Nerdiest Thing Ever (USB Hub/Card Reader Mod)

Modded USB Hub

Just a stack of old books...

When not messing around on my computer, I like to tinker and make things. My latest projects combine three of my favorite things: books, technology, and things that are not quite what them seem. Featured here is a USB hub & card reader hidden inside antique books; I’m also in the process of making a charging station composed of antique books, but the size (5 books!) and relative complexity of that project is taking a lot longer.

Modded USB Hub

...or not.

What’s the point? Well, I find a stack of old books to be much more aesthetically pleasing than a jumble of cables, and hiding the gadgets in books also keeps everything organized. Functionality aside, I also just like to play with power tools and sharp objects (making my power saw my new favorite toy).

I made this gadget specifically for work, since students are often coming to me with flash drives that need to be rescued, and they always come in groups, causing me to quickly run out of available USB ports on my computer. The card reader will help save batteries when downloading media from our cameras, as well as allow me to get pictures off of the various cards that staff and students sometimes bring in from home.

The project is pretty straight forward, but here is a short description of what I used and what I did to create this wonderfully nerdy toy tool.


    Gel Mediums

    Gel Mediums

    Card Reader

    Card Reader

  • Antique Books
  • USB Hub
  • Card Reader
  • Gel Medium (Matte and Glossy)
  • Adhesive Caulk
  • 3/4 inch screws


  • Utility Knife
  • Drill
  • Paint Brush
  • Clamps
  • One Nerdy Geek

What I did:

After sealing the pages of each book together (using the matte gel, to preserve the aged appearance of the books), I hollowed out each book using a utility knife. I’ve found that smaller books and/or older books with soft pages hollow easier when the pages are sealed first; however, larger books with stiffer pages are easier to hollow before the pages are sealed, allowing the book to be hollowed in sections. I also coated the inside of the hollowed books with a glossy gel, which tamed rough edges and further adhered the pages together.

USB Hub Mod

Finished Product

When the insides of the books were dry, I arranged the books in a nicely skewed stack then connected them by drilling a screw in each corner of the top book. The 3/4” screws were just long enough to drill into each cover, without going through the top cover of the bottom book. Since I wanted the USB hub in the top book and the card reader to be plugged into it, I drilled a hole into the bottom of the top book and through the top of the bottom book, to allow the cables to pass. I also drilled a small hole through the top edge of the bottom book, so that the usb cable - the one that will attach the hub to the computer - could exit (since the plug is bigger than the cable, I pulled the sealed pages apart slightly to pass the cable through, and then resealed the pages around the cable). Finally, I used adhesive caulk to glue the usb hub and card reader into their respective books.


The Perpetual Sticky Note (Useful Tool)



Everyday I write three things I need to accomplish onto a post-it and stick it to my monitor. This helps me to prioritize and focus on the most important items on my seemingly infinite to-do list. The only problem is that the post-it has become easy to ignore or gets lost in the sea of other post-its that often infect my workspace. So, I was quite please to discover StickyScreen.

StickyScreen is a website with a single digital sticky note that displays whatever text you want - a mantra, fun quote, reminder, to-do list, wish list, WHATEVER. No signup, no bells and whistle; it's genius is it's simplicity.


Syncing ALL Google Calendars with Your iPhone

When I first set my iPod to sync with my Google Calendar, only some of the events appeared. Turns out that Google will only sync your default calendar to your mobile device, unless you tell it otherwise. If you would like additional calendars to sync, go to http://m.google.com/sync (on your ipod, iphone, or other device) to change which calendars are synced to you device. Every time you create a new Google calendar, you will have to update these settings, if you want the new calendar to sync as well.


If You’re Gonna Lead, Make Sure You’re Headed in the Right Direction

This post is a response to Scott McLeod's call for Leadership Day 2009 blog posts regarding school leaders and technology. I would like to preface this post with the fact that my personal experience with school leaders has been mostly positive (though given my short time working in education I may be a bit naive...or optimistic, depending on how your look at it). However, I know of many educators who have not been as lucky, like a friend of mine – a music teacher - whose district blocks NPR’s website. Yeah. This post is for school leaders like hers.

Distinguish between Format and Content

Many schools have technology policies dictating which technologies can (school-issued computers) or cannot (cell-phones) be used. But such policies are often based on assumption, ignorance, and fallacy. Some DVDs are pornographic, therefore should schools ban all DVDs from school? No, of course not; everyday teachers use educational DVDs for effective class instruction. So why do some schools ban all video-sharing websites, because some of the videos the internet are inappropriate? It is the same difference. Such association between format and content is illogical, and sadly too common among school leaders.

Stop banning technology based solely on how it might be used…

In a few short years, I have gone from viewing technology in education from the student perspective to viewing it from both the instructor and support staff perspectives. I know both how to do devious things things with technology and how to prevent/fix said mischief. I've used technology to both improve my education and to assist me in educating others. But, no matter which perspective I'm viewing, I've found that technology itself is neither good nor bad; technology is just a tool for both good and bad. Banning technologies outright makes as much sense as abstinence-only sex education – ask Bristol Palin how that worked out for her.

…instead, regulate (or better yet, TEACH) how it should be used.

A command prompt with a few lines of code causes many teachers to react with suspicion or outright discipline. Although a lot of harm could be done by a student who knows how to program, the student could also be the next Bill Gates if guided and encouraged. A younger me, for example, used free time to learn how to gain admin access to school and library computers to…do things…that definitely violated rules…maybe even laws; but, positive influences in my life both encouraged my technological curiosity and guided it toward gainful applications. I could be sitting in prison for cyber crimes, but am instead making a living with my skills; the tool never changed, only how I used it.


Type Less – a LOT less – with Texter (Productivity)

Wouldn’t it be nice if memos could be written with the brevity of  LOL and LMAO?  While a business dialect of text-speak may never happen, you can cut down on the amount you type, while still writing in complete sentences. Using Lifehacker’s Texter, a simple text-replacement program, you can write long strings of text by only typing a few keys; Texter replaces abbreviations with commonly used phrases you define.

Lifehacker's Texter


For example, while I love my blog name, I don’t love having to type the URL.  So, using Texter, I assigned the hotstring nec to be replaced with the full URL of my blog (http://not-enough-coffee.blogspot.com).  I also gave it the space trigger, so that Texter will only replace nec with my blog url after I have pressed the space bar, that way I can still type words like necessary without having Texter rewrite it.

Hotstrings can be as short as an email address or as long as a paragraph.  The program works in any application, including office suites and internet browsers, and can be temporarily disabled at any time.  Use it to input logins, addresses, company mottos, and any other text you find yourself repeatedly typing.  Geeks will especially like Texter for writing code.

Download Texter