Phone service for $5 a month…

Yup it sounds like an infomercial. I had been having issues with Time Warner bill increases and decided to chuck them for everything except Internet (no other choice in our neighborhood). Before I had Time Warner I had an AT&T VOIP service that was really good. They had a comprehensive management interface for all aspects of the service including voice mail, blocking, and do not disturb windows. For some reason they sunset the service and we ended up defaulting with TWC’s offering because it was easy.

As far as the TV portion of our service I went with Dish Network for TV and 2 months in I have been happy. Their technology is way beyond TWC and the DVR is pretty user friendly once you get the hang of keeping 3 recorders busy.

But I haven’t had much free time to source VOIP telephone service. Time Warner’s ala-carte price for their VOIP is upwards of $50. I knew I could do better. I investigated Ooma, Vonage, and a few other players. While researching I kept coming up with mentions of and

This is basic VOIP at its finest. I had to learn a little bit about VOIP, bought an OBI100 VOIP box from Amazon for $40 and set up an account. The basic service is about $1.50 a month per phone number. Billing through is about 1.5 cents per minute or less. They also have an unlimited plan for about $6 a month.

There is a great article here on configuration of an OBI100 with

Also once you go Voip and are not tied to a specific vendor (like Vonage) you can use any host of SIP Softphones. There are clients for your PC or Mac, Android or IPhone. Pretty much the ultimate in flexibility and number portability. Heading out of the country? Turn off your OBI100 and connect up that number to your Softphone on your smart phone.


ODBII + Bluetooth Placeholder

I am ordering a Bluetooth ODB reader for use with my Mac running OSX.

Check Amazon for “Super Mini Elm ODBII” for cheap Bluetooth adaptors.

Visit this page for free software to interface with the adaptor.

Will let you know how it goes!

– Update May 15 2013 –

I couldn’t get my Mac or iPhone to recognize the Bluetooth Adaptor. Supposedly Apple has some white list of bluetooth devices it will talk to. Jailbroken iPhone are supposed to be able to update this list.

I ended up buying a bluetooth dongle for my Wintel Laptop.

I also had success with the free version of Torque and an old Android phone. I will probably spring the $4.95 for the full version as it is quite a mature and flexible product.

But with the free version of Torque I was able to easily view and clear codes. So far the $20 adaptor has saved me $450 as I was able to confirm a hunch on a manifold leak. This leak is cured by a replacement of a $5 gasket on my 1ZZFE and should be relatively easy for me to replace on my own.

DVDs to Kindle Fire

Planning in the works for a cross country trip with the kidlet. For his sanity and ours I am making sure we have all his fave DVDs available on our Kindle Fire android tablets.

On the Mac
Use Handbrake. Choose the Android Mid setting for files that will be about 250mb per hour of play. Watching these files on the PC is a little annoying because you see artifacts from the conversion, but should be good enough. Doing the same file in close to DVD quality was taking 800mb each, just don’t have that space to spare on the Fire.

On the PC:
Format Factory. Settings TBD

After that just use a USB cable to transfer the .MP4 file to a directory on your Fire. Unless it is purchased content you will need to use a file browser utility to navigate to the directory and ‘launch’ the .MP4 files directly.

2011 Kia Sportage Hitch and Trailer Light Harness Install

I installed a trailer hitch and wiring harness on my Kia Sportage a few months after I got it.

The Hitch

The hitch was a no brainer. I bought a Curt Manufacturing 13066 Class III Receiver Hitch from Amazon.

Not a whole lot to say. Kia made it really easy to install. I did it by myself in about 10 minutes. It is only 4 bolts. Nothing required to install but a socket wrench. Didn’t even have to mess with moving the muffler out of the way, the hitch fits right around it.

The hitch is rock solid. Very overbuilt which is probably what you want in these situations.

Price and free shipping from Amazon was well below the vendors I usually buy my hitches from.

