TNT Newsletter for August 18, 2006
Free your hands, learn some 'rithmatic, erase your hard drive (on purpose), stick stuff to other stuff without sticking your fingers, learn which way the lay of the land lies, and Bondify your office.Dear Readers,
I thought it might be fun to mix and match this week with some completely random reviews. There's some required reading, ways to protect your privacy (both your information and your hardware), some simple clever products to make life easier, and even a little self improvement.
Enjoy, and let me know what you think (and what tools and tips you use).
Staff Editor, MAKE Magazine
Reviewed by E0157H7
Sold under a few brands, these things are little plastic caps that fit on the end of a AA minimag or most any other aluminum AA flashlights. They are shaped so you can hold the light in your teeth without wrecking your teeth or the finish of the light.
The version I have is actually from another company. I can't remember which, but I got it at REI for less than $6. The one I have posted links to is the Nite Ize Bite-lite, which is much the same thing if a bit bulkier. You can get them for $3 if you shop around.
Reviewed by Tim O'Reilly
For the numerate among us, it's sometimes hard to understand those who are not (just as it's sometimes hard for the literate, or the emotionally intelligent, or the physically gifted, to understand the failings of their less capable counterparts). I've just discovered a lovely little book that I intend to give to the numerically challenged in my life. It's called The Arithmetic of Life and Death, by George Shaffner. It uses homely stories and common life occurrences to illustrate how an understanding of arithmetic, statistics, and probability can help you make better choices, and better understand the world around you. For the rest of us, there's Statistics Hacks, Mind Hacks, and Mind Performance Hacks.
Reviewed by Richard Butner
A large company I work for is liquidating their supply of old computers: some will be auctioned, some will be donated to worthy causes. Recycling is great, but you don't want to recycle your sensitive data along with the hardware. Before you let that drive out of your house, zap it (for free) with DBAN: Darik's Boot And Nuke.
DBAN works on both Windows and Linux boxes, and because its GPL'd software, it's now also available for PowerPC-based Macs, thanks to a kind contributor. (Mac OS X has its own Disk Utility.) DBAN is great because you run it from a boot floppy or boot CD. Linux users should also look at shred, bundled with the GNU fileutils package and thus available in most Linux distributions. Shred can destroy disks and also be used to permanently delete individual files. (To scrub individual files off of a Windows machine, one of the best options is the wipe command that comes with the PGP encryption utility.)
With great power comes great responsibility, though. You should label your DBAN floppy carefully, and store it somewhere where no one will accidentally pop it into a machine and reboot.
Reviewed by yambu
Similar to hook-and-loop (velcro) but much stronger, this self-mating
fastener relies on hundreds of tiny interlocking mushroom heads to form its
bond. With five times the holding power of hook-and-loop fasteners, dual
lock provides a stiff connection that won't wiggle around like velcro, and
is also high-temperature and solvent resistant. Available in various types,
widths, and lengths. The variety I've tried is the SJ3560 clear
polypropylene with really strong acrylic adhesive and 250 stems per square
It's sold by RadioShack in small pieces under the name "Superlock"
(#64-2363), in Grainger stores in quantities as low as five yards, and by
many online suppliers. (The "low profile" variety sold by office supply
stores isn't nearly as stiff).
Be forewarned, this stuff is a lot more expensive than hook-and-loop--RadioShack's 1" x 12" package is about $4 (and being self-mating, will only give
you 1" by 6" of bonding area. For some reason, it's even more expensive in
bulk from Grainger or Mouser.
Reviewed by Arwen O'Reilly Griffith
OK folks, here's your grammar tip of the week. There are a number of verbs that we makers use with some frequency, so I thought it might be time to clear the air. Here's one pair of verbs we often trip over at the MAKE office.
The reason most people get "lay" and "lie" confused is that lay is the past tense of lie as well as being the present tense of itself.
Lay is a transitive verb, meaning that generally it is used with an object (you lay your cigar box guitar on your workbench).
Lie is an intransitive verb, meaning that it is not used with an object (you lie down in exhaustion after finishing your new videocam rocket).
The past tense of lay is "laid" (you laid your socket wrench on the table saw yesterday) and the past tense of lie is "lay" (last week you lay in your hammock and didn't build anything).
OK, now you know the difference. Just don't leave your tools lying around!
Reviewed by Matthew Russell
Thanks to Lazer Trip Wire, you too can have affordable, James Bond-style security. For just under $25, you get three mountable units that can each transmit an infrared beam which sounds an alarm whenever it's broken. Although a cautious sleuth might be able to avoid a couple of beams, three or more units can be used to form a pretty secure barrier that even the world limbo champion couldn't get through unscathed. Even with one or two units, however, the element of surprise can go a long way, so don't go out advertising -- let perpetrators find out the hard way.
In addition to saving your DIY project lab from evil henchmen and protecting your assets when you catch some snooze, these gadgets can also produce some good laughs if you use them to catch people snooping on you or rummaging through your stuff when they shouldn't be.