How to Write a How to Guide

If you’ve ever wanted to write your own how to guide, TokenUser shares these excellent tips with the community. If you have any tips or top five lists that you’d like to share (perhaps using these very helpful guidelines), please send them my way!

Before writing a guide on how to do something, there are a couple of questions that you need to ask yourself: do you know the subject well enough to explain it in simple terms, and can you write a concise set of instructions based on that explanation?

If you are good to go on these questions, the best how to guides follow an age-old and simple principle: KISS — Keep It Simple, Stupid, or (in this case) Keep It Stupidly Simple. This will enable someone to more easily follow your instructions. I’m hoping to help you write better how to guides with this guide of my own…

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Clean Pores Tutorial: a “How to” Cosmetics Beauty Tip

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If you’ve been paying attention lately to what I’m doing, you know that I’ve begun a small new series I like to call Geek Eye for the Sloppy Guy. The response to these beauty tips and tricks for dudes has been overwhelming! In light of this, I’ll definitely keep these coming. For today’s installment, though, a friend of mine is going to help us out.

Candice decided to help teach us dudes how to clean our pores. Yes – you have to do this! It doesn’t matter if you think you’re too manly… you aren’t. Your face is still dirty, and dirty isn’t a turn on for girls.

She recommends using Biore Deep Cleansing Pore strips for both men and women. The purpose of this is to clean up all the little clogging particles around your nose. Make sure you wash your face first and get all the dirt off that you can. Then, wet your nose thoroughly or the strip won’t stick. Take the strip and place it across your nose, just as the diagram on the box shows.

Once you stick the strip to your nose, press and smoothe it down to make sure it’s sticking down very well. You have to dry this for about 10-15 minutes so that it feels like papier mache. Once you’ve killed time until it’s totally dry, it’s time to rip it off.

You read that right – rip it off! Ok, ok… slowly peel it off. Start on either edge, and slowly peel towards the middle. If you did this properly, you’ll see all the icky crud on the Biore strip. Once you are done, your face will be completely clean, and your pores will thank you.

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How To Turn Your Mac Into a Geek Control Center

Geek!This is Billy Doyle’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

So you’re a geek. And you just got a Mac. Now what? I’m in that position too, and I’m going to share a few things I’ve been doing to turn my Mac into the prefect geek control center.

Use the apps it came with!

Your Mac came with a bunch of great apps like the iLife suite, iChat, Spaces, etc. So use them! For example: Even if you don’t use iChat as an instant messenger, it has lots of other uses too! Paired with, it can become a news ticker that can keep you up-to-minute on happenings on any site with an RSS feed! Or, use it with the bot on Google Talk to update your status with two clicks!

iPhoto is another great one. Not only does it store and organize all your beautiful pictures, but you can use plugins to do all kinds of cool things. Download the Pixelpipe plugin, for example, and create an account if you don’t already have one. Then you can instantly push your photos up to all your photo sharing accounts!

Run Windows!

OK, now you’re thinking: Why would I want to run Windows on the computer I bought to stop running windows??? Well, I have a reason: Not everything runs on the Mac. Gasp! How could that be? Well, it’s true. And no geek would want to have to be in the position of not being able to run that killer app you just can’t possibly live without, right?

Now, here’s the disclaimer: This one’s optional. If you don’t have a copy of Windows lying around, it isn’t mandatory that you run out and get one right this second. But if you do, this is something to consider.

So, if you’ve decided that this might be a good idea, you’ve got two options: Boot Camp or a virtual machine. Both of these have advantages and disadvantages. Boot Camp allows you to run Windows in a partition by itself. This gives you the full power of the Mac’s hardware, but you have to reboot to switch operating systems. A virtual machine allows you to run Windows “in a box”, as a program inside of OS X. This has the advantage of letting you switch between systems instantaneously, but it also can slow down your Mac depending on how much of its resources you grant the VM.

If you go with a VM, or virtual machine, you have a few choices. The two big names in virtualization for the Mac are Parallels and VMware Fusion. They both retail for $80. If you don’t want to pay for your WM software and don’t mind a bit of a steeper learning curve, try VirtualBox. It’s from Sun, and it’s what I use right now. I wont go into depth on Boot Camp here, it has a simple setup wizard. Just click the Spotlight search icon on the menu bar, type “boot camp” and hit enter.


