Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

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The Ultimate How-To Links Page

I had a grand idea (or illusion) that I would add some links to other blog categories, mostly of the how-to variety.  You know those projects you take on, spend hours or days on, and then after you're done, think to yourself "That would have been a lot easier if only I had known _____."  That's what I thought I would address.  Then I realized, that once I deal with the initial task, people will want more expert assistance, assistance that I'm either not qualified to give, or that is already available elsewhere.  So instead of how-to articles here, I'm going to give you how-to links.  Trust me, I spent the commensurate hours just searching for the right place to go in each instance, and finally landed at one of the places recommended below.  Consider them the best of the best, if you will, and user friendly as well.

So, without further ado:

If you need help passing your emissions test, i.e., check engine light off, but you still fail because your car's computer is "faulted," then your answer is already at this blog (the one you're on):  

Best places for learning how to root/customize/theme/repair/alter your Android phone  

  • Your first, friendliest and most knowledgeable option is DroidRZR, especially if you own a RAZR or Bionic.  
  • If you can't find your phone listed at DroidRZR, then try XDA Developers.  XDA covers every Android device, but it also tends to be inhabited by more hardcore development types, and not all of them are interested in helping the unknowledgeable.  Others love showing newcomers how to do things.  Your mileage may vary.  
  • Another place, that tends to be a little more generic and links to multiple sites, is RootzWiki.  Just be cautious that you could end up linking to a site that's less reputable than the ones I've listed (RootzWiki itself is completely reputable).  

The torsion spring on my garage door broke!  I read an article that said replacing it myself is super dangerous and I could kill or seriously maim myself trying to fix it, but I don't have the money to pay someone to do it for me.  

First off, that completely blows, man.  I've been there.  Second, those articles are written by people who own garage door repair companies, people who couldn't change a flashlight battery (and thus should be scared), media types who like the scary stories told by their advertisers, the garage door repair guys, or...lawyers.  Unless you have trouble changing a flashlight battery, or often find yourself going to the ER after unsuccessfully trying to make a PB&J sandwich, you can safely ignore the naysayers.  That said, it is dangerous, and if you aren't comfortable working with wrenches, metal, etc., and following instructions carefully, opt for something else.  

Otherwise, this is all you need to know:
  • Go to DIY Garage Repair to buy springs and accessories.  It's one of the only places in the US where a consumer can buy torsion springs, thanks to those aforementioned lawyers.  It also has solid video tutorials and clearly written instructions.  All of their springs are manufactured in the United States - this is not a minor consideration, when considering a device under enough tension to raise a 200-pound garage door.  Their prices are good, and they usually include winding bars for free when you buy springs from them.  Two things to note with regard to torsion springs:  (1) You need to replace both springs, or you will have a tension mismatch problem; and (2) To determine the spring length you need, measure total length of the broken spring, not the unbroken one.  
  • Although DIY Garage Repair has videos on its own site that are quite good, this is the best install video that I've found.  If you have something other than the standard set-up, check out the DIY Instructions page, as it lists the various types of configurations you might encounter.  I figure if Dan Musick, who started the site and apparently has a master's degree from Wheaton College, has done this for 30 years without losing an eye or an arm, he's probably a good source of information.   
  • Expect to spend anywhere from two to four hours on this project:  

How to buy RCA and Other Audio Cable

I'm not sure that "How to Buy Stuff" really qualifies as a how-to topic, but if you need high-quality audio cable (e.g, if you're in a band, or you want to build a kick-ass stereo system, or you need heavily-shielded cable in your car in order to prevent a ground loop), then you should check out Blue Jeans Cable.  They're based in Seattle, WA, and can make you a cable with whatever length and connectors you need.  Even with the customization, it will still be several orders of magnitude cheaper than buying cable at an audiophile stereo store, one of the few places on earth that makes Kobe beef sound like a bargain by comparison.  Oh, and they have an extensive articles page covering everything you could possibly want to know about (you guessed it) audio cable.  

How to Start Your Computer When the Power Button Won't Work

Most people are unaware of this, but just like hot-wiring a car (how-to not included here), one can hot-wire a computer.  Unlike the car (which is likely being stolen), the reason for doing so with a computer is usually because the power button won't work.  This happens when a computer is dropped, or has water or another liquid dropped on it, or some other type of mechanical trauma.

