How to make a DIY smartphone stand for under $1

7816754688_487dd75457_hSmartphone stands are a great way to watch content on your phone without having to hold the phone upright, and there are a ton of different DIY methods for making them. A lot of them are made so that they’ll hold your phone horizontally, but some users want stands that prop up their phones vertically, similar to an iPhone dock from Apple.

If you want to make something similar, I’ve discovered an insanely-cheap method for building a smartphone stand that will prop up your phone vertically. It’s cheap, but it does take a little bit of assembly. Here’s how to do it.

Supplies You’ll Need

  • MiniDV tape case or a regular cassette tape case
  • A handful of pennies
  • Hot glue gun w/ glue sticks
  • Rubber tape
  • Dremel power tool

How to Make It

Technically, just the tape case will do the trick if you want a barebones solution; just open up the case all way and stick your phone in the slot. A MiniDV tape case is the perfect size for most phones, but a regular cassette tape case will do the trick.

However, if you want to take the stand to the next level, you can add a few things to make it perfect:

1. Take your pennies and hot glue gun and glue the pennies inside the case. This adds weight to the stand so that it doesn’t slide around. Pennies aren’t the best option, since they’re currency and all, so if you have any other tiny objects that weigh a lot, you can use those instead.


2. Next, use the rubber tape to line the stand so that the phone won’t slip around when it’s in the stand. Since my iPhone doesn’t fit perfectly in the slot, I cut out small strips of the rubber tape and glued them into the slot to add a little padding so that my phone would fit perfectly.


3. Lastly, take your Dremel power tool and use a small drill bit to carve out a small hole on the bottom of the tape case slot so that the phone’s sound can exit through the speaker without it being blocked by the stand.



It’s a pretty janky-looking smartphone stand, but it’s dirt cheap and it does its job. Plus, it still folds up just like cassette tape does so that you can toss it in your bag and take it with you on the go.

Of course, buying a pre-made smartphone stand may be a good investment if you plan on using it all the time. Good smartphone stands can cost as much as $30, but that’s a small price to pay for something that you’ll use every day into the future.

How to install a SSD in a MacBook Pro

Upgrading your computer with a solid-state hard drive is probably one of the most beneficial upgrades you could make. Boot-up times decrease tremendously and programs launch almost instantly. I finally made the plunge to an SSD recently and haven’t looked back.

However, many of the how-to guides that I needed in order to properly install my SSD turned out to be pretty vague, which left me in a rut halfway through the installation. So, I’ve decided to write a proper how-to on installing an SSD in a MacBook Pro.

Note: This method can be easily translatable to any other laptop or computer, so if you don’t have a MacBook Pro, you can still follow along with your own laptop and successfully install your SSD.


Disassembling your laptop

First thing’s first: Completely turn off your laptop and make sure it’s unplugged from its power source. Lay down your small towel on your desk, table or any other flat surface and put your laptop on top of it with the bottom side up. The towel will prevent the laptop from getting scratched up while its laying on the hard surface.

Next, remove the screws from the bottom plate. These are the ten screws that are placed on the outer edge (pictured below). The screws are very tiny and can be lost easily, so put them in a small bowl — just make sure you know where they all go (three of the screws are longer, and they go in the top three holes to the right. Other than, it doesn’t matter where the rest of the screws go since they’re all the same).

After you remove all the screws, carefully lift up the bottom plate to reveal the innards of your MacBook Pro — it should pop off pretty easily.

The hard drive is located in the bottom-left corner. There will be a plastic tab that you can pull on to get the hard drive to pop out, but before you do that, you have to remove a small black plastic retaining bar that holds the hard drive in place. It’s located directly north of the hard drive and is held down by only a pair of screws (pictured below).

Remove the bar and pull on the plastic tab to pop out the hard drive. Make sure not to get too greedy, since the hard drive is still attached to the laptop via the SATA cable. In this case, the SATA cable is an extremely thin ribbon cable, so be extra careful here when unplugging it.

A view of the thin ribbon cable. Be extremely careful here!

Once the hard drive is completely out, unscrew the four torx screws on the sides of the hard drive using your T6 screwdriver (below). You’ll need these screws for your SSD, as they’re essential to holding the drive in place while it sits inside your laptop.

