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February 2016

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I. Out of the box Desk Organizer

Who could ever imagine that a broom head can be used as an organizer? If you are a shrewd stylist who can come up with just about anything and everything under the sun, you will be able to think of the idea. For other people, it would be really hard.

Are you thinking of a unique, handcrafted and inventive gift to family and friends?  Here is an awesome gift suggestion to consider before you head to your favorite department store.

1. You will just need these practical and affordable items available at the nearest hardware or janitorial stores:

– 2 Broom heads sizes 10” x 2.75”  

– Your phone’s charging cable

– 8 Stick-on Rubber feet

– Scissors

2. Placing the rubber feet

– On the wooden handle, bottom part of the broom heads, stick rubber feet on all corners with at least ¼” from the edges.

3. Creating your mobile phone’s charging slot

– Find the built-in spaces amongst the broom’s bristles, this will house your phone while charging, do this in just one of the broom head.  Trim the bristles in a manner that will allow your phone to be settled evenly in that space.   Do this by ensuring that bristles will be cut fittingly.

4. Wire Connections

– Insert the other end of your phone’s charger into the hole that has the thread.  Just leave the charging port that connects to your phone at the bristle tops.

5. Put them all together

– Voila! You now have a distinctive desk organizer that you can place beside your desktop or workstation. Just make sure that it is close to a power source for your mobile phone charging needs.

II. RC Power Wheels

In today’s advancing technology, reinventing a remote control power wheel may just be a little tougher than what it is like in the past.  It requires basic mechanical knowledge to allow you to tweak the electrical wiring connections correctly and adjust it to your needs.  

One good example of RC power wheel realignment is the one designed for a child with cerebral palsy.  The RC power vehicle is altered and enhanced to match the limited movements of the child.  The companion controls the RC system while the child rides his jeep by himself.  The system set up costs roughly $1,000. A measly amount compared to the happiness it gives to the child.

III. Easy to Do Robot Gripper

Soon – gone are the days of manual human labor as the time of mechanically engineered agents or robots are proliferating in this time and age.  These robots may come with a highly complex mechanism or may just be composed of plain and simple mechanical components.  Scientists and researchers have come up with different kinds of robot grippers or end effectors, all of which have different functions.

These end effectors have varying mechanisms to mimic the hand movements of humans.  All of the end effectors have a common mechanism as follows:  Gripper approaches an object in a soft state. Gripper takes the shape of the object being picked up, and air is pressurized so objects can be manipulated.  Let’s take a look at an example of an amorphous robot gripper where we are going to use the jamming process.

We will need these materials to do our amorphous gripper:

Balloons, coffee grounds, plastic funnel, air hose/tubing, duct tape, small plastic tube, air pump and thin cloth.

The Jamming Process:

The coffee grounds are placed inside the balloon; there is an air hose that serves as the passage of air from the air pump.  When you start to release air from the balloon, the coffee grounds will loosen up. Now when you press it against any object, the coffee grounds will circulate inside the balloon, allowing them to take the form of the object.  This movement will let you hold an object by pressing hard against it and then extracting air from the balloon.  The balloon’s rubberized surface aids in gripping the object for it not to slip.

IV. iTorch Raspberry Pi Flashlight Projector

Expand your viewing pleasure with a portable and wireless projection system that will allow you to project your media wherever you may be.  It combines the capabilities of a viewing device and a controller with the use of a battery powered projector. It is illuminated by a flashlight which can be a costly project but this innovation will allow you to project holograms anywhere you like.

V. Cheap Lithium Battery Pack

Converting your old mobile phone battery into a lithium battery is one of the highly clever hacks nowadays.   For one, lithium-polymer battery packs are expensive since these are one of the advanced and powerful batteries today.

It takes a skillful mind to do this project because this is highly sensitive and risky procedures are involved.  Make sure you equip yourself with the right steps and precautionary measures before embarking on this plan.

VI. Arduino Thermostat

Living in the small confinements of an apartment or dorm can be painstaking, especially to those who are living in cold places.  Using an Arduino thermostat, temperature sensor and a motor will help ease the burden of manually switching your heater on/off to your desired temperature.

VII. 3D Scanning with Skanect

Would you like to see a mini me of yourself?  Here comes 3D Scanning using the Microsoft Kinect and Skanect software.

1. To do this, you will need the following:  desktop since the files are large, Skanect software (http://skanect.manctl.com/). Microsoft Kinect, lights and spinning platform

2. For the software settings:  inside Skanect, click New, make sure that your settings match those in the picture. Press start – for small figure. You will need to adjust the bounding box a bit smaller.

