Tech Shortcuts for Life

Hack your brain for more energy and better sleep

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Photo illustration by Julia Moburg for Debugger. Source: Artur Debat/Getty Images

Tech Shortcuts for Life is a weekly column from Thomas Smith on Debugger exploring the apps, automations, gadgets, and other tech tricks that can make your life more efficient.

While driving through San Francisco in late 2020, I saw a billboard for a curious product: Blokz glasses from tech-centric eyewear company Zenni. The glasses, which range in price from around $30 to $200+, promise to “protect your eyes from blue light,” which the company claims is responsible for all kinds of evils, from “blurred vision” to “disrupted sleep.”

Zenni’s glasses are just the latest salvo in an ongoing war on…

Beautiful, majestic, and excellent deep fried

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Photos courtesy of the author

In many states, eating the state bird will earn you a $15,000 fine — or six months in prison. Not so in California. California’s state bird is the California quail. They’re flitty, nervous little creatures that love to startle you by running across your path in big packs (called “coveys”) while you’re taking a walk in the state’s backcountry.

They’re also great deep fried. How do I know? Because I ate the California state bird. And it was yummy.

Before you call Fish and Wildlife Services, take a deep breath. California quail are abundant, and their population has also been…

Here’s how I’ll make thousands of dollars this year

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Photo: Alexander Shatov/Unsplash

It’s 9:30 in the morning, and I’m talking about a fan. Specifically, I’m creating an in-depth video review of a Honeywell HYF290B tower fan. Pulling up the camera on my phone, I hit record and spend the next four minutes and 22 seconds discussing the fan in intimate detail — what all its buttons do, how loud it is, how much I paid for it, what I like about the way it swivels, and what I dislike about its front grill. For this, I’ll be paid $46.03.

Welcome to the life of a small-time YouTuber. My video about the Honeywell…

Exploring the iconic cookies and the holiday Purim

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It’s not often that a people’s abiding, millenia-long hatred for one man is so strong that it leads to the creation of a baked good. But such is the case with Hamantaschen, which appear each year around the Jewish holiday of Purim, which begins tonight.

For those who aren’t familiar, Hamantaschen are three-sided cookies, often filled with strawberry, fig or apricot jelly. You may have seen them appear in supermarkets, bakeries or Jewish delis around the Spring. Hamantaschen are the iconic cookie of the Purim holiday, and are a food that American Jews love (or love to hate).

The cookies…

It takes less than 10 seconds and really helped me

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Photo courtesy the author

Have you ever been using your Fitbit Sense smart watch, and found that it froze on you? The Sense is a relatively new piece of hardware, and Fitbit is still working out the bugs. After a firmware update, my Sense recently froze. It’s a frustrating experience, because the Sense only has one solid-state button on the side, and it’s hard to know what to do when the watch’s interface isn’t responding.

Some people wait for the watch to run out of battery, which forces it to restart. But because the Sense has a 6+ day battery life, that can mean…

It’s a great solution if you use Fitbit already

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Photos courtesy the author.

Looking for a way to automatically sync your current weight with your Fitbit app? Tracking you weight with your Fitbit is a great way to keep tabs on the effectiveness of your workout routine. Are all those steps you’re taking with your new Fitbit worth it? Did you overdo it on the holiday snacks? A smart scale added to your Fitbit account can help you track these things.

The best smart scale out there right now for Fitbit users is the Aria Air. It’s relatively inexpensive at $49.99 — certainly less so than the Fitbit Aria, which used Wifi to…

It’s confusing at first, but shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes

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Photos courtesy the author

Lots of people love to use the Swiffer Wetjet for everyday cleaning. It’s not as effective as a traditional mop in many cases, but for small spills or sticky messes on your home’s floors, it’s a great solution for a fast cleanup. It’s also not the most environmentally friendly device — because you generally clean with one pad and then throw it away — but overall the Wetjet is a great solution for easy cleanup when a dry Swiffer pad won’t do.

One of the Wetjet’s best features is a function which allows you to press a button the Wetjet’s…

Write With Me, but with a twist

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Photo by Szabo Viktor on Unsplash

This week, I tested a new concept, based on the “Write With Me” concept from Zulie Rane. I switched on a YouTube Livestream, fired up the Medium editor, and wrote articles live while readers tuned in and watch, asked questions, etc.

But there’s a twist. This time, I wrote as many articles as I could in 45 minutes. It’s a demo of the concept of prolific content creation. In particular, I showed how I looked at well-performing videos from my YouTube channel, and transformed them into tactical, high-traffic articles for my publication Do It Yourself Home automation.

In total, I…

RIP Fry’s

Photo of a Fry’s Electronics store entrance from outside.
Photos courtesy of the author.

Late on Tuesday, Fry’s Electronics announced that it would abruptly close all 31 of its electronics retail stores. In a statement on the company’s website, Fry’s said that it had “made the difficult decision to shut down its operations and close its business permanently as a result of changes in the retail industry and the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Fry’s Electronics has long occupied a strange place in Silicon Valley culture — at times totally nostalgic, and at others highly practical. The store originally launched in Sunnyvale, California — the heart of the Valley — in 1985. Fry’s…

My story highlights the challenges with storing and managing cryptocurrencies

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Images courtesy the author.

I’ve been writing a lot about cryptocurrency mining recently. I’m not a professional miner — I’m a journalist and experimenter. But there’s been a lot of interest in my story about mining a little Bitcoin on any PC.

And the Wall Street Journal and TWiT covered my experiments with using cryptocurrency waste heat to keep my backyard chickens (and a tomato greenhouse) toasty in the winter.

Wanting to share a complete Bill of Materials and cost breakdown for my cryptocurrency mining rig, I recently logged into an old Nicehash account to check some mining statistics. I got a big surprise…

Thomas Smith

Co-Founder & CEO of Gado Images. I write, speak and consult about tech, privacy, AI and photography.

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