Go ahead and put the four screws on your SSD. All there is to do now is to plug in the SATA ribbon cable to your SSD, mount it inside, put the retaining bar back on, reattach the bottom plate with the screws, and the hardware portion is all done!

The last thing to do is insert your OS X install disc (or plug in your OS X boot USB drive), hold down the alt/option key during the boot process, and then install OS X like you would with any other drive.

Congrats! You’re all done and you should now be experiencing blazing fast speeds.

How to make a DIY laptop stand for $8

A laptop stand is a great thing to have if you’re working at a desk. It not only allows your laptop to breath more easily and run cooler (since it’s propped up), but it also makes your setup more ergonomic by having your laptop’s display at eye level.

You can buy laptop stands pretty much anywhere, and they come in all different shapes and sizes. However, they’re pretty expensive — one of my favorite laptop stands is the Griffin Elevator, which rings in at a cost of almost $35 on Amazon.

I wanted to see if I could make my own laptop stand that closely models the Griffin Elevator, but build it for the fraction of the cost, and I believe I have succeeded greatly. Here’s how to do it.


  • 10-foot length of 1/2-inch PVC pipe – $1.49 (Sometimes you can find 5-foot lengths, but 10 feet is the better deal. Plus, you can use the leftover for other DIY projects!)
  • Six 1/2-inch PVC elbow joints – $2.76
  • Two 1/2-inch PVC end caps – $0.52
  • Kitchen drawer & shelf grip liner – $3.23

Total Cost: $8.00


Putting this PVC laptop stand together is straightforward and easy, and there’s no pre-determined measurements that you need to follow, since all laptops are sized differently. All you need to do is cut your PVC pipe into seven different lengths. One of the pipes should be roughly the length of your laptop, four of them should be roughly the width of your laptop, and the other two determine the height of your stand, which is completely up to you.

After you have your seven lengths of PVC pipe, it’s time to start assembly. Simply just attach the pipes to the joints. Refer to the photo above as a guide. If you want to make the stand really sturdy, you can glue the pipes and joints together with some PVC cement.

After you’ve assembled the stand, ideally you want to add some kitchen drawer grip liner to the base and at the top. This stabilizes the stand and keeps it from sliding around. It also prevents the laptop from accidentally sliding off the stand easily. Cut out small squares of grip liner and glue them on (pictured above) using some super glue or any other glue you have lying around.

You’re done! That was all there was to it. It’s arguably the best DIY project that I’ve ever done because it’s quick, simple, useful, and it hardly cost anything.

How to thoroughly clean your keyboard

After realizing that I’ve never cleaned my Logitech K340 keyboard since I got it a couple of years ago, I’ve been wondering what kind of hidden infestation lied underneath those keys. And I’m about to find out as I venture my way towards a clean keyboard.

Knowing our readers here at Techerator, we’d assume that you pretty much live at your computer. You probably eat at your computer and designate your keyboard as a spill zone of sorts. So, like me, you probably can’t even imagine what kind of crap made its way inside.

In this guide, I’ll show you how to thoroughly clean your keyboard and seriously make it look and feel brand spankin’ new. Before we begin, though, it’s important to know that the method that I’ll be using is exhaustive, but it doesn’t require you to take apart your keyboard other than snapping off the keys. If you feel inclined to, you can clean your keyboard by completely disassembling it, removing the circuitry, and giving the shell and keys a scrub bath in the sink. Otherwise, follow along!

What You’ll Need

  • A dirty keyboard
  • A bowl of hot water (not scorching though)
  • A cleaning sponge
  • Q-tips
  • A screwdriver
  • Compressed air
  • A camera


Before you begin any disassembly, take your camera and snap a photo of your keyboard. This is crucial because you’ll want to know where all of the keys go after you take them all off.

Start off by taking your screwdriver and carefully prying off each of the keys. I like to cover the key with my other hand to prevent the key from flying across the room after popping it off. You’ll also probably notice that some keys will be harder to remove, like the spacebar. These keys have metal rods attached to them that also attach to the keyboard. You can simply add a little more force to pop it off or if you want to be even more careful, you can get under the key to slide off the metal rod.

After all the keys have been removed, you should now be covering up your mouth to prevent projectile vomiting. You’ll probably notice all the gunk and crumbs that are lying about.

