Fixing recurring Windows Installer whenever Explorer is run

Event viewer

My PC (Win 10 x64) was having an issue where Windows Installer would run every time Windows Explorer was run (including showing the desktop on startup).  This somehow locked up the PC almost completely, except running task manager so that I could kill Explorer.  None of the suggested fixes (msiexec /Unregister, msiexec/regserver; DISM.exe /Online /Cleanup-image /Restorehealth; sfc /scannow) seemed to help.  So…I checked out the Event Viewer and saw the warning shown above, Googled “msvcr110.dll does not exist” and saw that I needed to repair the Visual C++ Redistributable for Visual Studio 2012 Update 4. And that took care of it–right before I was about to wipe the drive and reinstall clean.  I hadn’t seen this fix anywhere else, so I thought I’d post it for some other poor soul who manages to make their way here.

Replacing the Touch Screen Digitizer on a 2nd Gen Lexus IS250/IS350

Photo Credit: Scott Lam

The touch screen stopped responding on my wife’s Lexus IS250 last weekend, apparently a common issue with the 2nd generation IS250.  Looks like a $2500 repair if you go to the dealer…or a $25 part I picked up on Amazon (ugh, F you Jeff Bezos).  Took 2 hours for someone who is relatively comfy working on cars–if you have replaced a car stereo on a modern-ish card, you can do this.

Things to know:

  • I followed Scott Lam’s guide on how to do the replacement (thanks, kind internet stranger!), which is mostly correct, except the following:
    • Instead of Scott’s post on removing the head unit, I’d recommend following this video (or at least the first half of it)–this method makes accessing the lower 2 head unit mount screws easier.  Note that in the video, they put a blanket over the center console–I strongly recommend doing that.
    • Scott’s guide doesn’t mention that there are 4 screws (2 on each side, see image above) on the head unit which secure the fascia.  Also, you don’t have to remove the lower fascia around the stereo–just the upper one around the navigation system.
  • I’d hit the perimeter of the screen with a heat gun for 15-30 seconds before cutting through the laminating tape with an X-acto knife.  I got lucky, but I could see how you might cut the screen with the knife if you aren’t careful, so maybe only insert the blade 1/4″ to be safe.
  • Goo-Gone and a plastic scraper is the easiest/safest way to remove the original double-sided tape.
  • The replacement digitizer I bought from Amazon came with cut-to-size double-sided tape (and some extra) which made reinstallation a snap.
  • Take pix of the cables going into the head unit before you start unhooking things.  I didn’t see where the TPMS cable plugs in (it goes into the blue box on top of the head unit)…and my wife’s car doesn’t have the Mark Levinson DVD player, so there’s a blue jack on the head unit that doesn’t have anything plugged into it.
  • Apparently there was a recall on the dashboard, which turns into a melty putty by around now.  If you didn’t get the recall done, then be extra careful pulling out and reinstalling the nav unit lest you accidentally take a chunk of the dash out.  And if you do, here’s Scott Lam’s guide to fixing that with Sugru.

The major upside is that while researching this repair, I found out how to add Carplay to her 13 year old car–will post on that when I finish the upgrade.

UPDATE: when reassembling the frame on the screen, be sure to tuck the copper ground straps (see yellow arrows below) back INTO the frame.  I left one sticking out on accident, which then was intermittently shorting to another component, causing the display to go blank unexpectedly over the last several months.  Was a PITA to diagnose, but I finally found out where I screwed up.

Image from Hey Jeff’s Youtube video on how to do the replacement.

A bass guitar WILL fit in the overhead bin of a United CRJ-200 aircraft

Googled this for a couple of hours and had to find out for myself. My 4 string Ibanez GSR200 in a Fender gig bag fit into the overhead bin no problem (aside from making me the asshole who took up the entire overhead bin) on a United Airlines CRJ-200 (SFO to ABQ). Hopefully Google will pick this up so some other poor soul doesn’t have anxiety about whether they can carry on their bass so that they can perform at their wedding reception.

Chuy’s Creamy Jalapeno Dip

My addiction to Creamy Jalapeño began in college, where I spent more nights making a meal out of it and tortilla chips than I’d like to admit.  Getting cut off from the source was tough after I moved to the Bay Area—to the point that the management at my first job same-day couriered a gallon of it from Houston to California for my 23rd birthday.  My classmates in the Bay Area were similarly going through withdrawals and attempted to reverse engineer the recipe for years.  They also bankrolled my many attempts to bribe the Chuy’s staff for the secret during my visits back to Houston.

Well…one day in 2004, I popped into Chuy’s for a quick bite before flying back to San Francisco.  I tried a different approach this time in trying to learn the recipe—I told the server that I knew it consisted of sour cream, jalapeños, cilantro, and Hidden Valley Ranch mix, but that I was missing something.  He said that it was not just sour cream, but also mayo…and that I had forgotten tomatillos. 

Armed with the full ingredient list, I experimented to find the right proportions, and finally hit upon the closest facsimile to Creamy Jalapeño that I’ve had outside my favorite cantina.  As my go-to potluck picnic dish, Creamy Jalapeño yielded me phone numbers of many women who merely wanted me for my condiments.  Though many friends asked for the recipe, I vowed to keep it a secret until my wedding day, so that all who desired to make Creamy Jalapeño for themselves would work hard to help make that day come soon.

My friends, that day is today.  For your gustatorial pleasure, I present the recipe for Chuy’s Creamy Jalapeño Dip. 

