Archive for the ‘Tips & Tricks’ Category

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Making a Blinking LED Light

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

If you’ve ever looked into making your own blinking LED light, you have probably seen this tutorial. However, if you follow that schematic, you won’t be able to power many LED’s because the power source they will be using is the 555 timer. So, for this modified project, a transistor was used to allow a much higher number of LED’s to be used. This way, the LED’s are powered directly from the power source instead of the 555 timer.

The transistor’s middle pin is wired to the output of the 555 timer (pin 3). The LED’s get their positive voltage from the battery, and the negative side of the LED’s goes to the transistor. The third pin of the transistor goes to the negative on the battery.

Here are some photos of the process, including the end result. This won’t be a tutorial because the Instructables instructions are very easy to follow. However, feel free to ask any questions in the comments below. Also note that you can change the blinking speed by putting in a different capacitor.


Posted in Hardware, Multimedia, Tips & Tricks | No Comments »

Ten Steps to Having a Proper Man Cave

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Fact: a garage is the best type of man cave. If you are unlike the idiotic society of today which has no clue how to pump up a tire, you will want to make yourself a proper man cave. You don’t need to be a mechanic to have a good garage. Anyone who can use a power tool and has done so should have a proper man cave. Here are ten steps to having a proper man cave.

photo by serg312 on flickr

Garage Space

First off, and most important, is the cave itself. You should get a garage that can fit at least two cars. This is so you have plenty of room to work on your car. The more space you have to work with, the easier it is. If you have two cars, you can keep both in the garage, but when it comes time to do some wrenching, you will want to move the other car out.

Lighting

You can never have too much lighting. Your garage should be brighter than day so you can see through every opening under the hood. At the same time, you need to have full control over the lighting, which means installing dimmers instead of switches. You should also be able to control each light individually, or at least groups of lights that make up certain sections. And finally, you need at least three handheld wired lights, and one handheld battery powered light. This is for working under the car, or for directing light through areas where the normal lights cannot get through.

Air Conditioning & Heating

Having a way to cool yourself down while you work is more important than having a heating system. When it’s winter you can just put on more clothes. But when it’s hot, you are rendered powerless and there is nothing you can possibly do to properly cool yourself down. A simple fan won’t get the job done – you need air conditioning. And if you have air conditioning, it is only logical that you have heating. Plus with these two systems you can make sure paint dries faster.

Proper Garage Doors & Lasers

Yes, lasers. The last thing you want is for your property to get stolen. The first step to avoid that is having a good door. Don’t get the cheapest one you see. Generally, the heavier it is, the stronger it is. Which means it’ll be more expensive, but it’ll be worth it. Double doors (like barn doors) are classier, but require more space. Make sure to have a good lock or two installed. And for the perfect touch, add lasers. You can get a cheap laser system online. All it really requires is a bunch of small mirrors, a receiver, and a laser. You can probably make it yourself for less than $50. Or just get a normal alarm system.

Tools and Organization

You need tools, and the more tools you have, the better. You don’t necessarily need to go out and buy a thousand dollars worth of tools. You can slowly expand your collection when you find deals, buy online, find something at a garage sale, etc. You should have two or three car jacks and some axle stands. A welder and an air compressor would be good additions to your tool collection. Duct tape, JB Weld, and cable ties should always be available. And don’t forget to organize everything. The last thing you want is to spend an hour looking for a tool to complete a five minute job.

Spare Parts

You should have common parts available. Tire puncture repair kits, lights, fuses, and other small parts should be available without a half an hour drive to the store. These parts will of course depend on the vehicle you have.

Comfort

You need two or three good chairs. Sometimes you will want to take a short break, and you won’t want to sit on the floor. This is where garage space comes in.

Fridge

You will require a fridge. It needs to be packed with drinks and snacks – preferably something like Chex Mix. This solution is ideal.

Computer With Internet Connection

Sometimes you will need to look at a manual online, or follow a tutorial, even if you consider yourself too intelligent to do such a thing. To avoid printing out instructions, you will want a computer with internet. Bringing your laptop from upstairs won’t cut it, because you will get it dirty and covered in oil. Almost any laptop or desktop will do. You will want to get a spill-proof keyboard, or just put a clear plastic bag over an old keyboard. Get a cheap optical mouse, because a ball mouse will stop working from the dirt, as will a trackpad on a laptop. The best place for a garage computer is somewhere you can use it while standing.

Wall of Stuff

Just as mankind has been doing for thousands of years, you will want to customize your cave wall. A man cave cannot be decorated, only customized. You can hang random things on one of the walls – special priceless car parts, a license plate collection, random broken parts, clocks made out of used disc brakes, etc.

And that’s it. Now you too can have a proper man cave.


