Information that could be helpful to others. Often this comes in the form of me running into a problem, figuring it out, and posting my solution so others don’t have to go through the same hassle as I did. Imagine if everyone did that.

Posts in the Useful category
How to Speed Up Ansible Playbooks - 24 Oct 2020

If you’re using Ansible to maintain server configurations, you’re probably quite aware that speed is not something often used to describe Ansible. But I recently came across a plugin that had an amazing 82% performance improvement. And it took a single command and two lines in the ansible.cfg. The plugin is Mitogen, more specifically Mitogen […]

Cleaning Up The Web - 06 Sep 2019

As web pages get more cluttered, even ad blockers don’t cut it. pages are particularly hard to read with the huge notice they add on the bottom of the page, covering up the content and making it difficult to read. My solution has continued to work surprisingly well for the past few years. It’s […]

How Did I Get On This Page? - 24 Jul 2015

Have you ever found yourself on a site, wondering how you got there? The typical scenario for me is when I open several links in the background from another site, like Reddit or Hacker News. Every once in a while, one of the sites I open is outdated or was an invalid link, or I […]

Bookmarklet to Clean Cruft From URL - 22 Jul 2015

Bookmarking articles with long, ugly URLs filled with analytics cruft is a nuisance. I also find myself bookmarking the same article multiple times without realizing it. My bookmarking manager of choice (Linkman) will tell me if a link is already saved, but if the links are different, Linkman doesn’t know it’s the same article. And […]

Generate QR Codes For Google Authenticator - 10 Feb 2014

Every time I switch to a new cell phone I’ve had to disable 2-factor authentication on all my accounts in order to set them up on the new device. I just switched again and decided to make it easier. I had previously saved the secret keys for the various accounts in a secure location for […]

Updating Java Plugin In Chrome - 19 Nov 2013

Update 23 Apr 2015 As of Chrome version 42, NPAPI has been disabled by default. This effectively disables the Java plugin. In order for the below instructions to work, you can re-enable NPAPI by pasting this URL into Chrome: chrome://flags/#enable-npapi, enabling NPAPI support, and restarting Chrome. The Java browser plugin has a sordid security history […]

Quick and Easy Way to Change Settings on a Windows 7 Laptop - 02 Aug 2013

I accidentally hit WindowsKey-X on my laptop and this window popped up: It’s called the Windows Mobility Center and provides one-click access to changing the volume, wireless network, display, presentation mode and sync settings. I don’t see why they didn’t enable it in the desktop version of Windows 7. Apart from the wireless network settings […]

How to Fix a Delay When Opening Files in Microsoft Office - 04 Jun 2012

For the past few months opening an Office 2007 document (Word, Excel or Powerpoint) from Windows Explorer on all of my Windows 7 machines took over a minute. Opening the application alone was instantaneous and opening the same file from within the newly opened application was immediate. Since the application opened quickly, I guessed the […]

A Data Plan for Your Laptop - 20 Mar 2012

One of the best features of Google’s Chromebook is the free 2-year Verizon data plan for up to 100MB/month. It’s perfect when I’m traveling and don’t have easy access to wifi. I realize most people just use their smartphone, but my $10/year T-Mobile piece of crap Samsung t139 flip phone is not what you’d call […]

Watch TED Talks in High Definition - 19 Jul 2011

While reading this reddit post about Mikko Hypponen’s TED talk, I concluded that some users either had incredible visual acuity or they were watching the video at a higher resolution than me. Then Mikko posted a comment recommending we watch it in HD. I looked around for a link to the high res version for […]

Online Math Practice - 25 Jun 2011

If your mental math skills could use some improvement (like mine could), I’ve created an online tool to practice math problems. There are the basic problems of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, as well as calculating the tip and determine someone’s age. If you have other calculations that are commonly encountered in daily life, leave […]