As you can see from the photo below, I’ve separated the “special” keys from the “non-special” keys. The special keys are much dirtier because of the little metal rods that are covered in grease, which attracted more gunk and crumbs.


Dump all of your keys into the bowl of hot water. Hot water helps to separate the gunk from the keys more easily. I put the special keys in a separate, smaller bowl as a mental note to clean those more thoroughly.

Let your keys soak for a while. In the meantime, take your compressed air and blow off all of the loose crumbs on the keyboard.

Next, get your cleaning sponge wet and begin to wipe up any gunk that stayed put, making sure to also clean the outside shell of the keyboard. Use the Q-tips to get to hard-to-reach places.

When you’re done with the overall cleaning, go back to your soaking keys and give each key one last cleaning with your fingers and then place them on a towel to dry.

Finishing up

Sometimes water will get into small crevices in the keys, which can be problematic since that’s a difficult area to air-dry. To fix this, simply blast a little compressed air into the keys to blow out any water.

After the keys are completely dry, you can then place them back on the keyboard. This is where you can play a fun little game and see if you remember where all the keys go. If you don’t know exactly, refer to the picture that you took earlier.

After all of that’s complete, you should be staring at a perfectly clean keyboard! Give yourself a pat on the back.

Set up your own professional podcast studio for less than $175

Whether you run a blog and want to add a podcast or just want to start up a podcast from scratch, it’s very possible to set up your own podcast studio for a relatively low budget while still making it sound and look professional. Obviously, you can simply connect a headset to your computer, fire up Audacity and away you go, but if you’re willing to spend just a little more money to get a better-quality podcast, this is for you.

Before we begin, be sure to think about what room you want your podcast studio in. Think about room acoustics, as well as ancillary noise — try not to be close to anything that will be relatively loud (such as the laundry room), and if your room is particularly “echo-y,” hang up some blankets on the walls to dampen the noise and make it more soundproof. Other than that, feel free to do what you see fit to the room, just as long as you have the essentials — a desk and a couple non-swiveling chairs that aren’t squeaky.


This is obviously the most crucial piece of equipment that you need, and there are literally hundreds of mic options ranging from low-end models at discount retail stores all the way up to really-expensive models from Shure, AKG, and Neumann. Ideally, you’ll want to look for a large-diaphragm condenser mic, since those are the best for voice recording. They give you a deep, rich sound that will be great for your podcast.

MXL 990 Condenser Microphone – $59.99
Audio-Technica AT2020 Condenser Microphone – $99.99

Pop Filter/Screen

Since condenser mics are very sensitive to mouth noises like “P” and “Sh,” it’s important to get some kind of pop filter or screen. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on this — you can find decent ones for under $20.

Musician’s Gear 6″ Pop Filter – $14.99


The mixer is what will allow us to fine tune the volume, bass, treble, etc. of each mic. It will also act as a device to connect your XLR microphones to your computer. You don’t need anything too outrageous here — a 4-channel mixer will do just fine for your podcasting needs. Just make sure whatever you pick has the same number of XLR connectors as the number of microphones (or more). It should also have phantom power to power your condenser mics.

Behringer XENYX 802 Mixer – $64.99
Behringer XENYX 1202FX Mixer – $108.99


You’ll obviously need microphone stands to hold up the mics. If you have enough room on your desk, you can get shorter stands that sit on your desk. This is a cheaper option, but if you don’t want to sacrifice desk space, you can get regular boom mic stands.

Musician’s Gear Low Profile Die-Cast Mic Stand – $10.99
Hercules Stands EZ Clutch Mic Stand – $49.99


You’ll need XLR cables to connect the microphones to your mixer and you’ll also need a cable to connect the mixer to your computer. This type of cable tends to be a 1/4″ cable with male connectors on both ends with a 1/4″ to 3.5mm adapter to plug into your computer’s sound input. However, some mixers can connect to computers via USB, so be sure to check the outputs of your specific mixer.

Musician’s Gear Lo-Z Microphone Cable – $4.99
Live Wire Advantage Series 1/4″ Straight Instrument Cable – $4.99


The software that you use to record your podcast with is completely up to you. Budget-minded podcasters would most likely go for the free open-source audio program Audacity, but others may choose a paid program like Adobe Audition or Apple’s Logic Pro.


