How to Do It Yourself!

The Aftermarket Smart Home – a Gear Diary Journey

While we were attending CES 2013, friends in the congregation emailed me and said, “Dan, as you know we are building a new home. We know you are at CES and would appreciate it if you would keep an eye out for any home automation that looks cool. We really want to build some “smarts” into the house.” I did keep my eyes out for new smart home technology, and when I met with them last week I had something to share with them. My recommendation was that they not wire anything into their smart home, and that they should only…


How to Shop for a Realtor

Sarah and I recently sold our house and bought a new one …  or to be accurate, the house is new to us and was built in the 1920’s, which is part of what drew us to it. I’ve received numerous questions from friends about the criteria we used to find our realtor. Since a home can be the biggest, most expensive piece of “gear” any of us may own, I thought I’d share our lessons we learned here. We sold our home on the second go-around. The first time we listed it, we didn’t click well with the realtor,…


How to Remove Gum from a Smartphone Screen

I am the go-to person among my friends and family with smartphone troubleshooting questions. Last night was definitely a first, though, as someone (who has requested to remain anonymous) managed to stick their iPhone in a pocket with a piece of used chewing gum. The result was a sticky mess all over the iPhone screen, but with some quick searching and a common household solvent, I figured out how to remove the gum from the screen safely! Apparently this isn’t as uncommon as it seems, as there was a whole discussion thread on the Apple support forums about it. Consensus…


How to Maximize Do Not Disturb on iOS

I admit, I did not make much use of the “Do Not Disturb” setting on my iPhone when it first appeared. But Apple’s commercials for the Do Not Disturb on iOS feature with the Williams sisters playing ping pong caught Sarah’s attention, and she insisted I learn how to maximize the setting. Apparently my iPad and iPhone echoing each other with emails, news, and text messages all night was starting to get on her nerves. Imagine that! So I had to learn quickly how to set up Do Not Disturb, before my iOS devices were banished from the room! Do Not…


Game Play Puts Game Boy Games on iPhone 5 Without Jailbreaking

Have you ever longed for the days of your childhood you spent with your eyes glued to the black and grey screen of the Nintendo Game Boy?  Did you pride yourself on beating Super Mario Land?  I know I did.  I don’t know how many countless AA batteries I drained with that handheld.  Now, with Game Play, you can relive those glory days on your iPhone 5 without jailbreaking your device. Typically, Apple has frowned upon emulation apps in the App Store.  Though recently, Gridlee, a thinly veiled MAME emulator within a game, has made its way on to the…


How to Listen to Text on Your iOS Device

Remember the commercial that went something like “Reading is fundamental”? It is but there are some times when it is far better to listen to an email or a document than read it. I had done this via an iOS app but then I learned that iPhones, iPads and iPod touches have the capability built right into the operating system as part of Apple’s commitment to accessibility for those who are impaired for any reason. In this case the functionality is perfect for those whose sight is poor but it work just fine, for example, when I want to listen…


How to Maximize iOS Notes App

I have a confession to make. Despite an Evernote account, and a Catch.com account, being a dedicated Todo and Pocket Informant user … I use Apple’s Notes App more than almost any other piece of software on my devices. Sometimes, when you’re taking notes, you don’t want lots of bells and whistles, you just want to take notes. There’s a reason the pen and paper have endured, and that’s the simplicity of pen to paper. No sync, no cloud, no tag this and categorize that. Notes is the closest to that sort of simplicity, and I use it for just…


Create Shortcuts in iOS, Your Gear 101

One terrific (but often unused) tool baked right into iOS is the ability to create keyboard shortcuts. With them, you can type in just a few brief letters and have a much longer piece of text appear in the body of whichever document you are working on. They are particularly useful when you have a block of text that is used on a frequent basis. For example, our Kickstart This! posts all use the same basic structure. Having the ability to type kkick and have the entire template replace those five letters is exceptionally useful. Best of all, it is…


How to Get Your Google Contacts onto Your iPhone

In the past week, we’ve heard results from AT&T and Verizon, and in the particular case of Verizon which had iPhones account for TWO THIRDS of its smartphone sales, 20% of those sales went to former Android users. I have detailed my years long Android exclusivity, which just ended in late December with the purchase of an iPhone 5. I got one for my wife and we got them for our teenage sons … so we are an iPhone Family now! But we are also all heavy GMail users, and users of Google services in general. So while my contacts…


Raspberry Pi Hacked to Allow Siri to Open Your Garage Door

What a world we live in – We now have computers that fit in our pockets, gorgeous televisions that are 1″ thick, and a dude who skydived from the edge of space.  Continuing along that vein, now you can program your credit card sized computer, otherwise known as the Raspberry Pi, to open your garage door for you using Siri’s voice commands on your iPhone.  Seriously. RaspberryPi.org forum user “DarkTherapy” was able to code his Raspberry Pi saying he used “SiriProxy running on the Raspberry Pi, along with wiring Pi to access the Pi’s GPIO pins and turn a relay…


Building a Budget-Friendly Home Theater PC

Hello again, friends and tech-lovers.  Today we are going to talk about building a Home Theater PC or HTPC for short.  More importantly, building a budget-friendly HTPC.  In one of my previous posts, I talked about the Ceton inifiniTV 4 tuner, a great way to turn your PC into a set-top box for your cable TV.  But, what if you don’t have a PC lying around to use?  What if you don’t want to spend a bunch of money to buy a PC?  I’m going to show you how you can build an HTPC for around $300. Why build an…


Got an Old PowerPC Mac? Resuscitate It with Linux.

