Fitibit Charge / Charge HR - Replace Broken Band!

Officially, there is no way to replace a band on a Fitbit Charge or Charge HR. Unofficially, here's how you do it:

You'll have to buy a replacement band for a Garmin Vivofit. Search eBay and you can get one from China for $1. Or if you just can't wait and you're willing to pay more, you can buy them on Amazon:


Optionally, you can also get a "Fitbit Charge Cover" to go over top. Search eBay for one cheap from China, or Amazon:


And here's a video of how to put it all together:

Make your own floating acoustic guitar mount

As promised, here is how I made a wall mount for my acoustic guitar. It worked out nicely, except that I damaged the paint on our wall a bit while installing it :( I'll need to patch that.

If you prefer to just buy something, Monoprice does carry a cheap horizontal guitar mount, but it's not as pretty:

Make your own floating electric guitar mount

So I thought I'd start making YouTube videos too. For my first one, I'll show you how to mount an electric guitar horizontally on the wall so it looks almost like it's floating there. Since we've been finishing our basement, and my wife decided to accent the room with red, I thought my cherry red Epiphone Dot would look brilliant on the wall.

There are other hangers that can mount your guitar horizontally, if you're willing to pay for it. For example,


Woodies Hangers on Amazon:

But I like what I did better, especially since I had all the materials hanging around already, so it was free!

I will be doing a similar project with my acoustic guitar, so keep an eye out for that if you're interested.

Under-Cabinet LED Lighting

Have you ever looked at under-cabinet lighting in the big box stores and wondered why it's so expensive? It's really not that hard to set something up yourself. I'll explain how I put in under-cabinet  lights at minimal cost. Some of the materials I bought on eBay from China, which takes at least a month to come in the mail, so some patience is required.

I used LED strip lights. You can buy them in rolls on eBay. You will need to measure the length of all the cabinets to figure out how much you need. I ended up putting 2 rows of LEDs under each cabinet. I bought a 5 meter roll, and still had a bit left over. But our kitchen is fairly small. If you buy larger LEDs, you may decide that only one strip per cabinet is ok. The size of the LEDs are given by a four-digit number. For example, I bought 3528 LEDs. That means each LED is 3.2mm x 2.8mm. You can also buy 5050 LEDs, which are 5.0mm x 5.0mm, which should give more light, if you want it.

Once you decide how much and what size you want, search eBay. For example, "5m 5050 LED strip". You can buy a 5 meter strip for under $10US. Many sellers have several options, like the color. So make sure you're not buying red LEDs if you want white. You can also find soft white or cool white, depending on your preference. You can buy waterproof strips, which have a silicone covering over the whole strip, but it costs a little more, makes the wiring a little trickier, and it's unnecessary in this application. But it'll still work, if that's what you prefer.

LED strips are designed so that they can be cut every 3 LEDs. There are special LED connectors that make it easier to wire the strips you cut off. Search for "2 pin led connectors". These will clip on to the LED strip and have short wires that you'll connect to power. Make sure you buy enough so you have one for every strip you cut off. You can buy a pack of 10 for just a few dollars. If you want to make any 90-degree turns in your LED strips, you can also buy special connectors to do that too.

Power supply
These LED strips run on 12V, so you'll need a properly-sized power supply. You have to be aware of how much current will  be required to power all your LEDs. The current depends on the size of the LEDs and the number of LEDs per meter. The short story is that 5 meters of 3258 LEDs at 60 LEDs/m would require about 2.2A. If you buy 5050 LEDs are 60 LEDs/m, that will draw about 6.6A. Be generous with your calculation. Using an oversized power supply won't actually use more power. It'll just make more power available, which is a good thing. I'm using a 5A power supply for the about 4.5m of 3258 LED strip that I used, which I also bought on eBay for under $10US.

You might even have a power supply laying around your house that you can use! If you have an old, unused laptop power supply, check if it's 12V and puts out enough current. If you're not even going to use a full 5 meters, you might even be able to use a small "wall wart" type power supply. But those small ones don't usually put out any more than 2A.

You will also need some wire to run to the bottom of your cabinets. I used some fairly thick speaker wire, which was totally overkill and doesn't look that nice under the cabinets (although you can't see it when you're standing up). Just about any thin wire will do, but you might think about matching the colour of the bottom of your cabinets. If you are going to put your power supply on top of your cabinets, like I did, you will need enough to run to the bottom of each cabinet.

