Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Windows Driver Backup

Here's a great website and small batch file program to backup your Windows drivers for a re-install of Windows. Haven't tried it quite yet, but am blogging this for definite future use!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Free phone, free video phone = skype

I purchased a Logitech camera a few months back pretty cheap after rebate, and now had an opportunity to use it with Skype. The allure of free skype-to-skype video phone calls is alluring, as well as $29.50 a year for unlimited USA skype-to-any landline phone calls. Not bad.

The great thing is that for callling Japan, it is only $9.95 a month, UNLIMITED Skype-to-Japan landline. Wow! How's that for keeping in touch???!!!!

Free download, and just need a cheap webcam: I recommend the Microsoft VX-1000 for $22, a bit more if you have to buy and ship. No need to go too fancy for megapixels, as you want fast streaming/compact video.

Gmail also just announced free video phone/messaging service, too. I will try that later, but I like Skype for the computer-to-landline paid service (but extremely cheap!!!).

Just note that if you are considering ditching your AT&T landline, then you will need a cell phone for 9-1-1 service. Computer phone companies can't reliably give that service, especially if your electricity is out, or your computer just crashed. But for most of us with cell phones, it may be time to ditch the wired phone to the wall, and just go cell/Skype combo.

Geek out,

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Sony Vaio PCV-W600G upgrade

The old 160GB hard drive was getting pretty full, especially with the purchase a year ago of an 8 megapixel camera with video, so Newegg supplied a 500GB hard drive for a pretty good price.

I also had a spare stick of 512MB DDR RAM, so wanted to put that in, too, to bump up the RAM to 768MB (from 256x2, or base 512MB).

Things were pretty straight forward, and both a hard drive change and memory upgrade require no more than a philips head screwdriver.

Step one is to look behind the screen and see a small button, which you depress and then slide the cover to the right an inch, and then lift out (as above).

Step two involves removing the one small screw over the small plate covering the RAM chips. Then slide the small metal panel and remove. Unsnap the memory release tabs, and insert new RAM (the Vaio motherboard can only support 2 sticks of 512MB DDR-333 SDRAM (desktop RAM, not laptop style). This is also known as PC-2700 as well (speed rating ~ 8 x 333MHz)

Now, time for a Hard Drive upgrade. You better have copied over EVERYTHING you will need to an external USB drive. Think about everything in "My Documents" (incl music, pictures, downloads, etc.). One thing easy to forget is Outlook Email and the Address Book, which is not routinely kept in My Documents, so you will need to export or backup Outlook or Outlook Express email & address book. Do a GOOGLE search on that topic...there are programs out there to do that too. Also think about stuff that is saved under the "Program Files" directory: tax returns, etc.

Consider if you have the restoration disks for your computer, or the ability to re-install Windows (CD + registration key, on the side of the computer). Also consider if there is some program you are using regularly, that you might not have the install disk... this is easy to overlook, and can be a deal-stopper.

The Vaio PCV-W600G originally came with Windows Home version, but I upgraded to WinXP PRO, which can be bought pretty cheap these days.

You're just better off copying the whole darn hard-drive to the USB hard drive (I like to have a backup hard-drive at least double the size of the computer it's backing up...)

Alright, to get the old hard-drive out, remove all the screws you can see holding on the back plastic panel. You will also need to remove two thin rubber "feet" off the bottom to remove two additional screws. Then using a thin screwdriver pop off the plastic cover.

Then, you will see the metal box holding the hard-drive on the back of the base unit. Remove those screws to the metal "box", and then remove the hard-drive cables for data and power, remove the mounting screws holding the hard-drive to the box, and slide it out.

Remove the old hard-drive.

Re-install the new hard-drive, and reverse the above to reattach everything to normal. Make sure you get your can of compressed air and blow out the years of accumulated dust, both back here and on any other air intake ports.

Voila! You've upgraded the hard-drive!

If you need to get into the BIOS for any reason, hit F2 a few times immediately after powering up the computer.

You will need your Restoration disk or WinXP install disk in the CD-ROM for the computer to boot and begin the process.

Once Windows is back up and running, let Windows go through the whole "update" process, which can take multiple downloads and re-boots, including SP3, which is humungous. Do *all* updates before installing ANYTHING else. When there are no more updates (go to to make sure), then save a Restore Point and name it "fresh install with updates" or some-such.

Now copy over all your My Documents folders (pics, music) from the external hard-drive. Reinstall your favorite Programs, and restore your Outlook Express emails (or Microsoft Office to get Outlook going).

