yourself fan. If you haven't been there before, I think you'll find Instructables useful." Not everything on the site's a fit for me, but some of the instructions were useful, like working with PVC pipe, for instance (I'm designing a hothouse), and building a chicken coop (stop laughing). http://www.instructables.com/ David S. reminded me of a technique for adjusting your side-view car mirrors. We've been using it for years because it can actually let you see cars in your "blind spots." This video explains how to do it. http://tinyurl.com/2bm9en3
One surprise is that lots of you spend time in the kitchen, carving turkeys, I think. Here's another tip: How to cook the perfect poached egg (I tried it and this is a keeper). BTW, if you've never done this at a party, here's how to peel a hard boiled egg and amaze everyone. http://tinyurl.com/24zousa
Finally, Phil Davis told me he's learned how to pack a suitcase from YouTube vids. (I just wear T-shirts and short pants. Here's where I learned my folding technique .) For wrinkle-free packing, try the slow and studious butler's method . If you're just overnighting it, here are written instrux , or if you prefer a video, a moribund butler shows how to cram everything you can into a suitcase. http://tinyurl.com/yfsbmzh
Steve Bass is the publisher and self-appointed Chief Content Officer at TechBite; he continues to experience the cool feeling of having his own newsletter. Send him your feedback at TechBite. To sign up for TechBite's free Steve Bass Technology newsletter, head for our signup page. http://www.techbyte.com
Steve's also the author of "PC Annoyances, 2nd Edition: How to Fix the Most Annoying Things About Your Personal Computer," available on Amazon. It covers XP, but not Vista. If you haven't purchased your copy today, don't wait, supplies always seem to be limited. http://www.amazon.comClick here to return to top