Shortmarks Screencast - 24 May 2011

I’ve been working on a free service called Shortmarks (Shortcut Bookmarks) and have been using it for close to a year. It has become indispensable, giving me fast, keyword shortcuts from any browser. It’s great to be able to switch between Firefox, Internet Explorer, Chrome and Opera without missing a beat because all my searches […]

See the Current Time in Other Time Zones - 02 Mar 2011

I work with folks from different time zones, and it’s hard to get all the times straight and make the proper adjustment in my head. In Windows 7 you can see the time in two other timezones when you click on the current time in the taskbar. It also displays the calendar, which is useful […]

Get More Replies to Your Emails - 05 May 2010

Here’s a quick tip to get better replies to questions you ask by email. When you send a question to a group of people by email, they’ll often assume someone else will respond and not reply. Or if they do reply, they may not give it as much attention because there are other people who […]

Windows Photo Story Crashing on MP3 - 14 Feb 2010

I was creating a photo slideshow with Windows Photo Story. It was swell until I tried to import an MP3. It either said the file wasn’t valid, or imported it then crashed on preview. If you run into this problem and spend over an hour trying to figure out what’s wrong with the MP3 (like […]

Best Way to Embed MP3s on Your Web Site - 30 Dec 2009

MP3s are reasonably big files. If they’re popular, their bandwidth usage adds up. All web hosting companies have bandwidth caps, whether stated or unstated. Even if it says unlimited bandwidth, trying using a few terabytes and see how long it takes for them to take down your site. I’m surprised there are so many video […]

Bypass Voicemail Instructions - 31 Jul 2009

Like the preflight seatbelt fastening instructions, you don’t need to hear how to leave a voicemail each time you leave one. I left my wife a voicemail the other day and was frustrated at how long it took to get to the beep where I could leave my 3-second response. I wondered if there was […]

10 Ways to Find Beta Invites Online - 30 Apr 2009

If a new web site becomes too popular too soon, it can suffer from the thundering herd problem. To slow the stream of new users, many institute an invite program, where users need an invite code to sign up. Knowing how to get an invite can be eminently useful. Why, you ask? To register your […]

Get 100 Free Business Cards - 27 Jan 2009

Today HP launched MarketPlace, where you can buy custom stationary, mailing labels, rubber stamps and the like. You can also get 100 business cards for free. From what I can tell, they don’t put advertising on the back or charge for shipping (VistaPrint does both). It says they’re 100% free. They require your credit card […]

How to Edit MP3s Quickly and Easily - 28 Nov 2008

Audacity is a great audio editor, but it’s not an ideal choice for editing large MP3s because it takes so long to convert them. I have some MP3s that have dialog in the middle of the music and I wanted a quick and easy way to cut out the dialog. The solution is mp3DirectCut, a […]

3 Secrets to Resolving Problems With Customer Service - 01 Nov 2008

We’ve all dealt with customer service on the phone, but we haven’t always been able to get what we want. After waiting for 10-15 minutes, it can be hard to maintain a pleasant attitude, but it can go a long way to getting you what you want. Here are three ways to give you the […]

Free Copy of How to Find Lost Objects - 03 Apr 2008

A guy by the name of Professor Solomon wrote a partially tongue-in-cheek book called How to Find Lost Objects. You can download it for free here (5MB PDF). It’s entertaining in parts, and the instructions to make your own thinking cap are amusing enough. The 67 pages have quite a bit of fluff. I found […]

How to Get 50GB of Free Online Storage - 12 Mar 2008

Online storage is the ideal solution for off-site backups. I’ll be writing an in-depth article about how to set up an automated home backup solution in a future post, but this post is to let you know about a storage site called ADrive that gives you 50GB (!) of free storage space online. Here are […]

Secrets To Becoming a Better Speaker - 22 Feb 2008

Patrick Winston, Professor of Artificial Intelligence at MIT, gave a lecture at Harvard on how to give lectures. The lecture was broken up into a set of bite-size videos. He shows ways to improve your delivery and style. He also talks about how to use the blackboard, overheads and props. There’s enough meat in it […]

