Archive for January, 2006

Backing into Success

Last week, the clock/radio display in my car stopped working. I drive a 2001 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder, and the clock/radio display is separate from the radio, sitting at the top of the dash, above the center vents (which are in turn above the radio). I decided to try and fix it yesterday, and managed to succeed in spite of myself.

Although the display didn’t work, the stereo continued to work. I had hoped the issue was just a blown fuse. After opening the fuse panel, I realized I didn’t know which of the 15 or so fuses to check. Instead of pulling each one, I ran in the house to find my owner’s manual. Ten minutes of searching later, I returned to the car, manual in hand, only to remember that the fusebox diagram is on the back of the fusebox panel cover. If I’d flipped the panel cover over when I removed it, I would have saved 10 minutes. Oops.

Upon reviewing the diagram and attempting to decode the hieroglyphics that are used in place of English, I didn’t see a fuse for the clock. I did see an extra fuse not labeled in the diagram. Of course, that fuse wasn’t blown. I also checked the radio fuse (even though the radio worked), what looked like the dashboard fuse (although the dash lights worked), and some fuse with a transistor icon (engine computer, I’d guess). No blown fuses.

At this point my only other hope was for a loose wire between the stero unit and the display unit. Checking for this meant getting inside the dash. Never a fun proposition in any car, I was fairly hopeful since the center dash portion of the Eclipse is a separate piece. After removing two screws down near the gearshift, the console cover lifted up and out.

I was on a roll, until I realized that I still couldn’t get to the display unit, which had a special cover that extends up and into the main dash. After spending 5 minutes looking for a way to remove this cover, I found the back moved a bit if I pulled a certain way. Five minutes after that, I had moved from the driver’s seat to the passenger seat, and managed to get the back of the cover to just pop out. After some more experimentation, I finally figured out the whole thing just “clipped” into place. With enough force applied to pull on it, it eventually popped out.

I removed the display, only to find the single cable connector block was securely attached. I removed the stereo, and found all cables securely attached there as well. I eventually disassembled the entire display unit, and could find no issues. Sensing defeat, I started putting everything back together.

Fortunately, this proved easy. After returning the stereo and display to their places and checking all cabling, I popped the display cover back in just as it came off, and put the center console cover back in place. Still seated in the passenger seat, I put the two screws at the bottom of the panel back. That’s when I saw it.

The Eclipse’s central dash extends down into the center console, which runs between the two front seats. Just in front of the shifter and below the screw I was replacing, on the passenger side, sits the cigarette lighter, pointed upward. In my car, the socket is always empty, ready to accept a cell phone charger. Inside the socket, I could see a dime, which I couldn’t see from the driver’s seat. At that point, everything fell into place.

After removing the dime and completing re-assembly, I turned the ignition and confirmed the display was still not working. I then checked the fuse for the cigarette lighter, which was of course blown. One replacement fuse later, I turned the ignition and watched the clock display spring to life. Had I checked that fuse when I started, I would have saved the better part of an hour. Oops.

Happy New Year

Happy New Year! Two years ago, I tried making some resolutions. Last year, I even gauged my success for the previous year, but I never did get around to posting a new set of resolutions. I’ve never been a big fan of the New Year’s Resolution, but having that list a couple years ago did help me focus on getting some things done. In that spirit, I’ve decided to post a list of resolutions once again. Some of them aren’t traditional resolution fodder, but merely projects I’ve been planning for a while, to do “maybe after the new year, when things slow down.” Hopefully listing them here will encourage me to do them.

Personal
  1. Lose some weight and get in shape. I know this is everyone’s #1 resolution, but I need to focus on this. When I stopped smoking four or five years ago, I was out of shape, but within my ideal weight range. I gained alot of weight in the first year after quitting, and have lowly drifted up the scale in recent years. My goal is to lose 75 pounds by the end of the year… this will put me at the top of my ideal weight range. I know from experience that diets only work for a month or two. Instead, I intend to begin by using the gym at work at least 3 times per week, reducing junk food, and reducing portions at meals. If I don’t see some progress by the end of January, I can get more aggressive.

  2. Early to bed, early to rise. I’ve always been a night owl, and never a morning person. This often has a domino effect of a few days time, and I have more trouble getting up each morning. Fortunately my job allows me some flexibility in when I arrive, but I’d rather be leaving earlier. Also, while on vacation last summer, I somehow got into an altered cycle, getting up every morning around 7am (wicked early for me), and enjoyed being up before everyone.