Some great programs I always put on a fresh install:
All of these are free shareware, except for those marked with a *

Windows Defender antispyware
Avast antivirus
Firefox 3
Outlook Backup program
Framework .Net 3.0 with SP1 (required by many programs)
TweakXP Pro
Winamp 2.95 (fast and fluff free)
Yahoo Widgets
Cobian Backup
Roboform *
Microsoft Mesh (for networking my computers worldwide)
Tweak UI
MS Office * (also get Office Updates from
CD Burner XP Pro
Foxit PDF (see PDF files without the large Adobe download)
Printer Drivers
Image Resizer (microsoft free download)

Here's my favorite Firefox add-ons, too, which need to be re-installed:
IE Tab
AI Roboform
Download Statusbar
Tab Effect

Consider moving your email cache and address book to a folder in "My Documents" called "My Email"... that way it gets backed-up automatically when you make a weekly backup of "My Documents" to an external hard-drive (I use Cobian Backup, which is free and reliable).

Have fun,

Geek out,

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Free eBooks at Project Gutenberg

Here's the Top 100 list, but there are tens of thousands of free eBooks for reading here...  You could spend a lifetime and not have to spend another dime on a great book.  Here's ALL their books in one listing...  it might take a few seconds to download!
Cheap Geek,

Monday, September 8, 2008

Life Hacks to Simplify Your Life

The blog Zen Habits has some interesting ideas on how to slow down our lives, get more quality with the little time we have.  I'm definitely working on the "retire early" plan by saving, saving, saving...  Now if I can only get down to five emails a day!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

matthewrings thought you would be interested in this station

A friend wants to share some music with you.
"Ozric Tentacles Radio"

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Saturday, September 6, 2008

Sennheiser CX300 headphones

These bad boys were just $10 after rebate I found on, from  Retail rate is about $50 - $90.
I've been on the look for a decent pair of headphones.  While mowing the yard, it's tough to get a pair that stay where you put 'em, and block out the mower noise.  I have been using some Pioneer headphones that came with their portable XM Radio:  decent sound, but tended to fall out or loosen up with exercise. These Sennheiser headphones come with three different sizes of smooth ear inserts, so a perfect fit was easy to accomplish. 
I worked in the yard today for about four hours, and sweat and all, they stayed in the whole time, without the need to figdet them back in occasionally (as my Pioneer earphones loosen up all the time... very annoying).  The assymetric cord was about 6" longer than the Pioneer headphones, so there was less tugging/pulling of the cord while the MP3 player was in my front pocket.  The CX300's stayed in my ear. Period.
They also sealed out the noise of the mower to a level that you would think there is active noise cancellation, but it's just the superior seal of the earphones.  The mower noise was never a bother while jamming out.  In fact, I could turn down the volume, as there was almost no mower noise to conceal.  That will save my hearing and my batteries.
Sound was clear, bass VERY DEEP for headphones, and non-fatiguing.  Fatigue is when you put in a pair of cheap headphones and you just get a headache, and the music never sounds "right"... you just want to rip them out of your head.  Not these Sennheisers... NICE and HIGHLY GEEK RATED.
Geek out,

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Ecomodder website

Do you want to know how to "hypermile"?  How about ways to mod your vehicle to get more MPG (and look geeky all at the same time?!)
Then you want to go to and dig into the articles, forums and start logging your own mileage and see if you can attaing the elusive "hypermiler" monicker!
Since trying the tips on the website, I've raised my MPG average from about 22 or 23mpg to around 25 to 28mpg (less if I have to use A/C).  Not bad, really, for not having to buy a new car.  The EPA estimate is 19mpg combined for the V8 Lexus GS400.  I'm a "hypermiler"!!!
Geek out!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Google's Chrome suggested I download something..

...Internet Explorer 8... What???
Talk about "open source"...they don't even care if the first suggestion upon clicking the "suggest site" on their new browser is the Download link to Internet Explorer 8.  Kudos, Chrome, kudos!
To be fair, this was probably due to the auto-import feature which Chrome gleaned these "favorites" from IE7 already installed on my machine...

Chrome loads in about 3 seconds, and IE7 took almost 17 seconds to load the first time after reboot... ouch!  Firefox took about six seconds, so Chrome wins the fast start award.
Geek out, Google,

Geeky Hurricane Trackers

Well, with so many cutely-named storms headed to destroy the Gulf Coast lately, it's good to be up-to-date on current storm trackers..
Google has a storm tracker here  and I especially like Accuweather's maps and prediction models...which pretty much lets you pick and choose which diverse track makes your wife feel better when she sees it.