The Trailer Light Wiring Harness

I already had a basic Trailer Light Converter so I hit the KiaTechInfo site (free registration if you are a Kia owner) to check the wiring so I didn’t have to spend a lot of time messing with trial and error. Red splice fittings worked great. This is for my US 2011 LX, no warranties express or implied, at your own risk, blah blah blah…

1) Gain access to wires.
Remove cargo floor and cargo tray
Remove 3 plastic bolts to rear of spare tire. Remove plastic trim from trunk ledge.
Remove 3 phillips screws from LH floor side of spare tire well. These hold the bottom of the left trunk trim piece. Pop out rear half of the lower LH trunk trim. This panel includes the trunk light so don’t pull too fast or hard.

I ended up prying about 3/4 of this panel off and wedging the jack in to give me a few inches to work in.

2) Ground It

Ground is available under a 10mm green bolt underneath the panel. I used a loop crimp connector to ensure a solid ground.

3) Tail/Stop lights

Strip away some wrapping from the 3-bundle wire that goes into the LH rear outside light.
Tail Light : Green (Solid)
Stop : Green w/Black Stripe

4) Turn lights

This is the wiring harness that runs down the left rear wheel well and through a hole in the trunk floor. The wires change color above and below connector, these colors are for above the connector. Strip some of the covering off of the bundle to get access to the wires.
Left Hand : White (Solid)
Right Hand : White w/Black Stripe

5) Test it.

I tried to test each function as I went along (after hooking up each wire) but for some reason my light controller freaked out until I had all hooked up. Then it worked fine.

I recommend one of  these when testing:

It is a small connector with test LEDs to show you which lines are active. You can usually drape it over the back seat so you can view it while you are in the drivers seat testing brakes/lights/turn signals.

6) Button it back up

Put the trim back as best you can. Bonus points if you have no left over parts :)

Fixing a Samsung ML-1740 Laser Printer

Symptom: When printing, the top sheet of paper would advance 1/4″ from the paper feed stack and then stop, causing the printer to signal a paper jam.

These suggestions are At Your Own Risk. They worked for me on a printer I picked up at a yard sale. If you can’t afford to mess up your printer, then take it to a professional for repair.

Numbers in parens (nn) correspond to the graphics in the attached PDF available here:

Attempt 1 : Simple – Clean the Gripper Roller
Use alcohol and a lint free cloth to clean the gripper roller.

Attempt 2: Simple: Increase push of paper tray springs.
It is possible if the printer has been stored with the paper tray and had a lot of paper in it, the paper tray springs have lost their ‘sprung’. The springs help the paper feed process by putting pressure on the paper stack and making the top sheet of paper stable for the gripper.
Take out the paper tray and remove the paper. Guide the metal carrier past the two stop tabs on the left and right side of the paper cassette. Use tweezers (or if your fingers are small) to release the springs. Measure the springs original height. Gently stretch each spring until you add about 1/4″ to its resting length. Reinstall the springs (tweezers or locking forceps are very hand here).
Now load the printer with some paper and give it a shot.

Attempt 3: Rotate the ‘tire’ on the gripper roller to provide a new clean gripper surface
1) Unplug printer, remove toner cart and paper casette, find a good flat work surface
2) Remove two screws from front (remove flip down front door (11))
Remove two exposed screws from back panel
Large cover (0) will come off now, some tabs will need to be released on the bottom of unit to release the cover.
3) On left side of printer, remove 6 screws to release the motor drive unit (10).
The screws are on the outside of the rectangular plate with the green ground wire hooked to top center.
Carefully remove the control wire from this unit, take care to not change position of any gears. Set the unit aside.
5) On bottom of printer, release bottom metal plate (19) by loosening approx 15 screws. Even release the screws that are accessible through holes in the plate. Plate will now loosen so you can move it about 1/2″ towards the bottom of the printer. This will allow access to the gripper roller assembly. There are a lot of wires and electronics attached to this plate, don’t worry about removing all of those, we only need 1/2″ of movement for access.
5) On left side of printer again, release triangular plate with 3 screws (50)
6) Pull off the largest gear (49) straight off the u shaped shaft that is connected to the gripper roller.
7) From inside front about 1.5″ from the end of the gear you just pulled off release the outside bushing (58-1) by prying the tab gently out of hole 58-2. Slide the bushing towards the center of the printer. Now you can pull the shaft about 1/4″ towards the outside of the printer and the inside bushing will release from its mount. You can now remove the shaft through the front of the printer.
8 ) Release tab on bushing next to gripper roller (58-4). Slide the gripper roller off (58-6).
9) There is a round ‘tire’ on this oblong shaped roller (58-5). I pulled it about halfway off the oblong plastic roller, rotated it about 180 degrees so a new fresh surface was available on the wide part of the roller. Then slip it back on. Because of fricton it is not advisable to move the position of the tire without sliding it part or all the way off of the roller.
10) Clean roller well with alcohol and lint free cloth.
11) Put it all back together.

