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Online problem solving

Mark Edwards

The Internet is not just about email viruses, hackers and ecommerce. It provides a powerful resource when you are looking for a solution to common household problems.

Medical advice is a common reason that people turn to the Internet. As a result, there are a plethora of medical websites. Of course, the quality of the answers needs to be considered in light of who is behind the website. The best are run by government heath departments, universities, national colleges of specialists, and other recognised bodies.

However, there are problems that occur around the home to which you would like to find an immediate answer where the quality of the advice is not quite so critical. Here is where community sites run by people who share a common interest are very useful.

As long time readers will know, I have three young children. As any parent will tell you, regardless of your vigilance, a toddler with a pen will find an opportunity to draw on anything but the paper you gave them. Cleaning pen, crayon and other things from painted walls is a lot tougher than paint manufacturers would have you believe.

Thankfully, Google has indexed the collected wisdom from millions of parents for your edification. Try Googling "remove crayon from paint" and you will find an instant cure for your problem. The one I used, which works just as advertised is using a toothbrush, toothpaste and some gentle rubbing.

Pretty much any household problem can be searched on to deliver surprisingly simple solutions with reviews of success by other users.

Even the most exotic of questions can be answered this way. Some time ago, our trees produced an overabundance of kumquats so I decided to look for some recipes for what is otherwise an almost inedible fruit. I you have never tried one, think of a ridiculously bitter lime and you are getting close.

I found a great kumquat and orange marmalade recipe which I tried. Anyone who has tried to make jam or marmalade at home knows that the cooking is easy, the art is in getting the stuff to set. After bottling about 3 litres and letting it cool, I realised I had a bit more to learn.

A quick trip to the Internet gave me my answer, reboil and add some pectin. After making about 30 bottles of marmalade I found there is only so much kumquat marmalade you can give away or eat. I decided to find another use for our continuing supply of fruit.

The answer, again found online, was a kumquat liqueur. Having made my batches of liqueur I let them sit for about 18 months.

Once they were ready to drink, I decided they would make great gifts so I needed suitable presentation glass bottles. A quick search and I found a specialty bottle manufacturer with a huge range of exquisite bottles, who shipped a few boxes of them up to me from Melbourne. If you are wondering, yes, I did look at some local kitchenware and similar stores with no luck.

Looking at my liqueur, it was a bit cloudy, so I realised it needed filtering. Another quick search and I had my method and materials. Filter first using paper towels to remove the courser bits then use coffee filter paper to get your final bottling liquid.

With my walls clean, my marmalade set, and my liqueur bottled, I am felling pretty clever.

So if you are sitting at home racking your brain for a solution to a knotty problem, why not try Googling someone elses?

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