Google's Chrome web browser coming today

Google has created their new *much* safer and crash-proof browser, called Chrome.
Here's a fun comic strip detailing all the advantages to Chrome... some of it pretty geeky, but that's what this website is all about.
Bottom line: faster, safer, crash-resistant, personable, more-intuitive, and free is always good!
Geek out,

Sunday, August 31, 2008

My Next DIY project....

...come here little doggie...

Calculate your carbon footprint...

According to this calculator, my carbon footprint is good-2-go... so I'm completely guilt-free, and no tree-hugger can wave his little finger in my face. Seems like most of my money is going toward paying off my mortgage early, and not buying mountains of carbon-fueled goods and services. So... getting out of debt is really "green" in more ways than one!

For a limited time, I've added the widget to the blog, in the right column.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

2000 Lexus GS hood latch DIY

After I was hit in the left fender a year ago, the latch has not really worked well... but it's probably too late to complain now. So... I ordered a new one, and gave the install a go today. Lubed up the underhood cable, too, while I was under there.
Total time about 30 minutes, which also included taking pictures.
Geek out,

Remember to click to enlarge.

Here's some screen shots of the HL-T6189S service menu which I use for use a Sypder II spectraphotometer for color and greyscale calibration. The main link is at
My older HL-S6189S Tech thread is HERE

Extended oil change intervals and Lexus maintenance

For the last 100,000 miles on my 2000 Lexus GS400, I've been changing the Mobil 1 synthetic oil every 200 hours of engine run time. The Lexus has an engine clock which can be reset to zero, which I do when I change the oil.
For my typical driving, the Lexus computer computes about a 38 MPH average since the last reset, so that works out to about 200hrs x 38MPH = 7600 miles between oil changes.
Even thought the car is at 180,000 miles, the car burns ZERO oil, and the oil looks just a little darker at 7500 miles. The magnetic plug has no metallic sludge on it, either.
Here's a severe road test by a municipality on it's fleet vehicles, going 20,000 miles between synthetic oil changes (q10k oil filter changes) compared to non-synthetic "dinosaur' oil every 3,000 miles. The verdict? Synthetic 20K miles changes showed LESS WEAR on rod and main bearings!
Even General Motors goes a minimum 10,000 on oil synthetic oil changes with computer monitoring of the oil life.
It you 'feel' you need to change it more often, then that's not science... that's emotional decision-making. I'm trying to stick to science here. Kind of like how you would 'feel' eating worms is "yukky" and you wouldn't do it ever, but it would make perfect biological sense that worms would keep your body fed with nutrients....
Longer oil intervals = less money spent needlessly, and more Saturdays to do other projects besides changin oil.

After the driving vacation, it'll be time for the second 90K timing belt/water pump/plugs/tranny fluid/diff oil/brake fluid/power steering fluid change. There is a little "shimmy" at around 75mph, so will check the ball joints, too.

Just got new tires, rear 12 months ago, last month for the fronts. Sweet tires: Yokohama Avid V4S ... quiet, smooth, long-wearing and great grip. Use

Internet Explorer 8 beta is out...

So, I use Firefox for just about everything except Microsoft downloads (though Firefox has an IE-tab function, which works pretty good at fooling websites into thinking you're running IE instead of Firefox).

Here's the link to the IE8 beta download site here.

I'll report back after the break how it functions, and whether it's worth the switch either from IE7 or from Firefox...


Well, I downloaded IE8 overnight, and rebooted as directed.

First thoughts: looks the same (which can be good... who wants to learn all new button locations for familiar stuff?) but I've never liked the new IE7 layout, so I'm not crazy about IE8 then, either. Homepage button to small and far away, forward and back buttons are too small. Hate that dull, gray look. Yuk. Where's the custom skins options????
Interesting upgrades:

1) Suggested Sites: kind of learns where you've been and then suggests sites based upon your browsing history. Here's what was suggested for me after about three minutes... since I was working on my blog, it is suggested some other blog services.

2) A "safety" button/menu with delete history, "private browsing" to leave no footprints for that birthday gift shopping and a SmartScreen Filter which checks the website, and also screens download files for problems (virus and spyware?)

3) There's a small "broken page" button near the address bar to "fix" bad websites... haven't had opportunity to fix a page yet, though the log-in page looked a bit "broken". Firefox renders it perfectly, (of course).

Bottom line: will I switch? No way. Firefox add-ons are fun and helpful. Page rendering seems better (but not faster at this point). Firefox has better buttons and skins, too.
Sorry, M$ Bill... no switching today....
Geek out,

Friday, August 29, 2008

Vivix is here!

