Kyle Wagner at http://gizmodo.com/5995375/the-next-xbox-everything-we-think-we-know wrote:
We’re finding out about the new Xbox on May 21st. But that doesn’t mean we have no idea what’s coming. Here’s a rundown of everything we know, or think we know, about the next Xbox.
We are pretty sure we know what the guts of the new Xbox look like. It’ll have a 64-bit, 8-core, 1.6GHz processor made by AMD with x86 architecture and 8GB of DDR3 RAM. (x86 means, broadly, that it’s a lot like the chips in your home computer, which is a change for Xbox, which had until now run on PowerPC.) The GPU is an 800mhz DirectX 11.x, and will be accompanied by custom hardware to accelerate certain Xbox-specific tasks. It’s also got an ethernet port, an optical disc drive (reported Blu-ray), a default 500GB SATA 2 HDD, USB 3.0 ports, and HDMI out and in ports.
For reference, the current Xbox 360 has a 500MHz GPU, a 3-core 3.6GHz processor, and 512MB of RAM. The upcoming PlayStation 4 also has an 8-core 64-bit processor and 8GB of RAM.
This one’s tricky. There is zero official information out there. But we do have some clues. Microsoft supernerd Paul Thurott spitballed a “$500, $300 with subscription” number that hints at the real issue with the new Xbox: subsidized pricing.
Microsoft already offers a subsidized Xbox 360 + Kinect package for $100 up front, if you sign up for two years of Xbox Live Gold at $15 per month. That comes out to $360 for just the two years, which is more than you’d pay if you’re bargain hunting for cheap subscription renewals.
A two-year subscription for a next gen Xbox probably wouldn’t stick in the craw as much as being locked into two years with the current system (though there’s no reason to think the current subscriptions won’t work on a new Xbox). But the relative surety of the subsidized pricing implies two things. One, this is probably coming in higher than the $400/$300 levels of the 360. And two, Microsoft understands that a gaming console, no matter how many features you pack in, is a tough thing to swallow as that big of an up-front cost.
This seems like a no-brainer, but a Microsoft exec strongly indicated recently that the next Xbox would be in stores in time for your holiday shopping spree. Which is good! Not many people are looking to buy a gaming console as a President’s Day gift.
There’s a popular rumor floating that the next Xbox is going to be called Xbox Infinity, but it’s not based on much more than a clever mock-up made by a Redditor. While Xbox has trademarked Xbox 8 (which is an infinity sign turned upright), there’s no real indication that that will be the name, any more than Xbox 720 or just plain old Xbox.
Largely the same! Most of what we know about the new Xbox controller comes from our friends at Kotaku, who tell us the controller is mostly the same, if a little smaller.
The controller, according to Kotaku sources, actually seems quite similar to the current Xbox 360 one. Same two analog sticks in the same upper-left/lower-right position, same positioning of the d-pad and face buttons and forward and back buttons. Triggers. Bumpers. Top-center power button. It all seems to be the same, though we can’t tell if any of these buttons have been improved-if, say, the d-pad responds more crisply, if the triggers pull more deeply, and so on.
More broadly, this means that you won’t see new points of interface on the new controller, like the Wii U’s 5-inch LCD or the PlayStation 4′s touchpad.
Kinect 2: Mandatory
OK, so the part about the controller being mostly unchanged is only partially true. Why? The Kinect will be standard with every next gen Xbox sold, making it even more of a de facto controller extension than the current iteration.
The Kinect 2 will be upgraded significantly, to not just detect broad arm movements and laborious, seizure-like movements generously described as “dancing”, but finer hand gestures sent from multiple users. It’s also said to implement more natural language controls (think Siri), as well as features like wake-on-speech.
Which sounds great. But in reality, it’s probably more realistic to expect the new Kinect to perform the tasks the original was meant to at a now-acceptable level, and for these new features to be at about the same level as the curent Kinect (that is, passable, at times). So look for refined gesture recognition and improved speech control accuracy, chiefly.
Other less certain rumored features include eye-tracking, which can be amazing in the right environment, and features like pausing videos or games when you turn your head (which might be the most pointless feature being adopted by multiple companies right now).
This has been a major sticking point. Rumors have persisted that the new Xbox will require a persistent internet connection, presumably at broadband level, in order to play games. And the people have not been amused.
The move, which we’ve seen with individual games like Diablo 3 and SimCity, would presumably be to enforce stricter security and anti-piracy features. It would also prevent a smaller-every-day but still significant group of people from playing and enjoying Xbox games. But we’ve also heard that it could only pertain to entertainment features, which would make slightly more sense, since that would require constantly pulling down information about content.
Microsoft has kowtowed to public sentiment on other future-facing issues after backlash from the slow or unreliably networked, like its original musings about ditching the optical drive this generation in favor of downloaded games. So it could go either way.
Update: An internal Microsoft memo obtained by Ars Technica indicates that you’ll be able to play Xbox games offline after all. Phew! Hopefully.
One of the underplayed details is that the new console will reportedly have an HDMI in port. What does that mean? The Xbox is in all likelihood going to be used to control literally everything your TV does.
How would that work? The HDMI-out from your cable box would route through your Xbox, which would then apply its own interface on top of it. Theoretically, that would let Microsoft integrate all sorts of features into that. It’s likely where the reports of the Kinect controlling your cable box came from.
Don’t sleep on this as a major feature of the new Xbox. It could include capabilities ranging from deep content recognition to DVR to (hypothetically) picture-in-picture TV shows in games. This is especially interesting given the reported capability to “hot switch” between two games, effectively running both at once. The WSJ recently reported that Microsoft had definitely at least explored these options—though how many show up tomorrow is anyone’s guess outside of Redmond.
And don’t forget, Microsoft is also reported to have a cheaper, set-top-box-only version of these features coming later this year, too.
Back in September, Microsoft hired a CBS executive to head up production of “original video content” for the Xbox. We still don’t really know what that means. (The UK Xbox is already getting into the business of distributing movies, for instance.) It could be that, like Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu, Xbox Live Gold and the Microsoft Video Store is going to get its own original series. Which would be sort of insane. But don’t rule it out.
This is based on speculation, but hear us out anyway. The new Xbox will probably integrate tightly into Windows 8, and the broader Windows Universe that Microsoft is building. It will do this as a gaming system, but also as a set top box.
The first thing to note is that this is actually possible this generation. The new Xbox has moved to an AMD x86 chip, meaning it’s using the same type of chip that Windows PCs have. Rumors have the new Xbox running Windows 8, but even if it’s not quite running the same operating system, the change of platforms should make developing games, especially for indie developers, a lot easier.
Consider: Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA) is hugely successful. It’s a wonderful place to find and enjoy indie content. And that’s exactly the sort of thing that Microsoft would love to get into its Windows Store, which is doing fine, more or less, but still hasn’t reached the level Microsoft would like.
Further, tighter integration of apps like Xbox Music, Internet Explorer, and other Windows 8 features, would make sense for the central location of Windows 8 in your home. Of course, that doesn’t mean you’d just fire up the Xbox and see the Windows 8 start screen. The Dashboard has been revamped a few times, but it’s already in tune with the Windows 8 aesthetic (and, really, was the incubator for it), so figure that’ll go along mostly untouched.
Goodbye, Used Games?
The biggest bummer to come out of the rumor mill is that the new Xbox might ditch the ability to play, and therefore buy and sell and trade, used games. It’s unclear whether that will happen, but we do know that games will have to be installed to be played, though that will take place in the background over the course of play, instead of up front before you can even get into the game.
Microsoft is also rumored to have a 7-inch Xbox tablet coming this year, running on an ARM processor (possible Intel SoC in the future). Originally reported by the Verge, the tablet is supposed to be running a “custom Windows kernel” instead of Windows RT, which would make sense if it’s to retain ties to older XBLA titles.