Your Mac comes with everything you need to get started. Key phrase: get started. Sure, you could probably live without cool things to plug into your Mac, but why take the chance? Here are a few gadgets I recommend to enhance your Mac experience:

  • Griffin Simplifi – It’s an iPod dock with a built-in multi-card reader. Who could ask for more?
  • Chumby – Sure, it doesn’t actually plug in to you Mac, but it does provide you with an RSS ticker, weather gadget, screen licking dog, and much more, all packed into a cute little Wi-Fi enabled beanbag!
  • Timecapsule– Here’s one from Apple itself! Back up your machine wirelessly. Available in 500GB and 1TB flavors.
  • Bamboo Tablet – Here’s one for all the artists out there: A drawing tablet! You can always graduate to a normal Wacom tablet if you need a bigger one.

Never stop geekin’ out!

There are lots more tips that I didn’t cover here, and even more that I couldn’t possibly cover, because I don’t know they exist! So, the number one thing you can do to turn your new Mac into the ultimate geek control center is:

Don’t stop looking for more ways to make it awesome!

There are always more things you can do to your Mac to make it perfectly suit your level of geekosity. Add a touchscreen! Set up live log file readouts! The list is endless. So, I provide you with one more link, the ultimate resource for Mac geekiness. Now go, click the link, and begin your geeky Apple-related adventure! This is the link!

How To Teach Programming To Kids

Geek!This is R. L. Shanker’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

You probably know a kid who is bitten by the computer bug – could be your son or your nephew or your friend’s kid. Since you are the resident uber-geek, you have been given the responsibility of initiating him into the wonderful world of computers. One fine day, you gather the kid, roll up your sleeves and sit down in front of the computer. And then it hits you: What do you teach him – Java? C++? VB.NET? The guy has a concentration span of exactly ninety-six seconds. You start scratching your head. If this sounds familiar, this tutorial is for you.

In this how-to, I review two tools that have been tested successfully in homes/schools across the world. Like any other discussion on “which software to use”, there are unlimited options and fanatic supporters for each one of them. So, kindly use this tutorial as a starting point and do your own research; there are a lot of pointers that I have included for your reference. Before getting down to details, let me clarify one thing: while none of us would want to force programming as a career choice on our kids, all of us would agree on the importance of making kids comfortable with what is unarguably the most powerful tool at our disposal. There, done. Now, let us move on to the details.

Age 6-9 years

Scratch: A product of the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at MIT, Scratch provides kids with an exciting environment to create and share computer applications. Applications in Scratch are built around what are referred to as Sprites; these could be animals, objects, people etc. Using simple drag-and-drop programming, students can control their actions and interactions. In the process, they are subtly exposed to basic programming concepts such as conditional statements, iteration, variables, and event triggers. It is easy to be misled by the overt simplicity of the application; however, the scope of Scratch is not restricted to just creating dummy games. One look at the online Scratch gallery is sufficient to dispel all such notions. I even came across an application that illustrates wave harmonics in the most intuitive way.

This brings me to the other great feature about Scratch – it has a terrific online presence. Currently, more than 200,000 applications are shared online. Your kid can get immediate feedback from his peers and they can even work on a collaborative project. Scratch’s online presence, combined with its highly accessible interface, puts it way ahead of its competitors such as Logo, Squeak, Alice , Toontalk, and Gamemaker.

Age: 10-14 years

Phrogram. The most frustrating aspect about dealing with kids is the pace at which they outgrow their interests. As a mentor, it is imperative that you find ways of keeping their passion alive. Enter KPL, Kids Programming Language. KPL was launched in 2005 as a freeware programming language and has since been replaced by its commercial successor, Phrogram. While the focus of Scratch is on designing applications, the focus of Phrogram is on programming applications – a logical next-step. Phrogram supports object-oriented programming and provides an excellent stepping stone for “serious programming”. In order to make the task more appealing, Phrogram provides a range of in-built libraries. You can find details about a course offered in Ohio State University that uses Phrogram exclusively here. Wait, it keeps getting better – you can even write XBOX applications on Phrogram. Talk about getting a kid excited – his own application on XBOX!

The only downside is that Phrogram is not a freeware. However, the basic version is pretty cheap; it is actually cheaper than most popular video games. If cost is still a concern, you can check out Greenfoot. Greenfoot is based on Java and is equally accessible to kids in this age-group. Here, a parent provides a lively account of a game-building exercise he did with his 9-year old daughter using Greenfoot.

