Monday, March 28, 2011

Perth's Pointers #1: Do you have more USB stuff than you have USB ports?'s what to do

I ran into this problem yesterday.....on my PS3, I have 3 USB devices I wanted to plug into it, and have only the 2 USB ports that the PS3 is equipped with. But it's not the first time I've had this problem. I've also run into it on my PC, several of them in fact. A lot of the older ones only came with 2 USB ports, and inevitably, at one point or another, I'd have 3 or 4 different things that I'd want to plug into them at the same time. And that's to say nothing of the conundrum one faces when they have a laptop, especially if it too is one that is a few years old. I even had one from around '98 that did have 2 USB ports, but they were stacked on top of one another, making it difficult to plug in 2 devices at the same time.

So what DO you do when you have more stuff to plug in than you have plugins to plug into? You do what I did today, and buy a USB hub. A USB hub will add additional USB ports to whatever machine you plug it into, and only use up ONE port by itself. Most USB hubs have at least 4 ports on them, so on a system or machine that has only 2 built into it, using a USB hub will instantly make that machine have 5 available ports. Here is a picture of a typical USB hub.

*photo courtesy of*

As you can see, there is a cord to connect the hub to the PC or laptop or game system, and then 4 USB ports to connect your various devices. Many of these hubs are under $20 dollars, and are available at electronics and computer stores, as well as online. There are many types of hubs available, some with up to 7 ports, and there are powered and unpowered varieties. Most will also be a simple "plug and play", meaning all you do is plug them in, and they will be functional, without any software to download or setup required.

A few things to be aware of when you go shopping for a hub are: 

Buy the right hub for your needs. Some are designed to be used with desktops, and are big and bulky, and some are meant to be used with laptops, and are small, compact, and even fold for easy storage. While they may both function on laptops and desktops alike, it's obvious that a smaller, compact design is ideal for portability, while the larger, more bulky one may be better suited for applications where it will stay in one spot.  

Make sure that the hub you buy will provide adequate clearance between the ports to allow you to plug in all the devices you will be using. Not all devices have adequate clearance to allow for other devices to be plugged into the other available ports. An example of this would be a USB flash drive that has a wide casing, leaving the ports to the left and right of it virtually useless when it is plugged in, if the ports themselves are too close together.  

Also be sure that the devices you will be plugging into the hub will not exceed the power capabilities of the onboard port on the PC or laptop. There IS a limit, so consult your system's manual or website to find out how much power is available. In most cases, this is not too much of a problem, especially if the devices you are using are things like a keyboard or a mouse, or even a small set of USB powered speakers, but be sure before plugging them in, or you could cause permanent damage to your system. The typical onboard USB port is capable of 5 volts at about 1/2 an amp, but remember, when you plug in a hub, that 1/2 of an amp must be split between all the ports, unless the hub is a powered hub. A powered hub, which has an external power supply of its own, can usually provide each port with the full 1/2 an amp of power. This is especially important to be aware of if the devices you are plugging in have batteries that are charged from the USB port, such as a cell phone, or mp3 player, or digital camera, so be sure to consult the documentation that comes with the hub, to be sure it can provide adequate power. Also keep in mind that some devices will require the full 1/2 amp of power, and will not function when attached to an unpowered hub, so again, a powered hub will be the solution of choice. 

There are many different devices that have onboard USB ports, and not all of them are capable of supporting the use of a hub, so be sure to get all the information you can about YOUR system before you buy one. In many cases, if the machine does not support the use of a hub, it will say so in the documentation. Typically the reason for this is the lack of available power, or in some cases, the software or hardware is not designed to recognize more than one USB port on that particular machine. In that case, using even a powered hub is not possible.

Many of today's cars have onboard USB ports, to power GPS navigation systems and other travel related paraphernalia. While these ports operate a lot like the ones on your home computer, they are directly wired into your vehicle's electrical system, and therefore may not be equipped to handle multiple devices being plugged into them at one time with the use of a USB hub. Consult your car's owner's manual before attempting to use one, because if it warns against it, and one is used, it could cause some very erratic and seemingly unrelated "bugs" to crop up in other systems in the vehicle itself due to the overload. Also be aware that some devices, when plugged into the car's ports, may cause some "interference" in the electrical system, causing at the least a "shutdown" of the USB port, and at worst, damage to the onboard computer system. Granted, these are rare occurrences, but too many unneeded service calls have been made due to an incompatible device being plugged into a vehicle's electrical system.

All in all the use of a USB hub is a safe and effective way of adding more connections where you need them most, and they provide years of trouble free service. As with any accessory or add-on, it's best to know what function a USB hub will serve, as well as any potential problems that may occur while using it, before you buy one. So do your research, find out what you need, and what will fill that need, and buy with confidence. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Supermoon? Looked like the "regular" moon to me....

There was a lot of hype about the "Supermoon" that happened a few days ago, but I have issues with it.

