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Fall 2012 Home Improvements

Somehow I’ve had some time to do some home improvements over the past couple of months, mostly the past few weeks.

Pressure Washed and Painted the Fence

With the neighbors help, I got the fence painted! Nothing special, we used the same Cabot Cedar stain as before. The first coat lasted 4 years, though it could have used a coat a year ago. Pressure washing showed a lot of black staining over the years, and I repaired one broken picket, otherwise the fence looked great.

Lamp Post Replaced with Solar LED Post Light

I’ve been thinking about repairing the leaning post and replace the natural gas lamp light with a solar powered one. Last weekend the weather was finally warm enough for me to investigate. After digging around the post about 3-4″ deep, the post fell over. Quick examination I found the post completely rusted through. Fixing the lamp post turned into a replacing the lamp post project. I proceeded to dig out the hole beyond the frost line, about 34 inches deep.

I thought I could find a simple replacement lamp post at Lowes/Home Depot, but guess again, they sell more complicated posts that are way over priced. Since I don’t need a fancy post with an extra electrical socket built-in, I found a simple and affordable post at Menards, though it required a trip across town. When I got back, I just had enough time to pickup 2 bags of concrete, mix and then set the post before nightfall.

While I was disconnecting the gas line to the lamp post I went ahead and removed the line to the gas meter and capped it with a 1/4″ NPT cap.

The following Wednesday the solar powered lamp I ordered arrived. It only took 5 minutes to install. Compare that to the entire day it took to replace the post! We had to wait another day to see if it would charge and light up. Thursday night it came on when the sun fell. As expected, it put out a comparable amount of light to that of a gas lamp. Three hours later  the battery died. Luckily you can add a 2nd battery pack to extend the battery life. I knew the light from an LED solar powered lamp would not be as bright as a electric light bulb, but it is as effective as the gas lamp it replaced. If it could just last a little longer into the night then we’ll be all set. Most important though the yard looks good again!

Solar Powered LED Post Lamp

Front Door Sealed

In October I decided it was time to do something about the draft under the front door. I first replaced the bottom gasket with a one size fits all 4 blade model at Home Depot. I quickly discovered the bottom seal of the door was not designed for the gasket I had purchased. After a few days of the family struggling to open/close the door, I decided to modify the gasket by removing the first 2 blades with a utility knife. It did the trick, but it also allowed a slight draft at the corners of the door. The draft was due to the door sill plate having a slight pitch running outside (rather than flat or to the inside). This pitch is also why the newer gasket was so hard to open/close the door.

This past weekend I decided to fix the entire problem by replacing the bottom sill plate. It was not as easy a task as I thought it would be since the original door sill plate was attached to the door frame, rather than the sill plate attached to the bottom house framing. Once it was removed, it was just a slow process fitting the replacement sill plate in place. I put a small bead of silicone between the sill plate and the house framing to insulate between the two joints. I also had to add about 1/4″ of spacers to the assembly of the sill plate so the top of the sill was tight against a new 4 blade door gasket. It did the job, the door is now easy to open and close and it’s air tight!

Future Home Projects

There are a lot of things we’d like to do with the house, such as finish part of the basement, redo the master bathroom, upgrade the bathroom fixtures throughout the house, and install a wood laminate flooring on the first floor. Perhaps 2013 I’ll have something more exciting to blog about as far as home improvements are concerned.

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News Transportation

Project Trans Am – Month 30, Focus on Interior

I’ve moved the monthly updates on Project Trans Am to my Mods and Rods.tv blog and podcast.

My latest post covering everything I’ve done last August with photos is available here: http://www.modsandrods.tv/2012/11/05/project-trans-am-month-30-interior-and-wiring/

Outline of Accomplishments

  • New Windshield Installed
  • Interior  hard plastics and metal restored (except headliner, seats and carpet)
  • Carpet and headliner material ordered
  • Inner fenders painted
  • Wiring problems assessed and added 4 relays to power windows with my own changes

Window Interior

Plans for November

  • Remove rust from floors, paint, and seal seams
  • Install sound deadener and insulation in passenger compartment
  • Install carpet, dashboard steering column and center console
  • Slowly install remaining interior while working on the motor

Hopefully I can get the interior far enough that all the necessary gauges and wiring is hooked up so I can focus on finishing and installing the new motor.

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News Transportation

Project Trans Am – Up to October 2012

My Trans Am resto-mod project is finally coming together!