It's also handy to have some heat shrink tubing to cover the connections between the LED connectors and your wire. Again, you can match the colour of the bottom of your cabinets, although anything other than black might be harder to find. This stuff is pretty cheap, even if you buy it locally at an electronics store.

You will need to decide where you will plug in your power supply. Our house already had a light over the sink, with a switch under the cabinets. The wire from the switch came out of the wall above the cabinets, so I decided to hook into that to feed my LEDs, so the under-cabinet lights come on with the light over the sink. I cut the wire feeding the light where it came out of the wall and installed a receptacle there.

Wire terminal block
It is better to run the power in parallel, that is, split the power and run it to each cabinet. So if you have 4 cabinets, run 4 wires from your power supply to each cabinet. I used this little device you see in the picture to split the power called a "wire terminal block". You can find them on eBay as well as some local hardware stores. I cut the connector off the end of the wire coming out of the power supply so I could connect it to the block.

Make sure you get the polarity right: connect the positive wire from the power supply to the positive wire of your wire. The wires will usually have a different colour wire (sometimes red for positive, black for negative). Sometimes both wires are the same colour, but the positive but have a line (sometime dotted, sometimes solid) running along it. Some power supplies have no difference in the wires at all, which means you will need to use a multimeter to figure it out. LEDs just won't work if you get the polarity backwards. It won't damage them, they just won't light up.

You can feed the power in series, that is, run wire from the power supply to the first cabinet, then connect the end of that LED strip to the next, and so on. But you may find that the LEDs at the end of that series will be dimmer than the first ones.

Run the wire from the power supply down each cabinet. I drilled small holes in the back corner of the cabinets and ran the wire inside the cabinets. I pulled the shelves out a tiny bit to allow room for the wire behind them.

Cut your LED strips to size for each cabinet. Remember that they can only be cut in specific places, which are marked on the strip.

Attach one connector to each strip. Make sure you get the polarity right: the positive wire (usually red) is connected to the + mark on the strip. And make sure the metal tabs in the connector are on top of the metal on the LED strip.

Attach the connectors to the wire coming from the power supply. If you're using heat shrink tubing, cut a piece of that and slide it on first, before you connect the wires. I recommend you solder these connections, but twisting them together would work too; the heat shrink tubing will keep it together. Use a hair dryer to shrink the tubing. The tubing does a few things: make it pretty, adds some strength to the joint, and keeps the positive and negative from touching each other (which would shut your lights off).

Test it! Apply power to your power supply and (hopefully) watch it light up! If any of the strips don't light up, check your connections to make sure nothing is lose, and that the polarity is correct. If your LED strips did not have plus and minus signs, you may have to flip the whole strip around to correct the polarity.

Now that you're sure everything is working, peel the back off the LED strips and stick them to the bottom of your cabinets. I put them close to the front, so they're hidden by the lip at the front of the cabinets.

The other wires will need to be stuck to the cabinet too, so they don't hang down. You can use some silicone, some crazy glue, or double-sided tape. Whatever you use, you'll likely have to apply pressure to it for a few minutes at least to make sure it stays in place. I used a piece of wood wedged between the wire and my counter top.

Once everything is dry, enjoy! My total cost was less than $20US.

Gas Price Conversion

Living near the US/Canada border, I frequently go across to the US and end up buying gas. But, as any border hopper knows, converting between gallons and litres in your head and accounting for the exchange rate can be challenging. So, for that, I made a tiny website to do the calculation for you:

By default, the countries are set to Canada and the United States. But I've added several other countries. Most of the world sells fuel in litres, but a handful still use gallons. Other than the US, Belize, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and a few others sell fuel in gallons.

If the default countries don't work for you, select the countries you need, then check the box to save your selection for future visits. Later, just load the site, type the price, and see the conversion.

On your smart phone, you can bookmark the site to your home page, and you'll have a pretty icon there to use later.

If you're in Europe, and buy petrol instead of gas, you can use instead. The default countries are UK and Ireland, though that really just converts pounds to euros since both sell petrol in litres.

Exchange rates are updated nightly (thanks to - you rock).

If you use it and like it, let me know in the comments. If you have any suggestions for added features, let me know that too!

Hummus Recipe

I only started eating hummus maybe last year. I never really heard about it before that. Now I love it. It gives me my garlic fix every day (keeps me not sick), and it's healthy! Not all hummus is alike though. I find some brands are really bland. But I found one recently that's one of the best I've had: Summer Fresh Classics Light Hummus. I don't usually like "light" stuff, but we got it because my son (18 months), who has several allergies, can eat it. In fact, he'll eat a ton of hummus. He'll scoop it up with a cracker, and just keep scooping without actually eating the cracker.

