Leftover mashed potatoes? Earn some fat boy street cred with this Fat Boy Mashed Potato Soup

The holiday season is full of big meals and family gatherings, but that means it is also full of leftovers.  One of the hardest things to reuse around our house has always been left over mashed potatoes.

i came across a recipe for mashed potato soup from Rachael Ray and decided to take it to the next level to make it a Fat Boy recipe instead of just a family friendly one.  The biggest changes are adding more bacon and switching to beef broth instead of chicken.  Both changes make for a deeper and richer soup, trust me, your family will love the changes.

 

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Ingredients

  • A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 lb. bacon, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1 quart beef stock
  • 2 cups leftover mashed potatoes
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Chopped chives, for garnish

Preparation

In a medium pot or Dutch oven, heat a drizzle of EVOO over medium-high heat. Add bacon and cook until crispy. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate and reserve.

Drain off excess bacon fat from the pot and add butter. When it is melted, add the onion and cook until softened, about five minutes. Sprinkle flour into the pot and cook with a wooden spoon for one minute. Whisk in the beef stock and bring to a bubble. Cook until slightly thickened, about 2-3 minutes.

Whisk in mashed potatoes, then stir in the cheddar cheese with a wooden spoon and cook until the potatoes are hot and the cheese is melted. Add half the bacon and let cook for 3-5 minutes to allow flavor to combine.

Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with the reserved bacon and chopped chives. Instant Fat Boy Heaven.

Teknoholics Project: Mobile File sharing with PirateBox/LibraryBox

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last summer an interesting Kickstarter project launched, and was quickly funded at more than ten times it's requested ammount.  The project was LibraryBox 2.0, a fork of the GNU GPLv3 licensed PirateBox art project by Dr. David Darts.  The initial concept was to transform any space into a temporary communication and wireless file sharing network. When users join the PirateBox wireless network and open a web browser, they are automatically redirected to the PirateBox welcome page. Users can then immediately begin chatting and/or uploading or downloading files.

LibraryBox takes PirateBox to a little safer ground by sharing a library of files but no longer allowing people who connect to it the ability to upload potentially copywritten materials.  The idea was the brain child of Jason Griffey an associate professor and head of Library Information Technology at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.  His thought was that taking such a system into areas with limited or no internet access with a library of books, learning materials, disaster survival materials etc. could be of great assistance in disaster recovery areas, or foreign countries where access to the internet is severely regulated.

The project was featured in this months issue of MAKE: magazine, and since I already had the materials needed on hand I decided to play around with it to see how easy it was to get up and running.

The foundation that the project is built on is a small wireless router from TP-Link, the MR3020.  This small portable router is desgned to be used with 3G USB modems to share cellular data connections via wi-fi.  The software of the router is overwritten with a program called OpenWRT, which for all intents and purposes turns the router into a web server.

The next thing that is needed is USB storage to house the files that are going to be shared.  I used the Leef Fuse 2.0 32GB High-speed USB Flash Drive with Magnet Cap and PrimeGrade Memory (Charcoal/Black).  I had other USB flash drives around, but this was the smallest with a decent capacity to be able to store data.

While that is all that is needed, to make my setup a little more portable and easier to deploy, I added a 12000mAh portable power bank that I had laying around.

So for you to build the exact setup I have put together would be less than $100.  For that money you get a completely mobile filesharing device with 8-12 hours of uptime before it needs to be plugged in!  Not a bad setup.  You can use it to share files at a LAN Party, to share information at an outdoor event, or even as a kind of Digital GeoCache, where people can check-in on the wall to prove that they found it, and download a file or upload a file as well.  The options are endless, and changes are relatively easy to make.

You can find the original project and instructions for the PirateBox here.  Information on Jason Griffey's LibraryBox fork is available here, or in MAKE Volume 37, page 74.