I made a few attempts at putting it all back together. My two main issues were with the positioning Gripper Roller assembly (58). Remember to properly re-set the tab of the inside bushing (58-1) into the hole. Also be sure to keep the Gripper Roller assembly in its ‘home’ position before reassembly. If you rotate the Gripper Roller shaft before after (50) is reinstalled it will ‘click’ into position on each revolution. This is the ‘home’ position you want it in before you reinstall the motor drive unit (10).

Real Sansa e260 Success… finally!

I’ve had a Sansa e260 player for about 18 months. Most of those months the player has lay idle because I grew tired of my MP3 collection and have not been able to successfully hook the player up to our household Real Rhapsody account.

Last night I gave it another shot. A firmware update came out from Sansa on 10-APR-2008 and I thought that might do the trick. Unfortunately it didn’t.

I did find a way to get Real Rhapsody music playing on the player though.

Real Rhapsody tracks finally play on my e260!

Anything currently on your player will be wiped. For me, that’s not a big deal because I usually load what I’m going to listen to it, listen to it, then I’m done with it. Lather rinse repeat.

Here’s what I did:
1) Make sure the player is authorized in Rhapsody. (It may not successfully play tracks, but it should still be able to be authorized.)
2) Switch to MSC (Mass Storage Class) transfer mode.
3) In explorer, right click on the player and select Format. Format it like you would a hard drive (I accepted the defaults for the formatting).
4) Switch back to MTP (Media Transfer Protocol).
5) Give it another shot. It worked for me.

Since the successful load of Real Rhapsody DRMed tracks I have not tried throwing a few of my old un-DRMed MP3s into the mix.

This may or may not apply to the e200, e220, e240, etc models. I bought an e240 for a family member and they have had zero problems with Rhapsody and have not had to take drastic measures like this.

– Dave

Restoring a Craftsman Bandsaw…

I picked up an antique Craftsman 103.24280 12″ Band saw the other day. From what I can tell it was made in the 30′s-50′s. Sears was having a 20% off sale the same day I got this from a fellow who was liquidating his shop. Even though it needs some TLC I think I will be much happier with this workhorse than an more recent Made in China model.

First thing I needed to do was replace the worn belt and warped pulleys. Luckily an Ace hardware opened up a block away and they have a full selection of mower parts. I was able to quickly find replacements for all the drive parts.

I also have a .PDF of the manual available here for other collectors who may have lost theirs: Click Here

– Dave

Where does my electricity come from?

The EPA has a site where you can find out what mix of power generation sources supply your zip code.

EPA Power Profiler

– Dave

Headlight bulb sockets…

Just wanted to record this for posterity. I’ve been asked about this a few times and never knew it was such a pain to find these connectors.

On my friend’s Volvo and my Honda the headlight bulb sockets have heated up enough to melt them. Once they are melted then they stop working. Finding a replacement for these connectors has been a pain. The Volvo dealer said they couldn’t get the part unless it came with that section of the wiring harness (sounds like $$$ to me). I didn’t even check with the Honda Dealer since I found the following website to get parts. Skip down to the “Headlight Pigtail Socket Receptacles” section:

I just ordered two Ceramic H4 sockets for my Civic bulbs. Hopefully the Ceramic will last a bit longer than the original plastic did.