But rather than buying this over and over, I've been trying to make my own that tastes similar. My first try wasn't very good, but today I got pretty close. Here's my recipe:

1 can of chickpeas (540ml, 19oz), drained
4 tbsp lemon juice
4 tbsp tahini (I used store bought stuff this time, but you can find recipes to make your own)
1 large clove of garlic
1/2 tbsp salt
1/4 cup water

Put it all in a blender and mix it! Now it is quite thick, which means that sometimes you'll get a bubble around the blender's blade and the blender won't actually be mixing anything. If that happens, stop the blender, stir it by hand, then start the blender again. I used a Magic Bullet so that I could pick up the whole thing and shake it while it was going.


Edit: I increased the lemon juice from 3 to 4 tbsp and the tahini from 2 to 4 tbsp. More flavour that way.

How to Repair the Door Checker on a Civic

There is nothing more annoying when you're trying to buckle in a struggling two-year-old into their car seat than having the door constantly whack you from behind, pushing you into the car on top of your kid. Even if I opened the door slowly and carefully let it go, it just wouldn't stay open. I had to open up the door panel to replace the door lock actuator anyway, so while I had it open I figured I'd take a stab at fixing the part that is supposed to keep the door open: something they call the door checker. Sure, this is a relatively cheap part, but if all four are causing you grief, it would likely run you over $100 to replace them all.

I'll be doing this on one of the back doors of my 2003 Honda Civic. The door checker on other cars may be similar though. If you have similar success on another car, let me know in the comments.

First thing, make sure you've removed the door panel. Once that's done, remove the three bolts holding the door checker in place. If your Civic was built in Canada, the bolt sizes may be the same as mine: 10mm for the bolts on the door and 12mm for the bolt on the car frame.

The door checker can only be pulled out through the inside of the door. So reach inside the door with one hand and pull it out.

This is what you'll see when you've removed it. You'll see the piece on the right of the picture moves back and forth. That piece is supposed to exert significant pressure on the bar, so that when it falls over the grooves, it grabs on and holds the door in place. What you'll likely find after taking it off is that you can slide it back and forth, over the grooves, with relative ease and little resistance. That's Bad.™

So let's open that bad boy up. Slide the big part (the part that slides) over to the slim side of the bar so it's easier to work with. There's a plate with little tabs on each corner holding this thing together. Fold those tabs up with pliers. In the picture, the tabs on the right are already folded up. The slick clip-art pliers show how to grab the pliers on to the tabs to pull them up. You can use a flat-head screwdriver too, but that's dangerous; trust me. They can slip off easily and stab you in the hand. Not fun.

Once you've got it opened, pop out the insides. This is what you'll see: two plastic H-shaped pieces with two rubber blocks that put pressure on them. Now those two plastic pieces are supposed to have a bump on the inside of them to fit into the grooves on the bar, but as you'll likely notice, they're flat now.

However the plastic pieces are small enough to fit into the grooves themselves. But because of the H-shape, the two pieces can't get any closer to each other. So sand them down. The picture shows which part to sand.

You don't have to worry about sanding too much since you really don't want those parts touching anymore. The picture to the right will show how the pieces fit over one of the grooves after I sanded them down.

Now because we're pushing them closer together than they were before, the rubber blocks will be too small. So we need to put something else in there. I used cardboard. I cut small pieces, about the same size as the blocks. Depending on the thickness of the cardboard, you'll need to use one or two pieces on each side.

I won't lie to you: stuffing the plastic, rubber and cardboard back into the thing is the hardest part. If you're finding it hard, that means you're doing it right; it needs to be tight! A flat-head screw driver came in handy for me. Keep the casing down near the narrow end of the bar to make it easier to shove everything in.

Once you have everything in, put the plate back over top, but don't fold the tabs over yet. Slide it back and forth across the bar first, holding the plate firmly over the rubber and plastic so they don't fall out. You should find it extremely difficult to move it past the grooves. In fact, it should either take all of your might to do it, or if you can't move it out of the groove at all, even better. I'm serious about it taking everything you have to move it. That's important. If that's not the case for you, shove some more cardboard in there. Otherwise it'll still be too loose once you put it back on the door.

Once the tension is acceptable, fold the tabs back into place with pliers again. Now you're ready to go! Put it back in place through the inside of the door, replace the bolts, and open your door wide and watch it stay! You may want to grease up the bar again since I found that a lot of the grease came off after handling it so much. The grease will help the door slide shut when you push it shut.