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    The Best Bike Lock Today

    If I lived anywhere in the U.S. and rode a bike that cost less than about $1,000, I’d pick up the ~$42 Kryptonite Series 2 package, which comes with a u-lock and four-foot-long cable.

    This isn’t an exciting, novel pick for the best u-lock but it is savvy. Experts, users and the bike thieves that we interviewed agree that the Series 2 u-lock is strong enough to foil all foilable thieves. It’s also light and comes with a stable, easy-to-mount carrying bracket that fits on virtually all bikes. Kryptonite’s accompanying “insurance”—costing $20 for three years—is the easiest to purchase, thanks to their rare online form. And it pays OK, too. In the event that some jerk destroys the u-lock and makes off with a bike, then Kryptonite pays the homeowners’ or renter’s insurance deductible or the replacement cost of the bike. The cable is just one more layer of security discouraging opportunists from nabbing a wheel or seat.

    Why You Should (Maybe) Read This

    In researching this guide, I heard surprising insights from bike shop owners, journalists and longtime riders. I also happened to talk to one nameless thief, one penny-ante thief and one power-tool-wielding professional—the man who very likely pinched my $5,000 custom-made road bike two years ago. So if you want to skip down to hear their take, beginning with Thief #1, I’ll understand. Then you can loop back here to what the other experts say.

    It’s Not About The Lock (AKA How to Use a Lock Properly)

    The consensus among those in the know was that a u-lock is best for virtually everyone, offering the highest ratio of security to portability. Unconventional devices like folding locks are intriguing, but so far none offer the security of a good u-lock. Chains sometimes offer a slight bump in security, but they often weigh twice as much and still relent to power tools. Let masochists wear belts of hardened steel; all our experts said a good u-lock is the sensible solution.

    But before we talked specific lock models, they also insisted we slow down. Most people don’t know how to use their locks, they said. Most people buy big, heavy expensive u-locks and then don’t secure their bike’s frame, or don’t lock to an immobile object, or worse. Videos like this and this and this drive the point home.

    Photo credit: Huckleberry Bicycles

    Both the professional and petty thieves we talked to suggested that if a cyclist couldn’t take his bike inside, he should lock his bike in a different spot each day, making it harder to case out. And they encouraged people to ride cheaper bikes. After all, the resale value of a bike—and its expensive components—is what makes the thing worth stealing.

    Locking smart will allow you to stand out from the thief-tempting masses, and thankfully the proper lock method is straightforward.

    How To Tweak Android's Lock Screen and Notifications

    Android affords users a ton of customization options that vary from one device to the next. There are often so many features, that the notion of improving what's already there gets pushed to the side. However, the uniqueness of Android provides some interesting opportunities to make the mobile experience better, and you owe it to yourself to investigate them fully. The notifications and lock screen have gained many new features in the last few updates. The implementation is slightly different on many devices, but there are also ways to retrofit new features onto these components that are almost universal.

    Let's go over how to unlock the power of Android notifications and lock screens.

    The Best Pen You Can Buy Today

    For an affordable pen that writes smoothly; dries quickly and indelibly; won’t bleed, skip or feather; and has the best ink flow of any non-fountain pen; grab yourself the uni-ball Jetstream. Available in a number of sizes and colors, it’s the best affordable pen around for taking notes at school or a meeting.

    The uni-ball Jetstream is universally loved by our four experts (experts with 1,200 pen reviews between them and over 17 years of combined experience testing pens) for its exceptionally smooth writing ability. It dries quickly, which makes it good for left-handers, too, as it won’t smudge under their hands. This is thanks to uni-ball’s special pigment-based ink, which is designed to sink into the paper, which has the added bonus of making it much more difficult to wash away, preventing check fraud.

    Photo credit: Flickr user mr_sir via Creative Commons

    Who Should Buy This

    The vast majority of people don’t particularly care what they write with, but given that the difference between an awesome pen and a mediocre one is just a couple bucks, perhaps they should. A decent pen is something that just about anyone can buy and if you do a lot of handwriting, a marginally better writing experience compounded over hours of scribbling adds up to a significant improvement. And god forbid you end up not liking it, you’re down just a few dollars—it’s not the end of the world.

