Posts filed under ‘Geek’

Rescue a Disc From Your CD Drive With a Paperclip

Most CD/DVD drives in computers have a secret eject button. It allows you to open the CD drive when a disc gets stuck and cannot be ejected normally. It’s also helpful if you need to remove a disc and you don’t want (or have time) to power up the computer — the force eject works without power.

You’ll need a thin sturdy object to operate the manual eject, a straightened paperclip works well. In rare cases, the hole will be slightly smaller than a paperclip and a sewing needle will be required.

Look for a round hole on the face of the CD drive that is just large enough to feed a paperclip through. The following photos show the manual eject hole on a desktop and laptop CD drive.

Once you have found the hole, push a straightened paperclip through the hole and when you feel it stop, push a little harder and it should push open the motorized drive tray (desktop) or release the drive lock (laptop).

If you’ve got a Mac, most new models have a slot load drive (there is no tray that the disc sits on, similar to most car CD players). Some of these drives are particularly bad at ejecting CDs with uneven edges (if yours does this then you’ll know what I’m talking about) and there is a paperclip method for these drives too. There is an Apple support document for this issue; you’ll have to click here to view it since I can’t use their material.

Maybe you’ve seen that hole and wondered what it was for, maybe not. Frankly, it doesn’t matter, because you know now and that’s what we do here.

Broken Secrets

Written By: Chad Upton

Available on Kindle | Share Your Secret!

February 11, 2010 at 1:39 am 2 comments

The Massive Underground Vault Near the North Pole

By Chad Upton | Editor

Imagine your computer caught a really bad virus and you lost all of your files.

You lost all of the documents you’ve worked so hard on, all of the family photos you never printed and all the desktop icons you never clicked on. Hopefully, that never happens to you; if it does you’d probably be devastated, unless you have a thorough backup. Unfortunately, many people do not have a proper backup.

Now imagine our food crops or oxygen producing plants were being killed off by an aggressive virus that we couldn’t stop. If that happened, and it’s possible, how would we produce food to eat or air to breath?

Luckily, some smart people are keeping “backups” of as many plants as possible, so we can grow them again in the event of some man-made or natural disaster that wipes out existing crops and seeds.

These facilities are called seed banks. (more…)

February 10, 2010 at 2:09 am Leave a comment

How to Fold a Fitted Sheet

There are not many household items that are more frustrating than elastic border fitted sheets. On the bed, they work great. In the closet, they’re a nightmare.

Trying to fold a fitted sheet is the adult version of the kids toy that teaches you a square peg doesn’t fit in a round hole. It’s designed to test patience, induce anxiety and destroy self-confidence.

Folding a deformed oval into a tidy rectangle is not meant to happen. The closest I ever got was a triangle and I was pretty happy with it. Usually, it’s a big mess that doesn’t fit the description of any defined shape. Conveniently, that makes it very easy to spot in the closet when you need it. (more…)

February 2, 2010 at 12:45 am 6 comments

How To Make Your Laptop Battery Run Longer

When your laptop is new, you can run on battery power for hours! But, as the battery gets older it doesn’t hold a charge like it used to. Ideally, you would just buy a new battery, but laptop batteries are expensive. From the manufacturer, they range from $80 to $150. Aftermarket batteries are often 50% – 70% of the manufacturer’s price. I’d recommend searching eBay or Amazon for new aftermarket batteries.

If you buy a new battery, keep your old one. I used to travel almost every week for work and I always had a second laptop battery with me. At times, the second battery was old, and only ran for 45 minutes, but that was a lifesaver on an airplane when you’re trying to finish some work (or watch the end of a movie you brought).

I usually buy the aftermarket batteries and never have problems with them. I did have a problem with an aftermarket power supply cord once; it died after three months. But, even with that $13 loss, buying aftermarket laptop accessories has saved me a lot of money over the years.

If you travel a lot, a second power cord is paramount. You should have one that you always leave in your computer bag, that way it’s impossible to leave behind when you travel. Have you ever tried to find a computer power cord at a retail store? If you are lucky enough to find one, it’s going to cost at least $60. If you can’t find one, and you need one for work — it’s a disaster. (more…)

January 29, 2010 at 1:52 am 5 comments

There Are Only 14 Possible Calendar Configurations

At the beginning of every year, I get a tropical island wall calendar. During the winter, it makes the days seem warmer; during the summer, it inspires me to enjoy the long sunny days.

Until a few days ago, my January 2010 calendar was really small. I hadn’t bought a new calendar yet, so I was squinting at the tiny January 2010 layout in the corner of my December 2009 calendar.

