Tag Archives: hack

Air Conditioner Hack

Here’s a non-computer design related entry. My friend Wayne inspired me to fix my air conditioner drain issue. Mine’s been leaking condensation into the overflow pan all summer. The overflow pan is doing its job, carrying the water away outside the house through a PVC line out to the eave. But rust is building in the pan, and the fact that water was dripping out meant it was flowing somewhere that it wasn’t designed to, and that is never a good thing.

The end result, an easier to maintain drainWhy was it leaking where it shouldn’t thus dripping into the overflow pan? Because the main line (a closed line from the air handler to the sewer line) must have been blocked. Given the system is over 35 years old, there’s no telling what gunk had built up in there over that time. But because the line goes right into the air handler without any connectors, I couldn’t find a non-destructive access to flush or snake the pipe. A bad design (a closed system) kept me from maintaining favorable conditions for maximum throughput.

Armed with various elbows, t’s, and connectors to fit my 3/4″ pipes, PVC primer and cement, a Dremel (I’m always looking for something to Dremel), and a brand new and wonderfully designed shop vac , I headed up into the attic.

The project took much longer than it should have for several bone-headed reasons I won’t go into now. But by the end, I had cut open the line and used the shop vac (and a few drain-cleaning chemicals) to get water flowing easily through the line again. When I put it all back together, I replaced the first elbow joint with a T and a cap so that every few months I can easily pour some bleach down the pipe to keep it clean.

The AC ran intermittently through the night (it might just be psychosomatic, but it felt like it ran cooler). In the morning, the overflow pan was completely dry. There’s still lots of rust in there, but cleaning that is a project for another day. Checking the pan again this evening, a full day of operation after the clean-out, it is still dry. I can assume that water is flowing out in the route it was originally designed, and holding up well during the year’s most active use.

So, why didn’t they install the pipe with an easy way to maintain it in the first place? Could have been time or cost constraints. Or, it could simply be that design often takes several iterations before an ideal solution is produced.


Posted by on July 24, 2006 in fribble



processing the desktop like your inbox

Keith Robinson had a great post today on spring-cleaning for your desktop. Here’s a tip that I have used to keep the new MacBook Pro’s desktop clutter free.

In addition to standard aliases (shortcuts, for my Windows friends) to important drives/directories I have a “downloads” folder on my desktop. Everything I save from the web or email goes in here. It’s easy enough to get to, being on the desktop, and keeps the clutter out of sight. Typically I then manipulate the file as needed, filing it appropriately or deleting it when I am done. If I get distracted or I’m not ready to use the file, it stays in the download folder.

Each morning I make it a point to “process” the downloads folder just like I do with my inbox. I look at each item and either use it (if it will take less than 2 minutes), file it where it belongs, or delete it if it isn’t needed anymore. If I’m still not ready to use it, it stays in the folder. At least I know it will be reviewed again the next day.

My old machines had very messy desktops, and I could never find those one-off files when I needed them. While I have only been using this new system for six weeks or so, it’s been very effective so far.

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Posted by on May 15, 2006 in fribble



Grab a nice clean logo for PowerPoint

Being one of the guys that “does graphicsâ€? at Navigator, I’m often asked to help find or fix client logos for our PowerPoint or Word documents. Most folks find a logo on the client’s website, copy it to the clipboard, and then paste it on a PowerPoint page. Often the logo is smaller than they would like. When they drag the corner to make it larger, it gets jagged looking, blurry, or both.

The vast majority of the graphics found on the web are GIF or JPG files. Both of these file formats are “rasterâ€? images, meaning they interpret pictures as a grid of pixels. GIF and JPG files store this information in different ways (see the Wikipedia Graphics file format summary for specifics) but they are still presenting the final pictures the same way, as a grid of different colored pixels.

Raster images usually scale downwards ok, because PowerPoint and Word do a decent job at removing information to provide less detail. But they don’t do as nice a job scaling images up because it’s difficult to tell how to interpolate the images as they get bigger.

In order to get a graphic to look good at the custom size we would like, we need to start with the largest, cleanest image possible. The easiest way is to find a vector-based version of the client logo instead of the bitmap logos presented on webpages.

Here’s a simple way to try:

Search for a PDF that uses the vector logo. Most companies do not post vector versions of their logos online for people to download and use. They do, however, use vector logos in the PDFs that they publish. You can use Google to search only within one specific website by entering the search terms you’re looking for, followed by the word “site” and a colon followed by the domain name. So to find all the PDFs on Lego’s site, you could use PDF

Open each PDF you see listed until you find a nice, clean vector logo. You can tell the difference when you zoom in (use the icon that looks like a magnifying glass). A bitmap logo will look pixilated and boxy, like this:

This won’t work well for a clean display and print from PowerPoint. If the only logos you can find in the PDF look like this when you zoom in, close that file and try another.

We’re looking for a vector version that will look clean no matter how much you zoom in. The next PDF in the list has one. Compared to the same size as the one above, this one looks very clean, like this:

No matter how much we zoom in, the edges still look clear and there are no signs of over-grown pixels.

Now that we’ve found a vector version of the logo, lets zoom out to the largest possible size that the screen will allow to fit the entire logo. Then use the Snapshot tool (the one that looks like a camera) to select the logo.

When you let go of the mouse button, Acrobat will inform you that “The selected area has been copied to the clipboard.â€? Now you can simply switch over to PowerPoint or Word and paste the logo onto your document. It’s likely that the logo will paste in larger than you like so simply resize it down to the size you need. Because it was captured at a large size in a very clean format, it will scale down nicely with clean lines in both PowerPoint and Word.

That’s it. Using this technique will provide the highest possible quality logos when the orignal vector source is not available.

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Posted by on January 20, 2006 in fribble


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