3. For Workspace:  Screen will show the bounding box in the middle.  The infrared light and the video images are on the right side.

4. For Image:  Have your subject step on the platform; make sure that the lighting is just right and consistently focused on your subject.

5. Kinect : One needs to hold the Kinect up as the level of the subject’s waist, press record.  The Kinect will record the depth and the color.

6. Movement: Spin Around – As soon as you have a full sweep of your subject, press the pedal to make the platform spin.  As your subject is spinning, scan his entirety to capture the figure from head to toe.

VIII. Controllable Coffee Roaster From an Air Popcorn Popper

Coffee lovers will appreciate DIY Coffee Roaster.  It needs basic engineering and craftsmanship to transform a hot air popcorn popper into a functional coffee roaster.

All you need is a proper adaptation of internal temperature sensors along with the reactive control system and the software’s ability to save the roasting profile. This DIY will definitely match the expensive programmable roaster.

These clever gadget hacks will greatly help you survive in this modern age. These are inventive techniques that can help alleviate the conundrum of our daily living.  If you just have the time, equipment, software and a little bit of craftsmanship then you can absolutely experiment on doing these suggestions and see how it is to live life in innovation.

VLC has heaps of features more than just a traffic cone icon that we are so accustomed.  This segment unravels the versatility of this popular media player in simple step-by-step instructions. 

Download YouTube Videos

VLC is your best friend when it comes to downloading videos from YouTube straight from its desktop interface.  Here’s how:

1. Search the video in YouTube and copy the path of that video from the address bar

2. Open VLC Media Player on your computer, open media, then paste the path then click play

3. Click “Tools” and choose “Codec Information”

4. Under “Location”, you’ll be able to see the download link,  right-click this link and click “Select All” and copy the text to clipboard

5. Open a web browser and paste the link in the address bar. Press “Enter” key

6. Right-click anywhere on the browser window in which video is being played and select “Save As”

Recording clips from You Tube while it’s streaming with VLC is also possible; just press the Red Record button in the player itself.  This will allow you to have a snip out of a long video.

Record Your Desktop

VLC’s flexibility extends to desktop recording as many of us find strange to know.   VLC has the ability to record your desktop into a video file. It may not be as powerful as to screen record an entire movie, but good enough to exhibit your desktop’s activities into a video file.  Here are the tips on how to do it:

1. Open VLC, Click Media

2. Choose Capture Device, select Desktop as the Capture Mode

3. Change the fps (frames per second).  You may choose the 15 fps for desktop recording but for a fast-paced movement, 30 fps will be required.  Make sure the source is your screen.

4. Click Next to “Play” and select “Convert”

5. From “Profile” dropdown, choose MP4 (You can use the tool icon to modify the settings of this profile)

6. In the destination box, choose a location to place the finished file

7. Stream by clicking “start”

VLC will now start to capture your desktop’s feed in which anytime you want to stop recording, just click the stop button on your VLC.  The desktop recording can be played as common media files.

Convert Video Files

One of the many facets of VLC is converting videos to certain formats, no need to download another application just to convert the file.  This saves you the hassle of having different applications for certain file format.  Learn how:

1. Click on ‘Media” then click Convert/Save

2. From the “Settings” section, Choose the type of file you want to convert the file into

3. Choose a name for the file and location under Destination

4. Click on the “Start” button

Record Your Webcam

VLC gives you the luxury of taking pictures and recording them even if your webcam does not have the software to do so.  VLC presents you a wide array of formats and settings to choose from, which makes it a vital tool in recording You Tube videos.  Let me tell you how.

1. In VLC, open Media then Click Open Capture Device

2. In the” Capture mode” dropdown, choose Direct Show

3. Under “Video Device Name”  choose your webcam

4. Under ”Audio Device Name” choose your microphone

5. Click ‘Advance Options”

a. If your webcam has a software that you opt to use, choose “Device Properties”

b. Or, you may enter a value for “Video input frame rate”.  30 is best for crisp video quality

c. Click “Okay”

After the steps above, you now have two choices: You can press “Play” to watch live video through VLC and record segments by pressing “Record” button.  Another is to select “Convert/Save” and select the location where you would like to save the recorded file.  Both options have features that are suitable to your needs.  If you want to preview your video and take short clips, use the first option.   One tip to get rid of feedback problem is to use a headphone.   Please take note though that this method will not give pitch perfect recording on slower computers.

 “Convert/Save” method is one way of avoiding any feedback problem; furthermore, it doesn’t show visibility of the video being recorded or any of the recording status.  You can stop the recording by pressing “Stop” but there’s no indication status shown after doing so.

