Amazon Affiliate Linkerizer: Firefox and Chrome extension

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Since I do product reviews and lots of product research, I’m frequently posting Amazon links.  To help me send better links and make me a small amount of affiliate money, I made a new Firefox and Chrome extension.

If you use it without adding any affiliate code, your purchases support me and this blog.

Based on a project I found on Github, Amazon Affiliate Linkerizer puts a button in your browser on Amazon pages.  When you click it, it cleans up the link and add an affiliate code to the end.  The code is customizable per the options page…otherwise it supports me with my affiliate code.   If you use it without adding any affiliate code, your purchases support me and this blog.

If you want to try out this plugin, get it for Firefox or Chrome:

             

I could release it for Microsoft Edge, but I don’t want to pay the $25 developer fee.  (My company paid the $5 developer fee for Chrome, since I had a work-related extension first.)

If you are a programmer, check out the project on Github.

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What I’ve learned about soil-less gardening: hydroponics, aeroponics, etc.

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Every winter I get excited about gardening and get eager to start growing.  A couple years ago I almost bought an Aerogarden. I didn’t because of its cost, but I resolved to learn about how it worked and if I could make one myself.  As it turns out, the “Aerogarden” doesn’t actually use aeroponics, but “deep water culture” hydroponics.   Not everyone agrees philosophically that we should be using hydroponics, but the science behind it is fascinating nonetheless.

Hydroponics

Hydroponics, simply, is growing plants in a nutrient solution, without soil.  There are various methods to do this, and the Aerogarden is an all-in-one consumer kit.

Aquaponics

Aquaponics is a subset of hydroponics that incorporates fish into the mix, using the fish waste and physical filtering instead of a synthetic nutrient solution.  You can also raise the fish for food.  Many people use tilapia.

Aeroponics

Aeroponics is a specific type of hydroponics that suspends the roots in air and sprays or mists the nutrient solution over the roots at set intervals.  There are two types of aeroponics, high pressure and low pressure.  (There is also another type called “fogponics”, using ultrasonic foggers, but there are issues with root suffocation on established plants.  This tends to work best for cloning plants.)

high pressure

High pressure aeroponics uses mist and is considered more efficient with water and more effective at growing plants due to ideal droplet size.

As far as I know, there are no consumer-grade high pressure aeroponic systems available, likely due to the requirement for more knowledge and maintenance (potential mist heads clogging, etc).   The only company I know selling high pressure systems is Art Garden, and his systems require more than just a basic knowledge to operate, and are pretty easy to copy DIY.

Here’s an early video about the family behind Art Garden and their system:

There are some great plans for DIY systems on weed-related sites, the best I’ve found is from 420dotcom.com.

low pressure

Low pressure aeroponics is simpler and can be cheaper, but isn’t quite as efficient.  It uses slightly more water and the water droplet size isn’t as efficient for root update, compared with HPA systems.

Products like Tower Garden use low pressure aeroponics.  Here’s a great example of a DIY system:

This system seems like the easiest to build and maintain.  It could even work with an aquaponics setup as well.

So what?

At this point, I’m not ready to do anything.  I’m going to stick to regular outdoor gardening, using the compost I’ve made from my yard waste and food scrapes.  The first major project I have to start working on this year is finishing our basement.  After the basement is finished,  something like this could be a future project.  In the meantime, it is fun to learn about this stuff and watch YouTube videos about it.


Sources:

Various articles and videos I’ve watched in the last two years.  If you want specifics, I can try to dig some up for you, let me know in the comments!

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REVIEW: My Toro Snowmaster 724 QXE

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The 2015-2016 winter was our first winter in our house, and I fully intended on surviving with only a shovel. I changed my mind, after 8+ inches of heavy wet snow, and almost 2 hours to shovel our driveway. Having already done some research, I seized my chance…I drove to Home Depot and bought a Toro Snowmaster.

I’ve been using my Snowmaster 724 QXE since last year and I was a little apprehensive at first, since it was a new model. After using it a few times, that apprehension is gone.

The Design

Photo credit: Toro

Yes, it is technically a single stage with a different auger design. They call it “inline two stage” because the sides of the auger pull snow toward the center, and the center paddle (much smaller and more scoop-like than a standard single-stage) throws the snow out the chute. The bucket and chute design are shallower in their tapering to maximize throwing distance. It may not throw as far as a two stage, since it lacks an impeller, but if you keep it moving and full of snow, it can throw snow 20-30 feet. The lack of impeller lets Toro use more power in the auger, which spins very fast (“10 times faster than a 2-stage”). This also allows the blower to be a lot lighter, needing much smaller tires (this isn’t a disadvantage).

The lack of weight on this blower means it moves around more like a lawnmower, than a typical two stage blower. Toro even put their personal pace system from their mowers on it. This means that the controls are very minimal:

  • one lever to engage the auger
  • Toro’s “quick chute” joystick (which is awesome)
  • personal pace bar to push the blower and engage the drive-train.

All this means that I can clear my driveway and sidewalk in much less time than my neighbors.

Performance

End of driveway (EOD) snow is the one question mark for most people, since single-stage blowers typically suck here. My Snowmaster 724 has been able to handle EOD snow without fail. I do need to slow down a bit, because the hard-packed EOD snow slows down the auger, but as long as you listen to the engine, you’ll be fine. EOD is the one place that the extra ~$100 for the more powerful 824 might be nice. The 824 would handle it a little faster. though my 724 hasn’t failed me yet, even when EOD snow is 2-6 inches higher than the bucket.