This is what you see in Terminal once you have connected to your MR3020 for the first time after it has been modified

Uploading files and leaving notes on the chat board are easy tasks to accomplish

The main page information link takes you to this captive page with more details about the PirateBox concept

Non-Geek Alert: Facebook is about to make it far too easy for people you don't know to see everything you have ever posted...Again

Facebook has rolled out it's new Graph Search to a limited number of people today, and will roll it out to everyone soon.  What this means for most of us is a lot of work if we have ever, in the entire time we have used Facebook, posted anything we don't want what experts call our "Social Graph" to be able to find with a quick search.  As the article below points out, essentially it makes everything you have ever posted or been tagged in visable to not only friends, but the much broader "Friends-of-friends" group.  For those of us with friends that will add anyone who asks to their friends list this can be a little disturbing.  Looks like we all have some house keeping to do on our timelines.

3 Privacy Settings You Must Change Before Using Facebook Graph Search:

3 Privacy Settings You Must Change Before Using Facebook Graph Search - Tweaking your Activity Log just became a necessary and tedious new part of being a Facebook user. Thanks to the service's new Graph Search feature, all that profile info you've painstakingly updated over the years (employer, home town, relationship status, movie likes, etc) and all the photos you've added over time, are now to become data in a database of the social network's trillion connections between a billion users.

 

iPad (3rd Generation) - the Fallout

For many of us, getting a new iPad means a trickle-down effect.  What to do with the old iPad it is replacing!  In my house, my old one goes to Carrie.  So not only do I go through getting it backed up to restore data onto the new one, but I need to back her old one up to restore the data onto MY old one.  Once all of that is done, we go through the process of making sure that everything is in working order for her to get back to work on Monday.

TJ Luoma over at TUAW.com has posted a great article on the basics of getting the old iPad ready for the next person.  What that means is going to be different for everyone, but it is a great start for you to make things easier on yourselves.  You can find the article here.

Review: iPhoto for iPad

At today's Apple Event, iPhoto was announced for iOS.  Not only is it well done, but it really changes the face of photo editing.

When you launch the application, you are greeted by the program indexing your photos, including your photo stream.

Once you select a photo, you can select edit, which brings up your tools, just like it does on the Mac

Your options are on the tool bar along the bottom.  From left to right they are: Crop, Exposure, Color, Brushes, and Effects.

While many of these don't seem too game changing, the biggest place the iPad version shines is the brushes.

Here is the picture I started with.  The sky was pretty washed out, but I like the way the trees and rocks look, so I just want to brighten the sky by over saturating the color.  I select the saturation brush, and pull up options.  I can turn the brush strokes on, showing me the areas I am adjusting:

 

As you can see, I used my stylus to paint the sky and clouds with the saturation brush, avoiding the rest of the picture.

Here is the before:

 

and the after:

If you have ever tried to do this kind of masking and color correction, you know how huge this is.  Imagine a real estate agent not needing to wait for a sunny day to take a picture of your house.  Just dial up the blue, and make any other corrections needed so that the picture looks just like the house (we all have seen pictures where colors are off just enough to make a difference in your impressions of the subject matter).

And everything, from taking the picture to the editing and uploading to the web, or emailing the photo can be done with one device.

The best part though, is all of these things are possible in your iPhone now too.  This really is the post-pc era, and Apple is leading the revolution!

Leave The Laptop Behind

I recently traveled back east for work and was determined to leave my laptop at the office, yet still have the flexibility of staying connected to deal with time sensitive work issues while I was away.  The only technology I carried on my trip was my iPhone and my iPad.  My iPhone and iPad are set up with work and personal email accounts, calendars, and contacts.  I also have the convenience of Documents To Go on both devices.

Currently, I am not able to use my iPad to connect through a work VPN.  However, we recently set up a Box.net corporate account and I have the application downloaded on both my iPhone and iPad.  Before I left town I uploaded a few of my current project documents and other documents I may have needed for reference while I was on the road.  I also had the ability to have my staff email me a document if it was not already in my Box.net account, but I wanted to avoid having to ask people to take their time to send me information.

I am a typical business traveler that is glued to my technology.  I am always checking email, both business and personal, and wanting to stay connected to my family (often through texting).  I was very happy to have in flight internet on my flight between west coast and east coast.  I paid for the internet connection, which was $12.95 for the duration of the flight, and my iPad kept me occupied for hours. 

