Tips on buying used stuff

I just found a Lifehacker piece on buying used stuff without getting ripped off. I have plenty of experience in this area.

The key, I think, is to deal in person, and test as much functionality as you can before handing over the cash. Read more

Don’t build a drill press out of PVC pipe

This past weekend, Lifehacker posted instructions for building a makeshift drill press out of PVC pipe. Although the finished contraption looks kind of cool, it’s not something you want to build yourself.

My drill press cost me $40. It’s far better and far safer, even though it’s still possible to injure yourself with it. But structurally it’s as sound as it gets, and acquiring it didn’t take me all weekend, either. Read more

How to build Lifehacker’s retro coffee table on the cheap

Lifehacker posted a nice weekend project this week, a retro coffee table, but the price tag seems steeper than it needs to be. If you’re craving some retro goodness but think $300 is a bit much to spend to play old video games, I have some ideas for you.

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Notes on the Compaq Presario SR2011WM

I’ve been working on a Compaq Presario SR2011WM. It’s a basic, low-end, single-core Celeron D system from 2006 or so. It can take up to 2 GB of RAM, runs Windows XP adequately, and has SATA ports, so you can put an SSD in it if you want. But don’t be fooled by the name–the Celeron in this machine is single core, and has a Prescott-era Pentium 4 core in it at that, not a low-TDP, Pentium D-style core.

In case you’re wondering, the easiest way to get it to boot from USB is to plug in a USB drive, hit ESC as the system runs POST, then select your USB drive from the menu.

Now let’s talk about options for upgrades. Read more

Avoiding Craigslist rental scams

The Consumerist posted five warning signs that a Craigslist rental listing is probably a scam. As a landlord looking on from that side of it, I generally agree with it. Here’s a landlord’s take on avoiding Craigslist rental scams.
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How to customize Matchbox or Hot Wheels cars

It’s fun to customize Matchbox or Hot Wheels cars. I tend to buy representations of pre-1950 cars and un-hotrod them so they’ll look like they belong on my O27 (1:64-ish) train layout; others buy them, paint them differently and put different wheels on them to make something different from what Mattel sells.

It’s a job you can do with simple tools and materials, at least at first. But like many things, you can keep it as simple or get as advanced as you like. And while you won’t do your first car in 15 minutes, it’s easy to divide a car project into 15-minute-per-day steps, especially if you work on two or three of them at once, and at the end of a week you’ll have a few nice cars to show for your time and effort.

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How to save money on tech

CNN offered up some good tips on saving money on tech. But of course I want to analyze and comment on it myself. Anything else would be out of character. Here’s how I save money on tech.

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A Christmas tree train on a budget

If you want a train for under your Christmas tree but don’t have a lot of money to spend, here’s how to find one and what to ask for.

Find a store that deals in used Lionel trains, or find a local hobbyist. Search Craigslist or your newspaper classifieds for an ad stating, “I buy electric trains.” I’ll let you in on a secret: most people who buy trains also resell them, because people who buy trains eventually end up with far more than they’ll ever use.

Once you locate a reseller, here’s what to ask for.

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