The baby sitter uses your computer to check her email and the next time you go to boot up your computer, it says that it’s infected, your hard drive has crashed and all of your desktop icons are gone, when you hit “Start”, “Programs”, nothing is there. ….. arrrgghhh!

That is exactly what happened to my daughter earlier this week.  And the usual scenario takes place.  A phone call or text, “Dad, somethings wrong with my computer, can you fix it”?

She is running windows XP, so here’s a solution, that took her computer back to the way it was before the baby sitter’s “malware infection”

Now the only way I was able to perform the fix was to start the computer in safe mode with command prompt because if windows started in normal mode, “system restore” was not available.  If this happens to you perform the following steps:

  • Restart your computer, and then press and hold F8 during the initial startup to start your computer in safe mode with a Command prompt.
  • Use the arrow keys to select the Safe mode with a Command prompt option.
  • If you are prompted to select an operating system, use the arrow keys to select the appropriate operating system for your computer, and then press ENTER.
  • Log on as an administrator or with an account that has administrator credentials.
  • At the command prompt, type %systemroot%\system32\restore\rstrui.exe, and then press ENTER.
  • When the restore to an earlier date comes up, select a couple of days prior to when you started having problems.

This restored her computer just fine and I was sure to include a printout of the instructions above should (and it will) happen again.

I suggest you copy and paste the above instructions and put them someplace because your computer won’t even have internet explorer available if you’re infected with the right malware.

 casket

When we are looking to buy a car most people will compare and haggle to get the best possible price.  But when it comes to funerals we can end up paying through the nose so to speak.

I think it would be safe to say that most people do no planning whatsoever on their funeral.

Have you purchased a plot if you want to be buried?  Have you picked out a casket and paid for it?  Most of us are uncomfortable discussing these things but one thing is for sure, we will all eventually die.  So it’s not a matter of if, but when.

And when this happens our family is left with all the planning and decisions about our funeral.  Did you know that the Federal Trade Commission actually regulates practices of a funeral home.  You can read it at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/rulemaking/funeral/index.shtm

Did you know that you can buy a casket online and save hundreds if not thousands?  And the funeral home must allow you to do this without adding additional fees.  You have the right to pick which services you would like to utilize from the funeral home and don’t have to use them for all services if you don’t want too.

I don’t want my family buying a “better” casket because they feel that a cheaper one would be expressing that they cared less about me.

If you know which funeral home you’re family would probably use, stop by and pick up their price list (they’re required to provide you one by law).  Decide what services you would want your family to use and write down your wishes.  Maybe seal it in an envelope and give it to couple of people and explain to them that it is not your “Will” it’s just what you would like done once you die. 

Do you realize just how much stress you’ll be saving your survivors?  Take some time and just Get’r done :-)

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With my job I’m required to drill masonry such as bricks, cinder block, or concrete on a fairly regular basis.

For several years I used the type drill that was a normal rotary drill but also had a “hammer” setting to make drilling masonry easier.  And yes, I did use a good brand (Dewalt…. All of my battery powered tools are Dewalt!).  I’m not saying that other manufacturers are crappy, it’s just I use my tools ALOT and my Dewalt stuff has lasted me a long time.  I was pleased with using these multipurpose drills until I discovered an “SDS” drill.  WOW! it was like going thru masonry at 2-5X the speed that it took before.  I use a “Milwakee” and absolutely love it.

 sds_bits

“SDS” stands for “Slotted Drive System”  The bits have long slots which allow the bit to have a longer stroke for hammering the masonry item.  These drills are meant to deliver a large amount of torque and typically you can get the bits in about any size.  Also the SDS bits are interchangable across different brands of SDS drills.

Another important feature I like is that they lock in place.  I hate it when my bit would stop and the drill would continue to rotate.  I’d have to stop and use the chuck key in an attempt to get a better grip on the bit.  With SDS, this can’t happen.  There is usually a clutch mechanism which prevents the drill from throwing you across the room if the bit gets stuck (this is a good thing because these babies produce some great torque).