Now this is just my own opinion, based solely on what I understand about orbital mechanics, and what I learned about the moon itself back in 3rd grade science class, but what was so "super" about last Saturday's moon?

The moon has a nearly circular orbit, which means that yes, there ARE times when it IS closer to the earth, and also times when it is further away, but the way I understand it, the difference in those two points is not enough for the moon to appear "bigger" or "smaller" when viewed by the naked eye, from the earth.

It's out there at a distance of over 200 thousand miles, and actually, looks about the same size in the sky as does the Sun. That's because while the Sun is 400 times bigger than the moon, the Sun is 400 times further away, some 93 MILLION miles. Interesting little tidbit of info there, wouldn't you say?

But, back to the Supermoon. I found a site through "Stumble", that describes the Supermoon in detail, and has a few pics taken from Flickr, and the interesting thing about those pictures is this. All but one was taken when the moon had just risen, and was close to the horizon. The problem with that is, ANY time you look at the moon or the Sun when they are close to the horizon, the atmosphere creates an optical illusion where the object being viewed appears to be much larger than it actually is. Taking a picture of the moon on Saturday night when it was close to the horizon doesn't prove to me that it was in any way a "Super" moon. I was out there that night, later, when the moon was much higher in the sky, and it looked no different than any other full moon I've seen, and I didn't expect it to. I'd love to see a couple of pictures of the moon on a "regular" night, and then from Saturday, side by side, taken from the exact same point, so I could really see that it WAS in fact bigger in the sky, but I bet there would be little difference to be seen.

Anyway, here's the link to the site, if for nothing else, they are some beautiful pictures, regardless if the moon is "Super" or not.

'Supermoon' phenomenon: The Largest Full Moon in 18 years

Sunday, March 6, 2011

I haz a skill set...

I was talking with a friend just now about my writing, and the subject of skill sets was brought up. While I like to write about my life and my thoughts, I've not written much about the things I know best, which, as she put it, is computers, and "dissecting" stuff. Stuff, like anything that has moving parts, and even some things that don't. If you have a blog, it seems to make sense to write about what you know, and so far, most of what I write about has had nothing to do with what I know best. So here's a little taste of the database of knowledge that is floating around in my head every day.

Did you know that you can hear if your car's alternator is working or not? Not by hooking it up to a machine, no, just with the "naked" ear. They make a sound when they are working, and are silent when they are not. Granted, many are very quiet even when they ARE working, but under a load (such as having the headlights, wipers, and other accessories in operation) they ALL make an audible sound. With a little training as to what to listen for, you can tell when it's operating normally, and when something might be amiss. It's a high pitched whining sound, audible even over the noise of the engine. Some are louder than others, but for the most part, if you listen closely enough, if it's making that whining noise, it's most likely working. Check it out on your own car, listen for the sound, and compare it to other cars like yours, and soon you'll have an ear for it. Then listen to other types of cars, trucks, and SUVs, and you'll soon be able to tell right off the bat whether or not they have a functional alternator. Try it sometime, I promise you can do it. My personal favorite is on Chevy 1500 pickups from the mid 90's, theirs is so loud you can't miss it. Trust me, when you hear it, and recognize it as the alternator, it will then be easy to hear it on other vehicles too, and when it's absent it will be VERY obvious.

How about your computer? Do you think they are high tech gadgets that are impossible to understand, let alone repair or diagnose on your own? Think again. They are actually very simple, once you understand a few basic concepts of their design. Does yours run slowly? Of course it does, everyone's does after it has been in operation for some time. Why? It's due to the way they work, in short, they get "gummed up", with all the files and programs that inevitably get installed and accessed on a daily basis. When it gets REALLY slow, then most of the time it's not a virus, or malware, it's just that the files and programs have gotten so jumbled and working on top of each other that it puts a large strain on the system to keep up with it all at the same time. The solution? Uninstall any unnecessary or no longer used programs, do a hard drive defragmentation to organize them better, and at least once a year, do a complete wipe and reload of the operating system. The reason for this is that even with uninstalling unused programs and files, some parts of them are still left on the hard drive, and cannot be easily removed (it's a matter of finding where every part of each file or program is stored, and deleting them, which even professionals can't do). Be sure to save your personal files often too, somewhere OTHER than the computer's hard drive, such as on a cd or dvd, or a flash drive, or an external hard drive. This prevents losing your data should your hard drive crash, and gives you a second or even a third copy you can take with you when you are not at home.

Here's a few tips on a few machines everyone is familiar with, washers and dryers. They are incredibly simple pieces of engineering, and when something goes wrong, more often than not the solution is just as simple. Everyone at one time or another has had a washer that wouldn't spin, and a dryer that didn't get hot. Most of the time, when a washer doesn't spin, there are two main causes. First and foremost is the switch that tells the washer that the lid is closed. Now I'm talking about the top load kind of washer here, not the front loading high efficiency types, although they have a similar design. But if your washer will fill up, and even agitate, but won't spin, check and make sure there is nothing blocking the switch from being pressed, and that the piece of plastic that sticks down from the lid that actuates the switch is not broken or bent. Some have a spring loaded switch, but the same diagnosis applies, check and see that it is free of debris and can move in it's full travel. The only other problem (at least that I've seen in my experience) is usually something wrong with the timer device, which is something that is in most cases so expensive to replace that it is usually better just to replace the washer.