6 Easy Ways to Get a Human on the Phone - 15 Feb 2008

These tips can help you bypass the automated answering systems when calling customer service. 1. Interrupt It’s not rude to interrupt the computer, so feel free to talk over the voice. 2. Talk Sometimes saying what you want can get you just that. Try “get human” and if that doesn’t work, get angry. Some systems […]

Free file sharing and storage solution - 11 Feb 2008 is handy site for sharing files with others. You create a drop by uploading the files you want to store or send, then you can set an optional password. Once the drop is created, you can email the link to the recipient and they can download the files. You don’t have to go with […]

Conveniently track your shipments for free - 06 Feb 2008

Many people like to track their incoming shipments, but it’s a hassle to check each different shipping site. With, you don’t have to. Just forward your shipment notification email to them to track all your shipments in one place. Here are some screenshots of what you’ll see. I especially like the integration with Google […]

25 sites TIME can’t live without - 29 Jun 2007

Here are 25 sites TIME magazine can’t live without. There are the standard ones you’d expect like Google, Amazon, Wikipedia, Yahoo and Ebay, then there are several more that I use on a regular basis but aren’t necessarily mainstream. There were only three I hadn’t heard of before:,, and Of those, […]

Handy e-mail trick - 24 Apr 2007

A recent tips of the trade trick about e-mail had some great advice. I already do half of it, and plan to begin doing the other half. The first part is to attach whatever you’re going to attach before you write the e-mail to avoid sending out the second e-mail explaining that you forgot to […]

Free online training videos - 18 Apr 2007

Expert Village is a great idea. They’ve found experts in all sorts of areas such as auto mechanics, health and fitness, music, parenting, hobbies and sports to record a series of instructional videos. The experts might be lacking in some areas, but of the videos I’ve watched they’re helpful if you’re just learning about a […]

The secret menus - 06 Mar 2007

When I first ate at In-N-Out I ordered a cheeseburger, as advertised on their menu. In-N-Out has the sparsest menu of all the burger places I know of. I never expected there to be a hidden one because they have plenty of room to fit other items. When I bit into my burger, I coiled […]

How to avoid SSH timeouts - 05 Mar 2007

I’ve had my Netgear router for over two years and it continues to work well, with one exception. It times out idle connections after 15 minutes. This is how it was designed, so it’s not a flaw in the product, but it’s frustrating because I often have terminals open to other machines, and if the […]

AMEX extended warranty protection buys a new laptop - 28 Feb 2007

This is truly a heartwarming story. A laptop stopped working a mere 2 weeks after the 1-year warranty had expired. Compaq wasn’t willing to budge on the 1 year mark, but since the laptop had been purchased on an American Express card, which has extended warranty protection, they would take care of it. The customer […]

Disable the snap preview - 05 Feb 2007

Sites like techcrunch (among many others) have introduced an annoyance that I find exceedingly . . . annoying. Fortunately for me (and anyone else who is similarly annoyed), you have but to click this magical link. It will set a cookie to disable snap preview on every web site that uses it. (via Paul Bausch […]

Lists of all sorts of things - 31 Jan 2007

Leon Ho, creator of and internationalization manager at RedHat Linux, linked to Listible in the Showcase area of his blog. At first I assumed he created it, because there are only three links in the showcase area, one to lifehack and the other to his job. The whois domain information is private and none […]

How to make a PowerPoint presentation open in slideshow mode - 25 Jan 2007

I learned this from investigating an e-mail forward I received during the Christmas holidays, but it’s a useful tip that others might like to hear. When you’re giving a presentation, the last thing you need is more work, and I have seen numerous presenters struggle with the foreign laptop they’re on or try to get […]

A free private phone line - 10 Jan 2007

Are you tired of getting calls from telemarketers and salespeople? Would you like a phone number that lets you deal with phone calls when you want to, instead of the moment the call is made? You can get a free local telephone number to use online from NetZero, the company that provided free dial-up internet […]

