Saturday, February 28, 2015

Installing Bluetooth music on a 2012 Chevrolet Volt

The 2012 Volt is fantastic...just picked it up five days ago for a steal.  Certified Pre-owned from Chevy, with lots of warranty still left on the drivetrain, body and battery (8 years/100K).

The only downside, though, is that in 2012, the only bluetooth connection built-in was for phone calls.  No bluetooth music connection.  No big deal.  The Volt forums had lots of ideas for installing aftermarket BT devices for music, to be played through the built-in AUX jack (and USB power!) in the armrest cubby storage.

So ordered HomeSpot NFC-enabled bluetooth Audio Receiver (BTADP-233-40), available on Amazon HERE.

Thanks for Prime, it showed up 3 days later (two business days) in the mailbox via USPS delivery.

Everything arrived in good condition, inside a cardboard mailer.

Inside, there are simplified instructions, the Bluetooth unit itself, wall wart, USB/micro-USB charging cord (to be used in the Volt), mini-jack audio connector (to be used in the Volt), and a mini-jack RCA cord (not used).

Pretty small size, with the AA battery for scale.

Here it is mounted in the Volt armrest.  The USB power cord is plugged into the USB jack, which frees up the 12V outlet.  The mini-jack goes from the bluetooth device to the AUX jack.  I might end up velcro-ing to the side, so as not to take up the bottom of the cubby for other things to store in there.

Connecting was pretty straightforward.  Once the car is turned on the device starts blinking a blue LED.  Go to the phone (for me, Samsung Note 4) and navigate to the Bluetooth devices page.  "Scan" for new devices.  My phone found the device, "GT BT-Reciever 47" in about five seconds, and once selected, it paired quickly without any codes needed, and installed automatically as a "media audio" device.

I powered up Pandora (Pink Floyd), and selected AUX on the factory Bose stereo (acutally sounds very nice with a bit of tone tweaking/fade/balance), and Voila!  Great sounding bluetooth sound.

Should connect immediately upon subsequent car startups, and I'll report the average time for engine-start-to-music.

Geek out!


Thursday, January 8, 2015

Vision Monday

Vision Monday

Smart devices are causing untold increases in eye strain, and possible future risks of cataracts.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

C6 Corvette Stereo Install Guide and Links

Bezel removal guide: HERE

Click the image to open in full size.

Install and Speaker Replacement guide:  HERE

Click the image to open in full size.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Grass paint for Brown Spots

     If you do your own lawncare, maybe one you'll have the misfortune of killing off some portion of your green lawn inadvertently due to a fertilizer spill, or mistakenly spraying your weeds with grass killer.  Dog urine can also cause yellow spots.
  What is the inventive DIY'er to do?  Grass Paint, aka Grass Dye. This will keep you and your second-in-command happy, and avoid the neighborhood stigma of being a yard n00b.
   Well, that happened to me recently due to a mistakenly mislabeled bottle of weed killer (don't ask). Within 48 hours the spots appeared by the dozen at the locations I had sprayed.   I ordered an 8 Oz bottle of grass paint off of Amazon, which came to nearly twenty bucks with shipping.  It is diluted 7:1 with water (21 Oz water: 3 Oz of paint) in a spray bottle. 

  It is a thick paint, but stains dead, dry grass relatively well.  One coat gives about 85% "greener" effect, and a second coat a day later from an opposite angle gives 100% coverage. It is green from the street, which is all that matters!  I'd estimate one 8oz bottle diluted 7:1 covers about 100 sq feet.

Now, after seeing the water-based paint first hand, I deduced it was a bottle of plain green acrylic paint.  I went to the craft store Michael's, and an exact bottle of green acrylic paint had the same bottle, size, color and consistency of the more expensive Amazon grass paint.  Diluted up it was identical in action for 1/8th the price.

 I've bought a couple bottles for only $2.50 each, to touch up a couple spots that were a little light, forgotten on the first pass, or which might crop up in the future.
Good luck with your own DIY grass paint job!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

How to migrate from a Hard Drive to an SSD drive.

