Another Terrific Headache-Saving Little Computer Utility

Via a passing mention in PCWorld magazine, I just found a real time saving little computer utility that I already LOVE after using it for just two days.

I copy and paste all day long, usually into Thunderbird email, and text formatting from other sources loves to follow it into Tbird, which can be  a real pain.

Ever since changing over to Win 7 and Tbird a while back, I’ve been copying text first into notepad, then copying it out of Notepad again before finally pasting it into Tbird (or any other software). That removes the formatting and makes it look presentable in an email.

Turns out, the free little utility called “PureText” removes this formatting in one step, without the extra copy/paste. That may not sound like a big deal to some folks, but if you spend much time on PC’s, you’ll know it’s a HUGE time and aggravation saver! (I copied this article from my word processor directly into this blog post using PT and [Windows-V] with none of the usual reformatting necessary)

A guy named Steve Miller authored and freely offers this handy software, and other utilities, at SteveMiller.net/apps. 

Many thanks, Steve! PureText’s a real keeper! 

God bless you and yours,

Dave Harnish
www.DavesRepair.com

Amos 4:13

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Making an Impact With an Electric Wrench

I recently had to replace ball joints on my old pickup truck, and since that experience and a few others with our vehicles lately, this has become a tool I never want to be without.

I have 3 air compressors around this place, but none of them provides the CFM to run an air impact wrench for very long, so I started looking around for another solution this summer.

The DeWalt 1/2″ electric version – this one’s model DW292 – fits the bill, and has effortlessly loosened everything I’ve thrown at it. Love this tool! No waiting for a compressor to catch up, or wondering if there’s enough air supply, just plug it in and go!

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There’s a short learning curve to properly retighten lug nuts and I still double-check them with the old T-wrench, but this things fast, fast, fast. No more loosening lugs with the vehicle sitting on the garage floor, then jacking it up and wrenching them off. Just jack her up, and in a few seconds the lugs are off. Not quite as fast as a NASCAR pit crew, but… 

Wish I’d known these were serious tools years ago. I always thought the electrics were more of a toy than a tool. Sure glad I tried one.

I bought this one via Amazon Prime, along with a set of deep sockets, and as you can probably tell, have no regrets. One tip, though: The little socket retaining pin was stiff and too sharp, making it hard to attach/remove sockets when this one first arrived. A little touchup with a Dremel tool softened the pin’s edges and solved that.

If you work on your own vehicles and don’t have a huge air compressor (or maybe even if you do), buy one of these! It’ll save you a lot of time.

God bless you and yours,

Dave Harnish
www.DavesRepair.com

Amos 4:13

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How to Easily Remove Jar and Bottle Labels

‘Been using this little trick almost daily for a while now, and thought maybe you could get some use out of it, too. I was just reminded of this when my Lovely asked me to get a stubborn label off a nice glass bottle she wants to re-use. Mineral spirits cleanly took it off in a few minutes, and I finished up with a bit of WD-40 to take off the last of the adhesive residue and give it some sheen. 

I have a small (3-1/2 gallon) parts washer tank here in the shop,  and keep it about half filled with ordinary “Low Odor Mineral Spirits”, sold as paint thinner by our local True Value hardware store. Not only is the stuff very good for degreasing small parts like Mixmaster worm gears, spindles, etc, it does a great job loosening those irritating bottle and jar labels, too (Note: don’t try to run this stuff through a parts washer pump – it’ll kill it pretty quickly. My little tank went pump-less many years ago). 

Back when I was taking gazillions of daily meds, I accumulated a lot of pill bottles, which are really handy around the shop.  Just drop them into a container of this and let them soak for a few hours, or even overnight. You’ll often find the label lying in the bottom of the tank, completely removed from the jar or bottle. 

I’ve been surprised that this doesn’t attack the plastics I’ve tried it with so far. Even thin peanut butter jars, etc, aren’t affected by the solvent, but the adhesive used in their labels certainly is. You’ll want to experiment with small jobs with whatever brand you use, just to make sure your results are similar to mine, but the True Value branded version works great for me. 

I do recommend using rubber gloves – Nitrile ones work best – and paint thinner is somewhat flammable, so use with care. 

Hope that’s helpful! 

God bless you, and Happy Independence Day to my U. S. friends! 

Dave Harnish
www.DavesRepair.com

John 8:32, 36

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Like Jigsaw Puzzles? Change Your Ford Truck Brake Shoes!

About 20 years ago I did a job that I promised myself I’d never, ever do again. I got it done last Wednesday evening. I know, I know, but I learned some things, so the time and aggravation wasn’t totally wasted. One of the first things I learned, I confess, was that my patience level isn’t as much improved as I thought it was. It’s better than it was 2 decades back, but I’m definitely not “there” yet.

