Thursday, March 30, 2017

Solved! How to display your precious paperbacks

So you have some prize paperbacks. Maybe you're the author, and you want to display them.

I did some extensive googling, only to reach a dead end. And then I had a weird idea.

Those plastic splatter-proof cookbook holders. Turned sideways.

Here it is on Cookbook Easel with Splatter Shield

If you click through, you'll get the same price as everyone else, but I'll get a small percentage because this is an affiliate link. I hope you feel I've earned it.

Notice that the "bottom" of the easel is instead enclosing the page side of the book. These easels really hold paperbacks together well.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Quicken 2016 Citi Cards OL-295-A in One Step Update only

I was getting this weird error in Quicken 2016 Deluxe which was an annoyance bug.

It was happening to all three of my Citi Cards accounts.

I understand that Citi has withdrawn support for Direct Connect, but I've been using Express Web Connect for a while with no problems. Until recently. Here's what was happening....

When I did a One Step Update, each account threw the OL-295-A indicating that the server rejected the request, yet the update was still successful. Annoying!

In addition, if you try "Update Now" on the individual accounts instead of "One Step Update," the error doesn't occur.

I tried resetting the accounts, but they hung.

Then I noticed, in Account Details-->Online Services, "Your financial institution supports an improved connection. Click here to find out more and get set up." I thought this was curious because the "improved connection" is "Direct Connect,"  which Citi no longer supports.

After much pain, I discovered that what Quicken really wanted me to do is to keep the "Express Web Connect" but with a different bank name. I don't suggest following the "find out more" link, though. It caused more pain.

Instead, this it what worked:

  1. I deactivated the account
  2. I started over by doing "add an account"
  3. I clicked "credit card"
  4. Then I typed in "Citibank" instead of "Citi Cards"
  5. I put in the credentials
  6. When Quicken found the account, I made sure to link to the existing Quicken account
  7. That worked. And, happily, it did not redownload dozens of duplicate transactions.
  8. Also, the message is gone from accounts-->online services

Monday, March 20, 2017

Homemade Poo Spray

Homemade Poo Spray

1 cup minus 2 tbsp. water
2 tsp. rubbing alcohol 
2 tsp. vegetable glycerine 
15 drops bergamot essential oil
15 drops grapefruit essential oil
15 drops lemongrass essential oil
3 drops blue food coloring (optional) 
Mix all ingredients in a small food processor. Using a funnel, pour into one 8 oz. glass spray bottle or two 4 oz. glass spray bottles. Seal tightly and label. 
To use Poo Poo Spray: 
  • Shake bottle well.
  • Spritz 4-5 sprays onto toilet water surface before going #2.
  • Do your business.
  • Flush.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Windows 10 Disk Usage 100 percent in Task Manager Solved

I tried everything in this link about 100% disk usage but the remedies recommended only worked temporarily.

Eventually I discovered that the problem was caused by a faulty mouse. I replaced the mouse.


Update: It happened again a few months later, so this time I moved the mouse to a different usb port. Problem solved.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Shutting Off Power Strips to Save Energy

As with many of my blog posts, I'm writing this for my own reference, but if someone finds it helpful for their situation, great!

To save energy and therefore money, I plugged in some energy hogs into power strips. It took about two hours of initial reconfiguring and some careful planning, but now that work is done, and there's nothing more to do than switch off and on a few power strips each day.

Based on some research, we estimate that we're saving between $100 and $150 per year, so we think it's worth a few extra seconds of thought each day. In concrete terms, this savings more than pays for our Netflix bill.

Power Strip 1: Office Computer Center 

Here's what's in the power strip, which Mike turns off at night:
  1. Chromecast
  2. Roku device
  3. Computer
  4. Double external display

Power Strip 2: Media Center 

In one power strip I have plugged in these devices. Before going to bed, I shut off the entire power strip.

  1. The big screen tv
  2. The Amazon Fire stick
  3. The Roku stick
  4. The Chromecast stick
  5. The ethernet switch

Power Strip 3: Phone Charging Station

I now have a power strip (it's actually a circle) just for charging phones, tablets, and power banks. I turn this on and off as needed.  

Power Strip 4: Miscellaneous Station

I leave this power strip off until I need it for one of its devices. I then leave it on the rest of the day, and shut if off at night.
  1. Printer
  2. Shredder
  3. Lamp

Power Strip 5: Bedroom

The clock's not plugged intot the power strip. This power strip gets turned on at night, and off in the morning.
  1. Lamp
  2. Whitenoise Machine

Power Strip 6: Kitchen Counter

I keep this power strip off until I need it. 
  1. Vitamix
  2. Large food processor
  3. Small food processor
  4. Jar opener

Pluggedd directly into the wall

These things are plugged directly into the wall or into an extension in the wall, and are never shut off
  1. The Buffalo NAS device. It puts too much wear on the inner workings to power off and on.
  2. The PLEX server (which is a Windows laptop that serves as our media server). This goes to sleep after fifteen minutes, saving power. To wake it up, we don't need to press the power button (which is inaccessible). Instead we can just left click its mouse which we've placed within reach. (The wake-on-usb setting needed to be enabled in Bios.)
  3. Mike's printer is conveniently near his office door, so Mike just powers it down at night
  4. Linda's laptop is plugged in all the time, and gets turned off at night. During the day, it goes to sleep after 15 minutes of disuse to save power.

