Tag: hack

How to Get Rid of Blind Spots (No Optometrist Required)

Since the dawn of time (or at least since we've had rear- and side-view mirrors on automobiles), our parents and our parents' parents have been instructing us on where to point our side-view mirrors.  And along with this instruction comes the dire warnings of the perilous danger of the Evil Blind SpotsTM that exist when you're behind the wheel.    

Judging by the number of folks I see out on the road who attempt to imitate that scene from The Exorcist when they're changing lanes, whoever taught you to drive also instructed you that the only sure-fire way to avoid slamming into a nearby car when changing lanes is to quickly peer around the driver's headrest like a myopic owl before crossing the dotted line.

What if I told you there was a better way to avoid that heart-stopping situation where you realize you've just plotted your car on a collision course with the car in your blind spot?  One that doesn't involve buying the SkyMall "bigger is better" mirror and definitely doesn't involve risking whiplash every time you want to change lanes?

You'd probably be as skeptical as I was, the first time I heard about the alternative I'm about to share with you.  But seeing is believing (pun intended), and if you try out this hack for a little bit, I'll bet you'll be visiting your chiropractor only half as often as you do right now.

The big secret is the placement of the side-view mirrors.  Typically, we all tend to point our side-view mirrors so we can see the back corners of our car.  But if you think about it, there's actually very little point in watching the back corner of your car.  Why should you?  It's not like it ever moves!  Why not point your mirrors somewhere that actually adds some value to your field of vision?  

By moving the side mirrors farther out, you can line up all three of your mirrors so they have minimal overlap, and you can see EVERYTHING behind you AND beside you!  Here's how you do it:

  • Step 1. Set up your rear-view mirror the way you normally would.  You need to be able to see out the rear window of your car.  So take down that bobblehead doll collection if it's impeding your view.

  • Step 2.  Sitting in the driver's seat, lean your head all the way to the left so it touches the driver's window.  From THAT position, set your driver's side-view mirror so you can see the back corner of the car.  You WON'T be able to see your back corner of your car when you sit back up straight.

  • Step 3. Lean the same distance towards the passenger's window as you did in Step 2 (but the other way).  Adjust your passenger-side mirror the same way.

Now here's what you'll see now that you've broken the taboo of taking your mirrors off the rear corners of your car:

  • When a car comes up behind you, you'll see it square-on in your rear-view mirror.  But as it passes you on the left, you'll see it move to the left side of your rear-view mirror, and as its headlight disappears from the rear-view mirror, it'll simultaneously show up in your left-side mirror.

  • Similar behavior occurs when a car passes you on the right.  At every point from directly behind you to just behind your driver-/passenger-side windows, you'll be able to have the car in view in one of your mirrors.

So what's the catch, you may ask?  There are a few drawbacks, but only one lasting one.

1. Your side view mirrors are no longer showing you the rear corners of your car.  This could throw you off BIG TIME if you are in the habit of using your mirrors to help guide you in backing up.  This drawback never goes away, so if you just CAN'T figure out how to back up without using your mirrors to help you, might be out of luck.

2. You MUST use your rear-view mirror now.  You have to rely on it to see what's behind you, as your side-view mirrors now show you what's going on in the lanes next to you.  If you don't have a rear-view mirror or can't rely on it, again you might be out of luck.

3. This new approach may take some adjustment to get the right setup with your mirrors the first time you try this out.  Rather than wait until you're in rush-hour traffic to fine-tune your mirror angles, try pulling up next to a line of parked cars (preferably with nobody waiting behind you) and slowly pull forward until the car next to you should be in a position to be seen in both mirrors.  Adjust the mirrors until you've got the view right, and then go practice in light traffic until you feel comfortable with the new approach.

4. Someone using your car may be completely bewildered at first.  Technically, they're always supposed to adjust the mirrors to suit them before they get on the road, but you may want to remind them before they back your car into a telephone pole when they try to rely on your mirrors for help.

It's also important to note that this does NOT absolve you of a need to look out the driver-/passenger-side windows when you're changing lanes.  But now you need only look directly left/right from the direction you're heading, rather than craning your head to look almost-behind-you to see if there's a car in your blind spot.

