Change the cabin filter in your car

Sun, Oct 15, 2017


Did you even know you had a cabin filter in your car?

No sense in spending any effort to explain what it is. Read here to find out more.

I changed them out in both my cars this weekend. Getting to them can be a pain in the ass (in my case they are located under the dashboard). I found a video on the Filter Heads YouTube channel to show step-by-step how to swap them out for my particular car (they also have a ton of other makes and models in their uploads). Filters cost about $15 a piece for my car and it looks like a change every 6 months makes sense if you are travelling in areas with a lot of traffic. See the difference between a dirty filter and a clean filter. Yuck.

Added to recurring tasks.



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Cleaning the coffee pot…

Sun, Mar 26, 2017


Today I finally cleaned my coffee pot. This is something I have been procrastinating for MONTHS, if not YEARS.

Recurring task going forward – every 2 months (on a weekend) I change the filter and run the coffeemaker through the self-clean cycle, using a combination of vinegar and water:

Cleaning a coffeepot – Wikipedia

Picked up filters in bulk from eBay a while back.

Task ran in the background – little to no work on my part. Success.

(Actually, success is really if I even notice a difference in the taste.)

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Backing up

Sun, Oct 25, 2015


harddriveerrorThere is simply nothing worse than realizing your hard drive just crapped out. Pictures, music, documents… Everything. Gone. What the hell are you going to do? Have you felt that feeling? It sucks. If you’ve never experienced that feeling, then the law of averages says you’re due for it. Sorry to jinx you, but face the facts!

Everyone should have a backup plan for their files. Hard drives crash. If we’re not talking about a lot of data, then maybe storing stuff on cloud-based storage providers like Google Drive, DropBox or SkyDrive is better for you. But it you are talking massive backups (ripped music, movies, pictures and other assorted data), then you need to entertain the idea of an online backup. And an idiot-proof one, at that.

I’ve chosen CrashPlan for my setup. It’s simple to set up. It automatically backs up the folders I select. And it works. It may take a month to complete the first backup (as it did with me), but once you’re done, you can sit back and relax, knowing that every time you drop a file in a protected folder, it’s automatically backed up to the cloud.

Is it free? Well, yes and no. The free version allows you to back up files to an external hard drive, a friend’s computer (yes, you can back up to anyone else you want), or another drive in the same computer. But the drive has to be connected to the computer. In my house, I have laptops that rarely, if ever, are connected to external hard drives. So it kinda stopped the idea of me doing it myself – it just seemed like too much of a hassle.

Next are the paid versions.

There is the individual and the family plan (there’s also a business plan, but I’m not talking about that here). Their individual runs about $60/year and the family plan will set you back about $150 year. I opted for the family plan – honestly, if you keep all your music, pictures and movies on one PC in the house you should be fine with the individual plan. For me, I’m a geek with a bunch of PC’s all over the house and also keep data across a multitude of PC’s in the house for various reasons. If you do need to backup more that two computers then financially it makes sense to move to the family plan (I believe the family plan supports up to 10 PC’s).

Set up is easy. Basically download the application, set up an account, and select the folders to backup. CrashPlan works in the background and will ease up on backups when you are using the PC and kick up the speed when you are away. Like I said, a large collection will take a while to complete the backup (I believe I backed up about 3 terabytes of data initially and it took 27 days). It’s intuitive and if you need help, CrashPlan has support to help. Granted, I am a geek but I seriously doubt you will need the help.

There are other companies out there that do the same thing. Mozy and Carbonite come to mind. Research them if you like. I found the free version of CrashPlan an enticing offer to begin with, but then quickly realized I would be happier with cloud backup and opted for the paid version. Good marketing on their part, I guess. 🙂

What do you use?

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Lazy Safety

Thu, Mar 19, 2015


I’m going to add to this but wanted to throw something up to test some new features of the site.

What are some simple steps that you can take around your house to “set it and forget it”? Once implemented, you need only a few minutes every few months to verify they are still functional, again, having your taskminder (in my case, GTasks) to remind you.

Fire extinguishers – you have them, right? If not, you should have them in several places throughout your house. You can hang them or stash them strategically around the house. Furnace area, garage, kitchen and near your BBQ make sense as places you should keep them. Set up a reminder to check them every 6 months – I actually check mine monthly.