Finally, the other nice thing about the fact it is a single-stage and Toro has a well-designed compression scraper bar. It works in a couple inches of snow as well as a foot of snow…meaning you don’t need two machines.

Final Thoughts

Whether you buy a Snowmaster is up to you and your personal situation. This is a excellent machine that I can recommend (and apparently The Sweethome recommends it now too).

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The Best Laundry Basket

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The incorrect basket

I read most of The Sweethome’s reviews. They are usually great, in-depth, and well-researched. They impress me with their testing and I’ve had great luck with their picks.  Sometimes, the picks don’t live up to my expectations.  Their laundry basket pick is one of them.  They picked the Sterilite Stacking basket from the Container Store.

I looked these at a local Container Store. Ultimately they felt junky, were too small, and were unimpressive.

The Container Store also vastly disappointing.  The selection was poor and it felt like walking into a OCD nightmare.  The store felt unorganized, but it was a store of organization containers….

The correct laundry basket

The good one

Back to the point…the best laundry basket is the 2 bushel Sterilite basket from Walmart: Sterilite Ultra (the good one)

Note that there are two different versions of the “Sterilite Ultra” basket.  Walmart stocks the better one, with the triangle shaped holes and the non-arching handles with a bulge on the bottom. These handles are thicker and more sturdy compared to the ones with oval holes and simple arching handles, which break easily. The basket itself is also made out of heavier plastic.

We have three of these baskets and they’ve held up well to regular laundry tasks, but also to my kids messing around in them (which is what broke our old baskets).  They’ve even survived being thrown down the stairs…more than once by Alyssa.

Check it out!

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Quick Tip: DIY Bird Feeder Filler

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You know I love the birds.  I buy black oil sunflower seeds in 50 lb bags and fill my bird feeder all year round.  Instead of buying a filler or a special scoop, which do work, I made my own out of an old juice jug.  The design is super simple, very effective, and free.

Make it!

Just a utility knife to cut a decent sized hole in the top narrower side of the container (I used a cider jug, but you could probably use a half gallon milk jug, or some other similar plastic container).  This hole allows you to use the container to scoop seeds out of your seed bag.  Use the juice container’s pour hole to pour the seed/bird food into your bird feeder.  Depending on your feeder, you might even be able to leave it hanging while you fill it, like I do.

The final step is to bask in the feeling of saving yourself $6-$15 and the glory of DIY!

Happy birding!

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REVIEW: High Sierra 1.5 GPM High Efficiency Low Flow Shower Head

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I know, I know…I’m reviewing a shower head.  The only reason I’m reviewing this is because it is a great shower head for not that much money ($40).

Most low flow shower heads are terrible.  My parents have gone through a few of them, and all the ones they had were cheap, plastic, and had poor water pressure.  It took twice as long to wash my hair, which defeats some of the purpose of the 40% water savings.

If you know me, you know I like to do a lot of product research before I buy.  My shower head research started on The Sweethome.  They do a lot of research and testing, which helps me to understand how a product works and what to look for.  I almost pulled the trigger on one of their picks last year, but an Amazon recommendation stopped me.  The High Sierra shower head is a well reviewed, metal shower head, that was also 1.5 GPM low flow. It had to have fake/paid/incentivized reviews.  Nope.

Continue reading

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Making sense of the election: your vote, your voice, let’s learn from each other

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All of the responses to my request were very informative and have already challenged me to think differently about things.  While this poll wasn’t scientific, the responses I got are all very valuable.

Without further ado, here are your uncensored thoughts:

Continue reading

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“/” (or Fake Submodules in Git)

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The current project I’m working on for my new church website requires me to have a Git repository inside of another Git repository.  Typically when you do this, Git assumes you want to use a “feature” called submodules.  You probably don’t. I read up on submodules and don’t see any use case for them.  (There likely is one, of course, but this wasn’t it.)

It took a bit of searching, but if you add a “/” to the end of the folder that contains your nested repo when you are running  git add, you can fake the parent repo into acting how you’d expect, and not ignore everything inside.

Thanks to Felix from debuggable.com!

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Making sense of the election: who did you vote for and why?

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Like most people, I was shocked at the result of this week’s US presidential election.  Facebook has been an interesting place, to say the least, with differing viewpoints, though very little civility.  (Even many calling for civility are not being sensitive to other viewpoints.)

I voted the way I did for many reasons, and at this point, I’ve come to grips with the fact I don’t really know why others voted the way they did.  I want to change that.

My goal is to compile responses from people as to why they voted the way they did in the presidential election.  I’ll personally review each response and share them all in a future post.   I think it will be educational and enlightening, and it will hopefully help us to understand each other better and work together.

The rules

Please no name-calling, labels, or libel about the other candidate.  If one of your reasons for voting was the other candidate, please express your views respectfully.  Also, if you are going to make a claim about a candidate, please fact check.

Finally, share this with your friends.  I want as big a sample size as possible.

Your views

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Website Hosting Update

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My last post was about setting up Git on a remote server.  The git setup worked well for me and I used it for a good number of months, but I couldn’t stomach Dreamhost anymore.  As we get closer to launch, I was frustrated with the speed of the site, both front and back end.  I did the best I could to speed up the site:  cache, a CDN, fewer plugins, but it wasn’t me.  The hosting plan was too slow.

Ultimately I switched the site over to WP Engine.  I’ve used them for years and have been very happy.  Their hosting has a lot going for them: performance, their management panel, and customer service (the one time I needed them).

After the switch the speed is where it should be.  Dreamhost’s free free non-profit program is great, but their shared hosting is slow.

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