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Showing posts from 2017

Replacing my light fixture's GX32D tube with a regular light bulb

I have a 1980's vintage light fixture on the outside of my house.  It uses a two-pin GX32D-2 fluorescent bulb, which is unlike the modern CFL bulbs you see today.  These GX32D-2 bulbs are super-challenging to find, and expensive too. 

Even worse than that, the GX32D-2 is a 22 watt bulb - that is a lot of electricity for a modern outdoor house light fixture.  And all that power is used for from dusk to dawn - about 12 hours a day.

My goal is to replace this decidedly old-school GX32D-2 bulb system with a traditional lightbulb socket and a commonly available LED bulb.
What is inside a GX32D-2 light fixture My GX32D-2 light fixture has three major electrical parts: a ballast transformer, the 2-pin bulb socket, and the bulb itself.  If the lamp stops working, it can be due to a bad bulb or a bad ballast.   Usually I try a new bulb first, and if that doesn't work, I replace the ballast.

Nothing is inexpensive when it comes to maintaining these lights. Replacement bulbs, ordered o…

When is the best time to do laundry?

I think about energy efficiency a lot, so my question of the moment is... when is the best time to do laundry?  For me, my laundry consists of machine wash and machine dry.

Washer Efficiency
With the wash, the question is when is the best time to use a pretty much fixed amount of water and energy.  I think that's when electricity production is at its most efficient, which is at night and on weekends.  That's because the energy companies use their most efficient electricity generators 24 hours a day, but add less efficient generators as load increases.

Dryer Efficiency
With the dryer, the question is when is it easiest for the dryer to remove moisture.  I think that's during low-humidity times.  Dryers draw in air to work their magic, so the more dry the air is, the more quickly the laundry will dry.

Also, note again that dryers suck in air, and exhaust warm moist air outside.  During extremely cold or hot weather, a heating system or air conditioning system will need to heat…

Buying the right LED bulbs

With so many LED bulbs on the market, it's hard to choose a good one.  And sadly, no retail web sites that focus on selling bulbs help.
Faceted bulb selection The sellers of light bulbs should offer a faceted selection tool, allowing the customer to locate the best bulbs they can find.  With over 1000 bulbs on the market, not offering such a selection tool makes it nearly impossible for a customer to find the right bulb.

Here are the facets that all adequate retailer should offer:
Socket Style (traditional E26 Edison, etc)Bulb Shape (Traditional, Globe, Spot, Candle, etc)Average Life Minimum  (25k hours, 50k hours, ...)Light color (warm white, daylight, blue, etc) Special Features (wet, smart, etc) User-specified Lumen Range (350..600, 150..1000, 150..350, etc) Just a note about numbers.  It is STUPID to offer discrete facets for things like bulb life or lumens.  There are thousands of different possibilities. RANGES are the only non-stupid way to allow such a selection.

From ther…

Using Recovery Mode on my Lux Thermostat

I've had this Lux programmable thermostat for years, and it's worked perfectly great for me.

But this week I just learned about enabling Recovery mode, and it both works great and should save me more money.

What is recovery mode?

Normally, a programmable thermostat is a device that is used to turn on the heat at a user-specified time in order to meet a user-specified temperature.

In contrast, a recovery mode programmable thermostat is a device that ensures that a user-specified temperature is met at a user-specified time.

The difference seems subtle, but in the real world, recovery mode makes a big positive difference in terms of living comfort and heating efficiency.

When using a thermostat, it can take a variable amount of time for your heat to come up in the morning.  Let's say you want to be up and about a 7 AM with a house temperature of 68 °F.  When should the heating system come on?

Well, that depends on your heating system, how cold it is outside, and how cool you…

MagSafe Power Adapter Repair (and failure)

Every Apple site has users that complain that Apple MagSafe Power Adapters can fail... but nobody says what you can do to fix them.

I happened to buy an old MacBook and it came with an unreliable MagSafe power adapter.

How can Apple, after producing this general style of AC adapter for over 15 years, manage to continue to make a power adapter that fails?  More confounding, I've purchased a number of MacBooks over the last decade, and I have never had a problematic MagSafe power adapter.  What gives?