Eric Limer at http://gizmodo.com/10-little-things-that-would-make-time-travel-super-anno-502246982 wrote:
The first problems that come to mind when you think about time travel probably involve the fabric of the universe or the state of your own existence. But those aren’t what would make time travel just plain old irritating. Glove and Boots came up with a little list, and you’ll wonder how you never considered them. Maybe blowing up the universe isn’t so bad. [Glove and Boots via Laughing Squid]
Andrew Tarantola at http://gizmodo.com/everything-you-need-to-be-ready-for-disaster-499022920 wrote:
Doesn’t matter if your regional disaster is a flood, tornado, hurricane, snowpocalypse, or earthquake, when the next one strikes you’re going to need to be ready for it. Here’s what you should have on hand to keep you and yours safe for at least three days.
You can’t survive a natural disaster on an empty stomach. Keep at least a three-day supply of familiar, non-perishable food at the ready. Sure, you can stockpile MREs (Meal Ready to Eat) from your local military surplus supply store but they’re designed to provide nourishment, not taste like anything edible—think, the gruel from The Matrix but with salisbury steak flavoring.
Instead, stick with products you know that can keep for a long time, don’t require refrigeration and are low in salt (you don’t want to be thirsty in an emergency). Keep canned fruit, vegetables, soup, and meat (don’t forget the can opener); trail mix, peanut butter, powdered milk, cereal, fruit preserves (you only have to refrigerate them after opening), and any special items for infants or the elderly you might need in airtight, pest-resistant containers in a cool, dark place. Just make sure to note their use-by dates and rotate the stock out as it nears expiration. You should eat these foods last, since the food in your fridge will begin to spoil within four hours of the power going out, and the stuff in your freezer will only make it two days. And don’t forget to store a set of camping plates and silverware as well.
How you cook your food will depend largely on what local resources you have available to you but no matter what, you’ll need a way to start a fire, be it matches, magnesium, or Zippo. You’ll want to keep a couple of fire extinguishers handy as well.
The human body can survive a week or two without food but without water, you’ll be a goner in a few days. That’s why it’s critical to keep a sufficient supply of potable H2O on hand. At a minimum, just for drinking and sanitation needs, keep one gallon per person, per day in reserve. Commercial bottled water, like Aquafina or Crystal Geyser , is preferred as it’s sterile, sealed, and easily carryable. You can also store tap water in camping jugs and old soda bottles, just make sure to thoroughly wash the container and boil the water to prevent bacterial growth during storage. And if you have a proper filter system like the Platypus Gravityworks or the Katadyn Pocket Water Microfilter, a rain barrel (or any water source, really) can work in a pinch. Heck, you can even use a bit of unscented household bleach in an eye dropper to sanitize water (8 drops per gallon if the water’s clear, 16 drops if it’s cloudy).
As Hurricane Sandy taught us, short-lived cell phone and laptops just aren’t designed for emergency communication. Instead, get yourself an NOAA Weather Radio to keep abreast of any emergency broadcasts going out over the air. The Ambient Weather WR-089 is a solid choice, it can be charged via hand crank or the integrated solar array, it receives AM, FM, and NOAA bands, and doubles as a flashlight and phone charger. Also, you can never have enough batteries, flashlights, solar chargers, and power strips—if you don’t use them, you can always barter them for stuff you do.
It’s a major natural disaster, someone’s going to get hurt. The Federal Emergecny Management Administration suggest you keep the following in your emergency First Aid kit:
- Two pairs of disposable gloves
- Sterile dressings to stop bleeding
- Cleansing agent/soap and antibiotic towelettes to disinfect
- Antibiotic ointment to prevent infection
- Burn ointment
- Adhesive bandages in a variety of sizes
- Eye wash solution to flush the eyes or as general decontaminant
- Over-the-counter medicines such as Aspirin or other pain reliever, laxative, anti-diarrhea medication
- Prescription medications you take every day such as insulin, heart medicine, or asthma inhaler
- Prescribed medical supplies such as glucose monitoring equipment or blood pressure monitors
And if you don’t want to build your own, you’ve got thousands of options for pre-assembled kits available at camping and surplus stores, as well as online.
Just because the power’s out and society is likely collapsing around you doesn’t mean you have to live like a savage. Keep dust masks, heavy work gloves, duct tape (as much as you can carry), plastic sheeting, and a utility knife in your emergency bag to cover broken windows and seal drafts. Also keep a crowbar (for prying open doors and minor demolition), a hammer and nails (for minor construction), a staple gun (for securing fabrics to wood in the event that you need to make an impromptu stretcher or travois), an adjustable wrench (for turning off the gas and other utilities) and bungee/parachute cords (for tying things together).
Personal hygiene is essential as well, not an easy thing to maintain if the only available toilet is a bucket. Keep a well supplied stock of toilet paper, Double Doodie bags, moist towelettes, feminine products, soap, and hand sanitizer in addition to your 5-gallon throne.
You’ll want to sock away a change of warm clothes—long sleeve shirts, long pants, jackets, and sturdy shoes—as well as rain gear for every member of your family. Pack sleeping bags, blankets, mylar wraps (take them from your indoor grow op in need be), and tarps.
Other miscellaneous items include a signal whistle, a set of printed local maps, copies of important documents and phone numbers—birth certificates, Social Security numbers, insurance information, and the deed to your house, for example—a camera for documenting the mayhem, cash, ID, writing implements, and any other special items/prescription medication you might need for small children, elderly family members, or pets (which need a pound of food per week per pet on average).
All these items should be stored in a single, easily accessible place in your home. And remember, this is just the bare minimum you should have ready—if you want to stock enough supplies to go for two weeks, by all means do so. Hopefully you’ll never need to use it.
Eric Limer at http://gizmodo.com/now-is-a-horrible-time-to-buy-a-laptop-496028699 wrote:
So your trusty laptop is starting to show its age. No one can blame you for wanting a new one, but we’ve got just one piece of advice: WAIT. This is a horrible, horrible time to get a new rig. If you can hold out for just a few months, you’re going to do a whole lot better for yourself.
Sure, there’s almost always something better right around the corner whenever you buy anything, but this time it’s different. Mac? PC? It doesn’t matter. In just a few weeks, the guts that power pretty much any laptop you would buy are going to get a serious upgrade, compliments of Intel. The new chip, called Haswell, brings a drool-worthy list of improvements and features with it that are worth the wait. Stuff like:
Power-efficiency that keeps you running all day
Battery life is absolutely key in smartphones, and it’s damn important in laptops too (doubly so if you’re interested in one of those fancy new tablet-laptop convertibles). And we’re about to get a bunch of it. Thank to Haswell, this next generation of laptops will not only have more battery power, it’ll have a ton of it. We’re talking ultrathin ultrabooks that last 24 hours on a single charge, or up to ten days of standby power. Nothing on the market today comes close.
Pumped up performance
That increase in battery life doesn’t mean you’re going to be sacrificing power; quite the opposite. Haswell chips will let new laptops do way more with way less. The specifics of all this is still very hush-hush, but suffice it to say that the top-flight ultrabooks that will be rolling out these next few months will be significantly faster and more powerful than the one you have, with a longer battery life to boot. It’s two bonuses for the price of one.
Integrated graphics that are actually awesome
Speaking of performance advancements, Haswell is also bringing an awesome new brand of integrated graphics to the party. Iris graphics, as Intel is calling them, are twice as good as those wrapped into last year’s chips, which were already a few times better than the plenty respectable ones that came a year before that. Just like with battery power, this isn’t just a jump; it’s the biggest jump ever.
