2019-12-07

Getting your dishwasher to last longer

I love my dishwasher and I want it to last forever. 
 
Here is my non-obvious advice for getting a dishwasher to live a long life:

Leave the door ajar at least a little, especially after a run.

Yes, it looks perhaps a little sloppy to leave the door open a little, but it allows the air inside the dishwasher to dry out.  This greatly slows down the formation of rust within the racks and other internal components.   It also slows or stops any mold growth.

Use a rinse agent

This helps keep your dishwasher dry after a run. 


Use good detergent

I like the pods.  They prevent me from using too much detergent.  Detergent is caustic.  Using too much isn't a great idea.

Make sure your filters and wash arms are free of debris

Hopefully you have a dishwasher that doesn't have a clog-able filter.  If not, clean it.  Also, look for and remove any debris in the washer arm holes.

FINALLY

If your dishwasher is no longer cleaning like new, then YOU are doing something wrong.  After all, a dishwasher is merely a garden sprinkler in a box.  THERE IS ALMOST NOTHING TO PREVENT GOOD CLEANING.

Unless it has a serious expensive component failure, you can keep it working.

2019-10-31

Weird iPhone Problems

Here is a summary of weird iPhone problems I've personally seen, and suspected cause:

iPhone 4S Unreliable WiFi (WiFi function not available)
Diagnosis: logic board fault. Potentially requires logic board re-work or replacement.
Thoughts: Perhaps caused by a drop. 

iPhone 5 Volume Buttons Don't Function
Diagnosis: logic board fault (and not the buttons or its cable). Potentially requires logic board re-work or replacement.
Thoughts: misbehaving aftermarket charger put out high voltage, damaging logic board.

iPhone 6 GPS doesn't work well (or at all).
Diagnosis: GPS antenna needs reseating and/or replacement.  I recently fixed this by merely reseating the antenna assembly.
Thoughts: Perhaps caused by a drop, or just random.

iPhone 6S cell service gives no signal.
Diagnosis: cell circuitry dead on logic board. Potentially requires logic board re-work or replacement.
Thoughts: Perhaps damaged by hard drop.

iPhone 7 bad audio circuit.
Diagnosis: logic board fault. Potentially requires logic board re-work or replacement.
Thoughts: Perhaps caused by a drop. 

iPhone 8 cell service fully broken, seems non-existent
Diagnosis: cell circuitry dead on logic board. Potentially requires logic board re-work or replacement.
Thoughts: Perhaps damaged by hard drop.

Other issues I've seen:
1. Smashed display glass (all models)
2. Abused/Ruined TouchID button (iPhone 6)
3. Bent / Distorted Housing (iPhone 5S)
4. Linted-filled Lightning Port (all Lightning models)
5. Weak battery (any older or misused device)
6. Bad home button (iPhone 4)
7. Smashed back (iPhone 4,4S,8)
8. Bad knock-off charger cables (all models)

Phone models I have worked on:
iPhone 3G,3GS,4,4S,5,5C,5S,6,6S,7,8

Phone models I have never worked on:
Original,SE,X,XS,11,11Pro, any "Plus" model, any "Max" model.

From an iPhone 6S to the new iPhone 11

I bought a new iPhone 11!  This is my first new iPhone since the iPhone 6 way back in 2014.   I didn't keep the iPhone 6 for 5 years, but only because I was able to upgrade to an "in-the-family" used iPhone 6S last year.

I was going to keep my iPhone 6S for another year, but a confluence of events led me to buy a new iPhone 11: (1) I was at the Apple store, and (2) a relative needed a good used, inexpensive iPhone, and my 6S seemed to fit that need best.

Anyhow, now I'm in the modern era.  Here are my thoughts:

Surprising Likes:
Face ID.  It's cool and fast.  It's far better than I expected.
Cameras.  The 11's cameras are a big step up from the 6S.
Battery life.  Obviously a new, bigger battery performs better than an old, smaller battery.
Wireless charging.  This is nice for my night table.

Indifferent:
I haven't missed the headphone port.
Performance is likely fantastic, but as a normal person, my 6S seemed great too.

