DIY-IT Project Guide

This is the comprehensive guide to the DIY-IT projects. If you're working on a DIY project of your own, this is a good place to start.

No matter how successful you are, when you’re a small business owner, sweat equity is a major resource. Basically, whenever you can DIY something and either save some money or get a previously unobtainable capability, you do so.

Since I’m a geek, my life is filled with interesting hacks and projects that let me do more than a normal small business budget would allow. And, also, since I’m a geek, my life is also filled with hacks that are simply cool, fun, or just plain neat.

Here at ZDNet's DIY-IT, our goal is to take you inside of some of those projects, inspire you, and -- when we're very lucky -- get inspired back by you.

Many of these projects, like the Skype Studio, are really made up of something like 20-30 smaller projects, and each of those are discussed as individual articles. This guide is designed to aggregate those individual posts, so you can find everything related to a given project in one place.

Feel free to explore the projects below, try any of the projects out for yourself, and let us know about the neat stuff you're doing.

See also: And now for something completely different. Welcome to DIY-IT!

DIY-IT Projects

We're working on, discussing, tinkering, and exploring each of the following projects

Here's a list of the projects we're working on. Feel free to check any of them out.

Build your own, broadcast-quality Skype Studio

The goal of this project is to build a broadcast-quality video studio for Skype in a 10×9 foot space, and spend less than $5,000 doing it.

Building a broadcast-quality video studio for Skype in a 10×9 foot space
One of the most exciting projects I've been working on is building a broadcast-quality video studio for Skype in a 10×9 foot space. Here’s the story that starts it all.

Finding a camcorder that works with Skype is harder than you might expect
Virtually none of the modern, under $1,000 camcorders currently in production can be used as a webcam. Here’s one camera that will work.

Getting started with green screen
This article describes the first steps in creating a green screen for the Skype Studio. As a bonus, you’ll get to see my disembodied head.

Lessons learned from the first full show
Get the inside scoop on the first show’s production snags, plus learn more about the design philosophy for the Skype Studio project.

Soundproofing the Skype Studio
Fortunately, the soundproofing and sound-sculpting materials work and work quite well. The room is now virtually silent and I’ve been able to get excellent recording and broadcast sound quality.

Green screen lighting in the Skype Studio
There are a number of challenges when setting up lighting for green screen in a small studio space. Here’s how I solved them for my Skype Studio project.

Choosing the right computer to power the Skype Studio
In later articles, when I tell you what obscenities I’m making this little machine do in the name of broadcasting, you’ll understand why this is so very important.

Feeding green screen chroma key into Skype
I wanted the remote Skype viewer to see whatever image I wanted behind me: a brick wall, a rack of computers, a bookshelf, a logo, a moving pattern…whatever.

Skype jumps the shark: Seven alternative VoIP services
Microsoft is adding advertising to its audio voice over IP (VoIP) Skype service (for now, video remains unsullied by marketing). Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols explores alternatives that don’t stick an ad in your face while you’re talking.

How to make money online with YouTube: a comprehensive guide
Are you interested in setting up a new residual income stream? While striking it rich with YouTube is very unlikely, it's extremely feasible to make an extra $50-$100 every month or two. Here's how Stephen Chapman does just that.

How Camtasia saved the webcast...literally
David needed to combine audio from a telephone conversation and video from a screen meeting into one recording. It took some hoop jumping, but with the help of some nifty software, he got his recording.

... more to come ...

Broadcasts from the Skype Studio

Want to see what's possible using the Skype Studio? Here are some of the broadcasts I've done. Be sure to check out DavidGewirtzTV for all the latest videos.

T-Mobile VP sounds off on Carrier IQ, AT&T, BlackBerry, iPhone, and eGov
In this video, a T-Mobile VP gives us an exclusive look into the strategic thinking of a major mobile carrier.

Technology policy challenges faced by the U.S. Federal Government (video seminar)
I delivered a guest lecture to the National Defense University in Washington, DC. You can attend this seminar by watching the embedded video. This was the most complex video production I've tried to-date. First, it had to be over Google Video, not Skype. Then, because I had to have the presentation in the prompter at the same time as the audience, I had to do a two-computer, one virtual machine magic trick to rotate and flip the PowerPoint to appear properly in the prompter.