In short, Iris will let you play new, current games—like Modern Warfare 3 or Bioshock Infinite—on your ultrabook without getting a separate graphics card. And it can handle 4K video output, which is going to be important a few years down the line once this new ultra high definition tech catches on, and the monitors that support it get a little bit cheaper. Future-proof!
For Mac maniacs
Don’t hold your breath for a MacBook Air with an Retina display any time soon, but chances are both the Pro and Air lines will get updated with Haswell goodness at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference this June. You should be able to order them right when they’re announced.
And PC people
The release of Windows 8 last year spawned a wave of innovative tablet-laptop convertibles that hasn’t let up since. Those won’t be going away, but Haswell’s power-efficiency will make tablet-modes much more dependable, especially for the ones that physically detach from their keyboard base. Laptops that turn into tablets are finally going to have tablet-like battery lives.
And that’s not all: this next crop of ultrabooks will be thinner and have touchscreens, so no more grabbing at unresponsive displays out of habit. And even if a touchable display isn’t something you’re into, the good ol’ fashioned non-touch screens will get the Haswell boost as well.
And even if you couldn’t care less
You should still wait! Even if you’ve got no use for the new hotness and would rather get your hands on some slightly out-dated hotness, the introduction of new-laptop-kids on the block will shove prices down for previous generations. Apple users will see an influx of heavily discounted refurb store stock, and last year’s PCs will be on perma-sale at any big box you go to.
So unless you have no patience and actively hate your money, cooling your jets for just a month or two is the right choice, no matter what you want. It’ll be worth the wait.
Thorin Klosowski at http://lifehacker.com/how-to-turn-your-raspberry-pi-into-a-retro-game-console-498561192 wrote:
Since its release, the $35 Raspberry Pi mini-computer has been hailed as the perfect all-in-one retro game console. Now, it’s easier to do than ever, and it doesn’t take any advanced Linux knowledge. Here’s how to make your own retro game console in about 30 minutes.
We’ve walked you through all sorts of DIY projects for the Raspberry Pi, but this one might be the simplest. You’ll have your retro game console—complete with old-school controllers—up and running within 30 minutes. All you need to do is install the operating system on an SD card and do some simple file sharing from your PC.
Before we get started, let’s go over some basics. Emulating old-school video games requires two things: game ROMs and an emulator to play them. A ROM is a copy of a game that exists on your device. An emulator is an application that can play that ROM. The rule of ethics is that you should have a physical copy of a game if you have a ROM (or you can create your own from your old cartridges). We’ll leave it to you to come up with the ROMs on your own. With that, let’s get the Raspberry Pi set up.
What You’ll Get
Your Raspberry Pi will boot automatically into EmulationStation. This is a program running off a custom SD card called RetroPie that allows you to use a controller to select an emulator and a game without ever touching a keyboard or mouse. After everything’s set up, you’ll be able to navigate and do everything you need to do on the Raspberry Pi from a controller.
What systems can you emulate? A lot of them:
Atari 2600 (RetroArch)
Final Burn Alpha (RetroArch)
Game Boy Advance (RetroArch)
Game Boy Color (RetroArch)
Game Gear (Osmose)
NeoGeo (Genesis-GX, RetroArch)
Sega Master System (Osmose)
Sega Megadrive (DGEN)
Nintendo Entertainment System (RetroArch)
PC Engine / Turbo Grafx 16 (RetroArch)
Playstation 1 (RetroArch)
Super Nintendo Entertainment System (RetroArch)
Sinclair ZX Spectrum (Fuse)
Z Machine emulator (Frotz)
Some of the more advanced emulators like the Playstation 1 and Neo Geo don’t work as well, but for the most part the older systems work great.
What You Need
You don’t need much to get started here:
A Raspberry Pi (the 256 MB or 512 MB model will work).
At least a 4 GB SD card.
USB Controllers (optional, but makes the whole thing a lot more fun. I used these cheap USB SNES controllers from Amazon).
A USB keyboard and mouse (just for the initial setup, you won’t need it afterwards).
A router (to transfer your ROMs).
TV/monitor, AV/HDMI cables, power supply (you can find a full list of compatible SD cards, power bricks, and everything else on the Raspberry Pi Wiki).
A Windows/Mac/Linux computer to transfer your ROMs.
A copy of the free software Cyberduck (or any FTP, SFTP client).
Step One: Download and Install RetroPie on a SD Card
Because of the work of PetRockBlock, the process of installing all of these emulators on your Raspberry Pi is incredibly easy:
Download the RetroPie Project SD card image.
Once it’s downloaded, extract the image to the SD card the same way you would a normal Raspbian image. Windows users can do this really easily with the Win32DiskImager, and Mac users can use the RPI-sd card builder. Linux users have to a pretty simple command line trick. Either way, check out our beginner’s guide to DIYing with the Raspberry Pi and follow the same instructions you would with Raspbian.
When it’s done, remove the SD card and put it in your Raspberry Pi.
As far as the initial setup, that’s all you need to do. In fact, if you plan on using a keyboard and mouse instead of a controller you’re basically done and can skip to step four to transfer over your ROM files.
If you’d prefer to manually install the emulators, you can do that as well. SuperNintendoPi has a great setup guide for doing it, but be warned: the manual process takes around six to nine hours to download and install everything. The benefit is that you get the newest versions of emulators and you can select what gets installed. For our purposes though, the above method works great and is incredibly simple.
Step Two: Boot Your Raspberry Pi and Set Up EmulationStation
Next up we’ll boot up your Raspberry Pi. Plug in one of your controllers and your keyboard to the Raspberry Pi. Insert the SD card you just burned, and turn the Raspberry Pi on. It should boot directly into EmulationStation. On the first boot, you’re prompted to set up the controls for EmulationStation.
Follow the onscreen prompts with your controller to set it up (up, down, left, right, etc). When you’re finished, you can navigate through EmulationStation with just your controller. These controls will not work with the emulators—that takes an extra step we’ll get to in the next section. After you confirm your controller works, pull up the menu (you picked the button for this during the prompts, mine is the Start button), and exit EmulationStation to go to the command line.
Step Three: Configure Your Controllers for the Emulators
This looks a little daunting at a glance, but it’s actually very easy and only takes a few minutes to do. Once you’re in the command line, it’s time to calibrate your controller. This takes a few steps. With your controller and keyboard still plugged in, type this into command line:
./retroarch-joyconfig >> ~/RetroPie/configs/all/retroarch.cfg
Next, grab your controller and follow the onscreen prompts to set up your button configuration. Your controller may lack some of the buttons the prompts want you to set up (for example, my SNES controller doesn’t have a joystick or R2/L2, R3/L3 buttons), so just press any button during those prompts, we’ll clean those up next.
If you’re using an Xbox 360, PS3, or similar controller, you can skip this next part entirely. If you’re using a retro-style SNES controller like I am, you’ll need to go through a couple more steps.
We need to delete those extra buttons that the Super Nintendo controller doesn’t have from the configuration file you just created. You have two options for editing the controller configuration file you just created. You can do so on the Raspberry Pi itself by going into Raspbian (type “startx” into the command line), or you can use FTP software like Cyberduck on your desktop computer. Since we’re going to be transferring ROMs with Cyberduck in the next section anyway, we’ll just use that to edit the controller configuration.
Now we need to edit the button layout file:
From the command line on the Raspberry Pi, type
and look for the line “inet addr.” This is your IP address (it will read something like 192.168.1.8). Write that down.
Open up Cyberduck on your computer, and select “Quick Connection.”
Select SFTP (SSH File Transfer Protocol).
For the server number, enter the number you wrote down down in step one. Your username is “pi” and the password is “raspberry.” Click okay to go to the Raspberry Pi’s SD card.
Navigate to RetroPie > Configs > all.
Here you’ll find the retroarch.cfg file. Select it and open it up in the text editor.