– Dave

Incredibly brilliant and dumb at the same time…

If you’ve got a cat I have found the best toy evar !!!one111!!one

Its called The Original Cat Dancer and its so dumb its brilliant. It is basically a 3′ long wire with some pieces of cardboard on the end. All of $0.25 worth of materials that sells for about $3 after they wrap it up in colorful packaging.

I’ve never had a toy where both of the cats come running when I fish it out of the kitty toy box.

Here’s the business end of this thing:
Cat Dancer Closeup

– Dave

Whatever happened to a needle and paper cone?

There are some fantastic turntables here at The Funky Way’s collection of the Exotic Turntables of the World:

– Dave

HOW TO – Make circles Freddi C. style

Here’s a post on painting perfect circles using old school drafting tools.

I used to use one of those pens that you drop the ink into when I was in drafting class. Never thought of using it for painting. A compass set at Staples is about $15. You can also use the pen with a ruler to make straight lines or one of those bendy curve things to make compex curves.

– Dave


So I’m traveling cross country in a couple of weeks and decided to check the baggage restrictions. I’m traveling for a week but will have access to a washing machine. I’de like to avoid checking any baggage since I would like to make this trip as stress free as possible.

I’ll have to remember that my Cattle Prods, Crowbars, Billy Clubs, Black Jacks, Brass Knuckles, Mace, Nunchucks and throwing stars cannot be carried on but I am free to stow them in checked baggage.

And then there’s the crap with liquids/gels. No liquids/gels more than 3oz size are allowed through checkpoints and in carry on baggage. 3-1-1 is their mnemonic for this. 3 ounce or smaller container, inside a 1 quart ziploc bag, 1 bag per traveler. The TSA supplies plenty of free .PDF docs here you can print out and frame here.

I had to check if any smartass was selling TSA-Approved quart ziplog bags on ebay at inflated prices. Well didn’t find anything quite that dumb, but you can get a “TSA Friendly Quart Size Bag of Toiletries” with 8 items for $23.14 after shipping. I think I’ll pass and pick my own 8 items at Target for $0.99 each.

– Dave

New laptop…

So I finally broke down and got a new laptop. My Toshiba 5105-S501 decided to start flaking out. Seems there is a connection between the motherboard and video card on those machines that gets stressed with age. I didn’t move the computer that much so it lasted almost 4 years for me. At least I was able to get some $$$ out of it on CraigsList by selling it for parts.

I got a Compaq V6030US, 1gb, 80gb, with an AMD 64-bit dual core processor. It was about $800 after rebates at Circuit City. So far I’m very happy with it, the price is half what I paid for my last laptop and all the capacities/capabilities (except video) are pretty much doubled.

Computer doesn’t get very hot.
Lots of features for the $$$.
Relateively light. Feels pretty sturdy.
Has a clear plastic screen protector.

Screen is not as nice as the Toshiba. 1280×800 is great for DVDs but 1280×1024 would be better for doing real work.
Battery life is about 2 hours.
Power Supply gets very hot.
Video is shared ram and is slow. Expect 20fps max on CounterStrike.

– Dave

Blu-ray vs CD-R

So last week I upgraded my home PC with a new motherboard, case and power supply. Trying to figure out what else I could upgrade I went looking for HD-DVD reader/burner drives. Currently only has 2 available, Sony BWU-100a ($699) and a Samsung BDP-1000xaa ($845).

Needless to say I passed on them both. Looking at the prices I thought “How outrageous!”

Then I remembered the last time I jumped on the bleeding edge bandwagon and the pain I suffered as an early adopter. I bought a Ricoh MP6200S CD-R drive when it first came out. This was one of the first commercially available CD writers out there. It elevated the term ‘coaster’ to a whole new level. After paying upwards of $2 for each blank CDR even if they were useless I didn’t want to throw them away. After about a year the drive really started flaking. The read/write head was frozen and I was out of warranty. Not about to give up on my investment I tore it apart and slathered the mechanism with Vaseline. I was able to make it until CD drives got down in the $50 range and then retired it.

