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......