If you’re using a Super Nintendo controller like I am, you need to delete a few lines. Find and delete these lines if so:
input_player1_l2_btn = "4"
input_player1_r2_btn = "4"
input_player1_l3_btn = "4"
input_player1_r3_btn = "4"
Also highlight and delete: ““input_player1_l_x_plus_btn = “x”” and all the lines under it if you don’t have an analog stick on your controller (for example, my SNES controller).
(Optional) While you’re here, you can also set up a trigger to exit the emulator and kick you back to EmulationStation. This is handy because otherwise you have to reboot the Pi every time you quit a game. So, at the end of the retroarch.cfg file, add these lines:
input_enable_hotkey_btn = "X"
input_enable_hotkey_btn = "Y"
Replace “X” and “Y” with numbers that correspond to two buttons on your controller that you want to trigger an exit from the game. I used Start and Select (8 and 9).
If you just have one controller, you can now save the file and exit.
Optional: Now you’re all set up to use your controller in the emulators, but if want to have two controllers connected, you need to take one more step. For this, we’re assuming both controllers are identical:
in the retroarch.cfg file, find and highlight the line “input_player1_joypad_index = “0″ and select all the lines after it.
Copy the text, and paste it right below. You should have two blocks of identical text.
In the second block that you just pasted, change everything that says “player1″ to “player2.” For example, the first line should read: “input_player2_joypad_index=”0″. The second line, “input_player1_a_btn = “1″, etc.
Save the file and exit.
That’s it, your controllers are all set up and ready to go.
Step Four (Optional): Transfer Your Roms from Your Primary Computer
For this step, we’re going to assume you already have a bunch of ROMs on your primary computer. However, if you have them on your Raspberry Pi you can just move them over to the correct folders and you’re all set.
Make sure your Raspberry Pi is on, and connected to your router.
Now head over to your primary computer and connect to your Raspberry Pi with Cyberduck again.
Navigate to RetroPie > roms.
Copy over any ROMs on your computer to the corresponding system folder and you’re done.
From here on out, you’ll be able to easily copy ROMs to the Raspberry Pi remotely through this method, so don’t worry if you want to add more down the line. Once the file transfer is done, go ahead and reboot the Raspberry Pi with your controllers connected and everything should be good to go.
Once you finish the above, your Raspberry Pi should boot directly into the EmulationStation every time you start it, and you’ll able to control the whole thing with your attached controllers—no keyboard or mouse required. That said, if you’re having problems, resources are available to you. Here are a few places to seek out help:
PetRockBlock: The official page for the RetroPie Project. Includes lots of guides, tips, and a forum for troubleshooting.
Super Nintendo Pi: This is a full guide for a manual install, and includes lots of tips on setting up controllers, as well as skinning EmulationStation to make it look a little better.
The Raspberry Pi forums: Lots of people are sharing their tips for getting emulators working better, as well as different controller setups, and more in the official Raspberry Pi forums.
Music in video by Subway Sonicbeat.
Casey Chan at http://gizmodo.com/pulling-your-parachute-while-youre-still-on-the-plane-496899754 wrote:
Wait for it. Wait for ittttt. Waaaitttt forrr itttt. Waai… and then boom, there it is. This poor guy accidentally deployed his parachute too early. So early that he was still on the plane. As you can imagine, he immediately got sucked out of the plane. It’s like a scene from the movies, the parachute drags him out and you can see his body whip back. Scary. [Suigenesis via Digg Videos]
Casey Chan at http://gizmodo.com/how-much-hair-sweat-pee-and-poop-do-our-bodies-make-e-489885602 wrote:
Prepare to be grossed out. You know how you go to the bathroom every day, cut your nails every few weeks and cut your hair every month? Did you ever think about what all that totals up to? What about all those times you’ve cried or drooled or worked up a sweat? It adds up to an embarrassing amount of fluid!
I was very disappointed in our slow growing hair and nails. Only 6 inches and 1.5 inches? Weak. Our dead skin, on the other hand, can weigh as much as a human head! And our poop? An inspiring 360 pounds per year. [BuzzFeed]
Tessa Miller at http://lifehacker.com/how-to-wire-your-house-with-cat5-or-cat6-ethernet-cable-480020760 wrote:
Although wireless is simpler for a lot of people, due to multimedia sharing, bandwidth on a home network, and paranoia about wireless security, you may want to use a hard wired solution for home networking. Having a wired network at home allows you to have a private, high-speed network for internet access, file sharing, media streaming, online gaming, IP security cameras, and much more.
This post is republished from Instructables.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to wiring your home with Cat5e or Cat6 ethernet cable. (If you’re not sure of the difference between the two, check out this post.)
Step 1: Initial Considerations and Planning
- Which room(s) do I want wired? I have a two-bedroom condo so I knew I wanted both bedrooms wired. I also have a TV alcove where my cable TV is, so that seemed like a good location to wire as well (especially for things like video game consoles). Having cable TV in each of these locations, it seemed logical to treat the network the same way.
- How many ports do I want in each location? With multiple game consoles and a network-enabled Blu-Ray player connected to my TV, I knew I wanted at least three connections behind my TV. Since the wall plates come in 1, 2, 4, and 6-jack configurations (for single gang), I just went with 4. Why run one cable when it’s nearly as easy to run 4, right? Rather than vary the number, I just ran 4 drops to each location to provide maximum flexibility without the need for local (in-room) switches. Three locations with four ports each = 12 ports total.
- What is a good location for distribution? For me, the logical location was my laundry room because my cable TV already comes into it and gets split to each room. It’s important to note that my internet comes into the house (over the cable) here too, so if I move my cable modem here, it will be able to supply internet access to the entire network. Another thing to consider is the amount of space needed to mount a shelf to hold the network equipment.
- What path should the cables take? This is probably the most difficult consideration. For me, my condo is on the second (top) floor and I have access to my attic. My cable TV is distributed through the attic, so it seemed like a good solution to run my home network through there as well. For single floor homes with a basement, the basement may be the best path. For multi-story homes you may have to get creative. Outside could be an option, or through an old laundry chute. (I won’t address the specifics of all the possibilities, just my own circumstances.) The other consideration with cable path is cable length. The max cable length for up to gigabit speeds over copper UTP cabling is 100 meters (~300 feet). This should provide plenty of flexibility for most home applications, but it is good to be aware of this limit.
- What network speed do I need? This will mainly play a part in what kind of switch to get. I used a 10mbps switch because I got it for free, and it’s still faster than most everyone’s home internet connection (you can probably pick up a really cheap one—possibly even free—at a used computer store). But, if you’re going to be doing anything over the network—like playing games, transferring files between computers, or anything like that—we definitely recommend getting a gigabit switch. If you’re buying a new switch, these aren’t that expensive these days, so there’s little reason not to go gigabit.
Next up, tools and materials!
Step 2: Required Tools and Materials (and Costs)
Your tools and materials (and costs) can vary a lot based on your needs and what you already have. I borrowed a lot of the following tools, but here’s a very basic, estimated breakdown:
- Ethernet crimping tool (only if you’re putting plug on the ends). Cost: $13 on Amazon.
- Drill (primarily for drilling through wall top plates, but makes screwing faster too). Cost: varies (I already had one).
- Paddle bit or hole saw (size will vary by how many cables you’re running). Cost: usually around $20.
- Pointed hand saw (this makes it easy to cut holes for the gang boxes/wall plates). Cost: usually around $15.
- Strong string or a fish tape. Cost: $30 on Amazon.
- Label maker (optional).
- Sharpie-type marker.
- Stud finder. Cost: $13 on Amazon.
- Punchdown tool (optional). I used a small screwdriver instead.
- Laptop or cable tester (to test each drop). I used my laptop.
- 1000′ spool Cat5e or Cat6, Cat6 recommended (more or less based on your need). Cost: $105 on Monoprice.