If only I kept my 1999 calendar, I could have used that this year.

You see, there are only 14 possible calendar configurations. This year, January first was a Friday and next year, it’s a Saturday. In 2012 it’s a Sunday, but in 2013 it’s a Tuesday. (more…)

January 28, 2010 at 12:15 am 5 comments

You Can Easily Buy Tamper Proof Screwdrivers

I have a long history of taking things apart; as a Child I had a reputation for never putting them back together. There is some truth to that, but somethings are more fun in pieces.

Before I understood how they worked, I saw things as magic boxes. I wanted to know how the engineers solved all of the problems that made the product useful; what were their secrets?

As an adult, I still like taking things apart. Sometimes, I want to know how it works; other times it doesn’t work and I want to fix it, or break it further.

Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to disassemble things.

If you’re like me, you’ve probably tried to disassemble something and then realize you don’t own a screwdriver that can turn a triangular notched screw-head. Or, maybe you have noticed funny looking screw-heads in public restrooms. Not the people, the metal screws used on fixtures and cubical walls. If you don’t recognize the pattern on the screw-head, they’re likely what we call “tamper proof” screws. (more…)

January 26, 2010 at 1:50 am 4 comments

Your Eyes Adapt to Darkness In 20-30 Minutes

If you’ve shopped for an HDTV, you’ve probably seen something on the spec sheet called “contrast ratio.” Contrast ratio is the difference between the darkest and brightest picture a TV can produce. Contrast is important to a good picture.

That’s because our eyes can recognize a contrast difference of 1,000,000,000:1. That means, the brightest thing our eyes can see is a billion times brighter than the darkest thing. Good contrast to your eyes is like a gourmet meal for your taste buds. Contrast adds a lot of detail to the picture and ultimately immerses you in the action.

Unfortunately, when shopping for TVs, contrast ratio is almost meaningless. It could be really useful, but all of the manufacturers measure this number differently and then call it the same thing — it’s really only useful when comparing two TVs from the same manufacturer.

Imagine you want to buy a new car: you are cross shopping three manufacturers who measure fuel economy in three different ways. The first one, measures fuel economy while driving down a hill, while the other two measure it on flat land and while driving up a hill. Obviously, you can’t compare the results of those tests. But, if you’re looking at two cars from the same manufacturer then there is some comparative value to those numbers, even though they may not be accurate in a typical situation.

Thankfully, our eyes are extremely sensitive to contrast. Turn both TVs on and look at a flat black image for a while. A flat black image makes it easy to spot variations in darkness (aka “banding”), no banding should be present in a good TV. If you still can’t tell the difference and they both look good, then the difference is too small to worry about. Trust your eyes, they are incredible instruments.

It takes 20-30 minutes for your eyes to adjust from one extreme to the other because the contrast ratio is so high. If you’re in bright sunlight and then walk into a very dark room, it will take 20-30 minutes before you can see your best in that room. If you are in a moderately bright room and go into a very dark room, it is often closer to 15 minutes.

The rods and cones in your eye are tested during dark adaptation. Rods are more sensitive to light and take longer to adjust. Cones are much faster to adjust, often in approximately 9 minutes. People over the age of 50 need twice as much light to see as well in the dark as a 30 year old. So, if you need more light, consider my CF light secret.

Frequent fliers will eventually notice that the aircrew dims the airplane’s interior lights on final approach during night landings . They want your eyes to be adjusted to the darkness outside in case the landing does not go as expected and you have to evacuate the plane.

Broken Secrets

Written By: Chad Upton

Available on Kindle

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Sources: Why Planes Dim Interior Lights, Adaptation (Eye), Contrast Ratio, Growing Older

January 22, 2010 at 1:10 am 1 comment

Why is Coffee Called Java?

I love coffee.

I started drinking it in college, like most people, for the caffeine boost. Over time, I got really attached to the flavor. I went through a coffee obsession phase, trying coffee from different parts of the world with different tastes and different roasting techniques.

I’m not a coffee connoisseur, but there really are coffee connoisseurs out there. Premium coffee retailers and distributors have tasting rooms where they constantly inspect and taste coffee.

They sip it, swirl it around in their mouth and then spit it out. It must meet their strict approval to make it to the stores. If you think I’m exaggerating, click here to get a taste on the Starbucks blog. They even talk about coffee that is aged 3 to 5 years before being roasted.

Aging coffee probably reminds you of something else, wine. It turns out the coffee industry is a lot like the wine industry. Experts taste coffee the way connoisseurs taste and rate wine. They also share a similar vocabulary for describing flavor notes, hints of: caramel, chocolate, nuts…etc. Wine is classified by it’s region and grape (species). Coffee is also classified by region and species.

