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    Color Collection: Behind Music Fans' Growing Obsession with Colored Vinyl

    In the midst of college finals in December 2008, I blew off studying for exams to see up-and-coming indie rock band Ra Ra Riot. I was surprised to find out they'd released a full-length followup to their first EP just a few months before, and even more surprised they were selling that album, The Rhumb Line, for 10 bucks. Surprise became shock when I got home, pulled out the album and discovered it was a vivid orange, radically different from the meager collection of black vinyl I'd pilfered from my dad's dusty and warped collection. The Rhumb Line was instantly the coolest album I owned, and it ignited a small obsession: if a band I really liked released a special vinyl, I wanted it.

    Jack White's Third Man Records has turned that obsession into a business. Since the label established a physical location in Nashville in 2009, they've been producing 7" and 12" vinyl for The White Stripes, The Dead Weather, and dozens of other artists. What makes them special--aside from the sure-fire record-selling star power of Jack White--is their devotion to the diehard collector. Nearly every album in Third Man's catalog comes in a limited edition pressing of colored vinyl, be it the label's signature black-white-yellow "tri-color" or a one-of-a-kind variant like the marbled "absinthe" vinyl for The Black Belles' self-titled debut.

    I talked to Ben Blackwell, Third Man Records' head of vinyl production, about the phenomenon of colored vinyl and the technology used to create it. Color records have been around for decade--as Blackwell says, most of the vinyl manufacturers in the United States use "the best mid-1960s technology has to offer"--but Third Man's dedication to unique vinyl runs can be traced back to the late 1980s, when the Sub Pop Singles Club began releasing 7" albums in different colors every month. Since Sub Pop experimented with everything from red and blue to lilac and transparent vinyl, color's gotten a whole lot more complicated.

    Before working at Third Man Records, Ben Blackwell absorbed his vinyl know-how from a teenage internship at Detroit's Italy Records. A few years after working at Italy, Blackwell started his own label called Cass Records with help from In the Red Records' Larry Hardy. He likens experience in the vinyl world to knowledge that's handed down generation to generation.

    Blackwell released a few colored vinyls on Cass Records, like a "Pepto Bismol pink" single for The Trachtenburg Family Slide Show Players. When the 10-year-old drummer of a band wants a pink album, you make a pink album. That was also a lesson in marketing--descriptive titles like "Pepto Bismol" and "root beer" excite the imagination more than "pink" and "brown."

    When Blackwell began working at Third Man Records, colored vinyl became more important. They set a simple but ambitious goal: every record needed a special limited pressing that would go on sale alongside an unlimited run of standard black vinyl. Jack White's originally envisioned record styled after a 70s-style glittery gold motorcycle finish, but that was a problem for local United Record Pressing. Their alternative, a mixture of black, white, and yellow, captured a similar aesthetic. But there's a reason TMR only presses tri-colors in limited quantities: they ain't cheap. Here's how that unique LP is made.

    How To Remote Wipe Your Personal Data on an Android Phone

    Losing your phone is no laughing matter. Not only is it going to be expensive to replace, but the data you have on it could be invaluable to certain shady characters. But it’s not just the criminal element you have to worry about. A recent study from Symantec showed that the finders of lost phones are perfectly happy to help themselves to any and all data they can get their hands on.

    In the event that your lost device looks to be gone forever, you might need to take drastic action. No one wants to remote wipe a phone, thus eliminating any hope of getting it back, but sometimes your data privacy takes precedent. Let’s talk about the best ways to get that done on Android.

    Stock options are lacking

    If you got your device from a corporate IT department, check with those folks to see if they installed any software for this eventuality. Stock Android does not include a remote wipe feature, but Motorola has built many business-friendly devices that do. If your device was enforcing a passcode, it is highly possible that IT can nuke it for you.

    Most users aren’t going to be in this boat, though. While you can’t remote wipe most Android devices by default, there are some reliable measures you can take. Always use a pattern or password for starters. On Android 3.0 and higher devices, you can use the stock device encryption setting to require a passcode to start the device and also stop data harvesting.

    There are a number of solid remote wipe products in the Play Store, but each one will take some setup. If you don’t have one installed ahead of time, there’s nothing you can do. Best to hope your device was found by someone honest enough to return it unmolested.

    Sort Quest: The Best Way I've Found to Store My Dominion Card Collection

    I love playing Dominion, but the boxes the game (and its six expansions) come in take up a ton of space. I'd looked at several other Dominion storage solutions online, but I wanted something that would be easy to pick up and take to game night at a friends, take up less space than the boxes, look good, and protect my cards, without making it difficult to find individual cards. Needless to say, my wife was onboard with all of these objectives.

