Balance Doesn’t Appear in Quicken Essentials for Mac

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Recently I noticed that my running balance wasn’t showing up in Quicken Essentials. It seemed like an odd problem and at first I thought it was bug until I did a search and found a support page on Intuit’s Website.

The solution is very simple. The register needs to be sorted by date. I’m not sure how mine was sorted – it appeared to have already been sorted properly. As soon as I re-sorted the register the balances displayed.

Intuit.com: Running Balance not Displayed in Quicken Essentials for Mac

Handbrake Crashes When Converting XVID Encoded AVI

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I had some video files sitting around that I wanted to convert to a format that I could use with the Apple TV (Second Generation). I tried dumping them into Handbrake on the Mac, which usually does an excellent job of converting, but it crashed every time.

I tried the same in the Windows version but it also crashed

As far as I could tell these files were encoded with XVID. I’m not 100% certain but that appeared to be the issue.

To get around this problem I ended up using ffmpegx. In my case, it worked perfectly. I used it to convert the XVID encoded avi files to H.264. I was then able to watch them via the Apple TV.

A Garden Knife for Metal Detecting

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Every now and then I go metal detecting in my yard. The ground is hard so I needed something I could use to cut the dirt and clay without tearing up the grass.

After searching for a suitable tool on Amazon.com I decided to order a Japanese Hori Hori Garden Landscaping Digging Tool With Stainless Steel Blade & Sheath for just under $27.

It works well and is indeed very sharp. So far, I’ve been pleased and have managed to dig up some items without killing the grass above.

Removing Blades from a Craftsman Lawn Tractor (917. 289081)

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I wanted to attempt to sharpen the blades on our Craftsman Lawn Tractor. It’s hit a lot of sticks since we bought it about three years ago and I’ve noticed that it hasn’t been cutting tall grass cleanly.

Rather than drop the mower deck I decided to take an easier route. Unfortunately I didn’t have a set of ramps sitting around (or a way to build them) so I grabbed the jack from my car.

I first removed the key from the ignition, set the parking brake, and then placed wheel chocks behind the rear wheels.

Finding a good place on the front to place the jack was a bit tricky. If you attempt to do this then make sure that you don’t bend the wrong piece of metal. I’ve never relied on just a jack by itself so once I had it up high enough I placed a jack stand next to it and then let the front of the tractor sit on both the jack and the jack stand.

The next thing I did was gently shake the tractor just enough to ensure that the jacks and tractor were stable and wouldn’t shift once I started removing the blades.

Removing the blades wasn’t too difficult. I had a thick glove on one hand that I used to hold the blade with and then held the ratchet in the other one. It did take some force to remove the blades.

Before fully removing the blades it may be a good idea to make note of the orientation of each blade so the new blades can be placed in the same position.

If you haven’t done this kind of work before you may want to reconsider making the attempt. As with anything like this, safety precautions should always be taken, including those that I may not have mentioned.

Updated 11/18/2012: I’ve used the mower from spring into fall and nothing out of the ordinary occurred as a result of this work.

Changing Brake Pads on a 2008 Impala

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That’s brake cleaner under the rotor and not brake fluid, if you were concerned.

I thought that it was time to change the brake pads on my 2008 Impala. Unfortunately, the front pads were only about half worn and the rear pads still had a little bit of life. Since I’d already had the wheels off at that point I went ahead and changed them anyway.

Considering that the sets of front and rear pads together only cost about $55 I wasn’t really out much (and in the long run I’m not out anything anyway) and I did learn a couple of things in the process that may prove useful later.

I didn’t bother to document the process but it wasn’t much different than changing the brake pads on our 2006 Scion tC (except this time I did it right and lubed the caliper bolts).

Updated 05/31/2012: Part of the reason I decided to change my brake pads now was because I planned to take my car to a shop for new tires and an alignment. I did take it yesterday and had four new tires put on it. That was a little different; usually I can space out replacements so I’m only changing one pair at a time.

Before any of this work was done I had started to notice something that I can only describe as a slight rotation or wobble, which was much more noticeable in the rear of the vehicle.

I knew it was time for a front-end alignment due to uneven wear on the front, passenger-side tire. This was also part of the reason I had to replace all four tires. The rear tires were already in need of replacement and the one front tire was going bad.