Subscribe to Podcasts

Podcast is an awesome way of listening to music or radio over the internet and VLC lets you subscribe to your favorite podcast online.  Let’s learn how:

1. Search for podcasts available, pick one and copy the website address

2. Click the plus sign beside the podcast label, then enter the URL that you copied.

3. Click on the podcast subscription you added, select and play a podcast episode.

VLC is more than just a media player. It encompasses a comprehensive range of technological advancements all rolled into one.  It is indeed an absolute advantage for someone to know the best hidden features of VLC and have cutting-edge skill that’s a cut above the rest.

1. Use Smaller Plate

Trick your mind into thinking that you’ve got a great big portion of food by using a smaller plate. This works because you’ll be able to fit less on the plate while still having it look like a considerable amount.

Eating less is one of the hardest things to do, especially when you’ve been eating the same portion for a large number of years. You know what your plate looks like when it gets you full and thus, if you put less food on a bigger plate, you’ll only crave more (because your mind already thinks it’s not enough).

2. Walk more. 

Those extra 2 minutes that it takes to get from the other end of the parking lot can make a huge difference. So, if you’re the kind of person who tends to drive around until you find the closest spot in the parking lot, it’s time to stop and drive to the farthest one. Additionally, you’ll want to skip elevators and escalators and opt for the stairs.

3. Separate snacks into smaller portions. 

If you’re the type who pops a bag of chips open and finds it incredibly hard to put it down, it’s time to start cutting down. It’s hard to say kick the snacking all together, especially in the beginning stages and so, what you’ll want to do instead is to put your treats in tiny Ziploc bags and toss away the big bag.

4. When at the park with your kids, get into play mode. Rather than only sitting around and watching to make sure that they’re safe, engage them in a game of ‘tag’ and get your body up and moving.

5. When on vacation, don’t leave your running shoes behind.

Sure you want to go sight-seeing and thus, you’ll most likely be getting some walking in but the amount of walking you to will also be related to your comfort level when walking. Stress shoes and stilettos mean that you’ll be taking the bus for what would only be a 10 minute walk.

6. Choose a day in the week to skip meat, soda or other edibles you’d like to cut down on.

7. Lose belly fat by drinking 5 cups of green tea daily.

8. Drink a cup of water before dinner to feel fuller faster.

9. Eating foods packed with Vitamin C reduces the production of Cortisol, which is a hormone responsible for the storage of body fat.

10. Pulling your tummy in while running or jogging will help you to tone it up a bit more and also burn more calories.

11. Burn more calories while you’re asleep by enjoying a spoon of peanut butter before bedtime.

12. Invest in comfortable and attractive workout clothes. The better you look, the better you’ll feel and the more you’ll want to get suited up and out on the track.

13. Challenge yourself more with an activity monitor. Set realistic goals for yourself and push yourself to reach them.

14. Exercise while watching television. Choose your favorite television show and turn it into an exercising game. Whenever character X says a certain word, do 10 jumping jacks. Whenever another character laughs or cries, do 10 sit-ups.

15. Burn more calories by wearing a weight vest or backpack while walking or while running errands

Cut down the amount you eat by chewing more. This will allow you to truly enjoy your food and also prevent you from eating too much. Dinner isn’t a race! 

At some point in your life, you are going to have to plan. Whether this is for a party, an event, or for a trip you will need to make sure that everything is organized and that it can go off without any issues. Often events will fail because the proper planning did not go into them. Here are some of the things that you can do in order to use effective planning techniques.

Prioritize

Before you get started, you need to take the time to figure out what is the most important things that need to get done. Every morning, or before you go to bed for the night in order to clear your head, you should take the time to write out all of the things that you need to do the next day. You can then look at the list and determine what is the most important and needs to be taken care of as soon as possible. Mark those so that you know to do them first. Then look for the tasks that are still important but which can wait just a bit so that you can get the urgent ones done. And finally, have a category for the least important work that you will get to when you have the time later on. Keep in mind that not everything is urgent, no matter how you feel about the matter. Work through your list starting with urgent and ending with the lesser things if you have time. This will ensure that you get the work done that is needed on time instead of scrambling at the last minute because you worked on something else first.

Use the Tools You Have

Many people decide to use the tools they have online in order to be organized and to get things done. These tools are great because they provide you with easy access to all of the information that you need in order to get all of your work tasks done. For example, email is able to help you to send out the projects that you need and to keep in touch with those you are working with and you are probably already using it. Another feature that comes with a lot of email programs is the calendar feature. You should utilize this in order to keep track of projects, due dates, and appointments. The best part is that this calendar feature will send you email updates about what you have planned so you never forget anything.

