Categories
Life Hacking

On Getting Your Life Back or How to Subdue the Internet.

I have been hard at work for you guys. Well, more for myself, but this should help you guys, too. In an effort to get back some of my time from the clutches of the internet I have come up with some helpful tactics. Most of these involve Google’s wonderfully free tools so you will need a Google account, which is totally free!

When analyzing what took most of my time, it was checking when all my websites updated trying to make sure I didn’t miss anything. The obvious problem is that there is plenty of time just sitting and waiting. Not an effective use of time! I will divide the help based on the tools used.

1. Google Reader


This wonderful tool does the bulk of the heavy lifting. This is what will do all the fetching, so you don’t have to. In concept it’s pretty simple. There are these things called RSS feeds. Most websites use them. Basically, it’s takes all the new content that websites publish and puts it in a standardized code that programs can access and tell when it’s been updated. Pretty cool! Most websites have RSS feeds so it shouldn’t be hard to put all your favorite stuff into reader. The nice thing is that is checks for new content by itself. When you log in it will tell you all the stuff that has changed on all your favorite websites and you don’t even have to visit them. WAHEY! That’s time saving! It’s pretty simple to do, too. There is a big add subscription button on the top left and you can type a website or some keywords and it should find automagically subscribe you to them. Here is what my Google Reader Looks like.

If you notice I have arranged it by website type. The little numbers in parenthesis tells you how much new content there is. I’m sure, like me, you don’t all read every article that a website publishes so it’s easy to skim the headlines and see what is worth your time.

1.5 Google Read-it-later

I put this as 1.5 because it’s still Google Reader, but another way to use it. Say you are surfing your reader and you see an interesting article, but it’s pretty long and you don’t have time right now to read it. I use the “notes” feature in Google Reader to save articles for reading later. Just click the share with notes button on the bottom of an article you click. It will then show up in your “notes” tab. It also helps when you get articles sent in your email. There actually is a bookmark you can add from reader if you go to settings -> goodies called “note in reader.” I know there are services such as Instantpaper that do this, but you already have made Google Reader your hub, so why not use it? Here is a little peak of stuff I have queued up to read later. This way you don’t forget and it’s out of your head and centralized.

2. Gmail


This is a pretty big one, too. If you are anything like me you have multiple email addresses you check. It may be a work email or a school email, but there usually is one address in addition to your personal one. Well, what used to be restricted to email clients, you now can do in Gmail which is have mail from multiple email addresses come into your inbox. It’s a tiny but complex, but you can get through it if you search for adding _______ to Gmail. You just go into settings -> Accounts and Imports -> Check Email using POP3. Gmail also lets you send email from multiple accounts which is great. All your email centered in one location. Here is what my Gmail looks like and you can see I can send mail from any of my three accounts.

3. Bookmarks


As you can see I have created a bookmarks folder called “Intertubes” because I’m hilarious, but you can call it anything you want. Basically this is where you put all the stuff you would check periodically. Stuff that changes throughout the day.

4. Will Power

This can make all the previous steps moot if not exercised. The tools above will allow you to keep organized and not miss anything, but the important part is to stay off the web. Use it for research when nessesary, but keep the surfing and social aspects to predefined times. Pick specific times when you check the stuff in your “Intertubes” folder. Keep it strict, too. Maybe an hour after lunch and an hour after dinner. Enough to get through everything, answer emails, read some articles, and watch some videos. You would be surprised just how not urgent what is happening in those realms are and how much time you waste that could go to being productive by just delaying that gratification a little. I am working on it, and it’s tough let me tell you, but I have confidence in the system I set up that will allow me to enjoy the internet to its maximum and stop it from being such a time suck.

Addendum

5. Watchdog Extentions

Thanks to my friend Brian I am able to expand this one because it was his comment that made me implement this. I will give you two flavors one for Firefox and one for Google Chrome. These extentions allow you to add sites to its block list and this prevents you from visiting these sites instead of doing what you should be. Using Stay Focused, the Chrome version, I added all the sites in “Intertubes” and turned on the “Nuclear” option. This blocks those sites for a specified amount of time. Since using it, it has prevented me several times from checking those sites which I want most. Great tool to augment your waning will power.

Firefox: Leech Block


Gooogle Chrome: Stay Focused


Categories
Philosophy Purdue School

Wallet Hacking 101

teh books
The new fall school session is here and in full swing. There seems to be more people on campus than I remember from previous semesters, but admittedly it’s probably because I am riding a bike as apposed to walking. I am super excited for this semester because I am taking classes that really pertain to my major. It only took 3 years for it to happen… Anyway the classes for the Purdue Fall ’08 semester include:

  • ECE 201: Linear Circuit Analysis
  • ECE 364: Software Engineering Tools
  • MA 266: Ordinary Differential Equations
  • ECE 270: Introduction to Digital Design
  • JPNS 301: Japanese Level V

I am definitely excited for Digital Design, it’s learning the stuff I got into the major for, computer hardware design. My hardest class this semester is probably going to be Japanese, surprisingly. Five classes. Three of them engineering, one math, and one a foreign language and the foreign language is going to be the difficult one. Oh well, at least all the people who only took Japanese because they had to take a foreign language are gone and the people who actually want to learn it remain. I have had a resurgence to try to learn Japanese. I will admit that towards the end of 202 I was getting really burnt out. I just didn’t have the passion I once did. Luckily that was very temporary because I am actually probably more into it than when I started 201. Hooray!

