Clean and Oil Those Fans

Computers are not invulnerable to dust. They have a tendancy to get clogged up with plenty of dust which at best causes overheating. It is a good idea to regularly clean out all the dust in a system to keep it as cool as possible since dust is an insulator. Removing the dust will allow better airflow, especially through fins on heatsinks and lighten fan blades, allowing them to turn faster.

Another tip to keeping a computer running in peak condition is to oil fans. Anything that moves should be well lubricated to allow it to do so smoothly and fans are no exception. Every once in a while (at least once a year, depending on how dusty your environment is) you should remove the fans in your system, take them apart, and oil them.

To oil a fan, you need to disassemble it. This is the tricky part. To disassemble a fan, you need to remove any stickers that cover the capstan. Next, remove the washer that holds the capstan. You will need a pointy knife or something to do this. Usually they will be made of plastic, but sometimes metal. They will almost always be a small flat disc with a hole in the middle and have a cut (think of a “C” where the ends meet but do not attach). Once this is off, you can remove the fan blade assembly. Before oiling it, you should thouroughly clean it. All kinds of grime and grit can get in there and cause it to make noise, as well as slow it down and create friction heat. Once you’ve cleaned it, then you can oil it. The type of oil does not matter too much depending on the fan. Most fans are cheap anyway so you do not need to shell out for top of the line lubricant. Even vegitable oil is better than nothing in a pinch. Synthetic teflon lubricant can be found in any bicycle shop and works great. You should oil the parts that touch and move. This includes the capstan, and the hole in which it goes. You will also want to oil the joint where the capstan attaches to the blade hub and where the blade hub rests on the washer. Do not over-oil since that will just make a mess with no extra benefit. In fact you should probably clean up any excess before putting it back. Put the blade assembly back into the fan and give it a test spin. Make sure that it is running smoothly. Now place the holding washer back on the end of the capstan and finally the sticker. Put the fan back, plug it in, power it up, and watch it spin. You may want to consider comparing fan rotation speeds before and after. Also, make sure to notice the noise level after oiling.

Windows Themes Dialog

The Display Properties dialog in Windows has a Themes tab which allows you to easily change the theme used. This allows you to quickly change color schemes, wallpaper, visual styles, icons, sounds, and more. The drop down lists available themes as well as an option to browse for a theme and another that allows you to find some themes online.

Using the scroll wheel makes it easy to change the selected option in a combo box but the one in the themes dialog is problematic because every time that the online option is selected, Windows immediately freezes while it tries to open a browser window and navigate to a web page where you can download new themes. Also, the browse option is annoying because as soon as you hit it, Windows opens a file browsing dialog. These two options make scrolling through the options very inconvenient. Worse still, the web page that you are taken to is completely useless. Instead of allowing you to download free themes, it is merely a page that offers you the option of buying theme software.

Fortunately the online selection can be altered or removed completely. You can change the URL of the site that you are taken to when you select the online option by changing this registry entry:


REGEDIT4
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Themes\DownloadSites\100]
"DisplayName"="@themeui.dll,-2015"
"URL"="http://localhost/"

Copy the code into a text file and give it a .REG extension then run it. When prompted to merge, say yes. The default code above will set the URL of the page to the local machine. If you are running a webserver you can create your own page and change the URL as necessary. Alternately you can set the URL to your favorite theme related web page where you normally download themes from.

You can change the text that is displayed in the combo box from the default of “More Themes Online…” to whatever you want by replacing the “@themeui.dll,-20154” in the above code.

To completely remove the “More Themes Online…” entry, just delete the whole DownloadSites key:


REGEDIT4
[-HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Themes\DownloadSites]

I have not yet found a way to remove the Browse option but will post it as soon as I do.


Another problem with the Themes dialog is the way in which the Theme combo box is populated. There is no (known) way to set a directory where Windows should look for themes to list in this dialog. Windows fills the list by searching through each and every top level directory in the My Documents folder for .THEME files. What this means is that the dialog will go to the folder that “My Documents” is set to and check each folder in there for any .THEME files then add those to the list. It will not however check any deeper. For example, if you have:


"My Documents\doc"
"My Documents\mp3s"
"My Documents\mp3s\audiobooks"
"My Documents\styles"
"My Documents\styles\colorschemes"
"My Documents\styles\themes"
"My Documents\styles\wallpaper"
"My Documents\text"

Then the dialog will look in the following folder for .THEME files:


"My Documents\doc"
"My Documents\mp3s"
"My Documents\styles"
"My Documents\text"

In other words, it will look for theme files in many directories in which it has no business looking, and will miss some where it should be looking. If you have many folders in your “My Documents” folder, then it will take longer as it searches each one.

There is currently no known way to disable this behavior and set one or more specific directories for it to look in.

The worst part of all is that these actions occur every time that the Display Properties dialog is opened since the Themes tab is always the first one displayed.

Cheap Multi-iPod Recharger

With the growing popularity of Apple’s iPods, a booming field of iPod accessories has evolved. Unfortunately, most of these accessories tend to be on the expensive side since the logic goes that if one can afford an—expensive—iPod, then one can afford to pay a lot for it’s accessories.

A main problem with iPods is their rechargeable batteries. They have proprietary batteries built in so you cannot just pop it out and replace it. Instead, you must pay a lot of money to have it shipped to Apple (or some other unauthorized third party) to replace it for a fee; some rechargeable. Even when the batteries are still good and can be recharged, there are not too many options on actually doing so.