Lockbox – keep a key outside? Why would you wrap it up and put it under a rock. Even worse, why get a fake rock and stash it inside it? If you are going to keep a key outside then get yourself a key safe. You can find key safes for around $25 from Amazon. Screw it someplace outdoors, and you’ll never have to worry about not being able to get into your house. Need to leave a key under a doormat for a housekeeper? Why? You can get key safes that hang from door knobs. This way you can only put it outside when you need to, and not have to give your housekeeper the code to the safe that you have permanently mounted outside.

Generator – keep an eye out on Craigslist for generators. If there isn’t a pending massive storm coming, you should be able to find one in decent working condition for a discount.

Plants – I’m terrible about plants. Adding a reminder to water them is a great idea. Perhaps I could find moisture sensors to notify me when they are thirsty? Hmm…




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Lazy Frying?

Sat, Mar 7, 2015


fnd_Cast-Iron-Skillet_s4x3_lgThings don’t have to be “techy” to appear on LazyAutomation… Lately, I have been converting over to cast iron pans for cooking on the stovetop. They are easy to maintain, extremely cheap (a 12″ cast iron frying pan will run you about $20) and will last FOREVER.

My interest in cast iron began with a blog post over at Art of Manliness (guys, if you haven’t found this site, you should check it out, and girls – if you have a man in your life, you can get some great gift ideas for him there).

You can read the article >here<

In order to cook with cast iron, it needs to be seasoned with some melted vegetable shortening and baked in the oven for at least one hour. Afterwards, NEVER use soap to clean it. Purchase a scrub brush from Lodge and only use that to clean it. If you have some grit that doesn’t want to come off, sprinkle some coarse salt in the pan and then use the brush. Washing the pan with soap will ruin the slick, seasoned coat that is the key to great cooking with cast iron.

What’s great about this is that if you find a cast iron skillet in the back of grandma’s closet that she isn’t using anymore, you can easily re-season it and it will be just as good as new.

It’s simple, it’s lazy (once seasoned) and it works – check it out.

What about you? Are you a believer in cast iron?

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Lazy Gardening

Sun, Jul 15, 2012


Well, the vegetable garden is thriving. The tomatoes are growing, the peppers are coming in nicely, and we’ve already harvested a ton of cucumbers and zucchini.

Piping from the hose

The problem is watering the garden. Normally, this should be something very easy, but I am extremely complacent when it comes to watering the garden regularly. What’s a lazy guy to do?

Enter the irrigation system from Drip Depot.

This product allowed me to set up a full irrigation system to water each plant individually. No more worrying as to whether or not the vegetable plants have enough water. Once connected to the timer on my hose, I can schedule regular waterings for the plants. It cost me about $130 for the kit to irrigate up to 4 beds. I do have a lot of extra hose left over, that I may use to irrigate other plants in the yard.

Watering the herbs


Lines to the tomatoes and herbs


Hose extension running to peppers.


How do you water your garden? Do you have any tricks? Post them below!

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Lazy Security?

Fri, Feb 24, 2012


I recently had a scare when a neighbor was burglarized. Why he picked his house and not mine was more a case of increased odds in my favor (in my opinion), as opposed to simply dumb luck. Over the years, I have taken certain steps to better secure my home and give me a better “security blanket” to wrap myself in.

This recent event, however, has caused me to re-evaluate the overall security of my house. In doing so, I went “back to the basics” and re-affirmed what I have learned along my path to “lazy security”. Granted, the term “lazy security” does not conjure up thoughts a being snuggled in a nice warm blanket of security, but I will give you some ideas that you can do around your house that will not only make you feel a bit better, it will help deter possible thieves from focusing on your house. Also, once implemented, these “lazy” features are a system of “set it and forget it”.

I am in no way an expert on security, mind you. I simply would like to regurgitate (and possibly reinforce) certain things I have learned along the way.