    Luckily, I was able to find off-the-shelf parts for everything I needed. I found clear plastic baseball card cases ($15) at the Container Store that fit Dominion cards perfectly (they're $1.50 cheaper at Amazon). The included clear plastic dividers make it easy to keep expansions separate, as well as make areas for mats, tokens, and the other accoutrements of the game, but they're too thick to use to separate the hundreds of individual kingdom cards. I wanted to find some thin plastic separators to use as dividers, but I wasn't able to find anything that was exactly the right size. The closest I came were these white plastic separators ($25 for 250)--they're the right height, but they're too wide to fit in the plastic tray on their side.

    I needed to trim about 3/8ths of an inch off of the square edge of the separators for them to fit properly, so I invested in a paper trimmer that would help me measure accurately and keep the edges straight. I ended up buying a Fiskars model that's no longer in production, but the mechanism is the same as this model ($20). Cutting through the thick plastic required a fair amount of force on the mechanism with the sliding blade, so don't be afraid to push. You'll need a separator for each different card in your collection, so you'll be making quite a few of these--I needed to cut several hundred.

    Once you've cut your dividers and made sure they'll fit in the trays, you'll want to attach some sort of label to each divider. I just used the labels that came on the insert for each expansion's box. It was simple to cut the labels out of the insert using the paper trimmer, but you could make (or print) your own, if you don't want to destroy the inserts. To affix the labels to the dividers, I bought a Scotch Adhesive Dot roller ($6). Make sure you apply the glue to the back of the labels, not the separator cards--you don't want the cards sticking to each other. I found that the labels looked best if I oriented the separator cards so the square edges are on the left and affixed the labels to the top-left corner of each separator. Don't forget, you'll need labels for base cards and randomizer decks too.

    After a lengthy conversation with my wife, we decided to keep our cards alphabetized by expansion. Each tray holds two expansions without base cards (Alchemy, Hinterlands, Cornucopia, and Prosperity), or one expansion with base cards (original Dominion and Intrigue). We put all of the mats, tokens, coins, and other items that come with all the expansions into the back of the tray containing Seaside. I should probably make some attractive labels for the front of the trays, but I haven't found them necessary yet.

    The only downside to using trays is that the instructions don't fit in these boxes. So we can easily look up rules clarifications and the like, I downloaded the instructions for each expansion in PDF for from Rio Grande's site and put them in a Dropbox folder, which either of us can access from an iPad, laptop, or phone.

    All told, our Dominion games take up about half the space they did before and the game is much more portable if we want to bring it to a friend's house. Best of all, having quick accessibility to all the cards means it's much easier to play games with all the expansions mixed up and has brought new life to our Dominion play.

    I haven't done it yet, but there's no reason this wouldn't work for any deck-building games--Thunderstone, Nightfall, Penny Arcade: Gamers vs. Evil, or any other games that use Dominion-sized cards.

    How To Survive with on Android with Less Than 8GB of Storage

    If you spend big on a new Android smartphone or tablet, it will probably come with 32GB or more storage. That’s enough to keep a lot of content saved locally, but not all users have such a luxury. Many mid-range phones come with scant internal storage, and maybe a 4-8GB SD card. That's not enough to carry around all the images, videos, music, and apps you might need. So what’s a user to do?

    You might not be able to live large on a device with 8GB of storage space these days, but with a little help from the cloud, you can have a good multimedia experience.

    Tested: Enhanced Macro iPhone Photography with a Water Drop

    I was skeptical of this iPhone camera tip posted by Alex Wild at Scientific American, and had to try it for myself. Wild claims that using just a drop of water, you can turn the iPhone into a capable microscope, letting you take photos of objects right up to the lens. Obvious concerns about intentionally putting water on an electronics device are warranted, but this trick looked fairly safe, given that the iPhone's water sensors aren't located near the camera lens. Still, water can be unpredictable, so I used an eyedropper and kept a paper towel at arm's reach during the test.

    The upshot: it works! My process is documented below, along with photos, if you're interested. Applying a drop of water was extremely simple, and I just had to flip the phone over quickly to avoid the water sliding off the lens ring. Like Wild, I found that a larger drop of water yielded better results--not just higher magnification, but better centering as well--and photos were best when both the iPhone and subject were held still on stable platforms. One commenter noted that using glycerine instead of water also works, since the substance is more viscous and therefore easier to control. But you can't get that from the sink!

    How To Properly Import Instapaper and Readability Articles to Your Kindle

    Instapaper's "Read Later" bookmarklet serves a novel purpose in the Internet age: it gives us the opportunity to be better readers. The web offers limitless distractions, but Instapaper lets us queue up long and partially read articles for the right moment. As it's grown more popular, Instapaper's taken on a second, even more valuable service: content curation through Give Me Something to Read, an "editor's choice" selection of articles from across the web. But how do we get all of that content onto a platform where it's actually pleasant to read? An LCD's hard on the eyes for continuous long-form reading. Solution: Instapaper's wireless Kindle delivery support.