Well that was kind of just a life update, but the real intention of this blog remains to be seen. I have been compiling a list not only for myself, but to share with others. Everyone knows the cliche stereotype that college students are super poor and basically subsist on ramen noodles and keystone light. Well, I think that goes a little over the deep end, but money is definitely tight in college (at least for me). Anyway, the following is a list to help not just college students, but everyone squeeze every single penny out of your dollar and maybe even be a little more eco friendly doing it too.

Finance Management

This is probably the biggest frivolous money loss out of the whole list. People tend to (myself included) know how much money they have around pay days, but fail to remember how much of that they use between the paychecks or deposits. This leads to one of baking’s biggest annoyances which is overages. This can cost you lots of cash and it can happen quick. IF you happen to overdraft the bank usually ends up charging you between $20-$30 in addition to the money you spent that you didn’t have. If it happens because of a check then you have to pay the people you gave a bum check to another $20-$30. The worst is when it happens because of a late charge such as getting a cup of coffee. You better enjoy it because that was just a $33 dollar cup of coffee. The best advice I can give is know how much you have at all times, write it down, balance it out as you spend. If you have a smartphone like me, make a spreadsheet and just have it subtract from you total every time you enter an amount. If you have an auto-pay bill system, make sure you know when these charges will come through. Also, an excellent way to check your balance at any given time is to sign up for text banking. I know it’s not offered everywhere, but Chase offers it and it is a good reference when you are wondering if you can really afford that Star Wars figurine of Lando Calrissian.

Make a budget! If you can stay within a budget you are never in the dark about what you can and can’t afford and how much you spend on certain items. A great tool for this is Mint. It is a free online service that can tap into your bank accounts and monitor your spending habits. It can alert you by email or text if you exceed your budget. Go a month and average out what you spend on food, coffee, movies, etc. Even just looking at what you spend on certain things can sometimes curtail the habit.

How to Dine Out on a Dime

People like to eat out, I know I do. The problem with that is that it often times replaces cooking at home all together. I am not trying to make a case for cooking at home save the expense. It is an amazingly large amount cheaper to eat at home than go out and grab a bite. I feel that actually going out and eating with friends is never really about the eats as much as it is the socializing. This is a pretty easy thing to do, but if you know a bunch of friends are going out to eat, just eat about 20 minutes before you leave. You will not be hungry or tempted by the menu or your fellow guests’ meals. Just order a coke or better yet a glass of water. Depending on the setting you can save $8-$15 and you still get to hang out and joke around. Depending on the frequency of your dining excursions this number can be quite a bit of money saved.

Textbooks

The second most expensive upfront cost for college students is textbooks. They can range anywhere from $30-$200+ Chances are you have probably hit the higher number at least once. Sure you can buy used books but those only tend to be $20 dollars cheaper which is a total racquet if you ask me, but that is for another day. You have probably heard about that buying your textbooks online is much cheaper, but have you actually taken the time to do it? It really can save you hundreds of dollars. An example is this semester I have a book that new is $130 and used is $110. I purchased it for $60 online, that is $40! The best thing is just to go to the book store and check your classes. Write down the author, edition, and ISBN. As long as all those things match even if the cover art varies, it’s the same book.

Here is a list of some of the best cheap book sites:

Half.com

Abebooks.com

Technology

Technology is an integral part of the modern college students day and having everything in working order can really be a plus. The problem is that sometimes getting that to happen may mean some serious $$ for you, unless you follow my tips.

Most college students enter college with a new or fairly new laptop or desktop, and they are usually pretty happy with it, with time the feel fades. You see others new and shiny toys and suddenly yours is pretty clunky and unable to perform how you want it to. All your applications take longer than they used to and even sometimes you may get the dreaded Blue Screen of Death providing of course you are on Windows. A new computer is not the answer though. This is the biggest misnomer I know of. You can definitely spruce up that old computer with out spending hundreds to thousands on a new one. Upgrading your ram is probably the easiest way to get a speed boost. It is very easy to install even for the non tech savvy and it usually costs much MUCH cheaper than shelling out 1000 clams. A good site to find out which ram is good for you is Crucial. Another way to speed things up is to format and reinstall the Operating System. Granted this is sometimes quite involves so maybe have a knowledgeable friend do it, but you will notice a speed increase almost immediately. If you are really feeling adventurous try you hand at a low resource operating system like Xubuntu. That leads into my next topic.

Software

Software is why we use our computers right? Sometimes this can be very pricey and may be overkill for our tasks. My answers to this are in two forms. First, most universities offer discount software and substantial price cuts so I would first check with what your’s has to offer. The second is something I have been preaching to people for a long time, open source. But Matt, what does open source mean? It is basically software that has all the code that has been written freely available for people to use and change, what this means to you is absolutely free software. These are usually a giant community effort so they products are of very professional quality. Some notable replacements are:

Open Office – Microsoft Office

Gimp – Adobe Photoshop

Ubuntu Linux – Microsoft Windows

Thunderbird w/ Lightning Extension – Microsoft Outlook

MySql – Oracle

Inkscape -Adobe Illustrator

Octave – MATLAB

These can save hundreds to thousands of dollars based on which software you are replacing.