Dislikes:
Hefty.  New, bigger phones are heavier... and bigger (obviously).
No home button.  I am still getting used to no home button.  I feel like an old man.

That's it so far, hopefully I'll keep this in service until 2024.  Stay tuned!

2019-09-28

Fake Lightning Cables and their Charging Speed

Some Lightning-style cables seem to take longer to charge up my devices.  Is it true?  Yes!

I buy a lot of aftermarket products (read: cheap knockoff junk), and after a few months I noticed that one of my knockoff iPhone and iPad Lightning cables was really slow at charging.

I decided to measure the power delivered over a various collection of Lightning cables, and I can say with near certainty that some knock-off cables result in slow charging.

Measuring Lightning Cable Performance

I took my 2018 iPad, along with its genuine Apple 12 watt charger and a USB power meter.  I plugged my nearly depleted iPad into this system with various lightning-style cables.  The following table shows what I found after numerous samples.  All numbers are estimated given a few samples.


Lightning Cable Performance with Apple 12 watt charger

Genuine cable, delivered with an iPad from Apple...: 2.05 Amps
Genuine cable, delivered with an iPad from Apple...: 2.10 Amps
Genuine cable, delivered with an iPhone from Apple.: 2.06 Amps
MFI-Approved aftermarket cable, bought via Amazon..: 1.81 Amps
MFI-Approved aftermarket cable, bought via Amazon..: 1.82 Amps
eBay knockoff cable (10 for $10 type), looks legit.: 1.00 Amps
eBay knockoff cable (10 for $10 type), looks legit.: 1.10 Amps
eBay knockoff cable (10 for $10 type), looks legit.: 0.96 Amps
Mystery cable, 12ft long and hefty, from friend....: 0.89 Amps

Conclusion

Clearly, from the numbers above, there is a lot of charge speed variability based on the cable.  I conclude that if I want faster charging speeds, an official Apple Lightning Cable, or a Lightning cable that's MFI certified, like this Amazon one, is the best bet.

However, for standard overnight charging, or with use with a 1 Amp charger, one can even be successful with some of the knockoff cables.

One Final Note

It's important to note that for the health of the battery, charge speed is not constant.  The charge management hardware inside all devices with rechargeable lithium batteries varies the charging rate based on battery temperature, battery condition, the current battery charge, device load, and other variables.  To repeat this experiment, I strongly suggest that you use a single device with a specific amount of reported charge in order to reduce the variables that impact measurement.


2019-09-14

Making your own Best "Cold Brew" style coffee - the 10-Step Process to Coffee Bliss

I've been developing my own perfect "cold brew" coffee at home since 2015.  Since then I've developed techniques to improve the flavor and simplify the process.

Here's my current recipe:

Ingredients Needed:
  • Dark-Roast Coffee Beans
  • Water  
  • Optional: Sugar syrup
Equipment Needed:
  • Coffee maker, such as Mr. Coffee
  • Coffee Bean Grinder, such as this model by Bunt
  • A clean bottle or pitcher, with cap
  • Quality Coffee Filters
Process:
  1. Fill coffee maker with water
  2. Put a new, quality paper filter into brew basket
  3. Grind beans very finely
  4. Put finely-ground beans into filter
  5. Turn on machine to start brewing process
  6. Turn off coffee maker immediately after brewing.  DO NOT DELAY!
  7. Put used grounds and filter into compost bin
  8. Let brewed coffee slowly cool to room temperature (roughly 4 hours)
  9. Pour contents of brewing carafe into a bottle
  10. Put bottle in refrigerator overnight.
Enjoy black, or with your favorite additives.  Note that sugar syrups are more effective in this brew, in comparison to granulated sugars.  This is due to the measurably lower sugar solubility within cold coffee.

2019-08-15

Airport Extreme Power Adapter Specs

Here is some info about the specs of the Airport Extreme Power Adapter that I looked into, in order to find a replacement compatible adapter.

This is what I measured for my A1202 adapter that came with my Extreme 4th Gen.
 Output:
  • 12 Volts DC
  • 1.8 Amps (per label)
  • Center pin is positive.  Barrel ring is negative.
  • Outside Diameter of barrel ring is 5.5 mm
  • Diameter of center pin is roughly 2.5 mm
  • Length of barrel ring including plastic tip is roughly 10 mm
(Just for reference, input is labelled as 100V - 240V AC, 50 - 60 Hz, 1.0 Amp)

Given all that, I think I might get this power adapter on Amazon, as it seems to meet all the specs.