    Troubleshooting DVI and EDID Issues

    We get emails from people asking what our basic troubleshooting strategy is, whether it's for problems with computers, home theater gear, tablets, phones, or something completely random. I just solved a PC problem that had been plaguing me all week, and figured this is as good an excuse as any to share my basic strategy. Here's what happened:

    We're in the middle of baby-proofing the house, which involved moving my PC components into a smaller, quieter case, and cleaning up the cable snarl under my desk. Unfortunately, while I was monkeying around under my desk, something happened and my monitor stopped resuming from sleep.

    I'm not sure exactly what happened, but somehow the EDID EEPROM got corrupted. The EDID stores the information about the resolutions, refresh rates, and other settings your monitor supports, so it's needed for plug and play monitors to work on Windows (Linux and OSX will work a little differently). My Dell 3008WFP's DVI ports managed to get corrupted, which prevented Windows from waking up the monitor when it powered up. Needless to say, this was bad.

    I managed to fix the EDID on my out of warranty monitor, but the details of the repair process aren't necessarily universal. However, the troubleshooting steps I went through are fairly generic. In the hours of research I've done since the failure, I found a few tools that are incredibly useful, as well as a couple of websites that are handy for understanding what exactly can go wrong with your EDID. The good news is that EDID problems seem to be relatively rare these days, less common with more modern display connectors, like DisplayPort and HDMI, and can be avoided entirely by making sure your monitor and PC are turned off when you connect display cables.

    How To Pick a Basic Lock

    For more Tested.com content become a premium member, subscribe to our YouTube channel and check out our weekly podcast with Adam Savage!

    At its essence, a lock is puzzle. While its answer may vary slightly, the route to puzzle-solving success has remained largely unchanged since the pin-tumbler lock's invention 4000 years ago in ancient Egypt. Manipulate the pieces in just the right way and the lock will yield.

    Sure, a key is the easiest way in, but it's not the only one. Eric Michaud, the co-founder of Toool.us, the US chapter of the Open Organization of Lockpickers, which promotes greater public understanding how locks work and when they might not, walked us through the art of solving the lock's puzzle without a key.

    What You Need

    Lock: Any cheap, key-operated lock from the hardware store will do.

    Tools: The basic path to success requires two instruments: a pick and a torque tool. Your basic pick will be a thin, pencil-length piece of metal that curves slightly upward at the end. The torque tool will be a flat piece of metal with the small end bent 90 degrees.

    How To Improve Your Home with LED Lighting

    LED lighting for homes is the best method for interior home lighting today. While LED lights are not inexpensive, the long lifetimes and low power use mitigate the initial high cost. Still, navigating the myriad choices of LED lighting, on top of the choices that exist today for interior lighting, can confuse and intimidate.

    I’m not talking about just replacing existing Edison-style, incandescent bulbs with LED equivalents. If all you’re looking for is a replacement for ordinary light bulbs, we already have you covered. Instead, we’ll cut a broader swath, looking at LED interior lighting in a more general way. During our extensive kitchen remodeling project, I spoke with several contractors and lighting sales people about the current state of LED lighting. Both the underlying technology and interior lighting products have evolved rapidly in the past few years. That rapid evolution, however, has also generated huge confusion.

    One thing is clear: compact fluorescent lighting is now a transitional technology. Fluorescents will always have a place, but CF-style lighting is starting to fade away, gradually being replaced by LED-based products.

    Before we talk about lighting in particular, let’s talk about a related topic, a critically important one for many homeowners: color.

    The Best Portable Hard Drive Today

    If you’re looking for a portable hard drive, you should consider picking up Western Digital’s 2 TB My Passport Ultra. It’s a USB 3.0-connected portable drive that costs $150 and offers the best combination of storage space, speed, features, critical-acclaim and warranty protection of any drive we looked at.

    Who’s This For?

    Any laptop user who needs access to external storage on the road or a drive to back up their machine to while traveling, or anyone who values portability over performance or storage space per dollar. While desktop storage solutions (like our current favorite, the Buffalo DriveStation DDR) might be faster and boast a larger storage capacity, they require external power to function and aren’t all that portable. Portable drives, on the other hand, typically have 2.5” hard drives spinning away inside of their enclosures and only need the power provided by the USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt port they’re connected to.

    Someone who needs a more rugged drive so they don’t have to sweat tossing it into a bag (at a price premium) should get the alternative pick we have listed below.

