Sunday, March 31, 2013

How To Fix VMWare 9 Guest OS Freezes

This is a quick post to show a solution for the VMWare 9 guest OS freezing problems that plagued me for a couple months and was a real pain to figure out.

It all started when I upgraded to VMWare Workstation 9, and some of my guest machines would periodically freeze. About every thirty seconds, it would freeze up for about ten seconds on my Windows 7 x64 guest virtual machine and a couple other machines. It was an incredibly frustrating problem to solve, and hopefully this post will save others some of the aggravation that I went through.

Step 1 - Removed Unused Hardware

That's it. That's the only step! Go into the settings for the guest machine and you will see a screen that looks like this:

Now all you have to do is hi-light the hardware you don't absolutely need, like the floppy drive and the sound card, and click the Remove button.

Once I removed the hardware I didn't care about, the guest freezes went away! This probably works for other combinations of versions for VMWare and Windows. I was having the same problem with a Windows 8 guest, too.

Here's what the problem machine looks like now. All the freezes are gone.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

How To Create A Shortcut On The Desktop In Windows 8

Microsoft tells us the Desktop is obsolete. Let's just say that some people are still attached to that way of working. Everything is arranged neatly, and if all goes well, it's even uncluttered. I don't want the home office of the company I work for to tell me how to arrange my desk at work, and so I don't want the maker of the Operating System trying to tell me how to arrange my virtual desktop.

One of the problems with Windows 8 is that it's not as easy as it once was to create a shortcut on the desktop. It's easy to pin it to the taskbar once you are running it, but there's no way from there to get it onto the desktop. There's a few steps you need to follow to get that done.

Step 1 - Find Your App

The first thing you want to do is find the app you are looking for, either from clicking on the Search charm in the charms bar, or by just typing something on the main Metro screen, which will automatically bring up the desktop search.

Step 2 - Open The File Location

Once you find the app you want, right click on it. In this case, I right clicked on the new FeedDemon news reader app I just downloaded.

When you right click on an app, you will see a menu bar appear on the bottom of the screen with a bunch of options. You want to select "Open File Location", at which point you will be taken to the desktop with Windows Explorer open.

Step 3 - Create The Desktop Shortcut

Notice that the app icon now shows you the actual shortcut file on your system's hard drive. From there, now you want to right click on that icon in Windows Explorer and choose the "Send To" option, and then choose "Desktop (create shortcut)"

At that point, you will now have a new shortcut on your desktop. Use it wisely, my friends.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

How To: Fix A Campbell Hausfeld Tire Inflator

Campbell Hausfeld Tire Inflator - Charging
We've had this Campbell Hausfeld air compressor / 12V power supply for a few years. It's great because not only can you pump up a flat tire with it, you can plug a car charger or even a power inverter into it and get power in an emergency. So if your tire is flat or your car battery and cell phone are dead, this beast has you covered.

Ours got to the point where it wouldn't hold a charge, and I took it apart to determine if the battery could be replaced. Turns out that the battery can indeed be replaced with minimal effort. I noticed Home Depot had a whole new unit on sale for about 50 bucks, but the battery was only 17 bucks delivered, so I decided it would be much cheaper to just fix the one I had.


Campbell Hausfeld Tire Inflator - Case cracked open
The unit is held together by 7 Philips screws. Once you get the screws out, the unit separates into two halves, with the battery attached to one of the halves. To remove the battery, just slide the connectors off the battery and pull the battery out. There isn't much slack in the wires, so it can be a little tricky removing and re-installing the battery.


Campbell Hausfeld Tire Inflator - Portalac Lead Acid Battery
This unit uses a 12V sealed, lead acid battery, with a 7.2 Ah capacity. It's also heavy, and constitutes most of the weight of the whole unit. A quick search for a compatible replacement led me right to Amazon, where I placed my order for what looks like the perfect replacement. It has the same capacity, and the same dimensions, which I had to break out the calculator to convert to decimal.

The new battery arrived USPS priority mail in a wad of padded envelopes. It's a perfect fit, and even a little lighter than the original. I plopped the new one in, connected both battery cables, put in the 7 screws and plugged the charger in.


Campbell Hausfeld Tire Inflator - Connected to power inverter and charging a laptop
Shown connected to power inverter and charging laptop

I figured my new mobile power inverter would make a good test. Obviously I could plug a car charger into the tire inflator, but charging my laptop from the AC charger via the power inverter would be an even better test. In a pinch, this setup would probably make a good "poor man's UPS" as you could run your desktop computer for a very short period of time. The battery doesn't have that much capacity, but it's sure not bad for a tire inflator.

Future Projects

I thought about putting 3 EagleTac 18650 lithium-ion batteries (3100 MAh) in series to replace the old-fashioned lead acid battery. It would reduce the weight about about two thirds and also up the capacity to 9.3 Ah. The only problem is that they cost $15 a piece, and having $45 worth of batteries in it seems a little steep. But it would sure be nice to have in an emergency.


Campbell Hausfeld Tire Inflator - Old battery with new battery on right
The new replacement battery is on the right

Campbell Hausfeld Tire Inflator - Front
Charging up the new battery
Campbell Hausfeld Tire Inflator - WIthout battery installed
Shown without battery installed

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Fun With Power Inverters

12V Power inverters are great for camping, long car trips and power outages. They let you plug in most smaller gadgets like computers, TVs and chargers. I've had a small inverter for my computer bag for several years, but it was a little too small (75W) to charge the gaggle of devices I now carry. So I bought a 200/400 power inverter from Amazon.

Powerline 200/400 Watt Mobile Inverter plugged into 12V power supply to test with
Charging my laptop from a pretend car
I bought this one because it is powerful and compact, and also got pretty good reviews. It seems like the perfect balance for my needs, which will usually be charging a phone/tablet/laptop. A more powerful one would've been nice, but they were a little bulky to live in my backpack.  My plan is to be able to carry this one with all my electronics bag and bust it out when needed. It's a little more bulky than my last one, but my new Bluetooth headphones are much less bulky, so my upgrades pretty much cancel each other out with my total backpack weight.

When I took it out the box, of course I wanted to test it. And then dawned on me that it was 33 degrees outside, my cars were cold, and I had a better and much nerdier way of testing it; an old 12V power supply I've had for ages, which has a cigarette lighter attachment built in.

I put the new inverter through its paces in my test environment and it worked like a champ. My only grip with it so far is that it's a little loud. Running cars are normally noisy environments, but if you wanted to watch a movie with the engine turned off, the fan noise from the inverter might be a little distracting. Other than that, it seems to work great. It already has a niche in my electronics backpack.