The price I got to pay for all this aggravation? $599 in 1995 dollars.

But it was nice to be able to make mixed CDs while everyone else was still handing out tapes.

– Dave


My dad traveled to Indiana and England to find this info out. I dug it up through google:

Read more

Casual Ebaying

Some tips for selling on EBay…

1) Research what you’re selling.

Run a search for items similar to yours that are “Completed Items”. This will give you the last 30 days worth of auction history for items matching your search. You can get a pretty good idea of the market value of what you’re selling this way. Prices in Green are items that sold, prices in Red didn’t sell.

If the item is still something you can find new in stores you can research the price through Amazon or Froogle. If I am auctioning something new in stores I usually don’t expect more than 50% of the current new selling price.

Some items I won’t even put up on Ebay. Books and CDs for example, I always sell them through Amazon. All the books I have sold on Ebay have gone for peanuts compared to what they go for on Amazon.

2) Descriptions should be complete and truthful, lots of pictures

If your item has more features than usual similar items play it up in the ad (Laptop + Docking Station!). Take lots of pictures. Give info about the usual specs of the item, note anything extraordinarily good or bad.

I have sold plenty of items that were “For Parts” “As-Is” and gotten decent prices for them.

If you don’t know a lot about the item, let your customers know. I recently picked up some weird old Sparc laptops. I could get them to boot up, but had no idea how to thoroughly check them out so I put it in the Ad. Some helpful bidders sent me some commands to query the processor type and speed so I ran the commands and posted the output.

3) Start your auction at $1.00.

So far I haven’t been disappointed by the final value. Starting at $1.00 gets people more interested than starting closer to the final value. I have never used a reserve price because I like to live dangerously, but a reserve price is one way to protect yourself if you absolutely can’t take less than $X for the item.

4) Run for standard 7 days.

I feel 10 days is too long, 5 or 3 days and your item doesn’t get enough exposure.

Keep in mind that a lot of Ebay traffic is generated by their automatic search e-mail system and EBay’s partnership with google.

But a large amount of traffic is generated by people surfing to the site and typing in keywords. 7 days gives you a good exposure to

5) Mind the End Time

I don’t have any hard proof on this one, I just like to make sure the end times of my auctions are during weekday afternoons. When you go to and type in a keyword, the default search shows you matches in order of “Time: ending soonest”. If you are ending your auction during times when there is a lot of traffic to the site there is a better chance of getting some last minute live bidders in on the action.

6) Don’t gouge on shipping

This is one of my biggest peeves as an Ebay Buyer and Seller. Yes I have seen iPods for a Buy It Now $9.99 with $300.00 shipping.

Generally I only charge for the exact USPS or UPS shipping price.

I usually keep a selection of packing materials on hand that I pick up before they get to the dumpster at my workplace. Tape is cheap, the 10 minutes I spend packaging something up is part of doing business.

Now my tune might change if I was doing this full time or hiring someone else to do it, but that’s how I operate right now.

7) Be responsive to e-mail. Check your spam filter!

If one person has questions about your item, chances are many people had the same question. You may want to incorporate the questions and answers into the auction detail.

8) Get a free account at UPS.COM, use it to simplify shipping

You can print shipping labels and pay for shipping by putting in your from/to shipping info into the UPS.COM site and printing out the labels from a laser or inkjet printer. Tape it to your box and then drop it at any UPS store or place that accepts UPS packages.

9) Know your market, expand your market

If you know a lot about a particular market, find out what is selling the most and most profitable in that market.

A lot of items I sell are rare or hard to find electronic or computer parts. If I come across something in a flea market that is in good shape for a decent price I usually just buy it and worry about selling it later.

10) Learn from your mistakes.