October is ending up as the interior and wiring month for the project, something I’m more comfortable working on frankly. The interior parts have been refurbished with fresh coats of interior paint applied. The electrical wiring is being evaluated currently, the plan is to reuse the existing harnesses as much as possible and only repair as necessary. Check out some pics of the freshly restored interior.

Hopefully over the next 2 weekends I will have all the wiring fixed, dash installed and sound deadener/insulation with carpet installed, which will allow me to think about installing the engine this November!

Check out the work I did last month on ModAandRods.tv blog: http://www.modsandrods.tv/2012/10/02/project-trans-am-month-29-brakes-and-ac-delete

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News Transportation

Project Trans Am – Month 28, Rear Axle and Brakes

I’ve moved the monthly updates on Project Trans Am to my Mods and Rods.tv blog and podcast.

My latest post covering everything I’ve done last August with photos is available here: http://www.modsandrods.tv/2012/09/05/project-trans-am-month-28-rear-axle-and-oil-pump/

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News Transportation

Project Trans Am – Month 27 at Mods and Rods.tv

I’ve moved the monthly updates on Project Trans Am to my Mods and Rods.tv blog and podcast.

My latest post covering everything I’ve done last July is available here: http://www.modsandrods.tv/2012/07/30/project-trans-am-month-27-brakes-firewall-and-rear-axle/

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Project Trans Am Transportation

Project Trans Am – Month 26, Bogged down by brakes

This post has moved to www.modsandrods.tv.

Link: http://www.modsandrods.tv/2012/07/05/project-trans-am-month-26-bogged-down-by-brakes/

 

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Activities Project Trans Am Transportation

Project Trans Am – Month 25

This post has moved to www.modsandrods.tv.

Link: http://www.modsandrods.tv/2012/06/06/project-trans-am-month-25/

 

Categories
News Project Trans Am Transportation

Project Trans Am – 24 Months Later

This post has moved to www.modsandrods.tv

Link: http://www.modsandrods.tv/2012/05/01/project-trans-am-24-months-later/

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MySQL PHP Transportation Web Dev

The Web is getting Sloppy, Why is it a Problem and Who’s Fault is it?

Lately I’ve observed a few web sites that have been “re-launched”. Web sites vary from a small time blogger, a popular car forum, a very large automotive vendor and even Google!

First, let me define what I mean by “The web is getting sloppy”. Essentially the Internet is organized by domain names, for example www.google.com. Each domain name or web site is then organized by paths and files. Between the latest additions of domain name combinations (e.g. example.cc) and the past couple years of sloppy organized paths and files on these web sites, the web is becoming a really big mess.

Google.com

So how does this effect you? Well lets start from the top down and discuss Google’s latest sloppy web site changes. The new iGoogle start pages are now available, they have a fresh new look to them to make them easier to use. The problem is, they did not copy or replicate the past behavior. For example, with the old iGoogle pages, you could middle click on the Inbox link for the iGoogle Gmail widget and it would open your Gmail account in a new tab in your web browser. The new iGoogle Gmail widget doesn’t do this. Why is this sloppy you ask? Because when I do middle click, it opens a new window with JavaScript error. Google should know better. they could even add JavaScript logic to capture the middle click and cancel it, the 1 line of code looks like this: event.preventDefault(); Sloppy!

For Google to make such a simple mistake, it really shows that anyone is susceptible to web sloppiness.

YearOne.com

Lets look at a popular automotive parts vendor, YearOne.com. They recently launched a new web site, which is great! Unfortunately, no attempt was taken to route the old paths and pages to the new paths and pages. This means that years of YearOne loyal customers who have been posting links to their favorite products on YearOne.com are now wasted. Bloggers call these links “gold” for a reason, they bring new visitors to your site on a continual basis, usually in situations where traditional means of attracting those visitors is not effective (such as advertising). When the guy down the street recommended a steering wheel 3 years ago on your favorite Chevy forum, you take the recommendation seriously. Well now that YearOne.com failed to correctly redirect the old pages to the new ones, that coveted potential customer traffic is lost.

In the case of YearOne’s problem, this is something that could be solved in 1-2 days with some basic script writing and access to the old and new databases. 2 days of a programmers labor is definitely worth keeping these potential customers coming and buying your products!