Here is Lifehacker's great guide to migrating your Windows computer the newer, faster SSD (solid state drives)

Samsung has a great 1TB drive at Amazon, or for a little less money, the 250GB drive.

The speed one gains, is actually more cost-effective than buying a new computer.  Time to hot-rod your current PC or Mac!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Smart dock for Samsung Note II (and S3, S4, Note III)

Samsung Smart Dock for Note II

Samsung has now bumped up the bar for smartphones... how about a dock (ala the old laptop docks of yore) to work with your smart phone:  full-size keyboard/mouse compatible, external hard-drive storage and an HDMI port out to your modern flat-screen monitor?  What is NOT to love?  Nothing.  Three USB ports, HDMI, charing, stereo sound out, Especially for $99 retail or even less on Amazon HERE

Now I can ditch my old Asus EEE netbook, and use this Samsung Smart Dock instead... and keep one device for nearly the whole day.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Copying Flash videos to DVD to play in a Sony Blu-Ray player

I needed some videos to play on my large screen LED TV through my Sony BDP-BX58 Blu-Ray player.  It was awkward to hook up my desktop to the fireplace mounted TV, so I needed a way to copy the Flash Video to play in my DVD player.

I found a great website with all the details, and the links to download the two programs required to 1) copy the flash video to hard-drive, and 2) convert the FLV format to MPEG.

Here's the Weblink on  How To Record Streaming Flash and Save

First, download "Downloadhelper" and also "AVIDemux"

Follow the directions on the website... give the video time to download to the temporary cache folder!

To convert to a video format that will play in the Sony DVD, convert the saved video file with the following parameters:
Video Decoder:  Lavcodec
Video Output:  Mpeg4 AVC (x264)
Audio Output:  AC3 (Aften)
Output Format:  MP4v2 Muxer
Save as an ".mp4" file

Once that's converted (takes a while), use your favorite CD/DVD burner software to burn/close it to your blank disc. 

It should read as a data disc in the Sony BR player, and can be seen in the Video crossbar menu.  Select it, and play the file. 

Sunday, March 31, 2013

How to Do a Clean Install of Windows 8 with an Upgrade Disc

How to Do a Clean Install of Windows 8 with an Upgrade Disc

Sometimes, you just need to do a clean install. Unfortunately, the Windows 8 Upgrade doesn't always allow for that, throwing you an error when you try to activate after a clean install. Reader uncommoner shows us a workaround for this issue.
If you do a clean install using the Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant, you should be fine—but if you've already formatted your drive or you're moving to a new drive, you can't do a "clean install" without installing an old version of Windows first. It'll let you install Windows 8 cleanly, but when you go to activate, you get an error 0x8007007B, saying your product key can only be used for upgrading.
If you get that error, here's how to fix it:
  1. Press the Windows key and type regedit. Press enter to open the Registry Editor.
  2. Navigate toHKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/Software/Microsoft/Windows/CurrentVersion/Setup/OOBE/and double-click on the MediabootInstall key in the right pane.
  3. Change the key's value from 1 to 0.
  4. Exit the Registry Editor, press the Windows key again, and type cmd. Right-click on the Command Prompt icon and run it as an administrator.
  5. Type slmgr /rearm and press Enter.
  6. Reboot Windows.
When you get back into Windows, you should be able to run the Activation utility and activate Windows as normal, without getting an error. Obviously, you could use this trick for evil, but it has its legitimate place too—if, say, you're upgrading your hard drive and want to do a fresh install on it, or if you formatted your drive before upgrading.
We haven't had a chance to test it ourselves, but it's been well documented around the net, so we're confident it should work for you if you're getting this particular error. If you give it a shot, let us know how it works for you in the discussions below! Thanks for the tip, uncommoner!

Monday, March 25, 2013

DIY iPod / iTouch wall mount speaker system

After perusing the web for a cost-effective iTouch wall mount, I decided to try my own hand (and tight wallet ) at making my own wall mount.  My iTouch from 2009 barely holds a charge, so it is to be relegated to wall duty as a WiFi sound portal for my basement billiards room and bar.  Power will be from a USB plug and amplifier behind the wall.