- Single Gang Retrofit Boxes (the kind that clamp to the drywall, open back). Cost: $0.25 each.
- RJ45 Jacks and plates (get what you need, maybe an extra or two). Cost: $0.35/plate; $14 for 12 jacks.
- RJ45 plugs (optional). Cost: $5 for 10.
- Plastic grommet (optional, makes the cabling look professional). Cost: $0.60.
- Patch panel (optional, another professional touch). Cost: $33 and up on Amazon (I dragged it out of the dumpster at work).
- Ethernet switch. Cost: $32 for an 8 port gigabit switch.
- Router (optional, may be required by you ISP). I already had one, and most of you probably will too.
- Velcro strips for cable management (optional). Cost: $3 for a roll.
- Short patch cables (optional). Cost: $5, but will vary depending on length.
Now that we’ve (hopefully) got all the stuff we need, lets mount the wall plates!
Step 3: Mount the Wall Plates
Pictured above: The cable and new ethernet cables come down the wall in the same space between studs. Note the extra cable length in case of mistakes!
Once you’ve decided where to mount the box, you need to draw the lines on the wall to fit the new box and cut the hold with the pointed hand saw. The pointed saw should be able to push through the dry wall pretty easily without the need to drill starter holes.
Once you have the hole cut in the wall, you can put the single gang box into the hole and screw the clamps with hold it in place by clamping to the back of the dry wall. Repeat this for each location that you want to run to.
At this time you’ll also want to cut a hole in the wall in the distribution room. Here you want to cut a hole that the plastic grommet will fit into.
Next: we can run cables.
Step 4: Measure and Run the Cables
Pictured above: Hole drilled in the top plate of the wall. String dropped down with a bolt tied to it so I could pull up the cables.
There are a number of ways to do this. You can estimate, measure from floor plans, run one, etc. I used the run one method. To find the lengths required for each run, I ran one cable to each room from the distribution room, pulled it out, and made three more like it. After that, you can run all four together. You’ll also want to label both ends of each cable with a sharpie. This way you can label the ports on both ends.
Before you can do this, however, you need to drill through the wall top plates so that you can drop the cables into the walls where you’ve cut the holes. Finding the right place to drill in the top plate (to make sure you get in the right 16″ gap between studs) can be tricky. This is another reason I decided to follow the coax cables for cable TV. I traced down the cable TV through that attic and then drilled new holes in the top plate right next to the cable TV holes. You’ll need a powerful drill and either a paddle bit or a hole saw for this. The hole saw is easier but the paddle bit is cheaper. I used a 1 1/4″ paddle bit and it was hard to control and strained the drill at times. You can also opt to drill multiple small holes and use one for each cable—although this makes running them a bit harder since you can’t tape the bundle together.
Once you have the top holes drilled you can string out some cable to measure how much for each run, then cut three more equal lengths per run, and re-run the cables. Be sure to make them long enough that you have some extra from stripping and crimping accidents. It’s always easy to tuck extra length into the wall.
Next up: making connections.
Step 5: Connect the Wires to the Jacks and Patch Panel
Pictured above: RJ-45 plug diagram.
Now the we’ve got the cables run we can punch down the the cables to the patch panel and the to jacks. I noted in the materials that a patch panel was optional. You can take the raw cable directly out of the wall, put a RJ-45 plug on it, and plug directly into the switch. But for permanent installation, I feel it’s much more professional to mount a patch panel.
Pictured above: Cables punched down to the back of the patch panel.
This is pretty easy. Most patch panels and jacks have diagrams with wire color diagrams for the common T568A and T568B wiring standards. To be honest, I don’t know if either would work. I’ve seen “A” used for ISDN before, but in looking at the T568B color guide I recognized it as the same as the tons of patch cables I’ve made before. So I went with it. Make sure you use the same on both ends. You can use the punch down tool or a small screw driver to punch the individual wires.
Once you have all the cables connected, you can mount the patch panel to the wall and click the jacks into their respective wall plates on the other ends. You can also screw the wall plates into the gang boxes.
Pictured above: Short patch cables up to the switch. The aluminum is the bottom of the shelf that the switch sits on.
Now we can make sure things work!
Step 6: Test Your Connections
Pictured above: Testing 1,2,3…
Before you start connecting most of the network components, you want to test all of the connections to be sure things are working. This can be done a number of ways. If you actually have a network tester, then you probably know what you’re doing. You’re on your own. The method I used was a little different.
I plugged a short patch cable from my patch panel to each port on my switch and turned it on. Since it’s a managed switch, I set each port to be “up/up” and “auto negotiate.” Unmanaged switches will not need to configure anything.
The next step is to take another patch cable and a laptop and plug it into each port in each room. Check the switch after each port and verify the “link” indicator is on. Being able to establish a link tests the physical layer (i.e. no broken wires, all tight crimps, no crossed wires), as well as the data link layer (i.e. negotiation between network card and switch port). No IP addressing or anything needed for testing.
Pictured above: Neat and clean lables for each port actually go where they say they do. MB = Master Bedroom, SB = Second Bedroom, etc.
This is also a good time to make sure your labeling matches on both ends. For example, you can make sure that “Master Bedroom Port 2″ on your patch panel actually goes to the second port in the master bedroom.
Now, to the internet, and beyond!
Step 7: Connect to the Internet
Pictured above: Cable gets split to: 1. Main TV, 2. Cable Modem, 3. Second splitter. Second Splitter goes to each bedroom. I’m less concerned about signal degradation there but the runs are short enough that I don’t need amplifiers.
Now that we’ve got this fancy network, we want to connect it to the internet right?
First: the cable modem setup. Since I moved my cable modem from my second bedroom (office) to the distribution room, I needed to change the way my cable was split. Rather than the main cable into the house being split three ways, I split things a little differently. I split the incoming cable with a three-way splitter first: one to the main TV, one to the two-way splitter for TV in the bedrooms, and the other into the cable modem. I connected the splitters using a male-male barrel connector.
Now that the cable modem is in the right place we can continue with our network setup. Depending on your internet provider some of this setup may vary. (I’m going to discuss the specifics of my environment only, but will provide tips for others when possible.)
From the cable modem ethernet port I plugged into the “Untrusted” port on my router/firewall. From the “Trusted” port, I connected to the first switch port on my switch. If your switch has one, plug into the port labeled “Uplink” instead. Depending on the switch or cable modem and/or router, you may need (or already have) crossover cables for these connections. With my router/firewall set up as a DHCP server I can now provide each port access to the internet. In addition, my entire network is protected from outside access by the firewall.
Pictured above from top left: Firewall, Cable Modem, Wireless Access Point, 24 port managed 100 megabit switch, cable management and patch panel.
Although it’s not integral to this instructable, I also plugged a wireless access point into my switch so that I can have wireless access as well. Since my wireless is both encrypted and has MAC filtering, I feel comfortable with it on the “trusted” side of my firewall. If for some reason I wanted to provide open wireless access but still protect my network, I would need a different configuration of connections. (I won’t go into detail about these changes but I wanted to note them depending on what your network goals are and how they might incorporate wireless access.)
In summary, my firewall receives my single, static IP from my ISP cable modem. It also acts as a router and provides DHCP IP addresses to all other hosts on my private network via the switch and cabling we just installed.
What the hell do we do with it now?!? NEXT!
Step 8: Make Your Geek Friends Drool with These Cool Options
1. File server or NAS. I added and mounted a 1U file server in the distribution room that holds all of my multimedia. This includes a mirrored RAID with 1TB of storage for music, movies, TV shows, etc. (RAID is not a backup, but I feel better about not losing my media if a hard drive takes a dump) With this I can stream media to any computers on my network! A SOHO NAS device such as Netgear’s ReadyNAS also works well here, but I’ve found that their network performance (of NAS devices, NOT specifically the ReadyNAS which I’ve heard is tha’ bomb) doesn’t approach the gigabit speeds their network interfaces can negotiate. *Editor’s note: Learn how to turn an old computer into a NAS here.
