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Archive for September, 2008

Caravan Serpentine Belt

2008-09-06 Leave a comment

I have a 1999 Dodge Grand Caravan with the 3.8 L engine. They apparently tend to either eat or throw off serpentine belts. Today when I was going with my son to pick up our dog from the vet after getting his knee reconstructed, the van ate the serpentine belt. Since this is not the first time that has happened, I decided to learn how to change it myself. It is not too hard, but there is a trick to getting the belt installed by yourself.

There is a routing diagram inside the hood by the hood release. It’s almost as if the manufacturer expected me to have to do this or something. It is also important to note that the fan can turn on and off at random if the key is in the on position, so leave the key out of the ignition.

Serpentine Belt

Anyways, there are five pulleys, one idler and one tensioner pulley. I found that what worked the best was to run the belt over all the pulleys except the idler at the front first. I fiddled a lot to get it all on. I started by threading the whole belt under the idler pulley and then through to the back of the engine, to hook it first over the alternator pulley, which is high up at the back. Next I hooked it around the air conditioner pulley at the front, over the water pump wheel (which is at the bottom at the front), then down under the drive pulley at the bottom, and around the pulley at the bottom rear.

Then while leaving the belt off of the idler pulley to keep enough slack, I went under the van and pushed a loop of the belt up behind the drive pulley so I could reach it by hand below the tensioner. I hooked it over the tensioner, so that the only pulley that the belt wasn’t running over was the idler, marked in the picture with an X. Once everything but the idler was hooked up, I used a 15 mm wrench with my right hand to rotate the tensioner pulley forward and down to loosen the tension. It is spring-loaded and takes a serious amount of force. Then, while holding the tensioner in the rotated position with my right hand, I used my left hand to push the belt down and over the idler pulley. You don’t have to get the belt perfectly aligned on the idler the first try. Once it is hooked over the idler pulley, it is easy to release the tensioner, get a new grip, loosen the tension again and tweak the alignment of the belt over the idler pulley.

Once the belt is on all the pulleys, you have to make sure it is lined up properly before you start the engine. Some of the pulleys are grooved and they match up to grooves on the belt. I just ran my hand over each grooved pulley to make sure the belt was centered on each one. Depending on the length and beefiness of your arms you may have to do some of this checking from underneath. If any aren’t quite lined up, you could use your wrench on the tensioner to loosen it off and straighten out the belt.

Once they are all straight, you should be ready to start the engine and go. If you are replacing the belt because it broke or got thrown off while you were driving, and your van overheated before you got it off the road, it would be a good idea to let it cool off and to check your coolant before proceeding.

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Blocking Ads Old School

2008-09-03 Leave a comment

In playing with Chrome, and being deprived of Ad Block Plus, I suddenly remembered how I used to deal with Ads in the pre-Firefox days: Proxomitron! Proxomitron is a web proxy server that you run locally on your workstation that can do on-the-fly rewriting of the http data. That means it can detect ads in the data and drop them out. I used to use Proxomitron all the time, but it has been years since I needed it.

I looked into getting it but it hasn’t been updated since 2003, and since I only like shiny new stuff I turned my nose up at it and decided to look for what else is out there. I found a page on Wikipedia on Proxy servers, and scoped out a few to try. I installed one called Proximodo, but after a successful install, it kept crashing, so then I downloaded and installed Privoxy. It seems to work ok, and it’s out-of-the-box configuration effectively blocks banner and flash ads. I’ll stick with it a while, and see how Google Chrome works in that environment.

Categories: Neat Geek Stuff Tags:

I Like Chrome, but Eww, the Ads!

2008-09-03 Leave a comment

I’m trying to work with Google Chrome, just to test it out, and it has some nice features, but normally I use Firefox with Ad-Block Plus installed and that combination tends to make you forget how ugly and tacky the web really is when you are forced to see all those blinky, flashy, noisy, annoying ads! Without effective ad blocking, Chrome won’t work for me long term. I don’t use Safari at all for the same reason.

Categories: Neat Geek Stuff Tags:

Google Chrome Open Source Browser

2008-09-02 Leave a comment

Well, it’s a long time coming, but Google has finally decided to make a web browser. I’ve been using several Google web applications for a long time already, including the excellent Gmail with my own domain name, and Google Calendar, which I find is the best calendaring program for my requirements. I also sometimes use Google Documents, which is great if you need a quick document and you want to share it with someone. And, of course, Google Maps.

Given the popularity of Google’s web applications, it only makes sense that Google gets into the browser market. I believe they have made some contributions to the open source browser Firefox, which is what I use on all three of Linux, Mac and Windows. However, Google has some neat ideas for their new browser born of the modern web-application world. There is better protection and isolation between browser tabs and sites you visit, less likelihood of phishing, threaded javascript execution (allowing a crashy web app to only take out it’s own tab but not your whole browser), compiled-on-the-fly javascript which runs in isolated virtual machines, per-tab garbage collection reducing the effect of memory leaks, and more.

So far they have a windows version up on www.google.com/chrome, and they haven’t mentioned versions for Linux or Mac. Hopefully a version for the other platforms will be forthcoming later during the beta. Also, no add-on architecture is evident, which in Firefox is one of it’s most appealing features. I use around ten add-ons in Firefox on a regular basis to block ads, check my Gmail, download videos, look at photo collections and more. Compatibility with Firefox add-ons would be an awesome feature for Google Chrome.

I’m trying out the beta for a while and see how it is. I already miss my Gmail manager add-on.

Categories: Neat Geek Stuff Tags:
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