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    Tips for Hassle-Free Picture Frame Hanging at Home

    As anyone who's watched a video shot in my living room may know, one of my obsessions is collecting unique art, concert, and movie poster prints. I just can't resist breaking out the credit card and ordering well-designed poster, especially when it's a limited-edition run. But once the prints are delivered, getting them out of the shipping tube and onto the wall requires a little bit of effort. First, I want to make sure I have a suitable frame for the poster. FrameUSA is my recommendation for really affordable wood frames with plastic sheets in a wide selection of sizes and colors. (For my prized prints, I opt for more expensive wood and glass frames from a local frames outlet.) These typically come with the hanging gear required to mount the frame on a wall--the most hardware you'll need is a hammer and maybe a picture hook. I don't recommend the "Super Hooks" that you may have seen on infomercials.

    The toughest part I've found to hanging a batch of frames is finding the right spot for the nail to get the frame at an exact height. In the past, I've tried using a ruler to measure the distance between the top of the frame and the hook, then applying that to the wall using a light pencil mark. It's a time-consuming process that's not always precise. The other method is trial and error, which means potentially leaving a bunch of tiny holes in your wall. But I recently discovered two tricks to marking the spot on the wall for the nail. The first comes from The Industrial Cottage blog, which recommends applying a dab of toothpaste at the end of the picture hook and then positioning the frame where you want it. That leaves a small toothpaste mark where you should hammer in the nail, and it's easily wiped away if you want to try different placements.

    The second tip comes from the Scrap Shoppe, which shows you how to create a wall marking tool with a clothespin punctured with a small nail. The clothespin part isn't really necessary--any sturdy piece of wood will work, like a ruler. You then hook the frame onto the nail, holding the clothespin or ruler over the top edge of the frame to position it close to the wall. When you've found a good place for the frame, tap it against the wall and the nail will leave a small mark where you'll want to hammer in a picture hook. It's a little more complicated and more permanent than the toothpaste method, but I've found both to work well.

    Perfect frame positioning is one of those things that's easy to get obsessive about, so here's a real pro-tip: if you ever visit someone's home and see a frame out of alignment, don't let them know. It's impossible to unsee and will drive them nuts.

    How To Properly Optimize Your Images for the Web

    One of the side effects of higher-resolution displays on mobile devices, such as the new iPad, is that compression on web images is more pronounced than ever. It's been discussed at length and even joked about in webcomics. There's no denying that compression in jpegs and gifs really stand out on high PPI screens. But web designers can't just save all their images as uncompressed PNGs--bandwidth is as much as premium on smartphones and tablets as it was on desktops back in the days of dial-up and ISDN. And as web developer Jeremy Keith points out, the art of image optimization is back in fashion again. Finding that perfect balance of image size and compression quality improves the overall user experience to a website or mobile app, and it's more than just hitting that "save for web" option in Photoshop. Here are two freeware tools that I recommend for web designers (or anyone that edits images for web publishing) that can squeeze extra bytes out of JPEGs, GIFs, and PNGs without extra lossy compression. They work by running image files through multiple open source algorithms that remove unnecessary metadata, gamma and transparency channel data.

    For OS X, ImageOptim is an extremely elegant lossless compression tool that is as simple as drag-and-drop. Just dump your files in the window and let it work. The freeware app runs each file through four different compression algorithms, though you can opt out of the slower (typically better) ones to cut down on compression time. Your compression percentage is displayed and the original files are automatically overwritten, retaining their original permissions and hardlinks. You can choose to save backups of the original files as well. ImageOptim's creator explains more about the nuances of PNG optimization in this post.

    On Windows, RIOT (Radical Image Optimization Tool) is my compression program of choice. It also offers drag-and-drop ease-of-use, but gives additional resizing and batch-processing options for bigger projects.

    Both ImageOptim and RIOT tap into PNGOUT, the powerful PNG optimizer developed by Ken Silverman (yep, of Duke Nukem 3D's Build Engine fame). PNGOUT isn't included in either of the apps so you have to download and install it manually. It's also very slow to run, even on a quad-core Sandy Bridge processor, so I recommend leaving it off unless you're under severe file size constraints.