Apple has long left the PowerPC based Macs of old behind; however, any G4 or G5 based Mac is still a very capable machine.  Most of the G5 Power Macs I have come across are dual-core G5 machines and some of the iMacs are as well.  Apple isn’t releasing updates for the last supported version of Mac OS X that will run on PowerPC based Macs.  Firefox and Chrome are also both unsupported on PowerPC based Macs, so even if that old Mac still works, continuing to use it as it is means you are vulnerable to all sorts of…


D-Star Breathes New Life into Amateur Radio

D-Star is the newest mode I have recently added to my Amateur Radio arsenal.  I bought an Icom ID-31A D-star, radio which I will be reviewing here soon, but I wanted to share a little about D-star and why it’s a cool mode before I did the review. The History of D-Star D-star is a mode that was created by the Japanese Amateur Radio League in 2001 after doing three years of research.  JARL designed it as an open standard so that manufacturers could build the radios.  Icom is the first company to make radios for D-star, however they aren’t…


How to Root the Nexus 7; And Some Good Reasons Why You Should do it

  The Nexus 7 is no doubt one of the hottest tablets to hit the Android Community. Running a bloat free Google OS on top of a Tegra 3 platform has proven to be a crowd favorite. So why take the possibly “warranty voiding” steps to gain Root access to the device? Even if you are not an enthusiast there are many benefits to rooting the tablet past the obvious flashing of custom roms and themes. Some of the best Android apps require root access to work, so without root you can  pretty much use the tablet to its full…


Building a Simple Ham Radio Antenna without Soldering

One of the first things you might want to do after getting your Ham Radio License is talk on the radio.  However, there are many things you may have to do to get that done depending on what kind of radio you purchase. If you purchase a handheld radio, you likely already have an antenna included in the box.  These radios typically will have 2 m and 70 cm bands on them so the antenna is small enough that they usually include one right in the box.  Even my Yaesu VX-7R included an antenna that works on the 6 m…


How to get Amazon Prime Streaming Media and Flash Content to Play on your Nexus 7

  Amazon Prime Streaming “Ronin” on Nexus 7 Flash is dead…or is it? Although Adobe Flash is no longer support on the latest version of Android 4.1 (Jellybean), that does not mean you can’t enjoy the benefits of Flash content and movies. The move from flash-based content to HTML5 has been long underway but the truth is that the internet is still riddled with flash content including the one of the “King’s of Media”, Amazon Prime. Without Flash it is simply impossible to stream Amazon content to your new Nexus 7 tablet. When you go to the Play Store and…


Making Siri Work for You; Some Gear Diary Suggestions

Image courtesy of headlondon.com Siri is an interesting innovation.  I remember back in my early days  in the tech biz, when I read about and heard plenty of people talking about a) how voice recognition was just around the corner, and b) how voice recognition was dang hard, and it was going to be a long ways out in the future.  Of course, in those days a 500 MB drive was considered “wow, that’s big!”, so you can guess how naive both sets of opinion were! Now we have Dragon Dictation and any number of other voice recognition software apps….


Go Custom with Skinit’s Infinity Case for iPhone 4

Tired of going to Best Buy and looking through hundreds of boring, repetitive case designs? Skinit.com thinks they’ve got you covered. Today, the website launches an innovative line of customizable cases for the iPhone 4 and 4S. As a site known for their high-quality protective skins and casings, the company’s aptly named Infinity series offers up a two-part accessory featuring a protective skeleton and a fully personalized “Switchplate.” As seen in the image above, the switchplate locks directly in to the casing, and is both removable and completely interchangeable. Once you’ve got the case, you can purchase additional switchplates separately….


When is a ROM Update an Official Update? The Verizon Galaxy Nexus Edition

As a Verizon Galaxy Nexus owner for merely a month, one thing that I have learned is that you can not expect to have the update from Google at the same time as the GSM version.  Here I sit one month in, and it’s been five months since the launch of the phone on Verizon … and I still have Android 4.0.2. Why? Funny you should ask.  I have too.  In February, there were many posts about the Verizon version of the phone “losing” it’s developer phone status.  Many of the posts were quickly updated as Google stated that it…


Mobile Blogging in 2012; What a Difference!

I am headed into the city for a meeting on behalf of Gear Diary, and after I’m done, Elana and I are grabbing a quick dinner in Manhattan before we have a fund-raiser for an organization that supports services for those who are hearing-impaired. Were I going into the city for a full day of events in the past, I would have had to bring my MacBook air, my Canon G11, and some additional equipment that works with them in order to quickly write-up whatever I could in order to get it up on the site as quickly as possible….


Got a Weird Icon in Your Android Notification Area? Here’s How to Remove It

I have only had this happen twice, and it has annoyed me to no end until I figured out what was causing it.  What I am talking about are two different issues caused by the same piece of adware; one issue is a weird icon appearing in your Android notification area.  Another is an icon just showing up out of the blue on your main Android home screen.  What causes this is an app called Airpush. Airpush is an evil adware app that does this to help fund application developers.  Airpush is not an app in and of itself, but can…