Author Archive

Replacing starter motor in 1996 Toyota Corolla

October 14, 2012 Leave a comment

The starter in our 1996 Toyota Corolla went bad and here’s the process for how we replaced it. Symptoms of a bad starter are:

  • Car doesn’t start when key in Crank position (may be intermittent)
    • Doesn’t turn over engine
    • Doesn’t dim headlights
  • Hear clicking sound from relay

If you’re interested in how and why these starters fail, this video does a good job showing the internal parts of the starter and the way the brush contacts fail:

Locating the starter

The starter motor is easier to find from beneath the vehicle. Lift the vehicle and use 2 jack stands to get access to what you need.

  • Remember to set the parking brake and use wheel chocks.
  • Disconnect the negative terminal of the battery before beginning work.

The pictures below of the original and replaced starter motors may be helpful for reference. 

   New Starter
Original starter New Starter

From the top of the engine bay, the air cleaner housing needs to be removed to locate the starter and access the top bolt to replace it.

Mechanical Connections

There are two bolts needed to remove the starter. They are:

Lower bolt (view from beneath vehicle, socket wrench on bolt)

Lower bolt (view from beneath vehicle, socket wrench on bolt)

Upper bolt (view from driver's side engine bay, wrench on bolt)

Upper bolt (view from driver’s side engine bay, wrench on bolt)

Electrical Connections

There are two electrical connections, a positive and a negative terminal. The negative connection is a single contact connector with a clip to secure it. The positive terminal is a bolt, nut, and lock washer.

Electrical Connections

Electrical Connections

We removed the old starter and inserted the new one through the passenger side wheel well since the plastic skirting is flexible enough.

Categories: Uncategorized

Xbox 360 HDDHackr for WD Scorpio Black Series BEKT

August 15, 2012 Leave a comment

I have a hard drive form an old laptop that’s compatible with the XBox 360, so I thought I’d try out the HDDHackr firmware flashing program so the XBox 360 Slim would recognize my drive. Things didn’t go exactly as expected, so I thought I’d share my experience.

User InsaneNutter from the Digiex forums wrote a fantastic tutorial including screenshots and detailed instructions:

I followed these instructions, but needed a few more steps at the end because the drive appeared to be full and I wasn’t able to play games from the original Xbox (Forza Motorsport). A couple possible reasons for the differences from the tutorial are:

  • My hard drive was not empty – it had an old installation of Windows.
  • My hard drive model is a WD Scorpio Black Series BEKT (WD2500BEKT-75PVMT0)

The first sign of trouble I saw was the end of the partitioning process with HDDHackr. The program outputs:

Sectors 16-22 rewritten successfully!
Preparing [……………………………] 100 %
Partition 0/2/3 created successfully!

At this point, the program should exist. However, it hangs and won’t respond to any commands. The process did complete successfully, though, with the exception of needing to erase corrupted data on the partitions.

Copying XBox 360 Games to the Hard Drive

XBox 360 games can be copied to an internal hard drive for performance improvements, and this is one reason to install a hard drive in an XBox 360 Slim. To get this working, all I had to do was to format the drive under ‘Storage Devices’ in the system settings by pressing ‘y: Device Options.’

Running Original XBox Games

Some original XBox games can be played on the XBox 360 Slim only if an official Microsoft hard drive is installed (or a compatible hard drive is properly flashed and configured). Wikipedia has a good list of compatible games and limitations:

The official Microsoft page is here:

Microsoft’s instructions for manually downloading game compatibility updates had no effect and no errors. Their instructions seem to be out of date and incorrect:

Even with my hard drive installed and properly recognized to install XBox 360 games, I still got this error when trying to play an original XBox game:

Error when attempting to play original XBox games with hard drive flashed with HDDHackr

I was able to fix this problem using Xplorer360. These instructions from user Hoffman on the Digiex forums were very helpful:

Using these instructions, I found that Partition 2 was filled with corrupted data so the XBox 360 couldn’t download game compatibility updates from XBox Live.

Files saved on Partition 2 – this is the backup .bin saved from my hard drive

Categories: Uncategorized

Sima SPV-1 Capacitor Replacement

October 31, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ve used a Sima SPV-1 140 Watt Power Inverter in my car for years and only recently had a failure when plugging it in to my car’s 12V outlet. The purpose of this post is to show that it’s easy (and cheap) to fix. I picked out a capacitor with the same ratings, 1000μF, 16V (a little taller, but it fits the package and costs $0.67/ea) and soldered the replacement part in place of the original Nicon capacitor.

10 screws, including two hidden beneath the product label, hold the case together.

Safety valve ruptured on capacitor

Replacement capacitor, Panasonic EEU-FM1C102

Desoldered capacitor location: Note marked positive and negative markings on circuit board silkscreen

Soldering replacement capacitor

Capacitor has been replaced


Categories: Electronics

Identify Busy Wi-Fi Channels in Windows 7

June 15, 2010 1 comment

When several wireless networks and other wireless devices operate at the same frequency, there can be a significant amount of noise and crosstalk that result in lost packets and network disconnections. To identify channels with larger numbers of networks and higher signal strengths, there are several programs available to display this information in a graphical interface such as:

  1. Vistumbler
  2. WirelessNetView
  3. inSSIDer

It is also noteworthy that the wireless channel bandwidths overlap, since channels are 5 MHz apart and the bandwidth of each channel is 22 MHz. To avoid overlap, channels 1, 6, and 11 are used most often.