The simple answer is: Customer Abuse.

I've actually had my hands on at least 10 broken MagSafe power adapters, and in every single case the failure was caused by customer misuse.  Here is the list of failures I've seen:
Cat or Dog chewed cablePinched cable (crushed from furniture or a door or something) Over-stressed cable (from repeated yanking, over-winding, or some other abusive behavior) And that's it!  In no case have I seen a MagSafe charger fail from any other cause, …

Saving an iPhone 6 from Water Damage

The other day, my cousin was thrown into a pond with his clothes on.  You know, a really funny thing, unless, of course, he has his iPhone 6 in his pants pocket.

Panic ensued.  "Quick!  My iPhone!  It got wet and is acting all weird!  What can be done?  Should I get some rice?"

The reality is that rice cannot absorb a significant amount of water from the inside of a tightly-constructed device.   Happily, I was there, and I happened to be there with my small electronics tool kit.

The iPhone was powered up at the time it went into the drink (no surprise), and the screen was flickering. It was back at the Apple logo, and it soon fully booted.  But the display was fading in and out.
How I saved this iPhone 6: First, I tried to power it off.  No luck!  It wasn't turning off.  Nothing was actually working.  So I grabbed my small electronics tool kit and opened up the iPhone.  I'm very familiar with iPhone disassembly and needed no instructions, but then again I've work…

Five reasons for running a dishwasher overnight

A few weeks ago I tried to wonder why I run my dishwasher overnight.  I set it to run at about 4 AM or 5 AM, and it finishes up by 6 AM or 7 AM or so.  Here's a conclusion of my analysis.

Electricity is more efficient overnight, and therefore costs less and emits less carbon.
Power companies produce less electricity at night due to lower demand.  During the day, they produce more electricity.

As for-profit entities, power companies want to use as little fuel as possible - after all, their biggest expense is fuel. So the plants that they run all the time are their most efficient plants, and the plants that they add during peak times - during the day - are their least efficient plants.

By running my dishwasher over night, I am guaranteed to be using the power by the most energy efficient power plants.

Winter Heat / Summer Heat
My dishwasher releases quite a bit of waste heat and moisture.  Most of that heat from the dishwasher stays in my house.  By running my dishwasher at the the ea…

Fixing the bottom rubber of a mid-2010 or late-2009 MacBook

All my regular readers know that I love the late 2009 and mid-2010 white unibody MacBook notebooks.  They're robust, they're still very capable, and they can still run the latest MacOS.

One problem with these old beasts is the bottom rubber can detach.  Apple used to provide free replacements, but that program ended more than a year ago.

So what do you do to fix the bottom?  It's easy!  Here's what I did:
Remove the bottom plate by removing the 8 bottom screws. Fully peel off the failed rubber and fully expose the aluminum.Use small pieces of permanent tape on the "back side" of the lid to cover the drill holes in the aluminum.Fully clean the "exposed side" of the aluminum plate. Apply small stick-on rubber feet to each corner.Coat the "exposed side" of the plate with several coats of Plasti-Dip spray paint.  I picked red, but there are many colors available.Re-attach the bottom plate to the laptop. There we go!  Now I have a nice rubberize…

Avoiding Computer or iPhone Repair Errors.

I repair a lot of equipment - mostly smartphones and laptops.  I'm no genius and I have limited expertise.  But I do know how to do quality work - making sure that the result is no worse than where we started from.  I am happy to say that I've rarely made something worse.

Not everyone is so good.

I've acquired a lot of equipment that was ruined from "home repair" people.  Don't be that person.

Here are the things I've seen:
Missing components and screws."Lost" small parts floating around inside a machine.Mistakenly disconnected cables.Welded parts mistakenly pulled apart.
If you're going to do a home repair, do good work.  That means you need to be patient, triple-check your work, and use reputable procedures and guides (which universally means NOT YOUTUBE!)

Here are my tips:
Get good repair procedures well before you begin.  These should be written procedures with photographs.  Youtube is good, but is NEVER a substitute for good procedures. 

The iPhone 3G and 3GS in 2017: Why? I'll tell you why!