2019-08-05

Repairing a melted LG refrigerator digital control light panel

The control panel and light dome at the top of my LG refrigerator melted and started to detach.  It looked awful.  Evidently the light bulbs put out too much heat and the digital panel softened enough that it started to detach from the top of the LG fridge.

A Repaired LG Control Panel

It was VERY ugly.

So here is my easy and inexpensive 15-minute repair for under $20.  That's far less than a $325 service call!  Now with a replacement plastic part it looks great and works great.

This procedure will work for many LG models even if the control panel itself looks pretty different, as my procedure does not replace the electronic module or its associated control panel label - it only replaces the damaged plastic housing. 

Stuff Required:

  1. A good mid-sized phillips head screwdriver
  2. A very sharp knife, like a pen knife or box cutter
  3. The replacement LG control panel trim piece, about $15 on Amazon
  4. Two 3-Watt LED bulbs that put out much less heat - minimizing a chance for re-occurrence

Repair Instructions


1. Turn off the LG refrigerator.  I simply unplugged it.

2. Remove any light dome from the control panel.  Remove the bulbs.

The Digital Control Panel / Light Dome falling off the ceiling of my LG Fridge

3. Using a Phillips-head screwdriver, remove the two screws holding the roof panel in place (see photo).  Note that the panel is still attached to the refrigerator due to wires.

Two screws hold the control panel to the roof of the LG Fridge

4. Using the release tab, unclip the digital panel wire from the control panel.  Similarly, unclip the lightbulb wire from the top of the fridge.

5. Withdraw the entire control/light panel onto a clean work surface like a kitchen counter.

6. Release the metal lightbulb fixture from the melted plastic panel by releasing the snaps.

7. Snap the metal bulb fixture into the new plastic panel (again, this is the panel housing I bought)

8. Now we remove the label, which is held in place by a light adhesive.  Using a thin knife to get underneath, carefully lift and peel off the control panel label from the melted plastic housing.  This label will be re-applied to the new housing, so it is best not to damage it or get its adhesive dirty.  Carefully set it aside in a clean, dust-free place.

9. Using a phillips head screwdriver, remove the three screws holding the digital control module into old housing.  Then unsnap the the digital control assembly from the old housing.

 
Ready to remove the electronics from the melted plastic housing
Now ready to install the digital control module!

10. Attach the electronic control assembly into the new housing with the three screws.

11. Re-apply control panel label onto the new housing.


The Remains: the ugly melted old housing.  Yes, it looked this bad!

12. Re-attach control panel to the top of the fridge by reversing steps 5, 4 and 3.

13. Install new low-wattage LED bulbs, to minimize chance of a future meltdown

The final result!  I only have one LED bulb installed here, but added the second one soon after.


That's it!  Now my fridge looks great and the control panel is no longer in the way.  Yay!!!




2019-07-20

What to do with those stupid Visa gift cards

Visa gift cards can be a real risk because they can lose value.  First, they can be lost, and in that case the card has zero value to you.  Just as bad, I can forget about the card in a drawer or wallet, and soon enough it expires and loses all of its value.

And even if I do manage to use a gift card, it can end up with some weird remaining balance like $3.31, and again I forget about it and its value decays to zero.  MY LOSS AGAIN.  SAD.

The same problem applied to gift cards branded as MasterCard, Discover, or Amex.

The other day I received a product rebate in the form of a $100 gift card, but I didn't want to lose that money. And so I figured out a way to immediately convert my physical gift card into something else of equal value.

Here's how it works:

Now when I receive a gift card I immediately log into Amazon and buy an Amazon gift card with 100% of the gift card's value.  This way I move all of the gift card money into an account that I will definitely spend quickly, and I eliminate all the liabilities and risks of a physical gift card.

Sadly, it doesn't work the same way with store-centric gift cards.  In that case, I have a different strategy: I immediately shop. After all, if a store goes out of business, there is a good change that the card will become valueless.  The best policy is to spend it as soon as possible.