How to find the domains hosted on an IP address - 30 Nov 2006

With virtual hosting, a single IP address can host dozens of domains, and it can be interesting to find out what other domains are being hosted on the same server. Windows live search lets you use the ip: prefix to search for all the domains on a given IP address. For example, resolves to […]

Time duration calculator - 28 Nov 2006

I was planning to do something that took about 45 seconds and I wanted to know how long it would take if I did it 15 times. In the past, I’ve also wanted to calculate other things that were time-related and found that a regular calculator wasn’t all that useful. So, I’ve created a time […]

Amazon affiliate link generator - 20 Nov 2006

I signed up for Amazon’s affiliate program way back in March 2002 and at the end of October 2006 my total finally broke the $100 mark. I’m still awaiting the check (I think they sent it to my old address, even though I updated my address before the end of October. It is now set […]

Free audio books - 16 Nov 2006

A friend recommended a book called “Captain Blood,” so I looked it up on wikipedia to find out more about it. On the wikipedia page there were links to free text and PDA versions at Project Gutenberg as well as a free audio version at Babblebooks. I hadn’t heard of BabbleBooks before, but it sounded […]

Neighborhood statistics - 27 Oct 2006

Neighboroo is a simple, but very cool, idea. They’ve gathered data about cities all over the US on lifestyle, politics, crime, education, air quality, home prices, rent, cost of living, commute time, household income, tax rates, population density and others, and display a heat map of the US. Here’s an example of housing prices. (via […]

Remote access with two monitors - 23 Oct 2006

I have two monitors at work and only one monitor at home, so when I work from home, all the applications on the second monitor aren’t visible. This was a problem that I had a hard time solving because none of the typical windows commands were made to switch an application’s desktop. My solution is […]

How to make your home cozy - 16 Oct 2006

I’m the last person you’d want to decorate your home. I don’t know what to put where to make a room look pleasing and inviting. However, I consider myself a decent judge of aesthetics, so even though I don’t know how to do it, I can tell between my decorating job and that of someone […]

Converting a CD collection to MP3s - 20 Sep 2006

I recently converted my 500+ CD collection to MP3s. Here’s how I did it. I used Exact Audio Copy to rip the CDs. It was really slow in secure mode so I switched to burst mode and used copy and test which does CRC comparisons to make sure you got the same audio in two […]

Tooltips hidden behind taskbar in XP - 18 Sep 2006

Every once in a while the tooltips start showing up behind the taskbar so they can’t be seen. This is very annoying. I found a fix that worked, but I’m surprised and a little dismayed that it fixes the problem. It’s like telling someone with a headache to jump around clucking like a chicken, but […]

Free IRC client for windows - 12 Sep 2006

IRC isn’t as popular nowadays, but every once in a while I have a reason to use it. I’ve used xChat on Linux but on Windows I didn’t know of a free IRC client. I Googled around but found only commercial applications. Then I found one right under my nose. Literally. I was using Opera […]

Hiding answers on your page - 07 Sep 2006

I started a weekly Tuesday Trivia on my coin collecting site, but it took me a while to find a good solution for displaying the questions and answers. I had the following requirements: 1. Easy to enter, since I have to do it every week. 2. Easy for the reader to get the answers, but […]

Online diagrams - 26 Aug 2006

I wanted to make a diagram of my home network so I could keep track of everything and how they’re connected. I could have used Dia or Visio, but I created it online instead. The site I used is called Gliffy, and its interface is extremely advanced for a web application. They’re blurring the line […]

how to print images in a PDF - 31 Jul 2006

I was reading a PDF that had a few diagrams that I wanted to print, but I wasn’t aware of how to print just the diagram instead of the whole document. The PDF was over 1500 pages, so printing the entire document was not an option. I knew about the select tool to print portions […]