Is Android secure enough for mission-critical government and military use?
I took a deep dive into military and government Android security with Dell’s top Android security expert. This segment wasn't quite as smooth as I'd like, which showcases the important of good bandwidth. Another lesson learned: wear solid color shirts.

The scary truth about voting machine hacking risk
I had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Jon Warner of Argonne National Laboratories for a deep dive into voting machine hacking. This was the maiden voyage of the Skype Studio and solidly proved the concept. There were some glitches, but overall, the subject was fascinating and scary and the studio actually worked as intended.

The Ultimate Google Voice How-to Guide

We took the big step of moving from landlines to VoIP using Google Voice. The following series shows how we did it. Note: This links to a 14-article series on getting the most out of Google Voice. We are aware that Google is going through some transitions with Google Voice . As the situation changes, we'll add to or update this article series.

For those of you using Google Voice now with Ooma or Obi, please skip down to the bottom of this list and read our Google Voice and Skype article . It will help you come up to speed with what I'm doing right now. --David

Google Voice: The ultimate how-to guide
Summary: In this article, and the dozen or so that follow it, you'll learn just about everything you need to know to get the most out of the Google Voice service.

Google Voice: Just because you can port your number, should you?
Google Voice is an amazing service, but there are some limitations and gotchas. In this article, we explore the pros and cons of the service to help you decide if it's for you.

Google Voice: A step-by-step primer on ditching your land line while keeping your number
Google doesn’t normally allow you to port a land line phone number to Google Voice. This step-by-step primer shows you how you can do it.

Google Voice: The ultimate iPhone how-to
Google fought Apple hard for the right to distribute a Google Voice iPhone app. This guide shows you how to get the most out of Google Voice on your iPhone. 

Google Voice: The ultimate Android how-to
In this article, we look at how you can use Google Voice from your Android device, how you can display your Google Voice number as your Caller ID, and how you can make minutes-free Google Voice VoIP calls via WiFi.

Google Voice: What if Google cancels Google Voice?
As our ongoing series, The Ultimate Google Voice Guide, continues, rumors fly about the end of Google Voice. If Google Voice ends, we'll help you find substitute solutions.

Google Voice: The SMS guide
Here's how you get the most out of sending and receiving text messages with Google Voice.

Google Voice: In the car with Android
You can customize your smartphone in all sorts of fun and useful ways to provide an optimal in-vehicle experience and driving assistant.

Google Voice: beyond Gmail. Get voicemail and texts using any client you want
Learn how you can receive transcribed voicemail messages and texts in any email client you wish.

Google Voice: how to consolidate your virtual phone numbers
Google Voice doesn’t normally allow more than one Google Voice number to ring through to a single mobile phone. This article shows you some ways around that limitation.

Google Voice: a cheapskate's guide to cheap VOIP
In this article, we look at how you can make and receive Google Voice phone calls from any old wired phone you may have lying around your house.

Google Voice: configuring a complex home office
In this article, we’ll look at how you can set up a complex home office with two phone line and Google Voice.

Dear Google: we need a quality reverse phone number lookup for Google Voice
Since Google is the oracle of all information, it seems strange that it can’t tell you who owns a given phone number.

Taking Google Voice to the extreme with Ooma
After a year with Google Voice and about three months with the Ooma solution working smoothly, I’ve finally stopped hearing complaints about our phones.

Google Voice and Skype: Rethinking GV and the landline handset solution
There's no need to try to convert the last five decades of analog phone devices to something that runs over the Internet. Let's just use the Internet devices we already have in the house. Let's use Skype with Google Voice.More Projects

Here's a list of the other projects we're working on. Feel free to check any of them out.

Here's a list of the projects we're working on. Feel free to check any of them out.

Migrating a massive legacy CMS system to WordPress

This is probably the least well-documented of the projects here on DIY-IT and the one that gives me the most stomach acid. It's slow going, annoying, exceedingly time consuming, and far from done. If you want to understand the scope of the project, watch the following YouTube video. The subsequent articles are dives into various challenges I've had and lessons learned. Two of them also happened to generate the most (very cranky) comments of any article I've published. Such is life in the happy-go-lucky world of migration.

Video: Project lecture at WordCamp Miami

Migrating a massive legacy CMS to WordPress without losing your mind
This article briefly described the problem I'm working on, and invited everyone to join me at WordCamp in Miami.