As far as dryers go, the number one issue with them not drying clothes is LINT. Always make sure to clean the lint filter after every load, and check the area the filter is installed for excess amounts of lint buildup, as this restricts the air flow. Periodically check the outlet hose and the vent outdoors to ensure there is not a buildup of lint, as not only will this cause your clothes to take longer to dry, it can also cause a fire. Because of the many small fibers lumped together as it is the nature of lint, it catches fire easily, and actually makes very good kindling, so you may even want to save it. If you are an avid camper, or if you have an emergency "end of the world" kit, when you need to make a fire, good kindling is often in short supply. But I digress. If the lint filter is clean, and your hoses are clear, then the thermostat inside the dryer can also cause the element to not come on, and of course the element itself can also burn out (Think toaster element, only bigger, and you know what your dryer element looks like). Both of these are usually fairly simple to test and replace, and with the amount of information available on the internet, you can find many dryers' service manuals, parts, and fix them yourself. Most washers and dryers can be taken apart by removing only a few screws, it's really easy, and saves potentially hundreds of dollars as opposed to having a professional come and do it. One other thing I should mention too, on your dryer, is to check the routing of the exhaust hose, too many bends and the air cannot move through it efficiently enough to dry the clothes, the straighter you can make it, the better.

So there you have it folks, just a tidbit of knowledge from my skill set. Stay tuned for more......

Working, cooking, new goals?

The last time I posted I was just learning of my potential job change.

Well I'm happy to report that it did in fact happen, I am now officially a stocker. It still seems a little weird to be going in to work to do that instead of maintenance, but that "weirdness" is wearing off in a hurry, as the pressures to work the freight and get things done keeps me pretty busy. I like working frozen/dairy, it's completely different freight every night, and I like how the shift seems to go by in half the time it felt like it did working maintenance.

I was given my yearly evaluation at work last night, and got a 40 cent raise that will be effective starting the payday after my anniversary date, which is the 8th of April. So, altogether, by then, I will have had my pay raised a total of 60 cents, adding in the 20 cents for the job change to frozen/dairy stocker. It's sure been nice to get 2 raises in less than a month lol.

On other fronts though, as my life at work gets better, things have gotten worse. My ex has gotten mad again, because I told her I was not going to come and move in with her when she moves, so she decided to threaten me again, this time with actually filing for divorce and coming after me for child support. In her words, "so your check will go to me". Right. Like THAT'S going to happen. Not in THIS state missy, they have RULES here, and they are not dictated by YOU.

The other thing that is really getting my goat is that where I am staying right now, with my friend  (and his girlfriend, and now her mom has moved in), I can't cook. Anything. I'm basically not allowed. His girlfriend is a Nazi about "her" kitchen, and she doesn't want anyone to do anything in there, not a thing, only SHE is allowed to move anything, only SHE is allowed to cook anything, or she throws a tantrum. Her mom found this out just the other day when she decided to boil some water to cook something, and her daughter raised holy hell about her having the eye of the stove on, and cooking when she wanted to put her groceries down that she had brought home from the store. Now I get that it is her house, her name is on the mortgage, but really? No one else can cook anything but her? Does she not care that other people might have to eat?

I've been living with this for a year now. Eating only prepackaged dry food, or whatever small cold stuff I can fit on the one shelf in the fridge she will let me use. Yeah, she's anal about that too, nothing but her stuff can be where she wants it in the fridge, oh and don't move anything. Seriously, I don't think I have ever met an adult that is more selfish than this girl. I am not one to normally complain, I am a very easygoing and compromising person, hence my 18 year relationship with my ex. But this is ridiculous. If you let someone come and stay with you, AND they are paying you rent, then they should have the ability to cook just as much as you do. End of story. But that's not her. And talking to her about it does no good. She insists that she wants it to be HER way, it's HER house, so there is no negotiation. Seems I've gone from one dictator to another. And I'm ready to break away. I want out of here, I want my own place.

Sometime soon things are going to change in a big way, already I feel it happening. I'm getting tired of the same old routine of my life, I don't DO anything, I have nothing to write about here that's different, you guys must be getting sick and tired of hearing about the same subjects all the time. I read others' blogs, and they post recipes, book reviews, tips and tricks, all kinds of things, and I don't do anything but talk about me me me. My thoughts, my ex, my job, it's ridiculous. How much can you read about the same old thing before you get bored and stop? Not long, at least in my opinion. I need to do more with my life, learn something new, try something new, and then write about it, and see where it goes. I'm restless, have been for a few weeks now, and I'm sure it's because I want a new challenge, a new goal. So watch for me to find one, or two, or ten, the sky's the limit.