creativity, Tech, Work

The Universal Instruction Manual

DIY

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

I still have a copy of a book that was once the bible for anyone who built or fixed PCs, it weighed about a kilogram and was roughly two inches thick, could break your toe if you dropped it on your foot and doubled as a doorstop when a new edition replaced it. It was one of many such books, many of which are still updated and published today, which were the go-to place for guidance when the machine or network you were fixing wasn’t cooperating. I have similar books for DIY and cookery as many people do. I also used to maintain lists and folders of useful settings and tips that I’ve either found or worked out but I find that I’m referring to these less as the smartphone is taking over.

I recently set up my new laptop and there are a couple of things I like to tweak on any new Windows setup but as it’s been a while since I last did it I couldn’t remember where the settings were – especially as one, the setting for turning the Caps Lock key off with the Shift key as on an old manual typewriter, seems to keep moving to different dialogs. Not a problem, I just picked up the phone and searched for it and the answer was provided via Google. Other search engines are available, of course.

The internet is an amazing resource for learning in this way, I developed an Access-based database ten years ago by doing the same thing, searching for how other people have achieved the action I wanted, whatever your struggling with someone will have a suggestion or a whole tutorial. At work I’ve found instructions on changing the side indicator lens on one of the vans and at home how to reset the service indicator on my old car. Naturally there are instructions for exercise, positive thinking, painting, brewing, relaxing, productivity, using tools and how to do home repairs – as we noticed from the number of people during the first Covid lockdown attempting their own glazing. The other advantage of the internet is that you not only have words and pictures but video too.

As well as the amount of crowdsourced instructions manufacturers also have their product manuals online too, which is useful if, like me, you can never find the manual for something you’ve not used for ten years – like my car battery charger I needed during the first lockdown which is an old piece of equipment yet the manual was there on the manufacturer’s website, which saved me half an hour of looking through a large box of instruction sheets.

I have another book that is called “How to do just about everything” – well, the internet on a smartphone is like having a million page illustrated book in your pocket called “Now we really mean how to do everything”.

Of course not everything in life should be attempted without professional training – gas repair and dentistry come to mind – also not all the advice and instructions are entirely accurate or advisable and as the saying goes “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing”, but as with going to the pub it’s all about knowing your limits.

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Business, DIY, Home, Marketing, Society

Slow News Days

Press

Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

I haven’t got much to say today so I’ll quickly mention newspapers that seem to be similarly afflicted.

Linda Smith once said on a B-series episode of QI “My favourite ever headline was “Worksop Man Dies Of Natural Causes.”

The internet era equivalent of the Worksop man are the people from across the country who have done some DIY on a budget. The Google News feed on my phone provides me with, at least once a week, a story from a local newspaper site wherein someone has given their kitchen, bathroom or garden a spruce up for less than it should surely cost by doing something novel and amazing – buying things from a cheaper shop. Gasp.

They’re generally along these lines: “Savvy shopper Tracy transformed her home using items from [insert bargain store name here]“, and the article tells us “she got a new look kitchen for just £200.” Sometimes you’ll “never believe how she did it.”

Why is this news? Why is it unbelievable? Why haven’t I got an article written about me? Just last night I had fish, chips and mushy peas for less than the chip shop cost by buying items from Asda and B&M Bargains. Chips shop quality mushy peas too. And I’ve given my living room a makeover using stuff from B&M and Ebay no less.

When there’s a two-hundred foot UFO hovering over the town hall, that’ll be news.

[Glances out the window, just in case.]

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Tech, Uncategorized

The Sum of The Parts

Old Radio

Old Radio

I’ve replaced the overly energy efficient CD player I wrote about in January with a superior Sony system I bought on Ebay and not only is it much better sounding (and less prone to nodding-off mid song) it was a bargain thanks to a little pick and mix purchasing and DIY.

The system is from 2010 so is ancient in tech terms but it’s a good-looking, well built piece of kit, a similar one in a local second-hand store would have cost me £80 as opposed to the £250 new price.  I found one on Ebay for £11.95 plus a bit of carriage.  This one though had no speakers – no problem, searches on Ebay found many sets but I thought that with some patience I could do better and sure enough the same local store as before provided me with some lovely Sony speakers for £10.  The only problem was incompatible, proprietory connectors on the main stereo unit, but this was easily solved with a couple of crimp terminals on the speaker wires fashioned into a plug that would fit the sockets.  Works a treat.  Plug in my previously underused bluetooth reciever and I now have a thoroughly modern music player that can access the thousands of tracks on my phone, my tablet, CDs and even digital radio.

All for less than £40.  Having the latest shiny technology is all well and good but it’s still satisfying to repurpose or hack-together discarded bits to make something usable again.

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Tech, Transport

Bike and Hammer in Imperfect Harmony

Screw_Low

Screw_Low (Photo credit: Curious_Gregor)

The recently released new Apple Macbook caused a minor stir recently when iFixit took one apart and found that it was so tightly integrated that nothing could be easily repaired by an enthusiastic techie, the memory was soldered to the board, the SSD storage was custom and even the battery was glued in so if any of these failed it would be an expensive repair and in addition upgrading was out of the question.  All of this was in the name of making the laptop thinner and shinier.

The same is true of cars where less and less can be fixed or tinkered with on the nations driveways and garages start to look more like F1 pitlanes.  More and more of our world relies on modular electronics in smaller and smaller packages, sealed (often due to the complexity of their components) and the only option on failure is to replace the whole thing, repairing no longer involves a soldering iron and screwdriver but a laptop and a plug and play black box.

So it gave me some satisfaction to actually be able to get my hands dirty and fix something for a change tonight.  My bike’s rear deraileur has been playing up recently, refusing to change into higher gears.  This may have been its attempt to improve my health (pedalling faster burns more fat, apparently) or it may have been trying to make me look silly or kill me, whatever it was I needed to get it sorted – engineering’s in the family and this bit of engineering was not gonna get the better of me.

The cable was slack but not broken, but when I pushed the mechanism into the higher gears the chain became slack.  A short period of pushing the arms up and down to identify the cause of the slackness revealed an adjustment screw pointing into thin air and adjusting nothing.  A brief period of what we used to call “passive maintenance” with a hammer to realign the bracket and a new machine screw later all was tensioned again and I’m again calling the shots as to which gear I want to use.

I have a toolbox and I’m not afraid to use it.

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