    Instapaper and its competitor Readability can send a compilation of articles to Amazon's Kindle, formatting them for the e-reader and including a digest-style table of contents of the day's articles. Since they primarily differ in presentation, we've set up both for comparison and compiled five-minute walkthroughs for getting the two services running. Instapaper and Readability are incredibly simple to set up--just choose the one that looks right for you.

    How To Back Up Apps and Data from Your Galaxy Nexus—No Root Required

    Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) has sufficient developer options to make your head spin. So many, in fact, that we have only recently managed to investigate all of them. One curious entry asks the user to make a passcode for protecting desktop backups. Last we checked, there was no Google-provided desktop backup software. It turns out that Mountain View built a new system for backing up your apps and their associated data, but it’s only accessible from the Android Debug Bridge (ADB).

    With a little command line magic or a handy Windows app, Galaxy Nexus owners can export a full backup of apps and user data to a file which can be restored later. Read on for all the details on the process.

    25 Essential Tweaks to Perform on Your New Android Phone (Updated for 2012)

    With any new smartphone, there is a bit of setup to be done. With Android, users can tweak every minute detail of the device to get the best experience. There’s no reason to go hunting around the Internet for all the best tip and tricks for your new Android phone. We’re here to bring it all together for you.

    Whether your device is still on Gingerbread or you’re rocking the latest and greatest Android 4.0, we’ve got you covered. This step-by-step guide will help you get that shiny new Android phone up and running in no time.

    The 10 Best Android Apps of 2011

    The Android Market had a huge year in 2011. Google rolled out the web-based Market, and with it more tools for developers and users alike. Apps have been flowing into the Market like never before, and we've sometimes had trouble keeping up. Each week we bring you five of the best new things in the Market, but now it's time for the 10 best apps of the year.

    We've got everything from stunning shooters to simple utilities. The one thing they all have in common is that they are the best of the best.

    How To Buy the Right Memory Card for Your Camera: SD Card Speeds Explained

    Even compared to the rest of the tech world, memory and storage evolve quickly. Once-pricey USB drives are now given away like candy, SATA III hard drives and SSDs are faster than ever and camera memory cards are providing 32 and 64 gigabytes of storage for hundreds of high resolution images. Even within the SD, SDHC and SDXC card types we covered last year, there are important speed classes that determine what SD memory cards are capable of.

    The confusing old "6x, 10x, 13x" etc. ratings have gone out of style compared to the common sense Class 2, Class 4, Class 6 and Class 10 ratings. Casual photographers won't even need to pay attention to the ratings of their SD cards, but pros shooting at high frames per second or capturing HD video absolutely have to pick the right card for the job. Here's how to figure out which memory card class is right for you.

    How To Find the Right DSLR Lens For Your Needs

    Photographers are a funny bunch. One day, they tell you that it’s not the gear that matters, it’s the photographer, so you should be able to get great photos out of that old Instamatic. In the next breath, they tell you to throw away the perfectly decent kit lens you got with your new DSLR because photos shot with it will be crap. Oh, what to believe!

    What you really want is the right lens for your photography. That 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens may be just right for you, if you primarily take photos of your family in brightly lit environments, or lug it along on vacations, where the relative light weight of the kit lens makes life easier on necks and backs. On the other hand, if you’re trying to shoot your kid playing basketball in crappy gym lighting, and get blurry messes for most pictures, maybe you do need a different lens.

    Let’s try to deconstruct some of the key numbers, and understand why some lenses do better than others – and why they also might cost and weigh a whole lot more. Most of the discussion will focus on zoom lenses, but we’ll touch on primes – fixed focal length lenses – at the end. Since I’m a Nikon shooter, most of my examples will be Nikon, but the principles are the same whether you use Canon, Sony or some other DSLR brand.

    The 5 Tweaks Every New Galaxy Nexus Owner Should Do Immediately

    So you picked up a shiny new Samsung Galaxy Nexus on Verizon over the weekend? Well, its important to get off to a good start with any new smartphone, and the Galaxy Nexus has so many new tricks that it can be a little overwhelming. To that end, we’re going to tell you about the 5 things you should do immediately when turning on your Galaxy Nexus.

    New users might have done some of this, but we’d wager everyone will find something new here. Grab your Nexus and get ready to do some tweaking.