Anyway, I’m referring to replacing the rear brake shoes on a Ford truck, this one the 2000 E150 van with which I ran daily service calls back when I still did that. This time I actually had the right tool for the job, which always makes life better.

Knowing my 10-minute memory, I thought it wise to take a few digital photos of the jigsaw puzzle of springs, links, and cables before tearing it all apart, and I also left the opposite wheel assembled for a reference if needed. Turned out I did need one of the pictures to clear up one detail, and it was nice to have them availble.

It was still a nasty job that took half a day, mostly due to my re-learning the following fact the hard way: The front and rear shoes on each wheel are NOT the same. They look identical at first glance, while resting in the box, and with no notes or instructions of any kind included in the box to remind me of the fact, of course I didn’t remember that they are indeed different.

So, just in case you love jigsaw puzzles and ever feel a need to tackle this job yourself, be aware that the lining on the rear brake shoe is longer than the front one. In this case, the rears were about 11″ long, the fronts about 8″-9″. Don’t be fooled by the fact that they’ll fit just fine reversed; they won’t work right. 

Another word to the wise: If you don’t already own one, when you buy the brake shoes, also buy one of the special pliers made for removing and installing the springs. I couldn’t remember whether I had one or not, so I bought (a second) one. That turned out well, though, because they differed just enough to make one more handy for removing the upper springs, and the other better for reinstalling them. Oh, and pickup a can of brake cleaner spray. Wash the whole area down with the stuff, then walk away for a few minutes while it dries. Makes the job a little less of a mess – and a lot less dangerous to your lungs than blowing all that asbestos dust around with compressed air (NEED I SAY IT? PLEASE DON’T DO THAT!)

They also sell a special tool to lock and unlock the shoe retainer springs from their pins, but it’s not necessary for the small springs on this 1/2 ton truck. Just compress the springs with a nutdriver – 3/8″ will work – then reach around behind the backing plate and turn the spring retainer pin 90 degrees with your fingers when it goes into the slot in the spring cap. That works well for me.

Anyway, that’s what I learned this week. Actually last week, but it was too traumatic to talk about back then ;-). The whole thing reminded me of that old James Bond movie title, “Never Say Never Again” (With the only GENUINE Bond, of course, Sean Connery)

So before my ADD gets any worse and I start to ramble too far out on the ridge, I’ll leave you for now. Hope that’s of some use.

God bless you and yours,

Dave Harnish
www.DavesRepair.com

Acts 4:12

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Two Quick Tips on Summer Bird Feeding

If you have sugar-loving ants getting into your Hummingbird feeders, try coating the feeder’s hanger with some ordinary blackboard or sidewalk chalk. For some reason, they hate crossing the stuff! I watched them try it again yesterday, and they refused to cross it to get to a feeder they’d been freely using before I did this to our hanger brackets.

Most of our feeders are under the edge of a porch roof, so rain doesn’t wash it off. If yours is out in the weather, you may have to re-apply it after a heavy rain, but it should last longer for me than the old method (kerosene on a piece of cloth, which worked, but dried out every few days).

I’ve mentioned how before how handy this home-made tool is, but I use two of these every day, and thought you could get some use out of it, too:

If you have bears and raccoons where you live, you already know how much they love to destroy bird feeders. Rubber buckshot is a wonderful invention, but the only lasting solution is to just bring the feeders inside overnight (One of the nice things about winter is just leaving the seed and suet feeders out 24/7).

This is no small job at our house, with over a dozen Hummer and seed feeders having to make the trip every morning and evening, but it’s a lot faster and easier using two simple “hook-sticks”.

Just a 3 foot piece of old broomstick (Note: ask your Lovely before commandeering her best broom for this!) with a row of 5 hooks attached about 8″ apart, one of these can make the job a one-trip affair. There are other uses for them, too, like carrying plastic bags of groceries, two per hook, from the car to the house, moving hanging baskets, etc.

Birdfeeder Hook Stick

It’s a simple but really handy tool. Make one, and let me know what other uses you find for yours.

God bless you and yours,

Dave Harnish
www.DavesRepair.com

Acts 4:12

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Saying Hello to Linux

Having been blessed with several spare, older (previously XP) computers around here to experiment with, I’ve been able to try out a half-dozen Linux releases, or “distro’s” over the last year or so. I stayed with Linux Lite the longest, but another one that adds a lot of “eye candy” and polish is L. Mint 16 KDE, a really nice-looking, smooth-running OS. Have been using that one for several weeks now, and love it. 

I’ll probably end up a total Linux user eventually, because I use too many PC’s here to pay MS for Windows licenses for them all. And I have older hardware that refuses to die, but still works perfectly (an ancient HP laser printer, Epson flatbed scanner, etc), but with which newer Windows versions refuse to “play”. My tightwad side just can’t buy into the “change for the sake of change” mentality and scrap this stuff. And these workhorses work fine under Linux, so that’s where I’ll start heading. 

