Category Archives: Tips

Comcast Login Error when Watching AMC Episodes – How I Fixed It – a LearnByBlogging Quick Tip

For the last few weeks, I have trying to watch my favorite AMC shows like “The Walking Dead” on my computer. Typically, when you click on Watch Episode which AMC allows you to watch the full episodes within 70 days of the showing, it will ask for your cable provider. See below:

My cable provider is Comcast. When I selected Xfinity (the Comcast proxy), the browser would hang for a few seconds then came out with a comcast login failure. This would happen when you select Xfinity, nothing else. I’ve tried for weeks without success and googled around without a clue how to fix it.

How did I fix it? I just logged into Comcast Xfinity site. It prompted me to identify the name of device. I entered “My Computer,” then I was able to search and watch the “Walking Dead” program. Afterward, I could now go to the AMC site, select my episode, and select Xfinity. Voila! I could now watch any episode at will.

Sewer Backup at Home – What I Learned

A couple of weeks ago, I was woken up by the gurgling/bubbling noise from my bathroom toilet as the washer was started and running before going to bed. I noted it as some sort of dream and forgot about it. Then a couple of days later, I noticed the same phenomenon when the washer was running again, this time during the day time while I was in my den and wide awake.

Not good. The sewer was backed up!

I tried snaking from the toilet, from the washer sink and then from the cleanout to the side of the house. Still not good. In fact, I made it worse, now the toilet was consistently backed up and almost overflowing.

At this point, I was pretty exhausted and I figured it’s time to call the pro. It was Sunday afternoon. I called several rooters/plumbers and none of them could make it the same day. They were so busy that the next appointment was going to be a few days later. Fortunately, one of the plumbers suggested that it’s mostly likely the “mainline” being backed up. and he suggested that I check if there is cleanout near the sidewalk, hinting that if it’s backed up there, the city may be responsible for taking care of the problem because it’s between my house and the sewer running under the city street – a responsibility of the city, as long as the cleanout is within 5 feet of the sidewalk.

So I checked and there was a cleanout that was overflowing to my front yard and it’s within 2 feet of the side walk.

I immediately called the Cupertino City Sanitation Service Department. Sure enough, they said they can check it out within 30 minutes as they were doing some work a few blocks away. The guy told us to stop using the sewer (no toilet, washing and other things that might drain).

About 30 minutes later, the city sanitation person showed up and saw the situation and said that the contractor, Roto Rooter, will come over when he’s done with the previous job. He started scooping up the water to his 5-gal bucket. The Roto Rooter guy showed up within 15 minutes and started the snaking process. But they first wet vacuumed the whole cleanout and opened up the cleanout that has a ball over the tube and a Darthvader-helmet-like cap over it. As soon as he punch through the first root-like obstruction, the sewer water flew smoothly. He eventually cleaned up the opening and pulled a carrot-like root (see picture) out of the tube. As it turned out, the root of the tree near the sidewalk was spreading into the cleanout to sip the sewer water – probably a result of years of drought in our area.
Pulling Root
ThecRoto Rooter guy snaked it one more time to be sure and finished the job within 30 minutes. I flushed both toilets and ran water in the tub for a few minutes to clean out all the accumulated residues in the drain pipe. And it was done without costing me a dime!

A couple of days later, the city came back with a camera-attached snake to look through the pipe and cited several code issues with my cleanout. See photos below on the existing cleanout vs the new standard cleanout design. Then a couple of days later, the city contracted with Roto Rooter to snake it one more time to be sure. Now, that’s tax dollars at work!

Here are what I learned:
– Bubbling in the toilet is most likely a mainline sewer backup. Check the cleanout closest to the street first.
– Snaking from inside the house for a mainline backup problem is not productive.
– The city is responsible for the mainline backup if the cleanout is backed up within 5 feet of the sidewalk.
– The modern cleanout design makes sewer backup much easier to remedy. The technology in human living environment continue to advance. It’s not your father’s sewer system any more.