What I discovered on my trip is that the iPad allowed me to be efficient and stay connected to the office through email (while I was in the air).  I was also able to connect to Box.net, Netflix, Hulu+, listen to music, read my Kindle, and stay current on Facebook and headline news.  The best part…my iPad battery lasted the full flight with power left over when I arrived on the ground.  I was content during my flight and felt productive and entertained.  My 5 ½ hour flight felt about 3 hours long.  Even if I did not have the convenience of the in flight internet, I feel I would still have been equally productive.  I simply would have sent my emails as soon as we landed and rather than Netflix and Hulu+ I would have read more on my Kindle and relaxed with a little more music.

If I had relied on my laptop to get me through the flight, which I have done many times before, I would have been frustrated with loss of battery power and maneuvering in a tight space with a piece of equipment that is cumbersome on an airplane.  Having the iPad also made getting up and down for other passengers (I was in an aisle seat) much easier.

I can remember when we all started using laptops on planes and thought it was the best way to travel.  However, now that I have had a chance to fly with my iPad, I will never use a laptop on the plane again.  There really is no need.  Any work project I wanted to spend time with was easily accomplished with the iPad, even Excel spreadsheets.  My briefcase was much lighter this trip, and my shoulder was much happier when I got home. 

Cutting the Cord - How to live without Cable TV

Almost 2 years ago we decided that we were paying FAR too much (almost $200) every month for Cable.  This was sparked by a friend asking me if technology was to the point that we could get rid of paid cable services.  What I have learned over the last two years is that you can't get everything you want free, but much of it can be had at a fraction of the price.

Let me start by saying none of this would be possible without a high-speed cable internet connection.  ths increases in technology and speed have been truly amazing, and make all of what we are going to discuss here work much more easily.  We pay almost $100 per month for our internet connection. Once you see what it enables us to do, and then realize that I would have been (and was) paying for it even when I was also paying for cable, that won't seem so crazy. Now the only costs on a monthly basis are the $7.99/month for Netflix and $7.99/month for Hulu+.  If there are shows or movies you HAVE to see otherwise, they can be downloaded from iTunes or other places on the internet quite easily, and can even be rented from iTunes for a very small charge.

In December of 2009 we started this journey with an AppleTV and a Beta unit of this new device at the time called the "Roku Player".  The AppleTV allowed us to playback all of the content in our iTunes library (music, movies, TV shows).  The Roku was (and is) an amazing thing, and without it I probably never could have talked Carrie and the kids into even trying this.  Roku had signed deals with Amazon and Netflix to access their streaming video services with this little set-top box.

Over the intervening time, I have made some changes, and now have a system setup that only has me wishing for cable when Football season rolls around (NFL Network isn't available ANYWHERE on the internet).

Here is how things are setup:

You may not have the money or inclination to add everything we have to your setup, but this hardware gives us the most flexibility regarding content.  Here is what each item does:

Elgato HDHomeRun for Mac and PC - The HDHomeRun takes advantage of a requirement many people are unaware of.  Due to laws in various cities prohibiting rooftop antennas, the FCC requires all cable companies to broadcast local TV unencrypted using what is called QAM.  They HDHomeRun decodes these signals and broadcasts them over your local network (and the internet).  This allows us to use the computer as a DVR for local TV, and also allows us to watch live network TV.  This item comes with all the software you need for your computer to get up and running.  It also allows us to watch broadcast TV on the iPad or any other iOS device over the internet from anywhere, so I can watch football on my iPad anywhere I have 3G internet or Wi-Fi connection!

Apple TV - The AppleTV, when we first started this journey, only allowed us to use iTunes content, but has now become much more versatile.  The latest generation of the AppleTV linked here includes Netflix streaming, and allows us to use Apple's AirPlay technology to both send and mirror content from our iPads, iPod touchs, and iPhones.  The biggest savings as far as effort is concerned that this removes the need to have the computer directly connected to the TV (although we left it connected).  Elgato's application for the iOS devices allows us to use those devices as remote controls for TV content.  Applications are also available for Hulu+ and Netflix that will send to the AppleTV, so this is really the hub for our connection to the TV at this point.