Also, since I’ve been rambling about computers lately, let me share two quick tips with you.

1) I can’t overstate the increase in productivity and time savings that result from using multiple monitors. I’ve been using 3 monitors here in the office for nearly a decade now, and wonder how in the world I ever got along with just one. Copying/pasting from one open app/window into another, rather than constantly opening/closing individual windows, is something you have to experience to appreciate! If you spend much time using a computer, do it! But be forewarned: you’ll never go back to a single monitor after trying 2 or more!

2) The second tip that’s really helped me a lot, especially with the limited space on my physical desktop, is a handy little piece of software called Synergy. I currently have one PC running Linux Mint connected to a monitor left of center in front of me. 2 more monitors, one dead-center, another to the right, are both driven by the same Windows 7 machine. With Synergy, I can use the same wireless keyboard and mouse on both boxes.

Amazingly, Synergy works seamlessly across networked Windows, Linux, and Mac machines this way, even allowing copy/paste to/from across them! If you have multiple Windows machines, Input Director is another good solution for this, and is a bit easier to initially set up than Synergy. As of this writing, ID only works across Windows, but it’s also a terrific little utility.

www.Synergy-foss.com
www.InputDirector.com

Hope that’s helpful. God bless you, and Happy Easter! 

Dave Harnish
www.DavesRepair.com

1 Corinthians 15:3, 4

 

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Saying Goodbye to Windows XP

Like most of you, I’ve been using Win XP ever since it was introduced, and after all of this time, using it’s second nature. Also like most folks, since before Microsoft announced they’re dropping support for the faithful but aging operating system, I’ve been kicking around for other options.

‘Been watching Linux for several years now, and it’s gotten pretty impressive, much easier to use than it was when I first looked at it. Lately I’ve been running Linux Lite in the office alongside the main Windows machine, and Lite’s an easy system for Windows users to learn. And, it’s still open source – and free!

In the meantime, I bit my lip and bought a copy of Windows 7 to continue running some software that Linux hasn’t caught up with yet, like QuickBooks and a handful of others. After ruminating on how to make the move, I came up with the following, and it’s going well so far.

For some reason, I’ve never liked dual-booting a system, with two (or more) operating systems on the same hard drive. That works, but I just prefer to have separate drives to keep things simple. So I mounted up one of the spare HD’s I always seem to have around here, and loaded Windows 7 onto it.

Seeing no jumpers on the SATA’s, I learned during this process how newer SATA drives handle boot order, that is, how a system determines which drive to boot from. Older IDE drives had a jumper you moved to select a “master” and “slave” drive to determine that. 

The SATA ports on a newer computer’s motherboard (mine has 4 ports, yours may have more) are numbered, starting with 0, and those numbers determine boot order. Plug the drive you’d like to boot from into port 0, and that will become the default boot drive. You can change the order when the computer starts, of course, by entering the boot menu on startup, but the plug determines the default. Clean and simple.

Anyway, with the old XP drive connected to port 1 in my machine and the new Win 7 drive plugged into port 0, the machine boots into Win 7 but I have easy access to all my previous XP files, to copy over as I get time.

I know there are probably a dozen other ways to do it, but this method’s been nearly painless for me, so I wanted to share it with you.

God bless you, 

Dave
www.DavesRepair.com 

Acts 4:12

 

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A Quick, Easy, and Permanent Whiteboard

I’ve been making my own dry-erase whiteboards for years, mainly from pieces of white dishwasher front panels, and they work pretty well. We’ve had one in our kitchen for more years than I can recount, and it’s the handiest place to leave notes to each other, chores that need done, etc. They can easily be cut to custom sizes, and if you keep a coat of car wax on one, it’ll last for a half-dozen years before it starts to stain. Even then, Simichrome or a similar polish will revive a dull one for a while.

I have a smaller one in my shop, but it’s never erased well at all, and I’ve been watching for an old porcelain appliance for a long time now. Porcelain’s basically glass, and it seems like it would be an ideal whiteboard surface. A piece of it should last forever with just a little care.

My shop board doesn’t have to be very big, and it suddenly dawned on me today that a regular picture frame with a piece of white paper behind the glass should do the same thing. ‘Dug out an old 9″ x 12″ frame that I cleaned up, slid a piece of white paper into, and quickly mounted on the shop wall, and I like what I’m seeing so far.

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Easy to read, it erases with no residue or staining whatsoever, and should be as permanent as anything gets in this old world. This could be “scaled up” to any size you need, keeping in mind that glass is heavy, and a big piece would need extra support and protection from breakage.

