Category Archives: Life Tips

Got new windshield wiper, tires

Last wed. morning,  temperature was below freeze point, there were some leftover snow. When I start my car, windshield wiper blade broke. So early afternoon I bought a new set and tried to replace the wiper. Those were worn out before last wed. The problem for me is, I don’t know how to take the old set off the Camry. Even after I watched YouTube video, I still did not know. So I went back autozone and asked for help. 

This is minor compared to the tire pressure problem for my wife’s sienna minivan. She texted me this picture, I know I know it’s tire pressure warning. I went through the same exercise last winter, even pumped couple times on sienna. And I left some damage on the sensor by doing that too :-(. And this time I am paying it back. The warning went away and came back last few weeks, even after I pumped air. So I thought to make sure, using a meter to measure the pressure. And I blew this one. When trying to measure the front driver side tire, the one has some sensor demage, that thing came out, and air came out. Flat tire :-(. This is not new but not often encountered, so I follow the procedures: use jack to get the van up, trying to locate the spare tire. Since it’s hard for me to get out the jack from sienna, I used the one from Camry. It’s not as strong, and I made couple mistakes the jack fell twice. But I still could not figure out where is the spare tire, even after reading manual. So I called AAA. A technician from AAA helped me on this issue. Today I went to Costco in the afternoon and got a new sets of tires on. It cost me about $770 for 4 Michelin tires. I still need to figure out how to put the spare back to its original place. 

 

My lesson learned:

1) It’s fortunate that we did not got hurt with this potential tire sensor problem. 

2) It’s ok to buy certified used (sienna), but it’s not necessary to buy extended warranty, put the money in bank for repairs and maintenance instead (the squirrel problem and the new tires).

3) Use Costco tire service, they seems have the best service plan for the $15 installation fee.

4) It’s kinda ironic I majored in ME in college and grad school. And I cannot figure out windshield wiper and spare tire. 

2015 Year In Review

It’s new year again, and obligatory new year resolution time. I think I’m already past that practice: will try to put down iPhone and Macbook more when I’m at home though (I was referring to this comment on 2014 review: Leave the iDevices/mac if I can). I’ve eaten my own words on this one. My younger daughter is at a fun age (17.5 months), being a toddler learning to talk, I’ll play with her more, and of course continue my weekend chauffeur job for my older daughter (skating, dancing/pre-ballet etc).

Job Change
I changed my job again this year. I was not expecting it at the beginning of the year or did any planning. But it worked out so far. Again I hope I can stay at my current place longer :-)

Personal finance
I stopped contributing to the Exxon mobile DRIP program; started put same money ($100 per month) into IBM DRIP program instead, still using ComputerShares. Was able to save some money in the emergency fund account. But still spent quite some on the following items.

Visited Disneyland;

Got a piano and ready to start piano lesson for Serenity in 2016;

Replaced AC and furnace, the new one (American Standard, same as the Trane brand) works like a charm, also bought two mattresses (one from Mattress Firm local store, another one from US-mattress online store). Long term it’s going to save some money on electricity as this one is more energy efficient.

Workout, exercise, swim
I have been doing swimming for a few years at JCC (both Chesterfield and Creve Coeur locations), as I live near the Creve Coeur location, and I worked near the Chesterfield location last few years. That has been changed as the new baby (July 2014), and new job requirement (June 2015). I have been using UP Band, Fitbit app on iPhone 5s, and in June this year I got Fitbit Charge the same time I changed job. Trying to get 10,000 steps per day per the recommendation. Still try to get some swimming as time permits.

I started walking in the trails at Laumeiers Sculpture park since last Winter: trying to breath some fresh air during lunch break at work. The new place does not have a nature trail like the Sculpture park, but it does have a one mile paved trail. It’s good enough for me. I usually walk at lunch break, when weather permits. Otherwise I would walk the stairs, as not good as outside, but it does the job. One thing I learned over the years is we need to take care of our own health while working, because at the end of the day, we need that to provide for our family, also to enjoy things (this hits home especially whenever I get sick). There is an excellent “Under the Radar” podcast on this ergonomics topic. I recall at my old work place, my coworker had surgery on the capal-tunnel (a common injury from using too much keyboard or mouse). Back pain is also common among office workers (sitting too long). The walk/stretch from time to time is a good way to prevent/reduce that.

Fitbit_badges_2015

Kids
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How I unlocked t-mobile iPhone 5s and transfer to H2O wireless

I have thought about this for a while, especially after hearing about republic wireless $25 month plan from my friend Luke and H2O wireless (thanks to mitbbs penny savers forum). Previously I only heard about the StraightTalk $50 plan ($45 now, it appears T-mobile also dropped its $50 plan to $40). A little background, I had an iPhone 5s for t-mobile, full price bought from Apple store in Oct/Nov 2013. I only used it for T-mobile prepaid legacy plan, which means “pay as you go”, 10 cents a min for phone call, and 10 cents per text message. I like to have the 3G data, like I had before from AT&T. Here are the steps I followed:

1) Unlock the iPhone 5s. Although I paid the full price, by default the phone is still locked to t-mobile network. The quickest way is to chat with t-mobile, which I did. Actually I did twice, because the first time they did not do the job. The second time they sent me notification saying my phone is unlocked.