    The Best Standing Desks for Your Home or Office

    It’s never been done before, but we tested all the major standing desks and the best full-sized standing desk is Terra by NextDesk. It costs about $1,600 with built-in power strip, which is a lot of money. But the desk is high-quality and it’s an investment worth making if you’re committed to standing while working for years and years. If you’re not ready for a full-sized desk, there are many ways to stand while working, and we have recommendations to accommodate every possible approach.

    What I’ve Learned in a Year of Standing at Desks

    I first wrote about standing desks on The Wirecutter about a year ago. When I started reporting that very long piece, I was fairly new to standing. The research kept piling up about the dangers of sitting, and I had become a believer. But I wasn’t ready to actually spend money on my desk, since there are so many cheap ways to build your own. So, taking my own advice to create the cheapest standing workplace possible, I leaned against my conveniently tall kitchen counter, which though tall was not quite tall enough, and I worked that way for about a year.

    And then, we did something at the Wirecutter that no one has done before. We ordered as many standing desks as we could get our hands on, and we assembled them. And then we actually worked at them.

    I built and worked at six different adjustable standing desks, the ones that are most commonly reviewed individually.

    I built and worked at six different adjustable standing desks, the ones that are most commonly reviewed individually. There are a lot more than six standing desk companies, but I focused on the most popular and reputable ones.

    We are updating that piece in light of our extensive and unique tests, and we are excited because we’ve found some new things.

    Through all our testing of many adjustable standing desks, we have months of experience to explain not only which adjustable standing desk is best but also to suggest some alternatives to full-sized desks for people who are just getting into working on their feet.

    We have a DIY recommendation. We still love the Kangaroo Pro Junior as the best way to turn your current desk into a standing desk. And we also still love the Safco Muv as a great, cheap option if you don’t want to lay out the serious dough or don’t have the room for a full-sized standing desk.

    The Best Android Smartphone for Your Network (August 2013)

    If you're in the market for a new Android device, you've got big decisions to make. We're entering the latter part of the year, and that's when the major new phones show up. There's going to be a new Nexus, a new Galaxy Note, and probably a few surprises. The selection on the big four carriers is going through a refresh right now, so you must choose carefully to avoid two years of regrets.

    This month AT&T and Verizon get out in front of the pack, while Sprint and T-Mobile play the pricing game.

    The Best SSDs Today

    If I was upgrading a laptop or desktop computer with a solid-state drive, I'd buy a Samsung 840 EVO SSD in either 250 GB (~$190) or 500 GB (~$370) sizes, depending on the exact setup. Using a new caching tech, it can write up to 2x faster than its similarly priced predecessor.

    (Note that ultrabook and MacBook Air/Pro owners might have to choose our alternative picks below.)

    The Samsung 840 EVO is one of the best values in solid-state drives right now: the drives are super-fast and they’re priced aggressively. Plus, Samsung has a reputation for reliability that a lot of other vendors lack. The 840 EVO isn’t the fastest SSD out there (but it’s close), and it’s not for everyone. But I think it’s the best option for most people who are upgrading a laptop or desktop. If you spend less, you’ll get drives that are slower, and you won’t save that much money. If you spend more, you’ll get a little more speed and a lot more endurance, good for enterprise servers and people who do professional video editing or other write-intensive work. Still, the vast majority of people will be fine with the endurance of the Samsung 840 EVO. This is the sweet spot in solid-state drives, and for the first time ever, the higher-capacity versions are around the same value as the smaller sizes.

    Who Should Get This?

    Someone with a computer that is one or two years old, with a traditional hard drive, that they plan on keeping for at least another year. (There’s no sense in upgrading a machine that you’re about to replace, unless you know you’ll be able to bring your SSD with you to your next computer.) Someone who has already upgraded their RAM to 4 GB or 8 GB but wants their laptop to boot, launch programs and load files faster. Someone whose laptop is from 2010 or later. If your computer is older than that, depending on the computer, you may want to start saving for a new computer rather than get an SSD. It all depends how much more life you think you can get out of it.

    This also works for someone who wants a good boot SSD for their desktop to complement a larger mechanical drive for storage.