I love ebay because its about as pure a marketplace as you can get. The bonus is that there are always tons of visitors moving through that site. If you have something someone else needs, you can find a buyer!

If your auction was an utter failure because of low selling price, no bids, not enough hits on your auction then:
. Did you price something too high?
. Not enough or bad pictures?
. Weak description?

– Dave

Beginning Oracle…

So I’m not exactly an Oracle beginner, going on working with it full time for 5 years now actually…

But I wanted a place to share interesting stuff I’ve come across working with this beast.

Interesting content to follow in this category… I promise!

– Dave

Update 07/20/2006:
In the interest of keeping Business and Personal stuff separate i’m I’m starting my own DB related site here:

– Dave

320CT Trials and Tribulations

I’ve been looking for a small form factor laptop for awhile so I got a surplus laptop from work. Its a Toshiba Portege 320CT. Exactly what I was looking for. Its smaller than a sheet of letter size paper, about 1″ thick. 96mb ram, 266mhz, 4gb hard drive. Perfectly portable, something to throw in the car when going on vacation so I can check e-mail, etc.

The only problem is that it doesn’t have network or a CD-Rom. Trying to get an OS installed without either of those is a pain. Of course I remember loading slackware from 30 floppes but hey, that was 1994, I was happy to be running something unix-like on my PC instead of DOS or Win 3.11.

I found a docking station for it with a CD-Rom and an Ethernet port but the 2 I located are in Europe right now. Shipping would kill me.

Problem #1: It had Win2k installed and I didn’t have an admin password.
Miracle #1: I found a DOS boot floppy in my stack of disks.

Problem #2: No Cd-Rom, no network, i don’t have any easy way to move 400mb worth of install media to the hard drive.
Miracle #2: I was able to find an USPASPI.SYS driver online that actually lets me read a USB flash drive. Fortunately this little thing has 1 usb port. So in 128mb chunks I’m copying the Win2k install disk to the hard drive. Once its on the HD I should be able to fire up setup.exe and get this sucker installed.

So by this afternoon the copying should be done, we’ll see how the install goes. Wish me luck!

– Dave

Update 7/20/2006:
After I went through all the trouble of getting the Win2k install files on the blank hard drive I found a docking station with CD-Rom on ebay for $0.01 + shipping. It was sold as-is because had some issues with power. Turns out the power jack was bad. I bypassed it with some creative rigging and now I’ve got a docking station with a CD-Rom and extra USB port.

I also found a 3Com 10/100 ethernet card with x-jack (no dongles to break or lose) for $6 on ebay. Combine that with my old Orinoco Gold wireless card and I’m set for connectivity.

On the software front, I found another hard drive and installed Ubuntu on it. I had some issues with the weird screen size on this laptop (1024×600) and hacked the XF86Config a bit but still no luck. The deal breaker really was the speed, Ubuntu was dog slow on the Pentium 266 processor. So back to Win2k for now.

– Dave

Simplify life…

Allright, I’m a packrat when it comes to papers. A friend owns a couple of businesses and is constantly chased by the paper tiger. He told me he started scanning all his stuff in so he has access to it on his laptop. I’m not sure what kind of scanner he uses but I picked up a Canon Lide 60 a couple of months ago and I love it.

I’m slowly going through 2 file cabinets worth of old papers, shredding what I don’t need to keep, and scanning what I do need to keep. Not only can the scanner save directly to PDF, but it can create multipage PDFs as well. After it scans a page it asks you if you’re done or if you want to scan another page.


  • Creates PDFs
  • Completely powered from the USB port, no external power supply needed
  • Uses LEDs for the lamp, no warming up, more rugged than a fluorescent tube


  • Came with a foot attachment to keep the scanner vertical (less desk space). Doesn’t work too well because its really hard to align documents and close the lid in this position, I just keep the scanner horizontal on top of my CPU
  • Only does letter sized scans
  • I sure hope the PDF ‘standard’ lives for a while (this is a very long term risk, but can be a risk/hassle nonetheless)

Froogle Search

– Dave