I had a pair of wall-speakers left over from a previous custom home build, so those were free, and mounted quickly.  Fortunately, I had access to the back of the wall inside the utility room, so it was relatively easy wiring everything up, but this could be done by fishing wires inside a wall, and running them along behind the baseboards, if need be.  The amp and USB power plug could also be wired easily, too, with a low voltage wire portal that exits the wires right above a wall outlet.  [Probably hiding the transformers inside a wall would be do-able, but could be a cause of a very rare, but dangerous fire... just sayin'.]

Add the backplate loosely, then tilt  into place
Backside of the speaker
Speaker mouting screws

A Lepai Class-T amp from Amazon was mounted on a wall stud.

The pieces for this DIY iTouch mount were picked up at Michaels for less than $10.00.

Lay out the mearsurements, cut with a razor knife by scoring.

 A 3.5x5 inch wood photo frame for about $6.00, and a couple pieces of thin wood from the Michael's craft aisle.  One is 1/32" thick and the other 1/16" thick.  Each was about $2.00.

I cut the thinnest piece of wood to both fit the frame dimensions, and from that fitted wood a rectangular cutout to match the face of the iTouch to ensure not only the screen was fully visible, but also the camera and the front button.  I sprayed a few coats of black with a hint of copper to match the frame's paint.
The mat-board all cut out, prior to paint
After the first coat of paint... the wood grain is not noticeable in the room light.

The iTouch was loosely fitted onto the mat-board, and small birch wood pieces cut to reinforce the iTouch on all four sides, making room for the headphone jack and the 30-pin connector.

Once fitted, the actual wood frame was marked where the wires would interfere, and notches cut to allow their exit.  Since they are on the bottom, they won't be seen after the whole frame is mounted on the wall.  Note the notches were painted to match the frame.

A 90-degree headphone plug had to be ever-so-gently trimmed so as not to interfere with the mat-board, while allowing the iTouch to remain flat.
30-pin wire and frame groove...

Measurements were made to mount to drywall screws at the appropriate width which allows the screw heads to ride inside the routed groove in the frame.

The frame was trial mounted to the wall and pencil marks made for the holes in the drywall to accommodate the headphone and 30-pin wires, making sure the holes would not protrude beyond the frame itself.
Mounting screws and wiring in place ahead of time.

Once mounted epoxy was used to hold all the pieces in place, and once dried and fitted again (don't forget to have the cables installed!), a flat piece of 1/16" wood was placed over the iTouch to unify the whole system, and not allow the iTouch to fall out or away from the frame. (Note the headphone jack cutout was not complete at the stage of this photo below...but the layout of the wood and backplate are correct).
Wood attachment system... headphone jack and groove not placed (yet)

Once the epoxy dried, the whole mount was attached to the wall and hooked to the amp.
Installed on the wall, ready to party!
The whole system: iTouch wall mount and speakers

Power up!  Pandora streams loud and clear.  The Lepai amp is set for max bass, and minimal treble, and set at about 90% volume setting.  The actual speaker volume will be regulated through the iTouch screen.

Next stage:  subwoofer, and the bass can come through the wall-mounted fresh air grill for the utility room.

Geek Out & Enjoy!  Let me know if you tackle something similar yourself.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Image or Clone a new drive using Norton Ghost 15.0

This will detail how to image (or copy) a hard drive running Windows 7 and having an SRP, (aka "System Reserved Partition) which is a small 100Mb partition on the original hard drive. These instructions are for a new hard-drive of the same or even better, larger capacity than the old one.

1. Power down the computer

2. Open it up and install the new hard drive (SATA power and the SATA data cords). Leave the original hard drive in there, too, of course....

3. Power up and start Windows

4. Under the start menu, type "Disk Management", and open that program "Windows Disk Management" and you should get a prompt that the new disk needs to be initialized. Make sure you select the disk drive (check mark) and ensure "MBR" is selected, so the new drive is bootable. Note the SRP partition of the original C: drive, circled in red:

5. Restart/Reboot the machine to make the new disk visible to Norton (though it won't be visible in My Computer, yet)

6. Place the Norton Ghost 15.0 Disk into the DVD drive.

7. If it doesn't start automatically, browse to the DVD drive via "My Computer" (disc is named NGH15.0.1) and open it to see the files therein.