2019-07-06

My A1342 MacBook is much worse than yours

I am now using a really bad Mac for everyday use!  It's bad because a lot of its parts are broken - but it still soldiers on.

It's a late 2009 vintage A1342 white polycarbonate model.

Full disclosure:  I have repaired many A1342 MacBooks, and so I have a bunch of mediocre spare parts laying around.  I would never put mediocre parts into a customers' machine, but I don't want to throw them into the recycle bin.  So I took the parts that somewhat work and assembled a "good-enough" Macbook out of them.

Before jumping into the bad, here are the positive highlights:

1. 8 GB of RAM installed
2. 1 TB SSD drive installed
3. It all works for my use

Saved from the Recycle Bin

Yes, my MacBook is made from many bad parts saved from the recycle bin.  So I guess I am REUSING D-grade components instead of RECYCLING them - at least for the next few years.

Here's what's been saved from the recycling mill:

Battery
The battery is a weak, cheap aftermarket device in "service battery" mode.  Normally I'd recycle this battery, but instead I am using it.  (Like many MacBooks, the A1342 operates very slowly without a battery, so it is usually far better to have a weak battery than no battery.)

LCD & Display Housing
The display LCD freezes up when tilted the "wrong" way. I replaced the cable, and it turns out the the problem isn't with the cable - the problem is with the display electronics immediately below the LCD.  The LCD screen sports a 30mm scratch on the right side of the screen.  I put the LCD into a display housing that has exceptionally long and ugly hinge cracks.
Keyboard
The keyboard was from a water damaged MacBook.  It has four non-functional keys: ENTER ,  ], \, and EJECT.  Since I need these keys, I installed and use the Karabiner utility to remap the keyboard.  I miss the ENTER key the most.  I have the right-OPTION key act as ENTER.  Left-OPTION + / is backslash, and left-OPTION + [ is close-bracket.  The re-mappings can take a while to get used to.

Magsafe Adapter
The Magsafe adapter came from a MacBook Pro that wasn't charging properly.  The LED on the MagSafe cable does not work.  The magsafe adapter only powers and trickle-charges the Mac.  It does not charge the battery like a normal charger.  This is due to bad electronics within the magsafe end of the cable.

Bottom
The bottom was from the ugliest, most disgusting MacBook I've ever seen.  I cleaned off the remaining peeling rubber, and so now it's just an aluminum plate with holes.  Now it has floor felt protectors to prevent it from scratching up my desktop.

Assembly
Several screws are "wrong" or "missing", but I didn't want to worry about minor details.  It's good enough.

Conclusion

Now before you get all upset and question me about how much effort I put into assembling this sad MacBook  - the answer is "something like 15 minutes" - I am very experienced dealing with the internals of these Macs.  And in the time since then, I have a computer that I'm am likely to use for at least 18 months, if not much longer.

You got to love these oldie Macs - they keep on running until Apple abandons them, and then you can run Windows or Linux on them.  Once I decide to replace this old Mac, I'll likely repurpose it as a media server.

Things that I have *never* seen broken on an A1342:
  • Fan
  • iSight Camera
  • Hinge cable
  • Antennas 
Things that I have seen wonky on an A1342:
  • Wifi card (spotty behavior (rare))
  • Trackpad (spotty behavior, water ingress?)
  • Keyboard (always water ingress, pretty common)
  • Top case damage (due to battery swelling)
  • Logic board (always water ingress)
  • DVD (usually due to user-inserted debris; often repairable)
  • RAM (usually aftermarket garbage)
  • Batteries (usually aftermarket garbage)
  • Bottom rubber failure (common, was a recall repair at one point)
  • Hinge cracks (very common, but usually harmless)
  • MagSafe burn-out (due to using a fake adapter) 
  • Damage due to poor repair/upgrade attempts 
  • Damage due to hard drops or abuse (usually plastic damage)

2019-07-02

Adobe Flash in 2019 and 2020: You are behind the times.