Some people resort to purchasing expensive power adapters that allow you to plug an iPod into the wall to charge it. Most people just plug it into their computer.

There is another way, a way that allows you to charge the iPod anytime, anywhere without the need for a computer—just an electrical outlet—as well as being cheaper than an adapter: a powered USB hub.

The best way to charge an iPod is to purchase a USB hub. These are essentially USB splitters that allow you to daisy chain multiple USB devices into a computer. Using one of these you can simply plug the iPod’s cable (or the iPod Shuffle itself) into the hub and plug the hub into an outlet. This has a few other benefits as well. Because you are using the hub only for charging (no data transfer), you do not need USB 2.0, so a cheaper 1.0/1.1 hub will do. Since the whole purpose of a hub is to allow multiple devices to connect, you can charge multiple iPods at the same time.

So instead of getting costly power adapters or using a whole computer, just get a single, small, inexpensive, USB hub to quickly and easily charge multiple iPods at the same time.

When to Ding The Bus

Unfortunately I have been—and still am until I can afford a car—restricted to taking the bus for transportation. I have taken many trips, at many times, in many places, with many people. One thing I have noticed and been interested by is the judgment—or lack thereof—that people use in determining when to pull the stop-request cord.

Some people pull it immediately after leaving the stop prior to the one they want—some even earlier than that. Some people pull it exactly halfway, others wait until the bus has all but passed the stop—or even after—and the rest pull somewhere in between.

The ideal time to pull it is simply a case of common sense. You do not want to pull it too early because then the bus driver will slow down right away to avoid passing the stop, thus delaying your arrival. You do not want to pull it too late or the driver may not have enough time to stop and will just pass it and stop at the next one. There is no specific number or fraction that I can give since inter-stop distances vary as do road conditions and traffic, but ideally, you will want to pull the cord as close as possible to the stop while giving the driver enough time and space to safely come to a stop. A general rule of thumb could be to wait until you are about 2/3 of the way to your stop from the previous one.

Chickens Will Not Evolve to Taste Bad

For some time I have mused as to why animals do not evolve to taste bad.

The whole point to natural selection is to promote the survival of a species by simply finding that the members that have certain desirable characteristics which help it to live, go on to have children who are likely to have those characteristics who can then pass it on to their children and so on. Over time, most members of that species will have that characteristic.

Humans have been eating animals for many, many years so I could not understand why the animals that get eaten so often—chickens, cows, pigs—have not yet evolved to taste bad. After all, any animals who taste good are more likely to be killed while the ones that taste bad are more likely to be spared. It makes sense.

A while ago however, the answer dawned on me. Not only do animals not evolve to taste bad but they in fact evolve to taste better. Of course it does not occur because of “natural selection” but rather due to human interference and meddling.

For example, lets say that there are two chickens, one happens to taste great should it be eaten, the other tastes awful. Of course both have been slaughtered already, that is how we know how they taste, however they have already been bred by a chicken farmer. The one who tasted good had children which were more likely to taste good as well. The one who tasted bad had children which were more likely to taste bad as well. Over several generations, the one offspring from the one who tasted good are bred more and more often for obvious reasons and the one offspring of the one that tasted bad are bred less and less often—perhaps only used for eggs, maybe not. After enough time has passed, the ones that tasted bad become extinct—at least on the farm—while the ones that taste good end up becoming ubiquitous.

In nature on the other hand, it is possible for an animal—for example and antelope—to evolve to taste bad because a lion will not breed them, it will only hunt them and in time learn which ones taste good and which ones taste bad. It will leave the bad ones alone and hunt the good ones. Eventually, the antelopes who survive will be the ones who taste bad.

Humans are meddlesome creatures who interfere with everything for their own interests. This is just another example of this albeit a rather major one, after all tampering with the very essence of evolution is not to be taken lightly.

In summary, chickens will not evolve to taste bad because of humans and their artificial selection.

But What Is Acting?

I’ve seen many interviews, awards ceremonies, etcetera where players are lauded for their acting abilities. Unfortunately a lot of them are given undue credit. The best way to demonstrate my point—my reasoning—is to give examples.

An actor who was a police office for 20 years before becoming an actor, who then goes on to play the part of a police officer and does a terrific job has done very little. They would not likely deserve an award for their portrayal of a cop because they did not need to act, the character was too much like their own self, and so little acting talent was at all required. (No, I’m not talking specifically about Dennis Farina, I like him a lot and he gives me hope. He’s good but I would not credit him for his role on Law and Order nearly as much as say, his role on In Laws.)

On the other hand, an actor who is terribly shy and introverted who then plays an outgoing life-of-the-party and does a terrific job has done a lot. They would definitely deserve an award for that job because the character was so different from themselves that they had to really work for it, hard. (No, I’m not talking about myself, I wish I were.)

Here’s a real life example: Tara Reid is a member of that group of young starlet/socialites of Hollywood who constantly get into trouble. Most people would agree that she is anything but intelligent. When she is out and about, she usually embarrasses herself with the things she does and says. She did try to clean up her act and said that she would stop partying, but nobody was surprised when she quickly went back to her old ways. While she may not be the best actress in the world, many of the characters she portrays are distinctly different from herself. It’s not so much how well she portrays the characters that is relevant here as much as how much she has to put her own personality aside to play such a different character. She may not win an award for her roles, but you cannot argue that she must still be a pretty good actor to play someone so different from her default behavior.

So in summary, given that a performance was magnificent—convincing, realistic, believable, etc.—then the determining factor of whether grand applause is merited or not is in how different the character is from the actor. The more different, the more acclaim.