The only accessory that you’ll really need is a pair of headphones so that you can monitor the audio. They also come in handy if you’re podcasting with someone over Skype — you don’t want sound coming out of your speakers to be picked up by the mic. It doesn’t really matter what headphones you use, just as long as you have something over your ears.


This article is meant to get you headed in the right direction and get started setting up your podcasting studio. Don’t feel that you must take my recommendations whole-heartedly. It’s just what worked for me and it may be different for someone else. Also, keep in mind that the more people you want on your podcast, the more money you’ll have to pay for microphones and such. In any case, good luck and have fun!

Image Credit: Christine Young

How to Create an Audio Podcast with Professional-Quality Sound

Podcasting is a fun and increasingly popular form of online entertainment that has seen steady gains in the number of viewers in recent years. Companies like TWiT and Revision 3, homes of Leo LaPorte and Kevin Rose of Tech TV fame, have shown that fully web-hosted television is a viable business model. Interestingly, many of the most popular podcasts are nothing more than a few people at a desk, a microphone, and an engaging topic of conversation. The simplicity and low start-up costs are intriguing, aren’t they?

After a few beers, a lot of people think to themselves “I have things to say! I should start a podcast!” OK, so maybe that isn’t the typical point of entry for most podcasters, but that’s exactly how it went for me as my friend Devon and I decided to start a beer-centric audio podcast a couple months ago. We wanted to start something long-lasting and of sufficient quality that we’d be able to keep the poor listeners that became ensnared in our drunken diatribes.

We decided that quality sound requires quality equipment — we were right! Fortunately, quality equipment for an audio podcast won’t knock you back more than a few hundred bucks if you’re smart about it. Here’s what you’ll need:

1. Computer

It doesn’t need to be special, but the better your soundcard, the better off you’ll be. I use an old, beat up Lenovo Thinkpad that I’ve used for years. I am assuming that you already have a desktop or notebook PC, so I’m not including this in our equipment costs. No need for something special, but if you need to replace that haggard and terrible soundcard in your e-Machine, no worries. Even a high-end audio card (SoundBlaster for instance) won’t run more than $30 or so.

2. Microphone(s)

This is probably your most important decision and deserves careful consideration. If your podcast is audio-only, you can use a high-quality USB gaming headset (~$100) though I wouldn’t recommend it. If you’re serious about your audio, invest in a real microphone, either USB or analog.

If your podcast includes multiple hosts, it’s wise to have a microphone for each person. Here’s where it gets a little tricky. Computers typically can only support a single USB microphone at a time. I say typically, but I’ve never heard evidence to the contrary. If the podcast is just you speaking, no problem, pick up a Blue Yeti USB condensor microphone (~$100 used). The Blue Yeti USB is rugged, picks up great sound, and easily plugs into any USB port.

If your podcast will have multiple hosts, your best bet is to get an analog microphone like the Rode Procaster (~$150 used). These microphones are often used by professional podcasters and have a 10-year warranty. I own two, and the sound is impressive, especially with the built-in pop filter. Definitely a good investment. Now, you may be wondering how two or more analog mics can interface with your computer — read on.

3. USB Mixer (optional)

Mixers are a good idea if you want to keep a close eye on your sound levels or if you want to use multiple microphones in your podcast. A good mixer will allow you to plug-in 2-4 (or more) microphones and adjust the gain for each, as well as accommodate an array of post effects (such as a delay) if you decide to go that route. You can do a lot with a good USB mixer, which will compile your microphone inputs to a single stream for delivery to your computer, so hold onto that manual! A good used USB mixer, such as the PV6 USB, will run about $80 used.

4. Software

You can do raw, unedited recordings of your podcast, but I reeeeally hope you consider some mild post-recording edits. Basic audio editors will let you clean up noise, add transitions to your show, and even a bit of cut/paste if necessary. There are a lot of options out there, but you probably won’t need anything more sophisticated than Audacity, a free and open-source editor that is pleasantly easy to use. Don’t worry, no PhD in audio manipulation required.

Bear in mind that most good audio equipment is durable, so don’t be afraid to head to Ebay and get something used. In fact, buy it all used if you can, because you won’t notice a difference. Just make sure the equipment is still covered by the warranty and you’ll be golden. For less than $300 you should be ready to record with the same quality as the big shot professionals.

Remember that good equipment will only take you so far — you still need to have an interesting show. But hey, solid audio is the cherry on top of a good production. Good luck, future podcaster.