Depending on the work that you are doing, there might be other tools that you can use to make work more efficient. For example, some comprehensive project management programs will allow you and others in your organization to work together on a project by sharing notes and other information.

Communication

You are never going to be able to get anything done if you do not have any open lines of communication available with those around you. Everyone will need to be informed on the project if you want it to get done the right way and on time. Communication will need to go both ways; if you have information on the project make sure to talk to others and share that information so that you are able to work together and get it done right. If you do not have information that is needed and feel like you are in the dark, make sure to talk to others on the team. They might have this information that can help you get going and contribute to the overall work.

Communication can occur in several different ways. You can go to the other person’s office to talk, call them, send an email, or even have meetings. The type of communication will vary depending on the scope of the project but the most important thing is to keep those lines open for everyone.

Make a Schedule

You are not going to be able to get anything done if you do not have any sort of schedule that is made up. A schedule is going to allow you to see what is going on each day, what tasks you will need to finish, and it allows you to plan out the day and the time that you have whether at home, the office, school, or somewhere else. If you do not create a schedule, things are going to get lost or you will jumble them up and soon too much will be on your plate or you will forget about things. In addition, if you are able to create a proper schedule, you will find that you can schedule your own down times. This time can be used to take a break, catch up on a project, or take on more work if you would like.

Make sure to that you take the time to work on a schedule, whether you plan out each hour of the day or just write it all down in a calendar. Having this schedule allows you to learn what to expect day to day and then you will be able to get it done, save time, and allocate tasks to certain times to get them done. For example, if you get to the office at 8 and have a meeting at 9, you might allocate your time to getting a few little important tasks done and can save the more in depth ones that need time for the afternoon when you have a few hours

Have you ever been in an awkward situation wherein you do not know the name of the person you’re talking to?

Have you ever found yourself struggling to recall a phone number?

Are you a student who is always struggling to recall the things that you studied?

In this day and age, we are often offered too much information. Our constant struggle is in trying to remember everything.

When we were young, we had very sharp memories. However, as time goes by, most of us lose our ability to remember things efficiently. Memory is like a muscle, and it constantly needs to be exercised and used if you want it to be better and more efficient.

Ideally, writing down things and repeating them again and again is the easiest way to remember the details. However, we don’t have this kind of luxury most of the time. There are times when you just have to think on your toes. You really don’t need super powers if you want to remember passwords and client names. There are plenty of tools and techniques that can help you to remember things that you need.

Do not underestimate your brain! With the right amount of practice, you will be able to improve your memory habits in no time!

Here are some memory hacks, which you might find useful.

Rest and nap

How do you expect to recall things if your brain is never recharged? Getting sufficient rest and sleep ensures that your brain is able to process new material. Aside from getting your usual eight hours of sleep at night, you must also try to nap throughout the day. A simple fifteen minute nap can do wonders for your brain, and thus, for your memory as well.

While exercising your brain is important, you must give it time to rest too. Do not push your brain to the limits all the time. Working twenty hours a day will surely fry your brain cells.  Just like any muscle, your brain needs regular rest and sleep too.

Remembering things is rarely about being more intelligent. More often than not, it is about knowing how to use your brain properly in order to recall the information you need.

Here are some useful tips that could help you to have a sharper and better memory in general.

Learn how to focus

In this day and age, multi-tasking is a common buzzword. People often seem to find fulfillment in trying to achieve all things at once. However, this approach to things is very problematic. When you multitask, you make it difficult for yourself to understand. In addition to this, you don’t fully absorb the information, which makes it difficult to recall and remember.

Remember keywords

Keywords can be very powerful in helping people to recall important information. When you encounter lengthy material like a history essay, take note of keywords to help you remember the things you want.

Choose powerful words that will enable you to remember a lot of information about the subject. Don’t try to remember a lot of keywords, because it defeats the purpose of this technique. The key is to choose powerful ones that will unlock the core knowledge about the material that you are trying to remember.

Use repetition techniques

When you say something out loud, it will be easier for your brain to recall information. For example, when you are introduced to Gina, greet her with a phrase like, “Nice meeting you, Gina.” Try to repeat the name multiple times in your conversation. Repeating the name again and again will embed it in your memory.

Use your own mnemonics

Mnemonics, or patterns of letters, words, or phrases, are a good way to remember things. If you use mnemonics, you are actually using your various senses to remember information. This makes it much easier for the brain to process and recall information. Use your own sense of humor to remember things well. Construct positive images that can help you to remember the important information that you need.

Train your brain

Train your brain to think more using exercises like puzzles and board games. Playing scrabble, crossword, and Sudoku could do wonders for your brain. You can also play memory games that will keep your brain working. The more you train your brain, the more efficient it will become. Simple games like these can even help prevent Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases.