    Building a Third-Person Camera Rig—Step 2: Concept Testing

    This is the second in a multi-part series about Will's Third-Person Live-View Camera rig project. Here's the first part.

    We're three weeks out from MakerFaire, and my third-person camera project is coming along nicely. After some initial tests, I'm pretty sure I have all the electronics stuff figured out. The GoPro HD Hero 2 handles live feed out of its HDMI port like a champ, and the Sony head-mounted display seems like it will work just fine. Yes, it's somewhat heavy, but it gives me a good high-resolution display to test with.

    I hooked everything up for the first time this morning, using my wife as a temporary camera mount, and an extension cord to power the Sony goggles as I walked around my backyard. Watch the video, and then we'll talk about what I've learned so far.

    Spring Cleaning: Find Files and Folders That Eat Disk Space

    Once or twice a year, I spend a few hours cleaning the detritus off of my hard drives. You know, the driver downloads, intermediate video rips and renders, and all the crap that's in my downloads folder. But, with modern OSes hiding a lot of the files you use on a day-to-day basis deep in the directory structure, it can be tough to know where those big files are buried.

    That's where WinDirStat (Windows) and Disk Inventory X (Universal Beta for OS X) come into play. These tools scan all the files on your hard drive, noting size and location. Then, they create a to-scale visual representation, called a treemap, of the space used by each file and folder on your machine. Small squares are small files, big squares are big files. Select a folder in the list, and you can see all the files inside it. This is very useful.

    Disk Inventory X

    While you can delete files directly from each app, it's not always a good idea. If you want to get rid of an application or game on Windows, it's better to use the Add/Remove Programs tool than just delete a folder. And if you aren't sure about the contents of a file, it's much easier to preview them using Finder or Explorer. open the folder in Finder or Explorer and delete from there.

    Why the Chemex + Kone Filter Makes Great Coffee

    I spent most of 2010 learning how to brew coffee using pretty much every technique I could find. I loved some, I feared others, but I didn't really find anything worth sticking with until I used an Able Brewing Kone in my Chemex. With the Kone + Chemex combination, I'm able to make coffee that has the velvety mouthfeel of a French press while retaining the complexity of flavor that I love in a pourover.

    The Chemex is a notoriously fickle way to brew a cup of coffee. Because the hole in its neck is so large, Chemex filters need to be thick and heavy paper, which imparts a strong paper taste to the coffee and removes many of the tasty oils. At the same time, the brewing basket is enormous--making it difficult to control the amount of time the water spends in contact with grounds while simultaneously cooling off the coffee too quickly. While you can make an awesome cup of coffee with a Chemex and its paper filters, it's difficult to do with any consistency. If you want to brew coffee using a pourover device and a paper filter, a Hario V60 or one of those plastic Melitta cones are both better than the Chemex.

    At least, this is what I thought until I learned to use the Able Brewing Kone.

    Building a Third-Person Camera Rig - Step 1: Planning

    We're trying something new! I'm starting a long-term project and we want to do more than just show you how to make whatever we end up building. We want to involve you in the process, show you how we end up with the plans we have, and (hopefully) get some input from you guys along the way as well. Part two is on the site now.

    MakerFaire is about a month away, and I want to build something silly and awesome for this year's show. What pray tell? A real-life third-person camera.

    I've wanted to build a third-person camera since head-mounted displays stopped being complete garbage. I have about a month to plan, collect parts, get the work done, and have everything ready for MakerFaire in mid-May.

    Photo Credit: Lukas Franciszkiewicz

    This has the makings of a fun project on its own, but it's also a fun experiment. I'm very interested to see how different people react to the third-person view. Will it take a long time to learn to walk around or will it immediately feel natural? Will it seem like an out of body experience?

    How Sci-Fi Propaganda Art Influenced The US and Soviet Space Race

    I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish. ... in a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the moon--if we make this judgment affirmatively, it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there.