The iPhone 3G ended production in 2010, and the 3GS was ended in 2012.  So the 3G/3GS series are all 5+ years old now.  But I have one that I keep and use.

Why use one now?  Because these models are still useful phones.  I use mine as a backup phone, for use when friends or family damage or lose their primary phone.

Both models are GSM-centric and have 3G radio chipsets, so they're still great for phone calls.  They have GPS, so they're useful for mapping and navigation.  And you can use them for texting, of course.

They're also inexpensive.  For under $50 you can find a great one that you don't have to worry about losing.  You can keep one as a backup phone, or as a loaner.

Of course, you'll want an unlocked one, so that you can use it with any GSM provider.

The Reasons for owning an iPhone 3G or 3GS:
Super-inexpensive, perhaps $50 for a fine 3GS.A great backup phone if your primary phone is lost or damaged.A great phone for international travel - as all iPhone 3G/…

Why I love my Roomba

The amazing part of the Roomba is how shockingly well iRobot supports them.  You can get a ton of spare parts for them, and it is easy and inexpensive to repair or even upgrade a Roomba.

You read that right: Roombas are easy to work on AND the parts are inexpensive.

That's like buying a BMW, and learning that cylinder heads and alternators are $50 each and can be snapped in within 5 minutes.

I've had my Roomba 600 series for five years. Now five years is a lot of time for a computer technology product that deals with dust and dirt.  Here are the things that I've done so far:

Replaced the battery

After about 3 years, my Roomba's original battery was getting pretty weak.  I replaced it.  Replacing it is a simple affair, taking about 5 minutes.  New batteries are readily available at low cost.

Replaced (and upgraded) the brush head

Evidently I used my Roomba too much in my extremely dirty basement.  My Roomba's original green-colored brush head stopped working well.  I…

Bad Drivers at Intersections

I find it fascinating that many drivers are too dumb or too uncoordinated to stop before the stop line at an intersection with a traffic signal.

A large percentage of drivers ignore the stop line and pull into the intersection - perhaps because they want to "get ahead", or maybe because they want to "see", or maybe because they don't understand the size of their vehicle.

Sadly for these bad drivers, there are sensors in the roadway that tell traffic signals when to change.  If there is no vehicle triggering the sensors, the lights don't change as fast or at all.  Obviously, vehicles already inside the intersection - such as notably beyond the stop line or in the crosswalk - will not trigger the sensors.  Those drivers have to patiently wait for another vehicle to trigger the sensor.


I've seen vehicles wait over 5 minutes in an intersection during low-traffic conditions.  You'd think these drivers would figure it out, but they're so ignorant …

My worst eBay purchase ever

Purchased: Three new batteries for the iPhone 5 from an eBay seller

Shipped quickly, and well packaged.

Three iPhone batteries.A.K.A., two iPhone 5 batteries and one non-iPhone 5 batteryAKA, one working iPhone 5 battery, one non-working iPhone 5 battery, and one non-iPhone 5 battery.AKA, one limited life (~ 15 minutes) but working iPhone 5 battery, one non-working iPhone 5 battery, and one non-iPhone 5 battery.AKA, one heavily used, limited life but working iPhone 5 battery, one damaged iPhone 5 battery, and one non-iPhone 5 battery.AKA, three used, not-fit-for-any-purpose batteries for various phones. Needless to say, I demanded (and received) my money back.

The Ultimate MacBook for 2018.

As my regular readers know, I love my 2010-vintage A1342 white unibody MacBook.  They are tough as nails - mine have gone through over 6 years of high school and continue to work great.

But the new MacBook and MacBook Pro series are for rich kids only.  They're expensive to buy, and they're expensive to own, and they are absolutely non-expandable once you plunk down your money.   And they're fragile, lacking MagSafe, and readily dent-able.

The poly MacBook had an important place in the lineup, and now there is a void.  I'd love Apple to see that and to address it.

So I don't want a less expandable, more fragile MacBook, but I do want a more modern one.  When Apple originally released the A1342 series, it was technically close to the MBP in power and capability.  It wasn't exactly as sweet as a MBP, but it was no slouch.  This is proven out today - even these machines, 7+ years later, are still capable workhorses.