Engage your senses

The more senses you involve in learning something new, the easier it would be for you to remember important information later on. It would be best if you know what kind of learner you are. Some people learn faster through body movement. Some by imagining pictures. Some by singing songs. Figure out what your learning style is, and it will be significantly easier for you to recall information.

For visual learners, you can translate text into pictures.  For auditory learners, you can assign a song or a tune, which can make learning faster and more efficient. Try to discover what kind of learner you are, so that you can maximize your own learning process.

Write it down

Whenever you have the luxury to write things down, go ahead and do so. This simple act embeds the important details into your memory. You don’t actually have to read what you wrote down. The simple act of holding a pen and writing random notes engages brain cells, which make it easier for you to recall things that you might need later on.

Don’t think that it is the same as typing away on a keyboard or touch screen. It is the act of writing, which makes things easier to remember because it engages your body. Sure, typing on a keyboard is faster and more convenient. Unfortunately, typing away does not engage the brain as much as writing does.

Exercise

By now, you should know that exercise has so many benefits. It is not just good for the body; it is good for the brain too. Your memory is sharper when you exercise, because exercise will allow you to free your mind from stress. With a clear mind, you will easily be able to retain important

There are some items that have so many valuable benefits, that I wanted to create a special chapter just for these household heroes.  These are seven items that are super cheap, have countless uses and should be the items you always have stocked in your pantry. 

Let’s take a look at these household heroes that will make your life incredibly easier and in some cases, will keep you healthier!

1. Lemons.  

Slice a lemon in half and squeeze the juice from one-half of the lemon into a cup.  Add warm (or if you are like me, hot) water into the cup and drink it every morning.  Not only does warm lemon water help you lose weight, it improves digestion, boosts your immune system, reduces inflammation, contains antibacterial and antiviral properties and boosts your brain power.

 2. Epsom Salt.

 Epsom Salt is one of the most versatile items you can have in your home.  While it is excellent for soaking in the bathtub to soothe sprains and strains, it can be used as a laxative and to cure pink eye.  It’s also useful for cleaning tile floors, bathtubs, removing burnt food from pots and pans, regenerating car batteries, and has multiple uses in gardening. 

 It can be used to draw out splinters, reduce inflammation, relieve gout pain, be used directly on bites and stings to relieve pain and can help eliminate blackheads. Epsom salt also has use in crafts, like creating snow and a frosted look on your windows in the winter.  The uses of Epsom salt are endless, and it is super cheap.  Keep a box or bag of it in your bathroom.

 3. Coconut Oil.  

Coconut oil can be used in cooking, as beauty remedies, as toothpaste, lip balm and toothpaste.  It can heal canker sores and season cast iron frying pans.  This versatile oil can also be used as an insect repellant, can be used as a substitute for WD-40, as furniture polish, a leather shoe cleaner and to remove sticky residue from items.  As an added bonus, substituting coconut oil for canola and vegetable oils can aid in weight loss.

 4. White Vinegar.

 White vinegar offers some incredible cleaning properties.  I always keep a large bottle of it in my home.  To remove soap and scum build up from your shower head, simply add some vinegar to a bag and tie it around the shower head.  Let it sit overnight and then run the shower in the morning.  Your shower head will look brand new.  

White vinegar can be used with baking soda to unclog and deodorize your drains.  It can be used to disinfect cutting boards as well as steam clean your microwave when you combine it with water.

 5. Toothpaste.

 Toothpaste is an excellent cleaning agent.  You can use it to clean the leather part of your sneakers, clean fine jewelry and remove crayon marks from your walls.  It can also be used to defog goggles and glasses, as well as to buff out small scratches on items.  Toothpaste is also an amazing deodorizer for your hands when you can’t get the smell of garlic off them, even after washing.

 6. Coffee Filters.  

Even if you aren’t a coffee drinker, coffee filters are cheap and have many issues.  I use coffee filters as a mitt when cleaning windows, mirrors and wine glasses.  They don’t leave any streaks and are lint free.  Using the filters in between expensive dinnerware when storing those helps prevent scratches and chips.  They are also great to use at the bottom of flower pots because it prevents the soil from leaking out when watered.

 7. Hydrogen Peroxide.

Hydrogen peroxide has some great antibacterial properties that offer endless uses.  I like using one part peroxide to one part water to use as a great disinfecting mouthwash.  You can also combine it with baking soda to deep clean your teeth and whiten them. 

Hydrogen peroxide can be used to disinfect cutting boards, dishwashers, sponges, toilets and bathtubs.  You can also use a little in your sink with water to remove pesticides and dirt from fruits and veggies.