2. XBMC. I have both of my Xboxes (yes the originals, no 360 yet) soft modded with XBMC loaded on them. They’re also configured with the DVD remote receivers for Xbox so I can control them from the Harmony. This allows me to stream all the multimedia on my server to either of my TVs! No more is watching Hulu or other media limited to just my computer screens.
3. Gigabit switch. I touched on this before, but upgrading to a gigabit switch allows super fast file sharing between machines on your home network. It’s probably overkill but so is a Bugatti and we all want one of those. If you can’t afford one with enough ports for your entire network, you can segregate two networks. With the patch panel, you could plug port one and two from each four-port location into the gigabit switch and the other two into the slower switch. But come on, you might as well blow the money and get the whole shebang!
4. DVR anywhere. With a file server set up, you can also install a bunch of DVR cards in it. Each card can record different shows from your cable and store them on the file server. You can then watch your recorded shows on any TV in your house with XBMC. Assuming you set up the routing and or VPN access, you can access those shows from a laptop with decent bandwidth anywhere.
5. IP phones. Some manufacturers are making IP-based telephones that can connect to the internet. Who still has a home phone!?! But if you need one, at least you can skip the phone company bill.
6. IP Cameras. You can put security cameras in any room that you’ve run network drops to and record them to your file server. No more worrying if the babysitter is shaking your kids or snooping in your bedroom.
7. Be creative!
How to Wire Your House With Cat-5 (or 6) For Ethernet Networking | Instructables
Instructables is a place that lets you explore, document, and share your creations. The seeds of Instructables germinated at the MIT Media Lab as the future founders of Squid Labs built places to share their projects, connect with others, and make an impact on the world.
Image remixed from AptTone (Shutterstock).
Want to see your work on Lifehacker? Email Tessa.
Leslie Horn at http://gizmodo.com/5995338/heres-your-new-and-improved-hundred-dollar-bill wrote:
The Federal Reserve is making it rain new hundred dollar bills on October 8, 2013. They’re more colorful, more secure, and easier to authenticate, but harder to replicate. Here’s everything that’s changed.
Most of the benjamins you see today were designed way back in 1996. Sounds pretty old, right? An overhauled hundo was supposed to enter into circulation in February of 2011, but production was shut down a few months prior because of a manufacturing flaw that revealed a blank space in the note when a crease formed. But the latest batch of seems to be a big improvement.
If you were contemplating going into the counterfeiting business, you’ll be talked out of it by the time you see how the Treasury Department has booby-trapped this bill. It looks nearly impossible to duplicate. You can take an interactive tour of the new C-notes here, but we went ahead and did a breakdown of the features for you:
A hologram-like 3D security ribbon woven into the paper has bell icons that change to 100s when you move the bill.
When you hold the note steady, both the inkwell and the bell inside of it are copper. Move the bill, and the bell turns green.
To the right of the big portrait of Ben Franklin is a smaller, faint portrait watermark. You can detect it when you hold the bill up to light.
A security thread imprinted with USAs and 100s is located to the left of big Ben’s head. It can be detected when it’s put under a UV light.
The numeral 100 in the bottom right-hand corner of the front of the note changes from copper to green when you move it.
Just in case you don’t know what kind of cash you’re handling, there’s now a giant gold 100 on the back of the bill.
There are a couple of micro-printed words located on the hundred. “The United States of America” sits on ol’ Ben’s collar, “USA 100″ surrounds the portrait watermark, and “One hundred USA” appears next to a golden quill.
Franklin’s jacket feels rough to the touch; there’s raised printing all over the bill so it feels like a legit piece of officially issued currency. And so that it’s harder to copy.
Kyle Wagner at http://gizmodo.com/5995335/the-next-xbox-will-be-announced-may-21 wrote:
Microsoft just announced that it’s going to fill us in on the next Xbox, alias Durango, alias Nextbox, on May 21st. The event will take place at Microsoft’s home base in Redmond, Washington, but streamed on Spike TV. Here’s what we can expect.
The full lineup of games, according to a post on Xbox big wig Major Nelson’s blog, will be announced 19 days later at E3.
The official reveal will clear up a lot of debate swirling around the new console. Reports have cropped up that the next Xbox will require an internet connection to play, and also that it will not be able to play used games. For its part, Microsoft has gone out of its way to distance itself from the furor over these rumors, going as far as parting ways with Adam Orth, who had joked about users who were upset about an “Always On” function, but Redmond’s also gone out of its way to neither confirm nor deny them.
Other less incisive rumors include broader, system-wide controls for the Kinect that go down to cable box level, and broader functionality for the Kinect in general.
We’re expecting big things from the new console. Even considering the massive importance of Windows 8, the new Xbox might be the most important product to come from Microsoft in a while. It’s already massively successful—something Windows 8 still hasn’t achieved—and is an avenue to take Microsoft’s unified universe into millions of willing living rooms. So, exciting times.
Ashley Feinberg at http://gizmodo.com/5995197/the-dark-history-behind-earth-days-murderous-girlfriend+composting-co+founder wrote:
As you step outside today to breathe in the fresh air and note our planet’s lush, life-giving fauna, take a minute to appreciate the fact that this whole day exists thanks to the hard efforts of Earth Day’s environmentally conscious, murderous conspirators.
Because even though this day is founded on the vision of an Earth worth saving, it’s also founded by (or at least partially by) a man who whose conservation efforts didn’t quite extend to human life. On September 9, 1977, Ira Einhorn, one of Earth Day’s co-founders, lured his ex (the ‘ex’ portion occurring pre-brutal murder) girlfriend, Holly Maddux, to his apartment and killed her in a heartbroken rage. Though, he did choose to dispose of the body by composting her. So at least he’s consistent. [You can see the composted body here, but be forewarned: it's not pretty.]
It took seven months for the police to discover what had happened, and just days before his murder trial was set to begin, Einhorn—or as he preferred to be called, the Unicorn—fled to Europe, where he enjoyed a 17-year holiday from the law, avoiding extradition and marrying a Swede along the way. He was at last sent back to face the consequences on July 2001, and is currently serving a life term in prison without the possibility of parole.
So with all this considered, it shouldn’t be surprising that you probably won’t see Einhorn’s name on any of the many Earth Day pamphlets literred around our beautiful blue marble today. Sure, he was the master of ceremonies at its inaugural event 43 years ago, but the other organizers have taken every measure they can to distance themselves from the Unicorn’s (fanciful as it is felonious) name.
But we implore you, don’t let the sinister past of one of Earth Day’s purported co-founder darken this day for you. Earth Day and its organizers are at least partially to thank for the creation of the EPA and nearly all legal and regulatory mechanisms in place to protect the world around us. Plus, there’s every reason to believe that the yard at The State Correctional Institution at Houtzdale has one of the most glorious penitentiary compost piles you’ll find anywhere in these beautiful United States. [NBC News, Hawai'i Free Press, Wikipedia - Ira Einhorn]
Kyle Wagner at http://gizmodo.com/5995218/a-cheat-sheet-of-every-single-gmail-keyboard-shortcut wrote:
Do you use Gmail a lot? Then you need to see this graphic with all the keyboard shortcuts that can make like a million times easier. It comes complete with visualizations of each action, for some reference of what you’re actually accomplishing.
The shortcuts aren’t a big secret, but the value of the graph, aside from being a gentle reminder that all these actually exist, is that visual reference. “Moves your cursor to the previous message, only available in conversation view” is nice and all, but an image unpacking exactly what’s going to happen on your screen makes that a little more digestible. One thing to note, though, is that many of these shortcuts will have to be turned on in your Settings > Keyboard shortcuts menu.