    Living with Photography: Big Budget vs. D-I-Y Camera Strap

    I recently came across a somewhat controversial notion: an easy way to spot an amateur photographer is to see if they're using the shoulder strap that came bundled with their camera body. You can imagine how reading that felt, as I looked over to my DSLR to see the recognizable red stitching of the generic Canon strap draped over the side of my camera bag. Ouch. But as pretentious as that statement sounds, there's logic behind the claim. Some professional photographers choose not to use any camera strap at all. A DSLR draped around your neck hurts after minutes of walking around. When slung around your shoulder and across your chest, a strap can get in the way of positioning the camera for composition, and a swinging loose strap can affect the stability of your shot. In a photography studio or when using a tripod, a strap is rarely needed.

    Another argument against the use of the bundled camera strap is that it's just a cheaply made piece of nylon that gives free advertising to the camera manufacturer. Canon and Nikon straps have very distinct designs, and like the red ring around EF lenses, add to overall brand awareness in public. I don't subscribe to this concern, though I can understand the argument of keeping the bundled strap unwrapped in the box to help retain perceived resale value.

    The final argument against the use of bundled straps is that they're just not very good. They don't provide enough padding on the shoulders for heavy camera bodies (and equally heavy lenses!), and trying to quickly swinging a camera up from the hip to take a spontaneous photo is cumbersome. When using the generic Canon strap at events, I've taken to wrapping the strap around my arm and elbow, which makes it more of an arm brace than shoulder sling to keep my hand locked in a comfortable position. But I was in the market for a new strap--something that would be more comfortable and functional than the stock one.

    A few of you recommended Black Rapid straps, so I bought the RS-4 model to test. It was $54, which felt expensive for a camera strap. But I bit the bullet because I wanted to see if a "high-end" camera strap could make a difference. The Black Rapid RS-4 is a gliding camera strap, meaning that the camera hangs loose on a loop around the nylon so it can slide up and down from hip to chest without moving the strap itself. And unlike non-gliding straps, it attaches to the camera using the tripod mount on the bottom instead of the two small metal loops on the frame. The 1/4" fastener screws in tightly and securely. The strap itself is light, the shoulder pad is comfortable, and there's even a small zipper compartment in the shoulder pad to store memory cards. But it's also $54, plus tax and shipping.

    And if you study the build of the Black Rapid RS-4, you can see that it's not much more than a few common pieces of hardware strung together and attached to a padded strap. Using this CNet guide as a starting point, I went to the hardware store to find suitable pieces to make my own budget gliding camera strap.

    The Best USB Microphone Today

    If you are looking to buy a USB microphone, the Yeti by Blue is what I’d recommend. I'm basing this on extensive research that includes professional and retailer reviews, interviews with industry professionals, tests that involved a blind listening panel, and my years of experience in audio engineering and voice acting. The Yeti is the best buy for the money--it has a solid build quality, a rounded mellow sound, and features that many more expensive mics lack. At under $100, it's a steal.

    Photo credit: Flickr user jmangino

    Why Buy a USB Microphone?

    USB microphones are made for easy, plug-and-play use. They’re fantastic for podcasters, musicians looking to share their work online, voice actors, music/audio students, and people who just want something better than the microphone built into their laptop.

    What to Look For in a USB Microphone?

    A good USB mic will capture high quality sound at an affordable price and will eliminate the need for a secondary element (called an analog-to-digital or A/D converter) between the mic and your computer. Aside from recording sound, we also looked for mics that had zero-latency headphone inputs and an in-mic gain control. You can read more on why those are important and how they factored in the Yeti winning below.

    My 10 Rules for Success

    Editor's Note: Adam was the closing speaker at this past weekend's BoingBoing Ingenuity theatrical event. He gave a rousing speech about being a maker, and shared his ten rules for success in his work. For new Tested readers, these are themes we've touched on in many episodes of Still Untitled: The Adam Savage Project.

    Photo credit: Kent K. Barnes / www.kentkb.com

    Adam's 10 rules for success are below. Which ones do subscribe to in your own work and maker experience?

    15 Essential Tweaks to Perform on Your New 2013 Nexus 7

    So you've picked up the new 2013 edition of the Nexus 7 tablet. Google had a sales success with the original Nexus 7 at the $200 price point, but the device didn't hold up particularly well over time. At $230 for this year's 16GB model, the entry price is higher, but you end up getting a lot more for your money. It's a great device, but prying open the box is just the start. To truly appreciate the Nexus 7's fast Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor and glorious 2GB of RAM, you have to get everything set up just right.