    On May 26, 1961, John F. Kennedy turned the world's growing fascination with space flight into a race--an overt competition with the Soviet Union, which had launched the first man into outer space just one month before. America had reason to rally behind the Space Race against the Soviet Union: Sputnik beat the United States to space in 1957, damaging its national pride and igniting fears of Soviet technology. But for years before Sputnik and the ensuing technological escalation made space flight a reality, something else was fueling the imaginations of the American people: the magazine.

    Magazine covers and the articles behind them often painted fantastic visions of future technology, using headlines like "Man Will Conquer Space Soon" and "Flying Saucers for Everybody!" The Soviet Union had its own magazines and artwork, which boldly depicted rockets and cosmonauts reaching for the stars. Every bit of science artwork published in the 50s and 60s served to propagandize one nation's plans for space, but nationalistic pride surfaced in very different ways.

    To piece together the cultural history behind magazine illustrations collected from across the Web, I needed to perform a Brain Bug-style knowledge absorption on someone who knew science (and science fiction) as well as they knew art. I found that expertise in two people: Vincent Di Fate, a Hugo award-winning artist who's illustrated for NASA, written a book on sci-fi art, and created hundreds of cover illustrations, and Gavin Rothery, who served as the conceptual designer and visual effects supervisor for the 2009 sci-fi film Moon.

    Together, we dissected the cultural influences behind Soviet and American art, compared "science" to sci-fi through mags like Mechanix Illustrated and 2000 AD, and detoured into the weird, weird worlds of Eastern European and Japanese illustrations.

    The United States Races to Space

    Which came first: the artistic vision of space travel, or the scientist's attempts to break free from Earth's orbit? Before Sputnik, there was no great, unifying national effort in the United States to reach for the stars. But there was a vision for space travel. Illustrator Chesley Bonestell tapped into a nascent interest in space with a series of paintings published in popular magazines like Life in the 1940s, including the incredibly influential "Saturn as Seen From Titan." Those paintings were collected in a book called The Conquest of Space, which paired Bonestell's work with the words of science writer Willy Ley. The Conquest of Space was written as a realistic vision of how man could make it into space. This was the beginning: art began to inspire greater interest in rockets and the stars.

    "Illustrators contributed richly to this stuff," Vincent Di Fate told me in a conversation last Friday. "It's hard for people who didn't grow up with magazines a regular part of their home lives to understand how important the magazine was, particularly in that era before television... It kinda hits you in the head like a two-by-four that there was no other way to produce these images other than through the imaginations of the artists."

    In 1951, the First Symposium on Space Flight brought together rocket scientist Wernher von Braun with other notable writers, artists and scientists, including Ley and Bonestell. While they talked rockets and space stations, an editor for Collier's Magazine, Cornelius Ryan, set the stage for the space race.

    "Ryan got the idea that he would use these scientists as consultants for the development of an extensive series of articles that would begin the following year," Vincent Di Fate explained. "So in 1952 they initiated a series of articles... that dealt with the further development of space travel... In order to team these science writers and scientists with appropriate images, Ryan arranged for Chesley Bonestell to be hired to create much of the key art."

    Ryan's coverage of the Symposium foreshadowed the US/Soviet competition that would follow in the next decade. The opening page of Collier's influential "Man Will Conquer Space Soon" series, which presented articles written by von Braun, Ley, and others, leads off like this: "... the U.S. must immediately embark on a long-range development program to secure for the West 'space superiority.' If we do not, somebody else will. That somebody else very probably would be the Soviet Union."

    The influence of the Symposium soon spread further into popular culture through television. "In 1955, Walt Disney had this weekly television series Disneyland, which ran on Wednesday nights on ABC," Di Fate said. "That took it a step farther, dealing with animation to show, for a rather naive public, how mankind would deal with issues like weightlessness and breaking away from the Earth's envelope. ... The Tomorrowland segments ... really helped sell to another generation the feasibility and desirability of space development."