And if you’re interested in just copy/pasting all of the shortcuts somewhere safe, you can of course just use the official Google Support page, which has them sorted by which are on by default, and which aren’t.
Drinking makes for awesome nights but terrible mornings. Why? Because alcohol evaporating from your body makes your throat feel forever in need of water, your brain’s wrinkles feel non-existant and your life being questioned by yourself because of your own drunk decisions. Hangovers, man. What do you do to cure a hangover? Drink more? Eat pho? Anything bacon? This infographic shows what different countries do to cure a hangover.
I usually veer towards anything noodle-y, soupy and or asian-y (with the preference being either pho or ramen). It’s pure rejuvenation and feels good for my soul (which is necessary during a rough morning). What do you guys eat to cure a hangover? [Confused via FoodBeast]
Casey Chan at http://gizmodo.com/5993411/here-is-a-chart-showing-all-the-different-cuts-of-beef wrote:
Beef is never not delicious but certain cuts of beef are even more delicious than other parts of meat. Why is that? Because the cow is a pretty big animal and different parts of it can be fattier or leaner than the other. This infographic from Visual.ly breaks down where which kind of beef cut comes from. If you were ever curious to see where the chuck is from or where the sirloin lies, you never have to wonder again.
The chart even breaks down the general cost of each piece of meat (rib eyes are more expensive than chuck) and the best cooking methods for each (skillet, braise, etc.). Meat is not always equal. Click the picture below to embiggen and memorize and appreciate. [
Thorin Klosowski at http://lifehacker.com/5992722/one-day-youre-going-to-die-heres-how-to-prepare-for-it wrote:
It’s a fact of life that we’re all going to die at some point. While it’s not something you probably want to think about, you can make things a lot easier on yourself (and your family) if you get everything in order now. Here’s what you need to do.
Your inevitable demise is hopefully not on your mind too often, but it’s still something you should think about long enough to get everything in order. Doing so ensures that everything in your life is organized so others can see what you want to happen after you’re gone, what you own, and how to handle a variety of situations.
If this sounds daunting, don’t worry too much: being unmarried, without children, and without a useful asset to speak of, I was able to get everything in order in about two hours (I still had a lawyer friend double-check everything to ensure I wasn’t accidentally giving my dog medical power of attorney). The more you own the longer it’ll take, but it’s not nearly as time-consuming as it looks because most of this stuff you probably already have ready to go.
Note: You can do a lot of this stuff on your own, but it’s a good idea to speak with a lawyer about your will, assets, and general estate planning. This guide is meant more to get you acquainted with terms, provide DIY options when applicable, and help you collect together what you need.
Decide What Happens After You Die
Planning for your death is actually two things: what happens after you die, and what happens if you’re ill and unable to handle decisions yourself. Let’s start with taking care of what happens after you die, starting with your last will and testament.
Write Your Last Will and Testament
Your last will and testament is a document that designates what happens with your property, guardianship of your children, and names the person (executor) who carries out your wishes after you die. If you don’t own a lot of property, a simple will is likely all you need.
It’s possible to draft up a simple will on your own, but it comes with its own set of pros and cons. These include problems with outdated information, specific state related tax issues, and how they handle specific trusts. As USNews notes, online wills are a one-size fits all solution, that can’t always account for the complicated situations of real life. However, if you only need a very basic will SmartLegalForms, LegalZoom, or RocketLawyer all provide a simple template for doing so for between $15 and $80. These laws and requirements change often, and if you don’t do it right you might unintentionally give someone more power over your estate then you want. Most simple wills have just a few sections where you can say what happens to your assets, and designate who gets any property you own.
When you’re drafting up your will, you’ll also name your executor. After you die, this is the person who handles your estate (all of your property), finances, debts, and everything else. It should go without saying this is a person you would trust to handle your estate when you’re alive. Once you die, a probate court will officially give power to your executor to handle your affairs. They do not have control over your estate until after you die.
Finally, to make the will legally binding, you’ll usually need to get signatures from at least two witnesses (who aren’t beneficiaries listed somewhere on the will), and it’s advisable to get it notarized by a notary public. You can usually find a notary public at your bank, and they act something like an official witness for legal forms.
If you have a lot of assets that you want to designate to multiple people, or to make sure your will is legally sound, you should speak with a lawyer about getting a more advanced will written up. Things start getting really tricky when finances are involved, and if you have a lot of assets it’s worth at least consulting with a lawyer (if you need help finding a reputable lawyer here’s our guide). I spoke with lawyer Elizabeth D Mitchell of Ambler & Keenan, LLC about the basics of what you can expect from an estate planning firm:
I usually start people out with a form and have them think about who they would name as their power of attorney. From there, we’d look at their assets and arrange for special circumstances. It’s important to remember that estate planning isn’t just what happens after death, it’s also about what happens if you’re incapacitated… What I always tell people is that it costs more to clean up a financial mess afterwards then it does to plan ahead.
Mitchell also adds that although it takes a little time to get everything in order, most estate planning lawyers offer some type of free consultation before they into your plan. This is because once they set up a plan with you, you’ll be dealing with them for the rest of your life so it’s important to know exactly what you’re getting into. Mitchell also recommends people at least speak with a lawyer about writing up their will even if they don’t own a lot of property because it’s possible a single mistake could mess everything up. As the New York Times points out, the law is different in every state, and something as minor as not declaring the document a will out loud will make it invalid in certain states. A lawyer is also handy to set up trusts so your family gets paid out. According to the Wall Street Journal, trusts are increasingly important:
Rick Law, founder of estate-planning firm Law ElderLaw LLP in Aurora, Ill., says estate planners increasingly recommend revocable trusts in addition to wills, since they are more private and harder to dispute. “Every will is like a compass that points toward the closest courthouse,” he says.
A revocable living trust can be changed anytime during your lifetime. After you transfer ownership of various assets to the trust, you can serve as the trustee on behalf of beneficiaries you designate. Provided you do so, there aren’t any ongoing fees.
That said, if you don’t own that much, or you don’t mind leaving it all to one person, the whole process of writing out your own will takes about 20-30 minutes. Photo by Ken Mayer.
Outline the Funeral or Memorial Service
Obviously this step is optional, but if you want something specific to happen at your funeral or memorial service after you die it’s a good idea to get it in writing, and let your family know your wishes. Doing so gets rid of the headache of planning for your family, and ensures you get what you want. You don’t need to go in and plan everything out, but here are a few things worth considering:
- If you want a burial, you need to find a grave plot. You’ll need to contact a local cemetery and purchase a plot if so. If you want a specific cemetery or plot, the earlier you do this step the better.
- If you want cremation, you’ll work with a funeral director, so contact a local funeral home and arrange any details with them.
- Decide if you want to pre-pay for any arrangements so you don’t have to worry about your family paying for anything while they wait to get access to your money. Since the average funeral is around $6,500, so it might be helpful to pay ahead of time.
At this time, you can also decide if you want anything specific in a memorial service, how you want the wake handled, and everything else. It’s also common to add these details to the will if you want to make sure your wishes are followed. Obviously this is a very personal event, and what you want depends a lot on your religious and social background. It’s a good idea to make your wishes known to family members to take the pressure off them when the time comes.
Designate What Happens If You’re Ill or Incapacitated
Just as important as what happens after you die is what happens if you’re ill, incompetent, or incapacitated. For this you need a living will, a power of attorney, and a medical power of attorney. If it sounds a little scary, don’t worry, it doesn’t take a lot of time and by the end you’ll know that you’ll only get the medical support you want.