Historians believe that coffee plants were first cultivated in Ethiopia, around the year 850. In the next 50 years, coffee seeds were taken to the Arab world. The Arabians saw a future in coffee trade and guarded the seeds closely, but a few seeds were smuggled to the Dutch. Early in the 17th century, seeds made their way to Indonesia, being planted in Sumatra, Bali and the island of Java.

Java is one of the earliest coffee plantations and still an exporter of coffee today. Calling coffee, “java” is similar to referring to wine by it’s region, such as “I’ll have a glass of Champagne.”

On a related note, check out another coffee related secret: How to Properly Pour a Cup of Coffee.

Written By: Chad Upton

BrokenSecrets.com [Available on Kindle]

Sources: Coffee, Java Coffee, Indonesian Coffee, Coffee Bean, Champagne

January 20, 2010 at 1:47 am 8 comments

How Do You Solve a Rubik’s Cube?

When you bought your Rubik’s cube, it was already solved. If you just left it alone, you wouldn’t have to solve it. I’m just saying.

Of course, we all know it’s impossible to leave it alone. You have to mess it up. At first, you turn a couple rows and then turn them back. Then you turn a few more and a few more again and eventually, you can’t get it back! Now, you have to actually solve the puzzle.

To make a short story long, you’ll try to solve it by working very little over a long period of time.

Rubik’s cube will sit on your shelf for a few days before you try it again. Over the next six months it will get picked up by a few smartypants friends who want a crack at it. After another year, you may pick it up and work on it for a short time, maybe even get one or two sides complete. Again, you’ll put it down for the next rainy day. It will seem like you’ve worked really hard on it, but you haven’t. Still, there comes a time in every cube owner’s life when they decide it needs to be solved, at any cost.

From my experience, there are three approaches to solving a Rubik’s cube.

I learned the first strategy from my brother when we were children. Every time we visited my Grandfather, he’d be working on his cube. On one visit, our small minds were blown when we realized he solved the cube. As I already stated, it’s impossible not to mess up a solved Rubik’s cube, and that’s especially true when it belongs to someone else.

When my grandfather realized we unsolved the Rubik’s cube, he told us that we’d have to re-solve it before we left. He was serious, or at least we thought so at the time. My brother’s solution, which I thought was pretty clever: peel off all the colored stickers and reapply them on matching sides. Although we got all the colors in the right places, it was still a big mess — similar to our paint-by-numbers work.

These days, I’d consider that cheating. But, it’s a good strategy to be aware of, you never know when you’ll be in a hostage situation that is one Rubik’s cube away from freedom.

The second approach comes in true internet style: have your computer solve it for you! Your computer is probably smarter than you anyway, why let that talent go to waste?

There are a number of web-based Rubik’s cube solvers. Basically, you paint the onscreen Rubik’s cube to look like yours and it generates a list of moves required to solve it. Click here for one that I have vetted. It works on the traditional 3 x 3 cube, and also on the newer 2 x 2 and 4 x 4 cubes. This is still cheating. But, it’s much less detectable than relocating the colored stickers.

Finally, the official approach, sanctioned by Rubik himself. This is the cross, corner, middle, top, corner method. It’s a combination of moves that systematically solve the cube. Once you know these moves, you can solve any cube. For the complete tutorial, click here.

The original 3 x 3 cube is a classic. But, they have released many different versions of the Rubik’s cube and similar puzzles. There is even a touch screen Rubik’s cube called the TouchCube. Click on the picture to check it out.

Broken Secrets

Written by: Chad Upton

[Available on Kindle]

January 19, 2010 at 12:26 am 3 comments

Satellite Dishes are Gray Because…

They are primed for painting. That’s right, it’s not just any gray: it’s primer gray. That means your dish can blend in or compliment your house if you paint it.

As for the type of paint, many people report good results with rust-oleum and Krylon Fusion (or similar).

If your dish is not gray then you may want to prime it first.

Tips:

  • do not paint over the LNB (plastic cap at the focal point of the dish – see picture)
  • only use satin/flat paint (not glossy or metallic)
  • do not move the dish while painting it (unless you plan to re-aim it)
  • do not hurt yourself

BrokenSecrets.com

PS – Sorry to my readers in “grey” countries. :)

Sources: Helium, DSS Geeks, Satellite Guys

Photo: angelrravelor a3r (cc)

January 13, 2010 at 12:19 am Leave a comment

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