How to Make Money Online:

Literal, Shiny Couch Cash

In the last episode of “How to make money online” I covered possibilities offered from being a Cha Cha guide. Well, since then not a lot has changed. I still enjoy money, still have none, and I am still very fond of sitting on my couch.

Since then, I’ve done a little research, a little experimenting, and found that McDonald’s $1 McChicken is far tastier than Burger King’s $1 equivalent. Oh, also I’ve discovered another way to make some sweet, shiny couch cash.

Are you good at something? Are you good at things pertaining to programming, design, writing, sales, finance, engineering, and/or legal work? Are you also good at marketing yourself? If so, freelance work could be a good way to make a few extra dollars on the side.

One of the hardest parts about freelancing is finding work. But with the help of the Internet, you can find sites like, where freelancers meet people who need various work projects done for them.  Now that you’ve found resources, it’s time to see how to get involved.


The orientation process is pretty simple. Basically, all you have to do is supply your basic info and pass an open book test. There are links supplied that lead to documents with the answers within. The test is 10 questions long, and in order to pass you need to get 8 correct. You can retake the test 5 times. Unlike the Cha Cha test, you know your results immediately and you can begin right after you’ve passed it.

Work Required

The work required can be literally anything. The basic categories listed on are: Web & Programming, Design & Multimedia, Writing & Translation, Sales & Marketing, Admin Support, Finance & Management, Engineering & Manufacturing, and Legal. Within the categories is anything clients are looking for.

For example, in the Design & Multimedia category, where I spend most of my time (I moonlight as a graphic designer), there are work orders for logos, videos, 3D renderings, voice actors, picture touch-ups, and much more. Currently under that category there are well over 1,000 jobs listed, so there are no shortages of work.

Actual Reality of Couch Cash

Probably the biggest downside of is that there is no guarantee you will get work. The way it works is that the client posts the job details of what they need done. The post is up for a designated amount of time, and in that time period anyone can place a bid. When you submit a bid, you include a brief message, a price, and a timeframe. Everyone who places a bid is listed. The average, low, and high bid prices are also listed (they don’t identify who bid what) so it’s possible to ballpark where everyone is at.

As a free member, you are given 10 “Connects” a month. Submitting a bid will cost you at least one Connect. So, as a free member you can at a maximum submit 10 bids a month.  In order to get a bid, you will have to demonstrate to your clients that you have the skills required to perform the tasks they need. The best way to do this is to put together a good profile with some quality portfolio items. This is crucial, as there is competition to beat out from all over the world.

The amount of competition on this site was not something I was prepared for. I assumed that everyone on here was probably just like me, college grads, people looking for an extra job here and there, things like that. I was WRONG.

While I consider myself a pretty knowledgeable, skillful designer, there are designers working with 20+ years experience and groups that have made half a million dollars or more. After looking through some profiles, I realized I was going to have to take things seriously and really put some effort into my public profile.

The Pay

If you are successful at winning a few bids the pay can be quite handsome. The minimum bid allowed for any project is $50 while the highest bid I’ve seen so far is $275,000. But, the tough part is winning the bid.

Some Tips

I’ve heard a few tips from around the interwebs having to do with freelance sites. One of the biggest pieces of advice I’ve heard is to opt for the premium, paid, account. On Elance, the premium accounts give you more Connects and a few more features. The more Connects means you can bid on more jobs, and spend an extra Connect to get your bid at the top of the list.

Another idea is to work for cheap. On sites like this, past work and good references are key to landing the big jobs. Getting a few jobs in for cheap can give you some good references for future clients to look at when you’re going after the bigger paying jobs.

Conclusion can be a very rewarding source of income. Some individuals and groups have made a pretty lucrative career out of it. The important thing to remember is that there is no guarantee you will get work, and there’s no guarantee of how much you will make in a given amount of time. Pretty much it all comes down to the skills you can offer your client and how well you market yourself to them.

Keep in mind, the Design & Multimedia is only one category. I am most familiar with that realm, so that is what I’ve been pursuing. I have taken a look at the Writing & Translation category and there are some more, basic jobs such as writing articles, transcribing text from sound files, etc.