2) Get a sim card for H2O wireless from Amazon. I made a mistake again. Without much thought I got this micro sim card first, and I quickly realized iPhone 5s needs nano sim.
h2o_wireless_sim
3) Last but not least, when my t-mobile prepaid balance came very low, and when it’s weekend (not critical time), I started transfer. I did online on h2o wireless website first. Haven’t seen the number transferred after a bit over a day. So I called. One problem is since my t-mobile is prepaid legacy plan, there is no account number. And I did not give correct pin per H2O rep. Got it solved. The next thing they asked me to install couple profiles for internet (because I want data plan). Then talk to the billing department setting up monthly pay, they gave me 10% off for setting up month bill auto pay via credit card, make the final bill $27. Note H2O actually uses AT&T network, and the data usage is available in real time from “Cellular” setting of the phone.

(update) The main reason I ditched T-mobile is its poor coverage. Sometimes I don’t get signal in the condo neighborhood. The wifi-call feature helped out a bit by tapping into the Wifi network, but it has two drawbacks: 1) It still uses the regular minutes; 2) When at work and I walk around, as the Wifi hot spots changes, the phone will disconnect or lose signal.

Also, how to setup Internet and LTE for H2O. The operator texted me two links. Install the first profile for initial Internet setup. The second one was sent via Dropbox link. No need to install Dropbox app, just tap top right, “direct save”, and install. It will complain about the first profile just installed. Go ahead and remove that one, the second one should install. This is not very intuitive as I did not hear instructions clearly from the operator, nor did I bother to look up their website for FAQ. From my own experience, the first one is probably just for verification or something. Also the operator asked if I want multimedia message, I said no because she mentioned I need to install some “jailbreak” app or something.

Also, I heard from my other friend, if one is really budget conscious, Ting is also a good choice, they use both Sprint and T-mobile network.

Back up iPhone iPad photos

I learned the lesson the hard way. Almost a year ago, I left my former employer, and I had to turn in my iPhone 4s. Being a computer professional, I knew the backup thing, so I backed up the photos to iTunes, both via iCloud and via iTunes to PC. But I forgot one more backup, to the iPhoto on my Mac. The backups on iCloud and iTunes are good, but I can not view the individual photos from there, and eventually I got a new iPhone 5s and got the backup iPhotos to my new iPhone this way. The first thing I did after I receiving my new iPhone is to restore the photos, and backup to iPhoto on my Mac.

I did one more thing, as I learned from my Nexus 4 experience, is turn on auto back up on google+. I paid $20 extra for the additional 10gb space on iCloud (for one year), when the time of renewal comes, I plan to cancel it, as now I will do backup via iPhoto, iTunes and google+.

Personally I felt the management of all these photos on iPhone/iPad is an interesting project. With Apple TV, I did see I play videos on iDevices more, and sometimes even slide show the photo. I did this quite a few times to my young daughter, when I found that’s more fun than the Netflix TV shows :-)

Year 2013 in review

Job
I changed too much. Three W-2 in one year. I hope to stick with my current employer for a while.

Family
Our daughter grew up quickly. She brings us joy that words can not be easily described. And frustration sometimes, too. I think patience is very important being parent. Near the year end, we have some exciting news, as my writing (couple days ago Jan 14, 2014 we knew we will welcome a new baby girl in this July :-)

iOS apps
I did update the myNestEgg app, after 2 years, from iOS 3.1.2 to iOS 7. And I released a new app “To Market ~ farmers market around St. Louis”, this is a free iOS app. I am experimenting some new features there.

Stocks
I was looking at my stock trades in last few years. I realized year 2012 is not good, while 2013 is ok (has not beat market in my Scottrade IRA brokerage account because again I tried to do too much). Looking back a bit more, in year 2010 I made some mistakes on Palm and other stocks, in 2012 it was the Coal stocks (ACI and ANR). It seems I tend to lose money on high volatile cheap stocks (the former high flyer etc, hope it goes back).

The more I think about it, as I was also reading “year 2012 in review“. Once again I am thinking if I can not beat the market, I should pick the index fund, or go with the fund manager I believe in (Steve Romick). His FPA Crescent has done very well for me in last 4 years.

(01-23-2014) I gave it more thought after seeing Logitech (LOGI) jumped more than 20% this morning on beat estimates on earning, and on the news its transition from PC mouse to iPad keyboard worked out. I bought the stock a year ago at about 7.50, hold it only a day. Similar can be said for Logmein (LOGM), which also more than doubled in a year (I owned more LOGM at one time). Anyway, have faith on bad news, though near term when looking back, at the time it’s not easy.