8. Double-click "Autorun.exe" to run it.

9. During the install, a few DOS command windows (black windows) will open and close on their own several times. This whole process can take more than a few minutes...maybe like fifteen or more...

10. This link HERE to the Norton forum help site has a lot of good information, but it's missing some steps and explanations that I will detail.  If you don't have an SRP, then follow the instructions on the website, using the tips from this post to help you along.

11. Go to the Start Menu, Norton Ghost, and run the Norton Ghost Program. It will begin analyzing your system:

12. Once finished, click "Tools" and "Copy My Hard Drive", and "Next" on the pop-up window.

13. ensure you check "Show Hidden Drives" box. Click and select the source drive (we'll start with the "System Reserved" partition, aka SRP). Click Next.

14. For Destination, select "Unallocated" (the new drive), click Next.

15. "Check": Source for file system errors

"Check": Destination for file system errors

'DON'T SELECT" Resize drive to fit unallocated space ( this will keep the size the same for the SRP) "Check": Set drive active (for booting OS) 'DON'T SELECT' Disable SmartSector copying 'DON'T SELECT' Ignore bad sectors during copy "Check" Copy MBR Destination partition type : Primary Partition Drive letter : "" (click the down arrow and "none" will be a the top of the list)

16. Click Next, and then upon reviewing the settings, select "Finish" (If you happen to go "back", double-check that the drive letter is

17. Norton Ghost will copy over the small 100Mb partition to the new drive, usually in less than two minutes. Click "Close" when finished.

18. Now to copy the main C: drive: Click "Tools" and "Copy My Hard Drive", and "Next" on the pop-up window.

19. Click and select the source drive (usually known as "C:" drive). Click Next.

20. For Destination, select "Unallocated" (the new drive), click Next.

"Check": Source for file system errors
"Check": Destination for file system errors
"Check": Resize drive to fill unallocated space (ONLY if you want to expand the new space to fill the rest of a larger new drive)

"DON'T SELECT" Set drive active (for booting OS) Remember, the small 100MB SRP partition actually does the Booting...
"DON'T SELECT" Disable SmartSector copying
"DON'T SELECT" Ignore bad sectors during copy
Destination partition type : Primary Partition
Drive letter : (click the down arrow and "none" will be a the top of the list)

21. Wait......... a few hours, perhaps!

22.. You can move the "Performance" slide toward "Slow" if you need to use your computer for other tasks...or just leave it at "Fast" and run overnight... Make sure no other software is scheduled to do scans, etc., like a malware or virus scanner or other routine backup program.

...more to post after the image is completed in the morning!


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Arcade Machine Boot Wallpaper and Boot Logo Change

My MAME arcade, "F-14 Tomcat Arcade" needs something to make it look like its a commercial gaming unit, not a home PC booting Windows 7.

So, after doing some research there are some programs, animations and images you can load to make it look "un"-Windows.  Some require registry hacking, hex editors... bleck.  So here are the two that I settled on to get me 99% of the way:

Windows 7 Boot animation changer

(New boot animations downloadable HERE)

And to change the logon/shutdown background wallpaper go to the Julien-Mancini website, download the changer program, install it, and browse to whatever picture you want... very nice.

How to hide the "welcome" cursor in Win7, click HERE

and hide the Windows cursor altogether with Nomousy (put in the start menu).  Put a shortcut on your Start Menu, and then later use the keyboard to run it a second time to make the cursor re-appear.

Design custom (tiny!!!) cursors, so they are not apparent on boot up: RWCursor Editor

Here's my boot and windows wallpaper:

Monday, October 29, 2012

Bracketron fix PHV-202-BL

I've owned the Bracketron PHV-202-BL, vent-mounted smartphone holder for a couple years now.  Cheap AND practical.  It's worked like a charm all this time, but today one of the two spring clips that attaches to the vent louver broke.  Dang.

