Last week I had the opportunity to do one of those things that’s a landmark as a writer, and really affirms your belief that deep down in there somewhere you actually know what you’re talking about: I had the opportunity to guest post at Lifehacker, one of the Web’s most popular blogs that’s chock full of some of the most often-shared, tweeted, e-mailed, and bookmarked content you’ll ever read.
Lifehacker isn’t afraid of long-form content either, as long as it’s concise and to the point, which is pretty much the spitting image of my personal philosophy towards writing. Thankfully, they accepted me into their fold for a one-day guest posting gig, and I put together some pretty awesome articles to share with them and the robust community at Lifehacker (of which I’m a part: you can find me in the comments as “phoenix”) as well.
So – without further ado, hit the jump to get links to my three piece: one on rolling your own HTPC on a budget, one on making the decision whether or not to go back to school versus stick it out in a dead-end job, and one on a handy mobile app for tax time!
[ Lifehacker :: Roll a Powerful Media HTPC for Less than $500 ]
This piece was tons of fun to write – partially because of the speed with which I had to assemble the component build for the HTPC, and the fact that I had to stick to a budget. I wanted to stay under $500, but I wanted to make sure it was chock full of quality components that would get the job done. As usual, the comments are great for my piece, with lots of great critiques of some of the areas even I think are most flexible.
For example, a lot of commenters suggested going AMD instead of Intel to save money – great idea, I just went Intel because it was tried and true and proven to me, and frankly I’m not as familiar with the AMD chipset and its current-gen processors. A number of others suggested going with less RAM (something I don’t agree with at all) or with an Atom/Ion processor/chipset combo (skeptical, but open to the idea,) but if you’re planning on building an HTPC anytime in the future, this is a good guide and parts list.
Alternatively, you can accomplish much of the same by installing XBMC on your Apple TV 2, but the article was really targeted at people who wanted the ability to have complete and utter control over their home media solution – and who could drop the media management software anytime they chose to stream Hulu and Netflix even if those two services block the set-top software they’re using.
[ Should I Go Back to School? ]
This “Ask Lifehacker” column was partially torn from the pages of my own life: back in 2002 I was debating the same thing. I was stuck in a job where I didn’t think there was much career growth for me, and I had to make the decision whether I wanted to go to grad school or stick it out in my current job and hope for the best.
I decided to go back to school, get a Master’s, and stick it out in the job at the same time – partially for tuition benefits from my employer but partially because I didn’t want to just quit my job wholesale and go back to school full time. I had an apartment I had to keep and bills I had to pay, and while the tuition assistance was great, it wasn’t everything. When I did graduate though, it was clear that my current employer at the time still didn’t have any growth opportunities for me, so I left in favor of an employer who did. Best decision of my life.
But it may not be the best decision for everyone – and that’s what I point out in the Ask Lifehacker piece: weigh your options, your pros and cons, and whether you’re actually going back to school for something that will make a difference in your career. Discuss with your family and determine whether you can pay for it or get help from your employer to pay for it. Then make your decision.
[IRS2Go Tracks Your Tax Return from Your Phone ]
A simple little piece on a handy mobile app that – even though it has some pros and cons – allows you to track your tax return from your smartphone and get tax tips and updates from the IRS…if you actually want them. Handy!
And that’s it. I really can’t express my gratitude enough to the team at Lifehacker for allowing me to guest post among them last Friday, and judging from the reception in the comments, it looks like the posts were more than well received. As usual with Lifehacker, the comments tell an amazing story: some of the personal stories shared in the comments of Should I Go Back to School are incredibly moving and really enlightening when read as someone who’s been on both sides of that question.
I’m hoping that people get something from my work there, and you never know, with a little luck you may see me over at Lifehacker again soon. I’d definitely love to work with them again!