Posted in Auto & Motorcycle Tech, Tips & Tricks | 3 Comments »

How to make text on your netbook or other small screen more visible and easier to read

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

If you are using Windows XP and are on a netbook or using a laptop with a small screen, text might seem difficult to read. The fix for this is to download ClearType Tuner from Microsoft’s XP PowerToys website. This is Microsoft’s own tool for using ClearType text on Windows XP. ClearType is a technology that makes text easier to read by using special antialiasing methods on text (just how video games use it to fix jagged edges.

Below are two screenshots of how ClearType works on the Acer Aspire One netbook.

Before:

After:

The difference this makes on an 11.6″ 1366×768 display is huge. And I also recommend to set the slider to the darkest option, otherwise the text looks a bit blue:


Posted in Desktops & Laptops, Software, Tips & Tricks | 1 Comment »

Camera Tip – How to Use Flash When Taking Closeups With a Point-and-Shoot

Sunday, October 18th, 2009

Here is a basic technique to use when you want to take a closeup picture of something with a point-and-shoot camera, and have to use the flash.

If you’ve ever tried to take a picture of something too close to the camera with the flash enabled, you would know that a lot of objects reflect the flash. A solution to this is simple. Move back from the object you are trying to photograph, and then zoom in with the camera. This might sound like common sense, but more and more people today lack common sense. But that’s not all – when zooming in, make sure to only zoom using your camera’s optical zoom. You know it’s using optical zoom when you hear or see the lens moving and focusing. It’s using digital zoom when you’re still zooming but it’s not moving or making any more noise. The point in only using optical zoom is image quality – you will most likely get the best quality from a point-and-shoot camera if you do not use digital zoom. And you don’t need to stand that far back from the object anyway. Digital zoom only comes in when you’re out of optical zoom.

When using this zooming technique, try to hold the camera steadier than you would normally. Place it against your chin, stomach, chest, or anything that will allow the camera to shake less in your hands. The picture is more likely to come out blurry if you the camera is shaking while taking a picture zoomed in.

In addition, something else you could try is taking the picture at a slightly different angle. For example, if you’re taking a picture of a piece of paper head-on and it comes out too bright, take a picture of the paper not from head-on (90 degrees) but from something like 75 degrees. This should cause the flash to reflect away from the camera rather than reflect at the camera.

Below is a picture taken using no zoom (about 1-2 feet from the object), and after it is a picture using the “stand back and zoom” technique (using full optical zoom, about 5 feet from the object).


Posted in Gadgets, Multimedia, Tips & Tricks | No Comments »

Best Way to Recycle Old Laptop LCD’s is to Re-use Them

Saturday, October 17th, 2009

What’s this I have here? Why it’s a cracked LCD from a Windows 2000 era IBM Thinkpad. Makes a perfect platform for my netbook (to allow the fan to suck in air while it’s on my lap), makes a perfect writing pad, and I’m sure someone will be able to think of many more uses for this LCD. I didn’t do a thing to modify it – the back still has the circuit boards on it, but they’re behind a cover and the back of the LCD feels smooth and never catches on anything. If yours has something sticking out, you might be able to tape over it with duct tape or something if you can’t rip it out.

Seriously, this is just perfect for a laptop stand. It’s flat, it looks awesome, it’s free, does its function (cools your working laptop), it’s light, and you’re being friendly to the environment if green is your thing. And before someone says I’ll break it and have liquid crystals spilled all over, I doubt that will happen. (But just in case, do not try this at home).


Posted in Desktops & Laptops, Hardware, Tips & Tricks | No Comments »

How to Buy a New Car the Right Way

Friday, May 29th, 2009

Image from Wikimedia

When’s the last time you went to an automotive dealership? When’s the last time you bought a car? How much did you pay? Most likely, you paid too much.

When most people think car dealer, they think about “low-balling,” and haggling down car prices. But how much should you “low-ball?” The answer is much more than you probably think.

The Dealer’s Asking Price on a car is the dealer’s asking price plus all the options you chose like DVD players etc. and a destination fee, but when dealers order a large amount of cars at one time, they get discounts that can be passed down to you. Most people will low-ball only about a $1000 on a brand new car, or just down to the MSRP value, but you can low-ball much more. A great tool for knowing how much to lowball is a website called www.carpricesecrets.com.  Basically, you enter the car year, car make ( Toyota, Honda, Jeep etc.), car model( Civic, Corolla etc.),trim level (lx, ex, laredo etc.), and your personal information like name and address. The personal information is so that dealers can contact you. The only thing you have to add to the “secret target price” they give you is the options that you want like the sunroof, navigation system, premium wheels etc. Stay firm with your price through the whole sales process. Don’t be afraid to spend a few hours going back and forth with the dealer. He/She will try to tell you that the price you’re trying to acquire the car for doesn’t meet their goal. Don’t worry, just stay persistent.