Regardless of what you’re going after, you will be competing for the job. To date, I have not won a bid. There are a few that are looking pretty optimistic, but nothing guaranteed yet. There is a lot of money and plenty of potential to find clients looking for future work here, but it takes some serious effort. I am looking forward to continuing to experiment on and hope to come out a few bucks ahead in the end.

Photos from Edyta.Materka’s flickr and by Britt Selvitelle’s flickr

How To: Find Large Files On Your Hard Drive With WinDirStat

Have you noticed that you hard drive space has decreased and don’t know what files are taking up the space?  If so, you can use WinDirStat to help find those large files taking up space on your drive.

To start, download WinDirStat from  You can select either the installation download or the standalone executable.  When first running the program, you are asked to select the location that you wish to analyze: All Local Drives, An Individual Drive, or An Individual Folder.  Once the location has been selected, click Ok to begin the drive analysis.  When the analysis has completed, your screen will look like this:


Now that WinDirStat has analyzed your hard drive, you can review the largest blocks in the diagram.  The largest blocks are large files.  By left clicking on a block, it will show the file name and location in the tree above.  If the file is taking up space and can be deleted, you can simply right click the file name and delete the file.

You can also left click a folder in the tree and it will highlight the space that the folder takes up, as shown below:


Once you have found the files that you wish to remove, and have removed them, it is important that you empty your Recycle Bin to make sure that all files were deleted.

If, after running WinDirStat, you were not able to find the cause of your low disk space, I would recommend running CCleaner to check for any temporary files that may be taking space.  [Checkout our guide on CCleaner here.]

Important final note: It is important to pay close attention to the files that you are removing so as not to remove any system files.  Removing critical files could cause you system to become inoperable.

What has been your experience with WinDirStat?  Is there another program that you would recommend that will do the same task?  Let us know by commenting below.

How To: Quickly Open Accidentally Closed Tabs in Firefox


Firefox only:  Tabbed browsing in Firefox is incredibly useful and can improve your entire browsing experience; recovering an accidentally closed tab, however, isn’t particularly intuitive.

Firefox does keep a record of your recently closed tabs (which are available under History –> Recently Closed Tabs), but this guide will show you how to recover a closed tab with a single click using a handy toolbar button.

Head over to Firefox Add-ons page and download the Undo Closed Tabs Button add-on.  This feature will be enabled as soon as you restart your browser.

Once you’ve restarted your browser, the Undo Closed Tabs add-on is activated but still needs to be added to your toolbar.  Select View –> Toolbars –> Customize… as shown below.


Scroll through the list until you find the Undo Closed Tab button, and drag it anywhere you like on your toolbar.


Now whenever you close a tab, you can easily click the Undo Closed Tab button on your toolbar to reopen it.  This button also contains a dropdown list of all recently closed tabs (and removes it from the obscure location under the History menu).


Note:  If you’re an avid keyboard shortcut user, Firefox’s built-in tab restoration can be triggered by pressing CTRL + SHIFT + T.

WordPress Fix: How to Properly Align Images in RSS Feeds

This image is on the right here, but in the RSS feed it would appear without formatting.

One of the only complaints I’ve ever had about WordPress is that images didn’t maintain alignment in our RSS feedRSS feeds are used to offer subscriptions to visitors and can be used with applications like Google Reader.

When adding an image to an article in WordPress, you have the option to align it on the left/center/right side of the screen – but when viewed in the RSS feed the images appear with no formatting.  A little searching revealed why images weren’t aligning in the RSS feed: WordPress developers removed the deprecated align attribute from image tags.

Removing the align attribute was the right thing to do to stay compliant with web standards, but it had the unfortunate side effect of breaking alignment in RSS feeds (the alignment for the web version of an article works because it is defined by in a CSS file).

The Fix

Fixing the alignment is as simple as installing and activating the Align RSS Images plugin for WordPress.  After activating the Align RSS Images plugin, images will automatically appear with the correct format in your RSS feed.

Align RSS Images works by finding any images in a post and applying the correct formatting to them in the RSS feed.  This is done dynamically when the RSS feed is generated, so no code gets added to your original post.  Best of all: the feed still remains compliant with W3C feed standards.

Note: After activating Align RSS Images, it may take a few hours for the changes to appear in your RSS feed.

Check out a before and after comparison below!

Before, no image alignment.
After, now properly aligned!

[Align RSS Images – WordPress Plugins]