How To Replace A Car Remote Battery

This is one of those simple problems in Life that should also be just as simple to solve….if only one knows how to open up the remote. If you send it to a Car Remote Vendor, it’ll cost you probably RM15-RM30 (USD3.50 – USD7.00). Here’s how to DIY for merely the cost of a replacement Li Ion battery that costs only RM1.90 (USD 0.45).

This is a typical car remote. Picture shows the remote from a Ford Fiesta.

 

 

 

There is a notch on either side of the remote.

 

 

 

 

Insert a screwdriver tip in the notch and gently pry open the remote.

 

 

 

 

You may need to gently pry/jiggle on both sides (both notches) to get the remote open. When the remote is open, you should be able to see the battery. Great! Use the screwdriver to gently ease the battery out.

Caution! Observe the polarity when you replace the battery.

WordPress and Softaculous Issues

Are you frustrated by these issues with WordPress and Softaculous?

The issues:
1. Plugin and Appearance have disappeared from the dashboard menu of your WordPress installation.
2. This particular WordPress installation is missing from the list of installations in Softaculous.

The problem is complex but the fix is simple; just follow the steps below.

Step 1
Get back the WordPress installation in the Softaculous list using the Import function in Softaculous WordPress dashboard.
Login to your cPanel and then in cPanel click the Softaculous link.

Step 2
In Softaculous, go to WordPress installations. Confirm your particular WordPress installation is not in the list.

Step 3
I assume you know where your paricular WordPress is installed on the server. If you don’t know, use the cPanel File Manager of a FTP client to determine where the WordPress is installed.

Step 4
In the Softaculous WordPress dashboard, click import and select your home directory and folder where your WordPress resides. Click import.

Step 5
Now your WordPress installation appears again in your list of WordPress installations. Select your installation and click clone to clone your WordPress installation to another folder.

Step 6
Go to your WordPress dashboard and you should see Plugin and Appearance have reappeared on the Menu. If not, use the cloned installation to troubleshoot.

Chkdsk /r

One day you will sense that something does not seem to be going right with your notebook.
It could be any one of the following symptoms:

1. A sudden strange sound from your audio.
2. Your mouse becomes very unresponsive and may even freeze.
3. You cannot even shutdown and CTRL-ALT-DEL is not responsive.

All the above could indicate a progressively failing disk drive, starting with a bad sector.

Take urgent steps as follow:

1. Hold down the power switch to force shutdown.
2. Wait a while, then reboot.
3. Hopefully you are able to reboot into a working desktop. Scroll through the apps, go to Windows System, Command Prompt, right-click to Run as Administrator.
4. At the Command Prompt, type chkdsk /r
5. May have to shutdown, for the computer to execute on restart.
6. If the computer at some point, seems to hang or freeze at say 19% or something like that, give it time to complete. It may take a very very long time ( hours or overnight) but it should eventually overcome the bad sector that caused the problem.

Now the notebook will behave well, but quickly go change the hard disk and save the data while you can.

Grand Strategy

Elsewhere someone asked me about corporate strategy. Here is my reply:

Maybe with age, I’ve become more cynical but it’s a fact that “the victor writes the history”. True, “sound” strategies have a better chance of success but history is also littered by lots of failures simply because of bad timing and/or the x-factor called “luck”. For example when Alibaba was launched, if suddenly there’s a world war, the world will never know of its “success”. That’s an extreme, but I’m sure you know of some factual “hard luck” stories of some really deserving guys who failed because of some inexplicable misfortune; not because of any flaw in their strategies.

Having said that, I first heard the “Be first, if not be better, otherwise be different” credo at a conference some 30 years ago maybe, presented by the CEO or Marketing Director of the local soft drinks plant here. At that time it sounded so profound to me that I adopted it as my credo too. It certainly sums up neatly what marketing is all about and may still be a good guide. But look where is the local soft drinks plant today?

What may be today’s strategic trend will be tomorrow’s no-no. For example, “conglomerates” was a hot strategic move in the 50-60’s but was discredited in the 70’s. But conglomerates are still thriving in Malaysia even now. So are the conglomerates in Malaysia considered a good strategic corporate structure?  The answer is “timing”. Good yesterday, bad today… may be good tomorrow. Eg. Companies like Apple outsource their manufacturing to dedicated EMS (electronic manufacturing services) companies. But then one day the EMS finds itself at the mercy of its big customers. So it creates its own brand, engages in marketing its own products too and in time the cycle begins again.

“Timing” and the x-factor “Luck”. If the Force is not with you, no amount of smart strategies can help you. Maybe it’s a Karma thing after all.