Roku LT - for older TVs - The Roku LT I have on the list as a cost savings.  Any of the Roku boxes can be used with older TVs to access Netflix, Hulu+, Amazon Instant Video, and a wide variety of other content.  The LT does it for about half the price of the others, however.  It doesn't have the blue tooth remote that the Roku 2 XS (which we will look at in a minute) has, but all other content channels are available.

Roku 2 XS - For your HD TVs - In addition to everything above, the Roku 2 XS adds a blue tooth remote (which means you can use it without needing to point it at the device) and acts almost like the Wii as a wirless game controller for casual gaming like Angry Birds, with more games coming all the time to add even more value.

The only other critical piece of this puzzle is the correct splitter.  In order for you to get the digital signal into the HDHomeRun you really need a HD (2.4 GHz) cable splitter .  Older cable splitters don't let the higher digital cable frequencies through, and will prevent your internet AND TV decoder from working correctly.

While we have the Roku connected to the TV in the living room, we never really use it much.  Now that we can use our iOS devices to send and control content on the AppleTV the only thing we are missing that the Roku would add is Amazon Instant Video.  Our TV in the family room for the kids, however, needs to Roku or there would be nothing to play on it.  It is an older CRT that doesn't have the ability for an AppleTV to connect to it, and we have banned all physical discs from the house.  We don't have a computer or DVD player to even use if we had discs left!

So, there you have it.  This is how we have survived without cable TV service for the last 2 years, and it keeps getting better and easier as technology improves.

How-To: Managing AppleID with iCloud

One of the most confusing things with the arrival of iCloud is managing your AppleID.  This gets even harder when you realize that your entire family might be using the same AppleID for iTunes, iCloud, and the other services Apple has tied to this login.

The first thing to remember, is that you can have separate AppleIDs specified in your settings for the different services.  If your family has been using a single AppleID for everything, this can cause problems:

1) The arrival of iCloud means your devices can be backed up to the cloud (internet server), which is great.  However, if your family is like mine, space can run out quickly if you have 4-10 iOS products all using the same account.

2) Now that iMessage makes sending SMS type messages free over Wi-Fi, using the same AppleId on every device in your house can lead to some embarrassing conversations with your kids.  Imagine your wife sending you a love note that pops up on your Son or Daughter's iPod touch, and it shows up coming from your email address.  Trust me when I tell you this is the first thing that generates a call to AppleCare when people update to iOS 5.

3) While you want the entire family to have the same iTunes account (trust me, buying Justin Beiber's christmas album once will break your heart, once for each kid will test your will to live), you want everyone to have their own online identity for other services.

The easiest way to solve these problems is right when you get a new iOS device.  If the person that the device is for does not already have an AppleID, tap on the button to get one.  Once you have it, it will sign you in to all of the services.  Then simply go into Settings -> Store and sign out of the AppleID you just created and sign into the families iTunes account.  You are all set.

If, however, you are working with any of the problems I mentioned above, it gets more complicated.  You need to go into the settings for EVERY service that uses the AppleID and change it to a newly created one (with the exception of store, which we want everyone to use).  

Here is a list of the settings that use the AppleID:

Settings - iCloud - Account

Settings - FaceTime - Use eMail address to receive calls

Settings - Messages - Recieve at - AppleID

GameCenter - Set through the gamecenter application, not in settings

FindMyFriends - Set through the application, not through settings

I hope that helped clear things up for some of you.  It is one of the most difficult calls for AppleCare when you call for support, because you often don't even know what the source of the problem is, and many of the people you are talking to have never used an iOS device.

Getting the ball rolling

Wow, getting this started took all day, but I have the basics in place:

Accounts setup for the family
Domain registered and redirected to Squarespace
Email setup with GoogleApps
Twitter account (@teknoholics if you want to follow us)
Amazon Affiliate account set-up to try and make money

Now we just need to get everyone trained in how to post, get some content up so people have a reason to come visit, and get enough traffic so that I can do this full time. No problem, right?

The wife thinks people would like to learn things like setting up GoogleApps domains for family schedules and such, so I'm going to have some how-to articles to write.

Let the fun begin!