So if you have a project that requires you to drill masonry, beg, borrow, or rent (don’t steal) an SDS drill and if you’re like me, you’ll be adding one to your toolbox as soon as you can afford one.

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Something EVERY carpenter knows but many people don’t is that there are special marks on a tape measure

Go ahead and get yours and follow along.

Tape Measure

When you pull it out you’ll notice marks like diamonds or maybe different color numbers every 16 inches.  Do you know why?  It’s because most homes are built using 16″ centers (distance from the center of one partition to the center of the next partition).  Some cheaper built homes will use 24″ centers.  Some occassions you may find items such as floor joists on 12″ centers. 

So why these particular numbers?

Ever bought a sheet of plywood, paneling, or drywall?  Did you notice that all of them are 4 feet wide?  Well 4 feet is 48 inches and all of the above numbers divide into 48″ equally.  So whether you’re using 12″, 16″, or 24″ you’ll end up in the middle of the partition, joist, rafter, etc without having to do any cutting.

Now all boards won’t be a perfect fit without any cutting (depends on the dimensions of what you’re covering the plywood, etc with).  But it will minimize the amount of cutting that you have to do.

So next time someone gets out their tape measure ask them what the red 16 or little diamonds are for.  You’ll be surprised how many people don’t know.  But now YOU DO ;-)

To say I love my air tools would be an understatement.  And in addition there is some stuff I’ve done with my air compressor that most have never thought of doing (I once made a prop for halloween that had a stuffed dog shoot out of a dog house using an air piston made using PVC pipe, a solenoid from an old washing machine and you guessed it an air compressor tank).  Maybe I’ll cover that in a different post.

My pap never actually used air tools but I’m sure he would have if they existed back when he owned his construction company.  My Dad was dead set against them till he attempted to install all of the trim woodwork in his house about 4 years ago and then quickly became a fan of air powered tools.

 air_compressor

Air powered nail guns save soooooo…… much time and you don’t have to worry about that swollen thumb that you hit with the hammer.  Like any tools there is a safety consideration and I always unplug the hose from the tool and the air compressor tank so that kids can’t use the tools as a weapon to hurt themselves.

 It’s definitely not “easy” to plug the tool and hose back into a pressurized tank (if you own one you’ll quickly realize what I mean).  So safety wise it’s alot better than electricity powered tools.

After nail guns, my next favorite is tools to work on your vehicle.  Getting Lug nuts off to change a tire couldn’t be easier (notice I said off).  I always put lug nuts on by hand using a tire iron so I don’t get them too tight (which is bad when you have a flat tire and have to change it).

impact_wrench

Also if you’re using an air powered rachet, more than likely you’ll have to crack the bolt or nut loose, but once you’ve done that it’s nice just to push a lever and have it back it the rest of the way out vice banging your knuckles until they’re bleeding.

Air Tools are awesome and your friends will think you’re a Master Mechanic just because you own them :-)

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My clothes dryer was taking forever to get clothes dry.

Here are the symptoms, maybe you have the same problem:

  1. Clothes will evently get dry but it was taking several hours.
  2. There was air coming out the vent but it was rather cool to the touch and didn’t seem to be very strong in the amount of air flow.

When I took my vent hose off the back of the dryer, and then ran the dryer the air flow seemed really good and the air was very warm.

I have a room over my garage with the “laundry room” right outside of this room.  The vent piping goes out from behind the dryer and then inside the concealed area beside my room over the garage and then makes a left and goes along the outside walls of the room over the garage and out the side of the house.

There was no way to get to this piping without cutting a hole in the drywall which I really didn’t want to do. 

The problem ended up being that because that area where the piping was run was essentially at attic temperature it was rather cool in winter.  The hot air from the dryer going through this piping caused condensation and with the wet piping all the dryer lint that escaped the screen was sticking to this wet piping on the way out as exhaust.

I essentially had a huge lint monster clogging up my exhaust line. (She weighed in at several pounds when I was able to finally get it all out).

dryer_lint

Here’s how to fix it.

Get yourself a long fish tape (they’re usually in the electrical section of your local hardware store… either fiberglass or metal, but it should come on a spool so that it can make any necessary bends.)