I was about to buy a whole new unit... but the bracketron website gives out FREE REPLACEMENTS!!  Seriously, is that COOL or what???

Here's the link for the replacement springs:

If you'd like to order one of these puppies, here's the amazon link:
Bracketron PHV-202-BL

(The PHV-200-BL is identical except for packaging... they share the same replacement springs)

Geek out!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Arcade update

I've been steadily working on the arcade when I get a couple free minutes here and there on the weekends, in between "honey-do" chores, church, community group bible studies, and just plain relaxing.

A week ago I applied the T-Molding all around, and a couple places needed some glue to keep the T-Molding down in the curves, since I had to redo a few grooves where it wasn't perfectly centered.  So, when you re-groove it, it's wider than it should be and the T-Molding has to be glued into place.  Gorilla wood glue and some weights and tiny temporary staples solved that.  Next time, it would be best to use a router table for a PERFECT centered groove, which is more difficult by hand, I must say.

It's about ready to transfer to the basement game room, and I can finish it up down there.  The custom marquee, marquee brackets are on order, and hope to have them delivered soon.  The side art is drawn up and the "DANGER JET BLAST" lettering has to be applied to the front (aka F-14 intake graphic).

The colors are from an F-14 at my squadron, VF-101 Grim Reapers, that was custom-trimmed in red paint on the tail.  The grey color is a perfect match to an F-14.  Of course, a good Tomcat is a dirty plane, with various panels of various to be a good match, I may have to "antique" the finish a bit.

Today, I installed the electrical box on the back to plug in the power-strip and computer, which will have a power-on relay to power up the sound amp, marquee lights when the PC is turned on.  I think I'll have an arcade switch on the side to wire-in the momentary power button for the motherboard...but have yet to work out where to put the power button... maybe on the front panel for easy access.

Also notice the magnetically attached access panel on top, to be able to reach into the computer area, if need be, without having to pull the unit away from the wall.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Our Dave Ramsey Radio Interview

Audio link of our on-air interview with Dave Ramsey on 27 Sep, 2012:  CLICK HERE

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Virtual Pinball Machine

I'm nearly complete with my Virtual Arcade cabinet... it's all painted and needs some final touches like T-molding and the custom marquee.

But, when I'm not home, I am now beginning to plan my virtual pinball machine, with a LCD flat panel displaying 3D pinball games, and the backlight LCD displaying the matching score boards and DMD graphics.

There are some kits available at from the basic wood boxes, to the full kit, all ready to bolt-together-n-go.

The front end is Hyperpin

Lots of forums and downloadable tables at VPForums and PinSimDB

Cabinet Design video (example) here on YouTube, with instructions on the VPforums HERE

YouTube videos of hundreds of virtual pinball tables... some pretty nice, with construction details.

47" LCD  (Vizio 47" $650)  1080p 120Hz PC and HDMI input  [ SUPER Wide-body Pinball! ]
32" LCD  (Vizio 32" for $400)
19" LCD  (Samsung 19" for $190)
    Note:  all TV's with RGB hookups

Box kit
Button kit  $55
Trim kit with leg protectors  $450
Accelerometer & plunger  $140

Widebody glass dimensions: 43" x 23-3/4"  $50

PC:  Have already with video cards and software

Monday, September 10, 2012

Honda Insight (Gen 1) Maintenance and Repair

I sold my super dependable 2002 Lexus GS400 (one trip to the shop in 10 years), for a very miserly 2002 "Sebring Silver" Honda Insight.  Same price... one you pay for luxury and the other you pay for fuel savings.

Anyway, the Honda Insight had a major service at the Honda dealer (on their dime) when I bought it.

1) new IMA hybrid battery pack ($3000 value)
2) new tires
3) ? new brakes... need to check on this via Honda service database
4) ? replace coolant... need to check on this via Honda service database

My Insight now has 140,000 miles... I've added 50K in just 12 months of commuting every weekend between Pensacola and Atlanta.

Link to Honda Insight Maintenace Interval list and Excel Spreadsheet:  HERE

Just this week the idler pulley that tensions the serpentine belt started to whine, so a trip to the Autozone got me a new idler pulley wheel for $57.  Took about an hour to change it out.  Now, it's quiet as a baby again.