1. Install a home security system – you would be amazed how generally easy it is for the DIYer to install a home security system in your house. After it is installed, make SURE you set it up for remote monitoring. Most people don’t realize that If you install a security system yourself, you can utilize services like Alarm Relay to monitor your house for as little as $9 a month. Even better, if you add smoke alarms to it, that is included in the monthly monitoring fee. And lastly, if you install a security system, ADVERTISE that fact! Add stickers to your windows, put a stake in your front yard, and if your side yard or back yard faces a street, add a sign there as well. The sign alone will cause the majority of thieves to keep walking by. Websites are out there that cater to the DIYer that will help you choose a security system based upon your needs, and then help you to install that system in your house. People are out there and are willing to help you for FREE. Home security systems with wireless window and door sensors can be installed by the DIYer for way under $1k (closer to $700). You will also experience significant savings over time ($9/month as opposed to $30/month – a savings of over $250 per year) and you have a hi-end security system that blows away the typical ADT $100 alarm system. In 3 years the alarm will have paid for itself. Once you have picked out an alarm, the helpful members at DIY Alarm Forum can give you the knowledge to need to properly install it.

2. Install cameras – these days, it’s surprising how simple it is to install a security camera system in your house. It’s basically a DVR (similar to what you use to record TV) that records the streams coming from the cameras you install around your house which then allows you to play it back. Plug in a USB thumb drive and you can easily download the video and playback on a PC. The DVRs also generally come with software that let you log into the DVR from your laptop or desktop and view live as well as pre-recorded footage. Even cooler, some DVRs have software for your Android phone or iPhone, and you can show off to your friends how you can view who is at your front door from anywhere in the world. Once the cameras have been installed, the unit runs itself – you never have to touch it again, unless you need to review the recordings. And lastly, as with 1 above, ADVERTISE that you have video surveillance. Put up a sign that let’s people know that you are recording your premises 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can install a fairly sophisticated system in your house with 6 cameras for way under $1k (probably closer to $750). This is a project that can easily be completed on a day off from work.

3. Get a safe – if you have things in your house that you need to protect, get a safe. Not just any safe, a safe that is water and fire proof. Then, BOLT THE SAFE to the floor. Once the safe is installed, organize important documents and put them there. Once done, you never have to think about this again.

4. Keep gates locked – if you have gates to your yard, lock them. Why wouldn’t you? Granted, these are not Fort Knox quality locks, but they provide a certain level of security, right?

5. Off-site backup – what if your house is compromised and your laptop is stolen. Do you keep an offsite backup of your data? If not, do you at least perform regular backups of photos and files and burn them to a thumb drive or a portable drive? Once you’ve done this, you can leave the drive in the safe that you installed (you listened to my advice, right?). My suggestion then would be to set up a recurring task in Astrid to remind you to connect the drive to your network at certain intervals to keep the backup current. If you want to truly backup your data off-premises, websites like Mozy or Carbonite can assist you with plans that run around $50-60 per year. The services will install apps on your PC which will then automatically back up data for you.

6. Motion sensors outside your house – these will trigger lights to come on when motion is detected. These can compliment the security cameras you installed. Home Automation software can do things like this for you as well (look for my articles on Homeseer).

7. Smoke Alarms – everyone has smoke alarms in their house (right?) – but if you install an alarm with the ability to monitor the smoke alarms, a fire in your house when you are not home will trigger a call to your local fire department. What’s the sense of having a smoke alarm go off if you are not home to hear it?

All of the things I have listed above are projects that once completed, require very little maintenance and provide you with a significant level of security and let people know that you are serious about protecting your assets and your family. 99.9% of thieves will simply pass you by so as to avoid the headache of trying to overcome obstacles.

What are some of the easy and simple steps taken around your house to increase the level of security?


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Whole House Audio – Now on Android!

Sun, Nov 6, 2011


You may have read my previous post on my whole house audio system.

I have been very happy with it over the years, but lately, the ability to EASILY choose which music I wanted to listen to AND be able to listen to it anywhere I want has been a struggling cause. My system has been built around my home server (that runs Homeseer for home automation) with a Delta M410 audio card that provides me with 5 sets of RCA stereo plugs. Four of these are currently in use and the connect to amplifiers that proved sound for each zone in my house (Living Room / Kitchen, Master Bedroom, Family Room and Backyard). JRiver Media Center is a great app for supporting multiple sound cards (which is a HUGE issue for Windows Media Player, for purposes of multi-zone playback). What that basically means is that the Delta M410 looks like 5 independent sound cards inside your computer. JRiver can then output whatever you are playing to any one of these outputs (independently as well).