With the dryer vent removed, insert the fish tape from the outside of your house until it pops out by your dryer.

Usually there’s a loop at the end of the fish tape and thats where you want to attach a small rag.  Be sure it’s securely fastened or you’ll then be trying to remove a lint monster plus a rag.  Once attached put the fish tape out slowly.  You’ll be amazed at what comes out with that rag.

I kept slowly increasing the size of the rag until no more lint monster emerged.  I was able to look down the exhaust pipe and it looked so shiny clean. 

Hook your dryer back up and you should see and feel a difference in airflow coming out of the exhaust.  This worked for me and hopefully someone else will find this helpful.  I know it’s just a matter of time till it happens again, but this time I’ll be ready ;-)

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I assumed that everyone knew how to do this until talking with my daughters.

They had a good point in that almost everyone has a cell phone and can usually call someone or AAA if they’re a member and have them come to complete this task.

But just suppose that you don’t have cell reception where you are at or you’re not familiar where “exactly” your located.

Everybody should at least have a basic idea of where to start if they have to do this for themselves.

How to change a tire

  1. Locate your car jack and tire (If you don’t know where they are located look in your owners manual-If you have a flat tire at night, you’ll not want to be figuring this one out at that time).
  2. Pull your handbrake or press your foot on the emergency brake.  When your car is jacked up you don’t want to be having it roll off the jack stand.
  3. Remove the hubcap.  A flat tip screwdriver works great. If you don’t have one then check the handle of your jack, sometimes it’s shaped like a screwdriver.
  4. Loosen the lugnuts (do not completely remove them yet). This should be done by turning them counter clockwise.  They may seem like they’re welded in place but trust me they’re not. (Usually this is from a mechanic that last worked on your car and used an impact wrench to tighten them vice a tire iron).
  5. Now jack up the car using your car’s car jack.  Once jacked up with the wheel off the ground, remove the lugnuts completely and either stick them in your pocket or the hubcap you removed so you don’t loose them.  Go ahead and remove the flat tire.
  6. Get out your spare tire and install it aligning the bolts to the holes in the rim.  Put your lugnuts back on and hand tighten them so they’re snug (you can use the wrench just don’t be too worried at this point that they are as tight as they were when you took them off).  We’ll fully tighten them in the next step.
  7. Let down you’re jackstand and then tighten them as hard as you can.  Be sure to tighten them moving to the near opposite side of the wheel with each successive lugnut and then repeat till you’re sure they are as tight as they can be.
  8. Just leave the hubcap off, until the tire is repaired and replaced.
  9. Most spare tires have speed limitations so be sure to follow them and if you start out driving and you fell a great deal of vibration from the tire you just replaced then more than likely you didn’t have it tightened correctly.  Pull off to the side of the road and jack your car back up and check the wheel for looseness by grabbing the tire and wiggling it to find out if it’s loose.  Retighten if necessary.
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Being in the Security Business, I thought I would add a post with some useful tips regarding Home Security

I can’t begin tell you the number of times that I’ve put in alarm systems for people that were burglarized or their neighbors were burglarized.  Everyone considers an alarm system a luxury item until they or someone they have known has been violated by a burglar.  Then they are not concerned about cost so much as how soon I can put one in for them.

This isn’t a pitch to have you call me for an alarm system.  I’m going to make some recommendations that you can take action on to reduce the chance of being burglarized:

Burglar

  1. Keys – Don’t give keys to every Tom, Dick, and Harry that you know.  Also keeping an extra one under a mat, on top of a light, or under a rock close to the front door only takes about an extra 30 seconds to find vice just leaving it in the lock itself.  Also it’s a good idea to keep your house keys separate from your auto keys (see a previous article on vehicle safety).
  2. Locks – Use locks of good quality with a deadlatch feature to prevent use of a credit card or other piece of thin material to gain entry.  I also recommend deadbolts.  If there is glass in the door or beside it that could be broken, use a double cylinder deadbolt.  For safety reasons when using a double cylinder deadbolt keep a key nearby but not within reach of the glass (in case of fire or emergency).
  3. Sliding Doors – Many people know to put a broom handle or other device to prevent sliding, but what about lifting.  Older sliding glass doors could be easily lifted off the track by prying upward.  Putting a screw in the top of the track can prevent lifting.
  4. Shrubs/Flowers – Shrubs can make a convenient hiding place for would be burglars as they attempt to gain entry (i.e. a car drives down a nearby street).  Keep shrubs and flowers trimmed.
  5. Lighting – a cost effective method is to install motion activated flood lights particularily in the back yard.  Burglars usually enter through a place not easily seen by neighbors.
  6. Pets – Most would be burglars don’t carry a big steak with them and besides that, they don’t know if your dog would rather eat them or the steak.  Loud barking dogs on the inside of your home can help deter burglars and have them move to the next house.

If you know someone that has every been burglarized, they will tell you that they felt violated.  Your home is your castle.  Don’t wait till it happens to you to take some precautionary steps to protect yourself and your family.

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Now the basic concept seems very easy but like most people unfamiliar with electricity you’ll probably have an electrician do this because the whole death by electricity is a little scary :-)

First you need to know that all switches are not the same.  Can you operate the light from multiple locations or is there only one location that operates the switch?  There are several types of switches but the most common are Single Pole and Three Way Switch.

light_switch

Figure out which switch you wish to replace and with the switch on (i.e. light, lamp, etc is on) go to your electrical breaker box and turn off the breaker associated with that device (i.e. when the light goes out, you have the right one). 

This should work just fine for securing all electrical power to the switch.  You can also check it with a multimeter set to AC scale of greater than 115VAC. 

  • Check it in a receptacle that still has power to it and verify that the meter reads that AC, now without moving any switches on the multimeter
  • Check the different wires going into the screw terminals, check between every possible combination of screw terminals until you are sure that no voltage is present. 
  • Once that is done go back to the original receptacle and ensure you still have voltage present.  (I learned this method in the Navy as you prove the multimeter was working before and after you checked for voltage on the device that was supposed to be deenergized. 
  • Chances of the multimeter malfunctioning in the middle of the time period or slim to none).

Look at the old switch and new switch and determine if they look alike (i.e. same number of screw terminals).

If you have room to manueuver the wiring I suggest that you move the wires one at a time to the new switch.  If not mark them on the old switch and take note where they’ll go on the new switch.

Congrats, you just replaced your first switch.

Take a closer look at a typical receptacle and learn something you probably don’t know.

outlet1

You’ll see two slots and a round hole.  Most people realize that the round hole is for the ground on the plug of the device you’re plugging into the socket.  That’s because some older devices don’t have a ground connection.  It isn’t needed for a device to operate.  It’s there for safety reasons so that if the “hot” wire happens to short to the casing of the device (like a drill for example) it takes this deadly potential, shorts it to ground and usually blows a fuse or trips a circuit breaker.

Look closer at the picture and you’ll notice that the two slots are different sizes.  One is longer than the other.  If you’re electrician wired it correctly, your “hot” wire (typically black in color) is wired to the smaller of the two slots and the neutral wire (typically white in color) is wired to the larger of the two slots.  (In the picture above the smaller of the two slots is on the right).

In a 110VAC receptacle like the one shown above the white wire is “electrically” the same as the ground wire.

Looking at the back of a receptacle you’ll also notice something that’s different.

outlet2

It’s easy to spot the “ground” connection as it’s usually all by itself and by convention is green in color.  Now look at the other screws.  You’ll notice one is silver in color and the other is brass in color.  The silver one is your neutral connection (lighter in color than the brass one, just like the white wire is lighter in color than the black wire).  The brass colored screw is your “hot” connection (black wire).

Also for a typical application you can wire the white and black wires  to either one of the silver or brass screws respectively. 

Let’s suppose that you’re house is wired so a switch turns on the top receptacle while the bottom receptacle always has power.  In this instance you’ll have a different pair of wires for the top set of screws and a different pair for the bottom set of screws.  Also you’ll notice if you look closely that normally there is a “shorting bar” between the two screws of the same color.  This will be cut or broken on a receptacle used as described immediately above.

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