First, you'll need a jeweler's loupe, or some other type of strong magnifying device.  A strong magnifying glass will work, as will a camera zoom or a microscope with a removable tray or lens.   I do a lot of work with small elements on computers, phones and audio equipment, so I have a loupe - it's powerful, and most of all, portable.  I like the BelOMO Triplet the best; it's high quality, good magnification, and is pretty much a steal for the price:  Amazon.

Next, you'll need at least a couple screwdrivers or Torx drivers that work with your computer's cabinet (if desktop) or back casing (if laptop).  Because there are so many computers out there, you'll have to take a look and figure this one out yourself.  Once you have it figured out, however, you don't have to buy an entire set of screwdrivers or Torx drivers, even though they often are sold that way.  If you go to Ace Hardware (link shows a set, but most stores stock the drivers separately also), you can buy individual drivers for the size you need.  If you do want to buy a small set, I recommend the 20-Piece Precision Electronic Driver Set from Radio Shack.  Make sure you get the one shown (model 6400185), that has a separate driver that you mount into the center of the handle.  The other ones, with a handle that has the driver already built into it, are junk.  It's not the most inclusive, but it has pretty much everything an amateur tech fan could need without costing a fortune.  I've bought ones at hardware stores before, and within a couple uses, I've snapped off drivers and stripped ratchets - they aren't designed for any real torque at all.

Tip:  You may want to take the tips, regardless of what solution you use, and stroke them against a magnet 20-30 times (kitchen magnets work fine) to magnetize them; this is important when working with small elements in tiny dark places.  If you do this, only run the magnet in one direction, or you'll just negate the magnetization.

Finally, you may want to buy a high-quality magnetized telescoping extender/finder.  You can get these at any hardware store.  I have one that looks just like one of those pointers used in presentations, except a helluva lot more useful.  It's less than six inches long when not extended, but extends out to about three feet if looking for some little screw that's fallen on the carpet.

But you wanted to know about the power button, right?   First go to ifixit.  If you own an 'i' device, you are in luck because they have just about every model shown.  They have quite a few PC devices as well, you just need to sort through the guides until you find yours.  The listings use a hierarchical format that is easy to follow, including tips if you get stuck.  That's where you can go to find out how to take the back off of  your computer, and what tools you need.  Now, what you actually need to hot-wire the computer, is to locate what are known as the "power pads."  They are on the logic board layout of the computer, typically close to where the ribbon cable for the power inserts into the logic board.  Two examples for the MacBook Pro can be found here:  Power Pads for MacBook Pro 2009-2010.  Something not shown in the technician's guide photo is that the terminals will clearly have a "+" and a "-" by them.  If you don't see those markings, then it's unlikely you've found the right posts.

What you need to do to find yours - using a search engine (e.g., google), input exactly "logic board power-on pads [computer brand and model]" with your computer brand and model replacing the bracketed words, with no quotation marks.  Then click on the tab for "images" and you'll see dozens of images of the logic board for your computer.  Those will show you where the pads are, and then you can use your loupe to find them on your actual computer, and use a paper clip end, or a Torx wrench, to short the pads and start your computer - you'll know you've done it when the fan starts up.  Note that you can search with whatever terms you want, but you'll likely come up with very little if you don't use the terms shown - this is very specific language used by computer techs when fixing devices.

Depending on the cause of the power button failure, the computer may reset it, and you may not need to do it again.  If it's damaged, though, you'll ultimately need to replace the button.

Still to come:  
  • Fixing that irritating whine in your car stereo
  • How to rip your vinyl musical records to digital
  • How to rip your entire digital music collection for archiving
  • How to make a pizza that will impress your friends (or girlfriend/boyfriend), without spending hours in the kitchen, but still being able to say you made it
  • Big red wines under $20/bottle that taste like they're $50+/bottle. 
  • Where to find the pin-out diagram for your car stereo's head unit (or amp, processor, etc.)
  • The best set-up (value/effectiveness ratio) for anti-virus / anti-malware for your computer, and the help site you can visit that isn't a malware site in disguise
  • How to encrypt and firewall your computer, for free
  • A cool bar in London
  • Why Danish people seriously rock
  • How to sample or modify an mp3 (or other audio file)

1 comment:

  1. I never knew that trick about temporarily magnetizing a screw driver by swiping it across a magnet. Thanks.