Final Note

Homes have other power hogs as well, but they're not worth unplugging, such as washers and dryers. Even coffeemakers can be power hogs, but mine has settings for making coffee on a schedule in the morning, so I prefer to keep it always plugged in. 

Here's a link with a list of some of the biggest energy hogs.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Breathing new life into old Windows computers using Ubuntu



Recently I had the privilege of breathing new life into six old computers so that they can be used for asylees in our city. Here is their Gofundme page, if you want to help them out. They need it!

Their only computer requirement is access to the cloud so they could use Google apps, which meant I could stomp on Windows (stomping on Windows is fun) with Ubuntu (a flavor of Linux). It's open source, and therefore it's free. It also doesn't break easily.

The result would be six entirely free computers that do the same job as six purchased Chromebooks. The administrator of the building knows that flaky behavior can indicate hard drive failure. In addition, internal fans can fail at any time, causing overheating, leading to irreversible damage to the motherboard. In those cases, I recommend purchase of a Chromebook to replace the computer.

I did not test the health of the hard drives for these reasons:

  1. Even a hard drive that self-reports as "failing" can last a long time
  2. There is no risk of data loss in the event of a sudden full hard drive failure because the users will be entirely in the cloud

The Computers

The donated computers include:
  1. Dell W03C Vostro 360, which had Windows 7 on it
  2. Dell Vostro 320, which had Vista on it
  3. Dell Vostro 320, which had Vista on it
  4. Dell Vostro 320, which had Vista on it
  5. Dell Inspiron, which had XP on it, and was ten years old
  6. Dell Inspiron, which had XP on it, and was ten years old

Notes about what we did

Mike was with me for the first of the three visits, so I've included him in my narrative, as we worked as a team.
  1. We used Ubuntu 16.04.1 LTS Desktop, which apparently comes with 5 years of free support
  2. To install Ubuntu, we created a bootable USB stick, using a windows computer, following these instructions which use Rufus: Create a bootable USB stick
  3. We turned on the setting that would download any future updates to Ubuntu
  4. We left the default browser as firefox
  5. We were forced to input a password, but disabled it in various settings. Still, if someone were to run terminal commands, they'd need the password. The person in charge has the passwords.
  6. One of the Inspiron laptops doesn't have a working battery, and therefore needs to stay plugged in.  Because of this, the Ubuntu GRUB (boot loader) gets cranky, throwing a message, and awaiting user input. Just press enter, and boot will complete
  7. This power cord was ordered for the Vostro 360: Dell Slim 150-Watt AC Adapter Charger with Power Cord for Dell Alienware M15x / Alienware M14x. This power adapter is compatible with the Dell Vostro 360. The Dell Vostr0 360 requires a 150 watt to 180 watt power cord. For some reason, this Vostro throws a message during boot that says 150 watts is not enough, but it is enough, especially because it's running Ubuntu (not Windows.) Just press F1 as instructed to complete the boot.
  8. Both the Inspirons required special handling because Ubuntu couldn't seem to identify the firmware needed for the wireless connection. After this list is a description of what needed to be done.
  9. We found that wireless connection using Ubuntu has a "gotcha" because we had to edit connection and permanently put in the wireless password in order for it to work 

 The Firmware for the Wireless Connection

As mentioned in the list above, Ubuntu couldn't seem to identify the firmware needed for the wireless connection for the two laptops. Ordinarily, if firmware is missing, Ubuntu will look for it and install it, but that can't happen if the firmware is for the internet connection. We tried plugging the laptops directly into the router, but found the ethernet firmware to be missing as well. This means we had to manually find the correct firmware, and then learn how to do firmware install in Ubuntu.

For the special handling of the two Inspiron's wireless firmware, we followed these instructions: Askubuntu.

In case the above link no longer works, I have reproduced the steps here:

Download the file to a usb flash drive then drag and drop the file to your ubuntu desktop. Right-click it and select Extract Here.
Open a terminal and do:
sudo mkdir /lib/firmware/b43
sudo cp Desktop/b43/*  /lib/firmware/b43
sudo modprobe -rv b43 
sudo modprobe -v b43
if it does not come on, then reboot.

Please consider supporting our asylees

Our six asylees have a Gofundme page to help them out. Please consider helping.