  3. Write more music. I spent a litte time at the keyboard this past year, and came up with one piece I’m happy with. I’d like to find time to do more this year.

jclark.org
  1. New organization with tags. I’ve been feeling boxed in by my category hierarchy for a while, and tags (like del.icio.us) make much more sense. This will require some planning, since I don’t want to break any old URIs. I’ll use redirects if I have to, but a system that doesn’t need redirects would be even better. This includes story URIs, category URIs, and date archive URIs. I’m considering a switch to WordPress like Douglas just did. This would also allow for drafts, something I’d really like to have.

  2. New Look and Feel. I’ve been working on this, very on-and-off, for months. I’ve about come to the conclusion I can’t do what I wanted to do, but I may do a scaled down version instead. I’ve got a picture Sean took for me that I’d really like to use.

  3. More Howtos. I’ve written a number of howto articles here over the past few years, and they tend to be among the most popular articles on the site, with lots of search engine visitors. I’ve found that I really enjoy writing them, so I intend to do more of them. I may even make a sub-site to house them.

  4. Post More. I did pretty well for the first half of ’05, but fell down during the second half. This post is #294, just shy of the 300 post mark I had set as a goal for the end of ’04. I’m going to target the 400 post mark by year’s end.

Projects
  1. Improve my email. I have a couple of different email addresses that I use; one for companies I spend money with, and one for everyone else. In addition, I’m subscribed to a bunch of mailing lists (which I need to reduce); all together, it’s a real pain to check my mail if I’m not at home on my primary Mac. I’d really like to setup to pop all of my mail into a self-hosted IMAP server. Alternatively, I might consider looking at gmail again, if I can make it work transparently with my jclark.org email address.

  2. Improve my home network. I’ve got a couple of PCs around the house in addition to the iMac and Powerbook, and I’ve never gotten Printer Sharing to work as seemlessly as it should. I’m also currently using my old Desktop PC as little more than a printer share, which is a waste. I want to free up the PC for possible use as a server (see later items), and get the printer shared to all of the machines that need it, seemlessly. I won’t outline the issues I’ve had with this in the past, except to say that I’ll be getting started by upgrading the iMac to Tiger (which I got for Christmas).

  3. Automate Photo Distribution. I’ve been using iPhoto on the iMac to manage pictures from our digital cameras, but this makes it difficult to print them (Due to the issues above, I can’t normally print from the iMac), and for Sherri to access them from her Windows Laptop. I normally have to explicitly export a number of photos to the old Desktop PC (going away, see above), and then she accesses them via a file share. She’d like to have copies of all the pictures on her Laptop, so she can show them when we travel. I’m going to figure out how to automatically publish all pictures in iPhoto’s library to other locations (primarilly her laptop, but possibly also to a file server as a backup). The laptop is often asleep, so it will have to sync when ever it’s awake, automagically. Also, I want to use the iPhoto albums to provide some kind of organization when exporting. Ideas for publishing/syncing include creating an Atom feed and designing a custom aggregator, and/or using rsync. I’m hoping iPhoto’s album data is stored in XML so I can get at it easily. Also, once I upgrade to Tiger, I may find some use from Automator.

  4. Backups & Storage. I need a backup solution badly. If the iMac died today, I’d probably lose some photos, and alot of other data. Same for the other PCs. I’d really like to setup a RAID storage array somewhere on the network, and make backups to it. I’m considering a NAS Raid solution from Infrant, but I’ve also got a couple PCs that could become servers. Big storage on the network could also be helpful for number 5….

  5. Consider dumping TiVo and building a MythTV setup. This one isn’t definate, but I’m certainly considering it. If I do, I’ll probably have 3 to 5 TV sets connected, so it could make for some fun HOWTOs.

  6. Household projects. There’s a number of these which I won’t belabor. The biggies are cleaning and renovating the basement, and renovating the family room.

  7. Secret Project. I can’t say now, it would spoil a surprise for someone. I’ll tell next year, if it gets completed.

So, there they are. In the past, this has been a Monthly Blogging Challenge. I don’t think anyone’s posted one for January yet, so I’ll follow tradition, and challenge everyone to post resolutions/goals for the new year. If you did this last year, be sure to review how you did as well. If you participate, please post a comment here with a link, send a trackback.