 Ingredients

  • 8 oz sour cream (go ahead, full fat, you deserve it)
  • 8 oz mayonnaise
  • 1-2 fistfuls of cilantro leaves
  • 3-4 pickled jalapeños 
  • 1 fresh jalapeño
  • 3-4 tomatillos
  • ¾ packet Hidden Valley Ranch Dip Mix

Directions

  1. Using a chopper (or a blender set to the coarse setting), finely chop the cilantro and jalapeños, and coarsely chop the tomatillos.  Drain the excess water and add to a bowl.
  2. Add the sour cream and mayo.
  3. Add the dip mix to taste.
  4. Mix well with a wire whisk and chill in the fridge to thicken.
  5. Wipe the drool from your mouth and enjoy with your favorite tortilla chips.

UPS.com is dumb

I absolutely appreciate the language inclusivity, but c’mon UPS–when I navigate to UPS.com from within the US, can you not reverse lookup my IP address and figure out what country I’m navigating from?  And if that’s too difficult, why put the largest North American demographic (English speakers from the US) as the only option not shown on the menu?  Especially when you have this giant empty space between “North America” and “Canada – English”?  Two clicks per visit times millions of people a day–your UI department needs to be fired.

UPDATE (2021-09-04): It’s been fixed!

Thoughts on the 2020 Volvo S60 after a 5 week, 5000 mile roadtrip

So we just got back from a 5 week, 5000 mile roadtrip in a 2020 Volvo S60 AWD (highly recommend Sixt for car rentals, BTW–the cost was reasonable and there was no mileage cap).  I thought I’d share my thoughts on the car with my gigantic readership.

Overall, we enjoyed the car as an extended rental, but I’d hesitate to buy one because of some quirks.  Let’s start with the good:

  • The car is peppy with smooth power delivery–there were some times that I stepped on the gas and was surprised to be in the 90s–not surprising with 316hp and 4000lbs.  Took it up to 120mph without issue.
  • The car is generally comfy for a 6′ 215lb driver (all legs, short torso).
  • I liked the ability to customize so many of the car’s features–e.g. should the rearview mirrors tilt down while reversing (and if so, passenger side, driver side, or both).

And some of the not-so-good:

  • The car’s B-pillar is like 8″ wide–it completely obscures your peripheral vision.
  • Either the steering assist or steering geometry is too aggressive–I’d prefer a firmer, more stable feel.
  • The transmission response is slow–even in the sporty “dynamic” mode.  Downshifts were notably delayed at times.
  • The car suffers from a lot of poor user interface.  For example:
    • Only 1 of the 2 USB ports can be used for CarPlay.  The usable port is indicated with a white box around it–not really that intuitive.
    • Something as simple as washing the windshield is a PITA.  You cannot lift the wipers while they are in their default (lower) position–you have to navigate through a tree of menus on the display to find the “service windshield wipers” option–this raises the wipers so that you can lift them off of the windshield.
    • The lumbar support controls are on a round, knob-like protrusion.  Good user interface design tells you that you to turn knobs, but the actual lumbar support control buttons are located on the top of the knob.
    • Despite having a giant touchscreen display, the CarPlay portion is relegated to the bottom half of the display.  Switching from CarPlay to other parts of the UI is not intuitive at all.
    • Changing the drive mode brings up 3-4 options in a tiny font on the giant touch screen–why not make good use of that screen real estate?  And there’s no way to dismiss the screen–you just have to wait for it to go away.
    • The location of the physical driver mode control is dangerously close to the e-brake control–I accidentally deactivated the e-brake when I was trying to switch the driver mode.
    • There’s no tactile feedback on the steering wheel controls–the buttons are smooth plastic with no bumps, and you have little idea which button you are pushing unless you see it with your eyes.
  • Not a major deal, but it’s odd that the steering wheel is round, but it does not rotate around the center.
  • The car features a sign-recognition system that displays representations of street signs that are captured by the camera–cool feature, but it’s not terribly reliable.  It once read a 65mph sign as 85mph, and it often missed signs that were in clear view.
  • The cruise control doesn’t deactivate until you press the brake pedal by a good amount–I’d guess at least 3/4″.  I wonder if the brake lights have the same trigger.

Overall, it’s a good enough car, but for nearly $50k, these user interface issues are pretty annoying.

Realtime, Granular Air Quality Data from PurpleAir.com

So it’s wildfire season again (a little early this year), and with Covid, we need to be more mindful of the air quality–both because poor air quality makes us more susceptible to infection, and also because it’s hard to do outdoor socially-distant activities when the air is too crappy to breathe.  In San Francisco, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) maintains 4 air quality sensors, but only one with 2.5 micron particulate (PM2.5) measurement capabilities–on Arkansas St at 16th St in the Dogpatch.  It’s hard to extrapolate what the rest of the city’s air quality looks like based on a single sensor.

Enter PurpleAir–they have a network of thousands of their individually-owned sensors world-wide, and around 100 sensors across San Francisco.  Whereas the BAAQMD says that the AQI in SF is 64 right now, PurpleAir’s network shows that pretty much only the Mission, Potrero Hill, Dogpatch, and Mission Bay have AQI levels higher than 64–the rest of the city is clear.  The PurpleAir data is realtime also, whereas the BAAQMD data gets updated hourly.  And the PurpleAir map’s interface seems easier to use.

Very cool stuff–I’m considering purchasing the outdoor version of their models to help us know when we can keep the windows open at the office to improve ventilation and reduce Covid risk.

Canceling the NY Times

It’s 2020 and you cannot cancel your subscription to the NY Times online.  Whereas a simple button would do the job, these asshats make you make a call, text, or chat with a “customer care advocate”.  Forget all the reasons why one should cancel their subscription, this is a prime example of corporate journalism bullshit.  FYI…you can email customercare@nytimes.com and potentially get this done with a single email.