I don't think my answer is a HomerMobile or …

Canceling AT&T Service, Paying your ETF, and Quickly Unlocking your iPhone

So you're abandoning AT&T.  Congrats!

Leaving AT&T often means that you want to bring your phone and your phone number to a different cell phone service provider.  That's all fine and good, but you need to have your phone SIM unlocked so that you can use it with a different carrier.  And you're under contract.  And you can only unlock your phone after your contract has been terminated.  And unlocking a phone takes significant time.

That means that there will be a block of time when you can't use your existing phone with your new telephone service.  Conceptually, this time could be very quick: cancel the line, pay off the contract, unlock the phone, and go.  But due to the realities of the computer billing process used by AT&T, the unlock process can take weeks.

One way around this is to buy a new phone, but that always costs a lot of money.  So what else can you do?  There is a way to make the unlock process less painful.

Figure 1 shows the basic process.  …

Why I get rid of stuff on Freecycle, eBay, and Craigslist.

Sometimes I have something that is old, worn out, or even broken, but I -know- that someone in the world could use it.  For instance, the heating element of my coffee maker broke, but I knew that someone could use the coffee maker's carafe and filter basket.  I listed those two parts individually on eBay, and they sold right away.  I didn't get a lot of money for them, but I got enough to cover my costs.
Why bother?  Yes, I didn't make a ton of money selling my defunct coffee maker's carafe and filter basket.  So what's my logic for selling them on eBay?
It's better for my stuff to be used, instead of it being thrown into a garbage heap.It's better for my stuff to be used by someone who needs it, instead of having it sitting idle in my attic to rot. It's better for someone else to be able to fix their own thing with an inexpensive used part, instead of them having to throw away their old thing and buy something new.It's better to repair stuff than t…

The best Mac laptop ever

We all love our Macs, but one Mac laptop was the best ever.

What was it?  It was the late-2009 through mid-2010 white plastic MacBook.

What?  That piece of ugly white?

Yes!  Here's why:
They are powerful.  It was nearly as powerful as the MacBook Pro of its day, and can still run a modern OS well.  It was faster than many more modern MacBooks.It was inexpensive.  It was under $1000 when new, and today they are under $400.It is tough.  People could only ruin them with water or with serious abuse.Unlike today's Macs, it is standards-based.  It uses standard memory, drives, and dvd.The memory is replaceable.  The memory can be inexpensively expanded to 16 GB (the same limit as today's most expensive MacBook Pro).The hard drive is replaceable.  A MacBook today can easily use an off-the-shelf 2 TB SSD drive.  Try a 2 TB drive in today's MacBook Pro.  Haha, see you at the bank.The battery is long-lived.  I have many heavily used 7+ year old MacBooks, all still running their o…

WTF is going on with Fiber to the Home?

A few years ago we were all excited that Google was getting into the Fiber Internet business.  And before that, Verizon was getting into the game with its FiOS brand.  Now they've all pretty much stopped. What happened?

Part of the issue is that Comcast and its industry brothers have strong monopoly-like powers and the ability to direct Congress and the President.   The Cable TV industry, operating as a single monopolistic business, is a very powerful force despite extremely poor ratings and ever-rising high prices.

The other death knell to Google Fiber and Verizon FiOS is Wireless Internet.  Not today's wireless, but next year's wireless.
With Comcast working towards a monopoly of wireless spectrum, it is financially irresponsible for any wire-based ISP to continue to build out their services. - Lloyd Emerson It takes a ton of money to string up wires along the street and drag them into a house.  Even a simple thought experiment shows that  a reasonable $200 per house …

Buying a Cable Modem to Stop Comcast Modem Rental Fee

I really hate the idea that honest and upstanding Americans continue to spend good money to RENT a cable modem from Comcast when they can save a lot of money by buying a great modem for very little money.  So I aim to help you avoid these awful rental fees.

Comcast usually charges about $10 a month for you to rent a cable modem, which is $120 a year, and Add the "taxes and fees" that Comcast layers onto your bill and maybe the cost is $140 a year.  Wow.