So this setup sounds really cool, except you need a front-end to control it. What’s so great about this if every time you want play music you have to walk up to a computer and start using a mouse? The front-end gives you the ability to control everything remotely with a clean interface. I was using NetRemote, but I never seemed to get it to easily do what I wanted. Admittedly, I never had the focus to really learn how to program within NetRemote, but I think if the interface was more intuitive and there were more out of the box templates included, I might have done more with it.

Which leads me to this past weekend’s find. I will say that I browse a lot of the “Gadget” blogs and hadn’t run across it (looks like its been around since August, 2010) . Gizmo installs on your Android device (phone or tablet) and syncs with Jriver. Once connected, your Android has access to your entire media collection (this also includes photos and videos). Open Gizmo, select where you want to listen to music (including “here” which streams it right to your handheld device – plug in your headphones and head out) and hit play. You have access to your playlists and tagging is supported.

A friend came over the house this weekend, and I handed him the tablet and opened Gizmo and handed it to him. Within 5 minutes he was browsing my collection and playing music in the house. The ability to have someone pick up the device and easily understand how to work it rates very high for me.

Although I have wiring throughout my house (I’m constantly pulling wires through my house) with multiple amplifiers, I could easily see someone taking an old laptop, installing JRiver on it and then connecting it to their living room receiver. That would be your first zone. As your system grew, you could add USB audio cards (note that if you add more than one of these, you may not be able to fit them side by side in your laptop) and connect them to additional amplifiers (either by running and hiding a wire) or wirelessly.

Project Cost (one zone)

Old laptop – $0
Jriver Media Center – $50
Android Phone – $0
1/8″ to stereo cable – $2.5
Gizmo App – free, available in Android Market
Home Entertainment System – $0

Additional zones

USB Sound Card – $10
plus wiring – $depends (this can be tough if you don’t know how to pull wires through your house)
Wireless Sender/Receiver – $100 (easier solution)
Some audio device to play the music (this could be an old receiver with speakers, or maybe you have another receiver in your family room) – $0


What’s great is that you can download JRiver for free and try it out for 30 days to decide whether or not you like it. You could have it up and running in your living room on a Sunday afternoon. By attaching your laptop to your receiver’s auxiliary input (or a CD input, since you will never need that CD player again – your media collection is stored on your laptop’s hard drive) the music on the laptop will play through speakers in your room. The most current version of JRiver gives you the ability to control the volume as well.

Try it out. It’s pretty easy. And it’s real cool.



– $0
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What was that on the radio?

Tue, Oct 11, 2011


For those of you that struggle from time to time like I do, trying to figure out the band or singer on the radio, you need to have SoundHound installed on your Android Phone (I believe there are iPhone versions as well). I used to use Shazam to identify bands (I was in the beta phase), but when I changed phones, I was unable to move the license. Honestly, I wasn’t thrilled with that, and it made me stop using the app as much as I previously was (the free version only allows a minimum number of lookups per month). Shazam is essentially the same program as SoundHound, but you need to pay for it (I’m sure someone out there would argue that they’re different). Let’s face it, free is good, especially when it is a great little program.

Simply open the app, hold the phone somewhat near a phone (I say somewhat because I was clothes shopping one day and wanted to know who was playing through their PA system. I opened SoundHound and walked near a ceiling speaker. A few seconds later, I knew the singer and song.

It’s a pretty cool app, and it’s free. Check it out – you can find in the Android Market Place.

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Backing up and transferring your SMS messages

Sun, Oct 9, 2011


So I learned a week ago that dropping your HTC Evo on the pavement from about three feet will undoubtedly result in a cracked screen. Fortunately, I have insurance on the phone and within 24 hours a new one was waiting for me on my doorstep. I was also lucky in the sense that the cracked phone was still (somewhat) operational.

After taking an inventory of all my Android apps, I realized that by migrating all my data to the new phone, I would be losing all my text messages. You may or may not care about this, but I have many messages with phone numbers and notes that I simply do not want to lose.

I found SMS Backup & Restore ( – works like a charm. Be sure to read their Related Downloads section (, as you will need a css sheet to place in the folder with the XML file that is created. Once you do, you can open all the messages in your browser and easily read them.

Great program to fix what may or may not be an issue when transferring to a new phone.

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