Oct 182010

home energy saving tipsWe’re constantly being told to cut back on our energy usage these days. Climate change is an ever present spectre, energy prices are heading through the roof, and the typical Irish household has less money to play with, making efficient energy usage more of a priority than ever.

I know these tips are hardly ground-breaking, but I do think they’re worth revisiting as we enter  the colder months.

Easy steps to improve home energy efficiency

Insulate your home

Insulating your home properly is perhaps the single most important step you can take to reduce your energy consumption this winter.

  • Insulating your attic effectively can save up to 20% of your annual home heating costs according to the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland. If your insulation is less than 200mm thick, consider adding layers.
  • Fit a lagging jacket to your hot water cylinder if you don’t have one — it will keep your water hotter for longer, and will typically pay for itself within 2-3 months.
  • Fit a factory insulated cylinder if you’re replacing your existing one — the insulation is more effective and durable than a lagging jacket, and can’t be knocked out of place.
  • Insulate behind radiators, especially on external walls. Use reflective foil to direct heat out into the room.
  • External wall insulation can often be improved — the most popular options are insulated dry lining on interior walls, blown mineral, cellulose fibre or polystyrene beads into the wall cavity, or rigid external insulation. Continue reading »
Oct 182010
Brilliant idea for keeping USB cables tidy

Fantastic idea for keeping your cables accessible

I’ve been a bit remiss with posting to the blog, and with social media in general over recent months. When the real world gets “interesting”, or at least when it gets full, virtual stuff  has a habit of falling by the wayside.

However, this morning I took a few minutes to flick through Stumbleupon, and up popped this little gem of an idea for keeping all your USB cables neatly accessible. It’s brilliantly simple… and a classic “I wish I’d thought of that” idea.

Hats off to David Rudolf Bakker of the Netherlands for a cheap, effective solution to scrambling around under the desk for dropped cables.

May 262010
Scale (negativo)

Image by fraunix via Flickr

I’ve been checking out this series of free online marketing workbooks from Dave Navarro’s “The Launch Coach” library.

Dave is a no-nonsense, cut the bull expert on turning what you do into a marketable, scaleable product that you can sell online.

What I particularly like about Dave’s stuff so far is the way he cuts through the online hype of more typical “web gurus” and delivers really valuable information right from the start.

One of the biggest problems with my online writing and consultancy business is the fact that it relies very much on direct input from me… and no matter how much I might wish for it, I’m simply not scalable. When I’m operating at capacity, that’s it – I can’t accept new business without letting go of something I’m already working on.

I’ve been thinking about how to change that business model a lot lately, and Dave’s Launch Coach Library, and regular product-launch related blog posts might be just the catalyst I need to take that crucial next step..

Why not Grab The Launch Coach Library workbooks for yourself? They’re well worth a read… and could make a real difference to your online business.

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Jan 212009
Skype Limited

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve noticed lots of people around the web having trouble installing Skype on their Linux based Acer Aspire One netbook computers.

Advice on the net varies, but tends to involve going to the terminal and typing on the command line to install the Skype distribution for Linux, then manually editing XML files to add the Skype icon to the Apire One’s uber-simple desktop.

This is do-able, but daunting for Linux newbies, myself included :-).

So, I thought, surely there has to be an easier way… and there is!

1. Go to www.acer.com/aspireone/updates on your Acer Aspire One


2. Click on the “Skype” link and then click on “download Skype” to download the file Skype.sh.zip to your machine’s hard drive.

3. Navigate to your downloads folder (or wherever you saved the file) and double click on it to open up the ZIP file in Xarchiver.

4. Click on “Extract” and select “Extract All” to copy the contents of the ZIP file to a new folder in your Downloads directory.

5. Navigate to the resulting folder and double click on the file skype.sh

6. Click OK to confirm you want to install the update patch.

That’s it – the next time you reboot you’ll find a Skype icon sitting in your connect menu. Just launch it, log in and use Skype as usual. Simple

You’ll find a selection of other popular open source software titles like the Gimp image editor, FileZilla FTP client and lots more under the Connect, Work, Fun and Files categories.

I found this totally by accident while browsing the Aspire One site. Why Acer don’t do more to publicise this for Aspire One owners I’ll never know (and why they don’t have Skype installed on the Aspire One by default is another mystery).

The Acer Aspire One is a superb little machine… and with the addition of some of these extra software titles it will help you to be even more productive on the go.


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Oct 032008
The writer, the written and the writing tool

Image by Ravages via Flickr

Sometimes writing is HARD!

It doesn’t matter what you’re trying to write, there are times when the words just won’t come. Trying to write anything when your brain is mush can be an incredibly frustrating exercise.

When writing is a hobby, a pastime, something you do “just for fun”, that’s not such a big problem… you can simply walk away, disengage, and come back to your writing when you feel a bit more productive.

But when you write for a living… when you have clients, and deadlines and bills and all those other things a professional writer has to worry about… then you have to persevere and get on with it.

So how do writers cope with the challenges of producing, day in, day out? What do you do to overcome the dreaded spectre of writers’ block?

Here are a few of the things I find useful to get the prose flowing again.

1. Write something completely different

If I’m genuinely getting nowhere with a particular writing project, and its obvious that will-power and plain old fashioned hard graft alone aren’t going to get me past the wall, I tend to turn to something completely different. This is where having a blog (or three :-)) comes in very handy.

Focusing on something completely different in a short, concentrated burst can kick start the writing process, helping the words to flow. Often (… but not always :-()when I turn my attention back to the original project, that flow continues.

2. Tweet yourself productive (…no, seriously)

Micro Blogging services like Twitter are often dismissed as a frivolous time-sink, but as a writer I find the constraints of expressing an idea in 140 characters or less curiously liberating.

It forces you to strip away the clutter and focus on the message.

Believe it or not, I find posting to twitter can actually help to lubricate the mental cogs that make my writing work… when I go back to whatever I was working on I often find the seemingly insurmountable obstacles I was battling with has evaporated.

3. Read something inspirational

We all have our favourite blogs, web sites, books, magazines, newspapers… whatever. Choose something by a writer who inspires you — someone whose writing you admire and respect. It doesn’t matter whether it’s something in your feed reader, on a blog, in a print publication or a book, as long as its written by someone you find inspiring.

Try not to analyse and deconstruct the prose (it’s an occupational hazards of writing that I actively try to avoid, but invariably slip into occasionally), just immerse yourself in the written word.

More often than not when you return to your own writing everything seems to come together much more easily.

4. Listen to/watch something relevant

There’s an awful lot of rubbish on media sharing sites and podcast portals, but there’s also a tonne of really useful and interesting content. Taking a short break from your writing project to listen to or watch a podcast related to the topic you’re writing about can help focus your mind, and give you new ideas and inspiration for your writing. Just make sure you limit yourself to one or two items… or you’ll be amazed how quickly your day will disappear!

What do you do?

Those are just a few of the things that help me to get over the occasional hurdles that plague every writer. How about you? What tools and techniques do you use to get over the dreaded writers’ block? Let us know in the comments.

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