Cable modems are inexpensive!  You can buy a new, modern, blazing fast, Comcast-certified cable modem for less than $40 from Amazon.

But How?
Buy this cable modem, the TP-Link TC-7610-EUnplug your Comcast rental cable modemPlug in your modern, newly purchased cable modemRestart your WIFI router (unplug it for 30 seconds, and then plug it back in)Wait a couple minutes Go to any websiteComcast will put up a page instead of the websiteLog into Comcast using your Comcast account to enable the new modemTh…

Properly using Thermal Paste to keep your MacBook Cool

I hear a lot of people talking about how their MacBook is too hot.   They look at on-line forums and see that their MacBook is running at 83 C and get very concerned.  They learn from the forums that they need to re-apply the thermal paste to keep their computer cool, but virtually all the forums participants are amateur idiots that offer ridiculous procedures that are likely to damage your computer.

This article is the right way to address this problem.  

First, let's talk about why your computer is running so hot.

Computer CPUs get hot.  They're designed to get hot, consuming many watts in a very small surface area.  Ever touch a 25 watt light bulb that's been on for 5 minutes?  It will be painfully hot.  Take that 25 watts and put it in a much smaller package (think halogen), and it will be MUCH hotter.  That's a CPU - a 25 watt device in a very small package.

CPU manufacturers put temperature probes inside a CPU not so that you can look at the temperature, but so …

LED Bulbs - Lifespan Review

I have converted to LED lighting, so here I want to talk about what bulbs have worked for me and which have not.

For those not good at the math of hours, there are about 8760 hours in a year.   Most traditional bulbs are predicted to last about 750 hours, and most LEDs are predicted to last about 22,000 hours.

I only have about 25 bulbs in use, with about 10 of them are on during waking hours (I work from home).

I have a handful of Ikea bulbs.  I have a couple 6.5 watt bulbs and a couple of 3.5 watt bulbs.  I put a lot of hours on these bulbs (perhaps 10,000 so far), with no failures.  So far they're all good.

I bought three small boxes of LE bulbs from Amazon.   I have two 6 watt candelabra-type bulbs, which have about 15,000 hours so far.  I also have a two 3 watt bulbs, at roughly 10,000 hours.  So far so good.  But I did have another set of four 3-watt LEs, and they all died after about 5000 hours.  The four dead bulbs were all from the same box, and I speculate that t…

How to park a car

Welcome!  Hopefully you found this page because you realize that you need to improve your parking.

A city has a lot of cars and not so many parking spaces.  In fact, most cities have way more cars than parking spaces.  This article is to help you maximize parking, so that you and your neighbors have a better chance of finding a space.

Of course, every place has different parking laws, and those laws are usually designed to give residents a better chance to park.  If you get a ticket, pay up and learn your lesson.

Not all streets have marked parking spaces, so it is up to driver skill and intelligence to properly park cars.  The following tips are to help drivers park properly in such a situation.


Always strive to park in a manner that allows room for additional cars.  Sometimes this is impossible, due to how cars have moved in and out of parking spaces.

Note: Inefficient spacing in a parking zone due to can literally be nobody's fault, so be aware of the possibilities …

The Craigslist Buyer's Guide by Lance J.

I sell a lot of things on Craigslist, and so I have gained some experience on what makes a good buyer versus a bad buyer.

I have never had a problem with Craigslist, but I am sometimes concerned that some buyers trust me too much. I am a great and honest seller, but I am unsure how some buyers know that.

So here are my tips:

The Basics
Always deal locally.  Never deal with home addresses, shipping or traveling significant distances.Never deal with shipping or the mail in any way.Never deal with anything other then US cash currency. Never deal with very high value items. Never deal with trades.  In a trade situation, you need to be able to properly validate what you're trading for.  This can be very difficult.An extremely good bargain is very likely a scam.  Don't bother.Never respond to an ad with weird phone numbers or weird email addresses.  These are only used by people that have been kicked off of Craigslist.  In short, they are scammers.Any seller (or buyer) who tells you t…

The Pack Rat's Solution: Selling Junk on eBay, etc

I hate to throw things away.  Let's say my toaster breaks and I decide it isn't worth keeping.  Hm, maybe I'll harvest its knobs.