Unnamed Car Enthusiast Forum

I absolutely love this site, but it recently violated a number of cardinal rules, such as moving forums to different folder paths on the server and using capital letters in URLs. The forum was moved from www.example.com/smf/ to www.example.com/SOMETHING-ELSE/ and a not so friendly message is now present on the old forum with a link to the new forum. To add insult to injury, the link is just text on a page, it’s not even surrounded with the necessary HTML to make it click-able. The owner of this site missed an opportunity when I offered to help him fix the problem for free. A simple PHP script that automatically redirects traffic from the old forum to the new one would help him keep the old traffic that would come to his site remain, while also keeping the old links on the new forum to going to the right topics on the new forum. The CAPITAL LETTER folder name is no big deal really, but if search engine optimization techniques was ever applied, the folder really should be called “forum”.

Capital letters are frown down upon in web development. When URLs are typed in manually, the possibility of error is increased when someone has to remember to hold down shift. Furthermore, on Linux and Unix based servers, you can have separate folders with the same name since the capital letter folder is recognized as different than a lower case folder.

In this case, I fixed the problem for myself by writing my own GreaseMonkey script which redirects links to the old forum automatically to the new one. My script also removes links that may appear on Google that go to print page versions of the forum to it’s normal readable versions.

Every Day Bloggers

So this is where I will definitely feel bad calling someone out specifically, and luckily the problem is so common I don’t have to anyway. The biggest thing I see is bloggers trying too hard with their sites, injecting every little widget and gadget into their pages till you can’t even tell what was written by the blogger to what is an advertisement. If you take yourself seriously as a blogger, keep your sidebar clean, limit the amount of images you put in your blog posts and don’t over-do your site navigation. And what ever you do, don’t move sites around like checkers. If you don’t have the technical knowledge how to both move a database, reconfigure settings and how to perform 301 permanent redirects, you have no business doing anything with moving sites. Hire someone who knows what they’re doing or leave it as is.

The latest generation of bloggers are unaware of the importance of their blog’s feed URL. What ever you do, treat this as the keys to the castle! If you change this URL in any way, you will have consequences, even if properly redirected it can lead to lost readership and subscribers. Think of your feed as your postal mailbox. You don’t put the mailbox in the back yard and you certainly don’t move it around your front yard either. Once you have a place for your feed, keep it there and never move it!

Who’s fault is it?

I don’t think it’s any one person’s fault. We’re now seeing a new generation of web sites lead by a new generation of web developers who are green, learning the mistakes that my generation had to learn. Unfortunately in an advertising revenue and sales commerce driven web world, even one lost web visitor could mean the difference of gaining or loosing a great customer.

I’ve been developing web sites professionally since June of 2000. If you need a web developer who takes details like these seriously, contact me at www.mandato.com.

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Home News

Early Spring Home Improvements

It’s not quite spring time but the lack of snow got me motivated to fix some of the little things that have been on my honey-to-do list.

Fireplace and HVAC Vents

The HVAC and Fireplace vents were long over due for replacement. They were cracked/damaged when we bought the house, and this winter took them to their end of life. It was one of those chores I kept putting off because I couldn’t find the appropriate vents at Lowes/Home Depot when I’ve visited for other needs. This past week I went to 4 stores including The Andersons, Lowes and Home Depot specifically for these vents and had no luck. Out of desperation I went to Menards and thankfully they had them and for 1/2 the price than the dryer vents at the other stores! All the other stores sell only outlet vents, primarily for dryers. The inlet allows for fresh outside air to be drawn into the house for specific reasons, so having a dryer vent that closes when air is drawn inward is not going to work.

The great thing about the vent pictured is that it’s shallow. This means the lawn mower isn’t going to run into it and crack it like the last vent.

Screen Door Damage

The screen door has seen a lot of battles with the dog and the cat, but this past fall Ty rammed through the screen after some creature in the back yard and the screen door hasn’t been the same since. Last week I saw a repair kit at Home Depot for re-screening the screen door. I thought “I’m rebuilding an engine, this can’t be that nearly as complicated”. Sure enough, replacing the screen in a screen door is pretty easy. I would say though that patience is needed, taking your time will give you a finished product to be proud of. I was told getting a screen door re-screened can cost between $50-100. The kit cost less than $9 and took about 45 minutes to install.

LED Bulb for Front Porch

The porch light is one of those light fixtures I seem to visit way more often that I care to. Two weeks ago I picked up a Home Depot house brand (40 Watt equivelant) 7 watt LED bulb for the front porch. Even though the box says “For indoor use only”, I figured for $10, I’ll give it a try on the porch. It works great, though the light is more directional than a typical bulb, it serves the purpose of lighting up the porch perfectly. I now know why these bulbs are for indoor use only, freezing temperatures. From what I’ve observed, when the weather is below freezing, the light does not come on. As long as the light bulb lasts a few years, I’ll live without porch light on cold winter nights.