Also, from September, until Christmas is the best time of year to buy a car because all the models for the new year are coming in. For example, you should buy a 2007 Ford Explorer from September until Christmas 2007 because all the 2008 Ford Explorers are coming into stock, and dealers are usually willing to sell brand new cars from an older year at a low price.

Next time you’re ready to buy a car, do it the right, cheap way.


Posted in Auto & Motorcycle Tech, Tips & Tricks | 2 Comments »

How to fix a broken LCD screen

Monday, April 27th, 2009

The best fix is often the simplest.


Posted in Desktops & Laptops, Hardware, Multimedia, Tips & Tricks | No Comments »

How to protect your computer from the Conficker C virus

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

image from Wikipedia

There has been quite a bit of talk on the internet about the Conficker virus that was supposed to wreck a whole lot of computers yesterday. People are panicking all over the place as if their computer is about to explode.

This is just another virus. It is hyped up to be something devastating, but apart from its ability to replicate and avoid detection, it is like any other virus. A lot of viruses already steal personal information from your computer. To avoid catching Conficker C, use the same methods you would to prevent any other virus.

Assuming you don’t already have Conficker on your computer, waiting to attack, here are the usual anti-virus tips you should follow.

  • Don’t click on suspicious links on suspicious sites.
  • Don’t download suspicious files, or most of the time, files that are around 900kb or 300kb (unless you know the file you’re looking for is supposed to be that size).
  • Use good a good anti-virus program like AVG and make sure it’s fully updated.
  • Don’t open suspicious emails and their suspicious attachments.
  • Scan files before you open them.
  • Make sure your operating system is updated.
  • Use a firewall. Vista’s firewall is sufficient for most people, so just make sure that it’s enabled.

Use common sense and if you think a site or file might be infected, don’t open it. If you think your computer might already be infected with the Conficker worm, my suggestion would be to just reformat. You will lose all your files that you did not back up, but at least you will be 100% sure that your personal information isn’t being stolen. Just don’t back up your files if you’re already infected, because the virus will transfer along with your backups. Good luck and keep your computer safe. To protect your computers from virus infection, it is always best to read Antivirus Reviews to select the best product in the market.


Posted in Internet, News, Operating Systems, Security, Tips & Tricks | No Comments »

How to prevent headaches and eyestrain while on the computer

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

One way which might help you prevent a headache from being on the computer too long is setting up the screen correctly.

First, make sure your screen is perfectly centered on your desk. The screen should be directly across from your head, meaning if you are looking straight ahead, you see the midpoint of the screen. If you can picture a three dimensional axis in your head, this would mean centering it on the X axis. It is also important that your screen is tilt-centered on the Z axis. This means one edge of the screen should be no farther away from your eyes than the opposite edge. You can center it if you look at your screen from above. If you are reading something on your screen and it’s not centered in this way, your eyes will be strained from zooming in and out and focusing as you read each line of text. For the Y axis, or vertical, your screen should not be centered. It should be lower, and your eyes, when looking straight ahead, should look at the top of the screen, or somewhere near the top. Your eyes get less strained when looking slightly down than up.

Second, don’t set your screen brightness all the way up. Mine is actually at 44% on my main screen, and 50% on my secondary monitor. Full brightness is unnecessary unless you’re doing design work and just strains your eyes. You should find a nice balance between contrast and brightness so that it doesn’t seem too bright. This will be completely different for every monitor, so you have to find this balance on your own.

And finally, try to sit up straight in your chair. When you start sitting a bit sideways or with your head tilted, it makes the physical screen position adjustments useless.

Disclaimer: do not take these tips as medical facts. These may not work for you or might make your problem worse. These are just suggestions from someone who spends a lot of time on the computer. I am not responsible for anything resulting from the use of these suggestions.


Posted in Desktops & Laptops, Tips & Tricks | 6 Comments »

Is your new hard drive not showing up in Windows Vista?

Friday, January 2nd, 2009

If your new hard drive is not showing up in Windows, it simply needs to be formatted. Here is how to format your new (or existing) hard drive from Windows Vista, without using any third party software.

Right click on Computer (which can also be found in your Start Menu if you don’t have it on your desktop). Click Manage.

The Computer Management window should open. When it does, select Disk Management from the left hand drop-down menu.

After selecting Disk Management, you should get a list of your hard disks. Right click on the hard drive that you need to format, and click Format. Note: you can also format and partition existing drives here. You can change any partition except the one which Windows is installed on.

In the Format window, give your new hard drive a name and choose the file system. For most purposes, you would want this to be NTFS. A full format is always recommended, meaning the “perform a quick format” box should be unchecked. Leave everything else as it is, and click OK. If you’re formatting an existing drive, all the data on it will be erased.

After it’s done formatting, your new hard drive should appear in “Computer”.


Posted in Hardware, Operating Systems, Tips & Tricks, Tutorials | 13 Comments »

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