Just got in our first auto-shipment of Vivix, the resveratrol product by Shaklee. Interestingly, this is a purplish liquid (it is made from grapes), whereas most resveratrol products are powdered capsules. The Vivix tastes pretty grape candy. One teaspoon is all it takes. Shake well, take with food. Since I'm not a big candy eater, I wash it down with water, or like Toni, with a Sierra Mist soda...which she says tastes even better after the Vivix "shot".
Here's a Wikipedia entry on the anti-aging, and anti-cancer, properties of Resveratrol

As a physician, I've dug into the 1000's of pure medical research on this compound, and the overall consensus is that the benefits of resveratrol are real (at least in all the animal studies from unicellular organisms to mice), and could be life-changing for humans, too.

I've been a huge skeptic about most nutraceuticals which are hawked by companies with very little data but for anecdotes of "how my uncle got better after a couple teaspoons" of some snake oil. Resveratrol has the science from thousands of independant medical labs, and more is coming out all the time.

Do a NCBI scientific journal search for resveratrol... 2300+ articles, mostly positive, and growing all the time. Here's a couple thousand more articles also listed at

Glaxo-Smith-Kline has a spin-off pharmaceutical company that may be coming out with a resveratrol product to help control adult- diabetes. One board-certified internist physician-author, states that resveratrol can reduce cancer risk by 77%, increase health, and decrease risk of cardiac disease.

Here's an ABC nightline article and news video on the chemical resveratrol, which is in Vivix.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Advantium Oven Repair -- F3 error --

Well, you would think for $2400, you'd get a quality microwave that would pretty much last till the 22nd century... well, you'd be wrong. Our GE Advantium Oven ( ZSC2001FSS02 ) started beeping and whining after two years like it'd been hit with a sharp stick. Plus it would just show -- F3 -- , the error code. Fortunately, this is a common problem, as evidenced by LOTS of Google hits on this code. F3 is a "keypad error". Hmm.. recall anyone?

Anyways... I was off to and this diagram. I ordered drawing #68 (GE part # WB07X10680) for about $127 with shipping, and it came in two days. Wow! That's service. I think GE wanted a $160 bucks plus $11 shipping... but I've had great luck with, so they win my business. Good return policy, too.

Here's the step by step for the DIY guy'r'gal. All you need is a magnetized long philips screwdriver, a soft surface, and a friend who can afford the oven if they drop it. :)


1. Turn off the circuit breaker first, then remove the unit from the wall, with a tall support platform in front due to armored electrical cable which prevents moving it far from it's cubby hole.

2. Remove the top panel (multiple screws). Tilt the panel'r rear edge upwards to disengage the panel's front lip.

3. Remove the four screws holding the stainless keypad panel to the oven

4. To fully remove the stainless keypad panel, lift it up off the support posts

5. Disconnect the black/white wire bundle from the main electrical board at the back of the oven, so you can fully remove the stainless keypad panel from the oven.

6. Remove the stainless keypad assembly with wiring from the oven and place upside down on a padded towel to avoid scratching the old (and the new) stainless keypad assembly.

7. Remove the knob from its post... careful and slow... it's REALLY on there. I was able to use my fingers only...but it was a workout.

8. Remove the three screws holding the rotary knob circuit board from the black plastic base. (This will allow you to remove the black base from the stainless keypad surround.

9. Disconnect the flat ribbon cable by pulling outward on the black plastic sleeve. (You might want to practice re-inserting it... and see how far in it really has to go to bottom out and be firmly inserted.)

10. Remove the three screws holding the black base to the stainless keypad surround, and remove the black base... it is held in place by a small metal tab under just to the side of where the rotary knob circuity board was prior to you removing it.

11. Remove the four brackets from the old stainless surround and save for the next step.

12. Now get your new keypad and stainless surround, lay it on the soft towel, and mount the old four brackets to the new piece.

13. Now reverse install everything. Remember, the black plastic base that holds the display will NOT go back into the new part if the knob shaft is installed... the rotary knob shaft/circuit board has to be re-attached *AFTER* you mount the black plastic base onto the new keypad stainless surround assembly.

14. Reverse install everything and then power up the circuit breakers. Make sure you put the top back on to avoid electrical shock.

15. The display should completely light up (all pixels) for about 15 seconds, and then you set the clock when it appears. If you can set the clock... you are good to go. If things don't light up, turn off the circuit breakers, and check ALL your connections are tight... especially the ribbon cable and the two wire bundles to the main circuit board.

Good takes about 45 minutes (and that's going nice'n'easy pace). If it doens't work... just call for GE service. :)