Adding a drop-down list to a cell in Excel

Let’s say you have created a spreadsheet template that requires input from different users, eg. a sales pipeline for your sales team. In one cell, the input has to be in a very specific manner, eg. months, spelt correctly. Now if left to the different users, there may be typo errors and moreover it doesn’t make sense to have to type an input that’s restricted to some specific list.The answer is to create a drop-down list in that cell for the user to select. That way the spelling will be consistently accurate and not so tedious to type in manually.

dropdown list 1Step 1:
Create the list in the Excel sheet. In the example, I have created the list of rainbow colours, from A1 to A7, viz. red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet.

 

 

 

Step 2:
Select the cell where you want the drop-down list as the input.
I’ve selected cell C1 in the example.

 

data validation 1Step 3:
With Cell C1 still selected, go to the Data menu above, click Data Validation, and again Data Validation from the drop-down menu.

 
 

Step 4:
In the box that opens up, choose Settings, Validation criteria, List.

 

data validation 2Step 5:
In the Source selection, click and a new box opens up for Data Validation.

 

dropdown list 2Step 6:
Highlight (select) the list from A1 to A7, enter. Close the Data Validation box, and click OK in the Settings box.
That’s it. Now there’s a little arrow in the cell C1 for your drop-down list of rainbow colours.

How to sort data in Excel

One of the most compelling reasons for having a database is the ability to quickly search or sort the data. But not many people are inclined or able to manage (let alone master) a say SQL Database or even a simple database like Microsoft’s Access (part of the Office Suite).

Well, never fear. If you have used Excel long enough and if you have been creating tables and lists of data in the spreadsheet, you would have felt the need to sort the data alphabetically or by value (largest to smallest, or vice versa). And you can do that easily in Excel!

For example, if you have a contact list that you have been updating as you go along, you would have a mess of a list over time with all the names in no particular order. Wouldn’t it be nice if you can sort that by alphabetical order?

Or how about a list of your travel expenditure when you spent a whole week in Europe and now you have lots of souvenirs that you bought as gifts. You want to sort them by value, from the most expensive to the cheapest, so that you know what to give to who.

OK, let’s see how to sort those two lists.

1. Contacts List

Say you want to sort the names by alphabetical order.

unsorted names

 

Highlight the cells whose data you want to sort, from B3:C13 (include the header “Name” and “Phone” but not the No. )

sort_contacts

Go to the Home top menu, Sort & Filter at the top extreme right. Click for drop down menu and select Custom Sort.

custom sort

In the Sort Table that opens up, Sort by Column “Name”, Sort on “Values” and Order “A to Z”.

sort

And here’s the sorted Contacts List by names in alphabetical order.

sorted names

2. Travel Shopping List

Similarly for the travel shopping list:

unsorted items

Highlight the cells for the Items and Prices that are to be sorted:

sort_items

Then go to the Home top menu and click on the Sort&Filter for the drop-down menu, select Custom Sort.

Sort by the Column Price, Value and Order from Largest to Smallest:

sorted prices

Now you know the value from the largest to the smallest, for you to decide the recipients of your gifts.

 

How to center text across multiple columns in Excel

This feature is most useful when you have text in a cell that you use as a label or title for a range. By centering the text across the range, it makes it easier to see that the label or title applies to the entire range.

center text across cells

To center text across multiple columns, do the following:
1. Select a range that consist the text and the cells across which you want to center this text.

2. On the Home tab, in the Alignment group (or Merge & Center), click the dialog box launcher:

3. In the Format Cells dialog box, on the Alignment tab, click the Horizontal list and then select Center Across Selection in it:
4. Click OK.

centered text

How To Protect HDMI Inputs From Being Toasted By Lightning

So you have a super duper Home Theatre system complete with a jiffy HD Projector and a top-of-the-line AV Receiver linked by a 50-foot (15-metre) HDMI cable that snakes overhead in the ceiling. One end is connected to the HDMI input port of your overhead HD Projector while the other end is connected to the HDMI input port of your AV Receiver across the room.

What happens when there is a severe thunderstorm and there is one or more lightning strikes nearby? Does your system go on the blink? If yes, then you share the same bad experience as I have. The close proximity lightning strike has induced a large voltage spike  in your long HDMI cable that completely toasts your HDMI ports. If you’re “lucky” then maybe only either the Projector’s or the AV Receiver’s  HDMI port gets toasted. More likely, both will be zapped.

