The geek skills challenge: 10 talents worth mastering

From replacing a hard drive to picking a lock, these are the skills you need to earn the name 'geek'

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Securely wipe your data

Speaking of storage, when you want to get rid of certain data for good -- really get rid of it, so it can never be recovered by anyone -- a regular ol' system delete isn't enough.

What you need to do is securely wipe your drive, and the proper method is something every geek worth her salt should know. If that knowledge isn't already in your noggin, now's your chance to learn it; see these simple guides for PCs and Macs and prepare to celebrate your newfound skill set.

Break out of handcuffs

cuffs.jpgSource: Txspiked/Flickr
No true geek can be held by these

I'm not gonna ask why you're stuck in handcuffs in the first place -- hey, what you do in your personal time is your own private business -- but if/when the occasion comes that you need a key-free escape, a little extreme geek-knowledge will go a long way.

So go ahead: Learn the basics and research it even further if you want. Think of it as a liberating academic exercise; I promise I won't tell.

Get around Web content restrictions

Web content filters don't have to be full-stops in your Internet browsing adventures. With an arsenal of geek knowledge at your fingertips, a blocked website -- at a public computer in a library, school, or workplace, for instance -- will be little more than a minor speed bump in your path.

There are several ways to get around content restrictions. The simplest is to use a proxy server to bypass the filter altogether; you can find a user-friendly list of free and available proxies at the aptly named

If you really want to get serious, you can look into virtual private networks (VPNs) or DNS redirectors. Just remember: If content is being blocked, that probably means the owner of your network doesn't want you looking at it and -- go figure -- may become quite cross if he discovers that you're breaking the rules.

rooted.jpgSource: patrick h. lauke/Flickr
A true geek's phone

In other words, proceed at your own risk, homie -- and for the love of children, make sure your computer's volume is turned down.

Root an Android phone

As a platform, Android is like a candy store for geeks: It's chock-full of options for customization and just begging to be tweaked and modified.

There's plenty you can do with the platform as it ships, but if you really want to get down and dirty, rooting is the path to explore. Rooting an Android phone gives you access to administrator-level permissions, which in turn allows you to do all sorts of fun stuff to your device. Most notably, you can install a custom ROM -- a whole new version of the operating system created by third-party enthusiasts and typically jam-packed with advanced capabilities and extra features.

Rooting isn't for the faint of heart (and it might void your manufacturer's warranty -- be sure to read the fine print before making the leap). For a geek, though, it's an experience worth having at least once.

You can find ample resources for rooting most popular phones; if it's something you're ready to pursue, start by Googling "root" along with your phone's name, and it shouldn't take you long to get going.

Get around your computer using nothing but a keyboard

Hotkeys are tremendous time-savers (and great ways to blow the minds of nongeeks, too). Learn the hotkeys built into your OS of choice, then take things a step further and learn app-specific hotkeys for the programs you use the most.

If you really want to get geeky, grab Autohotkey, a free program for Windows users. It lets you set up custom hotkeys for practically any function imaginable.

So long, mousey.

7 days using only keyboard shortcuts: No mouse, no trackpad, no problem?

Set up a home entertainment system

This video provides some background for a simple home entertainment setup:

But in practice, you'll probably be connecting various disparate systems together. If you can start from scratch, figure out what cables you need, and get everything running in under an hour with minimal cursing, congratulations: You are officially geek-certified.

You are also officially going to be getting tech support calls from the rest of your family for the rest of your life -- and that, my friends, is the surest sign of solid geekdom.

JR Raphael may never appear in the pages of GQ (the magazine), but he has an abnormally large GQ (geek quotient). For more geeky gab, follow him on Google+, Twitter, or Facebook.

This article, "The geek skills challenge: 10 tasks worth mastering," was originally published at ITworld. Follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook for the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos.

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