I've been doing this for years, because hey, you never know when you need a good knob.  But it has gotten a bit out of hand, and so with encouragement from my wife, I'm now selling this stuff.

Now on the surface, it seems that it would be a challenge for me to get rid off all of my "good junk". After all, if I sell all of my knobs, then I won't have a knob when I need one!  But actually, that's not the case. 

I'm happy that the knobs are going to someone that actually NEEDS them for good.  It's better for the knobs to go to a loving home where they'll be used as knobs, instead of sitting in a box in my basement until I'm dead, or going into a landfill where they'll decay over the millennia.  If I ever need that knob back, I'll just buy one on eBay.

I make very little money selling these little th…

Dishwasher no longer cleaning well? Here's the easy fix!

I know a lot of people who have problematic dishwashers.  They no longer clean like they once did.  Happily, most dishwasher problems of this nature are very easy to fix.

Let's start with a quick review of how a dishwasher works:
Detergent and water are mixed together within the dishwasherThe dishes are blasted with this cleaning solution for roughly two hours The dirty waste water is drained out But sometimes you run the dishwasher, and it seems to do all of the above steps, but the dishes don't come out clean, with food debris and dirt still around.  Where does this process go wrong?

Here are some steps to take to address the issue:

ALWAYS Scrape your dishes before loading.

Yes, those corn kernels and other food bits aren't going to be digested by your dishwasher.  They're just going to clog up the dishwasher, preventing the water from blasting your dishes.  No blasting means no clean dishes.

Yes, it says this in the manual, but you ignored it.  Take a dirty sponge or…

WIFI Range Extenders have Limited Usefulness

A lot of friends and family have asked for me to install a WIFI range extender for them, so I decided to try one out.  I bought this TP-Link TL-WA855RE WIFI range extender for under $20.

The range extender I bought is very simple to use and does a good job at what it is designed for: You plug it in, and with a few configuration steps, you're in business extending your WIFI signal.  But range extenders do have significant limitations.

First, most range extenders have a single radio per band.  And therefore any traffic carried by them is going to be at about half speed.  Why?  Because a typical range extender is a pass-through device: every byte received by the extender needs to be immediately rebroadcast over the same radio channel.  That means a range extender needs to handle double the radio traffic of a typical router, effectively halving its useful throughput.

client ⇄ extender ⇄ primary wifi
Secondly, most range extenders are only range extenders.  They are not programmable rou…

Bad Drivers

They say that 50% of drivers are better than average, and 50% are worse than average.

This is meaningless, as 90% of drivers are lousy, dangerous drivers.

There are a lot of cars out there, and therefore you see a lot of driving nonsense.  Drivers are texting, reading, and eating cereal from a bowl.  Drivers speed into intersections and crosswalks.  They crawl at traffic lights, they quickly accelerate and decelerate due to a lack of attention.  They ignore signs and roadway markings.  They ignorant that the pavement is wet and it's 32° F outside.

In the mean time, the police really can't keep up with it.  Pulling people over for minor infractions is a pointless game, particularly because cars pulled over increase traffic and therefore increases the potential for accidents.  Furthermore, it isn't right to give someone a $100 ticket for a stupid and meaningless infraction.  Cops generally have better things to do.

But when you add it all up, our roads are a dangerous mess. …

Update on MetroPCS Service: Wifi Calling

I have another MetroPCS update, this time related to international travel.

I flew some 5000+ miles to some foreign countries with my MetroPCS-powered iPhone.

First, when I landed, I had no service: no voice, no texting, no SMS.  This wasn't a surprise, as MetroPCS is a US-only provider.

But this lack of service is actually a great thing, because it prevents a huge phone bill.  I recently traveled internationally with my AT&T-powered iPhone, and a few minutes of Internet usage (exclusively to do a flight check-in) cost me $40.  That kind of AT&T gouging won't be happening with MetroPCS.

BUT, there is something more exciting: Wifi Calling from International Locations!

Once I was hooked up to a local Wifi access point, I could make and receive phone calls and texts using my MetroPCS phone number.   So in a way, I was very connected, and had zero additional charges.