I wondered if I also needed a rear-end alignment. It wasn’t until we had the same done for my wife’s car that I knew this was needed from time-to-time on some vehicles. According to the shop my car can have the rear aligned, which they did.

The rotation/wobble I had been noticing is gone. I suspect the rear was out of alignment but the mechanic at the shop had also mentioned that a bad or out of balance tire could be the cause.

Regardless, the car is driving much better than before. Perhaps some time this year I’ll be able to afford to replace the suspension in the vehicle. At that point it should ride like new.

The Pitfalls of Relying on CPAP Machine Stats

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I’ve been managing obstructive sleep apnea for several years and I’ve learned a great deal over time. One of the more recent things I’ve come to realize in the past couple of years is that CPAP machine stats aren’t the only factor that should be used to determine how effective a treatment is working.

If you take the time to browse CPAP patient forums you’ll soon learn that the various machines calculate statistics in different ways. Between two different models in the same line I can estimate there’s at least a difference of two or three units for the value of the nightly AHI numbers. For example, my wife’s S9 appears to be lower than my own S8. Obviously I can’t account for the difference in severity between our cases of sleep apnea but I’m fairly certain, based on forum posts, that the S9’s reported numbers are typically lower. In my opinion, lower values reported by the S9 make it more difficult to pin-point problems because it offers a narrower range in which swings can be detected.

There are several factors to consider. For example, though an AHI may appear low this can be misleading if the leak rate is very high. I consider the AHI value more reliable when I have a very low leak rate.

One should also be mindful of the fact that home devices do not track the same array of data that is gathered in a sleep study. It’s possible that some information won’t reveal problems that might be obvious when compared against data collected in a lab setting (O2 levels, sleep stages, etc).

Sleep stats aren’t enough and simply don’t reveal everything. The quality of the sleep isn’t something that I can track at home. Yes, I can see if there were severe problems with leaks or high AHI values, but my machine can’t really track sleep stages (these can only be inferred to a minor degree) or the quality of my sleep.

I think most experienced CPAP users will agree that statistics are helpful but the most important factor for determining effectiveness is simply how good you feel in general.

With my machine I’ve learned that I’ll feel alright with an AHI below 3 and I typically feel very good if it’s below 2. Anything consistently above a 4 will begin to wear me down. Note that these numbers are well within the “normal” range.

Updated 06/25/2012: But the stats can be very helpful at times as well. If you look at the pressure a machine is using to stop events then you may figure out that your lowest pressure setting should be increased. Over in relevant forums many users have stated that what often happens is that a machine doesn’t ramp up to the necessary pressure in time to stop many events. For example, if your minimum pressure is 6 (with a max of 15) and the majority of your logged events require a pressure of 12 then it’s possible that there are several events at or above that pressure and the machine simply isn’t ramping up enough in time. For example, if the machine is at 6 and only reaches 9 before the event naturally ends (your brain tells your body to breathe, thus disrupting your sleep) then it may not be effective enough. In such a case it may be wise to have your lowest pressure increased to a value closer to the average pressure needed to prevent events.

Sophos AntiVirus for Mac Home Edition & iMac Standby Issues

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Several weeks ago I installed Sophos AntiVirus for Mac Home Edition on my iMac. I chose it because I was somewhat familiar with Sophos and I knew that I needed a working malware program (I was using an older version of McAfee Security on my previous iMac but that version wasn’t compatible with Lion).

Since I installed it I began to notice odd issues with bringing my Mac out of standby. It could have been a coincidence but the only other changes I’ve made to the system were some recent system updates.

Today, once again, the system didn’t wake. Previous issues also included the system partially waking but the mouse cursor would change to a spinning wheel and I couldn’t do anything except move the cursor.

After I restarted the iMac the system offered to send a crash report to Apple. I went ahead and let it but I viewed the details before sending. While I didn’t read the information closely it looked like it was possibly caused by the Sophos updater process.

To try to work around the problem I changed some Energy Saver settings. My iMac is on a UPS and I noticed the UPS configuration options were a little different from the standard power options. I disabled the option to allow the hard drive to sleep and then saved the changes.

With those changes in place it’s now just a matter of waiting to see if it happens again.