Schwankenstein’s Monster

Assortment of Links and Stories of Interest

Store Coffee for Maximum Freshness [How To]

Store Coffee for Maximum Freshness [How To]: ”

The Unclutterer blog rounds up the advice of some pretty knowledgeable minds (including go-to food science guru Harold McGee) on the best ways to store coffee, whether as whole beans or ground. The take-away is to never put coffee in your refrigerator, and only store your coffee in the freezer if you can’t use it within two weeks. Otherwise:

From the Joy of Cooking: ‘The best way to store coffee beans, ground or whole, is in an opaque airtight canister at room temperature.’

McGee’s wisdom is to only place whole beans in the freezer, as ground coffee gets stale more quickly in any environment. For more tips on getting your best cup every day, see these tips from a ‘coffee snob.’

(Via Lifehacker.)


January 16, 2008 Posted by | Coffee | | 1 Comment

What To Say When You Call The CEO’s Office [How To]

What To Say When You Call The CEO’s Office [How To]: “

ceoonphone.jpgThis classic article on the art of ‘turboing,’ escalating your problem to the executive’s office, has some great advice about what to say when you get there. Here’s a line Rob Levandowski, himself a former Tier 2 XEROX customer service rep, uses to get his foot in the door once he reaches the CEO’s secretary:

‘Hello, my name is ________. I’m one of your customers, and I was hoping to speak to (CEO’s name) because I’m really getting frustrated with getting a problem resolved, and I know that your company doesn’t want me to feel that way.’

Rob says this works because if they don’t help you, they’re backed into a corner of seeming like they actually do want you angry and frustrated. And despite what articles on this site might otherwise suggest, most people like to go bed at night feeling like they’re good people. The rest of the article is a really great refresher course on how to win when calling executive customer service.

The Art of Turboing [Macwhiz]
(Photo: Getty)

(Via Consumerist.)

January 16, 2008 Posted by | Consumer Protection, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Turn Your $60 Router into a User-Friendly Super-Router with Tomato [Feature]

Many of you know that I run a modified linksys router at the house. I have been using the DD-WRT firmware with great success, but I this new alternative looks interesting:

Turn Your $60 Router into a User-Friendly Super-Router with Tomato [Feature]: “

A year-and-a-half ago, we showed you how to turn your $60 router into a highly configurable $600 router with DD-WRT, a free, open source firmware. Since then there’s been a lot of development of open source firmwares, and today we’re taking a look at my new favorite, a firmware called Tomato. Tomato does almost everything DD-WRT does—from Wi-Fi signal boosting to Quality of Service bandwidth allocation—in addition to offering a simplified interface chock-full of fancy charts and graphs. Sound good? Let’s get started.

Check If Your Router’s Supported

wrt54gl.pngBefore you go upgrading your firmware willy-nilly, be sure to check Tomato’s list of supported devices. The router I’ll be using is the very same router I used for the original DD-WRT guide, this Linksys WRT54GL router. Several of the Linksys WRTG54 series routers are supported, but they aren’t all, so make sure you check your model number. In addition to the pervasive Linksys router, Tomato will also install on some Buffalo, ASUS, and Microsoft routers.

Upgrade Your Router to the Tomato Firmware

So you’ve either ensured that you’re current router is supported or you’ve ordered a new cheap one off the internet? Then it’s time to upgrade that router to Tomato. First, go download the latest Tomato firmware (as of this writing, that’s version 1.13). You’ll download a 7zip archive, so use your favorite unarchiver (may I suggest 7-Zip), and extract the contents to an easy-to-find folder on your desktop.

Now you’ll need to log into your current router to upgrade. This process may vary slightly depending on what router you’re using and the firmware it’s running, but for the most part it’s very simple. You can go through the old DD-WRT step-by-step here if you’re using a Linksys router with the default firmware (just replace DD-WRT with Tomato and quit after step 2). Below I’ll describe the simple update process from DD-WRT to Tomato (which is virtually the same as it would be for any other router with one small difference).

First, point your browser to, the default admin page for your router. If your router has a username/password set, you’ll need to enter it to continue. Next you need to navigate to the firmware upgrade section of your router’s admin panel. In both DD-WRT and the default Linksys firmware, you’ll click the Administration tab followed by the Firmware Upgrade tab. Now just click the Browse button and direct your router to the appropriate firmware file for your router in the folder you unzipped earlier.

upgrade%20from%20dd-wrt.pngSee the README file included in the Tomato_1_13 folder to determine which version you’ll need to choose at this point. If you’re using the same WRT54GL router as I am, pick the file named WRT54G_WRT54GL.bin. Now just click the upgrade button and wait. Be sure not to turn off your router during this upgrade.

reset-router-button.pngWhen it’s finished, you’re ready to start using Tomato. (Pretty simple, right?) Point your browser back to and log with ‘admin’ (without quotes) as both your username and password. If you upgraded from DD-WRT, this may not be working for you. If the login isn’t working off the bat, you’ve got one more thing to do: Perform a hard reset on your router. To do so, just find the little Reset button and the back of your router, then press and hold it for a few seconds. When your router comes back online, the ‘admin’ username and password should work.