How to upgrade a WordPress theme after you’ve hacked the heck out of it
Have you ever wanted to upgrade a heavily modified theme and seamlessly knit all your changes into the new code? Here’s how.

If you have a mysterious problem with a Linux box, try bashing your system with sys_basher
Finding mysterious crashing problems is often a big challenge. Read on to learn about a free tool you can use to help find those hidden troubles.

Programmatically importing thousands of featured image post thumbnails into WordPress
Here’s a deep dive into the featured thumbnail feature of WordPress and a technique for converting thousands of images into WordPress thumbnail attachments.

Why I’ve finally had it with my Linux server and I’m moving back to Windows
New motto: For all of us who have lives, there’s Windows.

Mea culpa: coming clean about my n00b Linux mistakes
The one where I learn what a n00b I am with Linux.

And yes, this project is still ongoing. I'll post more when I my new-and-improved flak-jacket shows up in the mail.

Here's a list of the projects we're working on. Feel free to check any of them out.

E-book publishing

These articles are about how to get your book accepted by Apple's iBooks system. We're also working on some Kindle projects, so stay tuned.

iTunes won't let you publish books if you write software
Apple today finally opened up the iBooks store for smaller publishers. And I hit a snag.

Apple today finally opened up the iBooks store for smaller publishers. And I hit a snag
Part II in the continuing iBooks saga, where we try to submit a book to the iTunes store — and fail.

Six tips for getting Apple's iBooks to accept your ePub file
I got the iTunes store to accept my ePub file. This article will explain in detail what I tried and what I learned.

How to convert your book from InDesign to Kindle in 10 minutes or less
End-to-end, I was able to go from InDesign document to Kindle document live and running on my Kindle in six minutes.

The Kindle Owners’ Lending Library is a little … odd
While it’s nice to be able to “borrow” books on the Kindle, our impressions are that the service is a little early for prime time, and — frankly — a little odd.

Review: My Amazon Kindle Single publishing experiment (by Larry Dignan)
Amazon launched its Kindle Single store and ZDNet's Editor in Chief Larry Dignan decided to conduct an experiment in self-book publishing. Here’s a look at what you need to know.

Here's a list of the projects we're working on. Feel free to check any of them out.

Small business tips

I'm just getting started adding small business tips to DIY-IT. I've got a few listed below. In the meantime, here are two additional resources chock-full of small business information:

Also on ZDNet: ZDNet Small Business Center
My book: How To Save Jobs (free PDF download)

Ten techie homeowner tips for Jason’s new house
Ten bits of wisdom earned the hard way: from making mistakes and learning from them.

Contact managers and CRM systems are incredibly stupid
I’m having a crisis of faith. I can’t stand contact managers. Whether you call them CRM systems or contact managers, they all seem to be stuck in the land time forgot.

How to decide: should you buy an iPhone or an Android phone?
Well, here goes. You fanbois out there, holster your arrows. I’m gonna do this one snark-free.

The two reasons I avoided Android and finally upgraded to the relatively boring iPhone 4S
Would you take the easy path and go with a workable, if uninspiring iPhone 4GS? Or, would you take a chance on the wild world of malware and go with Android?

When to buy an Android tablet and when to buy a Kindle Fire
Should you get an Android tablet like the Galaxy Tab or, well, an Android-based tablet like the Kindle Fire? Read this article to find out.

The one key rule for surviving a Groupon deal
Learn how a Groupon deal can be very compelling for buyers, but for sellers, it can be brutal.

So you want to be a publisher
Since this is a family show, I’ve replaced my standard body of profane expression with slightly more watered-down variations.

Here's a list of the projects we're working on. Feel free to check any of them out.

How to decide: tech buying guides for DIYers and small business

How to decide: should you buy a big Kindle Fire HD or an iPad?
This is totally NOT the simple choice you might think it would be. There are a lot of reasons why you might choose either device. If you really want to make an informed decision, read this guide.

How to decide: should you buy the Nexus 7 or the Kindle Fire? 
The two devices are the same size and the same price. But there are differences. Which should you choose?

How to decide: should you buy an iPad or wait for the Microsoft Surface?
Even though we still don’t know much about the Surface models, I can give you some advice, at least within certain basic parameters.