Existing Cleanout Design:
existing-cleanout

New Cleanout Design:
new-cleanout

Honeywell Water Heater Thermostat Woe – How I Fixed It


I heard a scream from my wife in the shower, “No hot water! No hot water! What’s going on?!” Not good. This was 10pm two days ago. My first thought was that the water heater pilot light went out, based on my past experience. What else could it be? I checked that AO Smith Gas Water heater in the laundry room right away. The water heater comes with a sophisticated, advanced Honeywell Water Heater thermostat/valve that provides continuous monitoring of the water temperature and turning on and off the gas accordingly – all without battery. It uses a “thermopile” technology that converts thermal energy into electrical energy. It’s composed of serveral thermocouples connected in series to create roughly 350 mV of energy. What a nifty device!
honeywell-module

Except when it’s not working.

I first tried resetting the module by turning it to off and re-start the pilot light by turning the dial to “Pilot”, holding down “Pilot” and push the spark igniter. The system kept coming back with 4 flashes. Based on the “Status Light Code,” it means “Temperature Exceeded.” It made sense as we had a heat wave recently. So I figured the system should reset itself once the over temperature condition goes away. I kept resetting the system without much success to get the gas burner to turn on again.

I googled around and came across this website by Tyler Tork. Wow, so many people had the same problem dating back to 2013. The problem is that the microcontroller inside the unit remembers the last “over-temp condition” and would not forget it. The recommended fix is to disconnect everything from the module for an hour and let the power dissipated to “flush” out the memory.
honeywell-module-labels

That sounded easy. I tried disconnecting it for 30 minutes. No go. 60 minutes: No go. I left it disconnected for overnight. Still no go. I even flushed some of water out to get the sediments out as it’s a source of heat barrier that contributes to overheating.

One of the people commented “shorting” everything on the little printed circuit board to really “short circuit” the memory cell, most likely the big capacitors. And that’s what I did, I figured I have nothing to lose as I would need to replace it if it didn’t work. So I removed the PCB (printed circuit board) from its housing by unscrewing the torx screw and snapping the PCB from the housing. Then I took a sheet of aluminum foil (an electricity conducting material) and touch all the various solder joints (silver-looking blobs) especially the big capacitors, which are the energy storage devices. See figures.
pcb-component-side
Honeywell PCB Bottom Side
Then I put it back to its housing and put everything back to its original positions. Turn on the pilot and hit the spark lighter. I first saw the LED flashed 7 times, which means “Gas Controller Valve Failure.” Doesn’t sound good. Then I proceeded to dial it up to temperature setting A. Immediately, the burner turns on and we have a lift off! After a minute or so, the LED started blinking once and paused and blinking once again. This means “Normal Operation.” We’re back in business now. I just saved $110 (Walmart’s price) for the module and enduring days of suffering through cold showers and complaints from my family members. Viva DIY!

Clean Coffee and Tea Stain from Mugs / Cups – A LearnByBlogging Quick Tip

Instead of using baking soda or other abrasive tool to remove coffee and tea stain, here is a quick and simple tip to keep the mugs and cups clean. The same technique can be used on cast iron pots with ceramic coating or even the smooth surface of the stove top / tiles, granite counter top.

Where to buy:
The Melamine Sponges can be bought from the below links or Daiso Retail Stores
http://www.daisojapan.com/p-26726-melamine-sponge-16-pcs-20pks.aspx

Mr. Clean Magic Erasers
http://www.amazon.com/Mr-Clean-Magic-Eraser-Original/dp/B0071SCSO0/:

DIY Codling Moth Traps – How I Made Them


Last year, I made some codling moth traps and I went from almost 90% codling moth infestation the year before to roughly 40% infestation. This year, I’m doing the same thing. In addition, I have sprayed neem oil a couple of times since the end of the last season. I’m hoping for 0% infestation this year. We’ll see.

I have learned from the below youtube videos:

Trap Recipes

Other options:

Sprays: