Do-it-yourselfers can locate keys to fit needs


POSTED: Sunday, April 19, 2009

Self-reliant. Self-sufficient. Self-sustaining.

For some these terms illicit stark images—perhaps the ability to survive in the wild with nothing more than a Bowie knife and a genetic distrust of English majors ripened over a dozen generations. For Digital Slobs, however, they refer to more subtle gifts—the way we can gently place a frozen pizza to our ears until it whispers the actual time it needs to microwave.

But for all would-be do-it-yourselfers, having the tools and know-how to control one's own distinct destiny is such a powerful desire it can get into our subconscious.

It's why survivalists often introduce you to their water purifiers before their children.

It's why Slobs often mindlessly take their TiVo remotes with them to the toilet.

But while there are TV channels and magazines devoted to DIY, locating the 1-2-3 that fits your immediate needs can be trying in the Digital Age. So for Slobs, here's how to find key how-to stuff:

Howcast.com: Already among the most popular podcasts, Howcast.com offers short, often entertaining how-to videos that cover everything from the A-to-Z of the cha-cha to the alpha and omega of alpha and omega.

Though the user-generated content can be something of a hodgepodge, the best of Howcast has the look and feel of young ambition. This is because it serves as a venue for emerging filmmakers while at the same time showing the masses such things as how to remove lipstick stains from a shirt, which is particularly useful if the only live expert in your vicinity might not be the person you'd want to ask.

Yourfonts.com: The other day, on a lark, I got a pen and paper and tried to copy the alphanumeric symbols on my computer monitor onto a sheet of thin, fibrous wood pulp. It was jagged, off center, and I ripped it in a few spots, but it nevertheless had some minimal degree of legibility.

Excited, I called my mom, only to be told that years ago, entire societies engaged in this activity and called it “;handwriting.”;

“;But Mom,”; I asked, “;what font did you write in? Bodoni? Helvetica? Times New Roman?”;

“;No, son,”; she said calmly, “;I had my own particular style. We all did. It was part of what made us unique.”;

How brave they must've all been, to see their raw, naked souls reflected back at them off the page. Personally, the whole idea gives me the willies.

However, if you're into this sort of thing yet lack the insurance coverage for such high-risk, pen-to-paper thrill-seeking, yourfont.com allows you to get a computer typeface that mirrors your own handwriting—for free. Just print out the form, scrawl your alphabet, scan it, upload it and soon you'll get a font that's as unique as your thumbprint. You can use it for e-mail or even print it out and send it through something my mom said was called the U.S. Postal Service.

That's all I know. My mind can only be blown so much in one phone call.

Myxer.com: The costs of mobile-phone ringtones can really add up, especially when you consider the shelf life of your average Britney hit is about half that of a bouquet of roses on the surface of Mars.

A free and even more empowering make-your-own solution is myxer.com. This site allows you to upload any mp3 in your library and pick the 39-second chunk you're prepared to hear over and over again whenever some significant other seeks you out.

The coolest part is it can handle any mp3 file. So with a little tinkering, I now have a dozen or so of my top contacts synched to apropos audio snippets from “;Twilight Zone”; episodes.

My favorite one is from the “;Living Doll”; episode: “;My name is Talky Tina and I'm going to kill you.”;

I would tell you who I assigned it to, but I'm afraid she's going to kill me.


Follow columnist Curt Brandao's Twitter feed at www.twitter.com/digitalslob.