Designate a Power of Attorney
A power of attorney is the person who can attend to financial or legal matters if you fall ill or are unable to handle them for yourself. It’s a good idea to choose a power of attorney so that they can attend to your financial and legal issues immediately after you fall ill. The power of attorney expires when you die, and the control of your finances typically shifts to the executor you named in your will. In some cases this is the same person.
You have a lot of choices for different types of power of attorney, but experts typically recommend is a durable power of attorney. This type of power of attorney goes into effect immediately after you sign the documents and lasts until you die. Essentially, when you sign it your power of attorney will have immediate access to your finances and legal matters the second you’re declared incompetent or incapacitated.
The form to designate a power of attorney varies by state, but if you want to do it yourself you can get a document from the same services where you did your will (SmartLegalForms, LegalZoom, or RocketLawyer). If you’re giving one person complete control over everything you can likely manage to fill this out yourself, but if you want to limit what they can do it’s likely best to consult with a lawyer. Photo by Andy on Flickr.
Prepare a Living Will and Designate a Medical Power of Attorney
Your living will (aka advance health care directive) outlines your wishes for medical care if you’re in an accident and can’t speak for yourself. The information you provide ranges from resuscitation guidelines to whether or not you want dialysis.
Every state has different paperwork for your living will, and different guidelines (you can grab paperwork specific to your state here). Essentially, each form allows you to designate what type of medical care you want to receive if you can’t speak for yourself, as well as designate if you want to donate any of your organs to science. Again, you’ll usually need two witnesses when you sign, and it’s wise to get it stamped by a notary. When you’re finished, keep a copy for yourself, and give copies to your physician, a family member, and your healthcare agent (your lawyer will also keep one if you use one). Additionally, if you do not want CPR or ACLS, you want to fill out a Do Not Resuscitate order with your doctor.
Not every medical procedure known to man is covered in the living will, and for those unexpected occurrences you may also want to designate a medical power of attorney (also known as an agent, attorney-in-fact, health care proxy, or health care surrogate depending on where you live). This person can make medical choices for you if they’re not included on your living will, or if you give them the power to override your previous choices if the circumstance warrants it. Additionally, they can also get the right to see your medical records (which is helpful if you choose anyone other than direct family), apply for Medicare on your behalf, and make choices about any medical procedures when you can’t. Again, this differs by state, but you’ll often name a medical power of attorney on your living will. Of course, before you give someone the power of attorney you’ll want to go over what type of medical treatments you want and don’t want, and make sure they agree to follow your wishes.
The living will and health care power of attorney forms are important for everyone to fill out. I did mine in about 10 minutes. With these completed, you’ll have the peace of mind that you’ll get the medical care you want (or don’t want) in just about every circumstance. Again, a lawyer is helpful here if you’re unclear about anything. If you’re not sure what type of treatments you’d like when you’re incapacitated you should speak with your doctor. Photo by Social Innovation Camp.
Organize Your Finances, Life Insurance, Bills, Debts, and Everything Else
While the bulk of your assets are distributed on your will, you still have a lot of financial obligations out in the world. Naming an executor on your will and a power of attorney is just one step. You’ve probably already done this, but it’s also important to get all your finances organized so your heirs can actually find what they need. According to the National Association of Unclaimed Property, around $32.9 billion assets are currently unclaimed because the state took hold of them instead of the family. So, whether you decide to write up your will with an estate planner or not, you still need to get everything in order.
Two of the most important documents are your life insurance policy (especially policies from former employers) and retirement plans (as well as pensions and annuities), because both are easy to overlook. If your heirs don’t know these accounts and policies exist, they can’t claim them and the funds usually go to the state. So, gather up your various policies and keep them together.
If you don’t have a life insurance policy, you might want to get one, and we’ve walked you through what you need before. A life insurance policy isn’t just about covering your salary after you die, it’s about helping your family pay for funeral costs, car loans, credit cards, mortgages, and everything else.
To make the process easier on your family when you pass away, it’s also a good idea to gather together all your debts (especially big ones like your mortgage, car loans, or credit cards) in one place so your heirs can pay your bills for you while they figure everything else out. You likely already do this, but it’s good to keep everything together so they don’t have to search for it. To make the process even easier (and skip over any conflicts with power of attorney), you can add a family member to at least one of your bank accounts so they always have access to some of your funds.
If you have a lot of sources of income, it’s a good idea to meet with a financial advisor to get everything organized. You can find one through The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors. With your financial advisor you can set up beneficiaries for retirement plans, make your accounts accessible, and create spending plans for your surviving family.
Secure Your Digital Life (and Pass the Keys onto Someone You Trust)
It’s increasingly important to also hand over the keys to your digital life when you’re preparing for your death. We have a guide for getting everything organized that’s easy to follow.
The reason this is an important step is not just to give your heirs access to your bank accounts, it’s also so they can shut down services you don’t want around. For example, Facebook can memorialize your page if you want, but if you don’t want that digital record sticking around, you might make a request to your heirs to delete it outright. Likewise, if an heir wants access to your Google account and you don’t give them the password, they’ll need to provide a name, address, photo ID, email, and death certificate. Which is to say, it’s a lot easier for your family if you just give them your passwords.
So, when you’re putting together your list of usernames and passwords, include instructions for how you want those accounts handled, including if you want them to do anything specific with your home computer. It might seem a little weird, but if you want a little control over how your digital life is handled after you die, this is the only option. If you’re using a password manager like Lastpass then you can just look in your password vault for a full list of all your accounts and passwords. It only takes a couple of minutes to copy the ones that really matter.
Set Up a Master File of Everything
Once you have all your paperwork sorted, wills filled out, and everything else, it’s time to pack that all into master file you share with a close family member or friend. Remember, this includes everything about your life, so keep it in a safe place (or in a safe deposit box), and share it’s location with your family. After completing the steps above, you should have everything in order, but here’s what you should include (List culled together from UC Berkeley, The Wall Street Journal, and our own “In-Case-of Emergency” document):
- Letter of instruction
- Birth certificates
- Marriage certificates
- Citizenship papers
- Divorce/separation papers
- Adoption papers
- Social security numbers/cards
- Passports (numbers and expiration dates)
- Driver’s licenses (number, expiration dates)
- Military records
- Names/address/telephone numbers of healthcare professionals
- Healthcare proxies/living wills
- Medications (dosages, name of prescribing physicians, pharmacy, address/telephone
- Address and phone numbers of hospitals of choice
- Medicare numbers
- Medicaid numbers (caseworker numbers, address/telephone)
- Social worker or caseworker names and contact information
- Passwords, web sites, and other digital information
- Income sources (retirement and/or disability benefits, Social Security, etc.)
- Financial assets (institution names, account numbers, address/telephone, form of ownership, current value) of cash, bank accounts, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, money market funds, retirement and pension plans, IRAs, annuities, life insurance
- Real Estate (property addresses, location of deeds, form of ownership, current value)
- Other assets (location of items/titles/documents/form of ownership, current value) including automobiles, boats, inheritances, precious gems, collectibles, household items, hidden valuables/items in storage, loans to family members/friends
- Liabilities (Creditor institutions, address/telephone, approximate debt) of mortgages, personal loans, credit cards, notes, IOUs, other).
- Trust documents
While some of these records need to be physical copies (like your birth certificate), others, like contact info, a copy of your will, and property information can be digital, so use whatever system you’re more comfortable with. Whatever you decide, keep everything organized in a folder together, and let a family member know where everything is.
If you need a little help getting everything organized, webapps Everplans, Get Your Shit Together, and CNN’s guide to estate planning are great resources that guide you through more of the specifics. As always, if things get too complicated, don’t hesitate to contact an estate planner for help—most will offer you a free consultation.
Thanks to Elizabeth D Mitchell of Ambler & Keenan, LLC for taking the time to talk with me about what to expect from an estate planning law firm.