    Here's Where Awesome Free Shit Lives on the Internet

    Do your eyes light up when you hear the word free? Will you bend over backwards to use free software just to avoid paying a couple bucks for a better app? Have you been known to go to Subway at 9 a.m. for a free breakfast even though you don't like Subway? Then prepare to lose countless hours plumbing the depths of these Internet treasure troves of media and culture. For example: you probably knew was full of terabytes upon terabytes of information (actually, it's more than 3 petabytes), but did you know it hosted radio broadcasts of The Shadow from the 1930s featuring a 22 year-old Orson Welles? Or over a dozen Felix the cat cartoons dating back to the 1920s? and Project Gutenberg, which hosts more than 100,000 ebooks, are just two awesome resources for amazing free content on the web. For your enjoyment (and our own), we've put together a list of some of the best, including content to look for and tips on finding exactly what you're looking for.

    How To Sideload Android Apps on the Amazon Kindle Fire in 3 Steps

    So, you’ve got a shiny new Kindle Fire, but your favorite app isn’t in the Amazon Appstore? Since the Fire lacks access to the Android Market, you’re just out of luck, right? Nope. Amazon was good enough to leave the frameworks in place to allow sideloading of apps from other sources. It’s not the most straight forward process, but that never stopped us before.

    it might take you a few minutes, but there is enough of Android filling the Fire's cracks to make this a quick fix. Read on as we go over how to expand your Kindle Fire’s app selection in just three steps.

    The Best Password Managers for Your Android Phone

    It only takes one epic disaster to make you take password security seriously, so why not get out ahead of that calamity? A password manager can generate complex passwords and plug them in whenever you need them, making it nearly impossible for someone to crack your accounts. There are a number of excellent password management services out there, and many of them have solid Android integration. Whether you want your data manged for you in the cloud, or you want a safe and secure database file on your phone, there are options.

    We’re going to go over the best password manages on Android so you can make the safe choice that’s right for you.

    How To Make Full Use of Your Android Phone's Voice Control

    Android has had voice commands for quite some time, but like many of Google’s services, there are some easter eggs hidden beneath the surface. Voice Actions is part of Google Voice Search and ties in with a number of apps and services. It can even be managed on Google’s back end dashboard for increased privacy. Unlike some other voice input solutions, Android voice input isn’t geared toward natural language; you have to know the commands.

    Let’s go over the compatible voice commands, and see what sort of tweaking you can do to make Android’s voice input work better for you.

    How To Easily Stream Your Own Live Podcast On Windows or Mac with Mixlr

    Our 24-hour Oktobercast marathon went out over a live video stream, but as an alternative the day-long podcast was simultaneously streamed through a service called Mixlr. Mixlr's audio streams--accessible on computers or mobile devices thanks to HTML 5-optimized sites and Flash playback on Android--gave listeners an opportunity to follow along for the entire 'cast and was rock solid for the entire production. So why had none of us heard of Mixlr before?

    Simple answer: Mixlr's free broadcasting launched in late May 2011, and since then the service has been piling on new features--integration with Dropbox, Facebook, Soundcloud, and more. If you're looking to livestream your own podcast or broadcast audio from a special event, Mixlr's a great place to start. We'll walk you through the setup--what kind of hardware you'll need, how to get Mixlr running smoothly, and what it takes to get music and sound effects like the Inception horn integrated into the stream.

    How To Use Android's Safe Mode to Save a Phone from Boot Loops

    We find that Android is a stable operating system these days, but there is always the possibility that you might install an app that doesn’t agree with the device. When that happens, a device can start suffering battery drain issues, force closes, or even a boot loop. Force close and boot loops can result from the app continuously opening itself, thus rendering the device unusable. In these, the darkest of scenarios, the temptation may be to reset the device to factory defaults. But there is another way.

    Android has a hidden Safe Mode that is perfect for pulling out a miscreant app that is causing your system to crash. There are some annoyances, and it’s not necessarily consistent from device to device, but it can save your bacon.

    How To Choose the Perfect Bag for Your DSLR

    Bags come in all sorts of varieties. Some are designed to contain all your gear — from your biggest lenses, to your cache of spare batteries. Others are slim and compact, intended for no more than a single body and lens. From backpacks to slings and over the shoulder or messenger-style bags, there's nearly an endless selection of models from which to choose. So how do you decide what's best?

    Predictably, it all comes down to the amount of gear you own, and how you want to use it. If you're searching for the perfect bag for your DSLR, here's a good place to start.

    How To Get Started With iCloud Backups and Sync in iOS 5

    iOS 5 is packed with a bevy of new features, but iCloud is undoubtedly one of the best. Announced at WWDC this past June, iCloud does what MobileMe could not. The web-based calendar, contacts and mail functionality are still there, but the service has been reborn as an impressive backup solution that aims to keep all of your Apple devices in sync.

    That means apps, music, videos and books move seamlessly between devices. Your data and settings stay persistent too. And because it happens in the cloud, you don't need a Mac or PC. Here's how to get started.