How to decide: should you buy a new iPad or a Kindle Fire?
With all the buzz these days about tablets, it turns out some folks are still trying to understand which device to buy. This article will help you decide.

How to decide: should you buy an iPhone or an Android phone?
Well, here goes. You fanbois out there, holster your arrows. I’m gonna do this one snark-free.

When to buy an Android tablet and when to buy a Kindle Fire
Should you get an Android tablet like the Galaxy Tab or, well, an Android-based tablet like the Kindle Fire? Read this article to find out.

Everything you need to know about buying an HDTV (video)
In this DIY-IT Father’s Day Special, David Gewirtz interviews HDTV guru Alfred Poor for a detailed, in-depth, deep dive into everything you ever wanted to know about buying an HDTV.

How NOT to buy

16 reasons NOT to buy a new iPad (including 7 that haven’t changed from earlier iPads)
I’m on your side, kids. It’s time for some truth. Let’s shut down that reality distortion field and save you some money. Let’s get started.

The two reasons I avoided Android and finally upgraded to the relatively boring iPhone 4S
Would you take the easy path and go with a workable, if uninspiring iPhone 4GS? Or, would you take a chance on the wild world of malware and go with Android?

10 reasons NOT to buy an Android and why I'm waiting for the iPhone 5
Unfortunately, the few boons of Androidum don’t make up for the disadvantages. Here’s why I’m not going to buy an Android and I’m waiting for the iPhone 5.

12 things that kinda suck about the Kindle Fire
Since it’s our job here at ZDNet to present you with all sides of technology, in this article I’m going to spotlight some of the Kindle Fire’s shortcomings.

7 reasons the Kindle Fire is better than the iPad
Summary: To be fair, I’ve only had a few hours to tinker with the new device, but I can already say that there are a bunch of ways the Kindle Fire is better than the iPad.

12 reasons you might NOT want to buy a Kindle Fire
Before you rush out and spend your hard-earned cash, I’d like to caution you. There are some good reasons you might NOT want to buy a new Kindle Fire.

11 reasons NOT to buy an iPad 2 (including 6 that haven't changed from the iPad 1) 
Face it. If you’re foaming at the mouth over the iPad 2, you already have an iPad.

9 reasons you might NOT want to give an iPad this Christmas
The iPad is fine technology, but quite limited.

8 reasons you might NOT want to buy a Kinect
The Kinect is truly an amazing device, but it might not be what you expect. Even worse, you might get it home and discover it’s not actually usable in your house.

 

Here's a list of the projects we're working on. Feel free to check any of them out.

Migrating a large email store to Office 365

My big email switch: Why I picked Office 365 over Google Apps
The bizarre moral of my migration story: I would actually face fewer service interruptions and more service continuity for my existing mission-critical Google services if I switched to Microsoft Office.

Apparently, Microsoft takes this Office 365 support thing seriously
I cannot over-emphasize how important good support is, especially when you can no longer lay your own hands on the server. I also can't over-emphasize how impressed I've become with Microsoft's support for Office 365.

Microsoft's baffling 'multiple personality disorder'
We pundits and columnists and techies look at the company with suspicion, because we never know from moment-to-moment whether we'll get the Good Microsoft or the Bad Microsoft.

Cloud support: why is the hold music so bad?
If we're to adopt cloud as a strategy for everyone, everyone will either wind up with a headache from bad, repetitive hold music, or an earworm, or both.

Here's a list of the projects we're working on. Feel free to check any of them out.

Migrating a large email store to Office 365

My big email switch: Why I picked Office 365 over Google Apps
The bizarre moral of my migration story: I would actually face fewer service interruptions and more service continuity for my existing mission-critical Google services if I switched to Microsoft Office.

Apparently, Microsoft takes this Office 365 support thing seriously
I cannot over-emphasize how important good support is, especially when you can no longer lay your own hands on the server. I also can't over-emphasize how impressed I've become with Microsoft's support for Office 365.

Microsoft's baffling 'multiple personality disorder'
We pundits and columnists and techies look at the company with suspicion, because we never know from moment-to-moment whether we'll get the Good Microsoft or the Bad Microsoft.

Cloud support: why is the hold music so bad?
If we're to adopt cloud as a strategy for everyone, everyone will either wind up with a headache from bad, repetitive hold music, or an earworm, or both.

Newsletters

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.
See All
See All