Link to idler pulley repair is on forum with part #'s, etc.

I added last weekend an aftermarket Cruise Control.  The total install time was about 7 hours.  A second time would probably take 3, now that I figured it all out, and realize that most of the little parts that came with the generic cruise control kit are not used.  Here's the DIY, step-by-step on the cruise control install at the website.

Some added thoughts on maintenance in the near future:

New Serpentine belt, at Autozone about $18

Coolant change, YouTube DIY video HERE
  Make sure and use pre-mixed Silicate Free over-the-counter "Green", or Honda "Blue" coolant Type 2, P/N L999-9001.  Uses about 2.5L for a normal "drain-n-fill" procedure.

Manual tranny fluid change, Genuine Honda MTF, about 1.6 quarts of oil.  Link to InsightCentral thread

EGR valve replacement/cleaning and EGR plate clean-out:  Links to EGR valve repair and rebuilt EGR valves here.  EGR Plate cleaning DIY HERE
Another nice thread of pics cleaning EGR valve:  HERE
EGR plate uses Honda Liquid Gasket

Spark plug replacement (they are "indexed" for each cylinder, so you must buy them from Honda)

Honda DOT 3 brake fluid replacement, recommended every two or three years.  DOT 3 used in both brake and fluid clutch system, and about three 12oz bottles to flush both systems.
   Brake bleeding using autobleeder (pics): HERE
   Clutch bleeding procedure HERE

Valve lash adjustment, cold, .008" exhaust, and .007 intake".  DIY LINK  Can re-use gasket if you're careful not to damage it.
The valve clearance is:  0.007"-0.009" intake (closest to front of engine)
                                    0.008"-0.010" exhaust (closest to firewall)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Honda Insight Wet Seatbelt Repair

The 2000-2006 Honda Insight is a great car, but sometimes a bit of rainwater can leak through a side molding clip that has aged and cracked.  I have a 2002 Insight which gets a wet driver-side seatbelt after a typical Florida afternoon driving thunderstorm.

I ordered the new clips and gave the repair a go, with help from Insight geeks...

 Above:  broken clips after removing upper molding... inevitable.  Seven of these needed new.  (Rear-ward one is larger and different)

 Bought a spare large retaining clip, but as you can see, it remained intact upon removal.  It needed some silicone sealant all around the base, as this one is the BIG leaker.

 Some factory goop....(I removed it, and re-siliconed ALL the holes right before replacing the trim with the new clips installed on it.

 Trim with all the clips removed.  A couple of the straight "fins" (which insert into the metal retaining clips) broke... but I still re-installed, and it's fine.

 New clips installed onto the old trim.

 Close-up of new clip and new rubber washer installed on the trim.

 The pesky rear retaining clip that leaks... so gooped it up well with clear window silicone sealant.  It's dry as a bone now!

 Forward clip (which usually does NOT break upon trim removal... so you probably won't need to order it.  I did just to be sure.)  Also shown is the retaining bolt... the only thing holding your trim on your car when all the clips are broken!!!  Remove the bolt, repair the trim, and re-install the bolt as your last step.  The forward clip shown is the beginning point of reinstalling the trim... it fits into a groove on the front of the trim piece.

 Trim reinstalled with a great gap line.

 Closeup of the re-installed fender/trim bolt.

Forward view of the trim re-installed and the trim gasket firmly in place against the windshield.

I used my local dealer, who matched internet pricing (with the shipping/handling):

Honda part numbers for the clips:
91503-S3Y-003 - {img 33} you need 7 per side
91511-S3Y-003 - {img} 38 you need 1 per side (rectangular clip at the rear... attached to the trim)

These two usually don't break upon removing the trim:
91504-S3Y-003 - {img 34} you need one if you break it (lower windshield side)
91505-S3Y-003 - {img 35} you need 1 (this is the large square retaining clip attached to the car body which you need to seal with silicon if you have the seatbelt leak)

Note:  "{img 33}" (et cetera) is the image of the small part in the Honda Parts Manual.

Good luck!