Monday, April 29, 2013

Cyber Monday - How to check your car fuse....

Technology can be finicky at times, and sometimes fuses blow, cars are no exception. So here's a quick lesson on how to change them out.

There are lots of different types of fuses out there and sometimes when you're having car troubles, the fuse is the easiest and sometimes the right option especially when you're having electrical problems. But lets start from the beginning...

Fuses for cars are usually color coded and with each fuse a number is written across the top. These numbers represent the amperage for the fuse. Amperage, for those a little rusty on their physics or electrical engineering, is strength of electrical current. One way to think about it is akin to water flowing out of a hose. Water itself might be voltage, but how much water flows out or the force at which it comes out, is the amperage. Fuses can blow because parts are malfunctioning, a component got wet when it shouldn't have, or sometimes by a random power surge. It's important that the fuses are not blown for the car to operate normally, and when they are, are replaced with the proper fuse which really means proper amperage and size.

There are two main fuse boxes also known as relay boxes, one inside the car, the other, under the hood.  Both of these boxes can usually be found under the dash on the drivers side of the car or next to where the door opens and, from my experience, on the right side of the car under the hood (shown on the images to the left).  When you open the fuse box up, you should see a diagram for the fuses indicated what amperage is needed for that specific position along with what each fuse is tied to. It's like a map for the fuses, it shows you what fuse belongs to what part of the car and what type of fuse is needed. So when your radio randomly doesn't work, find it on the diagram or map, pop it out and check the fuse.   :-)

Usually checking to see if a fuse is blown is pretty obvious, there might be a burn mark along with part of the wire missing if it is a tubular fuse or if they are like a fuse shown above, part of the 'U' might be missing. Typically removing a fuse is a pretty simple act of just pulling it out, although some cars can be tough and actually provide little fuse tweezers.

First make sure that the car is turned off and the accessories are off as well.  Next, be sure to take out the fuse, if it is blown - trash it, and gently insert the new fuse in its place. Be sure that the new fuse is of the same color and rating as the old one. If you get confused, like my mom did once, don't start pulling them out and swapping them around by accident.  Look at the "map" of fuses on the cover and make sure you put the fuses in the correct spot. I usually try to find a spot that is easy to find on the map and on the fuse box and from there make sure it was the right spot. An example might be where a row of fuses goes from 4 in a row to 3 or 2 in a row, then according to that spot, find where it belongs. Once complete, you can turn the battery on and check that the piece of equipment works again. If so, then congrats! You've just changed your fuse! And no need for a mechanic either!  ;-)

Monday, April 22, 2013

Cyber Monday - How to speed up your old (or slow) Android Cell phone

Back in September I upgraded  my cell phone to an Android phone (the Pantech crossover P8000), however, as I soon realized, my phone lacked a lot of horsepower and was essentially slow as dirt.  So recently, I took it upon myself to investigate how to speed this little guy up and boy did it pay off!  This is what I did....

First: move as many apps as you can onto your SD card so you can free up as much space as possible on your actual phone.  While it is possible to do this manually by going to Settings then Applications then Manage Applications.  From here, you can select each application (which I'm sure there are a LOT of them) and tell them to move to your SD card, or you can just use an app called AppMgr III (App 2 SD).  This app will search out all of your apps, then tell you which ones are movable, which are on the SD card already, and offer to clear app cache. At the bottom of the screen it'll let you know how much space you have and what is available on your phone.

Next, because my phone is older and a little slower, I wanted to watch out for apps that aren't working properly. Watchdog Task Manager Lite watches how much CPU is being used in the background and make sure none of your apps are hogging too much of it, if an app is misbehaving, then it'll alert you and ask if you want to kill it or wait. This little guy will also let you know how much CPU and memory in real time each app is using.

After that, for the real speed up, I changed my desktop.  My phone gives me 4 default screens and no options on changing them. To my surprise, I was able to change how many screens I have and the whole feel of the "desktop" by using LauncherPro. LauncherPro allows you to change how many screens you have, I picked 2, it also modified the buttons at the bottom of the screen into a much more usable form along with an overhaul of the apps menu which I really enjoyed. This app alone improved the performance of my cell  phone the greatest.  Once installed, my tiny phone became much more reasonable, it no longer locked up from too many apps running and since then, it hasn't frozen and randomly restarted either. Plus I now don't have to charge my phone every day!

Lastly, I did my last overhaul on the widgets. Widgetsoid let me get rid of all of my old widgets and use only widgets that I would fully use. So at the top of my phone, I have one widget, that I use every button, force update, network settings, auto update, battery % indicator, cellular data on/off, brightness, and airplane mode, of course, yours can be different. I also switched the weather app with one I actually use and much more prefer, weather underground app.

So while the first few steps weren't absolutely vital, they are a good check for the phone and save a little bit of time, which is always helpful. For everyone though, I highly recommend checking out Launcher Pro and widgetsoid, absolutely amazing apps for the cell phone.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Two years later ….

Two years after moving into a brand new home, this is a good time to reflect.  

Major Life Changes:

  • We have adopted a kitten.
  • My wife has nearly graduated from school (finishing her last dissertation credits now).
  • I have changed degree plans (and majors). 
  • And the wifey has a real job besides what used to be just an on-campus job.

House Changes:

  • We've furnished it nicely and rearranged it as well. This took some serious time and incentive as we had family from out of the country coming and we wanted to make sure they were comfortable and that everything was within our price range. 
  • This coming month (or next at latest), we’ll be posting before and after pictures of new laminate flooring in one of the bedrooms. Our kitty decided he didn't want to see carpet anymore and he was upset we spent 8 hours away from home...  
  • And another nice improvement, although somewhat trivial was a garage door opener and no longer fearing of some break-in, theft, or someone just keeping an eye on us.

We've also had some repairs:

  • Our AC motor blew, this would have been a several hundred dollar fix, but luckily it was still under warranty and consequently, cost us nothing. 
  • And just recently, which I can’t ever recall happening in any of the past homes I've lived in, a light switch blew.  Luckily I have 2 spare switches since we swapped them out with electric timers (which we absolutely love), but regardless, it would have only been a couple of dollars.

Financial changes:

  • We are still on track to have all of the interest paid off by the end of the year. This was a huge undertaking as I haven’t been paying interest on my loans for some time now since they are on deferment. This wouldn't even be remotely imaginable if it wasn't for my wife’s new job.
  • Also, we are saving money for retirement! Currently we’re just trying to put back about $250 a month. I've spoken to many people about how to invest money, along with read MANY books and they all have such interesting perspectives.  So far, the best take that I have is this: diversify and try to keep costs low. How? Well, I’m currently investing in mutual funds, and I suspect that is what I will always invest in. Currently I've invested in core-large cap funds with very low costs and in due time, I’ll invest in small cap, international, bond (mutual funds), mid cap, etc.  Why own 1 stock or bond, when you can own MANY. Keeping the risk to a minimal, that’s the key.
What lies ahead:
  • Making the back yard look nice, which is very very challenging in Texas if you refuse to water every day...