Boost Your Wi-Fi Signal

There’s a lot you can do now that you’re running Tomato on your router, but let’s go straight to one of the sexiest tweaks supported by Tomato: Wi-Fi signal boosting. Just click on Advanced -> Wireless in the Tomato sidebar and find the entry labeled Transmit Power. The default transmit power is 42mW, but it’s capable of transmitting at up to 251mW.

Tomato is a little low on documentation on this subject (okay, so it’s low on documentation all-around), but the DD-WRT documentation suggests that an increase of up to 70mW would be ‘suitable for most users.’ A boost much above that could cause heat issues and considerably decrease the life of your router.

I can’t attest to the certainty of damage beyond what the DD-WRT documentation says, but here is what I can tell you: I’ve been running my router with DD-WRT for over a year transmitting at 70mW, haven’t seen any hiccups in performance and so far have seen no smoke. Even better, my Wi-Fi signal easily reaches to every corner of my apartment.

Track Your Bandwidth Usage, Set Quality of Service Rules, and More

From this point on, if there’s something you want to do with your router, chances are Tomato can do it for you. In particular the bandwidth logging is both attractive and handy, allowing you to track bandwidth usage in real-time, over the last 24 hours, or with daily, weekly, or monthly reports. Real-Time Bandwidth Monitoring.png

A few weeks back I showed you how to set up Quality of Service rules on your DD-WRT router to ensure you don’t drop Skype calls, lag on Xbox Live, and generally get your bandwidth when and where you need it. Tomato does all the same while providing even more granular control over how much bandwidth goes where… and, like the bandwidth reports, it graphs it all. qos-graphs.png

If you’ve assigned a domain name to your home server (like, Tomato can send alerts to the service if you’ve got a dynamic IP address so that the domain will always point to your computer—even if your external IP address changes.

For a few other worthwhile uses, check out these videos for setting up Tomato’s Access Restriction rules (allows you to set up rules to block browsing of certain topics at certain times, for example), using the Bandwidth Monitor, and putting your router into Wireless Client mode.

As I said above, documentation on Tomato is slim, but this Tomato wiki is a good place to start if you want to figure out a feature.

So Which Is Better, Tomato or DD-WRT?

After reading this, you may have noticed that Tomato shares a lot of features with DD-WRT; if you did, you’re probably wondering which is better. Honestly, the two firmwares are both excellent—you won’t go wrong running either. DD-WRT has a slightly more robust feature set and a bit more polish in the layout of the admin, but most features that you’ll find in DD-WRT that are not in Tomato are features most home users will never use. Both do Quality of Service (in fact, we’ve already gone step-by-step through how to set up QoS in DD-WRT), though Tomato seems to do it a bit better; both can boost your Wi-Fi signal; and both will transform your router into something much better than it was before you started. At the moment I prefer Tomato for the simplicity of its layout, the excellent bandwidth monitoring tools, and of course, it’s attractive charts. If you’re a DD-WRT or Tomato fan, let’s hear which you prefer and why in the comments.

Adam Pash is a senior editor for Lifehacker who can’t get enough of a good router. His special feature Hack Attack appears weekly on Lifehacker. Subscribe to the Hack Attack RSS feed to get new installments in your newsreader.

(Via Lifehacker.)

January 16, 2008 Posted by | Hacks | 1 Comment

The Best Peanut Butter in the World

The Best Peanut Butter in the World: ”

Dave Pell, peanut butter aficionado, has found the world’s best peanut butter:

It’s all natural. But wait. Don’t squirm. I am not going for health here. I am not talking to the parental, or nurturing or healthful, caring, responsible person inside you. I am talking to the dirty, nasty, caution to the wind you. The one who came home a little too buzzed, got rid of the baby-sitter, put the wife to bed and sat down in front of the TiVo with a joint, a boda bag of Don Julio and six hours until daylight.


(Via Clippings.)

January 15, 2008 Posted by | Food | Leave a comment

Learn Cocoa Tutorial Updated for Leopard

Learn Cocoa Tutorial Updated for Leopard: “Theocacao: ‘I think it’s probably one of the most gentle, stress-free ways to learn the absolute basics of writing your first Cocoa app. It walks you through setting up a project in Xcode, creating a single window in Interface Builder, and testing out the result.’”

(Via Clippings.)

January 15, 2008 Posted by | Mac, Programming | Leave a comment

Toyota announces plug-in hybrid for 2010

Toyota announces plug-in hybrid for 2010: “

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According to reports, roost-ruling, green automaker Toyota has confirmed plans to launch a plug-in hybrid by 2010. Our man in Japan Katsuaki Watanabe (company president) dropped the bombshell at this year’s Detroit Auto Show while detailing the automaker’s plans for tackling environmental concerns. Apparently, the new lithium-ion-equipped vehicles will first be made available to Toyota’s commercial customers — such as government agencies. Watanabe gave no indication of when a general consumer rollout would occur. The vehicle, which is a modified version of the ultra-popular Prius, is capable of achieving fuel efficiency of 99.9 miles-per-gallon in EV mode, though it can only sustain pure battery power for about seven miles. The announcement will no doubt come as a total bummer to GM, which has plans to sell its own plug-in, the Volt, around the same time — though the Chevy vehicle is said to be able to make trips of up to 40 miles on a six-hour charge. It’s about time we saw some healthy competition in the green-auto-game — let’s just hope consumers reap the benefits.

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(Via Engadget.)

January 15, 2008 Posted by | Cars, Clean Energy | Leave a comment