802.11 b/g Wi-Fi Channel Bandwidth Overlap

Often times it is desirable to perform this task quickly without installing new software. The wireless channel and signal strength of nearby wireless networks can be displayed in Windows 7 or Vista by entering the following command in the command line:

netsh wlan show networks mode=bssid

This results in the following command line output:

Interface Name : Wireless WUSB600N
There are 5 networks currently visible.

SSID 1 : 2mix
Network type            : Infrastructure
Authentication          : WPA-Personal
Encryption              : CCMP
BSSID 1                 : 00:22:6b:73:aa:5a
Signal             : 100%
Radio Type         : 802.11g
Channel            : 1
Basic Rates (Mbps) : 1 2 5.5 11
Other Rates (Mbps) : 6 9 12 18 24 36 48 54

SSID 2 : BELL078
  Network type            : Infrastructure
  Authentication          : Open
  Encryption              : WEP
  BSSID 1                 : 00:26:50:34:1e:51
       Signal             : 36%
       Radio Type         : 802.11g
       Channel            : 1
       Basic Rates (Mbps) : 1 2 5.5 11
       Other Rates (Mbps) : 6 9 12 18 24 36 48 54

SSID 3 : linksys
    Network type            : Infrastructure
    Authentication          : Open
    Encryption              : None
    BSSID 1                 : 00:18:f8:ef:93:af
Signal             : 32%
Radio Type         : 802.11g
Channel            : 6
Basic Rates (Mbps) : 1 2 5.5 11
Other Rates (Mbps) : 6 9 12 18 24 36 48 54

SSID 4 : Killa
    Network type            : Infrastructure
    Authentication          : WPA2-Personal
    Encryption              : CCMP
    BSSID 1                 : 00:1c:df:39:81:f6
Signal             : 16%
Radio Type         : 802.11g
Channel            : 11
Basic Rates (Mbps) : 1 2 5.5 11
Other Rates (Mbps) : 6 9 12 18 24 36 48 54

SSID 5 : 5mix
    Network type            : Infrastructure
    Authentication          : WPA2-Personal
    Encryption              : CCMP
    BSSID 1                 : 00:22:6b:73:aa:5b
Signal             : 100%
Radio Type         : 802.11a
Channel            : 149
Basic Rates (Mbps) : 6 12 24
Other Rates (Mbps) : 9 18 36 48 54

Open Source Router Firmware

If you are able to use open source firmware on your router, it is also helpful to use the Tomato firmware to perform a wireles survey. The device web page gives a detailed report like the one below:

Tomato Wireless Survey

Tomato Wireless Survey


Categories: Electronics, PC Software

StarCraft colors in Windows 7 and Vista

April 11, 2010 1 comment

Thanks to Warlord_7 on the forums, I’ve managed to fix the issue with the StarCraft and Brood War menus being discolored in Windows 7 and Windows Vista. The best way to fix the bug is to make the following change in the Windows registry:


is changed to


StarCraft Brood War title screen displaying colors correctly

StarCraft Brood War title screen displaying colors incorrectly

Warlord_7 uploaded the registry files to RapidShare here for free download. There is a 32-bit and a 64-bit version: (Original link expired)

file name: sc116-x64.reg
Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00


file name: sc116-x86.reg
Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

Categories: PC Software

Associating MATLAB with *.mat files

April 7, 2010 1 comment

MATLAB uses the *.mat extension to save exported workspace data, and this is the most common use of the file format[1]. However, Microsoft Access uses the *.mat extension for shortcuts to Micorosoft Access tables, and changes settings in addition to the normal Windows file extension properties:

  1. File association cannot be changed under the Tools > Folder options menu
  2. File extension is hidden even when “Show extensions for known file types” is checked.

The easiest way I’ve found to fix this file extension association is to use the following MATLAB command in the command window:

commandwindow; cwd=pwd; cd([matlabroot ‘\toolbox\matlab\winfun\private’]); fileassoc(‘add’,’.mat’) ;cd(cwd); disp(‘Changed Windows file association. MAT-files are now associated with MATLAB.’)

This link from the Mathworks website has more information:

Categories: PC Software

Disabling HP On Screen Volume Display

December 10, 2009 2 comments
New HP laptops, such as the dv6, are shipped with HP software that displays the volume on screen when it is changed with the TouchSmart buttons above the keyboard. The on-screen volume display (OSD) and the way it is displayed on the desktop is shown below:

While this sort of feature could be useful if it were handled separately from other Windows programs, this display can cause problems with causing programs to minimize or even crash when the volume is changed. To disable the on screen display, perform the following change in the Windows startup tasks:

1. Run msconfig: click the start menu and type ‘msconfig’ in the search box or press WIN+R and type msconfig, then press enter.
2. Select the Startup tab. You should see something like this:
Sort the Startup Item column by name and look for one of the following items. The name may vary by software version:
  • HP MediaSmart SmartMenu
  • HP Quicktouch On Screen Display
Disable the startup feature by unchecking the box next to the name of the volume on screen display program.
3. Click OK and restart. That’s it!
Categories: PC Software