    The Disneyland space series may have been on television, but it was ultimately the work of illustrators just like the magazine covers of the day. "All of the visualization that they did was artwork," Di Fate said. "Their outline of the mission to Mars is all done in a series of airbrushed paintings on acetate that are slowly moved across the frame to give the illusion of movement."

    Mars and Beyond aired in December 1957, two months after Sputnik's launch into orbit. Soon the Space Race was in full swing, but most of the interesting American artwork depicting futuristic technology was published before the development of the space shuttle. In hindsight, some of them are hilarious. Where Collier's had experts like Wehrner von Braun predicting that a space station would orbit Earth "within the next ten or fifteen years"--a guess that was only off by five years--other publications capitalized on the space craze with sci-fi articles masquerading as plausible journalism. An issue of Popular Science published in May 1958, for example, outlines a lunar program that begins with the United States nuking the moon to stir up dust for analysis and ends with a man on the moon around the year 2000.

    Gavin Rothery, who posts sci-fi artwork and videos on his blog every day, has previously written about the odd not-science that appeared in the popular magazines of the 40s, 50s and 60s. "The articles aren't really written by scientists, weirdly, especially in the case of Frank Tinsley," Rothery said. "He was writing his own articles, so he was basically just going off on one in his own head, and just coming up with the most fantastic ideas, and then illustrating them, and then writing about them as if it was real science."

    Rothery's blog post full of Tinsley's magazine articles and fantastic (though absurd) illustrations put it another way: "This guy was so forward-thinking; he just did not give a single solitary shit. Just look at some of the high-concept thinking going on here in some of his editorial work - it's amazing. Frank Tinsley is the honey badger of the 1950s science fiction editorial."

    "With our hindsight now we don't understand where they came from properly, the kind of whimsical nature of it," Rothery told me. These ideas look absurd today, but they were created in a time of enormous technological growth. Within two decades, scientists went from early rocket development to landing on the moon. Artists like Tinsley celebrated that spirit of creativity with outlandish ideas. Before scientists knew what, exactly, would be possible, everything was at least a little bit plausible.

    As it turned out, controlling the moon wasn't the key to asserting military dominance over the Earth. The moon is over 200,000 miles away, making any missile launched from the lunar surface far easier to intercept than one fired from, say, Cuba. Beating the Soviets to the moon may not have been the best catalyst for a space program, but it did its job, and for years speculative science art championed the cause.

    On the other side of the world, sci-fi magazine art was having a similar effect.

    How To Turn Your iPhone Into a Stop Motion Camera

    Shooting short time-lapse movies is time consuming, but the barrier to entry has never been lower. You're probably an inexpensive app and a $30 tripod away from having everything you need to get started.

    I have a pretty well established love of Lego, so it's no surprise that I might want to do a time-lapse video of a lego build. I've seen several great ones on YouTube, as well as great stuff posted by Crimson Jester and Fink in the forums. My goal was to do something a bit more complex than a simple time-lapse--I wanted to make a video where the model seemed to assemble itself--time lapse wouldn't cut it for that. Instead, I needed to learn about stop motion filmmaking.

    The tools I used for this are simple, but overkill for a project of this size--a Joby Gorillapod Focus with the Ballhead adapter with a Glif iPhone 4/4S tripod adapter. If you're buying a tripod specifically for this, it's much cheaper to use a dedicated iPhone tripod mount, but I already had these on hand. I used the Frameographer app to shoot the video. Frameographer includes the tools you need to make a great stop motion video at 720p. There are some more specialized apps for stop-motion, so before you start a massive, multi-hour project, make sure you do your homework to make sure Frameographer is right for you. It doesn't allow you to export individual frames, edit frame order, or make any adjustments after your set is broken down. Finally, I needed a subject. In this case, it was the midi-scale Imperial Star Destroyer I bought at Bricks by the Bay a few weeks ago.