If I may go back to the hardware aspect. You don’t always need the newest things out there. How many versions of iPod are out there now? 6? You know there are people who upgrade every generation. Don’t be that person. If your device still works as intended, keep using it. I remember when I upgraded my old iPod for a video iPod. Yeah you know how convenient it is to watch video on a 2″ screen, it isn’t. Don’t get sucked in by gimmicks. Evaluate it’s uses and then decide if you need it.

Slingbox

Most people are going to pay for internet. Almost everyone unless you are leaching off a neighbor, but in addition to this most people pay for some kind of cable channel package. Save some dough per year by picking up a slingbox. This is only beneficial if you know someone with a high-speed connection and cable tv, parents or relatives mostly. Anyway this device when implemented will let you stream cable through the internet and on your computer. This way you are paying for internet alone and letting someone else take the TV bill hit. Not only does this let you get “free” cable, but it is accessible anywhere in the world there is an internet connection.

Skype

I can’t speak highly enough about this wondrous piece of software. It is truly a giant money saver. This is especially useful if you are studying abroad. It is basically like an internet telephone. If you pay a monthly or yearly fee you can even call regular phones. It is great for long distance calls. If you want to use it free just have whoever you want to talk to download and configure it.

Shopping That is Easy on the Bank Account

You need to buy something, but it is kinda obscure or pricey in stores. The best place to get anything practically is eBay. I don’t feel I have to link eBay. If you are unaware of eBay please stop living under a rock. It is the most frequented online auction site, but it’s not all auctions. It has a Buy It Now option which is basically just you paying a predetermined price. You can find loads and loads of things and very reasonable prices on it. If you are afraid of getting ripped off, eBay and PayPal have a very good policy for reimbursement if it actually does take place. Don’t be afraid.

Craigslist is like an informal eBay. This guy is the one who shows up to a wedding with a tuxedo shirt on. It is a very basic site where people post things they are selling. Like an online classifieds. This works with people in your general area and it’s for meet and pick up. There are no protection policies for craigslist so don’t give out credit cards or anything, pay with cash or check and meet up with them. Very good site though.

Health and Fitness

Bike! Pick up a bike and start riding. It is definitely faster than walking and uses no gas. This is very eco friendly and money conscious. It also is quite healthy for you as well. That is three reasons, how come you are not biking yet? The biggest thing this does is motivate you not to start up the car. Never use a car to go short distances when walking or a bike will suffice. This may seem like little things that don’t matter, but it adds up. Not only are you wasting gas, but you are telling to world. I can’t walk two feet to the coffee shop on campus because I am just the lazy. Have fun with your deteriorating health!

Start exercising, and eating healthy. This may not seem immediate financial savings, but the benefits do come through. Every time you miss a doctor’s visit because you avoided sickness while all your lazy bones co-workers or classmates are sick because their body isn’t up to par that is tons of cash right there. No only will this increase longevity, but it will increase energy and if you live longer and can get more done, you are definitely going to be able to enjoy all that money you made and saved.

Utilities

Showering may not seem like a big money waster, but water and heating that water does cost money. Try the Navy Shower. I am currently in the process of doing this. Just wet yourself down, turn off the water, clean and scrubs, then rinse yourself off. Not only does this drastically cut down on water, but it probably will get you out of the shower sooner and save you time.

Heating a house or an apartment over the winter can cost lots of dough as much as $100 spike just for keeping yourself warm. The thing is that sometimes you don’t need all that heat you are putting out. Try to keep the heat to a minimum. If you get cold just throw on a sweater and some slippers. I am proud to say that I never turned on my heat once all last winter and it definitely did keep the cost down.

I hope some of these helo you guys out, if I think of anymore I will be sure to post them. Also, any comments with either sucess or failure, or even added money saving idea’s would be awesome. Thanks for reading!

Categories
Personal

How Microsoft Office Can Break A Habit

I decided my life was in need of touching up. I needed a hack for my life. So I sat down and assessed all the problems I am currently facing. Physical representation is always better than just sheer memory alone. Paper doesn’t forget. In a bout of pure nerdality, I opened up my buddy Microsoft Excel. It is useful for so many things. A screen shot of the sheet is below. By far the hardest one on there is going to be the Nail Biting. I have had two failed prior attempts; for some reason my brain just won’t allow me to stop. Also, I found out that IF statements are not the most intuitive thing in Excel. Here is some code if anyone wants it. All it does is check a cell with a percentage and tell if it is an A, B, C, etc.

=IF(G13>=90,”A”,IF(G13>=80,”B”,IF(G13>=70,”C”,IF(G13>=60,”D”,”F”))))

As you can see I am off to a rousing start. I’ll be sure to post my percentage and point totals for the weeks that follow¬† on here. If anyone wants a copy of the excel document to edit and fill in for you own uses just let me know.