While there are plenty of great products on the market, buying what's available to you means playing by the rules of the manufacturers. Sometimes the only way to get the product or service you're after is to create it yourself. If you're willing to bend or break the rules a little bit, here are our top 10 solutions to creating amazing things that can only exist by your own hand.
Photo remixed from an original by Mark Hillary
Note: These solutions don't mean you won't have to purchase anything at all. In some cases you won't as you'll have what you need around the house, but these projects aren't free — just better than what you can currently buy in a store.
10. Make Better Board Games With The Board Game Remix Kit
You probably have a few board games lying around that were fun once but have gotten a little dull after playing them again and again. So what can you do? Remix them with the board game remix kit. It'll cost you a few bucks, but it'll give you a ton of ways to take your existing board games and turn them into better ones like Zombie Mansion, Them's Fightin' Words, and more.
9. Supercharge Your Canon Point-And-Shoot Or DSLR
The cameras you buy in stores get the job done, but if you've got a Canon you don't have to settle for the status quo. CHDK is custom firmware that can supercharge your point-and-shoot and Magic Lantern will do the same for your Canon DSLR (and a few Panasonic models, too). We're not sure why there's still no love for Nikon, but if you've got a Canon there's a lot more you can be doing with it by breaking the rules and using some third-party firmware.
8. Make A Fully-Functional Linux Web Server For $US50
If you want to run a web site out of your home or just have a handy local testing server, you can buy a Pogoplug and turn it into a fully-functional Linux web server pretty easily. If you've just learned to code and are starting your first project, your own mini web server can make for a great companion.
7. Silence The Annoyances On Television
Whether you're watching traditional or online television, you're bound to encounter something annoying. Fortunately, there are a couple of interesting DIY solutions that might solve your problems. For the regular boob tube, a neat DIY device called the Enough Already mutes your television when it hears certain names and keywords. For example, if you're listening to a broadcast and "Charlie Sheen" enters the conversation, the Enough Already will engage the mute function for 30 seconds.
6. Turn Your Computer Into A Retro Arcade
There are plenty of devices you can use for the purpose of retro gaming. You can hack your Wii, Nintendo DS, iPad, and more. That said, you may not have one or any of these devices, but chances are you have a computer if you're reading this post. If that's the case, you have tons of options. Just check out our guiding on turning your computer into a retro arcade and you'll be playing all your favourite console games of the past in no time.
5. Customise Your Favourite Web Sites To Your Exact Preferences
4. Create A Super Router
The router you've got probably does its job, but with DD-WRT it can become .something far more incredible. In fact, we've put together a set of lessons on all the amazing things you can do with your router. The problem is, not all routers support every little feature you could possibly want. Installing DD-WRT fixes that so you have all the features you need at your fingertips. Sure, it could void your warranty but that's part of the fun.
3. Build An Awesome XBMC-Based Media centre On The Cheap
XBMC (Xbox Media centre) is a cross-platform media centre application that runs on anything from Xboxes to desktop computers to (jailbroken) iPhones, iPads, and AppleTVs. It's really fantastic, free, and better than pretty much every other box on the market. If you've already got a computer to run it on, you're all set, but we highly recommend running XBMC Live on a Nettop. Alternatively, the 2nd generation AppleTV makes an even cheaper, Wi-Fi-enabled XBMC box as well. Either way, it's pretty much the best media centre solution out there and it's all yours for the price of $US0 and a bit of your time.
2. Make A Hackintosh
While Apple makes some great computers, you can make your own for far less money. In many cases, it'll even be faster than what you can buy. We've already shown you how to build an exceptionally fast Hackintosh on the cheap, and well as an even cheaper Hack Mini. If you want to go custom and figure out your own build, we have a guide to help you do that as well. Lastly, while we're not big fans of Apple's latest operating system, should you want to upgrade you Hackintosh to Lion we can show you how to do that, too. While a Hackintosh might require a bit more work and turn you into your own tech support, if you enjoy building computers and having complete control over your hardware, this is the way to go.
1. Create An Internet "PVR" with Usenet, sabNZBD+ And Sickbeard
Television can be great, but the current distribution methods are crippled. If you want to watch a show when it's on, you have to tune it at a specific time, hope your DVD records it properly, buy it online whenever the studio feels like providing it, or wait for the DVD release. If any of these methods work for you that's great, but the ideal solution would involve a subscription method in which you pick the shows you want and they're automatically available to you when they air — commercial free. This is something you can put together yourself and it's pretty amazing. By getting started with Usenet (the service that dare not speak its name) access, you open up yourself to a world of available content. From there, using free softwares sabNZBD+ and Sickbeard, you can turn your computer into an internet PVR so it will acquire any shows you want automatically. If you'd prefer not to use your regular desktop machine, turn an old machine into a NAS (network-attached storage device) and sanNZBD+ and sickbeard on FreeNAS. However you go about it is fine. In the end you'll have your entertainment ready to watch with no hassle — an option far better than anything you can currently buy.