Age: 15+ years

The kid is now ready for the big league; it is time to respect his intellect and let him take the deep plunge. We are talking Python, C, C++, Java, etc. Since the questions are going to come thick and fast, I would recommend that you pick a language that you are comfortable with. For instance, I have been working with C++ for a very long time and it would be my natural choice.

Final thoughts

Engage, engage and engage.

The actual choice of software or platform is a subjective one – it depends on the student and the tutor. Whichever software you choose, for the endeavour to be successful, the kid must be actively engaged. What excites you as an adult doesn’t have to (and in all likelihood, will not) excite the young mind. Put yourself in his shoes. Fit in.

Be the inspiration.

The final onus is on you to convince the kid that there is no end to this wonderful experience. You need to tease him, tantalize him, and then cut him loose. Let him experiment. Support him if he fails. Challenge him if he succeeds.

How To Harness the Power of Wellness Journal

Geek!This is Mark Severn’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

“We are what we eat”, both in quantity and quality. We are also the product of what we do or don’t do. The image that you see in the mirror, and the emotional and physical reality that accompanies that view, is the result of many factors. Nothing influences this reality more than the foods and beverages that you put into your body and the activities that you engage in.

The need for a diet or program that works is a booming business. With a new concept and book hitting the Best-seller list every year – the need for an answer never ends. Many of these books are great reads and enlighten the reader to different concepts of nutrition for both weight loss and/or disease management. I have read many and recommend some but I have yet to find one that compares to the power of a food and exercise journal.

The main reason? YOU. You are the author, researcher and analyst. Over time your journal becomes your personal diet and exercise book – one that is specifically suited just for you. What you eat and the activities that you engage in can vary considerably compared to others. The obstacles that we encounter – as we try to make changes – also varies. My Achilles heel may be cookies, but yours may be scheduling issues. Heres Why it Works:


Keeping a journal boosts self-control and increases your accountability. You are probably not going to write down that you just ate 6 cookies. By recording what you eat you are more likely to limit yourself to a 1 cookie serving instead.


Keeping a journal will help you evaluate your “empty” calorie intake. You may begin to wonder how much fat, protein or calories are in the muffin you have with your morning coffee. You will look at the food label to discover the answers. If there is no food label you will look it up online, or in a Food Counts book.

A journal will highlight Planned Exercise vs. Actual Activity. You can’t avoid the fact that you haven’t entered any activity over the last three days. Why not? Does your workout schedule conflict with your current daily schedule? Is the exercise plan you have chosen boring, are you finding it hard to even show up? There are many ways to increase your activity level – find what works for you – find what fits into your lifestyle.


A journal shows your progress. After recording a starting point and a goal you have a visual representation of your progress and what efforts are paying off. A review of your journal can also be a great motivator when you find yourself backsliding.

Examining your journal can also help you associate the different feelings that you have with certain foods and activities. You can start to identify patterns and make plans for a healthy change.

A journal is a way to evaluate what you are doing. Maybe you are drinking too much caffeine or alcohol, or not eating enough vegetables and fruit, or maybe you need to be drinking more water. You can evaluate and make necessary changes.

Guilt Free Indulgence.

Keeping track of your food intake and activity levels also lets you know when you can treat yourself. You can plan to indulge yourself guilt free if you know that you are on track and doing well.

Your next step – Take action. Get a journal and begin recording your nutrition and exercise now. For ease of use I recommend using a pre-made template design that is specifically made for recording food and activity. Ask your favorite Personal Trainer, Health Club or Bookstore – most will have some type of journal that you can use.

The internet also provides some services – both fee based and free – to do the same thing. Although I find writing it down, as opposed to entering info online, to be more effective. A paper Journal is always with you and is easily accessed – it forces you to do the research and analysis. Online programs do a lot of the work for you, thus missing out on some real nuggets of information. Although they are easier you do not have a physical record.

Whether you journal on paper or on the computer it’s time to get started. Keeping a journal is not as easy as following a series of steps outlined in a book, but, the power of that journal will show itself with results and lessons learned. Lessons that will last a lifetime.

As the new year approaches and resolutions begin, make sure that you are using a wellness journal and harnessing the most powerful tool for change. YOU!