    What's the difference between stop-motion and time-lapse? In time-lapse, you simply set the camera to shoot a frame at a fixed interval--the interval can range from a few shots a second to a few shots per day. The goal with a time-lapse film is typically to compress the passage of time. On the other hand, with stop-motion films, you manually control each time the shutter opens, painstakingly positioning your subjects, aligning them, and making sure that every frame is perfect. The downside is that this can take a long time; such a long time that there's a South Park episode about it. You typically record video at 24fps, which means you'll get about 1 second of video every 24 times you open the shutter, and it will take 1440 exposures to get a full minute of footage. I love stop motion because it lets you imbue life in objects that are normally inanimate.

    Before you start shooting, you need to secure your set and choose your subject. Because I chose to do a stop-motion Lego assembly, I didn't have to write a script or build models to shoot, but that would fall under the general rubric of "preparation" as well.

    You should also take a moment to consider lighting. While it's tempting to use natural light for your shoot, it's usually a better idea to use artificial lighting for stop-motion animation. The length of time it takes to set up each shot will make it difficult to maintain a consistent exposure throughout your shooting day. The good news is that your phone's camera probably handles low-light shooting reasonably well, so you shouldn't need to use much more than your room's existing lighting.

    It's also a good idea to prep your phone. I ran a power cable to the phone and set it to never automatically lock, which meant all I had to do to take a shot was tap the shutter button, without having to wake up the phone each time. I recommend turning vibrating notifications off or switch to airplane mode--you'll want to do everything you can to avoid moving the camera once you start shooting.

    When you're ready to start shooting, make sure your shot is framed properly, with enough room for whatever you're actually going to shoot. Take some test shots in both your starting configuration and the finished config, before you shoot your first frame. You don't want to spend a few hours on the opening, only to realize your shot positioning will need to change at the 60% mark.

    It's a good idea to shoot a few opening frames with no movement--I didn't do this, and really wish I had. It lets the viewer get used to your starting position. You'll also want to enable onion skin mode. To do that in Frameographer, tap the second icon from the left in the top row in the capture window. Onion skin mode overlays the live view from the camera over the previous frame, making it much easier to control your characters' movement and avoid having accidental movements in your film. There really isn't a trick to onion-skin mode--you just need to find a couple of points of reference on any object that moves and make sure they align properly from frame to frame.

    As a general rule, you should shoot several mostly static frames on either side of transitions with lots of movement. This helps the viewer adjust to changes in context. When something major happens, as when I attached the bridge to the Star Destroyer, it would have been smart to shoot a transition from one position to the other, and maybe even devote a second or two of the final movie to showing off the major addition. It's also wise to go back and watch every few dozen frames, to make sure your positioning hasn't drifted. A pixel or two of accidental movement each frame can make your finished movie look really janky.

    If you want to get started with stop-motion animation, Lego makes a great subject. Doing a stop-motion build is a relatively easy way to get started--it took me a mere six hours to assemble and shoot a 423 piece kit. The studs on top of each Lego brick are a great point of reference to ensure you only move what you want to during your build. When you're ready to go farther, playsets and mini-figs make great sets for your short films, at least until you're ready to build models and sets from scratch.

    I did learn a few specific things shooting a Lego build. First, the overhead 2/3rds angle that Lego uses in its instruction manuals works great for a time-lapse build. It lets you see enough detail to be interesting, without requiring a tricky overhead camera setup. The less you can move the model when placing a brick, the better off you are. Realigning your model after you've moved it takes a lot of time and is frustrating.

    Attaching bricks takes a fair amount of force, both when you push the brick onto the model and from the hand holding the model in place. Unfortunately, I found that applying enough pressure to keep the model from wiggling when you place a brick causes the model to wiggle when you release the hand that holds it in place. This is a bad thing. To fix this, I use a three-step brick placing technique. First, I apply a fair amount of pressure to the model with my left hand, locking it in place. Then, I place the brick with my right hand. Finally, I apply gentle pressure to the model with my right hand while lifting my left hand from the model. The gentle pressure from the right hand is usually enough to stop the wiggle that plagued my early efforts.

    That's really all there is to it. Be sure to post your time lapses in the forums when you've finished them. I'm going to take another stab at stop-motion later this month using a real still camera and Final Cut Pro X.

    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.