    There are some tweaks you can do to make sure the experience is the best it can possibly be, and to help familiarize you with this new tablet (in case it's your first Android device!). We're going to dig down into the inner workings of Android, get specific on hardware features, and talk about the apps you need. Read on for the 15 essential tweaks you should make on your new 2013 Nexus 7.

    The Best External Desktop Hard Drive Today

    If I needed a new external desktop storage solution, I’d buy Buffalo’s 3 TB DriveStation DDR for around $200. It’s a bit on the expensive side, but the math checks out: for around 50% more money you get 100% more speed. Some tests even show it being faster than Thunderbolt setups that cost an order of magnitude more! It’s this insane speed that earned it multiple editor’s choice awards and our pick if you have or will soon have a USB 3.0 computer.

    Who’s This For?

    You might be thinking to yourself “that kind of speed sounds like it’d be nice to have, but I don’t think I really need it if it costs extra,” which is perfectly rational. We would respectfully disagree for a number of reasons.

    When it comes to backing up your computer or transferring files, speed is the most important measurable drive metric. So when you need to go shopping for an external storage solution, paying 50% more to go 100% faster is entirely reasonable.

    When it comes to backing up your computer or transferring files, speed is the most important measurable drive metric.

    This sounds counter intuitive, but it still makes sense to spend more even if your current computer is too old to take advantage of all the speed a piece of hardware like the DriveStation DDR can offer. Assume you’ll have this thing for at least three years (which is the length of its warranty). Considering the fact that all new computers come with USB 3.0, the only reason not to buy a fast drive now is if you don’t plan on upgrading your computer over the next three years.

    The exception to this rule: if you’re on a 2011 Mac with Thunderbolt and have no intention to upgrading to a new computer anytime soon. But we’ll explain more later.

    So unless you’re planning to use your old hardware for years to come, the Buffalo drive is the smart choice.

    Living with Photography: Choosing Your Drive Mode

    Every photographer has their own preferences when it comes to the camera settings they use for everyday shooting, but it's easy to get locked into one set of settings without experimenting with what else is available. This was the case for the Drive Mode for my camera. For the longest time, I was very comfortable using Single Shot. It served the purposes of my on-location workflow: frame up a shot, find focus, hold my breath, tuck my arms in, and snap a photo. But I've since abandoned the Single Shot method and have found that there's a better Drive Mode alternative for almost every photography scenario.

    Let's quickly review what a camera's Drive Mode is and what options may be available to you on your camera (every camera model is different). This is the setting that determines what happens when you press the shutter button. Most cameras, including point-and-shoots, have at least three Drive Modes. There's Single Shot mode, usually indicated by a single rectangle, which means the camera will take a single photo immediately after you depress the shutter. There's Continuous Shutter (or Burst Mode), which looks like a series of stacked rectangles, which tells the camera to keep on taking photos in succession as long as you keep the shutter button depressed. And then there's a time-delay Drive Mode, which sets the camera to take a photo at a predetermined number of seconds after you press the shutter.

    Other Drive Modes that cameras may have: Single AF Burst, which is faster than Continuous Burst because the camera doesn't recheck focus between shots, Remote Shutter, which lets you take photos with a wireless trigger, and Silent Mode, which reduces the audible sound of the physical shutter at the cost of continuous shutter speed.

    The Drive Mode I'm now most accustomed on the Canon 6D is the combination of Continuous Shutter + Silent. And when mounting the DSLR on a tripod, I set my camera to the 2-second Timer Mode. Here's why both of these modes are preferred over Single Shot.

    Rent No More: The Best Cable Modem To Own

    Recently, Time Warner Cable joined the ranks of Comcast and Cox by charging $6 a month (up from $4) to lease one of their subpar (read: dated) cable modems. Here’s one way of getting around it, as noted in “How to Beat Time Warner’s Bullsh*t Modem Rental Fee.” (To be fair, Comcast and Cox have been charging subscribers a whopping $7 a month to lease cable modems for some time.)

    Should you decide to buy a modem as a Time Warner customer, it’ll take 15 months to recoup the cost of buying a modem like the SB6141, and at the other two carriers it only takes 13 months—not to mention you can always sell the modem if you ever decide to for a few bucks.