Happy motoring!  Send me a note if you try this out and let me know how it works for you.  I love it and will never go back to the "tried-and-true" approach of purposefully creating blind spots in my field of vision.

Illustrations and general concept shamelessly re-purposed from the much less verbose instructions on the Car Talk website.

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Take Control of Your Vox Recent Activity

Ever since Papi Chulo (formerly Pants Party) first pointed it out to me, I've been both happy and frustrated with the Vox Recent Activity page.  On one hand, it does provide an "easy" way to keep track of follow-up comments and favorites on posts you or someone in your neighborhood.  On the other hand, it can bulky with 30+ posts on the page, each with its own set of comments.  Scrolling down to older posts can put a serious case of carpal tunnel on your mouse-wheel finger, and if you have a couple of really popular threads going, you might not even know that one of the older posts has had a follow-up.  (I've also heard some people can't even load the page in their browsers, but I'm not sure this will fix that issue.)

I decided to jump on the Greasemonkey bandwagon and write a GM script to help out with this issue.  I came up with a solution that, while quick-and-dirty, does a good job of streamlining the Vox Recent Activity page: the script creates links in each post to show/hide the comments, with the default setting of all comments being hidden on initial page load.  That means your page that used to look like this:

now looks like this:

All you have to do to view the comments for an individual post is click on the [+/-] link, and they'll toggle from hidden to shown.  Click it again and they go back to being hidden!  Pretty cool, huh?

Now your recent activity page is a lot slimmer, easier to navigate, and you can click on just the posts that you want to follow up on to see the most recent activity.

Want to install this script for your own use?  First install Greasemonkey, and then get the script here.
(Instructions to install Greasemonkey can be found here.)

If you have questions, comments, or suggestions on how to improve this script, please leave a comment here or send me an email.

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Cheap Noise-Blocking Headphones, An Easy DIY Project

This guy has the right idea when it comes to how to construct a cheap pair of noise-blocking headphones.

Noise-Blocking Headphones

A couple of points, though:

  • These are NOT passive noise-canceling headphones, (or noise-canceling headphones of any kind, for that matter).  Noise-canceling headphones actual emit sounds 180 degrees out of phase with the noise they are picking up in order to cancel them out.  These headphones talked about here dampen all outside noise by muffling any external noise (noise-blocking).  Noise-canceling headphones usually let you hear people talking but block out constant drones – these would block out everything (which is not necessarily a bad thing).
  • The quality of your headphones you're putting into the ear-protectors will determine how good your music sounds.  If you go with a cheap pair of headphones, you probably won't enjoy the end product.
  • Not all ear protectors have removable ear-cups like this guy shows – make sure to test the pair you're planning to use before purchasing them.
  • Unlike the noise-canceling headphones, this would require NO power to use.  However, they can get awful hot if you're covering up your ears with these.  The newer noise-canceling headphones try to take this into account and rest on the ears, rather than around the ears.

I've got a pair of Bose QuietComfort II headphones that I've had for about 5 years now.  I love them and wouldn't fly without them.  However, I could see myself modding a pair of headphones to have these as well for when I didn't want to worry about batteries, or for situations where I didn't want to bring along my expensive Bose headphones (e.g. mowing the lawn, going on a road trip, etc)

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Another Call to Arms – Hack the Planet (New Vox Group)

Hey neighbors (and/or anyone reading this),

I've set up a new group here on Vox for people who like to share and read tips, tricks, hacks, guides, and how-tos of any kind.  This isn't limited to computers or even techy stuff – if you've got something to share that might help simplify, streamline, or improve your life (or someone else's), this is the place for it.

The group is called Hack the Planet, and I hope anyone who has any interest in this kind of thing will join up and post there.

Also, to build content for the group, I'd like to ask you all for a favor – if you've written any posts along this line in the past, it would be really awesome if you would take a couple minutes to go back and also add them to the group.  If people see activity on the group, they're more likely to join up and post to the group themselves, so this would be a HUGE help in getting the group up and running.

Thanks for checking the group out, and I hope to see some of you over there in the future!

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