How to eat out less

I read this week that most households earning $75K a year eat out too much to save any money.

It kind of makes sense–many jobs are salaried rather than hourly, which means they may very well work more than 40 hours a week and not have time to do everything that needs to be done around the house, especially if both people work.

The key is to get the convenience back at a lower cost.

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Buy as much computer as you need

Veteran IT journalist Guy Wright advises not to buy any more computer than you need. Wright was a prominent Commodore journalist, so he’s been thinking this way for literally decades. I grew up reading the magazines he edited in the 1980s and 1990s–yes, really–so it’s not surprising that I would agree with him.

I saw a couple of points worth clarifying.

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Using writing style to identify the bad guys

This month’s Social Engineer podcast discussed identifying bad guys through their writing style, something the hosts expressed surprise was possible.

This won’t be news to anyone who minored in English or Communications or Journalism. A lot of factors go into style—where we grew up, where our parents are from, what we read growing up, our life experience, and it really is like a fingerprint. Fitzgerald’s Gatsby called everyone “Old Sport,” and we all have something like that, it’s just usually more subtle. I’ll say, “taste this,” when my wife or mother in law will say “taste of this.” That’s a regional thing. I pick up on that because I’m interested in language. A really good linguist can pick up on a lot more than that, and machine learning can potentially pick up on still more.

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Easy steps to make your WordPress site more mobile-friendly

I took some steps this weekend to make the site more mobile-friendly. I get a lot of traffic from tablets and phones, so I figure the better their experience, the more likely they are to stay around.

First, I switched to a 2-column format. On small screens, two columns display better than three.

Next I installed a plugin called definitely-allow-mobile-zooming. This forces your page to allow zooming on mobile devices, since some CSS disallows it. On some devices my page worked fine without it, but Google’s tools flagged me as mobile-unfriendly until I installed it.

Google is going to start tweaking search results based on whether the searcher is on a desktop or a mobile device and favor sites that render well under the searcher’s conditions, so these adjustments are worth making if you value search engine traffic.

Three things to remember from Verizon’s Data Brach Investigations Report

Every year around this time, Verizon releases its Data Breach Investigations Report, referred to in the trade as simply the “DBIR.” Verizon is one of two companies you call if you’ve been breached and you really want to get to the bottom of what happened and try to keep it from happening again. (Mandiant is the other.)

My CISO hates this year’s edition because of its Joy Division-inspired cover and some of the cutesy writing. But it still makes some valid points that I wish everyone would take to heart–and those points remind me why so many people in my field of work listen to Joy Division.

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The first (and maybe cheapest) Amiga product for Amigaholics like me

Before the Amiga was a computer, Amiga was a struggling independent company trying to stay in business so it would get its chance at changing the world. In order to make ends meet while they developed their multitasking computer, Amiga produced and sold joysticks for the game systems and computers that were already on the market.

These joysticks turn up on Ebay fairly frequently.

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How to repaint screen door/storm door handles

I have three storm door handles, much like the one to the right, that were a bit worse for wear. The painted black finish had worn off over time in places, creating an uneven finish of dull black and dull gray.  Replacing them would make the house look a lot better in a subtle way, but there was nothing wrong with them–they worked fine, they just looked worn out.

So I repainted them instead of replacing them and saved myself $30.

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Keeping your NAS off Google

I read in a couple of places the last few days about search engines picking up data stored on poorly configured consumer routers acting as a NAS. This isn’t a case of being evil; rather it’s a case of people accidentally posting stuff in public where search engines will find it. Finding difficult-to-find data is what search engines do for a living, so I don’t fault any of the search engine companies for this.

The solution is to know what you’re doing when you need to access your data both at home and on the road. I apologize for the snark, but there are consumer-friendly ways to do it, like using a cloud provider.

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New options for low-TDP PCs

Earlier last week, Intel quietly unveiled a new series of Braswell SoCs, intended for very low-power computers. Literally low-power, as the chips use between 4 and 6 watts. Add the requirements of the motherboard, memory, and an SSD and you’re probably still looking at a computer that uses less than 15 watts.

The SoCs are priced between $121 and $161, which probably means the motherboards will run between $140 and $200 depending on the feature set. Add memory, a case, power supply, and an SSD, and you have a silent, power-sipping computer.

So far only MSI has announced motherboards and they haven’t announced pricing, but given Asrock’s selection of boards featuring previous-generation 6W TDP CPUs, I expect at least Asrock will join in, and probably Asus will as well.

These aren’t powerhouse machines, but they’re fine for everyday use, and someone like me who has a 7-year-old PC that works fine could think about replacing that machine with one of these. It’ll be marginally faster, but with the difference in power consumption being nearly 100 watts, the computer will probably pay for itself eventually. Or go grab one of the previous-generation boards, which sell for well under $100, and settle for less performance but a faster payoff.

How to make fake plastic train buildings look more realistic

Plastic buildings for train layouts are readily available, but like any plastic model, it takes a bit of work to make them look realistic. You can get what you need at the nearest hardware store.

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