    Let’s assume you want the most future-proof cable modem currently available and that you’re subscribed to a fairly high-speed service plan. If those two variables are checked off, then the SB6141 is the right choice for you. Why? For starters, It’s approved for use with Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cox. It earned 75% five-star reviews on Amazon and the lowest percentage of one-star reviews at 3.1.

    In dslreports.com’s FAQ about which cable modem they’d recommend, their answer is officially this:

    “I would have to update this question every week, so I won’t provide a list here. Let’s just say that Motorola Surfboard line seems to be the favorite among a lot of people right now.”

    To back that up, the Comcast community on dslreports.com has been the most vocal about the topic and consistently recommended or concluded that one of Motorola’s Surfboard modems is the best in annual polls since 2004. And according to Jeff Heynen an analyst at Infonetics, a telecom market research firm, the 6141 is the most popular DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem in terms of units sold.

    The Best Android Smartphone for Your Network (July 2013)

    The last few weeks have been full of Android news like you wouldn’t believe. New phones, new operating systems, and a lot of new things to consider if you’re about to upgrade. It can be a bit overwhelming to step up and make a decision that’s going toa ffect you for the next two years, so it’s best to go in with the most information possible, which is why we’re here with a rundown of the best phones on big four US carriers a few days late. The Mot X was announced just the other day, and it’s definitely relevant to your decision.

    Photo credit: Flickr user viipeer via Creative Commons

    Let’s see what phones are safe, and which are threatened by the Moto X. For each carrier, there will be a brief analysis of whether or not you should wait for the Moto X.

    Living with Photography: Filling In for Fill Light

    When I reviewed Adobe's Lightroom 5 a month ago, I said that its best feature was Smart Previews, which effectively let me work off of one shared Lightroom Catalog saved to Dropbox. That was so very useful when it came to processing over a thousand photos taken at Comic-Con a week and a half ago. But while developing those photos, I became acclimated to another of Lightroom's tools that I had dismissed in the past: Radial Gradient Filters. In my testing of Lightroom, my use of Radial Filters was limited to creating artificial vignetting around the edges of photos, as when simulating Instagram filters. But the Radial Filter tool turned out to be one of my most-used tricks for developing Comic-Con photos. It helped compensate for the fact that I still haven't started to use flash lighting.

    Let's examine the photo above, opened in Lightroom. If the photo looks muted and flat, your eyes aren't deceiving you. This is how most of my RAW photos look when they're first imported into Lightroom. I tend to shoot with exposure set 1/3rd or 2/3rd of a stop down, which produces darker photos but at a higher shutter speed (trading brightness for a potentially sharper image at my chosen ISO). Clarity, colors, and white levels are bumped up in the first development pass, which makes the photo pop a lot more. But even with the color information accessible in the RAW photo, there are details that can't just be pumped up with a slider bar. For photos shot without any assistive lighting, it's facial details that suffer. Most notably, the side of the face hidden in shadow.

    The Best Popsicle Molds for Awesome Ice Pops

    After eating enough ice pops to make myself sick, I’ve found that the Zoku Round Slow Pop Mold works best with all kinds of ingredients, fitting most budgets and mouths.

    It’s durable, consistent and dead simple to use, and the round pops it produces are the perfect size and shape for children and adults.

    Why Do You Need A Dedicated Ice Pop Mold?

    Popsicle molds could be as simple as you want: people have repurposed Dixie cups and ice cube trays with sticks in them to make DIY popsicles on the cheap. But if you’re seriously looking for a way to cool down in the summer, or if any of the myriad ice pop recipesavailable online look delicious to you, you’re going to want a dedicated mold. Molds solve a lot of the problems Dixie cup pops don’t: it’s easier to get pops out quickly (great if you have antsy children); built-in drip catchers make spills less likely and clean-up easier; and they’re washable and reusable.

    If you don’t eat many ice pops right now, you might not think a mold is a great investment. And maybe you’re right. But thanks to the internet’s ingenious food testers aplenty, ice pops have moved beyond sugary snacks: you can eat them for breakfast (a great way to sneak your kids some spinach), you can use them to hide the taste of protein powder and you can even swap your evening cocktails for poptails.