So far this works much better than the painted white metal ones we’ve used all these years. Just keep it clean (“Invisible Glass” works well) and it should outlast anything you can buy. 

Amazing how a solution to a problem can be right in front of my nose for years and I just don’t see it, then one day the lights come on, and there it is! 

If you’re looking for a really long-lasting white board, give this a try. It’s a really handy addition to a busy kitchen or shop. And if you make one out of glass like this, let me know how it works out for you. I think you’ll like it. 

Update 3-19: Put up an 11″ x 14″ in our kitchen soon after writing the above, and it works GREAT! Glass is definitely the way to go.

God bless you and yours,

Dave Harnish
www.DavesRepair.com

John 14:6

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A Home-Made Adapter for Timing a Two Cycle Engine

I recently installed a new set of points in my ancient 1972 Yamaha 175cc dirt bike (many parts are still available, which is amazing!), and that requires setting the ignition timing.

Years ago, I had a micrometer-type tool that screwed into the spark plug hole to help set timing. But somehow it escaped from the tool cabinet and walked away a decade or so ago, and I needed a way to measure the piston’s travel near top dead center, in .001″ increments.

It dawned on me that there are several common dial indicators in my shop that measure thousandths, and all that was needed was some sort of adapter to mount one of them into the spark plug hole.

Once again that handiest of tools, the old Atlas metal lathe (also pretty ancient, at 70!) made things easy. An old spark plug was cut off and its tough ceramic material removed – the hardest part of the job – and its ID drilled and reamed to 3/8″ to snugly fit the indicator’s shank. I planned on tapping in a setscrew, but that wasn’t necessary; the indicator stayed in place nicely without one. Anyway, here’s what the crude little adapter looks like mounted onto the indicator: 

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 And on the engine head, doing its thing: 

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 A handy little project that solved the problem, and is much easier to read than the old micrometer type gauge was.  I’ll probably add a setscrew in the future, but that job can wait. This is, I believe, only the second time in about 40 years I’ve replaced this machine’s points. 

Hope that’s of help to someone. 

I have to add this from the Gracie files, one of several really good ones my oldest daughter shared with me this week: 

“Dogs don’t ruin their sleep worrying about how to keep the objects they have, and to obtain the objects they have not. There is nothing of value they have to bequeath except their love and their faith.” – Eugene O’Neill

God bless you – and stay warm!

Dave Harnish
www.DavesRepair.com

John 14:6

 

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A Nice Accessory for the Kindle Fire

A very happy New Year to you! 

‘Found a really nice gadget recently that I thought you might find useful. 

I’ve used the Kindle Fire daily almost since Amazon introduced it, and just love the device. The first generation had a few quirks, minor irritations, really, but most of them have been nicely addressed in the newest 7″ HD version. 

The 7″ format has turned out to be the handiest size for me, for several reasons. I’ve used an iPod Touch Gen 4 for several years, and still carry one, but my vintage eyes much prefer the tablet. And I’m really starting to like the Android OS – a LOT. I use it for reading, email, browsing, and Bible study, both in church and at home, and unlike an iPad or the bigger Kindle HDX, its compact size isn’t a distraction to anyone around me at church. If they were printed, I’d need a huge wheelbarrow to carry the books that ride along with me in this amazing little device! 

Many of the minor annoyances I had with the earlier version involved its on-screen keyboard, which has been greatly improved in the HD. I do a lot of typing with it, mainly in Olive Tree’s outstanding Bible study software and also in the OfficeSuite Pro word processor, and want to tell you about a nice little Bluetooth keyboard that has made typing a LOT easier and faster. 

I’ve tried several wireless keyboards over the years, both with the Palm handhelds I carried for ages and with the iPod, and have always been disappointed. Tiny keys, connection issues, confusing key layouts, ‘soured’ me on the lot. Then my Lovely bought me this 80-key keyboard for CHRISTmas, and I’m in love with both of them – one a LOT longer than the other. 😉 It also works well with the iPod, and can be paired with up to 6 devices, but it’s been “sticking closer than a brother” to the Kindle. 

Cyberguys.com sells this one for $25 (#1380181) and it’s already worth much more than that to me. When typing, it feels roomier than its handy 5″ x 11″ size, with plenty of space for big old fingers.  I’m still discovering all of its built-in tricks (it included no documentation – need to find that) and I’m pretty sure you’ll be pleased with one of these, too.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt looks huge in the picture (click photo to enlarge) but it’s actually very handy and light. Takes two AAA batteries, and with an on/off switch underneath, they should last a long time. My office PC wireless keyboard also uses two AAA’s with no switch, and they last about 6 months in daily use. 

God bless you in 2014! 

Dave Harnish
DavesRepair.com

Amos 4:13

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