After that has happened to me 3 times in as many years, I decided to be proactive as I was getting embarrassed submitting my home insurance claim every year. Not to mention the inconvenience of the downtime pending repairs. I installed my solution early this year and having survived 2 severe thunderstorms since the installation, I am confident this is a viable solution. Read on.

hdmi-switchThe solution calls for two HDMI Switches. I searched for a simple 2-to-1 HDMI Switch but the simplest I found is this 3-to-1 HDMI Switch. I wanted a mechanical switch but finally settled for this electronic switch because it has a remote. This makes the switching convenient when the switch is mounted at the Projector, ceiling-high.

projector-hdmi-switchInstall one of the HDMI Switches to the HDMI Ouput of the AV Receiver. In my case, I connected Port 3 of the switch to the AV Receiver’s HDMI Output. The switch’s output port is then connected to the long HDMI cable. The other end of the AV-receiver-hdmi-switchHDMI Cable connects to Port 3 of the second HDMI Switch mounted at the overhead Projector. The output port of this switch connects to Projector’s HDMI Input port. That’s it. When the system is on, I use the remote to switch to Port 3 of both switches. When I have finished viewing, I switch to the un-used Port 1 of both switches, before shutting down the system.

The cost? Only RM80.00 (USD24.00) for each HDMI Switch.  I reckon that in the event of a really bad lightning strike, it’ll be a USD24 fuse. But so far, neither switch has failed.

Does this help you? Share your experiences here.

Rip, Compile and Burn Audio CD

Rip, Compile and Burn Audio CD

At some time, if you are a music buff, you may want to compile your own awesome playlist on an audio CD. And I don’t mean the MP3 compilations as you know MP3 is a lossy format. No sir, you want a compilation of the original lossless tracks, which means you have to rip or download or copy a track in either FLAC or WAV or WMA, which are lossless formats. Now, at this point if you start asking which of the three formats is the best to use, you’d be opening up an endless debate. But if you were to ask which one I use, I’d say all three but for the last-but-one stage I use WAV. Why WAV? And what about the final stage? Read on….

Disclaimer: What follows may not be the best or optimum way to rip, compile and burn an audio CD. However, it documents the methodology that I have finally settled on, after countless coasters made from useless CDs. Hopefully this will spare you the frustrations that I had endured up to now.

The free Tools I use:

1. Ashampoo Burning Studio

2. VLC Media Player

3. aTube Catcher

4. Audacity

5. iTunes

6. Windows Vista Acer Notebook with CD/DVD player/burner

1. To rip an audio track from a music CD, I use Ashampoo Burning Studio and rip it in the lossless WAV format.

2. To get lossless FLAC high quality audio tracks from the Internet, use Bit Torrent to search and download.

3. Use aTube Catcher to record streaming MP3 tracks and convert to WAV (yes, I know…the MP3 tracks are already lossy…but if no choice, then MP3 will do. Convert to WAV just to keep all the files in same format).

A great website to download MP3 songs is http:/grooveshark.com/

4. Two ways to convert FLAC to WAV.
Use VLC Media Player to convert the downloaded FLAC files to WAV.
Media->Convert/Save->Add (the Flac, MPEG4 files)->Convert/Save as Audio-CD (WAV).

5. Or use Audacity to tidy up the files (cut off excessive silence front and back; and also to normalise the track to avoid clipping due to excessive amplitude). Open the FLAC files, edit and Export Audio as WAV.

6. Steps 4 and 5 convert the tracks to WAV as iTunes does not recognise FLAC. Transfer the final WAV tracks to iTunes’ Library as a Playlist.

7. Use iTunes (the icons at the lower left corner) to burn Playlist to CD as Audio CD.

8. Caution:

a. Check capacity of the blank CD and the total tracks size. iTunes does not check this and will give an error (the dreaded 4450 code) at the end!

b. Avoid the “Burn At Maximum Speed Possible”…..again iTunes only gives the error at the end, if your CD brand cannot handle the high speed. After iTunes has made me a bundle of coasters, I wised up and throttled the burn speed down to 8X, which worked for me.

c. If you want the track names to be displayed by your CD Player (if it has this feature), then be sure to check “Include CD Text” before burning.

Footnote:

Why not just use Ashampoo Burning Studio to rip tracks from CDs to WAV or WMA format and burn the compilation as WMA (or WAV)? Unfortunately not all CD player plays WAV/WMA formats. That’s why I use iTunes to burn an Audio CD for full compatibility in all CD players.

If your CD Player supports FLAC, WAV or WMA, and you don’t intend to play your CD anywhere else nor share with anybody else, then just use a Burn Software (eg. Ashampoo Burning Studio, Nero, etc..) to rip the tracks into WAV or WMA format and burn the CD with either one of the formats to cut down the complexity of all the foregoing convoluted steps.