Category Archives: Hardware


Toward a Better Charging Cable

tangled cables

For all the ubiquity of wireless devices on and around college campuses, cables are still a necessary evil. Brian has offered tricks for taming behind-the-desk cables before, and George has plugged velcro cable ties, which I have developed a new appreciation for this year.

Phone chargers present a slightly different challenge than, for example, the power brick for your router. For one thing, you probable move it more. And if you live or work with others, probably other people also need to power…


Securing Your Mac Against Theft


We’ve written a lot in the past about the importance of backups, about how password managers help you with strong passwords, and about some of the reasons to use cloud-based apps such as Google Drive, Dropbox, BitTorrent Sync, or SpiderOak. All of these things provide some peace of mind about the integrity and security of your data.

But what if someone steals your machine? (Or even just inadvertently walks away with *your* ma…


What’s Your Favorite Presentation Remote?

100526326_6cc1e34113_bA few days ago a friend wrote me to ask what my favorite presentation remote is for classes and conference talks. He was considering the Kensington Wireless Presenter Pro but assumed I might have a stronger recommendation. However, while I love to use remotes when giving a talk—I prefer to wander rather than stand still behind a podium—for some reason I don’t actually own one of these devices. Amy Cavender has recommended a set of tools by DeMobo which allow her to control presentations from her…


The Latest From Digital Humanities Questions and Answers

Launched in September of 2010, Digital Humanities Questions & Answers is a joint venture of the Association for Computers and the Humanities (ACH) and ProfHacker. (See Julie Meloni’s launch announcement.)

Digital Humanities Questions and Answers (@DHAnswers on Twitter) is designed to be a free resource where anyone with an interest in the digital humanities can pose a question to the community of folks working in the field.

Since we last checked in with the site, many interesting threads have b…


Save Money on Electronics Accessories with Amazon Basics

If you’ve bought electronics recently—as in, over the past few decades—you’ve likely experienced salespeople trying to upsell you on expensive cables. And you may have bought in: after all, if you’re spending significant cash on a new, high-definition television, surely those platinum-plated Monster cables are worth the investment? Except, well, not so much. It turns out that if your HDMI cable isn’t defective—if it works—then it works as well as it’s going to work, whether you paid $5 or $50 f…


Ubuntu on a Chromebook

Screenshot from an Acer C710-2833 computer running the GIMP, Zotero, and LibreOffice Writer.

A couple of months ago, Jason wrote about his initial impressions of Samsung’s Chromebook. In the comments on that post, I asked about trying Ubuntu Linux on it, and noted that I’d tried it out on an Acer model using Crouton.

Crouton has one major advantage: it runs simultaneously with Chrome OS, making it ridiculously easy to switch between operating systems at will. I quickly gave up on Crouton, though, for two main reasons. First, while the Chromebook woke instantly if I’d closed the lid whi…


Organize Your Charging with a Mini Surge Protector

I suspect many ProfHacker readers, like me, have accumulated any number of USB-charged devices: phones and tablets, especially, but other devices too. I used to charge my phone and tablet primarily through my computer, as they needed to be plugged in to sync. Since most devices have introduced wireless syncing, however, I find less and less need (or desire) to hook them up to a computer.

The wall chargers that come with different devices can also be awkward; a USB chord alone would be better. Wh…


Flying with the New FAA Rules

 If you read my bio here on ProfHacker, you’ll see that I never go anywhere without USB cables or a novel. The latter has been especially important when I get on airplanes. We’ve written previously about how to hack your travel—by car or by plane. But it’s been difficult to be as productive as possible when you’ve had to turn your electronic devices off for big chunks of the flight. Hence, the need for a good novel to take up my time from the gate to 10,000 feet.

Last week, however, the FAA annou…


Streaming Video Magic with Chromecast

Some new devices do something so beautifully and seamlessly that they seem like magic. I remember, for instance, the first time I used the touchscreen on an iPhone. Suddenly, the whole touchscreen concept—which had until that time seemed awkward and unnecessary—suddenly made sense. Google’s new ChromeCast is such a device. It’s an incredibly simple solution to the problem of streaming video from a computer to a television. And it just works. Here are the basics:

  1. Chromecast costs $35. That’s it….

Fix Almost Anything with Sugru

An iPhone charging cord with the plastic insulation rippedLast week, I somehow put a gigantic tear in the plastic insulation on the cord that charges my phone. Against all odds, however, I was excited about the discovery. Instead of a $20-trip to an Apple Store, what this torn cord represented was the opportunity to play with one of my new favorite objects: Sugru.

What’s Sugru? According to their website, it’s a “new self-setting rubber for fixing, modifying and improving your stuff.” But if I was describing it, I’d tell you to imagine it as a clay tha…