Dear Decision Maker:

My shop eliminated Adobe Flash by 2009.  You are a decade behind.  It will cost you a lot of money if you don't heed my advice:
  • Explicitly prohibit all employees and contractors from using or deploying Adobe Flash in any way. 
  • Immediately assign someone the responsibility to fully eliminate Adobe Flash from all your systems and services.
Yes, this costs money.  Suck it up.  If you want to be professional and responsible, you have no choice.  You're already looking like an irresponsible idiot if you still use Flash.
Why:
  • Adobe Flash is end-of-life.  Adobe, the makers of Flash, is shutting it down Flash development and support in 2020.  Any web site requiring Flash today will not be usable in 2020. 
  • All of today's mobile platforms, smartphones, and tablets are incompatible with Flash.
  • Modern web browsers are beginning to fully block Flash due to its extreme security risks and its pending retirement.
  • Adobe Flash is the biggest security risk on the web.  Do you want your computer services to be used for security breaches?  No.

2019-04-21

The Price of Electricity

I'm sitting at home here looking at my electric bill.  My bill says that electricity costs 21¢ per KWH.  But that's not true.

The price of electricity is highly variable.  For me, electricity costs AVERAGE to 21¢ per KWH.  The reality is that some of the electricity is perhaps 5¢ per KWH, and other electricity is $1.23 per KWH, and the nice people at the electric company average it all out for me to 21¢ per KWH.

Is my electricity cost really all that variable?  Yes.  Some power plants are super-cheap to own and fuel.  Those plants are used as much as possible, and their electricity is very cheap.  That's like hydro, wind, solar, and nuclear.

Other plants, like Oil and old Gas burners, are very expensive to operate.  They only run when there isn't enough of the efficient plants available to service the demand.  The expensive-to-operate facilities might only run for 80 hours a year, but at a whopping $1.23 per KWH.  And since it costs several billion dollars to build any new large electricity plant, replacing infrequently used facilities is not a priority.  That'd be like replacing your 23 year old gas guzzler truck that you drive 1000 miles a year with a new hyper-efficient truck that you'll drive 1000 miles per year.  Not a economically (or ecologically) smart way to go.

The beauty of rooftop solar is that it provides significant power during the day, shaving off the daytime peaks when electricity is stupidly expensive.  Daytime solar power generation greatly reduces peaks, which in turn lessens the need to run the expensive, inefficient power plants.

2019-04-18

Dishwasher Buyer's Guide

Here are the features I look for in a dishwasher.

Food grinder.  A dishwasher without a food grinder has filters that need to be periodically cleaned fairly frequently (YUK!).  Most people never clean these filters, and therefore their dishwasher stops cleaning well.  A dishwasher with a grinder eliminates the filters and associated required maintenance.

Quiet Operation.  All dishwashers get noisier over time as their insulation and bearings age with time and use.  Buying a quiet dishwasher out of the gate means that it will be noisier in the future, but not as noisy as a non-quiet model.

No Stainless Steel Tub.  A stainless steel tub does not muffle noise, and lasts no longer than a plastic tub.  All things being equal, I'll always go for the plastic tub.

Energy Star rated.  I run my dishwasher at least 3 times a week.  I never hand wash, except for the few things that demand it (greasy fry pans and aluminum items).  An energy efficient washer will save me money over time.


2019-03-02

Hot Water Temperature

There is a lot of garbage out there in terms of how hot domestic hot water should be.  The standard advice is 120 °F, and I agree with that.

Some amateurs are trying to convince people to turn up the heat to dangerous levels, or even to replace their hot water heater due to "Legionnaires' disease".  But legionnaires is all about warm air being blown over an poorly maintained air conditioner's stagnant waste water, and has nothing to do with a very low oxygen environment within an enclosed heated vessel.  Some pundits also claim that minerals at the bottom of the tank will somehow cause legionnaires, unaware that the cold water pipe releases cold water at the bottom of the tank.

The short of it is: 120°F is correct.

If 120 °F isn't hot enough, then the shower valve hot limit setting is mis-adjusted, or the tank is grossly undersized and cannot properly provide for the home.  A call to the plumber to fix the issue is in order.

Getting your dishwasher to last longer

I love my dishwasher and I want it to last forever.    Here is my non-obvious advice for getting a dishwasher to live a long life: Leave...