(02-06-14) This annual review is partially inspired by Kirby Turner (whitepeaksoftware.com), congrats to Kirby on his 10 years anniversary of his company. I met him once at an iOS conference in 2010 and was impressed by his iOS/Mac knowledge.

I also recall Kyle Richter talk about doing iOS consulting at RayWenderlich.com to be interesting.

UP band a few months later

(Update 02-06-2014) My UP band died. I fully charged it, tried both soft reset and hard reset, as discussed below, but seems could not revive it.

The following was written on Nov. 14, 2013. I have a bit more experience with UP band since then, note Jawbone also came up with new UP 24, which has bluetooth connectivity with the smartphone. Also, Fitbit released the app for iPhone 5s which has the basic pedometer functionalities, I just started using it and so far so good.

Good
Does the job, record walking steps and sleeping time

Bad
Need to reboot the iPad sometimes to get sync

The corrosion, partially my dumb mistake

Odd
The switch from “sleep” to “walk” is automatically most of the time. but not the other way around. Occasionally I saw the UP band flashes (both sleep and walk indicators), or would not sync. There is this soft-reset, and I found turn off iPad (iPhone) and turn it back on solves most sync issue.

Furnace, hot water heater and car battery

First I want to express sympathy to the Japanese people affected by the natural disaster/nuclear reactor problem. Being Chinese, I’m conscious of the long history (some good, some bad) between the two countries and two people. But on this biggest crisis for Japan since world war II, I felt sorry for the people, and doing my part to help.

In last few days, personally I have also had some minor problem at my house. Nothing as bad as things happened in Japan, but still inconvenient as (you can see) I am spoiled in the USA.

Minor scare
Last Thursday, at about 11:30 am, my wife called me at work saying there is unknown source of smoke in our condo. I told her turn off heat (electrical furnace), open the door, dress up the baby, and get out the house if needed. Meanwhile I drove home quickly. After got home, I could smell the burning but could not find the source either. I called 911.

Police came, he think it’s the “hibernating” old laptop causing the smoke. Fire fighters came, look around a little bit, asked where is the furnace. I told him, and he opened, that’s it: the connection piece of duct is made of plastic/cotton, and is burning!

Hot water heater
We called Kevin Schaffer of Cool Running AC and Heating, he came quickly and fixed the furnace. He put new sheet-metal to replace the old connection piece.

Thursday evening, after we gave the baby a bath and hair wash, we ran out of hot water. Called my friend who had similar problem recently, opened the control panel of the electrical hot water heater, reset, did not help. Flip the switch at electric panel, nothing. Tried to drain the water heater, no hot water came out. Called an authorized dealer of the hot water heater brand I have (Rheem, Ruudglas PE52-2), and the technician came in the afternoon. He said there is no power at the water heater, suggested replace the corresponding breaker at electric panel. Called electrician appointment the earliest I can get is Monday morning.

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2001 Nissan Altima idle problems

(Update 20Jan10) Removed the collision and comprehensive coverage from my 2001 Nissan Altima. This will cut the annual insurance premium in half: from $800 to $400. Now, find the other half of the car repair expense :-)

(Original) I googled my car “rough idle” problem (aka it sometimes shake hard when the car is stopped when brake is applied) using the key words “2001 Nissan Altima idle problems”. And it gave me same results as the mechanic told me this afternoon. Now I am looking at around $1,000.00 repair bill.

http://www.carcomplaints.com/Nissan/Altima/2001/engine/shakes_when_idling.shtml

It’s not cheap, but I wanted to get it fixed because we are expecting our first baby in less than 2 months. Safety issue.

Now, if Nissan can issue a recall?

A tragedy related to iPhone

(CNET) Chinese authorities probe iPhone worker’s death

(PCWorld) iPhone Suicide Case Spotlights Tech’s Dark Side

Apparently many foreign media can not understand why a guy will jump off the building just because the iPhone he was in charge went missing? Well, it appears to me there are two factors:

1) It’s very very hard to get a good job for new graduates in China these days. Thus they join Foxconn, the “sweater shop” if you will. Not much rights once you join that shop. I suggest my western friends go there once and get some real world experience on sweater shop before express their views.

2) He was tortured. Again remember Foxconn is a “sweater shop” happens making iPhone.

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People are brewing coffee at home

Folgers coffee pic

Reuters: JM Smucker Q4 beats Street, raises 2010 profit view. Quote:

Peanut-butter and jelly maker J.M. Smucker Co’s (SJM.N) fourth-quarter profit handily beat market expectations, helped by strength in its Folgers coffee business, and the company raised its 2010 profit outlook.

“Our core business continues to produce solid results and the recently added coffee business’s performance has exceeded our expectations,” co-Chief Executive Tim Smucker said in a statement.

My take
More trouble for Starbucks…this is one sign of consumer behavior change amid this recession. Bye bye $2 a cup coffee, welcome home brewing gourmet coffee :-)